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David Chalian On First-Time Caucusgoers; Tom Foreman Reports On Iowa's Grinnell Precinct; Awaiting First Results Of Iowa Caucuses. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired February 3, 2020 - 21:00   ET



JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So, to reach viability, you have to have 60 people out of the 400, so eyeballing it, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, clearly meet that threshold.

Walk with me as we go to some of the other campaigns here. Andrew Yang might just be on the cusp of it here. Let's take a look at the size of his crowd. It is, you know, certainly many students, many others here. We will see if they do reach viability.

Interesting thing happening here, Wolf, this man in the - in the black vest, he is a Joe Biden supporter. He has been having conversations with Amy Klobuchar supporters.

Amy Klobuchar clearly is not going to be viable. You can look at the size of her crowd here. There are not 60 people in this line. But if they win people over, during this period, they could potentially be viable.

But this is what we are watching here, Wolf. Look at this Pete Buttigieg crowd right here. It is largely a mix of students. And, of course, some of those are, you know, have been Bernie Sanders' crowd. But there's also a mix of older voters, as we go farther in there.

So, once we begin the counting here, this will be a key test for these three candidates, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg.

There are six delegates in this precinct. It doesn't sound like a lot. But this is a delegate fight. This campaign is almost certainly to be a delegate fight from now until whenever the nominee is named. So, this is just a small part of that.

So, Wolf, the counting will begin momentarily here, and we'll see exactly who has the most. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM WITH WOLF BLITZER: That's very important. We'll see who's viable, who isn't viable. Thank you very much.

Jason Carroll is in North Liberty for us. That's just outside Iowa City. What are you seeing where you are, Jason? JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the group has - the room has just broken up into groups.

And why don't you take a look? At the middle section of this auditorium, right up here, Wolf, where you see that middle section, those are all Elizabeth Warren supporters.

Just a few minutes ago, the Precinct Captain gave an announcement. He said, "Look, the viability number for this room, for this auditorium is 89." So, when you look across this room, you've got to meet that 89 number.

And look, we can visually tell there, the Warren folks definitely have met that number. Way over there, in the corner there, those are the Bernie Sanders' folks.

I think a lot of folks were hoping for a bigger turnout visually then - than what we're seeing now. I mean, once again, consider University of Iowa is out here. I think a lot of people are expecting a lot of young folks to turn out.

In that corner, over there, you've got the Biden people, who have just broken out into that corner.

And then, right here, we've got a mix. We've got Buttigieg people in the center section here, along with some, I'm told, some Amy Klobuchar folks, and we've got Amy Klobuchar over here as well.

I was just asking over here, guys, do you think you have 89?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they flat out over a 100.


CARROLL: Over a 100? You did a self-count and you - you think you're there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is close. It's real close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody counted. I saw it on her phone.

CARROLL: I'm sorry. You said what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be close.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really close. 92.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 92? Oh, that's great.

CARROLL: You think you're there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think so, but barely. I'm counting you. CARROLL: OK, all right. Let's move over to some of the Buttigieg folks over here as well. Again, we've got Amy Klobuchar folks here. But I very quickly want to get over to some of the Pete Buttigieg folks.


CARROLL: Because that looked like a lot - a lot of folks over here as well. Tell me about Buttigieg folks. How many votes? Do you think you have enough?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we definitely--

CARROLL: Has anyone done a count?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And in formal count, we're definitely more than 89, so.

CARROLL: Definitely more than 89?


CARROLL: You think you're there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we've got it.


CARROLL: All right, so they look like they might be a viable group at 89 again, very informal, you know, group here.

Again, these are the Warren folks. And I want to get over to here very quickly, if I could. Hey guys, I know you're the Elizabeth Warren. Looks like you're - definitely you've met that 89 threshold. You look like a pretty solid pretty big group here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we're excited.

CARROLL: Are you comfortable?




CARROLL: OK. So, we're at the first round here. Let me hop down, we're at the first round, again, things just getting underway here. Again, the total number of people in this room, Wolf, 591, the viability number that they've just announced is 89.

So, again, the viable groups that we're seeing here, so far, we've got Elizabeth Warren, looking really good over here, Bernie Sanders, tough to tell, looks like they may have a little bit of a work ahead of them, same thing with Biden over there, in this corner, Buttigieg looking pretty solid, right, Buttigieg looking pretty solid.

And then, once again, over here, this final section, just going to check in with the - the Amy folks again. How are you feeling?


CARROLL: Yes, OK, so--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a lot of fun.

CARROLL: All right, so Amy Klobuchar, again, they're feeling like they might make that number. But you heard the woman over here. She says "Just barely."


BLITZER: We'll see what the official numbers are. Jason Carroll is in North Liberty, Iowa. That's outside of Iowa City.

David Chalian is looking once again at the entrance poll information that we're getting.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. We asked folks, as they headed into the caucus sites today, "Did you support Hillary Clinton in 2016? Did you support Bernie Sanders or did you not support either of them?"


Look at the breakup of tonight's electorate, when compared to 2016. 56 percent of caucus attendees tonight say they supported Hillary Clinton. That's more than the percentage she got on caucus night in 2016.

Bernie Sanders, only 30 percent of tonight's caucusgoers in this entrance poll tell us they were Sanders' supporter. And 14 percent, Wolf, say they supported neither.

I want to do a deeper dive into those 14 percent. So, if they didn't support Clinton, and they didn't support Sanders, who do they find in tonight's contest attractive?

Well look at this. This is a Pete Buttigieg crowd, largely. He gets 28 percent of those that were either with O'Malley in '16 or with nobody, and they're new to the process. Amy Klobuchar gets 13 percent, as does Sanders, Biden at 12, Warren at 11.

But you see, this is more a Pete Buttigieg crowd, if they weren't with Sanders before.

How about those first-time caucusgoers? Remember, I showed you, a little bit ago, 35 percent of the electorate tonight tells us this is their very first caucus. This is their first time. That's a little smaller than we saw in 2016, and much smaller than we saw when Barack Obama won in 2008. I want to look at how those first- time caucus attendees are splitting among the candidates.

Look at this. Bernie Sanders, who's strategy it was to get new to - new caucusgoers into his camp, he's winning with 29 percent. But again, Pete Buttigieg is competitive here. It's not Bernie Sanders running away with it. Pete Buttigieg at 22 percent, this is a largely young crowd, the caucusgoers.

I would say nearly half of first-time caucusgoers are under 30 years old, according to the entrance poll. And you see that both Sanders and Buttigieg are - are the ones that are attractive to those that are new to this process, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting, important entrance poll information. Let's go back to Brian Todd in Sioux City for us. You got some results, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We - we have some hard numbers for you, Wolf, here. The viable candidates here, picked up some, Biden has a final score here of 26 votes, Buttigieg, 27, Warren, 34. They're still counting Sanders and Klobuchar.

Now, what is crucial here is look at this number, look at the numbers for Biden and Buttigieg here, 23 each in the first round. That was the threshold for not being viable. Biden and Buttigieg were each one vote away from not being viable in this precinct.

Biden picks up 20 - picks up three votes between the first and second round. Buttigieg picks up four. Warren picked up four. They're counting Sanders and Klobuchar now.

But this was a crucial number for Biden and Buttigieg. They came within a hair, Wolf, of not being viable for the second round, would have been a pretty disappointing night for both of those campaigns, if that had played out.

But they got - they were fortunate here. And then, they were able to pick up a few more each here.

We're still waiting for the Sanders and Klobuchar numbers. But look at Bernie Sanders showing right here, very strong in the first round, and we're going to see if they were able to lure some voters over to their side for the second round.

I'm going to jump off the stage here.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand-by. I want to go--

TODD: So, with increasing (ph) chair, you can come up here.

BLITZER: Yes, hold on, Brian. I want to quickly go to Tom Foreman over in Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Looks like some horse-trading going on over there.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I want you to notice what's going here. Come on and walk with me here.


FOREMAN: Right now, what has happened? Tell me about the different groups and what they've just done here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, right now, Biden, Klobuchar, Steyer, and Yang were not viable. So, we're walking over to the Undecided group, hopefully, to get that 15 percent number, so we can get delegates.

And if we get that 15 percent number, we can chop up the delegates. So, one, like whatever percentage of each group is here, we're going for 125, because that's the 15 percent mark. So, we can stand like one Biden, one Klobuchar, one Yang, to the County Convention.

FOREMAN: All right. So, you see what's happening here, Wolf.

By making this maneuver, in effect, all these groups over here that were unviable, all those empty seats here, the only holdout, not only in there, is the Pete Buttigieg group right now, which also is not viable.

By combining over here is Uncommitted. They are, in effect, denying the progressive wing over here, Sanders and Warren, from a complete victory on this. Listen, they're cheering for "Come on, Pete!" here.


FOREMAN: That's who they're aiming for.

BLITZER: You remember--

FOREMAN: That's the Pete - that's the Pete Buttigieg group over there. They're trying to get them to come over.


BLITZER: Yes, they're working hard over there at Grinnell College. These are college students, by and large, and some academics. All right, we - we're going to have a lot more of the results of the Iowa caucuses right after this.



BLITZER: More than 1,600 caucuses are underway in Iowa right now. We're expecting to get results very soon. Tom Foreman is joining us from Grinnell, Iowa, Grinnell College.

I understand, Tom, there's been a development where you are.

FOREMAN: There really has been, Wolf.

The Pete Buttigieg group here, which was right on the edge of viability, just collapsed moments ago, like all the other ones over here. Yang, Steyer, Biden, Klobuchar, all of them were unviable, and they all split up.

The Buttigieg people split between the Warren group, which is over here, and is strong, and cheered a lot of them in, and then some who went to the Sanders group.

And just - just, at this location, it's not the whole state. But here, this is what happened. Some went to the Sanders group here.

But most importantly is this group down on the end, the Uncommitted group. Many people, including some from Buttigieg, went down here, and this group may have just squeaked in to viability.

That matters because if they have some viability, it allows them to have a say as the process goes forward a little bit for all of their candidates, instead of suddenly having a sweep by Sanders and Warren over here.

It's still preliminary. We don't have a final count on it right now. And this group may or may not be over the threshold.

But it was fascinating to watch the complete collapse of one side of this gym, and all the supporters in here, who have now been divided among these two big powerful groups in just this caucus.


And Uncommitted over here, which is a bit of an end run by the people who really want to make sure they still have a say for their candidates, even if Warren and Sanders walk away with the bulk of support in this caucus, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, I just want to remind our viewers, Tom, this is but one of - out of more than 1,600 caucus sites--

FOREMAN: Absolutely.

BLITZER: --throughout the State of Iowa right now, so we're watching it closely. And this is a college town, Grinnell College. All right, let's go back to Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER: So, Wolf, we're here at Des Moines 47.

And after a somewhat shaky start, where it took a little while to figure out whether or not they had enough preference cards, that's the - the card in which you write which candidate you like, and they did not.

So then they had to wait for preference cards to be delivered. And then, they had to do a count of how many total caucus attendees there are. And that kind of didn't work out the first time, so then they had to do another count.

Finally, we're in the position of trying to figure out which groups here meet the viability threshold. So, there are 368 caucus attendees. That means 15 percent, rounding up is 56. So now, all of the groups, Biden, Yang, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg,

Klobuchar, everyone else are trying to find out whether or not they have 56 caucusgoers in their group. They make the viability threshold. And that's - that's the big decision right now.

This - this is the Elizabeth Warren group. Are you the--



TAPPER: How many - how many people do you have? Do you know?


TAPPER: A 102? So, you totally made the viability threshold.


TAPPER: OK. So, Team Warren--


TAPPER: --Team Warren is happy.

Biden, how we're doing over here? This does not look like 56 people. So, the Biden - Biden group. So, you're - you look like lovely wonderful people. But it doesn't look like you made this viability threshold.


TAPPER: Not yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now there's time, buddy.

TAPPER: There's time? This year?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a little funny.

TAPPER: I'm not trying to be funny. But - but where - what are you going to do?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to - we're going to stand - we're going to stand strong with our first choice. And when other candidates are not viable, we know that Joe is a lot of people's second choice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we'll become viable in the second alignment, absolutely.

TAPPER: So, you think that people who like, for instance, the Yang people probably don't have 56.


TAPPER: The Klobuchar people--


TAPPER: --I don't think they do. So, you think it's - there's still a possibility--


TAPPER: --that they will come here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, absolutely, yes.

TAPPER: OK. So, hope springs eternal. Here's the Yang gang.

Yang, who's - who do - who do I talk to here? How many - so how many - is there a Precinct Captain here? Is there - I'm just going to--


TAPPER: All right, I'm just going to - yes, I'm just going to go with you. How many Yang-gangers are here right now?




TAPPER: So, you're not going to make the viability threshold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to help us (OFF-MIKE).


TAPPER: I - I can't do that. All right, so, anyway, so there are going to be some tough decisions for people here. Dana Bash is on the other end here at Des Moines 47. Dana?


So, over here, you see the Buttigieg camp. And over to my right is the Bernie Sanders' camp. They - we don't have the exact number for them yet. But they certainly look like they're viable. As you were saying, it's 56 here at this - at this precinct.

Emily (ph) here, you - and you and your husband, Nick (ph), you are with the Buttigieg camp. How many have you counted so far?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We counted 71. Of course, that's unofficial. But we did a pretty good job, I think, so we're going to be viable, I think. BASH: So, you feel good about this first round. And - and Jake, if you can see, or if our viewers can see back there, we can't move a lot with the - the camera right now.

But if you check back, behind me, that is the Amy Klobuchar camp. We don't have the number yet. But it doesn't look like they're necessarily going to get to 56. But again, they're still moving around a little bit.

If they don't, you can be sure, am I right Emily (ph) and Nick (ph), that you are going to be making your way over to the Klobuchar camp--


BASH: --to see if you can pull people over to your--


BASH: --to your candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. We believe that a lot of the Amy supporters have the same message that we do and share a lot of the same pragmatic supporters so.

BASH: OK. But we'll - we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be - we'll be going over there.

BASH: We'll see. We're going to get the official count on this first alignment or the first round here, Wolf, and we'll - we'll send it back to you and we'll let you know how it goes, once we get the official count here.

BLITZER: And we should be getting all those numbers fairly soon. Remember, that's just one caucus, out of more than 1,600. All right, much more of our special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: We're awaiting the results, the first results from the Iowa caucuses, should be coming in very, very soon. Stand by for that. I want to check in with Miguel Marquez. He's at a caucus site in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Cedar Rapids, the high point for this caucus site was 508, back in 2008. They got 437 voters in this group. We now have five viable groups at this point.

The - the Warren group over here, they are now viable. That's one group that is looking for more voters for that second alignment.

The Biden group, which is over here, they are also viable. Pete Buttigieg, his group, right over here, they've just done a count, and they are viable.

66 individuals, 66 caucusgoers they need to be viable in this room.

Bernie Sanders, his supporters are over here, they are viable.

And Amy Klobuchar, her supporters are here. She is all also now viable for this group.

They are doing a official count of all of these various groups. And then, they will go to that second and final alignment period, where they are trying to get people to go from other groups to here.

Interestingly enough, a late add, Kamala Harris had somebody show up. Yang had somebody show up. So, there are other groups, much smaller groups. And the people who are Uncommitted are back there, so we'll see how many there are there.

But, right now, five viable groups in this area that is somewhat more moderate, somewhat more conservative, somewhat more urban, and also, the suburbs of Cedar Rapids, a pretty big group here, but certainly, not as many as they're expecting.

They had 900 preference cards on hand. They were expecting a very big turnout, so perhaps, a little smaller than they were expecting. Wolf?


BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Miguel Marquez. We'll get back to you. Let's go back to Jake. I take it they're starting to count where you are.

TAPPER: Yes, they're counting right now. And what's going on is, as we talked about the viability threshold, so each group is trying to reach the magic number of 56. There are 368 caucus attendees here. 15 percent of that is 56.

We know that the Buttigieg people feel like they have about 70- something, maybe 71 people. That means they reached the viability threshold.

The Sanders people are confident that they have more than a 100 people here, so they've reached the viability threshold.

The Warren people are confident that they have reached the viability threshold. They too feel like they have more than a 100 people.

But that means that there are all these other groups that did not meet the viability threshold. It looks like, on initial count, right now, Klobuchar, Yang, Biden, Uncommitted, and all others, have not reached that level. So, they have to figure out what they want to do now.

Now, you heard some of the Biden people earlier, saying that they hope that the Klobuchar people, and the Yang people would come over to them, and join their gang, and - and reach viability for Joe Biden. Guess what? That's what the Yang people want the Biden people to do.

This is just at this one site, we should point out. We're just talking about one precinct, out of more than 1,600, almost 1,700.

So, what happens here is not necessarily indicative of what's going on across the state. This is a very urban, very young neighborhood, so it's not as though people thought Biden was going to do well.

That said the fact that he didn't even make the first cut, on the first vote, for viability threshold, is saying something. Dana Bash is also here. Dana, what - what are you hearing? What are you seeing?

BASH: Jake, I'm over with the Biden team. And I have Mike (ph) here. You have the cards here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do have the first round alignment, yes.

BASH: And how many did you just count?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have 22 right now, which means that we're not viable, at this point.

But, as I was saying earlier, we're not worried about that because I know that there's another - another - a number of other candidates are not viable, and we're a lot of those candidates', those delegates' second choice.

BASH: Right. But if you're not viable on the first round, and you're locked in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, so the rules are if you're - if you are viable, you're locked in.

BASH: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there's a number of campaigns are not.

BASH: Right. So, got it, so you're hoping that that other - maybe, for example, if Amy Klobuchar--


BASH: --is not viable or others.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely, exactly.

BASH: So, you're not giving up?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we're not giving up. No, we know - we're going to be viable. I know that's going to happen. This is just the first step in this process.

BASH: OK. You're about halfway there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know. I am confident. BASH: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come back and see me after the second alignment.

BASH: All right, all right, good deal.


BASH: Good deal.

So, we're going to come over here, make our way over to the Warren campaign. You see they're counting over here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right there. I'm sorry.

BASH: We're - we're in the crowd here, excuse me. Come over here with me John (ph). We're counting here. How many have you gotten so far?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I've gotten 67 so far.

BASH: So, you have made the first cut.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, we have, yes.

BASH: You're viable?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We were viable. So, we have - our first count was a 102. So, I just have to count to a 102, and then I should--

BASH: Well you had - you needed 56, so you're there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, exactly, yes.

BASH: And so, after this first round, your hope is to look at some of the other campaigns, try to lure them over, if they are not viable in the first round.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, exactly, yes.

BASH: All right, thank you so much.


BASH: So, you see, this is again, as you've said all night, Wolf, just a glimpse, just one of, you know, almost 1,700 caucuses around the state. But this is the first round.

Elizabeth Warren here is doing extremely well.

Joe Biden, as you heard, they're not giving up. They're not viable right now.

BLITZER: Let's see what's happening in a lot of the other caucus sites as well. Dana, we'll get back to you.

Tom Foreman is at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. I take it that some of the final numbers are in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --delegate or an alternate so--

FOREMAN: Yes, Wolf, we're getting down to the final numbers.

They may wiggle a little bit here if we take a look at the big numbers here, for Elizabeth Warren, closest to the camera here, Bernie Sanders with the biggest numbers down there. You can see their numbers, 37 percent, something like they got a little bit further down for - higher up for Sanders altogether.

But way down here, at the far end, is the real success story in a way of the night. These are where all the people came together from all the other campaigns, who were not viable, and look what happened.

In the end, they needed 15 percent to be viable, by combining all their forces, and they managed to just squeak over the edge, and become just barely viable, by getting together here.

In the group that gathered down here, in the end, they had about three or four caucusgoers that made the difference. I say three or four because this has all been very fluid. But it was enough for them to get through.

Look over here again. That's the Undecided. That gives them some say.


Here is Sanders, which is the big group in here.

But then, up here, as we pan toward this side, this is all the Warren support up in here, which spilled out into the floor.

So, the big winners here tonight, undeniably, Bernie Sanders first, Elizabeth Warren second, with the biggest crowd, and then, the Undecideds down there, who managed to squeak out their own kind of victory with that razor-thin margin there, Wolf, that allows them to have some say as the delegates move forward. Wolf?

BLITZER: Once again, one caucus site, out of almost 1,700, throughout the State of Iowa. Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Let's check back with Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, I take it, at the caucus site, where you are, they now have the - you have results from the first round?

ZELENY: We do indeed, Wolf, and we are standing in front of the Elizabeth Warren section here. And there's a reason for that. Let's take a look at the numbers on the left side of our screen

Elizabeth Warren coming with 31 percent in this precinct, followed by Pete Buttigieg, 25 percent, then Bernie Sanders, 25 percent as well. Going on from there, Andrew Yang, 8.3 percent, Amy Klobuchar, 6 percent, Joe Biden, 4 percent, so that is the look at this first round.

Now, what happens of course is realignment. So, we have Warren supporters now filling out their first-choice preference cards. That's what happens after the first choice.

So, these Warren supporters obviously will stay. A question is will all of them stay, will some sort of leave?

The Bernie Sanders' supporters, you can see many of them are sitting down. This has gone a little bit longer than it normally does. There was a couple recounts here because they were a bit of a discrepancy.

Now, they're standing up since we're here.


ZELENY: But look, these are the - the Bernie Sanders' supporters here. Three candidates only are viable in this precinct, so that is Sanders, Warren, and Buttigieg.

Now, that is a question. What are these supporters over here going to do? This small group here is the Joe Biden crowd. So, we now have Biden, Klobuchar, Andrew Yang not viable, so the persuasion begins. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Let's check in with David Chalian. So, explain to viewers who may just be tuning in, they - they get - it's not like going into a voting booth, you vote for someone and--

CHALIAN: Not at all.

BLITZER: --you leave. This has been going on for an hour and a half right now.

CHALIAN: That's right. And it is designed to be a longer process. It is a communal event in that way. Wolf, you know there are two rounds of voting.

People show up to these caucus sites. They make their initial preference known. They go into a corner. You see all of this happening underway before our eyes. They go into a corner. They do that initial preference.

All the numbers you're hearing, all our reporters and anchors talking about, they do a calculation to determine who has 15 percent support, who is viable, and they determine which candidates are not viable.

And so, then there is a second round of voting. This is called realignment. It is that second round of voting that's critical, Wolf, because that is used to determine the share of state delegates that each candidate gets, and that's how you determine the winner of the Iowa caucuses.

So, they can make that initial preference. Then they realign themselves. Those that aren't viable can join viable groups. And then, they get a final count, and that informs us as to who won in each of those precinct caucuses, and that's how we start learning who won statewide.

BLITZER: All right, stay with me. I want to go to Cedar Rapids, Iowa right now. Miguel Marquez is there. I take it you got the results from the first round, is that right, Miguel?

MARQUEZ: Yes. We are getting through our first round here.

And interestingly, 437 voters in this room here in Cedar Rapids, and it's the Buttigieg supporters that have the most support, 20 - 25.452 - 25 percent, just over 25 percent for Buttigieg, 18 percent - 18.5 percent for - for Bernie Sanders. They are also viable.

The Klobuchar group is just up here. They are also viable. They're at 17 - almost 18 percent. And the Biden group, they are over here at 15 percent, and Warren, they're at 18.79 percent, so almost 19 percent for Warren, and they are also viable.

We are getting ready now to do that second alignment with the - with those that are not viable, and we will see where all of this goes right now, and hope--


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: --front and the backside.

MARQUEZ: They - they are actually saying that they have some spoiled ballots here, so we're going to sort that out now here as well, and we will try to figure that out. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Well we certainly will.

All right, David Chalian, looks like five of those candidates, if it stays like that, if those numbers stay like that, will be viable. You need 15 percent to be viable.

CHALIAN: So, when you spread the support out evenly, you can get that many candidates. Five candidates above 15 percent, able to win delegates out of that one site, I mean, Wolf, we don't see that.


If you look at the history of the Iowa caucuses, I don't think we've ever seen, in the modern era, even four candidates at the end of the night, end up over that 15 percent threshold statewide, to actually win a delegate.

So, to see five candidates splitting in that precinct in a way that they're all above 15 percent, that is a very competitive individual precinct.

Again, it's one site of nearly 1,700 sites, across the state. So, that - that is an example of a really competitive one, unlike what we were seeing in Grinnell, when Bernie Sanders was crushing with young people and - and that's the thing. Each geographic makeup, ideological makeup, across all of these 1,700 sites, start to give that statewide aggregate sense of where the electorate is at. It's hard to glean how the night is going to go from just a single precinct. But that - that is a very competitive Iowa caucus precinct right there.

BLITZER: All right, David, stand-by. I'm with John King over here at the Magic Wall.


BLITZER: It's been more than an hour and a half.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: We're getting snapshots from various caucuses out there, but still no official numbers coming in from - from the DNC, from the state.

KING: And we're seeing from our reporters on the scene, at these sites, part of the complexity, as David just noted, these are alphabetical because we don't have results yet. That's how they stack in the wall through the computer system until we get results.

So, you see Warren down here. At these caucus sites, we see she's doing fairly well. We'll see Senator Sanders down here. So, they're alphabetical for now, and nothing in the wall, an hour and a half in, as you mentioned, that's unusual.

But it's always such a crowded field, so is all that horse-trading we're seeing going on now in the - with A, decent turnout, most of the people saying decent high turnout in these places, so many candidates to choose from, the realignment process taking some time, we expect pretty soon, we'll start to fill it in, and then we'll try to sort it out.

But you - from all those caucus site visits, you see some relatively competitive. I've been texting people, in the back, trying to get some data from the scenes. A lot of the campaigns are just sort of as nervous as we are, trying to figure out what's going on out there.

BLITZER: It's because usually we've covered Iowa caucuses before.

KING: Right.

BLITZER: Usually after a half an hour, or 45 minutes, you start getting some significant results.

KING: You start getting some. Again, the crowded field has something to do with it. If you go back in time, it's a little easier to count. If you're on one of these sites, you don't have, you know, double- check and triple-check.

When you're only doing with two candidates, it's easier to double- check and triple-check, and we have your final results. When you have decent turnout, and especially when you have these two

or three groups that are not viable, and then you have people, you saw that one where Tom Foreman was, so they grouped up to get over 15 percent for Uncommitted. Then that Uncommitted group bands together.

When you have all that happening, it takes more time. You have people in the crowded rooms, it takes more time. If there's only two candidates to count, it's a little easier to do. Even if you go back in time, really, three candidates to count here. It's a bit easier to do.

But remember, Wolf, just to give you a little bit of history, well you remember when we were doing this?

BLITZER: Yes, I do remember.

KING: Yes. When - when it's this tight too, when it's this tight too, sometimes it takes a lot of - this is the Republican side. The process is very different on the Republican side than the Democratic side. But we were doing arithmetic on the wall, if you remember in this one.

So, caucuses are more complicated. You're not just dropping a ballot - ballot in. A computer's not counting it for you. And so, let's come back to the Democratic race here as we come to 2020.

Just that --we popped that up there. Let me go back to it since I just showed it to our viewers for the first time. We're not paying much attention to this because of this, relatively low turnout.

Again, it's a - it's almost like a primary process. Republicans show up at a caucus site and vote, but the President walking away, if you're a Republican, wondering about what's happening in Iowa tonight.

But on the Democratic side, this is a stunner. This is a stunner. But we also do expect, when we do start to get results, they'll come in fairly quickly. That's - we'll see in - see in 20 minutes or half an hour if that proves to be true.

BLITZER: We'll see if that's true. But the drama is going to be intense right now.

KING: Sure.

BLITZER: Much more of our special coverage right after this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --to do a - to caucus for Cory Booker. They do not want to give their delegate away to someone else. They want to hold onto it. So, it's this--



BLITZER: All right, it's getting close to 10:00 P.M. here on the East Coast. Almost two hours, these caucuses have been underway, and so far, no official results yet. This is pretty unusual, Jake. Four years ago, I think about 70 percent

of the official vote of the precincts, 70 percent of the precincts had - had already reported numbers, now with zero percent of the precincts.

TAPPER: Yes, it is indeed. And, of course, there are many more candidates this time around. Last time, it was really just between Sanders and Clinton. This time, there are lots of candidates.

Let me just give you an idea of what's going on just in this one precinct. Now, just remember, it's just one, Des Moines 47, just this one precinct, out of almost 1,700 precincts.

But, right now, what we're doing is we're getting official counts from each different preferential group finding out one vote for Gabbard, one vote for Deval Patrick, three votes for Cory Booker etcetera.


TAPPER: That's the Pete Buttigieg people finding out that they made the viability threshold with 70-something caucusgoers supporting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 71 for Pete Buttigieg.

TAPPER: 71 for Pete Buttigieg, you just heard that. That's more than the 56, which is required to be the 15 percent threshold.

As you can see, Joe Biden came in 6 here, in this first vote, with 22 caucusgoers. He was surpassed by Yang with 24 and Amy Klobuchar with 26. But none of those candidates, Biden, Yang or Klobuchar, made the viability threshold.

And the question is what are their supporters going to do? We talked to the Klobuchar people, and said, "Are you going to go join the Biden people, because they want you to join them, or are you going to disperse into other groups?"

And basically, they're going to disperse. A couple of them are going to go to Sanders. Most of them were going to be split between Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren.

The big question right here is what is going to be the final tabulation on the second vote because, remember, this is just the first vote. People who are not candidate - people who are with candidates who are not viable are going to then go join viable candidates.

So, who is ultimately going to win? Right now, we know that Pete Buttigieg made the threshold. We know that Bernie Sanders made the threshold. We know that Elizabeth Warren made the threshold.


What are the other dozens of people going to do? Which groups are they going to join? And obviously, even if you come in third here, if you're viable, you get a percentage of the delegates. So, that's what's going on here. I don't know what's going on statewide.

But they did get many more caucusgoers here than they thought they were going to. So, if perhaps, this is a very high turnout election, maybe that's the reason why things are taking a little longer than normal, Wolf.

BLITZER: Well it's a cliffhanger, at least right now. We'll see what happens. Jake, thanks very much. Let's go over to David Chalian.

David, I understand you've been speaking with some officials over there in Iowa.


BLITZER: What are you hearing?

CHALIAN: Yes, I was just texting with a Party official in Iowa, who says that the Party is doing quality control on some of the results coming in right now, and that they should be reporting out some vote near the top of the hour, about 15 minutes from now.

But, at this moment, what they're doing, according to this Party official, is quality control of the reporting results they are getting from these precincts at the moment.

BLITZER: What does that mean, quality control?

CHALIAN: Well I think they're making sure that the numbers match up that what is being reported in is how many cards were, you know, those preference cards that were collected, all the - all the checks of the numbers that the Party is able to do with the precinct sites is what's underway right now, and they expect in about 15 minutes, at the top of the hour, to actually start reporting out results.

BLITZER: Give us some perspective. The record turnout in a Democratic - Democratic caucus is, in Iowa at least, was in 2008.

CHALIAN: That's right.

BLITZER: And what was the number there?

CHALIAN: 240,000 roughly caucusgoers at that time. That was - it wasn't just a record, Wolf. That was explosive turnout.

I think some 60 percent of the electorate at that year were first-time caucusgoers. This was the Obama Revolution that catapulted him to the nomination and onto the White House.

We didn't - we didn't see that level of turnout in 2016. It was about a 171,000 total caucusgoers and it turned out--

BLITZER: That's a lot less.

CHALIAN: It is a lot less.

And I think most, at least in the last week that I've been in Iowa, and talking to a lot of folks on the ground there, the expectation was that it could fall between the two, and that, perhaps, this year could approach the 2008 number, but not maybe overtake it, but probably not as low as - as 2016.

But we'll see. We'll have to wait for all these returns to come in, all those headcounts to be done, and we'll get a total turnout number at the end of the night. We don't - we don't have a sense of that just yet.

BLITZER: And we're--

CHALIAN: Only precinct by precinct anecdotally.

BLITZER: We're going to get the popular - the popular vote number. So, we will have an exact - an exact number of how many people showed up.

CHALIAN: And that is brand-new this year, Wolf. We have not gotten that information before from the Iowa Democratic Party, for the first time, and largely because Bernie Sanders and his allies fought for this, in reforms of the way this is done.

After his bitter battle with Hillary Clinton in 2016, Sanders and his camp fought for reforms, and they got this reform. Not just will state delegate equivalents, the all-important percentages that determine the winner of the Iowa caucuses, but there will be this new data stream of the popular vote.

We will learn the popular vote for the first round of voting, before the realignment process, as well as the final round of voting, popular vote. Again, that's not how the winner's determined.

Think about like the general election in November, the popular vote, and the Electoral College. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Donald Trump is President because he won the Electoral College because that's the metric that matters.

The metric that matters tonight is state delegates. And whoever comes out on top in the percentages of state delegates, they are going to be the winner of the Iowa caucuses.

That's what feeds the process forward in terms of getting national convention delegates that you need to get the nomination in Milwaukee at the Convention in the summer.

But there will be this new metric. We're going to see the popular vote. And I am sure that you're going to hear some candidates tout "Hey, I did really well in the popular vote, even if I didn't come out on top in the delegates."

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. All right, thanks very much. Getting numbers, we assume, right near the top of the hour. Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Yes, Wolf, thanks very much. I want to talk to both David Axelrod and - and Governor - the Governor

about this because what is it like when you're with a campaign, and you were sitting there, just watching - I mean, first of all, we've never seen the caucuses up close like this before, but just waiting on caucus night for this process.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: Well it's - it's harder in a caucus in certain ways because the counting is abstruse.

You know, it's - it's a lot more linear in a - in a primary campaign, you get results from counties. You know what your, you know, your target number is there, and so on. But these numbers are coming in very slowly, multiple candidates, it's - it's agonizing.

And the question is - the question is, are - the one we were talking about earlier, will you beat your expectation to the point where you get to play into the next round?

COOPER: Right. Do you get a ticket out of Iowa?



AXELROD: And, you know, we talked about Biden's situation. For someone like Amy Klobuchar, who's - who's staked everything on Iowa, this is a very, very big night.

Does she do well enough to - to say - she'll probably go on to New Hampshire, but to - to raise the money to go beyond that. So, there's a lot of - there are a lot of anxious campaigns right now, you know, wondering if they've - if they've made their number.

COOPER: Yes. Governor McAuliffe, especially, given the lateness of - of the votes.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, (D) FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR: Well, like David, I've been in 10 of these. I've trailed to all 99 counties in Iowa. I can remember in '08, when I was Chair of Hillary's campaign, it - agonizing is an understatement. We had been told--

AXELROD: We thought it was exhilarating.


MCAULIFFE: We have been told the night before, she was going to win 35.2, da-da-da-da-da, and I'll never forget it, Anderson.

I went back into the hotel, and I got a call, President Clinton was looking for me. You know, results weren't in yet. So, I went up to the suite. And I had just been told, before I went into the suite that we're going to come in third place. And, you know, no one had thought third place. And I'll never forget it. I walk in the suite. The President's there all alone. I think he was watching the only (ph) football game on that day. He says, "Hey, Mc, you want a beer?" I said "A beer? I'll take a keg."


MCAULIFFE: He says, "What happened?" I said "You didn't hear? We came in third."

I'll never forget the moment. And Hillary was in the bedroom. She came out. I told her. And then we, you know, onward, we left at 3:30 in the morning, headed off to New Hampshire. But it is the--

AXELROD: You did well there.

MCAULIFFE: The stress these--

BORGER: Right.

MCAULIFFE: --candidates are going through right now, you just don't know. It's not like a primary.

COOPER: So, when something like that happens--

BORGER: Well--

COOPER: --you tell them immediately?



MCAULIFFE: Yes. What else are you going to do? There's not much to do yet.

COOPER: Well I don't - I would--


COOPER: --I would run.


COOPER: I would go somewhere else.



AXELROD: No, I was on the other - I was on the other end in New Hampshire when we were supposed to--


AXELROD: --the - Obama was supposed to win. Hillary, it - it's clear we're looking at returns, and we're not going to make it.

And David Plouffe, our Campaign Manager, Robert Gibbs, our Communications Director were saying this, "Hey, all right, who's going to go up and tell him?" And we finally agreed we'd all go up. We knocked on the door.

We said "Can we speak to you in the hall?" And he came out, and he knew that we pulled him out into the hall, away from Mrs. Obama, this was not going to be good news. And it was a - you know it was an uncomfortable conversation.


AXELROD: You know, these are very--


MCAULIFFE: We'd just say - I was on the other side of that. I was in the car with Hillary, riding in New Hampshire, where we got the word that she'd won so.

BORGER: Any reaction?

MCAULIFFE: I then had the beer that I was entitled to.


AXELROD: But you know what's interesting is 41 - 41 delegates here, right?

I'm sure a lot of America is saying this is far less than - than a tenth of a percentage of all the delegates you need to get elected. Why is it so important? But this is the filter through which you pass.

BORGER: It's first.

AXELROD: Iowa doesn't pick winners. But it definitely picks losers, you know.

BORGER: You know Joe Biden doesn't have a great history with Iowa. And it's been a state he's lost twice. And, you know, I think it's not this time--

COOPER: He doesn't have a great history running for President.

BORGER: Running for President. But I--

AXELROD: But it's because of - well it's partly because of Iowa.

BORGER: --I want to ask this question. Are the candidates themselves interested in looking online and looking at publicly available information on entrance well?

MCAULIFFE: Well I'm sure I could tell you Bill Clinton did, yes. Hillary Clinton never did.

BORGER: And how--

MCAULIFFE: Bill Clinton could tell you every precinct, every neighbor.

BORGER: He could, right. Did Obama, did President Obama look--

MCAULIFFE: You know, he knew every numbers it's--





SMERCONISH: --I'm not - I don't want to diminish the significance of tonight. It's the first of the year, and it's a very big deal.

But I wonder whether tonight's bump will be that which you normally get coming out of Iowa because of this news cycle, we're into the State of the Union tomorrow. We're into the completion of impeachment the following day.

And before you know it, it's off to New Hampshire. So, I don't know that whomever is crowned the Victor tonight will get the role.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think - I think that the but may - may not last. But if the bottom falls out--



JONES: --I think it hurts. And I think--

SMERCONISH: Definitely.

JONES: Listen, Pete cannot collapse tonight. If Pete Buttigieg - if Pete collapsed tonight, that's going to be a very, very hard thing for him to recover from.

COOPER: Do you think - so what does that mean? Top two for him or--

JONES: Well listen - listen, I think when you talk about somebody who's put the - his entire campaign is "I can do well in Iowa because I can appeal to these kind of voters, and I'm a better choice for moderates than - than for Biden." If he can't pull that off--

COOPER: Right.

JONES: --if he - if he's not in the top, you know, one, two, or three tonight, you know, so I agree with you. The but may--

BORGER: Same for Amy Klobuchar.

JONES: Hey listen, the - the but may not get you there. But the fall is a real fall that matters.


SMERCONISH: But if there's just a whisker--

JONES: A fall--

SMERCONISH: --that separates--

JONES: Sure.

SMERCONISH: --some at the top today--


SMERCONISH: --is it really fair for someone to proclaim that, you know, that's won the Iowa caucus.

AXELROD: Well it's a different question.


HENDERSON: Like we'll do there.

AXELROD: But the history of this is--

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: --small differences can make a huge amount of - of difference in the race. John Kerry edged out John Edwards and that was the end of Edwards' race in 2004.

HENDERSON: And it's - and it's physiological, right, for people who are supporting these candidates, people who want to give to these candidates, if you come out, on top, even if it's by a whisker, I mean that--

BORGER: Right.

HENDERSON: --puts some fuel in your campaign.

JONES: And I think - and I think these campaigns are really run by real people. And that's one of the things--


JONES: --I love about what's happening tonight is you're seeing all these real human beings out here, doing real hard work. And when you - if you pull off a win, it puts energy in your sails, and the people in New Hampshire are going to be able to fight harder and work harder. If you don't--


And to offer a contrasting vision, where it was one of my first elections, participating in 2016, when I was on the Bernie 2016 team. And so, this night, you know, four years ago was a nail-biter.

And I don't want to underestimate the power of if Bernie Sanders comes in first and second, the testament that that says to grassroots movements, and the amount of young people that have come in, since then have really propelled that.

I mean you think the same with Elizabeth Warren--

COOPER: I mean you saw up close that feeling of--



COOPER: --surpassing expectations and getting a huge - getting a big push through Iowa.

ROJAS: Yes. And I think like making people feel like they can be a part of changing history, in the direction of the United States--


ROJAS: --is a hugely powerful thing that you may not be able to calculate.

And I think that's where, you know, a lot of politicians look at polls as static, and Bernie and Elizabeth Warren have looked at "No, how do I shift public opinion to change it?" And that's authentic, and it's real, and I think it's coming to--


MCINTOSH: So much of the pre-Iowa conversation is about electability, and it is a completely hypothetical conversation--


MCINTOSH: --until tonight.

BORGER: To win election (ph).

MCINTOSH: We - we have learned a lot in the last year-plus of this campaign, you know, we - we learned how to pronounce Buttigieg. We - we learned not to call women candidates "Likable."

Tonight might be the night that we learn this idea of electability is just an idea until people actually start voting. Iowa regularly shows you that somebody who you thought was not electable is in fact electable, and vice versa, and we could be seeing that tonight too.

BORGER: Can I go back to Michael's point, for a moment, about the order of things? And it depends who edges out.

AXELROD: Yes, right.

BORGER: Whom. So--

COOPER: And by how much.

BORGER: And by how much. So, if they're all bunched up, so let's just say, I'm making this up, Amy Klobuchar edges out Joe Biden, that's a problem for Joe Biden. It really depends on the candidate.

And even though your - your point is right, they were all bunched up. It's less than - say it's less than three points between them or whatever, it's still - it doesn't play into the narrative that Joe Biden has being electable and it plays into if it were Amy Klobuchar--


AXELROD: I think it's--

BORGER: --Biden so that's the issue.

AXELROD: I think if Amy Klobuchar beats, if she dumps anybody into fifth place, it's a one-way ticket to Palookaville--


AXELROD: --for them.

BORGER: That's right. That's right.


BORGER: No, absolutely, so it depends.

SMERCONISH: I just think that--

BORGER: It depends on the order.

SMERCONISH: You know, here we are, first of the year, many of us were conditioned on what happened in 2016 with the Republican winner-take- all system

BORGER: Right.

SMERCONISH: Right? That's not what we're headed for here. This is going to go for a while. It's a proportionate--


SMERCONISH: --system. And the idea that there's somebody who wins all those delegates, it's just not happening.

MCAULIFFE: And don't forget, it's different this time because you've got Michael Bloomberg whose whole theory is Biden will not--


MCAULIFFE: --come out of the first four strong. That is his whole theory on March 3rd to spend a billion dollars.

You also have Tom Steyer, who is another billionaire, spending a lot of money in South Carolina. So, it's different than other Iowa caucuses that we have seen. You've got an unknown factor in four weeks--

COOPER: How - how do you see the Bloomberg factor? I mean you've done a lot of these races.

MCAULIFFE: That's significant. I mean I live in Virginia, Northern Virginia. There's an ad on every three minutes.


MCAULIFFE: I mean you can see the polling number. He's beginning to go up dramatically.

BORGER: Well it's the Super Bowl.

MCINTOSH: He's also--

MCAULIFFE: He's hired probably 1,500 staff.


MCAULIFFE: He's paid them all the way through the end of November. You can't tell me that it's not going to have an impact.

HENDERSON: And he's getting - yes. And he's getting all these endorsements, a lot of the endorsements--


HENDERSON: --from African-American males and African-American--

BORGER: But voters don't know him.

MCAULIFFE: The Mayor of D.C.


JONES: --never ever seen any product ever with a billion-dollar rollout. The iPhone didn't have a billion-dollar rollout.


JONES: So, this is a completely different scenario. He's all - he's not - and he's not just spending the money on television though you now, you know, basically, everything on television is him. He's also hiring--


JONES: --hundreds of people a week and he's hiring some of the best talent out there.

MCINTOSH: He's hiring everybody who's coming off of Booker, coming off of Castro, coming off of Harris, like these are - these are major Democratic operatives, who are now going to Bloomberg, which means not only are they working for him. They're not going to be working against him.

And that's something that he has done to great effect in New York City, hiring a bunch of Democratic operatives, and making sure that they are at least nominally on his side.


AXELROD: Right. We're going to - we're going to have - we've going to have a lot of time to talk about Bloomberg after these--


BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: --after these first four primaries when he makes his debut into this - into this race.

But one point I wanted to make about this Iowa process, you know, Elizabeth Warren invested a lot of money in organization. Pete Buttigieg, a lot of money in organization. They got here early. They got great local organizers.

You can see in these scenes that we've seen why it matters to have good organizers because when you get into this haggling--


AXELROD: --with the unviable, the people who are supporting unviable candidates, you know, knowing who they are, what the arguments are that will move them, is a real advantage in this.

COOPER: You also see the importance of a personal connection.


COOPER: I mean a lot of the people that Jake, and others, and Dana, have interviewed, you know, met Elizabeth Warren, or met Bernie Sanders--


COOPER: --and felt a connection. And who else is going to come out and spend a whole night in these auditoriums in this kind of confusion--

JONES: Can I say something about--

COOPER: --you know, caucus.

JONES: I do want to say this though. I love this stuff because I'm a big nerd. It's like - like the nerdiest reality television show ever. I love it. It's wonderful. But I think for other people that are looking at this, and I think they may see "This is weird."


JONES: It's like some weird parlor game I don't understand.


JONES: And so, on the one hand, it's so fun to see all this sort of stuff. On the what - on the other hand, I wonder, you know, how it's impacting people who are trying to--

BORGER: Well--

COOPER: This is like the Cheer for me.

BORGER: Well--

MCAULIFFE: Let me tell you, Anderson, it gets weirder--

COOPER: It's your version of Cheer.

MCAULIFFE: --weirder, if you are in the room. All of us have been in these caucuses. I will shovel your sidewalk for the next--