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Democratic Primary In South Carolina; Coronavirus Death Confirmed In U.S. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 29, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: So, we're back in the CNN Election Center covering South Carolina's high-stakes Democratic presidential primary. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

South Carolina voters have about two more hours to go to the polls. They have the power to jolt the Democratic field right now, heading into Super Tuesday just three days from now. Joe Biden is hoping to put a dent in Bernie Sanders' dominance with a win in South Carolina.

The future of Biden's campaign may hinge on what happens tonight. Dana will have our first exit poll results coming up very soon. It will give us an indication of what's on the mind of voters.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It sure will. And, Wolf, as we get closer to the South Carolina results, we have a team of correspondents in the field covering all of the campaigns. Let's check in with the Biden and Sanders' camp. First going to Jessica Dean with Joe Biden -- Jessica.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, as you and Wolf both mentioned, the Biden campaign hoping this is their first win in this primary season. Biden, himself, saying this is the start of his comeback. So, they're certainly hoping that his support from African- American voters is going to give him a big victory tonight.

I talked to one campaign aide that said, look, they always knew South Carolina was suited to Joe Biden's strengths. That has certainly been the case this week. He's had a good week. It's boosted their fund- raising. We've seen a more confident Joe Biden out on the campaign trial, interacting with people here who really seem to be enjoying that interaction. It's certainly different than what we saw in Iowa and New Hampshire, even Nevada.

I also talked to one ally of Biden's, Dana, who told me that, really, in the last few days, it seems as if Joe Biden has found his footing. That he's really in his comfort zone. And if he can win here tonight and win big, that could, potentially, set up a big Super Tuesday for the Biden campaign. They're certainly hoping that if it's a big enough win, it'll jolt them not only with momentum, but also with money -- Dana.

BASH: Jessica, thank you so much. And Ryan Nobles with Senator Bernie Sanders. Ryan, what does it tell us that the senator is in Virginia, a Super Tuesday state, and not in South Carolina?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's pretty obvious, Dana, that they really are putting a lot of their hopes into Super Tuesday. That the results in South Carolina likely won't trend the same way the rest of this Democratic primary process has, up until this point. And Sanders has been able to claim victory in some form or fashion in both Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Tonight, it likely won't go that way. Instead, they are looking to close the gap against former Vice President Joe Biden and make it as small a number as possible, because they really believe the momentum is still behind this campaign. And they are looking at big gains coming up on Super Tuesday.

I'll just go through the Sanders' travel schedule this week alone. Yes, he hopscotched back to South Carolina. But he spent time in North Carolina. He is spending a lot of time in Virginia. He had two rallies in Massachusetts, home to Senator Elizabeth Warren, where he also believes that they could have a big night on Super Tuesday.

After his event here tonight, he is scheduled to go to California for two events, and then to Minnesota, and also Utah. So, the Sanders' campaign flexing their muscles, in terms of the enormous resources they have at their disposal. They're one of the few campaigns that's been able to play across the entire Super Tuesday map.

So, while they're hoping to come at a close second in South Carolina tonight, they are very focused on the voting that comes just a few days from now on Super Tuesday, where they believe he'll take an even more commanding lead of the Democratic primary -- Dana.

BASH: Ryan, thank you so much for that reporting. And, Wolf, as we go into the evening, as we start to see results, it's still worthy to look back at first three contests in this month to see where turnout was.

First of all, let's go to Iowa. The high-water mark was in 2008, at least recently. That was almost 240,000. But this year, 2020, they did pretty well there. You know, it wasn't anywhere close to 2008, but it was a healthy turnout.

Nothing though, nothing like New Hampshire. Look at this. This year, over 300,000 people voted in New Hampshire. And that dwarfs not just 2016, four years ago, but 2008, where enthusiasm across the board was, really, up among Democrats.

And Nevada, it's about in the middle. The high-water mark was also in 2008. But this year, it was approximately 105,000. So, the question tonight is South Carolina. 2008, again, big, big numbers, more than half a million people voted. So, the question is, how is tonight going to compare to that?

BLITZER: And we'll soon find out because the numbers will be coming in. I want to go to David Chalian. David, we're getting some results in from our exit poll. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf, we are. We

talked to voters as they arrived at the polling locations today, and we're learning about the makeup of this South Carolina Democratic primary electorate.

[17:05:00]

Remember, these are early conversations with voters who have arrived at the polls. These numbers will change as the evening goes on.

But take a look here at the racial breakdown of the vote. Right now, we're seeing, according to the exit poll, 55 percent. A majority of the electorate is African-American which is a little bit down from where it was in 2016, when Hillary Clinton walloped with that vote. 41 percent white. Three percent Hispanic.

But that 55 percent is about where it was in 2008, when Barack Obama was propelled towards the nomination out of South Carolina. That's a sizable number and one the Joe Biden camp will be happy to see.

We had also taken a look at the age breakdown in the electorate today. 10 percent are young voters, 17 to 29. Look at this. 29 percent of the electorate, 65 and older. That older category is a Joe Biden strength and a Bernie Sanders weakness. They're going to be happy to see that by, sort of, three to one, it overwhelms the makeup of the young- person population in South Carolina today.

And, ideologically, this is fascinating, Wolf. Take a look, that 40 percent of South Carolina Democrats today call themselves moderate. That is more so than we saw in Iowa, in New Hampshire, Nevada. And, in fact, nine percent call themselves conservative. That is far more than Democrats called themselves conservative in the other three early states.

This -- only 20 percent say very liberal. This is a more moderate, conservative, a more African-American, and an older electorate. Those are key Joe Biden categories and why that campaign felt so good about heading into South Carolina -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, historically, older people vote in bigger numbers than younger people. It looks like that's happening in South Carolina.

Dana, if Bernie Sanders is looking at these numbers and sees, what, 55 percent --

BASH: Yes.

BLITZER: -- of the voters in South Carolina, African-American; 41 percent, white. He learned some lessons, what, four years ago. What does he say?

BASH: Well, he needed to learn some lessons because look what happened to him four years ago. The black vote went 86 percent to Hillary Clinton. And Bernie Sanders only got 14 percent. Now, the share, according to the exit polls that David was just saying, was a little bit higher. Over 60 percent, now it's 55 percent. But, still, I mean, he -- if he repeated this, it would be a blowout again. Which is why, as you mentioned, the Sanders' campaign has been working, really, since the end of the last campaign, to have better relationships in the black community in South Carolina. And beyond, but particularly in South Carolina. And we're going to see if those efforts paid off tonight.

BLITZER: We'll see very soon. We'll be watching it very closely.

Coming up, more information from our exit polls. Stay with us.

[17:07:48]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're counting down to the first votes in South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary. We're also following breaking news on the first known Coronavirus death here in United States. We're learning more about the outbreak in Washington, the state where that patient died.

Let's bring back Dr. Zeke Emmanuel, the former Obama White House Health Policy adviser. And Eric Feigl-Ding, an Epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. More than 50 people, we are now told, Eric, are from this nursing facility in Washington State are now feeling symptoms and they're going to be tested for Coronavirus. That a -- sounds like a really serious development.

ERIC FEIGL-DING, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. I think 50 is only just a start because there's over 288 people, staff and patients, who work at the nursing home. And we know that this virus can transmit asymptomatically. Even if you have no symptoms whatsoever, this virus is still transmittable, according to many, many studies. So, the fact that they're only testing symptomatic is way undertesting what is actually needed. Because you -- again, you have to lockdown every case, even the ones with no symptoms.

BLITZER: Because Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, the health officer for Seattle and King Counties in Seattle -- in Washington State, he says there are approximately 108 residents at this facility and about 180 staff. That's 288 people and 50 people are now feeling some symptoms.

ZEKE EMANUEL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HEALTH POLICY ADVISER, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I totally agree with Eric. We have to test all of those 288 and their families. Because they're not -- they're not going to stop with the virus at the door of the facility. So, you really need to understand how prevalent this is among the population, among the workers, and then how they might be spreading it to other people.

I think this is going to lead us, definitely, to an undercount and it's problematic because if those people continue to spread, we don't take them seriously. At least if we test them, we can be much clearer about who is negative. And we can also see how it might transit over time. How people might convert over time.

And I think the same thing needs to happen, by the way, in California. BLITZER: Because that's 288 people at the facility.

EMANUEL: Right.

BLITZER: The residents and people who work there. What about all the people who visited there who brought stuff.

EMANUEL: Family members.

BLITZER: Yes, family members coming to visit their loved ones. Should they be tested as well?

EMANUEL: This is why the asymptomatic spread is so worrisome. Because you casually come into contact with people. You're not feeling sick but you could easily spread it.

I also have to say that the 40-year-old worker in the facility is hospitalized. It's not clear how problematic she is and how problematic that is. Which would be another worrisome sign, because she probably is -- well, we know she's young. Maybe no chronic conditions. But that could get --

BLITZER: How contagious is this Coronavirus compared to other viruses?

FEIGL-DING: Right. So, compared to other viruses, this virus has an r knot, which is a reproductive number for every single person infected. It can infect two to four additional people. That is very high. The seasonal flu only has an r knot of 1.3. The pandemic a few years was only 1.5. So, that's very transmittable. But the hardest thing is the asymptomatic transmission.

[17:15:02]

SARS, we were able to contain just by symptomatic isolation and quarantine. We didn't even need a vaccine. This one, it looks like we can't probably stop it until we have vaccines and antiviral drugs.

BLITZER: So, what does that say to you, Zeke?

EMANUEL: It's coming back next fall, because we're not going to have a vaccine until next January at the earliest that's gone through the two phases of testing. And we still don't know about any therapeutics. We need to be doing those therapeutic studies. Apparently, in China, they've got a number of therapeutic studies underway. But, as you know, there's been a lot of question about the data in China and the reliability of data in China without external oversight.

BLITZER: But is there already some antiviral drug that might work?

FEIGL-DING: We -- they are being tested this trials. There's some existing HIV and HEP-C drugs that they're doing randomized trials for. But we have to wait until they finish in three to six months, before we give definitive results.

The other key tricky thing in this containment is that we're not sure if the 14-day quarantine and self-isolation that many people have been undergoing is enough after they travel. It -- the incubation time is around five to seven days, but there could be tail of people who have incubation longer than that. We just have to see and, again, test everyone, including family members, especially of the Washington State High School student case. You need to test every family members, even if no symptoms.

BLITZER: It seems like the incubation rate is very serious right now. A lot more people should be tested than are being tested.

EMANUEL: Yes. I think we're undershooting. We -- you know, throughout this epidemic, we've been undershooting. And maybe, you know, we've been lulled into the fact that, oh, it's only been 15 reported cases.

BLITZER: Because if one person infect twos to four people, giving a projection a month from now, what might we see?

EMANUEL: Well, if it's every five days, right, then you have, in a month, six multiplication periods. So, it'll be, you know, three to the sixth. I can't do that math that fast in my head but that's well over a hundred people per person.

BLITZER: What do you think, Eric?

FEIGL-DING: Yes, I think the exponential potential is really, really tricky. And that's why testing, testing. Every single test and case we identify a week early, a day early could potentially mean 10 or 20 people not infected. And this is why time is of the essence.

BLITZER: I'm going to have both you standby because we're going to continue to cover the breaking news.

We're also standing by for the first votes from South Carolina. We have more revealing information to share from our exit poll, including how many first-time voters turned out today. Still ahead. We'll be right back.

[17:17:38]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. We're getting more information from our exit poll. David Chalian is going through all the numbers for us. What are you seeing, David?

CHALIAN: One of the things, Wolf, that we asked voters, as they showed up at the polling place today, is this your first time voting in a South Carolina Democratic primary? 18 percent of the electorate, according to these early exit polls, say, yes, this is their first time. Nearly one in five voters are new voters. That's up about five points from where it was just four years ago. So, some more new voters which is something Bernie Sanders has been trying to do in each of these states, expand the electorate to new voters. 81 percent have voted previously.

Also, when did people make up their mind? Take a look at this. If you look at those states that decided just today, 16 percent, and those that decided in the last few days, 21 percent, 37 percent of today's electorate just decided recently. Contrast that with the one all the way down here, 38 percent of the electorate, another big chunk, decided before January. So, you have a little more than a third of the electorate locked in, and then a little more of the third of the electorate that just decided recently.

Well, what could have influenced that decision? Take a look at this question. The big Jim Clyburn endorsement, the Dean of the Congressional Delegation, a national African-American leader. 24 percent of primary voters say it was the most important factor in their decision, Clyburn's endorsement of Joe Biden. 23 percent call it an important factor of many. That is huge. 47 percent of the electorate today impacted by the Jim Clyburn endorsement. That is how important that was to Joe Biden -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, David, thank you so much. And I want to discuss this with now with our esteemed group of correspondents and analysts here. OK, let's talk about what David just said about first time voters. Right, because there is a slight difference from 2016. First time voters, 18 percent. It's not a huge number but it is up from 13 percent in 2016. I wonder what you make of that, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: So, I think it's a little bit of a tough comparison, in that Hillary Clinton was absolutely rolling over Bernie Sanders in 2016 in South Carolina. So, yes, there was race, but I think it was (INAUDIBLE), it was, like, 76 to 20. I mean, it was not close.

So, this is much more of a contest between a number of candidates, all of whom in differing levels. Biden, obviously, the most. But Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, they're all in their trying to find people, trying to find their voters. So, that number doesn't surprise me all that much. I think the more -- we should -- I'll look. But back -- 2008 is probably a little bit more applicable, just because it was more of a contested race, similar to what we have this time.

KEILAR: What do you think, Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I mean, I don't know what that number tells us as much as what Chris was talking about. But I will say that over the final stretch, you had Elizabeth Warren bringing in John Legend. You had even Tom Steyer with Juvenile last night. That just -- I was able to mention Juvenile on election night already. So, --

[17:25:00]

KEILAR: That was amazing.

CILLIZZA: Amazing. Good job by you.

SELLERS: But --

CILLIZZA: That will never -- that will never leave my head, those images.

KEILAR: Me either.

SELLERS: So, I just think you had a -- and the debates, recently, were really -- were really well watched. So, there were a lot of people who were excited about this process. I don't think that number touches 2008. But I do think that that is a -- we need more of that. At the end of the day, what we will know is that number is too low to beat Donald Trump.

KEILAR: Yes.

SELLERS: And that number -- that number, if it's replicated throughout the south, which you can pretty much take South Carolina Democrats and put them in some of the Super Tuesday states like Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and you can kind of see that what we need to see is more energy from young people.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, that's the point I want to make is that the exits show that only 10 percent of the vote was young people.

KEILAR: 17 to 29.

GRANHOLM: 17 to 29, right. So, this is supposed to be the group that Bernie Sanders is supposed to inspire a way for. It didn't -- it doesn't appear to be happening here. It did not happen in -- certainly in New Hampshire. It did not happen in Iowa.

And there was a very large, 40,000-person, study that was released a couple of weeks ago.

SELLERS: Yes.

GRANHOLM: And that study showed that if Bernie -- now, this just the facts Bernie bros. (ph), so don't get mad at me. I'm just reciting the facts of the study because the study shows that if Bernie Sanders is elected, what you end up having is a lot of people in the middle fall away.

And, therefore, you have to have a big surge in youth vote. And that big surge would have to be that youth would have to show up at 54 percent. That number has never happened. In fact, when Barack Obama was elected, it was 48 percent, and that was a record. So, that kind of over performance is what we would have to see. And we just haven't seen it yet.

ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: So, just to respond to my colleague from Michigan.

KEILAR: Because you support Bernie Sanders, and we are very interested in your reaction.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, for sure.

EL-SAYED: I'll say a couple of things. Us winning in November will require, as you've discussed, young people showing up in droves. And so, I worry about these numbers, yes. But I'll also say this. If you look at the numbers in Iowa, turnout overall was low. But turnout was -- that low turnout was driven by a decreased turnout among the oldest groups. And, actually, young people turned out substantially higher than even they had expected. That's number one.

GRANHOLM: In which state?

EL-SAYED: In Iowa.

GRANHOLM: Well, actually, they were down 10,000 from just -- from 2008.

EL-SAYED: But --

GRANHOLM: There wasn't that huge turnout.

EL-SAYED: -- but there was substantially low -- a lot more of that decrease in turnout was driven by older folks.

GRANHOLM: No, no, I'm talking about young.

EL-SAYED: But I'm -- the young people turned out substantially -- we'll have to check the facts.

GRANHOLM: OK, yes.

EL-SAYED: But the second point, bigger picture here. If you actually look at where Bernie does best, it's not just under 29s. It's actually under 40s. In particular, if you look at the black demographic, among black folks under the age of 40, he out-performs Joe Biden threefold.

And so, I think it's interesting, also, if you just looked at turnout under 40, we need to -- we need to grow that. That's the demographic that's going to win us this election. Bernie Sanders does that better than almost anyone else. And I hear you, right. We've got to take South Carolina alongside all of the other states that have already voted.

GRANHOLM: Look, and if he wins, we all got to get out and do this. I agree. I just worry we're biting off something that's a risk (ph).

SELLERS: I know -- I know Jess is -- Jess is jumping in here. But I know that my friends always want to point out that Bernie Sanders wins in 18 to 40 African-Americans. That's great. But if you're only -- if it's only five turning out, and you're winning overwhelmingly of those five, that number is insufficient. So, what I'm trying to say is, we have to do a better job. Bernie Sanders, all of us. I mean Joe Biden. I'm not saying that Joe Biden is turning out the youth vote, you know, head over heels either.

GRANHOLM: Right, of course, he's got an issue there.

SELLERS: I'm just saying, as a party, if we're going to beat Donald Trump, --

EL-SAYED: Right.

SELLERS: -- we have to do that. But what tonight is indicative of is we have to see -- one of the narratives we have to see if that if Bernie Sanders is going to be the standard bearer for the Democratic Party, it's not just about South Carolina. But if you're going to win in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, you better show you can win black people. And that's -- this is the first testament.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But, Bakari, he's winning them, versus Biden. But if he was the nominee, African-Americans are going to vote for him. I mean, that's not --

SELLERS: But we're talking about intensity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question is how -- like, how big is the pool that they're --

POWERS: No, I understand that. But I -- but I -- but is there any reason to really believe that African-Americans wouldn't intensely turn out for him against a Donald Trump? If you look at, like, polling, you see --

SELLERS: Well, and that -- yes, there is. Because I think if you look at "The Washington Post" who's done some great work on this, you see --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

SELLERS: -- that four million people who voted for Barack Obama stayed at home --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

SELLERS: -- in 2016. Of that four million people, one-third were African-American. And so, I harp on that number a lot on this set, because I know some of my colleagues want to say, well, let's just don't turn out all of these midwestern white voters, all of these Trump-Obama unicorns. And I'm saying, we have focus on that 1.3 black million voters who stayed home. And so, we have to begin to see that intensity .

POWERS: But that's why, I think, what we have to see tonight is how Bernie actually does with the African-American voters.

SELLERS: Correct.

POWERS: Because he actually has been making up a lot of groundwork (ph).

SELLERS: He has, yes.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The Bernie Sanders' campaign of 2020 is really different looking than the --

SELLERS: It's much better.

MCINTOSH: -- Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2016.

SELLERS: It's much better.

MCINTOSH: I am much happier with it. I think it's much better looking. Bakari and I don't always agree of doing the moderate, progressive lane here.

[17:30:00]

MCINTOSH: But I could not agree more that Democrats have spent way too much time on these 77,000 voters that we lost in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania where --

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: And Michigan.

MCINTOSH: And Michigan.

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: I still think we have to do both.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: I think we have been doing one at an extreme detriment to the other. I care a lot more about the million black people that stayed home than the 77,000 people who looked real hard at Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and chose Donald Trump.

I think the million that stayed home are easier to turn out for us in 2020.

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: Which is why it's sad we have gotten to this point where we have only white candidates running. And endorsements in South Carolina matter more than they would have otherwise.

(CROSSTALK)

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let's go back to the nuclear of this whole this whole discussion. It goes back to the youth vote, right? As Chris was spitting out numbers, we're looking at 20 percent or 18 percent in South Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESTON: First-time voters. I'm sorry.

When we get to California on Super Tuesday, I guarantee that number will be a lot higher. When you get to New York in April, that number will be a lot higher.

So I do think that while we're looking at South Carolina, let's understand what the demographics of that state are. It tends to be an older state. It tends to be more conservative. You wouldn't expect Bernie Sanders to perform well. Whatever he does do down there, it looks like he will be successful

even if he doesn't win. That's kind of lost in the whole thought about what Bernie Sanders will doing.

(CROSSTALK)

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Can we comment on one other number, because you brought it up, that is someone who, one day, would love to run for Congress? That Jim Clyburn number is --

(CROSSTALK)

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Let's take a look at that.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Clyburn's endorsement in the vote today --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: -- the most important factor. And 24 percent of people polled in this entrance poll said that. And 23 percent said it was one of several important factors. So you have -

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Almost half the folks saying it's important.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: Very important number.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: But you know that people love their congressman. I think in some of these areas, you'll begin to see that. Like Benny Thompson, for example, will command very, very similar respect.

A lot of these individuals who are in these -- John Lewis will command very similar respect.

Something I kept telling Pete, Pete Buttigieg, good friend of mine, is you have to get these validators. You have to have people who can speak for you and stand in your shoes. His campaign was absent of that.

A lot of times it's very difficult to build that support. But what you saw was you had the truest validator in Jim Clyburn.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: That's a remarkable number.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Out of everything that David Chalian has talked about, I went and made sure that number was right because I'm stunned it's that high. It speaks to Bakari's point.

SELLERS: I was measuring his curtains and I had to stop.

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: I will tell you, no matter what else happens today, Jim Clyburn has had a good day.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: Those numbers say it all.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: That is remarkable. Even if some people are saying it was one of a couple of factors and maybe they're just giving -- cut that number in half. One in four people say he was a factor.

That's a remarkable thing for one person who -- Bakari is right, in that area, yes, he's an influenced figure. There are others. But that's a remarkable thing statewide race where you're seeing millions and millions of dollars be spent. Not by the way, by Joe Biden on TV. That validation is so powerful. That's remarkable. Because endorsements nowadays -

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: We'll get some more information from our exit poll ahead. Did South Carolinians base their vote on who can defeat President Trump? We'll find out after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:55]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. We're getting more information now on what's on the mind of voters in South Carolina.

David Chalian is going through the exit poll numbers.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. As you know, we asked voters as they were coming to the polls today in South Carolina, this one key question that we have asked in every state and asked throughout the entire campaign: In the candidate you choose today, are you looking for something who can defeat Donald Trump or somebody who can agree with you on the issues.

It's still a majority, 53 percent, who can say they are looking for somebody who can defeat Trump. That's a smaller number than in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. And 43 percent in the South Carolina Democratic electorate say they are looking for somebody who agrees with them on the issues.

This is what's so interesting. It's moderates who are driving this. They are looking for agreement on the issues. In the three of the early states, it was liberals looking for somebody who agreed. Here, it's moderates looking for that. It's a different electorate here in South Carolina.

We also looked for the candidate quality that matters the most. Take a look at this. Can bring needed change, 38 percent of voters say that's what they are looking for above all else. And 27 percent say you need to unite the country. And 26 percent say cares about people like me.

Again, a big chunk. The biggest chunk can bring needed change. Looking for a change agent but it's moderate and conservatives that are a bigger share of the electorate we have seen previously. Important to remember.

Finally, how are you feeling about the Trump administration? Take a look at this, 48 percent of Democratic voters in South Carolina say that they are angry. That's their feeling about the Trump administration. In New Hampshire, that number was 79 percent. Not nearly as an angry of an electorate that we saw in New Hampshire.

And the whole question about Democratic unity, will the party come together. And 80 percent of voters today say, regardless who the nominee is, they are going to vote for the Democrat in November -- Brianna?

[17:40:03]

KEILAR: David, thank you so much for that.

Let's talk about this candidate quality because I'm curious how much you think that actually you can extrapolate that to who these voters might choose. And 38 percent say they want someone who can bring in change. Only 6 percent say they want someone who is a fighter. What do you think that about, Mark Preston?

PRESTON: A couple of things. One, if you take two numbers, can bring needed change at 38 percent and cares about people like me at 26 percent, it comes out to 64 percent.

The reason I put those two numbers together is you're look at somebody like Bernie Sanders who is energizing the base now.

When you have somebody who talks about raising a minimum wage, about Medicare For All, about free college, cares about people, cares about issues that are important to me, and that's why I think that's important for Bernie Sanders.

CILLIZZA: Just one word of caution. I think what's hard is we focus on the electability question. People say they want somebody electable. That's good for Joe Biden. Sometimes it's just -- like electability was high in Nevada. Bernie Sanders won overwhelmingly.

Because if you like Bernie Sanders, you find him electable. If you like Joe Biden, may you think he can bring needed change.

It's just a little hard because I think a lot of time the top of the ballot drives underneath it. You think that Joe Biden cares about people like you. That question is very hard, and to your point about extrapolating. It's sometimes hard. I think, yes, broadly speaking, can bring about needed change should

be Bernie Sanders but

KEILAR: So let's --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: So this question has an insidious way of cutting against women candidates and candidates of color --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: -- which is really odd when you think about this 2008 high- water mark that we keep talk about. If Democrats could beat the 2008 metric where more people turned out than ever before and we treat it like something we're hardly -- we're probably never going to get to again.

Well, there were two history making candidates in that primary in 2008. It was a woman and a black man and that galvanized Democrats across the country.

But when we ask the electability question, the safe choice continues to be, well, that's probably an older white guy --

(CROSSTALK)

MCINTOSH: -- like the majority of our presidents.

So I just want to add --

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: Absolutely. Just to take that one step further, I remind everyone that the first, second and third-highest vote getters in the history of the United States of America are not white men. It is a black man once and twice and a white woman in 2016. That's something there.

But if you talk about this electability thing, especially when talking about black voters in South Carolina, all of these different polls are great, but it boils down to one thing for most African-American voters.

I dare not say that I speak for all. But for most, it's trust. It's trust in that particular candidate. And we skip that sometimes.

That's why it's hard for a candidate like Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar, who don't necessarily have these relationships with the community, to come in and build that trust.

It was hard for Bernie Sanders, which is why, having Killer Mike and Nina Turner, having all of these amazing surrogates come down and cultivate that and build a movement, which he's done, I don't know if it's enough.

Black voters trusted Barack Obama. They trusted Hillary Clinton. They trust Joe Biden.

The main reason trust is so important is because we have worked so hard to have some semblance of success in this country when success, meaning right, having this American dream, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act.

The amount of energy and blood and sweat and tears that was put into actually having that ounce of success, we're not going to risk a vote on someone who may not be there or who may not be strong enough to fight to make sure we can continue that progress.

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: To Bakari's point, if you watch Jim Clyburn's endorsement of Joe Biden while you were talking, he talked about the length of the relationship. He said, I know this man. My wife said -- talked about Joe Biden. It's hard to go in, if you're Pete Buttigieg and go, hey, I won in Iowa and I came in second in New Hampshire because Joe Biden has been there for like 40 years.

KEILAR: Let's talk a little more broadly about what we may be seeing tonight. Polls most recently looking in Joe Biden's favor. He really needs a win, with kind of a capitol "W" tonight.

There's some good numbers for him. Older voters, moderate voters. What we're seeing here in these polls.

But what does he need to do tonight?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We're talking about the African-American vote a lot for a reason because I think that will be the most important information we'll get tonight. We're going to see whether or not he really can deliver with African-American voters.

Bernie has been making up some ground in the polls. Is Biden going to be able to really lock in that vote and show that he's the favored candidate. That's meaningful. If you can't win black voters, you can't win the nomination. It's not possible.

[17:45:02]

So I think it will be interesting to see also just as Bernie -- how the polls are acting, if he's making up that ground. When it really becomes time to cast a vote, are there going to be some African- American who switch from Biden to Bernie the way we've seen in the polls.

KEILAR: Is Joe Biden going to be viable if he doesn't come away with a big win tonight?

GRANHOLM: Well, he won't be viable if he doesn't come away with a win. The question is how big. If it's a double-digit win, that's a big win. That gives him a lot of momentum.

And knowing, in South Carolina, historically, the winner of South Carolina other than when John Edwards -- (CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: -- the winner of South Carolina goes onto win the nomination.

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: Right. And he had his own issues.

But the winner of South Carolina also generally wins Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana. I mean --

(CROSSTALK)

GRANHOLM: -- there's a chunk of votes that go along with that. And when you look at what's happening on Super Tuesday, there's a number of southern states that would be influence by this vote, if what he does tonight gets him over double digits.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think the right context to be thinking about this is what was this to say about Super Tuesday. If we're talking about 54 delegate, Super Tuesday will deliver a third of the entire primary public.

So the question becomes, how do voters take a cue here and is there a cue to be had. The two cues I'm looking for is what happens on the moderate side of this race. Does Biden win decisively and, in effect, force other people out of the race or is this still -- is there still an argument to stay in.

The second point is, what can Bernie say about his ability through consistency to build up base in South Carolina. Because really, at some point, he doesn't have to win. But what he has to show is he can make up that ground over the four years that people have gotten know him.

I think that ability says a lot about what will happen in California and Texas, I some of the southern states that vote on Tuesday.

KEILAR: We're getting closer to the end of voting in South Carolina and our first chance to potentially make a projection.

Our special coverage continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:51:24]

BLITZER: We are closing in on the polls closing in South Carolina a little bit more than an hour from now. We're watching it very closely.

We have reporters at various holding places, including north Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina.

Let's got to Athena Jones first in north Charleston.

What are you seeing, Athena?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Here at this elementary school polling station, a little over 900 people had cast votes here today. Talking to poll workers who have been here working the polling station for about 20 years, one described it as average. The other thought there would be more people turning out because of all of the attention on this race.

I talked to more than 100 of the people that cast votes, more than 10 percent, and I can tell you the name I hear most often by broad bit is Joe Biden. A lot of support for the vice president at this polling station from voters young and old, black and white.

The other name we are hearing is Bernie Sanders. Those two have the most support.

And one thing I should mention, it that of voters showing up here, the majority of them have been black. We have been talking about how this is the first state to vote with a large African-American population.

And the vast majority of those voters said they were backing Biden. They said they liked him because of President Obama, the fact he served President Obama. They called him decent. And they believe he has a good chance of winning against President Trump -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Interesting.

Athena, stand by.

Dianne Gallagher is in Columbia, South Carolina, the capitol.

What are you seeing there, Dianne?

DIANNA GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing something similar to what Athena is talking about here. At our particular precinct, here in Richland, outside the big part of Columbia, we have a predominantly black voter base here and a little older as well.

Most voters we have spoken to -- again, purely anecdotal -- but they're going for Joe Biden or for Tom Steyer. A lot of people we have spoken to choosing Tom Steyer got to know him through the ads that have blanketed South Carolina, Wolf. They basically recited back some ads about why they chose him, saying they feel he would be the best person to beat Donald Trump. They feel he cares about the environment, something they care about here.

When it comes to Joe Biden, we are hearing frequently they trusted him when he was vice president to President Obama. And they said they felt better about their choice when Congressman Clyburn went ahead and went public with his endorsement of Joe Biden.

That's kind of what we're seeing here. There's the couple of other different candidates, but for the most part, overwhelmingly, we're hearing Joe Biden and Tom Steyer at this particular precinct. Again, we haven't talked to everybody that voted. Something else that happened her, Wolf, and maybe you can see them

back there with me. They're coming through here. They're taking machines. It is the first time they've used ballot marking devices. They're bringing them out. Most people say they enjoy the ease of using that.

But, again, we have to wait until it is over to see whether or not South Carolina, in the first time using these machines statewide, how it goes for them with that.

BLITZER: All right, Dianna, Athena, we'll get back to both of you. Thank you very much.

Voting lines done soon in South Carolina. Will this be Joe Biden's night? We're getting closer and close to our first chance to make a projection.

[17:54:28]

We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We are back in the CNN Election Center with more of our live coverage of the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary. Polling places close in about an hour from now. That's when we'll have the first chance to project the early leaders or possibly a winner.

Eight Democrats are still in the 2020 race. One of them has the most at stake tonight, and that would be Joe Biden. He's banking on South Carolina and African-American voters to breathe new life into his presidential bid.

But frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, is riding a wave that could threaten Biden's plans.

[18:00:04]

Dana, the outcome is crucial, especially as it sets the stage three days from now for Super Tuesday.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: That's right, Wolf.