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Clinton Wins Iowa; Eric Cantor Interview; Rubio Rides Iowa Finish. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired February 2, 2016 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: In "The Situation Room." For our international viewers, "Amanpour" is next. For our viewers in North America, "Newsroom" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf Blitzer, thank you so much.

Great to be with all of you on this Tuesday. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

Well, it took only about 19 hours, but the Iowa Democratic caucuses are officially history. Moments ago, the Iowa Democratic Party released the final results and Hillary Clinton has edged out Bernie Sanders by the closest margin Iowa Democrats have ever seen. Clinton claimed victory last night and showed her relief just a short time ago with Wolf.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, as you recall, my luck was not that good last time around, and it was wonderful to win the caucus and to have that experience of all the hard work, the grassroots organizing, pay off the way it did.

I can say that I believe the Democratic Party of Iowa ran a good caucus from everything that our people told me. There was an enormous turnout, which everybody said would tremendously favor Senator Sanders. If there are legitimate issues on both sides, I don't think the Democratic Party has any problems with that. But from everything we have learned and know, I won and I'm very proud of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Proud of that despite the narrowest of margins. For its part, the Sanders campaign says it isn't challenging the official results, but it isn't conceding either. Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver says they will ask for the raw voter counts. But for now, the focus shifts to New Hampshire. And Sanders is basically on home turf there.

Let me bring in my colleague, CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny, who is with Hillary Clinton's campaign there in Manchester.

Jeff Zeleny, we heard the relief again sort of echoed by Hillary Clinton. Where is the focus now moving forward?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, the focus moving forward here now is on the next seven days in New Hampshire. It was the narrowist of wins, as you said. And, you know, the Sanders campaign, one of the reasons they're not contesting this is, the Sanders campaign has so much strength here, but they also view this as a - as a victory in its own right, a moral victory, an ideological victory, a movement victory and they're raising a lot of money off of it.

But no question about it, Hillary Clinton has shaken the sort of specter of Iowa from her back that's really been hanging over her campaign ever since she got in almost a year ago. She lost there eight years ago, as she said, and that has sort of always haunted her. And it was the very first thing she said when she arrived at her first rally here today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is great to be here with all of you. And I am so thrilled that I'm coming to New Hampshire after winning Iowa! I - I could tell you, I - I've won and I've lost there. It's a lot better to win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So it's a lot better to win. But, Brooke, another similarity with this race versus her 2008 one, this is going to become a delegate fight because for all the talk of winning, she and Bernie Sanders are essentially even-steven here on the delegate fight. She'll win a few more. But as we saw in that race in 2008, it is a month's long - potentially months long a race for delegates, slogging it out state by state by state. Both sides know this, so that is certainly coming up here, but even more importantly what happens here in New Hampshire. And I could tell by the tone in her voice today, Brooke, in talking to advisers, she's going to sharpen her contrast of Senator Sanders. She wants to kind of shake voters here and remind them that she has experience and electability. We'll see if it works because, she's right, he is very popular here. We're just next door to Vermont.

BALDWIN: We will get a preview of that tomorrow night at the CNN town hall with those democrat candidates.

ZELENY: That's right.

BALDWIN: Jeff Zeleny, for now, thank you.

Let's talk about all this breaking news with CNN political director David Chalian.

David Chalian, it's official, but we cannot underscore this, how incredibly close that race was.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Without a doubt. As you said, it was the closest Iowa democratic caucus in history. And - and it is making it difficult for Hillary Clinton to sort of get the bounce of a clean victory. It sort of had to wait, wait for the party to release their final totals. She needed to first declare herself the winner before lots of news organizations were ready to do so. But, a win is a win, Brooke. And we should just note how consequential a defeat for Hillary Clinton would have been in Iowa. If she repeated her history from 2008. The fact that she was able to avoid that is a huge moment for her. And even though it's super close and the Sanders campaign has that moral victory that they can claim, they came from nowhere and they were right there in a virtual tie, no doubt about it. But the fact is, that since she won, that is up-ending a narrative from 2008, and that is hugely important to her, psychologically and in terms of rallying her troops.

[14:05:23] BALDWIN: But you know this better than anyone, when you look at New Hampshire moving forward, this is Bernie Sanders' home turf. So if you are Camp Clinton, how do you keep that momentum moving forward, I'm sure, but also the eyes on the prize in the next primary being South Carolina? How do they play this moving ahead the next week?

CHALIAN: Well, right. So imagine if she had lost Iowa -

BALDWIN: Right.

CHALIAN: And she would be staring at New Hampshire the way you described it, it would be like, whoa, we can't go 0-2. So now that she has that victory, it's exactly for the reason of how advantageous New Hampshire is for Bernie Sanders right now that at least that win in Iowa now gives her a little bit of breathing room.

But you are right to look ahead, because that is what the Clinton campaign is doing. They are going to say, OK, Sanders may win here in New Hampshire. They're going to campaign there hard. But he's from next door. They're already setting the expectations. And they're saying, but when this race kicks to South Carolina, to Nevada, and more broadly to the south and the other super Tuesday states, it demographically changes and they believe it demographically changes in a way with more African-American votes, more Hispanic votes out in Nevada, that benefits Hillary Clinton.

BALDWIN: David Chalian, I don't know if you slept a wink last night, but I appreciate the energy you bring to all of this. It is awesome.

CHALIAN: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: David, thank you very much.

CHALIAN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: The Democrats weren't the only party to break records at the Iowa caucuses with the closest race in their caucus history. A record turnout for Republicans put Texas Senator Ted Cruz on top. In fact, the top three vote getters earned more caucus votes than either winner in 2008 or 2012. Cruz, just minutes ago in New Hampshire, expressed his gratitude and thoughts on why he won in Iowa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we saw last night was we saw that old Reagan coalition coming back together again. We saw conservatives and evangelicals and libertarians and Reagan Democrats all standing together saying, what on earth are we doing?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: All right, so now that the Texas senator, now officially the frontrunner as the candidate are officially descending upon New Hampshire, Florida Senator Marco Rubio gave what sure sounded like a victory speech after he narrowly lost to billionaire Donald Trump for second place in the Hawkeye state. Here was Rubio today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But I can grow the conservative movement. I can take our message to people that have not voted for us before and bring them on and into the conservative movement. And that means we win the election and we win the future. We need to unify the conservative movement and the Republican Party. I can do that better than anyone that's running. We need to grow it. I can do that better than anyone who's running. And we need to beat Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. I give us the best chance to do that. The Democrats know that. That's why they attack me so often.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. He has endorsed Jeb Bush for president.

Congressman, nice to see you. Welcome.

ERIC CANTOR, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Brooke, nice to be here.

BALDWIN: All right, so you made a little news recently in Davos when you were saying despite his lead in the poll, Donald Trump will never make it past the Republican primaries. Do you still stand by that, sir?

CANTOR: Well, listen, I think the news coming out of Iowa last night was that you could stop Donald Trump because up until last night, many, many in the media and elsewhere were saying that he's unstoppable. And I think clearly there's a difference between the kinds of crowds that Donald Trump is able to attract to his rallies and the kind of crowds that he can motivate to come out to vote.

BALDWIN: Do you think - this is what Marco Rubio said was partially the case why folks, you know, went to caucus for him, that Trump's choice in skipping that Fox debate hurt him. Do you think it hurt him and helped Rubio?

CANTOR: You know, I don't know. I know that there had been a lot of focus on the part of the Rubio camp on Iowa, as there was on the part of the Cruz camp in Iowa. But I think as we see going into New Hampshire a much different electorate. New Hampshire, frankly, has a much better record of actually choosing our nominees then does Iowa because I think if you look back to '08, John McCain placed number four out of a six person field in Iowa, but then went on to win New Hampshire. So that's why I'm looking forward to it. I know that Jeb Bush has a tremendous force on the ground. I'll be up in New Hampshire with Governor Bush tomorrow.

BALDWIN: Well, let's - since you mentioned New Hampshire, let's stay there and move ahead. I know you endorse Jeb. But, again, you know, based upon how well Marco Rubio did in Iowa, looking at the numbers moving forward, do you think he just became the establishment's favorite candidate?

[14:10:00] CANTOR: You know, I think, listen, this is a long process. Remember, there were - they're only 6 percent of the delegates eligible for selection in February. March is a much bigger month. You know, and, again, I think when you look at New Hampshire, Jeb Bush had always said, at least going back as far as last November, that he was really going to pull out of Iowa and not spend a lot of money and focus his efforts on organizing New Hampshire. And as I said earlier, New Hampshire has a much better record in terms of choosing the nominee and I think it - and when it comes down to it, you mentioned sort of who is turning out to vote. I think people are going to get serious. It is about electing and choosing a commander in chief. Somebody ready for the job on day one. No one can hold a candle to Jeb Bush when it comes to experience, track record and the right temperament.

BALDWIN: But, congressman, when you look at the super PAC donations, and there was a lot of money, you know, that the Jeb Bush camp has had, they have plummeted. I mean what do you make of that dramatic fall for him?

CANTOR: Well, again, what - first of all, I know that the campaign nor I can speak for the super PAC, but I would say this, I mean, as we saw last night with the narrative of Donald Trump losing to Ted Cruz, a lot of the polling that has taken place prior to a primary taking place is very, very iffy. And I think we have seen the polling not bear out to what actually happens. And especially when you're dealing with primary voters.

BALDWIN: But, forgive me, with all due respect, I'm not talking polling, I'm just talking about cold hard cash and super PAC donations and Governor Bush.

CANTOR: Well, I mean, I think that the reports yesterday seem to indicate that his super PAC certainly has a lot more money than all the others.

BALDWIN: OK.

I want to move on because I have to play this sound. We dug up some sound from Senator Cruz reacting to your shocking loss in 2014 when you lost to a Tea Party upstart. Here you go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Eric Cantor is a good man. He's a hard-working man. He's a smart man. But the voters of Virginia have spoken loudly. And I think they have expressed a sentiment that is present across the country, which is that people are frustrated. They're frustrated with politicians in Washington in both parties who aren't listening to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Listening to him. Congressman Cantor, what is your personal opinion of Ted Cruz?

CANTOR: Listen, I had the experience of working with Ted Cruz. He obviously takes a very different posture in terms of whether one should try and get something done, put conservative principles at work to produce results or whether you want to just obstruct and just say no. And again I know that -

BALDWIN: What side of that does he fall on?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, I think it's pretty apparent what side he falls on. You know, all of us on my side of the political aisle very frustrated with this president and his disregard of the law and his overreach in terms of executive orders and philosophically how we differ so much from him. At the end of the day, what we want to do is we want to increase the appeal of conservative philosophy and the - and I think that the test is, can you put it to work to achieve results? In the time that I had spent with Senator Cruz, it wasn't necessarily evident to me that he shared that aim, which is to produce results.

BALDWIN: What does it tell you - I come back to this point with folks. What does it tell you that not a single Republican senator has publicly said Ted Cruz is the man who should lead this country?

CANTOR: Well, I mean, I guess you can draw the conclusion that you're inferring, that those who know him best -

BALDWIN: Which is what?

CANTOR: Those who know him best are not supporting him. So, you know, again, I think what - what voters will look to, and I think it's less important in terms of, you know, that fact, but what voters are going to look to in the end, in this process is, who is the best positioned with the track record, with the demonstrated temperament to be commander in chief? That is the test. That is why I'm supporting Jeb Bush.

BALDWIN: Talk about the far right. I mean here you were House majority leader, a Republican star, years on The Hill. Here comes this economics professor, associated with the Tea Party, unseats you, shocks everyone. Something tells me you are not surprised by this - I don't know if you want to call it a movement or just anger kicked up by both Trump and Cruz.

CANTOR: Well, listen, I'm certainly not surprised. But what I can tell you - and I don't think that the - my experience and my loss in the primary is necessarily instructive because, you know, in Virginia, we have open primaries and there was a lot that was going on from the other side that tipped the balance of the scales. So, again, I don't necessarily think you can take lessons. But certainly people are angry right now. And I don't blame people because the economy is tough. Most working middle class Americans have not seen a pay raise in decades. They're not sure how they're going to be able to afford retirement or sending their kids to college. These are real concerns, which goes back to my contention, who is best poised to produce results to help people, and how are they going to do that? And there is only one person in this race who has an unassailable record as chief executive of a very large state who has actually produced those results, and that's Jeb Bush.

[14:15:15] BALDWIN: OK. I hear you loud and clear. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, thank you, sir.

CANTOR: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Programming note for you. Tomorrow night, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders going face-to-face with New Hampshire voters, taking questions directly from those who will decide the winner and the loser a week from today. A Democratic presidential town hall in Derry, New Hampshire. Anderson Cooper will be moderating. Definitely tune in tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

Moments ago, Hillary Clinton officially declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses, even though Bernie Sanders is questioning the vote. We'll talk live with both campaigns on that.

Also ahead, are experts giving enough credit to Donald Trump? He's taking issue with the media's coverage of his finish - his second place finish in Iowa. We'll discuss that.

And Ted Cruz apologizing today for what Ben Carson called dirty tricks last night in Iowa. What is Carson's next move? Stay with me. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:20:08] BALDWIN: You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Coming up, a very strong third place finish in Iowa. Senator Marco Rubio is now focusing all of his efforts on being the establishment candidate who can win in New Hampshire. He landed there overnight after telling his supporters in Iowa that he is not going to wait his turn, as some have suggested, to become the Republican nominee.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They told me that we have no chance because my hair wasn't gray enough and my boots were too high. They told me I needed to wait my turn. That I needed to wait in line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is your turn.

RUBIO: But tonight, tonight here in Iowa, the people of this great state sent a very clear message. After seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer to take our country back!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Joining me now, Ron Bonjean, he is the owner of the public affairs firm Bonjean and Company and former spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. And Matt Schlapp is with us today as well, George W. Bush's former political director and chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Gentlemen, welcome. Happy day after Iowa caucuses. Good to see both of you.

Let's talk Marco Rubio. Listen, already we're seeing that he is a big target. Here is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This isn't the student council election, everybody. This is an election for president of the United States. Let's get the boy in the bubble out of the bubble and let's see him play for the next week in New Hampshire. I'm ready to play. I hope he is, because I'll be ready to see him on Saturday night.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: The boy in the bubble, Ron Bonjean. I mean do you think with that now sort of target on his back with a strong third place finish, do you think he has officially established himself as the establishment candidate moving forward?

RON BONJEAN, FORMER SPOKESMAN, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER TRENT LOTT: Well, he's definitely getting there. He's going to get a big bump in the polls out of his strong Iowa finish. I mean, look, he - he came right under Donald Trump. That's - that's no small feat. In addition to that, you know, the Bush ads, they really attacked - they were really vicious on him. And there was criticism coming out of Iowa that he didn't spend enough time there. But you know what, he's very good at these debates. I mean he is - he's one of the best I've seen in quite some time. And I think, you know, he's definitely going to have a target on his back from, you know, from everyone I think frankly. So he'll have to - he'll have to perform just as well as he did the last time.

BALDWIN: It will be interesting to see sort how Trump I guess chooses to take him on.

When you think of the caucus goers, you know, in Iowa, Matt, the undecideds came out, and they came out for Marco Rubio.

MATT SCHLAPP, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right.

BALDWIN: He said it - he said it this morning, that the fact that Donald Trump chose to, you know, skip that debate, hold that fundraiser for veterans, he thinks that actually in the end helped him, Rubio. Do you - would you agree? SCHLAPP: Well, definitely Ted Cruz missed his moment. I think Ted Cruz

thought that would be his moment on the debate stage without the bigger personality of Donald Trump. The huge personality of Donald Trump. And I think Ted Cruz was ready to really command that stage and, you know, Ted Cruz is also a great debater but he did not have a great night and he really did cede the night to a certain extent to Marco Rubio. But I do think, even during that debate stage, Jeb Bush landed a few punches on Marco Rubio. So it gets back to your question about how this goes in New Hampshire. Yes, Marco Rubio's on the rise, it's incredible, it's great, he should feel great about Iowa, but John Kasich and Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are doing much better in New Hampshire than in Iowa and there's going to be a real contest for this establishment lane.

BALDWIN: So there's this - there's this one name you totally glazed over in that answer, Donald Trump. I mean, you know, is he getting enough credit? I mean this is somebody, never has been in an election in his life, you know, finishes in this solid second place, Ron. Do you think he's getting enough credit for, you know, his first shot at public office in the number two spot in Iowa?

BONJEAN: Well, look, you know, there's no question he gets some credit for that, but he set the expectation game way too high. I mean he - you know -

BALDWIN: Is that what it is?

BONJEAN: It's a branding issue. He said - he's a winner and yet he came in second place. So if it wasn't for the late night, you know, Hillary Clinton and sanders, you know, tight photo finish, I think you'd have a lot more criticism coming up on Donald Trump. Because when you say you're the best and you keep quoting the polls and you say you're going to win Iowa and then you don't, that's a problem. So I think there might be some blood in the water for him. I think his poll numbers are going to come down from New Hampshire quite considerably.

BALDWIN: We'll talk to one of his surrogates and get - get their take in a second.

One of the other, you know, themes out of today, Matt, is ben Carson, OK.

SCHLAPP: Right.

BALDWIN: So he's come forward. He's accusing Ted Cruz supporters of saying that he was dropping out of the race. His phrase was that they were employing dirty tricks, circulating rumors last night at caucuses -

SCHLAPP: Right.

BALDWIN: You know, for these folks to go ahead and vote for Cruz instead. When instead, whether you think this is a little bizarre or not, you know, he's going to Florida on vacation and the campaign says he needs some fresh clothes. And, by the way, the Cruz campaign now the morning after said, sorry. A little late?

[14:25:10] SCHLAPP: That's right. Yes, no, I don't think it is too late. I think Ted Cruz is - Ted Cruz actually apologized. And I think it was the right thing to do. They clearly read a report and represented to followers that Ben Carson was actually maybe stopping his campaign. And instead what Ben Carson is doing is stopping his campaign by going to states for vacation, which is, you know, not normal in a presidential campaign. So Ben Carson, a great guy, but deserves a little bit of ribbing for why wouldn't you immediately go to New Hampshire and South Carolina? They have department stores there. You can buy clothes there. They have dry-cleaners.

BALDWIN: OK, that's obviously what everyone else is wondering. But at the same time, you know, the fact that apparently some of these Cruz folks, you know, were saying, hey, he's out, should there be some sort of consequence for that?

BONJEAN: Well - well, you know, I think that, you know, the Cruz people should have kept quiet about it, no question about it. They should have just let everybody scratch heads and go, that's bizarre that Cruz is flying to Florida to buy new clothes when you can walk down the street to get it. Clearly he needs a break and re-access his campaign and where he wants to go. The Cruz people understand that they were - you know, look, they were basking in their victory and now, you know, you don't want to peel away those - the -

SCHLAPP: That's right.

BONJEAN: You want - you don't want to peel away those Carson voters to somebody else. You want to get those folks. So it's better to be magnanimous in victory, smart to apologize early and get it out of the way.

SCHLAPP: And, finally -

BALDWIN: Yes.

SCHLAPP: If Dr. Carson's going to get off the campaign trail, this is great news for Ted Cruz. Don't step on the story. It's a great story.

BALDWIN: Let him - let him go pick out that favorite pair of pants he needs from Florida, right, before he hits the trail again.

SCHLAPP: That's right. Right.

BALDWIN: All right, Ron Bonjean and Matt Schlapp, gentlemen, thank you so much.

Coming up next -

BONJEAN: Thank you.

SCHLAPP: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it. Back to our top story. Hillary Clinton just declared the official

winner in Iowa. Can she take this new momentum into Bernie sanders' backyard in New England for that win in New Hampshire? We'll talk with her campaign next.

Also ahead, how Bernie Sanders reacts to the news out of Iowa. His campaign is saying it wants to see the raw vote count. A Sanders rally expected to begin soon in New Hampshire. We'll take it live for you.

Keep it right here on CNN.

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