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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Clinton Wins Nevada; Fight Moves on to Super Tuesday; South Carolina Goes to Donald Trump; Jeb Bush Suspends Campaign. Aired 11p- 12a ET
Aired February 20, 2016 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANHCOR: CNN projects Hillary Clinton is the winner of the Nevada Democratic caucuses, beating Bernie Sanders.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an important win, it's a decisive win.
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some may have doubted us, but we never doubted each other.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT) DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a corrupt campaign finance system.
CLINTON: We aren't a single-issue country.
SANDERS: Now it's on to Super Tuesday.
CLINTON: The fight goes on. The future that we want is within our grasp.
BLITZER: Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate magnet, will win the South Carolina Republican primary.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does this now represent the defeat of skepticism?
AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It looks like Donald Trump is on his way to winning.
JEB BUSH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken. So tonight, I am suspending my campaign. Yeah, yeah.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This has been the writing on the wall for some time.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The death of a dynasty, in a way.
BEN CARSON, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are only six now, and I'm still one of them.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's down to the final four.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R-FL) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As people drop out, I'm going to get a lot of those votes also. You don't just, you don't the just ...
RUBIO: I'm not going anywhere.
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This country is now ready for a new generation of conservatives to guide us into the 21st century.
CRUZ: The Washington cartel in full terror that the conservative grassroots are rising up.
TRUMP: We won. We won.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): U.S.A. U.S.A. U.S.A.
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KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world this evening.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm John Berman. We are live, yes, live for CNN's special coverage, a pivotal night in the race for president. A race that changes so much based on what happened tonight.
In the Republican race, Donald Trump with a huge win in South Carolina, now clearly the frontrunner, seemingly by a lot.
For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton reasserting herself in Nevada with a decisive win there.
BOLDUAN: And looking at the Republican field, it is shrinking. And Jeb Bush, the popular Florida governor, the man once considered really the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, he is now out. Announcing he's suspending his campaign in front of a room of supporters tonight.
Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz right now, still at this moment battling it out for second place. It is close, it is tight. We are watching this.
The night, though, belongs for the Republican, for the billionaire from New York, Donald Trump. And that is where we want to begin.
Sara Murray, she's standing by live inside Trump headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Sara, a very big night for Donald Trump, what are you hearing?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Kate, there was already a celebratory feel here earlier before the numbers came in. And when CNN finally did call this for Trump, the crowd went wild. Take a listen to what he had to say to his supporters tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I love you all. Again, South Carolina, we will never forget you. We will never forget you. We will never, ever forget South Carolina. We will never forget our great volunteers. We love our volunteers. We'll never forget all of the people that have helped us so much, my family and folks.
Let's go. Let's have a big win in Nevada. Let's have a big win at the SCC. Let's put this thing away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: And you heard Trump there, kind of forecasting the calendar ahead. One thing he did not do in his victory speech, though, was mention Jeb Bush, his favorite foil who is now out of the race. It will be interesting to see how these new dynamics play out.
He's been pretty nice to Marco Rubio so far. They've said Marco Rubio hasn't attacked them. But now that we're seeing Rubio's strong showing tonight, maybe that could be the next bitter battle in the Republican primary.
BERMAN: And Sara, we understand the Trump campaign, in a way, doesn't feel like it's getting the respect that it feels it deserves. It's now won two out of three races, won South Carolina big tonight, by ten points, at least. They feel like if this was anyone else, you know, we'd be measuring drapes in the Oval Office.
MURRAY: That is absolutely right, John. Even before they came to victory in South Carolina, of course, they felt pretty good going into the state, but they said, "Look, we won in New Hampshire by wide margins. We're leading in the polls nationwide. We're leading in a number of these SCC states."
But for some reason, people just think Donald Trump is going to trip and fall and everything is going to disappear. They feel like if this were any other candidate, they would already be seen as the heir apparent to the Republican nomination. And it is clear, after New Hampshire, after South Carolina, Donald Trump is undoubtedly the Republican frontrunner in this race. So, it's still not clear exactly what state someone else is going to knock him off in.
BERMAN: All right, Sara Murray for us at Trump headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The party there is over physically but metaphorically speaking, it will continue on.
[23:5:02] BOLDUAN: It moved here, right here to this table.
BERMAN: Exactly. Did I mention we are live covering the election results and we do not yet know who has come in second place in South Carolina. For that reason and that reason alone, you need to stay with us for hours this evening as we cover the results as they come in. We don't know who came in second ...
BOLDUAN: That's right.
BERMAN: ... we don't know in third, but we do really know who came in fourth, a distant fourth. That was Jeb Bush.
And I think, perhaps, you know, one of the most memorable moments of the night was the emotional speech he gave after suspending his campaign.
Want to go to CNN's Athena Jones. She is at what was the Bush campaign headquarters because Athena, as of now, there's no more Bush campaign.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, there's no more Bush campaign. There's no more party going on, at least not anywhere that we can see it.
This was a disappointing night, and it was an emotional moment in that room as Governor Bush decided to suspend his campaign. There were gasps in the audience when he said the words "I'm suspending my campaign." People said, "Oh, no, we love you, Jeb."
Take a listen to some of what he told the crowd gathered here tonight.
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BUSH: But the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken, and I really respect their decision. So, tonight, I am suspending my campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
BUSH: Yeah, yeah. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Governor Bush went on to say that he believes the next president needs to be someone who sees himself as a servant and not a master.
He also said that despite what you may have heard, ideas matter, policy matters, two lines that seem to be veiled references to Donald Trump, who in many ways was his chief sparring partner for months in this campaign.
But it began to become clear earlier in the day, just as the results were coming in that this wasn't shaping up to be a good night for Jeb Bush.
People close to his campaign, had been saying that maybe originally they wanted to come in third, but maybe a close fourth just behind Marco Rubio could allow him to stay in the race.
The gap right now, I know we're still getting results in but it looks like it's more than a dozen points. And so, the Governor decided that he had to bow out.
In a nod to his former protege and Marco Rubio said that he ran a campaign of ideas. Ted Cruz said something similar in his remarks.
So, this is how it all ends for Governor Bush after at first being the presumptive nominee around this time last year, but it just didn't work out for him. It wasn't his year. John?
BERMAN: Absolutely not. John Kasich also saying some very nice things about Governor Bush as well, a very bad night for him, the end of a long road for Governor Bush.
Athena, thank you so much.
BERMAN: $150 million. If you add the PAC up, the Super PAC up ...
BOLDUAN: The definition of a war chest.
BERMAN: ... unbelievable amount of money spent for a campaign that really never got off the ground.
BOLDUAN: What happens next? All of that, where was it, 7.8 percent in South Carolina? Where does that support move? That's going to be a part of the conversation going forward.
But another big part of the conversation that's telling more the story than those numbers, are the exit polls. And we've got a lot of information to get into the minds of the voters and what drew them to what candidate.
For that, let's bring in CNN Political Director David Chalian, who's got -- you've been looking -- you've got a whole lot of numbers with a whole lot of information, my friend.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: A whole lot of numbers, indeed.
BOLDUAN: How did Donald Trump pull it off? What are you seeing?
CHALIAN: Yeah. These numbers are really interesting because it does get at exactly how he won. And quite frankly, to pick up of what Athena was just saying, I think it gets at why it wasn't Jeb Bush's year, guys.
So, take a look at this. This is our first question to voters to sort of getting a sense that, are you angry at the federal government? 40 percent of the Republican electorate today in South Carolina is angry at the federal government.
And Donald Trump wins those voters going away by 20 points, 44 percent of them for Trump, 24 percent for Cruz, 16 percent for Rubio and 7 percent for Carson. It's that anger that I think Jeb Bush never tapped into. And that Donald Trump taps into really, really well.
Look at that. And then the other thing is about beyond the anger of the federal government, who can bring about change? Donald Trump is the change agent here. About 31 percent of the Republican primary electorate wanted a change agent. And Donald Trump wins them by 26 points, 45 percent to Cruz's, 19 percent, Rubio at 16 percent and Jeb Bush at 8 percent. That is for the folks that went to the polls seeking a change candidate. That was Donald Trump.
BERMAN: So, we're watching this battle for second place, David Chalian. This will keep our viewers here at least until 2:00, if not beyond.
CHALIAN: At least.
BERMAN: We don't know. We do not know who came in second in South Carolina. Is it Marco Rubio? Is it Ted Cruz? Separated by 1,000 votes, give or take right now.
What are voters saying -- what are voters saying in the exit polls about these two candidates?
CHALIAN: Right, because they each do have strengths. So, if you look at the numbers here. Marco Rubio is winning the category of looking for people who have experience in politics.
[23:10:06] Those voters that wanted the experience candidate went with Rubio 38 percent, to Cruz's 29 percent, Bush at 14, Kasich at 11.
But, Ted Cruz wins those voters that are looking for somebody who shares their values. So, if you went to the polls and the big candidate quality that you were looking for is a candidate that shares your values, you were likely to be a Cruz voter. He wins them 34 percent, Rubio at 27 percent, Carson at 11, Kasich at 10.
So, as you look at that battle, guys, as the votes come in and those final votes are counted, it's sort of looking to see, well, did the sort of shares might value notion win out debate for second place, or was the right experience the thing that put Marco Rubio into second place?
BOLDUAN: And right experience might be the key way of saying it, David, because when you look at who amongst -- when people thought it was important to have experience, who those people went for were two first-term senators, not the folks who have the most experience, not the governors.
BERMAN: Exactly, there's one term of senate experience.
BOLDUAN: Yeah, exactly. I found that that was pretty fascinating.
CHALIAN: Perhaps, Barack Obama with his winning the presidency after one term in the Senate redefined what the right experience was.
BOLDUAN: Maybe that's exactly right.
BOLDUAN: David, quickly, before we let you go, because we're lucky enough to have you here. Can we talk quickly about John Kasich, who, you know who finished back of the pack? Marco Rubio likes to say it's a three-person race.
BOLDUAN: No, no, no, John Kasich.
BERMAN: Yeah, I don't think he agrees to that, does he?
CHALIAN: No, not at all. I mean, listen, Kasich does get to say he won the gubernatorial primary tonight, right.
You got to remember, you guys were just mentioning this, all those governors, I mean, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Huckabee, Carie, Jindal, Pataki, Scott Walker was a big guy in this race at the start of it in the sort of chattering class. And it's John Kasich from Ohio that emerges as the one from all those governors.
And, you know, listen, it may not be the biggest selling point this year, the Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, haven't been clamoring for a governor in executive experience obviously, but it is still a claim that John Kasich's going to make now.
And Marco Rubio is going to be in a rush to try to consolidate the establishment.
Jeb Bush is out. That's critical for them, and they're going to try to say it's only us now to take on Trump and Cruz.
And John Kasich is going to say, not so fast. He's going to have an argument to make now against Marco Rubio about why the establishment should start consolidating around him, and his executive experience, and his battleground state versus Marco Rubio's battleground state.
So, I think that John Kasich isn't going to sort of let Marco Rubio just consolidate establishment support and call it a day.
I think that on our Houston debate stage on Thursday night guys, watch for how Kasich and Rubio square off against each other.
BERMAN: Excellent plug for the debate Thursday night in Houston. Thank you, David.
CHALIAN: Thank you guys.
BOLDUAN: You've now won your payment today.
BERMAN: Yeah. Let us know when you hear about Rubio/Cruz, who won there, because we're waiting for that call here at ...
BOLDUAN: Because they both basically claimed victory today.
BERMAN: They take exactly both for second and third place claimed victory.
All right, but let's talk about the guy who did actually win the race, Donald J. Trump, with a 10 point win, at least, we believe, in South Carolina.
He claimed victory, he thanked his supporters there. Joining us now is Katrina Pierson, the National Spokesperson for the Trump campaign.
Katrina, thanks for being with us. Congratulations. How did he do it?
KATRINA PIERSON, CNN NATIONAL SPOKEPERSON FOR THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Thank you so much, great to be with you tonight.
You know Mr. Trump have had the most pro-America message out of all of the campaigns, particularly when he announced that stopping illegal immigration and that resonates here in the country.
And not to mention, jobs and the economy, I mean, this is a big key. And most other candidates aren't even talking about this.
We're at a time where you have Marco Rubio and Senator Cruz pushing something like TPA, which fast-tracked Obama's secret trade deals when NAFTA, in the state of South Carolina eliminated a third of the job.
This is going to resonate all across the south, because Mr. Trump has been against that Trans-Pacific Partnership since day one.
BOLDUAN: One of the big things that also happen tonight, not only the big win for your guy, Donald Trump, was also Governor Bush. He dropped out of the race.
Donald Trump did not mention Jeb Bush in his victory speech. Other candidates did. Why not?
PIERSON: Well, Mr. Trump thanked that everyone for being in the race, if the candidate plural and he also maid a mention of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who are battling out for second place.
I don't think it was intentional, but Mr. Bush is exiting the race after spending tens of millions of dollars against Mr. Trump, and still didn't seem to resonate with voters.
And, you know, right now, we're going to focus on moving forward to Nevada and continue to spread the message to make America great again.
BERMAN: But you could have said, you know, Jeb Bush, it was nice to have you in the race, thanks for playing.
I mean, every other candidate did that tonight, and Donald Trump specifically mentioned the other candidates, but not Jeb Bush.
It did seem like a magnanimous moment for the winner of the South Carolina primary.
[23:15:05] PIERSON: Well, I guess if you think of it that way, but Mr. Trump thanked all the candidates for being competitive in South Carolina, and he didn't go one by one, but he did mention that the two that are battling out for second place.
I mean, those are actually going to be the two competitors moving forward.
BOLDUAN: So, what does Donald Trump think of Jeb Bush and how he ran his race and the fact that he suspended his campaign tonight?
PIERSON: Well, look, there has been no love lost between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.
Since the beginning, Jeb Bush has been running millions of dollars of attack ads against Mr. Trump. And Mr. Trump has responded in kind.
And so, I really don't know if we could even be talking about Jeb Bush at this point because he's no longer in the race. I'd like to move forward and talk about Nevada and going into the SCC, where Mr. Trump is also going to do very well.
BERMAN: Let's talk about Nevada and going into the SCC then, Katrina. What's next for you? How are you going to win Nevada, if that's your plan?
And what I really want to know is, if and when Donald Trump is going to start talking about Marco Rubio, because he spent a lot of time talking about Ted Cruz, a lot of time talking about Jeb Bush, though not tonight.
So, at what point does he take on Marco Rubio because Marco Rubio may have come in second in South Carolina tonight.
PEIRSON: Well, I think that's a great question, but I'll also point to Mr. Trump at the very beginning saying that, you know, he doesn't really want to go after anybody. He's more of a counter puncher.
Once Marco Rubio starts going after Mr. Trump, Mr. Trump will likely come back in kind, and, you know particularly going into Nevada and throughout the south.
We are talking about an economy and jobs that were depleted because of poorly negotiated trade deals where everyone knows Mr. Trump is the strongest, so we're going to fight with the economy.
BOLDUAN: Katrina, big night for your campaign. A lot of people -- some folks wondering if this now means that Donald Trump is unstoppable, because as history shows, if you've won New Hampshire, if you've won South Carolina, in the Republican side, they always lock in the nomination.
We will see, of course, if history repeats itself on that one, but it does -- when you look at one of these numbers in the exit polls where Donald Trump wins with every group, basically, one part of this exit poll's pretty interesting. I want to get your take.
Who ran the most unfair campaign? Donald Trump with 39 percent, Ted Cruz behind him at 33 percent. How do you square that belief of voters with the fact that you guys had a very successful victory tonight?
PIERSON: Well, I think it's because that's where the most fighting was, particularly in South Carolina, the back and forth was with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and including in the debate.
So, I think that's where those numbers came from, but at the end of the day, Mr. Trump does not have Super PACS attacking people.
He doesn't have an organization put together of people in a room trying to come up with new and fascinating ways to smear candidates. He's not doing push-pulls.
Mr. Trump is trying very hard to run a positive campaign. However, he will continue to defend himself and his message.
BERMAN: Katrina Pearson, great to have you with us tonight. Again, congratulations. We look forward to speaking with you again, hopefully before Nevada, which comes on Tuesday before the CNN debate with the candidates which is a ...
BOLDUAN: Fast and Furious. Thanks, Katrina.
BERMAN: Thanks, Katrina.
I should note, by the way, South Carolina, just because you run an unfair campaign, doesn't mean that, you know voters don't like you. Maybe the voters respect Carolina, respect on their campaigns ...
BOLDUAN: That is unfair. I respect that. I say that about you all the time, you're unfair and I still like you.
BERMAN: We have a lot more to discuss. Again, Donald Trump winning big in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton also winning decisively in Nevada. We have to discuss that.
We also have a race for second place in South Carolina not called yet. We could have a call in the next hour or so, so stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:22:53] IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: Thank you, South Carolina. This is an amazing, amazing night. The momentum since the beginning of this campaign has been unbelievable, and that's because my father's message resonates so deeply with so many people. So, as our family, we are ...,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: That is Ivanka Trump, as she spoke. A couple other members of the family spoke as well as Donald Trump had a big win tonight in South Carolina, as he finish up a speech, he says, it's time to wrap this thing up, let's go. I think he meant the entire nomination process.
Let's talk more that. Let's bring out panel with us tonight, Doug Hyde, former Communications Director at the RNC, David Gergen, CNN Senior Political Analyst who have been -- has advised presidents from how far back, David?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it was Grover Cleveland. BOLDUAN: Which term? That's why I like you. Bringing in Margaret Hoover, CNN Political Commentator and Republican Consultant, John Avlon, CNN Political Analyst and Editor-and-Chief at "The Daily Beast."
I can now sleep after introducing you all. David Gergen, a big night for Donald Trump.
A lot of folks, when they thought and we were just talking about the history, if you've won New Hampshire, if you won South Carolina in the Republican nomination, you win the nomination. Is he unstoppable now?
GERGEN: Oh, I don't think he's unstoppable. It is hard still to imagine him winning the nomination, but it's even harder to figure out who's going to beat him.
BERMAN: But, you know what, it was hard to figure out, when is winning New Hampshire and South Carolina, it was hard to imagine him getting in the race, it was hard to imagine doing sort of things that we ...
GERGEN: I think he's still got hurdles to get over. He's got a two- front war now. He's got one front against Cruz. He's got to beat him in a lot of the southern states that are coming up on Super Tuesday.
He's got a second front against Marco Rubio, who will do better in say, Midwestern states and places like Pennsylvania, and he's got to beat him, too.
Now, he, you know, beaten both of them, this is the first time he's going take that on. I think the thing he's got another hurdle coming up.
We can talk more about this later, but I think the media is going to start investigating him in ways we have not seen before and they're going to vet him and vet him and vet him, and we'll see where it comes out.
BERMAN: Scottie, I want to bring out Scottie Hughes, is a Chief Political Correspondent at the USA radio networks, a supporter of Donald Trump.
Scottie, you just heard David Gergen have say something it's pretty interesting, that maybe Donald Trump will get, whether it's a second look or a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh look.
[23:25:08] But will get a serious look from maybe investigative journalists looking at his past and perhaps come up with something that voters will take pause over.
SCOTTIE HUGHES, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, USA RADIO NETWORKS: I think undeniably, there's been no candidate like Mr. Trump that has gone under scrutiny and gone underneath the magnifying glass, but not only his own party, but by the media already.
And this is a man who's lived his life in the public. So, if you can dig something else up on him, good luck. I guarantee they've already been looking.
But, you know to David's, try, I want to point out, nobody expected him to get, do something unprecedented, get all 50 delegates tonight in South Carolina.
No one was predicting that one. And at the same time, you're looking over in Nevada with record-low turnout for the Democrats, I'm really hoping tomorrow morning the GOP recognizes when they wake up, what a great gift we have on our hands with someone that has already unified most of the party that has never been involved before.
BOLUDAN: Doug Heye, what does tomorrow look like as everyone wakes up? How is tomorrow different than pre-South Carolina?
DOUG HEYE, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR AT THE RNC: Well, it's different because we've already lost one candidate. Ben Carson now is saying, that he's staying in and Kasich is saying that he's still fighting.
But, Marco Rubio is essentially is right, it is now essentially a three-person race. We'll see where Kasich get to ...
HEYE: That's all right. But the performance by Rubio and Cruz today, being over 20 percent, but nobody else over 10 percent really sets that stage for where it's the three person race and that's where I think, we're really start to see some of what David was talking about not just form Journalist.
We've seen -- excuse me, Donald Trump get so much attention, but not a lot of scrutiny, including not a lot of scrutiny from his Republican opponents by and large. With three people, there's nowhere else to go but Trump.
HUGHES: Picking up on that is going also to David Gergen's point, I mean, what has happened tonight has been enormously clarifying for the establishment side of the Republican Party.
With Jeb Bush stepping out, he had locked up the majority of the establishment money early on in this campaign. It had begun to dry out.
This is a focusing moment for those people, not only our independent journalists going to start going after Donald Trump's history, so are Republican donors, super donors that are going to put a lot of money into super PACs that are going to really start digging down and trying to figure out what effective messaging to bring down Trump's ballooning popularity.
BERMAN: Before we disagree with Mario, I would warn you, for you especially that might not be a good idea, John.
If we can put up the vote totals up in South Carolina right now just the leader boards. They want to point out one thing for folks here.
Donald Trump won, he's at 32 percent of the vote. Ted, you know, Marco Rubio's in second right now. There we go. Thank goodness.
If you look at this, this is one math thing I want to point out to Margaret. Jeb Bush plus Marco Rubio does not equal Donald Trump, right?
So, every establishment vote, if you say that's Jeb Bush that goes to Marco Rubio, it still doesn't add up.
HUGHES: I'm not talking about vote for vote. I'm talking about the super money in the campaign. Where are the super donors? Where is the cash on hand for these campaigns for this super PAC?
You know, Jeb Bush still has a lot of money in his super PAC that they haven't spent, but all of those donors who are willing to write those big checks early are looking for somebody where else to support.
Who else going to need to support with me? Marco Rubio and they'll going to put big, seven-figure checks into figuring out how to bring down Trump's popularity.
MARIO GONZALEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the problem though. I mean, first of all, if that happens, and there is a rush of donor money to Rubio to try to stop a Trump nomination to avoid embarrassment or some apocalyptic loss in the fall, it plays into Donald Trump's core narrative that he shares with Bernie Sanders which is that there is big money that has rigged the system in America politically and economically.
That is the commonality between these two totally different kinds of populous protest candidacies.
So, A, that's a real fundamental problem. B, if it's taken this long for donors to realize that Donald Trump is real and is not just going to fade away in his own, then, frankly, all of the money in the world that could help them.
And then there's the fundamental problem with Republican Party's wrestling with, which is that they have burnt down the big tent over a series of cycles to the point where the center-right has been so marginalized that they can't act as a balance during the nomination process.
South Carolina is not the best state (ph), 75 and evangelical. But, if you look at the downstream states we're looking at, in the next two, three weeks, they are all lining up with Trump with the exception of Texas and Cruz.
BERMAN: ...who wrote a book about this?
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, he wrote the poem entitled "Too Dumb to Fail". If only he were here with us now. Here he is, Matt Lewis is the CNN Political Commentator and Senior Contributor at "The Daily Caller," did write a wonderful book "Too Dumb to Fail" about the current state of the Republican Party.
Matt, what does tonight tell you about the current state of the Republican Party? Is it as John Avlon just said?
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: It's very good for book sales, I think. If Donald Trump win, I win, we're all happy.
Yeah. Look, I think that this is amazing. Like, on one hand, you cannot take away what a moment this is for Donald Trump, you know.
Big victory, he now wins two out of the first three states. If it was anybody else, I concede, they would be measuring the drapes for the oval office.
[23:30:03] On the other hand, I do think and when you look at the -- you look at the fact that even after Nevada, which I think Trump wins in Nevada, that's only about 4 percent of the delegates who have been allocated that you need to win the nomination. This thing is far from over, and I do not think that, you know, anybody's going to go quietly into that good night.
And Marco Rubio, I think, you know, you can take the Jeb Bush votes, if the rest of the Republicans can coalesce around somebody and that's a big if, there's still about two-thirds of the vote in South Carolina that was for somebody other than Donald Trump. So, that just sort of puts it into context.
BOLDUAN: That's important context. Everybody, hold on, hold your fire. We've got much more to come.
BERMAN: Much more.
BOLDUAN: We're going to talk much more about what's going on the Republican side. And also, a big night in Nevada, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders fighting it out, Hillary Clinton taking home a big win, but Bernie Sanders says just look at where we're are and where we were yesterday. We've made some real progress, folks. That fight continues. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:35:04] RUBIO: After tonight, this has become a three-person race, and we will win the nomination.
CRUZ: We are the only campaign that has beaten and can beat Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, two candidates who declared victory tonight yet did not win in South Carolina. Donald J. Trump won the South Carolina Primary. We do not know who came in second place at this point. As you look at that board right now, Marco Rubio leads Ted Cruz by about ...
BOLDUAN: 1,000 votes.
BERMAN: Yeah, 1,000 votes. They are still counting. We have not called second place yet. It could happen at any minute as more votes come in, so stay with us for that. Joining us now to discuss that battle for second place, CNN Sunlen Serfaty at the Cruz Campaign Headquarters in South Carolina, Manu Raju is at the Rubio Headquarters in South Carolina.
Sunlen, let's start with you. I mean, South Carolina is a state that the Cruz campaign wanted to win, let alone now fighting for second place. It's going to be a tough night there in Cruzville.
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely, John. You know, there definitely is disappointment among Cruz supporters here that were here for this Election Night Watch Party. But within the campaign, they are really trying to send the message of resolve tonight. You know, this is not the best-case scenario for them. They really wanted to come out of South Carolina saying, being able to argue decisively that they beat Marco Rubio here, being able to argue that they marginalize Marco Rubio, and they just can't do that after tonight.
And we saw in that speech that Senator Cruz gave here, which largely came off as if it was a victory speech. We saw him really telegraph a core message that he will bring going forward, saying that they are the only campaign here in this race that has won against Donald Trump. Of course, referencing his Iowa win and really sounding a siren alarm almost to conservatives there, saying if you don't believe Donald Trump is the best candidate, then join us.
So, expect to hear a lot of this coming from Ted Cruz in the days going forward. Very clear that they have not beaten Rubio decisively here, but they will argue that they are the only ones that have scored a win against Donald Trump. John?
BOLDUAN: And we are waiting and watching to see exactly how this plan pans out and for the race for second. Let's go to the other race for second and now, Sunlen, thank you so much. Manu is there. What are you hearing on the ground where you are Manu? Because Marco Rubio, similar to Ted Cruz, gave a pretty solid victory speech tonight.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, it was really remarkable. It really was a sense of excitement in this room, Kate, because Marco Rubio did out perform expectations. When we saw all the polls this week, it looked like he was in third place, certainly maybe about, you know, 15 percent, but they did not expect to do this well until the last couple of days.
Now, the case for the Rubio campaign going forward is this. It's almost like a game of "Survivor." They want to actually survive each primary and hope that someone else is voted off the island. And today, that person who was voted off the island was Jeb Bush. That was a huge development for Marco Rubio going forward, because not only do they compete for similar donors and also similar supporters, but also Jeb Bush is Super PAC, remember, has spent millions of dollars on the air attacking Marco Rubio in all the early primary states. And now, that Super PAC is gone. So, that could be a huge benefit for Marco Rubio.
He believes that now that Bush is out, he can consolidate the support among the moderates in the party, the establishments in the party, people center-right. And he'll have to look after John Kasich.
Now, the reason why that Marco Rubio's saying this is a three-person race, he's not talking about John Kasich, he's talking about Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, because the Rubio campaign just does not believe Kasich is a viable alternative. They do not believe he has that kind of deep infrastructure that Marco Rubio does. So, I'm not sure how much he will engage John Kasich, but watch for him to sharpen the contrast increasingly with Ted Cruz and with Donald Trump. John and Kate?
BERMAN: I don't know whether they believe it or not, but they certainly don't want him to be a viable alternative. They don't want to include him in the math. I think that is clear.
BOLDUAN: He had a similar little bit rendition of that.
BERMAN: Manu Raju, thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: Let's focus in on this, because again, we are waiting to find out who is the winner in the race for second place in South Carolina. For more, let us bring in Rick Tyler, he's Communications Director for the Ted Cruz campaign. Rick, thank you so much for joining us, so, we're waiting.
RICK TYLER, COMMUNICATIONS, CRUZ CAMPAIGN: Good to be with you.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you. There's about a 1,000-point difference right now between Rubio and Cruz. What are you guys looking at? What are you watching at this moment?
TYLER: Well look, we're excited to go forward. We won Iowa. We came out with a victory in Iowa. We came in third in a blue state. And now, we're either second or third in South Carolina. We'll clearly go on. We're on our way to Nevada now and ...
BOLDUAN: Rick, is third a win for you guys?
[23:39:56] TYLER: Look, you know, Donald Trump won. We congratulate him in this. But going forward, Donald Trump is going to hit a ceiling. I mean, maybe -- I think maybe the media will now do their job and scrutinize Donald Trump.
He's been one of the least scrutinized candidates in this entire race. So, it changes the dynamic, because Jeb dropped out. And I'll have to say, Jeb is a good man. He's an honorable man. And he really gave a very dignified speech tonight. So, I appreciate Jeb Bush. But, it's going to change the dynamic going forward. And look, we've got a lot of money in the bank We've got an organization We've got a candidate with a great message. A lot of these southern states, you know, the border Texas, including Texas. Texas is going to be one of the states that's coming up March 1st. So, there's going to be have to be a lot of money spent in the March 1st state. It's not like going to South Carolina or New Hampshire or Iowa. You go to one state, focus on that one state. You've got to compete in all these states, which means, you're going to have to have an organization, a message, a great candidate and a lot of money. And we've got all those things going for us.
BERMAN: You certainly do have money. I think cash on hand, you're doing very well compared to the other candidates not named Donald Trump, who's got how many billions he has on hand at all times. When you say Donald Trump will hit a ceiling, Rick.
BERMAN: Donald Trump's ceiling in South Carolina was every delegate. He's either won 44 delegates or 50. He's on track to win all 50 delegates. That's a wipeout. He won everything there. South Carolina might not border Texas, but it's not unlike a lot of the states voting on March 1st, the "SEC Primary" or super Tuesday. He's got Tennessee. He has Arkansas and he got, you know?
BERMAN: Yeah, Alab, Mississippi. These states that are all there, so why will they be different than South Carolina where you lost evangelical votes, it seems, to Donald Trump?
TYLER: Well, immigrant is -- Texas is different. We have 27,000 volunteers there. It's our home state. It has the most cash of delegates there. Oklahoma is similar to state to Texas. A little different from the South Carolina, South Carolina has a very liberal coast that you just saw, and that's where Marco won, if he did indeed win that. Last I checked, he was winning in the coast.
Also in Columbia, he did very well in Columbia because that's a liberal Capital City. And Oklahoma is not like that, and Tennessee is not like that, and Alabama is not like that, and Texas is not like that. So, I think we'll do very well in those states. And I don't see Marco is doing very well in any of those states. And so, we may have a slog going through March 1, but that's where the organization and the money is going to really pay off to see who can get beyond March 1st. And then if it is a two-person race, I'm confident we'll beat Donald Trump because we're the only candidate who's beaten him.
BERMAN: Is Texas a must-win for you, Rick?
TYLER: I think we have to win Texas, absolutely, yeah, sure. We're doing well there now. I'm confident we'll do well.
BOLDUAN: Let's see first what happens in South Carolina. Let's see where you guys end up there first, Rick. TYLER: Yeah.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you. We'll be watching this all night with you.
TYLER: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Rick Tyler with the Cruz campaign, we really appreciate it. We'll see soon, Rick. Thanks very much.
A lot more to come, not only are we watching where the race for second ends up in South Carolina, but we'll also going to be listening to Hillary Clinton speaking live in Houston, Texas. We'll bring that to you right after this, a lot more to come.
[23:47:07] BERMAN: All right, you're looking at live pictures of Hillary Clinton in Houston, Texas. This, the campaign day that will never end. We've been talking about Republicans but Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Nevada caucuses earlier today. This is her first event in the next stage of the campaign. Let's listen in for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some country is going to be the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. It's either going to be China, Germany, or us and I want it to be us, and it will be if I'm your president.
We can and must do more to make it easier for parents to balance work and family through paid family leave. And we also have to break down the barriers that keep people on the sidelines of our economy, especially women. Don't you think we've waited long enough for equal pay for equal work?
And even all that isn't enough in the America that I want to see for you. We also have to take on the persistent barriers of bigotry. That means facing head on the reality of systemic racism and investing in communities that have been left out and left behind. It means reforming our broken criminal justice and immigration systems. It means ensuring that we end discrimination against the LGBT community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: All right, Hillary Clinton speaking live in Houston, Texas, off her win of the Nevada caucuses. We will discuss that win. We have an esteemed panel joining us in a moment, former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, Bill Press, CNN political commentator, also with us, Carl Bernstein, CNN political commentator. How big was this win for Hillary? We'll discuss next.
BOLDUAN: Just wait.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:53:08] BERMAN: All right, we're looking at live pictures of Hillary Clinton. She is still speaking in Houston, Texas. It's her first campaign event since winning the Nevada caucuses earlier today by a margin of about five points up there.
BOLDUAN: Hillary Clinton says, onward, on to the next contest. Let's discuss the big win in Nevada with Carl Bernstein, CNN's political commentator and Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, of course, Michael Nutter, CNN political contributor and former mayor of Philadelphia, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, and Bill Press, CNN political commentator, author and host who supports Bernie Sanders.
BILL PRESS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah.
BOLDUAN: All right, everybody, let's begin. I used to have all of these long intros. It's making my brain stop.
Mayor Nutter ...
MICHAEL NUTTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BOLDUAN: ... this is a big night for Hillary Clinton ...
NUTTER: That's true.
BOLDUAN: ... not only that she won. But a lot of folks saying she could win (ph) the campaign that could take a breath. It felt like maybe a fresh start looking forward.
NUTTER: Well, the one thing I can assure you is that Hillary may have taken a breath, but that's about it. She's about taken action ...
BOLDUAN: Almost losing losing her voice, yeah.
NUTTER: Losing her voice and moving on to Houston, Texas. So, there is no slowing down. It is all forward. But certainly, a great night for her and this campaign continues.
BERMAN: Bill, you know, I know the Sanders campaign and Bernie Sanders said it out loud in his speech and he said it in a release, you know, they think they did very well in Nevada, certainly better than you would have said he could have done three months ago. Well, give the math.
On the other hand, a victory there just would have been huge. It would have given them the sense that they had the momentum out of New Hampshire. They were pushing forward. I do think this has got to be at least a little bit of a setback for the Sanders campaign.
PRESS: Let me just be honest, it's better to win than to come in second, right?
BERMAN: And let's -- apparently a Republican, it would have paid to do that.
BOLDUAN: Stop saying such controversial things, Bill. PRESS: No, I'll do that. I hate to make history here, but I'll say I know that is a win for Hillary Clinton. It's a win by five points. It's a good win for her. It's a big boost to her campaigns, certainly going into the South Carolina.
But I do have to say, where -- given where he came from, ten months ago, 40 points down for Bernie, that even close the gap to 5 points to get 42 percent of the nonwhite voters to win the Latino vote by eight points in Nevada.
[23:55:14] He can walk out of there with his head held high, I think. And I thought it was very interesting tonight. I don't know if many people caught it. At the end of his speech, he didn't say, on to South Carolina. He said, "On to Super Tuesday," you know?
BERMAN: Exactly, right.
PRESS: No, I think he knows that ...
NUTTER: I think that's the ...
PRESS: Yeah, but the -- those Midwestern states, Illinois and Michigan, Ohio, that's where he really thinks that he can open up ...
BERMAN: Well, what can happen in South Carolina ...
NUTTER: If you have to campaign in all of the states. It's a big country.
PRESS: Oh yeah.
NUTTER: And I think we also saw what has been discussed coming out of Iowa, coming out of New Hampshire. Now you go into a Nevada and a South Carolina and then Super Tuesday that are all much more reflective of the diversity of the United States of America, which clearly plays to Hillary Clinton's strengths.
PRESS: I guess is that he's ...
BOLDUAN: Because that plays maybe -- hang on.
PRESS: Sure, sure.
BOLDUAN: Let me bring Carl in. No, you're fine, Bill, you can interrupt me any day you want until I tell you don't.
BERMAN: Which she just did, you know.
NUTTER: Which just happened.
BOLDUAN: All right, Carl, let me bring you in on this. As Mayor Nutter said, things look good for Hillary Clinton going forward. In some of the states, we're looking at going forward. But what Bernie Sanders said, that has to mean something to Hillary Clinton. The fact that he said tonight that five weeks ago, we were 25 points behind. We're clearly making some very real progress here, that there has to be some kind of sounding the alarm with the Hillary Clinton campaign still.
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they're very relieved actually. And she's gone into a zone at which she seems very at ease with her message, even though her message has been to expropriate three quarters of what Bernie Sanders has been saying, and that Sanders has moved her to the left along with the Democratic race itself.
But Sanders has got to regroup now. And he is going to have to have huge turnouts of young people. He's going to have to re-energize his base. He's going to have to be a little more precise and a little more eloquent about national security discussions. And also, he has got to demonstrate, which he has a good argument to make, that one, he is a better candidate against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton is. And if he's got some numbers that show that in polls.
And also, she is very vulnerable as we've seen in all the polls and all the exit polls on issues of honesty and trust. That is the absolute danger of her downfall. And Democrats are aware of it. And Sanders has got to exploit it actually, and he has to some extent if he is going to prevail and stay in this thing.
BERMAN: All right, Carl Bernstein, Mayor Nutter, Bill Press, stand by for another one programming. You know, I should say, this Democratic race, a key moment will come Tuesday night when CNN hosts the Town Hall meeting in South Carolina. Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton on stage, Chris Cuomo moderates, takes questions directly from South Carolina voters.
I think that could be the next big moment in this campaign as it moves forward. We have much more to discuss, Hillary Clinton's win in Nevada, Donald Trump's huge win in South Carolina, and a fight for second place that's not decided yet ...
BOLDUAN: Don't forget that.
BERMAN: ... in that state. Much more coming up.