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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA
Voting Today in New Hampshire Primary; Shakeup in Hillary Clinton Campaign; Bush, Trump Campaigns Get Nasty. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired February 9, 2016 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for join me today. I'm Carol Costello.
AT THIS HOUR with Berman and Bolduan starts now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and all around the world.
The political epicenter of the entire universe is right here in the state of New Hampshire.
BOLDUAN: If I need to remind you, it is New Hampshire primary day in America.
BERMAN: Right now, voters hitting the polls in the nation's first primary of 2016. Could be a record turn out. These are live pictures of two of the 319 polling sites. It is a state full of free-floating last-minute deciders with a history of making or breaking presidential campaigns.
BOLDUAN: The candidates are making the final rounds. Trump and Sanders hoping votes reflect their strong leads in the latest polls. But, man, these polls, can we trust them?
Hillary Clinton aiming to close the gap on her Democratic rival.
And for the Republicans, it seems a battle for second place and it could be anyone's game when we're talking about that.
Let's begin our special coverage AT THIS HOUR with Joe Johns who is at a polling station in Manchester.
Polls opened early this morning, Joe. What are you hearing from folks there?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the gym at an elementary school in Manchester. I can tell you it's been brisk, for sure. That's the word I would use right now. As of 10:45 eastern time, that was about 15 minutes ago, a digital counter right here in this gym said 700 people had voted here in the ward 4 precinct in Manchester, New Hampshire. So what that tells us, according to the officials, is that the count is faster than in some of the previous elections. And there's another sign as well. If you look right over here at this
table, this is the table where people register, some for the first time. Some perhaps registering because they let their registration lapse. And what I'm told about this is normally you do not see a line for people registering for the first time because there's same day registration in voting.
The other thing is they have several volunteers. Four people have been here for most of the day working with people to try to get them registered. Normally, you only have two volunteers working with those people. All of those we're using as indicators that the turnout is very brisk. The question is whether it's going to be a record turnout. That's anybody's guess. The secretary of state in New Hampshire has said he expects record turnouts based on the number of absentee ballots previously requested, so hoping for a big showing in New Hampshire. The people take this first-in-the-nation voting responsibility very seriously.
Back to you.
Joe Johns in Manchester. Joe, thanks to so much.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And thank god the man is indoors. We have seen him pummeled in snow.
BERMAN: Let's go to Hudson, New Hampshire. That's where we find Chris Frates at a polling station.
Chris, what are you seeing?
CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey. Good turnout today despite the snow between 7:00 and 9:00, about 1200 people coming out to vote in this location. They think they'll get about 9,000.
I've been talking to a lot of voters here. I want to introduce you to Sheila Queenam in from Hudson, New Hampshire.
You're a registered Democrat. Talk to me about your vote today.
SHEILA QUEENAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: I voted for Bernie Sanders, and I'm very impressed with him. I feel that he's going to do much better in the south and the West than others predict. I think he has the beginnings of a revolution in this country.
FRATES: You said you weren't always a Sanders supporter, that you did start by looking at Clinton and supporting Hillary Clinton. Talk to me about how you got to the place you did today.
QUEENAM: I listened to the entire Benghazi hearing when she was questioned for 11 hours, and I was so impressed, and I do think that she's qualified to be president. But I have been listening to Bernie Sanders before and after, and then I heard Bernie speak here in Hudson, and I've changed my mind because I think the issues that he's focusing on are so crucial and so important to this country, that that's why I voted for Bernie.
FRATES: Sheila, thank you so much for telling us about your vote today.
John and Kate, there you have it, another voter here, a Sanders voter. And people making up their minds across the state, looking at record turnout. It's been fun to talk to New Hampshire voters and hear what's driving them. Sheila said she watched all 11 hours of the hearing, a serious Democrat trying to decide. She ended up with Bernie Sanders -- Guys?
[11:05:09] BERMAN: Bernie Sanders wins the Sheila Queenam primary. You heard it here first here AT THIS HOUR.
Chris Frates, great to have you with us.
Thank you to Sheila as well.
BOLDUAN: Let's talk about this with CNN political commentator, Ana Navarro, a friend of Marco Rubio, a supporter of Jeb Bush here with us; along with CNN political commentator, Matt Lewis, senior contributor to "The Daily Caller" and author of "Too Dumb to Fail," and Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, who's firm advising Democratic candidates and the DNC.
We are all here together.
Our favorite thing is today is the day. We don't really actually have to do much guessing work anymore. It's going to be decided. So let's break out our crystal balls.
Hilary Rose, your predictions? How is this going to pan out? What do you see and sense?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll talk about Democrats. With Republicans, I'm just guessing it.
BOLDUAN: So are Republicans.
ROSEN: So true.
Look, Bernie Sanders is going to win. I think he's going to win big. Something to look for is Independent voters are so important in New Hampshire. Let's look at how Clinton does against Sanders among Democrats. That will be a very important number going forward. Most of the primaries after New Hampshire are actually closed primaries where only Democrats can vote. For better or worse, this is still a Democrat primary.
BERMAN: She did better among Democrats in Iowa.
ROSEN: Something like 56 to 39 in Iowa among Democrats. BERMAN: Yes.
ROSEN: And so how is she going -- are Democrats to going to stay with Hillary Clinton and keep that faith or shift? That's the most important thing I'm looking for.
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, give it to us.
MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As you know, I correctly predicted --
BERMAN: Let me say Matt Lewis correctly predicted the results of the Iowa caucuses. That's the disclaimer.
LEWIS: It's good to get that on the record.
BERMAN: Matt Lewis, go ahead.
LEWIS: Donald Trump is going to win New Hampshire. He's well-suited, much more suited to New Hampshire than Iowa. The real question is who finishes second. And this is -- it's a jumble. I'm not confident making this prediction, but because I know I have to, I'm going to say it would have been Marco Rubio before the debate. Now it's John Kasich.
BERMAN: It was that much of a change?
LEWIS: I think so.
BOLDUAN: Do you agree? Do you think the debate could be the deciding factor of number two, Ana?
NAVARRO: I think that debate is going to be a factor. It was watched by an enormous amount of people, the highest rated debate in the entire election cycle, and the people of New Hampshire pay attention.
I'm just glad we got Sheila to tell us who she's voting for. For the last week, all they do is toy with our minds.
NAVARRO: They don't tell us who they're voting for. They tell us they'll decide in the voting booth.
ROSEN: They're milking their 15 minutes of fame.
NAVARRO: On the Democratic side, I think the question to watch is just how many inches of snow is Hillary Clinton going to get buried by? One inch, two inches, or a blizzard that she can't shovel herself out of for two days.
By a way, guys, I'm a Miami girl. That metaphor took a lot of thought.
On the other side, my prediction is at least six or seven move onto South Carolina. We thought this would whittle down. You'll have all the same folks on Saturday in South Carolina.
LEWIS. Bad news, very bad news for Rubio and anybody in the so-called establishment lane. They were hoping to coalesce around Rubio. This is good news for Trump and Cruz. The more people in the race, the better for Trump and Cruz.
NAVARRO: As a proud member of the establishment lane, card-carrying establishment Republican, I think it's great. I think that it's going to go on for a long time. I think that we're seeing some very intense exchanges. I think our guy, whoever ends up being the nominee, is going to be better for this very intense primary.
BERMAN: You say that, but it sounds like you're saying sometimes we look to New Hampshire for clarity. The clarity we're getting is it's clearly more muddled than we ever thought it was.
LEWIS: Yeah. We see through a glass darkly.
I was thinking that this would be a clarifying moment, a three-man race, Trump, Cruz and Rubio going into South Carolina. Now I think you're right. It's going to be a jumble. Maybe Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina get out after this, but that's it.
BOLDUAN: And, Hilary, you're talking about the undeclareds, the Independents in New Hampshire. If you look back at the last couple cycles, in 2000 they broke for Republicans. In 2008, they broke for Democrats. What factors will push them one way or another tonight. That's an impossible question, but what do you think?
ROSEN: I think today, you're trying to figure out not just who appeals to you but where you can make a difference. It's likely that more Independents are going to vote in the Republican primary, because that vote will matter more. I think there is no question that this kind of two-party system in the country is breaking down some, that there are more and more in a general election, people who think of themselves as Independent voters, and they are the target for the Democratic and Republican nominee.
[11:10:15] LEWIS: That's part of why I say John Kasich. It's going to be the Independents and the unaffiliated that will like his contrarian, moderate style.
I think Kasich nationally is a joke. I don't think he can win the nomination.
BERMAN: A joke?
LEWIS: A joke. I know that liberals -- he's the nominee that liberals think Republicans should nominate. He doesn't have a path nationally. BOLDUAN: You don't think he has a path --
NAVARRO: His super PAC has some people in South Carolina but his campaign has basically nothing going on in South Carolina. At the end of the day, there are expenses, and there is work that needs to be done by the campaign. So if he comes in second out of here, he gets a ticket to South Carolina, but once he gets there, what can he do in the next 10 days?
LEWIS: Don't get me wrong. He is a respected governor and has done a great job in Ohio. He's not going to resonate nationally with conservatives. He could do well in New Hampshire with the unaffiliated and Independent voters?
ROSEN: Conservatives end all being that much of an electorate. If you're trying to elect a more general election candidate, Kasich stays for a while.
BERMAN: We fairly haven't talked about the Republicans who could win the New Hampshire primary, like Donald Trump. What have we learned about Donald Trump here in New Hampshire and what does it mean going forward?
Any one of you, take it.
NAVARRO: I'm not sure we've learned anything new. I think we're seeing the same Trump we've seen for the last nine or 10 months. I think he does feel a lot more comfortable here. We haven't seen him here quoting Two Corinthians or trying to talk about --
BERMAN: What he said last night was not in Two Corinthians.
NAVARRO: Exactly. I think he's more comfortable in his skin in a state like New Hampshire, but if anything out of Trump, we have seen consistency. He has been a consistent jerk for nine months, and it has worked for him.
LEWIS: It's a long -- talk about the evolution of our political rhetoric. It's a long way from Ronald Reagan talking about slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of gods or tear down this wall to what Donald Trump said last night. It's evidence that Donald Trump appeals to more secular, less religious, liberal Republicans, that he said that and gets away with it.
ROSEN; If Republicans come out of here with Donald Trump as their winner in New Hampshire, I don't care what these guys say about their distances from Trump. The fact is he is their front-runner, and continues to be their front-runner, and they're going to have to figure out how to own the fact that that's where their party is with this guy.
BERMAN: Stay tuned tomorrow, same bad time, same bad channel.
We'll figure out what's going on.
Hilary, Matt, Ana, thank you all so much. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.
So still ahead for us, we're going to be talking about the Democrats in this race. Hillary Clinton's campaign reportedly considering a staff shakeup. But a former Obama advisor says maybe the problem isn't the staff. Maybe they need to look within. Maybe it's the candidate. The campaign's chief strategist will be joining us live to discuss.
BERMAN: Plus, any moment, Marco Rubio visiting a polling station to make his final pitch to voters. We'll take you there live.
And then, John Kasich, a guy who says, if he gets smoked in New Hampshire it's over, but he's hoping tonight to have smoking momentum. He'll join us live. He'll talk about what he's seen in the polling places today.
This is CNN special live coverage. Don't go anywhere.
[11:17:24] BOLDUAN: This is the moment, folks. New Hampshire voters making history with the first presidential primary of 2016 underway. For Hillary Clinton, she's not just looking at the polls and looking to narrow the gap with Bernie Sanders. The Clinton campaign is also dealing with reports of a potential staff shakeup. The Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, quickly taking to Twitter to tamp down these rumors, tweeting this, "There is zero truth to what you may be reading, it's wrong, Hillary stands behind her team, period."
We are going to talk to one of the leaders of that name, Joel Benenson, chief strategist for the Clinton campaign.
Joe, you know we're going to ask you about that report yesterday in just a moment. First, I want to talk about today. It's 11:15. Polls have been open for a long time. I know you've been checking in. What are you hearing so far?
JOEL BENENSON, CHIEF STRATEGIST, HILLARY CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: No, I haven't actually. We don't start getting information until probably early afternoon. You wait for some accumulation. The early turnout matters sometimes, but you're looking at the flow over a longer period of time before you start trying to make sense of it.
Even in New Hampshire, having been here in 2008, it's tough to know how it might end. I've been on the other side where early information looked good. (CROSSTALK)
BENENSON: We thought we were winning until the polls closed.
BENENSON: I was pretty close. You saw a progression during the day where it didn't look quite like it was, and a lot of the data coming in at that point was erratic. When it's erratic, you have to question it, if it's not a consistent pattern.
BOLDUAN: Joe, what is a win today?
BENENSON: I said after Iowa that a win is a win. For us, we came in after Iowa with one win on the table, and a long way to climb uphill here. I think she's been working hard, closing ground, trying to make up ground. Whether we get there or not tonight, you know, we're not sure we can make it all the way up. But we've been working hard to close this as much as we can. Given we're in a neighboring state, if we can get this down, that will be -- we'll be happy with that.
BERMAN: You knew it was coming, the story in "Politico" saying that Bill and Hillary Clinton dissatisfied with some of the decisions made in the campaign up until now. Reports of a shakeup. Strongly denied by John Podesta. Hillary Clinton says no, no, no, though we are going to take stock after. Your friend, David Axelrod, part of the campaign with Obama in 2008 with Obama, he tweeted this. He said, "Your friends and former colleagues" -- he said, "When the exact same problems cropped up in separate campaigns with different staff, at what point do the principals say, hey, maybe it's us."
[11:20:08] BENENSON: David's a great friend but let me tell you what I think. I think Hillary Clinton and John made clear there is no shakeup. From my vantage point, we're at -- I preach this at my firm about how we approach the work we do. We have to challenge our assumptions. Always challenge what you know and what you think you know. As dynamics change, you may have to make adjustments. If you look at the period after the two states where we've been able to campaign for six months almost entirely, we now go to a more condensed schedule. Nevada and then South Carolina, then March with over 1,000 delegates up for grabs. We have to look at what to do in the long game. We may make some strategic adjustments --
BOLDUAN: What does taking stock mean? Is that a nice way of sating a staff shakeup?
BENENSON: No, no, it's not. I don't believe that's coming. I don't believe that's been on the table. There's no question that everybody ask saying do we have to change anything in our messages or look at our targets differently. We're going to a host of states that are very less liberal states than Iowa and New Hampshire. There's a lot of talk about the enthusiasm. We have to watch New Hampshire closely. In Iowa, the turnout was 25 percent less than Obama drew. Is there a reshaping of the electorate? Do we have to plan for a more traditional turnout?
BERMAN: A lot of the speculation has to do with Bill Clinton. He doesn't like how things are going. When was the last time you spoke with him?
BENENSON: We probably saw each other last week.
BOLDUAN: So he's in the weighing in every day?
BENENSON: Some time around the debate.
BENENSON: I think he's -- you asked me when I talked to him. I believe he may be talking to Robbie. That's probably true.
BERMAN: Are you?
BENENSON: But that's fine. No, but that's fine. I talk to Robbie every day, several times a day. The last meeting of our day was last night, and the first call of the day this morning.
BOLDUAN: Have you talked to Hillary? How did she react to this?
BENENSON: I haven't spoken to her since this. I think he reacted the way she said on television. She has asserted through other people last night that she likes this team. She's staying with this team. And I think that's where we are at.
Look, this stuff happens in campaigns. If you go back to October of 2007, there's a lot of hammering about what's wrong with Obama's campaign. You have meetings and you assess where you are at any given moment, you talk about what's right, you talk about what you want to shift or what you want to fix and you move forward. That's what we're going to do here and go on and keep marching towards the nomination.
BERMAN: If you're running against Hillary and a story like this came out, you'd be all over it.
BENENSON: Look, if you guys report this stuff sometimes, the other campaigns don't have to mention it and talk about it. You guys can give things a life of their own without anybody saying anything. We leave you to do your jobs and we do ours. It works out pretty well.
BOLDUAN: Sounds good.
BERMAN: Joel, Benenson, great to seeing you in New Hampshire. Look forward to seeing. Thank you for coming.
BENENSON: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: Good luck tonight. We'll talk to you tomorrow.
BENENSON: Thanks very much.
BERMAN: We have a programming note. This Thursday, February 11th, CNN will be simulcasting the PBS New Hour Democratic presidential debate, 9:00 p.m. eastern time. It's on CNN and PBS. This will be another very important moment in this campaign. Don't miss it.
BOLDUAN: So much ahead for us. Jeb Bush defending his nasty back and forth with Donald Trump. Both campaigns are going to be joining us live to respond and talk about what today means for them. What's the road out of South Carolina?
This is CNN special live coverage. Don't want to miss a bit.
[11:28:12] BERMAN: If you are voter in New Hampshire, you're running out of time to be undecided. The polls are open. The booths are full. The race is on. And Jeb Bush and Donald Trump are saying nasty things about each other.
BOLDUAN: David Kochel is senior strategist for the Jeb Bush campaign is joining us to discuss everything.
Let's get to the nasty back and forth in a second. Polls have been open since 7:00 a.m. Actually, since midnight in some places. What are you hearing?
DAVID KOCHEL, SENIOR STRATEGIST, JEB BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, it looks like turnout is pretty good, pretty steady. I think we're going to see probably higher than average turnout. But I think with the surging Jeb Bush, that's probably good for us.
BERMAN: Surging Jeb Bush. You're saying that like it's a fact.
KOCHEL: We've seen it on the ground and at the events. We saw it from the response from the debate. I think we're moving from the right direction and peaking at the right time.
BOLDUAN: It's interesting. In the past 24 hours you put out a web ad targeting Kasich's record on Obamacare and gun control. It was called no comparison that Jeb Bush was the conservative that you can trust. Why put that out now?
KOCHEL: I think voters are starting to make up their minds. They obviously have choices. They're looking at the governors now. The governors are getting a look over this weekend.
BOLDUAN: Do you think John Kasich is your biggest competition right now?
KOCHEL: I don't know. He certainly isn't past New Hampshire. He's run a one-state strategy. He doesn't have anything outside of New Hampshire. He's campaigned almost nowhere else. He has no play in South Carolina or March 1st or any other states.
BERMAN: You don't need to be a political science professor to look at what you just said and Jeb Bush has been in New Hampshire the last month or two hitting Donald Trump. Now we wake up and he's talking about John Kasich. It does seem as if you've changed focus a little bit, subtly. The question is why.
KOCHEL: He's been comparing and contrasting the records of a number of candidates, including Donald Trump.