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Clinton and Sanders in Tight Race in Nevada; CNN Projects Clinton Win in Nevada Caucuses. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 20, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


[16:59:57] JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the base of her support, so what she needs to do is to keep a good margin in the 10-point range, as this vote comes in. We're at 39 percent now. It's been pretty consistent. I watched it dip a little bit, then it's gone back up. She has been right around 10 percent as the vote continues to come in. That's where the bulk of the votes were still missing in Clark County. If she stays ahead there she will keep this narrow lead state wide. But you have to hats off to Senator Sanders here, watch two counties here where Reno is. He's winning. It's close of 52-48 but we've got most of the vote in there.

So, the place that Sanders is winning by healthier margins, more of the vote is counted, some of these rural counties, 87 percent up here, 83 percent here, drop down here, 75 percent there. So, if you look at the places where Senator Sanders is running ahead, more votes are counted than the largest area, the biggest basket of votes down here where Secretary Clinton is winning. So, if you're looking at the map now and what we're missing, as long as the trends continue as they have been in the count so far, she will keep this lead. But that's a giant question mark. Because we don't know which are increasing surrounding Clark County. We don't know if the reason they are slowed and late as the new voters came out. If that's true the Sanders people think that helps them but we'll keep doing the math. But at the moment she's held pretty consistent, her lead has grown a little bit as more votes have come in where she's winning big.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: She's winning big in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas. That's where most of the people of the state actually live. I want to go back to Dana and David as we watch all of this unfold. You guys are really taking a close look at the entrance polls, the questions we asked people in Nevada as they were going into these caucuses.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And I was looking back at the numbers from 2008. And back then Hillary Clinton won among the Democrats who describe themselves David as Liberals. She beat Barack Obama on that. But it's a different picture now, isn't it?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is a very different picture. We talked about this before, it is a liberal electorate and much more liberal electorate than we saw eight years ago. And now we can look at how are those liberals and non-liberals are splitting between the candidates. So, take a look at this. Among liberal voters, that 70 percent of the electorate, Bernie Sanders 53 percent, Hillary Clinton 44 percent. He's got a nine-point lead there. Among non-liberal voters, moderate or conservative that's 30 percent of the overall electorate, Hillary Clinton big win here, 58 percent for her, 37 percent for Sanders. Obviously I'm sure she would prefer to be winning by 20 points among a larger group then the 30 percent but clearly, the 70 percent of the electorate being liberal is helping Bernie Sanders right now keep this close. If it had been like in 2008 only 45 percent of the electorate said they were liberal, this would be a different ball game. But more, it's a more liberal democratic caucus going electorate today. That is helping Bernie Sanders.

BASH: It's so interesting, I wonder why the dynamics have changed within the Democratic Party and Nevada. I mean, we know obviously that the demographics are constantly changing but the dynamics in terms of where people are on the democratic spectrum is fascinating.

DAVID: I think that we've been seeing this in both parties, we've been seeing in these nominating race that the activist base that is more ideologically pure cares more about ideological purity are driving these candidacies on both sides. And I just don't think that was the same kind of dynamic at play in 2008.

BASH: It wasn't. Really interesting numbers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, very quickly, we're about to start getting the initial exit poll information from South Carolina where there is a Republican presidential primary. Not a caucus, primary under way.

DAVID: That's right. Polls there don't close until 7:00 p.m. Eastern but we are going to start looking at digging in now to the numbers in South Carolina and I'll be back with you on some of those key findings.

BLITZER: As soon as we get those we'll let our viewers know. All right. We have another key race alert right now. Take a look at this. The race, the caucuses in Nevada right now, take a look at this. Forty eight percent almost half of the vote is now in. Hillary Clinton maintaining her slight advantage, over Bernie Sanders, 51.9 percent, 48.1 percent. Very close but that lead, Jake Tapper, that's been pretty steady now but there is still more than half of the vote remaining.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. It's still too close to call and too early to call. But let's talk about what we're seeing in this vote so far. The votes actually coming in. Michael Smerconish, if Hillary Clinton wins by a small margin as is the case right now, if the numbers hold up, does that mean it's a clear win for her?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR, "SMERCONISH": No. Not in my opinion. I think I'm in the minority on this. I think that margin matters. And as I look at the data and look at the internals, I don't see where's the enthusiasm for her? Yes, she's winning, but somebody used the word crushing earlier to refer to how Bernie was running on one on the internals. Where is she crushing him? Nowhere that I see. And if in the end he ends up beating her with Hispanics I think that's really significant. A close margin in Nevada where she was presumed just a month ago to have a double digit lead, maybe a 20-plus point lead, and then to lose among Hispanics, I think that's a big take away. And inevitability is in doubt.

TAPPER: And let's recall also just that even if Hillary Clinton does win by the small margin, the delegate count, which is what ultimately matters when it comes to winning the nomination is going to be fairly even, but Nia-Malika, I know you disagree.

[17:05:09] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think the W is a W for her. I mean, if she comes out on top here with two points, if it's one point, that's good for her because it changes the narrative coming out of New Hampshire and it sets her up I think for South Carolina. On the Latino vote I do agree that it is somewhat surprising that at least so far it looks like Sanders is doing well. I think one of the reasons that is, is that Latino voters tend to be much younger than African-American voters and Asian voters, 33 percent of Hispanic voters on 2014 were between 18 and 29 for black that was 25 percent, and 21 percent for Asian so it's a much younger demographic but it does seem to suggest that Sanders can kind of transfer this generational divide we're seeing among white voters to at least Latino voters. We haven't seen that yet overwhelmingly among African-American voters.

TAPPER: David, you think the margin matters?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm going to finish the point I started making an hour ago.

(LAUGHTER)

Which was that when you look at this number about Clinton winning overwhelmingly, about people want to continue Obama's policies and you put that together with the fact she is winning among non-white voters but losing among Hispanics, all of this adds up to me to say that she is doing very, very well among African-Americans. And that may be significant moving into the South Carolina primary.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think that's the big unanswered question. Because we don't know how specifically she's doing with African-Americans. But if you are trying to put together the Obama coalition in an election without President Obama, you need African-American voters. And the Latino number I will give you that. I think is surprising. If Bernie Sanders is doing better with Latino voters. But I also believe that a win is a win. For her here. The baseline has been ratcheted down over the last couple of weeks. And if she wins, and she comes out with more delegates, it's a win.

TAPPER: It's a win is a win but Van, I want to go to you for one second. Because they were talking at the other table there about why is the Nevada democratic electorate in this caucus as opposed to eight years ago. Why is it so much more liberal than it was eight years ago? When you had a one word answer.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Pain. Pain. Pain. That's why. You have -- it's almost impossible to imagine if you are in Nevada, they were decimated in the housing crunch, the first one. They are now having a double dip on housing. People who crawled out barely crawled out are falling back down again. When you have economic pain, the extremes gain in both parties. That's what you're seeing. And by the way, you say a W is a W. I heard fire wall, fire wall, fire wall. This is a fire speed bump. And that's real.

BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Let me just chime in. And the reason that this is important is because we are seeing Hillary Clinton do extremely well with African-American voters. The point, where is she crushing? She's crushing with African-American voters. And why does that matter? Because Bernie Sanders is doing well -- Bernie Sanders is doing well so far, right? He's keeping parody. But the narrative in the path doesn't get any easier for Bernie Sanders. In fact, the path gets that much more difficult because the next stop isn't just Minnesota but the next stop rolls through South Carolina, through Georgia, through the rest of the south. And it is going to get a lot more difficult.

TAPPER: Let me just update our voters right now with 53 percent of the actual vote in. Hillary Clinton leads 51.9 percent to Bernie Sanders 48 percent.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is what we've been hearing, the map it was getting harder for Bernie Sanders except it isn't. And I think Gloria mentioned the baseline sort of moving down. Yes, by Hillary Clinton. I mean, the Clinton, you know, campaign a month ago would have told us that Nevada was not a competitive state, for Bernie Sanders. They spent the last week saying well, this is a competitive state. There are lots of white people there, there's lots of young people there. And so they have changed the baseline. I agree with Michael, if she doesn't come -- if she doesn't win by at least five points, if it is this close when it's over I think she loses her whole argument against Bernie which is that he is unelectable. I think he's pretty darn electable.

TAPPER: Paul Begala --

PAUL BEGALA, ADVISER, PRO-HILLARY CLINTON SUPER PAC: I felt we're in Las Vegas but you don't cover the spread in politics, you win or you lose. OK? If she wins this, in the state, first thing I said when we started this, I said, what Van was saying talking about the pain. This is the state with the fourth highest unemployment in America. The second highest home foreclosures in America. A 30 percent increase in home foreclosures in the last month. Enormous pain. If she hangs on and wins, now she got a four-point lead, if she wins there, that's a big deal. And I'm sorry if people don't think she covered the spread but there ain't no spread in politics. Winning and losing?

TAPPER: Fifty four percent of the vote in from the Nevada democratic caucuses. Hillary Clinton leading right now, 52 percent of the vote to Bernie Sanders 47.9 percent of the vote. We'll going to take a very quick break. When we come back more actual vote coming in from the Nevada democratic caucuses and we're going to start to pay attention to the South Carolina Republican primary. We're going to have some of the exit poll results from that state coming right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:14:24] BLITZER: We've got a key race alert. Hillary Clinton maintaining her lead, building her lead actually a little bit. Fifty eight percent of the vote, she's now in, she's got 52.1 percent to Bernie Sanders 47.8 percent. But still plenty of votes outstanding right now. Hillary Clinton, you look at these picture, she is going to be making a statement we're told at this rally in Las Vegas. That's coming up really. So, of course, we will have live coverage of that. I want to go to Mark Preston, our politics executive editor right now. We're not yet ready, Mark, to make a projection as to the winner in Nevada even though she's been maintaining a small but steady lead.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: And we're not. And the reason why, Wolf, is that we don't know where the vote is out specifically in Clark County. This is Las Vegas and the surrounding suburbs, this is where she won back in 2008, Hillary Clinton did. But at this point, we don't feel comfortable enough calling this because we don't know where the vote is out at this point. We also don't know what percentage of the Hispanic vote is out, specifically when you look at Las Vegas as a whole is it down town metropolitan area or is it Henderson and the suburbs and exurbs that surround Nevada. Now, this is worth 70 percent of the vote meaning this is where the highest concentration in the state of the vote is right now. So that's why we have not called this race at this point. Of course, look how close the margins are -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're close indeed. All right. Mark Preston, he's in our decision desk. John King we're here at the magic wall. You're looking at one county in particular right now, the largest county, Clark County in Nevada, that's 72.3 percent of the population.

KING: And that's what Mark said, look, we want to be extra cautious here. It's a competitive race, let's just count the votes. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you look at this right now, yes, she has a 10-point lead in Clark County. Again, more than seven in 10 votes today are likely to be cast here. That's more than seven in 10 Nevadans live in Clark County. She is held pretty much a 10-point lead for a long time as we've gone from 10 to 20, up to now 53 percent of the vote. But that doesn't mean the vote that's missing is going to come in that same way. If you want to guess that it can at home, you can do that at home. We can't do that here as we count them. But it is look, if she keeps this lead, she will win.

The question is, when we get the rest, other half of this vote from Clark County, you know, are there Sanders precincts out there? Does he start to win big in some big precincts and does he take this number down. So, we'll going to wait and count the votes. If she keeps a 10-point lead in Clark County or anything close to that, she is going to win statewide because it's more than seven in 10 of the votes. But if you look elsewhere in the state, Senator Sanders doing quite well. We're waiting here, this is largely Reno in the suburbs, and then to very rural areas up here. Senator Sanders winning by six points out there.

And across the rural north of Nevada, Senator Sanders winning by healthy marches. But again, very tiny population Sanders, so this is not going to have a dramatic impact on the statewide vote totals. It will in the end what Nevada Democrats are electing today or delegates to their state convention. The state convention then picks delegates to the national convention. And as you look at how the map goes in right now, at the moment it looks like Secretary Clinton if she is holding that narrow lead state wide, even if that holds up, if she wins state wide it still looks like you'll have a pretty even delegate split for comparison. Remember, this is 2016, let's go back to 2008. The dark is Senator Clinton, the lighter blue is Senator Obama at the time in 2008.

She won by six points statewide back then, it was a split actually slight Obama advantage in delegates to the Democratic National Convention after they sorted this multi-step process out in part because he won so many other areas in the state. So, as we watch the rest of the vote come in here, there is no question Senator Sanders is holding his own in the rural areas, Secretary Clinton is winning where it matters most in Clark County at the moment. Up to 55 percent, now we've gone just in the course of this conversation from 53 to 55 and it has stayed at 10. So again, if you're in team Clinton you're confident about this. But as Mark Preston noted, you are also asking your precinct captains what's missing. What are those precincts look like. Do we think there are our guys? Do we have account going in? You know, what are our guys on the ground say. So, it looks good right now but we need the rest of those votes. And they are right here in Vegas and the suburbs.

BLITZER: Yes. We're told she is getting ready to speak at some point pretty soon to her supporters in Las Vegas. So, we'll see what is going on OUTFRONT. But we'll watch that very, very closely.

I want to go back to Dana and David as we're watching all of this unfold. You know, Dana, and David, as much as we're interested and we're fascinated by the democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada, we're also interested on the Republican primary that's taking place today in South Carolina. Polls close under two hours from now in South Carolina. But we're beginning to get some indications in this battle from our exit polls in South Carolina.

BASH: That's right. Because in both of these contests, as John was just saying, there is the kind of mathematical importance of it and then there is the psychological importance. Mathematical meaning, how many delegates the candidates get, but then it's whether or not they get a boost of enthusiasm from their supporters or even just feeling a momentum. But on the Republican side, let's look at South Carolina. Where I have been all week, I know you were as well. One of the key questions is, who is going and what does the Republican electorate look like?

[17:19:16] CHALIAN: You remember before Iowa and on Iowa caucus night, we talked a lot about the evangelical vote, the Born Again vote, and how critical that was to the Iowa caucuses. It is even more critical in the South Carolina primary. Take a look at this. Among the voters going to vote in South Carolina today, 73 percent tell us in the exit poll that they are Born Again or evangelical Christian. Twenty seven percent say they are not. That compares with a 64 percent Born Again electorate in Iowa. So, this is even the religious argument, the social conservatives, Born Again evangelical vote is critical here in South Carolina. We'll be looking to see how that splits up. And then when did you decide? This is fascinating. In the last week, 45 percent of Republican primary voters said they made up their mind. Fifty five percent said they made up their mind earlier.

Dana, think about what has happened in the Republican race in the last week. You had that debate last week where Donald Trump started taking on George W. Bush in a way that may have been dangerous inside a Republican electorate. You had his battle with the Pope back and forth and how that played out. You had his comment about ObamaCare, you had his comments about his own opposition to the Iraq war being questioned. So there was a lot of news in that final week of the Republican primary. And if nearly half, 45 percent of the electorate didn't make up their mind until the last week, that is a lot of fluidity in the race that could have occurred as we wait and see how this split between the candidates.

BASH: So much and just anecdotally yesterday I was at a Trump rally, I met a lot of people who said that they were undecided, same goes for Rubio rallies, Jeb Bush rallies, I mean, just all across the board. So many people who said they were leaning one way, weren't so sure. And boy, were they paying attention to every little nook and cranny of news that you were just talking about. So, it was incredibly fluid and everybody inside all the campaigns understood that which is why they were trying to influence so much -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Exactly. We'll continue to watch the events unfolding, the Republican primary in South Carolina. But we're also going to be watching what's happening in Nevada right now. Hillary Clinton maintaining her lead now, take a look at this. Sixty three percent of the vote is now in. That lead increasing for Hillary Clinton, she must be happy about that. 52.2 percent for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders 47.7 percent. She had a consistent lead now for the last hour. It's been building impressively the past hour or so where we're going to continue to watch what's going on in Nevada and South Carolina. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:25:56] BLITZER: For the last several hours we've been crunching all the numbers, and we are now ready to make a major projection. CNN projects Hillary Clinton is the winner of the Nevada democratic caucuses beating Bernie Sanders, she expected a win, she is going to win, she wins the Nevada democratic caucuses, not necessarily by a huge margin but certainly plenty of votes enough to make her the winner, certainly a great relief to the Hillary Clinton campaign, as a result of the stunning loss in New Hampshire. They are cheering over there behind Brianna Keilar. They just got a word of our projection, Brianna. So go ahead if you can speak up, tell us what's going on where you are.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's right, Wolf. I'm watching Hillary Clinton supporters, there is a bit of a delay here but they have been watching as the projection came in on CNN which is what they are watching here at her headquarters at Caesars Palace erupting in a lot of cheers. And also Hillary Clinton tweeting just a short moment ago, she said to everyone who turned out in every corner of Nevada with determination and heart, this is your win, thank you, signed H which means supposedly that's a tweet that she put out herself. We also know that the chair of her campaign John Podesta thanking the labor movement on social media.

But certainly this is a big win for Hillary Clinton here in Nevada, it seemed very possible that she was going to have back-to-back losses to Bernie Sanders with New Hampshire and Nevada. So this is certainly a win, Wolf, that she is savoring. And a lot of her success in this will have to do with what she did right here in Clark County. She visited several casinos in the last few days, really trying to create a lot of buzz with casino workers, even a post-midnight meeting in a housekeeping break room with some employees of a hotel. Really, you know, wearing down that shoe leather trying to get some support. We saw people earlier in the hotel for this at large caucus site at Caesars Palace, there was almost a two to one ratio working in Hillary Clinton's favor. And they were very happy, her supporters and her caucus goers walking through the casino wearing t-shirts and buttons for her campaign and very excited in cheering -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure they are. They'll be even more excited in a few moments when she joins them. She is kind of be walking out with her husband, her daughter we're told making a victory speech, a victory speech, a very important win for Hillary Clinton. She won in Iowa, she lost in New Hampshire. But now CNN projects she will be the winner in the Nevada democratic presidential caucuses.

I want to go to Jeff Zeleny, he's over at the Bernie Sanders campaign. Much more subdued I take it over there, Jeff.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it, Wolf. And when that projection was made here on CNN just a few moments ago, the few people who are gathered here behind me actually booed at the suggestion that Hillary Clinton won Nevada. But win this she did, Wolf. And this is a decisive win. Had it not gone this way, there would have been a lot of questions about the strength of her campaign. But she did win this race so now she is going forward, of course this is not going to stop this democratic race at all. The Sanders campaign believes that the tightness of the race here shows that he can appeal to Latino voters and African-American voters but there is no doubt about it, this provides something of a reset on this campaign and I talked to one Clinton adviser just a few minutes ago.

I mean, he said, they said this resets the race and puts some confidence back and is going to put a bounce back in her step. So this is definitely a good win for the Clinton campaign. But Bernie Sanders is going to come out tonight I'm told and say that, you know, this race is going to go on. His message of income inequality he believes is resonating with a large share of Americans, he is going to speak here behind me, you know, in not too long. And this is exactly where he was Friday night and he had some 6,000 people here. Now, you can hear people shouting behind me, "Bernie."

[17:30:00] So this race is going to go on to South Carolina tomorrow. He will campaign in Greenville. Then he is going to Super Tuesday states, Massachusetts on Monday, and keeping an eye on caucuses in Minnesota, in Colorado, the Oklahoma primary.

So, Wolf, this race continues, but it's a good afternoon here in Nevada for Hillary Clinton -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Next Saturday, the race continues with the Democrats in South Carolina. That's when the Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina takes place.

Only moments ago, Hillary Clinton tweeted a picture of herself -- there you see with her supporters -- when she got word that she was projected to be the winner of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. An important win, indeed, for Hillary Clinton. She needed this win. She gets the win. We are going to hear from Hillary Clinton momentarily. We'll also hear from Bernie Sanders as well.

Dana and David, this is an important win, I got to tell you. After New Hampshire, she would have suffered a setback, it would have been really, really ugly for her.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I guess we should kind of take a moment and note that, that this is a very big win for her. She was able to push back on Bernie Sanders' attempt to come in there with a new organization. She has been there, her campaign organizing since August. She was able to push back on the momentum that Bernie Sanders had. And she now is in a very different place, a positive place, David, going into South Carolina which is really, really what the campaign is hoping is her actual firewall.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, listen the Clinton campaign needed a victory more than anything else. Just to get out of the cycle that they were in with the rough defeat in New Hampshire. Clearly, getting that tonight is a big deal for them. And scoreboards matter. This is two states for Hillary Clinton and one for Bernie Sanders and --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: We have numbers how she won.

CHALIAN: Yeah. Take a look at what drove her victory. First up, those voters that went to the polls today that said they wanted to continue Barack Obama's policies. Hillary Clinton won 74 percent to Sanders' 23 percent. That was 49 percent of the electorate. Women made up 56 percent, and Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders by 13 points, 55 percent to 42 percent. And, look at Democrats, 80 percent of the electorate today was Democratic, 57 percent Clinton, 41 percent Sanders. Obviously, he's doing well with Independents, did well with Independents today here, too. But they make up 19 percent. She overwhelmingly wins Democrats, overwhelmingly wins women, overwhelmingly wins the people that want to continue Barack Obama's policies, and they made up huge chunks. So this is how she won in Nevada.

BASH: I think your point about the Independents is critical. Hillary Clinton is doing very well among the people who are supposed to like her, her fellow Democrats. And you know when you saw the big win for Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, so much of his support does come from Independents.

CHALIAN: From Independents. So as this contest moves on to more closed primaries where just Democrats are participating, as we move to Super Tuesday and beyond, that is advantage Clinton.

BASH: No question about that.

Wolf?

BLITZER: She has a slightly impressive win there. It's not necessarily even all that close. Look at the numbers now, 52.3 percent, 47.7 percent. It's not necessarily neck and neck. It's an impressive four-point win at least as of now with the actual numbers coming in.

BASH: I think the numbers that John was pointing out are interesting about Clark County, which, you know, is the -- by a long shot, the population center where Las Vegas is. The fact that she did so well there really says something I think also about the kind of Democrat that she is appealing to. Because if you kind of look at it objectively and look at Bernie Sanders' message that he is going to help people more with income equality and so forth, you would think he would do better, but she did, she did better there, in addition to the more rural areas.

BLITZER: If she wins by five points, or four points, that's an impressive win. A win is a win. And if she wins -- and we have projected she will be the winner -- that is very good news for her.

We're standing b to hear from Hillary Clinton. She is getting ready to walk out, address supporter there. You see the banner right behind the podium up there. We're going to have live coverage of Hillary Clinton's speech. Eventually, we'll hear from Bernie Sanders as well.

Don't forget, the contest in South Carolina is getting going right now as well. Less than an hour and a half before the polls close in South Carolina. We'll see how Donald Trump is doing, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz.

Lots of political news coming up. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:38:36] BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is the winner of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. We projected her the winner. She has a nice lead over Bernie Sanders. We're looking at the actual votes. And based on the votes that are in, based on the entrance poll results, CNN protecting Hillary Clinton is the winner.

She is about to speak. We're standing by. She will be addressing supporters. We'll have live coverage of her speech. We're also awaiting Bernie Sanders. At some point, he will address his supporters. They are both going to get ready to move on to South Carolina where the Democratic primary takes place next Saturday. We're watching all of this.

Brianna Keilar is at Hillary Clinton headquarters. Brianna, she's already been indicating why she believes she won,

right?

[17:39:22] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. Really, the campaign is indicating that they think it's because African-American voters held, and they think this is so important going forward.

But I also want to tell you about something I heard that happened at the Brooklyn headquarters for Hillary Clinton. This crowd here was cheering when they found out the projection. So was her staff, which, of course, is a ton of people there in her Brooklyn headquarters who have been toiling away, and the loss in New Hampshire was tough on them. So they have been working very hard with the hopes that they would pull out a win in Nevada. But this is something that certainly is giving them a big wind in their sails. But they are still looking forward. We can see that from the fact that Hillary Clinton, Wolf, after she speaks here at Caesars Palace, she is going to head immediately to Houston. And she will be at a historically black college for an event. This is key to how she's looking toward South Carolina and the key black vote there, and also other southern states where voters will go to the polls for Super Tuesday and just about a week and change. The campaign is crediting her message about breaking down barriers, this narrative she launched during her New Hampshire concession speech.

BLITZER: The key, the African-American vote, came out for her in Nevada. That's clear. Even more important in South Carolina, where the Democratic primary takes place next Saturday.

Brianna, stand by.

Right now, 71 percent of the actual vote is in. Hillary Clinton maintaining her lead, 52.2 percent, Bernie Sanders 47.8 percent. CNN has projected Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic caucuses in Nevada.

I want to go back to Jake for some serious analysis -- Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf Blitzer.

Let's turn to Paul Begala, who is advising a pro Hillary super PAC.

I want to give you a moment to talk about the fact that this is a big win. She needed it.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's an important win, decisive win, words that Wolf and Jeff used, not somebody that is hopelessly biased like I am. There's a man named Robby Mose ([ph), who you know, Hillary's campaign manager. He ran Nevada eight for Hillary years ago. The only caucus in America where she defeated Barack Obama. Robby has been under enormous pressure since they got steamrolled in New Hampshire. My party, I don't know the -- my party is full of bed-wetters and thumb-suckers, horrible people, who any journalist can get on the phone to dump on their own candidate and their own -- (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: -- for ever one of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Right. But as somebody who used to run campaigns --

(CROSSTALK)

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Another day (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Yeah. Not my donors. Not my donors.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: We call them sources.

(LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: Yeah. Every campaign has these.

Where's the camera? Robby, good job, great job. Heck of a job.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: To glom on to your point, you know, much was made of what they did in Clark County and that was very good. The fact hat she cut the margins in northern Nevada was a testament to the work they put in there, the time they invested there, both with her and Bill Clinton. I think this was a well-conceived effort on the part of the Clinton campaign. I think it was an organizational win for them.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's also a precursor to, if you look to South Carolina and you see how well she did with the African-American vote here. Bernie Sanders, you have to give him credit for doing well with Latino voters. But the key to Hillary Clinton's victory here is African-American voters.

TAPPER: South Carolina, it's very interesting that the Clinton campaign is so publicly crediting the African-American vote in Nevada for her victory there.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You have to. And with Robby, you have Michael Jordan and with Marlin Marshall you have Scottie Pippen.

(LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: So those guys go in and they know and they know -- that was an Axelrod reference.

AXELROD: I don't throw that around. (LAUGHTER)

SELLERS: But you know what they are doing is they have a strategy where they are not necessarily rocking the vote but targeting the vote with the platform with the message. It turned out in Nevada.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, we expect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to talk about her win in Nevada.

Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:47:28] BLITZER: An important win for Hillary Clinton today in the Nevada Democratic presidential caucuses. She beats Bernie Sanders. She beats Bernie Sanders. She needed this win. She got this win.

I want to go to Jeff Zeleny, over at Sanders' headquarters now.

I understand you have news, Jeff.

ZELENY: I do. I'm told Senator Sanders had a telephone call with his rival on the Democratic side, and he said that he congratulated her on this victory. He's going to put out this statement shortly. I'll read a part to you. He said, "I just spoke to Secretary Clinton and congratulated her on her victory. I'm very proud of the campaign we ran. Five weeks ago, we were 25 points behind and we ended up in a very close election. We probably will leave Nevada with a solid share of the delegates."

That is true, Wolf. He will split the delegates. She will win a handful more than he is. He is not leaving Nevada with the energy that he had hoped.

And, Wolf, so interesting, in the last 48 hours or so, the differences between these two candidates, how they campaigned. It is something to keep an eye on going forward here. I have not seen the Clinton campaign, Hillary Clinton herself, campaign as aggressively or tirelessly. She spent all day on Thursday, Friday, going casino to casino. Bernie Sanders did not. He was back in Washington actually meeting with African-American leaders. He flew here and did three campaign events. So, Wolf, a big difference in how they campaigned.

Hillary Clinton, I'm told by one close adviser, was scared by what happened in New Hampshire. She was frustrated. So she clearly is campaigning more aggressively here. And the Sanders campaign realizes that they have a lot of energy, a lot of support, a lot of money behind them. This is not going to hurt him in the fundraising ability, but it does show their campaign is not as equipped as her campaign to be as aggressive in these settings. She is the true athlete in this race. Bernie Sanders knows will have to step it up a little bit -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Yeah. An impressive win for Hillary Clinton. She needed it after New Hampshire. She got it.

She is going to be speaking soon. Eventually, we'll hear from Bernie Sanders as well.

I want to go to Brianna Keilar, over at Hillary Clinton headquarters right now.

Momentarily, we expect to see her. I'm sure she is happy she got the congratulatory phone call from Bernie Sanders.

[17:50:00] KEILAR: We understand, very much so, Wolf. She is very happy. She was in her suite here at Caesars Palace receiving that phone call from Bernie Sanders, an aid saying he had called to congratulate her. Certainly, this is a moment for her to saver. The Clinton campaign seeing Nevada really as a test of whether Bernie Sanders could appeal enough to non-white voters. Coming out of this contest, they feel like they're in a good place, showing strength, that she is the one with the coalition that ultimately will propel her to the nomination and of course they hope to the White House.

But look, now, where she is going. She'll be heading, right after she speaks here -- and we are expecting her at any moment to talk to her supporters -- tonight to Houston. She'll be speaking from a historically black college. Then Bill Clinton is going to Hispanic- heavy states. He's going to Colorado, then Oklahoma, Monday in Texas, as they try to shore up this coalition that maybe wasn't the coalition for Hillary Clinton in 2008. It was more the coalition for Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton trying to carry the torch.

BLITZER: A one-two punch, Bill and Hillary Clinton campaigning.

Brianna, thank you very much.

Live coverage of the Hillary Clinton speech. She got a congratulatory phone call from Bernie Sanders moments ago. He concedes defeat in Nevada.

Our coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:55:47] BLITZER: We're waiting to hear from the winner of the Democratic presidential caucuses in Nevada. That would be Hillary Clinton. She beats Bernie Sanders -- we have made that projection -- right now, with 76 percent of the actual vote in. She's at 52.2 percent. He's at 47.7 percent. Based on all of the information that we have, she is the winner. She is the winner in Nevada right now.

I want to go over to John King at the magic wall.

You've got more information, John, on how she did it, how she -- she needed this win. She got the win. It's an impressive win. A win is a win, as we like to say. How did she do it?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator Sanders would say it's very close. He came from nowhere. Republicans are already saying this proves she's weak because she was up by 25 points a month or so again. She's winning. That's what the Clinton campaign will count on tonight.

Why is she winning? Right now, she's winning four points statewide, 76 percent of the vote in. The big margin of victory is coming in. Consistently, she has been ahead in Clark County, more than 70 percent of the vote in this county. Wolf, when we had 26 percent in, she was up by 10 points. When we had 50 points in, she was up by 10 points. Now 71 percent in, she's up by 10 points. This is where most of the votes are in the basket. She's winning by 10 points in that area. That is why she's winning statewide. Yes, there will be a debate heading into South Carolina on how did Sanders get so close.

But why is this win so important? First, let's pull back to the national map. One win for Sanders. Two close wins perhaps but still two wins for Clinton. Her support stays among the party establishment.

Super delegates. I'm going to switch the maps. Before everybody gets made at me at home, if you're in the Sanders camp, this is a hypothetical. But let's play this out. She just won Nevada. This assigns her South Carolina next week at a 55/45 margin, she wins 55/45. Let's assume -- again, a hypothetical -- she wins everything else, she wins Super Tuesday, 55/45. Then she would start to pull away with delegates. Let's assume, throughout March, Hillary Clinton won everything. The Sanders campaign thinks they'll win some of these states. They think they'll win Vermont. This is a hypothetical. Let's assume she wins 55/45 through there. Then we get to May. She's continuing to win 55/45. We finish out the final primaries. If she won 55/45 all of the way out, she would still be short of what she needs to clinch the nomination in Sanders stays in to the end, because of the Democratic Party delegate rules. But she has over 400 super delegates right now and she actually has more, people who have pledged to support her, but are keeping is private for now in case they want to roll them out when their state is up or if she has a bad week and wants to roll out endorsements. So if she won everything 55/45 -- and again, Bernie Sanders may win some of these states. Hillary Clinton may win some by 65 percent. But if you just hypothetically play it out like this in a long contest, it is conceivable she gets to the convention. Even if she won 49 states, she could end up short of the delegates, the pledged delegates from the primaries and caucuses. She needs the super delegates. The way to keep the super delegates is to keep the party support by wining contests. This isn't winning beautiful, Iowa and Nevada. Some say it's winning ugly or close. But it's winning. That's how you keep the party establishment on your side.

BLITZER: Yeah. We'll see what happens next Saturday in South Carolina, the Democratic primary there. We'll see how she does, how Bernie Sanders does in South Carolina as well.

She is clearly the winner in Nevada right now.

I'm reminded a little bit, Dana and David, about 2008, because of the contest between Hillary Clinton and then-Senator Barack Obama, it went through February, March, April. BASH: We remember.

BLITZER: It wasn't until June until she conceded he was the winner.

BASH: That's right. That is why the fact Bernie Sanders can raise the kind of cash that he can from small donors and he has the ability to do that and to keep going, is why his campaign can say with voracity that he can keep going until June if he wants to.

But I think what John was just saying is important to flesh out about the whole concept of pledged delegates versus super delegates.

Explain to our viewers what that means.

CHALIAN: Believe me when I tell you Hillary Clinton does not want to win the Democratic nomination just because of super delegates.

BASH: Because super delegates are --

CHALIAN: Super delegates are party leaders who are automatically given a vote at the convention. Irrespective of how their state votes, they are free agents, if you will. They are the party establishment. They are the leaders. They are members of the Democratic National Committee, governors, members of Congress. Nobody would want to win the nomination because they didn't have enough support to get over the --

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: -- 50 percent threshold from all --