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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Donald Trump Wins Nevada Caucuses. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired February 24, 2016 - 01:00   ET

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


[01:00:01] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: People who barely have high school education. So he did run the board on pretty much everybody except maybe the young people.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean, I know he does this whole speech sort of to boast about where he's succeeding but it is impossible not to be impressed by the breath of the victory. I mean, I know he does it for a certain effect to rally his supporters and stuff, but anybody looking at presidential politics would look at these results and just see he has won every single category, yes, the 18 to 29-year-olds, Marco Rubio won them, but they only made up 7 percent of the electorate.

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: But across the board, evangelicals, like you said, across the education strata, across incomes, this is a really impressive win, and the key here also, and John King mentioned this earlier, he's increasing his vote share.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

CHALIAN: I mean, that is -- that is really, really important. He's not in the 30s anymore. He's now at 44.

BASH: And that's another important point that he made in this speech talking about the fact that, you know, making fun of the pundits who say -- or even establishment who says well, if we just add up everybody who is not Trump, it could be the majority except that people who are --

TAPPER: Yes.

BASH: As people drop out, votes tend to go to him. He's not wrong about that.

TAPPER: No, and people do love a winner. That's one of the reasons why some of these people -- some of the voters go to him.

One of the reasons, also, David, that I think he talks about the breath of support is because he's very sensitive to what pundits say and a lot of pundits initially were saying oh, it's just, you know, people with only a high school education supporting him, he doesn't have wide support. He can't win evangelicals, he can't win Latinos, he can't win other groups, and he is proving them all wrong and he is dominating and he's doing this not just in New Hampshire, not just in South Carolina but here we go in Nevada.

And, Anderson, I mean, the win is sizable and it is across the board.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, no doubt about that.

Amanda Carpenter, I mean, as -- I mean, Ted Cruz has been looking to Texas and had been confident about Texas. How confident are you about Ted Cruz in Texas and at this point, does it even really matter?

AMANDA CARPENTER, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, SEN. TED CRUZ: I would say I'm pretty confident just because he's won the state, you know, come from (INAUDIBLE), win his Senate race, he'll well-loved there. But I'm just -- I mean, I'm really struck in thinking about what a Donald Trump nomination would actually mean. I mean, I really think it's the end of the Republican Party. And it's a natural effect. I mean, we've watched what's happened by a lot of people who've wanted the same part so badly, they didn't listen -- they didn't listen to the glass roots, they didn't listen in 2010, they didn't listen in 2014 even though we won, you know, those midterm elections. Nothing changed, nothing changed.

And the voters still want change. They are desperate for somebody who will go in and shake up Washington and it's like they didn't listen to the signs. They didn't change their course and now they are being stuck with Donald Trump. Even if you look at what Jeb Bush was doing to Marco Rubio, we have this scenario so many times the party elders were trying to eat and defeat the party's young and now we have Donald Trump.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But it's not so much the end of the Republican Party as the broadening of it is the way I see it. You look at Donald Trump and his candidacy, and what he stands for. He stands for policies that are not traditional conservative Republican policies like saying, I don't want to see people dying on the streets because they don't have health care. Americans have paid their whole life into Social Security and I'm not going to take that away from them.

He's defying ideological boundaries because the message he's sounding out is not ideology first, it's America first and I think that's what's resonating and for a long time the Republican Party has needed to broaden their base and I think Trump is the man who's doing that.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because the reason why she should be taken very, very seriously is because I'm hearing this from Democrats. You have a lot of Democrats who are trying to figure out, should they vote for Sanders or Trump. From a left-right perspective, that makes zero sense. From an insider-outsider perspective, from a "I am not taking money from this big money interest" perspectives, it makes a lot of sense.

And the other thing I think that liberals need to wake up about with Donald Trump, this guy can win. He can go all the way to the White House because he is saying -- he's saying I don't want these trade deals. He's saying I'm going to stick up for the people who are on Social Security. You not -- there are three wings in the party now. You got this conservative wing, the establishment wing and this circus wing of Trump and Palin who will say any mess of things and they're very hard to beat.

COOPER: But you could also say that the commonality between Sanders and Trump for voters is I want somebody to be radically different. I want a radical shakeup and --

MCENANY: Well, and that's the thing. The party --

COOPER: Both of those seem to represent that --

(CROSSTALK)

CARPENTER: But -- are over on both sides. Democrats, Republicans, party structures have not served what the people want. They're not producing the results that people want so they're going around it, they're shifting around the ideological boundaries because they don't trust those institutions anymore.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But the Democrats are much less unhappy than the Republicans. The Republican voters as we've seen in all of our polling so far seem to be angrier and feel more betrayed by their party than the Democrats do.

[01:05:14] CARPENTER: I would argue, because Obama did challenge those structures and they did adapt on some level with his election.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And I think Democrats, you know, as we've seen, there is affection for the president, support for the president, and so, you know, there is more of a status quo orientation. Where there is differences it's around some of these economic issues. So where Trump and Bernie Sanders kind of merge on anti-trade, they merge on some of their -- on Wall Street. The both of them have been outspoken about Wall Street, about big money. Those are issues that unify the two of them.

I will say this, I had an interesting experience yesterday. I had Jon Huntsman on my pod cast, the Axe Files, which is now on CNN, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

AXELROD: CNN pod cast, but Huntsman who is pro-trade, pro-immigration reform, pro-cap and trade, climate change.

JONES: Republican.

AXELROD: All of those things said I could see myself, if he's the nominee, I could support Donald Trump because he would take on the establishment in Washington. He would take on big money and that would be a healthy thing. And, you know, so for someone who really is very much part of the sort of moderate Republican Party establishment --

CARPENTER: But that seems to the point --

AXELROD: To take that on.

CARPENTER: Yes. He founded a group called "No Labels." They're not interested in the party ideologies anymore because it's not producing results.

AXELROD: I understand. But you look at the center piece of Trump's to the extent he has policies, I kind of disagree, he hasn't flushed many of them out. But you talk about the wall, trade agreements and so on. Anti-trade --

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Those aren't -- those are bumper stickers.

AXELROD: Understood.

MADDEN: That's rhetoric.

AXELROD: And now --

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: But the point is, they're antithetical to everything that a guy like Jon Huntsman believes in and yet he finds something in Donald Trump that he can grab on to.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Just to try and sheer Amanda up a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

CARPENTER: Thank you.

LIZZA: Let's make the other case on a big night where a candidate wins big like this it always seems like they are inevitable, right? And on the one hand, I don't think any candidate has won three out of the first four states and gone on to lose the nomination. I don't think that's happened historically. On the other hand, you've never had a candidate like Donald Trump who is essentially -- his project here is a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, right?

The entire elected class of the Republican Party, the entire establishment we've been talking endlessly is against him. So there is an incentive for that whole class to fight him to the end, right? We talked about before the one last shot it seems that someone would have is to get into a one-on-one race with him and try and catch up.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: So it's not over. And remember, Romney exceeded Donald Trump's margin tonight in Nevada both in 2008 and 2012 where he got 50 percent.

COOPER: We got to take a quick break. We're expecting Ted Cruz to speak any moment now. We want to bring that to you live. Glenn Beck is kind of warming up the audience for him. We'll take a short break and continue in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:11:54] TAPPER: We have a key race alert for you now. Let's look at the actual vote total here with 14 percent of the vote in Donald Trump with -- pardon me -- 45 percent of the vote. Marco Rubio more than 20 points behind him. 24.3 percent. In second place. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas 20.5 percent in third place. Ben Carson and John Kasich in single digits.

Let's go to Cruz headquarters. We are still waiting to hear from Senator Ted Cruz, who is the only other person in this race who has won a contest having won the Iowa caucuses.

Sunlen, what do you expect to hear from Ted Cruz when he comes out and what's his plans? Where is he heading next?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, tonight Cruz just arrived here at his election headquarters. You hear Glenn Beck behind me warming up the crowd. Ted Cruz will speak shortly. But a Cruz campaign adviser says the theme of his speech once he takes the stage will be much of what we've actually heard from him before all this week saying he will argue tonight on the stage that he is the only candidate that has and can beat Donald Trump.

We have heard much of that this week, that was a key argument that the Cruz campaign argued coming out of South Carolina so expect to hear that tonight. You know, regardless of how this shakes out for second or third place, where Marco Rubio, where Ted Cruz land in the end, the Cruz campaign really believes that this is a win for them because it has left that argument intact. They are able to argue that Marco Rubio has not scored a win yet. In fact, Cruz advisers already sending out e-mails saying, despite all the hype, this is in their words, Rubio still failed to beat Donald Trump.

Another adviser telling me this was Marco Rubio's firewall, his adopted hometown. So they're clearly very eager tonight to paint this as a fail for Marco Rubio, even though we still don't know where this very dramatic race for second stands -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Sunlen, what are Ted Cruz's plans for the week? Is he headed to Texas? Is he headed to Super Tuesday states? Where is he going?

SERFATY: It's all about Super Tuesday for the Cruz campaign tonight. He will fly home to Houston. He will spend the night in his own bed at his family's condominium there. Then campaign there tomorrow but then it really is full force ahead to the southern states, the ones that the Cruz campaign has isolated for so far. Cruz campaign adviser tells me they will hit Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas over the course of this week.

This is such precious time for the Cruz campaign. They have staked so much on this next week on Super Tuesday they have set their expectations so high they have predicted an incredible win on Super Tuesday looking to really bank a lot of delegate -- really the proof is in the pudding, though, for the Cruz campaign pushing forward this week hoping to get a big win there -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sunlen Serfaty at Cruz campaign headquarters in Las Vegas.

Of course, it might be observed, Anderson, everyone is talking about everybody who supports Rubio and Cruz are talking about if the other guy dropped out, then a one-on-one race but if you added it up right now, and it's only 14 percent in, add up Rubio and Cruz, Donald Trump still beats them.

COOPER: Yes, and that's one of the things Donald Trump is sort of mocking during his victory speech tonight. John King joins the table here of our analyst table.

[01:15:08] I mean, John, as you look forward to this next week, I mean, we have the CNN debate in Houston on Thursday, that's obviously now incredibly important. Particularly for Rubio, for Cruz, but a lot could be decided. I mean, is it possible Donald Trump sort of hinted maybe this thing isn't going to last all that much longer?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will last awhile longer but the debate I think becomes huge. The question is how do the people calculate their chess game? You would think they would all want to take out Mr. Trump because they have such a short time to do it with a dozen states coming up on Super Tuesday. If you look at them now, the only one where you would say, OK, Trump won't win is maybe Texas. You'd have to say Cruz's favorite, although we'll see if the momentum out of this gives Trump an edge in Texas as well.

So if you're looking -- and even there if he comes in second, he still gets delegates because we're in the early stage. So you would think they would all go after Trump but you have this Cruz-Rubio, you know, I'm the second place candidate or I'm the guy to take on Trump, which is amusing to a lot of people but at some point, you have Kasich, Rubio and Cruz all pointing fingers at each other tonight and Donald Trump gave a victory speech. That was his third. We've had four contests. He's had three victory speeches. That will continue if everybody else is in a circular firing squad and they leave Trump alone.

COOPER: Is there any state right now where Marco Rubio has an advantage?

KING: No.

BORGER: No.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, he was in Tennessee, he got a big crowd there, about 4500 people. You know, I mean, his base, such as it is, I mean, it's 24 percentage points so far tonight is those higher educated folks who live in the suburbs but again, and moderates and people who think, you know, we're voting on electability but again, Donald Trump is eating into those different baskets --

COOPER: Right. At a certain point you have to win a state. HENDERSON: You have to win.

COOPER: You have to win delegates.

HENDERSON: But in theory he does, and Nevada was supposed to be --

LIZZA: Super Tuesday was built more for a candidate like Trump right now.

COOPER: Right.

BORGER: To just plow through.

LIZZA: Like Rubio if it's dominated by southern states.

BORGER: You know, but in theory, Rubio does well on electability, his entrance polls except he doesn't want anymore.

COOPER: We're going to take another quick break as we wait for Ted Cruz any moment. We'll bring that to you live. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Ted Cruz just took the stage. Let's listen in.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to thank our incredible leadership team that is here, the men and women across this state that worked so incredibly hard forging a grassroots coalition.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: They are still counting the ballots. So we don't know the exact result, but I want to congratulate Donald Trump on a strong evening tonight. And I want to congratulate the grassroots, the conservatives across this country that have come together behind this campaign.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: When we started this campaign nearly a year ago, there were 17 candidates in the race. The role of the first four primaries historically has been to narrow the field, and we have seen the first four states do exactly that, narrow the field.

[01:20:01] Now at this point we've had four primaries. History teaches us that nobody has ever won the nomination without winning one of the first three primaries. And there are only two people that won one of the first three primaries. Donald Trump and us.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And the undeniable reality that the first four states have shown is that the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and the only campaign that can beat Donald Trump is this campaign.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) CRUZ: If you are one of the 65 percent of the Republicans across this country that doesn't think Donald is the best candidate to go head-to- head with Hillary, who believes we do better in elections when we actually nominate a conservative.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Then the first four states have performed a vital function of narrowing this race and presenting a clear choice. You can choose between two Washington deal-makers or one proven consistent conservative.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: One week from today will be the most important night of this campaign. One week from today is Super Tuesday.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Eleven states, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and the great state of Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: One week from today the most delegates that are awarded on a single day will be awarded next Tuesday. The role of the first four states is to narrow the field and give Super Tuesday a clear choice and now the voters can decide if you want a president who will stop amnesty and ask yourself who has led the fight against amnesty.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: If you want a president who will repeal Obamacare, ask yourself who led the fight against Obamacare. If you want a president who will stand for life and marriage and religious liberty, ask yourself who has led the fight defending life and marriage and religious liberty.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: If you want a president who will defend the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: I've been told folks in Nevada kind of like their guns. As a Texan, I understand. And let me tell you something, you look at those Super Tuesday states, they like their guns, too. And if you want to protect that Second Amendment to stop a liberal justice from reading the Second Amendment out of the Bill of Rights, ask yourself who has led the fight to defend the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: If you want to see America standing unapologetically alongside the nation of Israel.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Ask yourself who has led the fight to stand unshakably with the nation of Israel.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: And if you want a president who on day one will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal, if you want a president who will utterly and completely destroy ISIS, ask yourself who has led the fight against this Iranian nuclear deal, against radical Islamic terrorism, and who is best prepared to keep America safe.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

[01:25:08] CRUZ: Elections are about choices and there are clear choices in this race if you want more Washington deals, if you want more corporate welfare, if you want more cronyism, if you want more debt, if you want fewer jobs, if you want lower wages, you got two candidates to choose from in this field.

On the other hand, if you want a president that says no to the bipartisan corruption in Washington, that stands up to the lobbyists and special interest, that stands up to the debt that says we will not bankrupt our kids and grandkids, we will bring back millions of high- paying jobs and see wages going up. We will make young people coming out of school have three, four, five job offers, and we will ensure that our kids and grandkids have a brighter tomorrow. A greater future, a more bountiful America.

That's what this choice is about. I want to thank the great people of Nevada, and I want to say I cannot wait to get home to the great state of Texas.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Tonight I'll sleep in my bed for the first time in a month and then it will be back to the campaign trail in Texas and all across Super Tuesday energizing and building that Reagan coalition, those courageous conservatives, libertarians, evangelicals, young people and Reagan Democrats all coming together.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CRUZ: Tonight we are one step closer to morning in America. We are one step closer to turning the pages on the failures of the Obama- Clinton disaster and getting back to the Constitution, getting back to the free market principles, getting back to the unbelievable opportunity that is the American dream.

Thank you and God bless you.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: Senator Ted Cruz finishing up his speech after what looks to be a third place finish in Nevada with 17 percent of the vote in. He has 20.3 percent. Marco Rubio in second place with 23.5 percent and Donald Trump 46.5 percent. You add up Rubio and Cruz and Trump still beats them.

Let's talk about what we just heard from Ted Cruz. A moment of honesty there from a politician when he said he can't wait to leave and get home to Texas.

CHALIAN: That is true. He's looking forward to sleeping in his own bed. That is a moment of honesty from a politician. It's interesting, you noted he was in third place tonight but he, of course, noting that he's the only one not named Trump that has also been in first place on one of these nights.

TAPPER: Sure.

CHALIAN: And I think that is going to be something we're going to hear quite often. He clearly is trying to make the point that he's already proven the ability to beat Donald Trump and therefore he's the guy that conservatives should turn to if they are looking to defeat Donald Trump. The problem for him is that it doesn't look like conservatives are looking to defeat Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Yes. That's a great point and not to mention the fact that he was talking -- he seems to be suggesting that Marco Rubio should leave and he's the only one that can defeat Trump therefore Rubio should drop out but as you noted, Dana.

BASH: He's got one delegate more. One.

TAPPER: Only one delegate more.

BASH: Right. I mean, going in before Nevada Donald Trump at 67. And --

TAPPER: Right. Rubio is going to --

BASH: Right, exactly. Cruz had 11 and Rubio had 10. But the most important thing he said in the speech was what happens one week from today, which is Super Tuesday, which is important for everybody but he has so much at stake. He spent so much time in August when everybody else was in Iowa and in New Hampshire and in South Carolina, he was going through the southern states because he knew that that was his only chance at a firewall. If he doesn't do well there --

TAPPER: Yes, we've talked a lot about the much vaulted Cruz ground game but the last few contests have not been too impressive when it comes to it.

Let's take a very quick break, we'll be right back with much, much more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:30:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We're bringing you a key race alert. More vote is coming in with 17 percent of the vote from the Nevada Republican caucuses.

Donald Trump is ahead with 46.5 percent of the vote. That is more than Marco Rubio with 23.4 percent and Ted Cruz with 20.4 percent have combined. And then, of course, there is Ben Carson and John Kasich in single digits.

You know, one of the interesting things we just heard Ted Cruz, Anderson, talk about how he's the only one who has beaten Donald Trump. And that is true; several weeks ago in the Iowa caucuses he beat Donald Trump.

But since then Ted Cruz had come in third three times in a row. Republican voters are not breaking to him, they're not flocking to him. They seem less interested in him than they were in Iowa.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, without a doubt.

I want to talk to John King a little bit about just the delegate count moving forward. You've been looking at the numbers in terms of the path forward.

Is there one for Cruz?

Is there one for Rubio that actually makes sense?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Not if they keep coming in second and third.

COOPER: Right.

KING: When you keep coming in second and third, there is another way to phrase that, it's called losing.

COOPER: Even if Cruz gets Texas.

KING: If Cruz gets Texas, look, the only way to beat Donald Trump -- this sounds silly -- is to beat Donald Trump and the only way to beat him and stop him is to beat him in a lot of state. We have a dozen states vote on Super Tuesday.

If Donald Trump wins eight of them, well, you don't have to be a rocket scientist. It's simple arithmetic. That means he's going to start building a delegate lead.

[01:35:00]

KING: Now if you start beating him consistently, yes, you can catch up. And there are big states out there, Texas; let's assume Cruz wins Texas. You look at the map and you say what does Rubio win?

Some people maybe Virginia, some people say maybe Minnesota. OK. If he can prove that and do that, it gets him a win and that allows him to keep raising money. But that's the problem now. There are 12 states this week and you got a bunch the week after that and then you got a bunch the week after that. None of these people, except for Donald Trump who can spend his own money -- yes, Cruz has more money than Rubio; Rubio has some money.

You know how much it costs to run a presidential campaign if you're doing eight states at a time, 10 states at a time, 12 states at a time?

And if you're losing, you think people are going to keep sending you checks?

It just simply -- doesn't work that way. So they have to start winning and if you cannot keep coming out and saying, yes, third place, thank you, thank you, everybody.

You lose, you go home. You just can't raise the money to stay in.

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victory speeches are the new concession speeches.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it wasn't that long ago.

LIZZA: Cruz was the more Libertarian in the race. Nevada has a serious Libertarian population. Ron Paul's won 20 percent in this state. The proportion a very conservative secular voters is high. He's done very well with that group in some of the earlier states.

So getting 20 percent in third place is incredibly disappointing for a candidate --

(CROSSTALK)

GLORIA BARGER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it wasn't that long ago, February 1, that Cruz was complaining about Rubio bragging about his bronze medal and Iowa, having come in third.

And here tonight, we heard Ted Cruz kind of try and turn what is a third place showing into a sort of a victory because he's the only one who can challenge Donald Trump. So --

(CROSSTALK)

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I thought he just sounds stale. He sounds like a stale politician who thinks that voters are looking for the candidate who can check off all the list of things that you want in a conservative candidate.

COOPER: But also for months, we've been hearing that there is a cap, there is a level that Donald Trump can't go beyond, that he's not growing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ceiling.

COOPER: -- there was a ceiling. There is no ceiling tonight. He busted through, 46 percent.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: -- conventional wisdom. And conventional wisdom has proven to be wrong, not only there, but also Latino voters. This is a huge fact tonight that Latino voters, 44 percent broke for Donald Trump. More than the two Latino candidates underneath him.

COOPER: Although to Ryan's point, it is a very small

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would want to see it repeated --

COOPER: It's something Donald Trump can certainly use moving forward as he did tonight.

MCENANY: It's a small sample size, you're right, but the point is he did it and this myth that he can't win minority voters, not the case. Frank Luntz (ph) has said, look, this is someone who I think could win minority voters like Reagan did in a general election. And win independents. Conventional wisdom is wrong. It was wrong tonight. I think it will be wrong going forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Kayleigh's point, I think it was erroneous for folks to assess that because Donald Trump was getting 30 percent, therefore 70 percent of the electorate was anti-Trump and somehow transferable to whoever would emerge as the one candidate.

So I think that is a problem. And the other thing is, to John's point, like the rest of these states are not hermetically sealed off from the momentum and all of the dynamics that are now shaping the electorate's view of this contest.

So it's not like we're going to have two candidates and all of a sudden we're going to scramble this thing and start from zero again. Donald Trump's momentum is going to feed a lot of -- and I will tell you, even voters that don't like Donald Trump, many of them are going to, at a certain point, become resigned to the fact that he may be the nomination. So that is a big dynamic --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They want to go with --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- and a big challenge that so many of the other campaigns are going to have to --

COOPER: Well, just in terms of enthusiasm, there is a lot of enthusiasm for Donald Trump and if it's about getting out votes and getting new voters in, is there more enthusiasm on the Republican side than there is on the Democratic side right now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may be at least at this point but Ax was talking about -- Axelrod was talking about how he has kind of broken through and now he's running toward. He hasn't just broken through electorally. He's broken through psychologically. He's broken through sociologically. He's making people feel comfortable with things that were completely unacceptable. You literally have a front-runner who was threatening to punch

somebody in the face at his own rally and we said, you know what?

Why should we even talk about it?

He has done so many other crazy things. That is very dangerous. Authoritarian movements gain momentum by lowering the resistances to really outrageous stuff. I'm very concerned about this development.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Punching is actually a softer version. He was saying he was going to -- he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue. So he's actually softened up his rhetoric.

COOPER: He's actually said that twice, he said about murder. We're going to take a quick break. More coverage, we're still counting the votes in Nevada for the final count. More ahead.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:40:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

TAPPER (voice-over): You're looking at live pictures from the Vegas Strip, that's the Trump International Hotel and Casino. I'm not saying that had anything to do with the results today in the Nevada Republican caucuses but that name has loomed large in the great city of Las Vegas.

Let's take a look at the votes coming in with 17 percent of the vote counted. Donald Trump ahead with 46.6 percent of the vote. That ceiling that a lot of Republican insiders have referred to with 35 percent, that ceiling seems to have gotten a little bit higher this evening.

Marco Rubio in second place with 23.8 percent; Ted Cruz slipping down to 19.9 percent. Again, if you add Rubio and Cruz, you still don't get Trump. Ben Carson and Kasich in single digits.

David, Dana, one of the things that we saw in previous races in South Carolina but not tonight was a large number of late deciders. But late deciders are still significant because they are people who are paying attention to the race and they reflect the dynamics and they have gone to Marco Rubio in South Carolina, a lot of them.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, David, it looks like it's kind of similar here, which tells us a lot more than maybe the Ted Cruz campaign wants to admit about where the electorate is going in the future.

DAVID: Right. No doubt about that. But what's also key is that they are not going to Trump. Take a look at this.

Among those voters who told us they decided in the last week, Rubio wins them 41 percent to Trump's 26 percent to Cruz's 23 percent --

[01:45:00]

DAVID: -- to Kasich's 5 percent. Jake is right. That's a smaller slice of the electorate, only 30 percent were late deciders this time.

But compare that to the 70 percent who decided earlier, there Trump wins going away, 55 percent to Cruz's 20 percent to Marco Rubio's 18 percent to Ben Carson's 4 percent.

And so, yes, obviously Ted Cruz is trying to make the case that he's the last man standing there but actually what we're seeing there is that Donald Trump doesn't necessarily wear well all the way through to Election Day.

We saw in South Carolina the late deciders breaking against him also. And so if you're Marco Rubio and you're winning late deciders, I just wonder if you sit in the campaign headquarters tonight and think, well then, why won't I wait around for the real late deciders to come the end of March and April and May contests, if indeed Donald Trump may not wear well in the long run?

Now I don't want to take anything away from his dominant victory tonight. It was huge and we've discussed it, it's everywhere. But this is one thing that, if I was in the Trump campaign, I would say to myself, how do we fix this going forward in the next contest to make sure I keep my support all the way through?

BASH: That's true. But the flip side of that is that he does, as you said, dominate and his support is rock solid. Earlier, before, you know, the last couple days before the caucuses.

DAVID: Right.

BASH: They don't go anywhere.

DAVID: Right. They are the most loyal supporters. There's no doubt about that. He credits them with that when he gives the big speeches.

But again, if you are making your decision at the end, if you were not a rock solid Donald Trump supporter and that loyal person that doesn't move from him but you're a late decider, that you're persuadable and who the campaigns are targeting, in the last two contests now, we see them breaking away from Trump. I just think that that is probably an area that Marco Rubio is going to want to exploit more.

BASH: No question.

TAPPER: It's interesting and it's an argument not necessarily for Rubio against Trump but an argument for Rubio against Cruz.

DAVID: Right.

BASH: No question.

TAPPER: Because he is, at least according to late deciders, wearing better.

DAVID: Exactly.

TAPPER: Than Ted Cruz is -- Anderson. Some fodder for you.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, to -- does that give much solace to Marco Rubio, the idea that later deciders are going for him, that maybe Trump isn't wearing so well?

But even in the polls tonight, we saw so many of the electorate had made up their minds a long time ago.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you're Marco Rubio right now --

COOPER: I guess you --

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: -- everywhere.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDEN: I mean, there is a path. It is a very narrow path. And the problem is that every day that path gets narrower.

So for Marco Rubio to win, he would have to pick up some of these states like wins in places like Georgia that have heavy suburban districts; Virginia; surprise in Minnesota; maybe out-organize, out- hustle all the other campaigns in the caucuses in Colorado and Wyoming.

And then take that momentum, hoping that maybe Trump wins -- that -- sorry, that Cruz wins in Texas; that there is a stumble somewhere with Trump and that you can go into those March 15th states, which are much bigger delegate halls and favorable to someone like Marco Rubio -- Florida, maybe surprise and beat, win in Ohio.

But that is a dream scenario right now if you're looking --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But something in this dynamic, something has to change to stop Donald Trump. I mean, you know, I've worked for Ted Cruz. I've heard that speech from Ted Cruz probably a million times.

One of the problems that I think people have had in trying to beat Trump is that they haven't changed their language, they haven't changed their tactics. You have to look at what Trump is doing.

And I'm not saying adopt his tone and don't act kind to other people. What I'm saying is that stop using labels that people don't care about anymore, stop saying "evangelical," because I'm the most conservative guy. Just stop -- straight to the --

MADDEN: Don't analyze the race. Some of these candidates, when they begin to analyze --

COOPER: -- play some of Trump's victory speech tonight, where some of the things he said about maybe it not going on much longer. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to do very well in Ohio. We're beating the governor. That's good. It's always nice to be beating the governor and Michigan, the whole thing. I mean, it's going to be an amazing two months.

We might not even need the two months, folks, to be honest, all right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Do you think he's right about that?

MCENANY: He makes a viable point. Look, you know that you are winning and winning commandingly when the other candidates are losing in their home states, when you are beating John Kasich in Ohio by 5 points, when you beating Marco Rubio in Florida by 20 points, when you are only losing to Ted Cruz by 5 points in one poll, 8 points in another in Texas, when people can't win their home states, not only are you winning eight of the 11 next states into Super Tuesday if you want to look at the polls, you're winning in people's home states.

COOPER: Van?

VAN JONES, CNN HOST: I think that's right. Part of it is, to your point about not changing, you have this situation where he is considered a strong winner on my side. Right. Those would be the three big attributes. You've got to go after those attributes.

Where is he a loser?

Where can you prove --

[01:50:00]

JONES: -- that he's not on the side of ordinary people?

You have got to almost do what we did to Romney, find those employees and say, you think this guy is on your side?

He's a terrible person.

BARGER: But they tried that to a degree.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you have to do it in the space of 20 days.

BARGER: Right. And then they didn't start early enough. I'll give you that. But there are the bodies of all those candidate whose tried to do it, who are no longer in the race, starting with Rick Perry. Well, Rick Perry --

(CROSSTALK)

BARGER: -- consistently try on --

LIZZA: If you want to see what trying is like, wait until Donald Trump is the nominee, if that happens, and see what the Democrats, how they will spend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they may do a much better job.

KING: Trump has built himself, we did not give him enough credit as a politician. Whether you agree or disagree with what he's saying, we did not give him enough credit early on. He has built a stool. Part of it he's the anti-Obama, Republicans want to kick Obama out of the White House. He has to leave anyway, but they think about it, they're going to kick him out.

And Obama is nuanced and thoughtful and Trump is clarity. Everything is black and white. You had the terror threat come up and he is going to kick the you-know-what out of ISIS and he's tough and he's strong and he's a leader and don't discount the trade stuff. Don't discount the economics. That's the third piece of this where he -- people are anxious about the economy. I'm going to stand up to China. I'm going to stand up to Mexico. We're going to win again.

Those three pieces have him right now at, what, 45 percent in Nevada?

That's pretty good.

COOPER: We're going to take another short break. Our live coverage continues. The votes are still counted. We're still live on the air. A lot more ahead.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[01:55:00]

(MUSIC PLAYING)

COOPER: We heard a little bit from Donald Trump from his victory speech. We obviously played it live. We want to play another excerpt. This is where he's talking about how -- where he did so well tonight in Nevada across the board. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated.

I love the poorly educated.

We're the smartest people. We're the most loyal people and you know what I really am happy about because I've been saying it for a long time, 46 percent with the Hispanics, 46 percent. Number one with Hispanics.

I'm really happy about that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I mean, by any metric, the win tonight is incredibly impressive across the board. I think among young people, he's not correct but everybody else is.

KING: He speaks the truth. Some of the tiny sample of the Latino voters coming in, so that's debatable. I don't know if he won the young people. But there's no question, he has by far the broadest coalition of the Republican candidates. He takes some of Ted Cruz's evangelical vote. He takes some of Ted Cruz's Tea Party vote.

He competes for what you'd call the McCain or the Romney vote in the suburbs. If you look at South Carolina, he won where the military bases are and he won where the resort communities are, the old country club, golf course Republicans.

Rubio gets votes in the same places but not as deep as Trump. And Cruz's problem has been Cruz cannot grow outside of his coalition, evangelicals and Tea Party, and the other guys are taking some of it. Rubio gets a little, Trump gets more of it, which traps Cruz.

So Cruz can't grow and Trump is spread across the party and four candidates are not going to beat him.

BARGER: And who's going to get out?

I mean, I think -- I think that's the question. And you know, Kasich put out a -- John Kasich, remember him?

He put out a memo this evening, saying that, you know, Rubio's showing was dismal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

BARGER: And, you know, and Kasich wants to compete and will compete. He believes he can compete in states like Tennessee, state like Virginia. He believes he can win Ohio eventually. And Michigan is another state he's looking at and he takes away from Rubio.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Does he have the money to continue in any serious way?

KING: He's going to have to lay back. He's going to say is what, you're going to watch the -- a guy like Kasich, who, what, Ohio, what do we say, is 15 days away or 16 days away?

So you're going to have March 1st, the first big Super Tuesday, and then March 5th, the mini-Super Tuesday or March 8th is the mini-Super Tuesday and March 5th is a few more states. And then Ohio, so John Kasich is going to go 0 for, what's that, 18, 20 states?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a long way.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's delusional.

KING: But he will resist people -- people -- trust me, they are telling him tonight, get out, what's left of the Republican establishment, the ones that aren't in therapy, are saying John Kasich should get out of the race.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would be nice.

KING: His response right now is, when Marco Rubio starts winning, come have that conversation with me. But if Marco Rubio can't win, why should I get out?

I'm at least going to hang around and see if I can win. And I'll be the guy who stops Trump by winning Ohio.

Now, is that a logical argument?

No.

But it's -- you got a better one?

BARGER: But, don't forget Ohio is winner-take-all. Florida, Ohio, those states, then you really start racking up delegates.

LIZZA: But ideally, if he wins Ohio, it means anything, I think, at this point is just delusional. He's losing to Ben Carson right now in Nevada. There is a long history of candidates who stuck around, tried to go after the front-runner when the race was basically over, won their home state and it didn't mean anything.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I mean, why is Ben Carson staying in the race at this point?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDEN: Can I give you a little insight inside these campaigns?

There is the tactical part of that and the tactical part of it is very clinical. But there is the emotional and there's the psychological.

You put -- these candidates put so much time and they are surrounded by a universe of very close, loyal advisors, who put so much time and effort.

And when you go out to these events, if you're John Kasich and you just spent the last, what is it, six months, talking to people in New Hampshire, people are coming up to you and hugging you and telling you how they are personally affected by your campaign, it is very hard to look at it from that --

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: And the minute you quit, you are Lindsey Graham. You might get a chance to be on a Sunday show. So quitting might be rational from a mathematical point of view but it's very hard, I think --

MADDEN: They're very invested in these --

CARPENTER: In this race it works against them because they're seen as someone who's stopping the coalescing from happening and ultimately stopping Trump. And so I think in a normal environment, that would be the case but I think the tide is going to turn hard against Carson and Kasich.

(CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: In talking to Carson -- you got to go to commercial?

COOPER: No, no.

HENDERSON: I talked to Carson's folks. He wants to be on the debate stage on Thursday and everyone around him is pretty much sending signals that March 1st is the day of reckoning. He's got to show or go home essentially on March 1st so that's what we'll have to wait for.

COOPER: Let's play a little bit more from Donald Trump tonight, from his victory speech, talking about when others drop out, he benefits. Let's play that.