tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC February 1, 2016 7:00pm-7:31pm EST
breaking news. tonight the voting begins in iowa as the nation takes its first step towards electing a new president. after months of campaigning, tens of millions spent, the final polls show just how close it is on both sides. can trump close the deal, or will cruz take down the front-runner? and can marco rubio surprise with a strong showing? and for hillary clinton, can she fight off a surging bernie sanders, or will 2008 repeat itself in another devastating loss? it's all about turnout, a ground game and a wild sprint to the dramatic finish tonight. "nightly news" from iowa begins right now. >> announcer: decision 2016, the iowa caucus. this is "nbc nightly news" with
lester holt reporting tonight from des moines. good evening. game on. for weeks the polls have spoken, and now it's the people of iowa's turn. the caucuses begin across this state just after the dinner hour here. the first votes to be cast on the road to the white house. at this hour the organizations the candidates have spent months, even years, building, are feverishly working to get their supporters to the caucus sites. this is the much talked about ground game now under way. turnout is going to be key. but also tonight we're watching a new potential contender, the weather. a big winter storm expected to begin hitting here later tonight. will it be a factor, especially with a major poll over the weekend showing close races among the front-runners on both sides. let's set the table for a dramatic night ahead. our team is in place covering the candidates, the voters and the things to watch. first, to katy tur following the trump campaign. hi, katy. >> reporter: hi, lester. this is only the first contest.
it is significant because it will show just how reliable the polling has been. donald trump has defied all the expectations, and he's broken all the rules, but will it work? donald trump is trying to whip up a victory tonight. >> i want to win iowa. it's going to send such a great message that we're not going to take it anymore. we're not going to take it. >> reporter: but the get out the vote effort, a potential weak spot for the renegade campaign. trump with a slight lead is pushing hard with evangelicals, trying to peel off enough support from ted cruz, even bringing sarah palin back to iowa. trump also showing the strength of his wallet, pumping nearly $11 million of his own cash into his campaign coffers. 230 days since donald trump descended a golden escalator and announced his bid for the white house with vitriol for mexican immigrants -- >> they are bringing drugs. they are bringing crime. they are rapists. >> reporter: and he's proposed a ban on muslims while attacking
anyone and everyone who stood in his way, but will his fear and frustration-fueled candidacy of big promises pay off? who pays for that wall? >> mexico. >> reporter: how do you get mexico to pay for that wall? >> only if i'm president. >> reporter: >> reporter: despite a distinct lack of policy details, brushing has been consistent ly been ato the polls, the billionaire quickly becoming a messenger to the establishment, that the people are mad as hell and they ever not going to take it. at the heart of trump's pitch himself, the deal-maker who can make america great again. >> my whole life i've been greedy, greedy, greedy, grabbed all the money i could get, i'm so greedy, but now i want to be greedy for the united states. i want to grab all that money. >> reporter: right now polling in new hampshire has trump up by 18 points which means if he wins here in iowa he could be unstoppable. >> we're going to have a tremendous victory. >> reporter: katy tur, nbc news, des moines. >> thank you, thank you. >> reporter: i'm hallie jackson. marco rubio may have started his
day with blueberry pancakes, but it's ted cruz hoping for the sweetest end to his night. >> if we stand together united, we will win. and i've got to tell you this race right now, it's neck and neck. it's all about turnout. >> reporter: cruz needs evangelicals to show up for him tonight. if they do, new polling shows that could put him in a dead heat with donald trump, even after facing fire for weeks about his canadian birthplace and attacked from all sides at last week's debate, but cruz's campaign feels confident in what it describes as a sophisticated get out the vote effort. >> that's got to feel good. >> don't stop. >> reporter: marco rubio's campaign publicly lowering expectations but privately signaling a second place finish isn't out of reach. if you do come in third place do you expect people to cheer for third, that they should be happy? >> ultimately for people what
they want to see is your campaign is growing and growing real strength. >> reporter: some still deciding. >> i'm making up my mind between trump and cruz. >> my vote is still up for grabs, yes. i have not made a decision. my husband has decided for cruz but i have not. >> iowa doesn't all pick my party's nominee, but it certainly puts in motion everything that happens next. >> reporter: and next, new hampshire. some establishment republicans already there, like chris christie who left iowa this afternoon. what does that say about your campaign and your strategy moving forward? >> it means i'm not going to win here, right, and i have a chance to do very, very well in new hampshire. >> reporter: in iowa it seems almost certain an outsider candidate will win. the potential for a photo finish triggering a lot of interest in this race. a party official here tells me state republican headquarters received more than 130 phone calls an hour today from people wanting to know where and how to get involved. more than they typically get on caucus day. lester? >> all right, hallie jackson, thanks. things are even closer for the top democrats. clinton and sanders neck and neck with the vermont senator trying to score what was deemed a highly improbable victory just months ago and hillary clinton trying to avoid a repeat of a nightmare that played out for
her here eight years ago. we've got both sides covered starting with nbc's kristen welker. kristen, what are you hearing from the clinton campaign tonight? >> reporter: lester, good evening. clinton campaign officials tell me they are feeling confident tonight. still, they are bracing for a close race. memories of clinton's defeat in 2008 are still very fresh, still after holding more than 100 events, her aides say she's determined to make history. sti after holding more than 100 events, her aides say she's determined to make histor. still after holding more than 100 events, her aides say she's determined to make histor still after holding more than 100 events, her aides say she's determined to make history. hillary clinton in the fight of her political life, hitting the ground one last time today after months of relentless campaigning. >> i hope you'll stand up for me. i hope you will fight for me. >> reporter: today an army of volunteers making a final push registering first-time caucus-goers on this college campus, a group clinton has struggled to win over but the key to winning iowa. >> we're just trying to get as many students to go out and express their views. >> reporter: it was not supposed to be this way. clinton began the race last april with a 40-point lead here. >> hi, everybody.
>> reporter: and now she's neck and neck with bernie sanders, her campaign sidetracked by the ongoing controversy over her e-mails. >> bernie sanders! >> reporter: and by a surging sanders tapping into voters' hunger for an outsider. clinton even left iowa to fund-raise in philadelphia with the threat of a long battle ahead and her opponent raking in big dollars. her campaign haunted by what happened here eight years ago when another insurgent outsider, barack obama, turned a seemingly inevitable victory into defeat. this time her campaign is using obama's playbook. nearly 9,000 volunteers, more than 1,600 precinct captains, one for each caucus location, and tonight with the help of an app using complex data and math to steal a delegate here and there from sanders. >> so the great thing about this app is it will give you suggestions on the best way to try and gain another delegate. >> reporter: clinton looking for redemption in a race that's anyone's to win. kristen welker, nbc news, des
moines. >> bernie! bernie! >> reporter: i'm kasie hunt with the bernie sanders campaign where against all odds he has a chance to beat hillary clinton, spending the day pushing for one last charge from a young volunteer army. >> we will win tonight if the voter turnout is high. >> reporter: boarding the bus that's help carry him from 14% to 42-ins in/with a polls. he said today he has no regrets. did you do everything you could do to win? >> i think not doing ugly negative ads is the right thing to do, and you know what i think, i think it's good politics. >> reporter: it's an improbable rise for a 74-year-old from brooklyn with unusual politics, from a quirky campaign announcement nine months ago. >> we're in this race to win. >> reporter: to thousands of people packing his rallies this summer, part of what supporters say is not just a campaign but a movement powered by young, wind-blown volunteers canvassing iowa neighborhoods.
small $5 and $10 donations adding up to millions, and even the alt rock band vampire weekend. ♪ ♪ for you and me >> reporter: singing along with his wife jane. >> i didn't expect the fervor of support which has been wonderful. >> reporter: but sanders may have missed an opportunity in the first debate. >> the american people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails. >> reporter: changing his tune this weekend. >> you know, i think this is a serious issue. >> reporter: the independent senator now hoping his issues are enough to win in an upset the democratic party establishment never saw coming. the sanders campaign just setting up here. they tell me that they know that the democratic party establishment is very against them and that even if they win in iowa and new hampshire winning all of those donors, activists and others over is going to be another long and difficult battle ahead. lester? >> all right, kasie, thank you. let's bring in chuck todd and andrea mitchell here with us.
andrea, you were here eight years ago, that devastating loss for hillary clinton to barack obama. how does 2016 compare? >> reporter: well, you know, she described, lester, that as excruciating in her book, that night when she not only lost to barack obama who she at times considered an upstart freshman senator, she came in third behind john edwards. she was determined not to let that happen again, so this time she's drove out here by launching her campaign, going on a listening tour and talking to iowans and hiring a lot of the obama strategists who knew iowa a lot better than she did. that said, this could have happen. history could repeat itself. they underestimated the college students. she probably didn't pay enough attention there. she underestimated bernie sanders. this time he is, as you say, not even a democrat. he's an independent, a democratic socialist.
he's 74 years old, a lifelong politician, but he has really stunned them with the vigor of this campaign and with his fund-raising ability, so she is now in a neck and neck fight, and if he were to win, she is going to be in the fight of her life. lester. >> and, chuck, let me bring you into this on the gop side, trump and cruz. what are you going to be watching for tonight that we should all be looking at? >> reporter: well, one thing is if past is prologue the candidate of the evangelicals, the more christian conservatives usually under poll and overperform, and so if ted cruz -- it wouldn't be a shock if ted cruz wins because a lot of times evangelicals don't show up in the polling. rick santorum and mike huckabee ended overperforming their results, but lester, let's take a bigger step here and realize both political parties tonight could be staring into the abyss. donald trump and bernie sanders, if they both sweep, this is such a rebuke to the american political system and the two major parties. andrea brought up the fact that
bernie sanders isn't even a registered member of the democratic party, and donald trump hasn't voted in the republican primary since the '80s. that's how frustrated members of both parties are and victories for sanders and trump here, this is an earthquake that i don't think we've quite comprehended yet. lester. >> all right, chuck and andrea, thanks. we'll be hearing from both of you tonight in our coverage. for all the importance placed on what's happening here in iowa, it's very difficult to understand what the process is inside the caucus rooms. it's much different than a primary, and there are different sets of rules for democrats and republicans. nbc news national correspondent peter alexander explains it all for us. >> reporter: as the sun sets on iowa tonight from downtown des moines to the sprawling farms across this state, iowans gather for the first in the nation votes. here caucus day is more like caucus hour. be there by 7:00 p.m. or get left out. more than 1,600 precincts in all, churches, schools, even a gun shop and a grain elevator. the republican caucus is pretty simple. listen to speeches from all sides and then write your
candidates's name on a secret ballot. the winners announced and delegates divvied up, but for the democrats it's a different deal. a representative from each campaign first makes their pitch to everyone in the room and then caucus-goers break into groups by candidate with an area for those still uncommitted. at most locations the candidate needs at least 15% support in that room to reach what they call viability. if your candidate doesn't make the cut, things get messy with two choices, realign with another campaign or join the uncommitted and get re-recruited from there. professor rachel caufield is an expert on caucuses. >> people get up out of their chairs, and they move around the room. there's bargaining and interaction, family members maybe trying to persuade each other. >> reporter: this is likely where the heaviest jockeying will begin with the clinton and sanders campaigns in a dead heat. whichever side can scoop up martin o'malley supporters could gain a significant advantage. when only viable candidates with 15% remain, delegates are awarded. this complicated system and that 7:00 p.m. cutoff explain why even the all-time high turnout eight years ago was still so
low. just 16% of iowans. that means only a few hundred thousand people in this state set the political table for the rest of america. peter alexander, nbc news, des moines, iowa. still ahead tonight, the excitement building here in iowa. we talked to voters shortly before they go into caucus as they prepare to cast the very first votes in the nation in a race for president. we'll be back. race for president. we'll be back. americans. we're living longer than ever.
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welcome welcome back to our headquarters for the night, west end architectural salvage and cafe in des moines. many of the people here right now will be caucusing tonight so let's take a moment and talk to a few of them. first of all, how many of you folks are tired of politicians and the media right now and are ready for this to be over? now that i'm feeling the love, let's talk to -- renee, let me talk to you, renee hartman, a small business owner. you've caucused before. you're a democrat. explain to me this process. what it's like to go into a room with a bunch of people and declare your allegiance and almost horse trade. >> well, it's a fun process. it's very interactive. it's very engaging, and you are really standing there convincing undecideds that the candidate that you're there for is the best candidate for the job. >> does it get testy at all? >> it can, but my experience is that it hasn't, but you have to be real tough to kind of stand in there and really fight your
ground and really express why the person that you're there for is the most experienced and can do the job. >> let me turn across the table to dave nagle, 74, lived in iowa your whole life. >> that's correct. >> different in the republican side. you cast your vote, but just give me your observation of what it's been like here for the last several months and why this may be different. >> well, it's always been a meeting process that has a caucus rather than going and getting in a voting booth and drawing the curtain and all of that which makes it more personal, and -- and discussion and opportunities to visit with your neighbors, co-workers, et cetera, that come together. >> very grass roots in its nature. >> absolutely. >> and tabby, this is your first time caucusing. >> mm-hmm. >> why now, why this year? >> there's a lot at stake. a lot of issues that i'm hearing about that i care about this year. i think before i would say i don't -- i didn't care that much about politics and i was kind of
distant and removed from it, and this year i'm older. i'm in my 40s, and there's a lot of issues that are really concerning. >> gotten pretty exciting. >> and finally sam hoyt, you're 21, a student. this is -- was there any doubt that you would caucus? >> not really. i go to drake university just down the road and it's been a huge center for politics this year, and they have done a really great job getting students involved. >> a lot of passion. have any of you seen any of the candidates, by the way? >> yes. >> been at any of the rallies? >> hard to escape them? >> they are everywhere. >> they are everywhere. >> look. we appreciate you spending time with us tonight. it's a wonderful process to watch, and i'll be watching the results. >> great. >> thank you. >> we're excited. >> going to take a break. in a moment we'll have other news of the day including world health officials sounding the alarm about the zika virus. we'll be right back.
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after all the months of buildup, tonight we finally find out what the people of this state, the voters who get out to caucus, really think. next to the candidates probably no one is more eager to find out than our own tom brokaw who has covered every caucus since 1980. tom, what are your thoughts on what we've been witnessing? >> first of all i was going to say i've got my chair under control so i'm okay. look, what's going to go on here for the first time we'll hear from real voters which is critically important. on the republican side, this is what we want to look for. if at the top it is cruz and donald trump, the republican establishment tomorrow morning will wake up with a big hangover because they have been attacked as well. their hope is that other candidates will drop out and then they will begin to consolidate around somebody like marco rubio or chris christie or one of the other survivors. on the democratic side the big fear is that this will go on for a long time. what looked like a year ago a lock for hillary now could be a
fight that becomes a family feud and then the party is destroyed from within. there's an old saying, politics ain't beanbag. this year more than ever it ain't beanbag, lester. >> all right. tom, good to see you. thanks very much, and that's going to do it for this monday night. we are going to be back on the air throughout the night with updates from here plus continuing coverage on nbcnews.com and msnbc. we are finally here, we'll see real votes and we'll get our first indication of what voters are thinking as we start down this long road to the white house. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and good night.