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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  November 6, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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potential voter irregularities tonight. in the nicest way possible, i hope we don't see you once. alex, thank you very much for covering all that for us. stay with cnn for all the latest on election night. i'm brooke baldwin. thanks for being with me. "the lead" with jake tapper, starts right now. welcome to a special election day edition of "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we're just two hours away from the first crucial polls closing tonight. polls closing at 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. eastern that could give us an early and important indicator of wheres night might be headed. we're in the thick of what is perhaps the most critical nonpresidential election in modern times. it's clear many of the votes being cast today are being cast either for or against president trump and his policies and the future of the trump presidency could hang in the balance.
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a democratic house will definitely mean oversight and investigations of the trump administration. it could even mean impeachment of president trump. there are signs of enthusiasm around the country. i want to show to you video of lines at the polling station at arizona state university in tempe. a big senate race in that state. lines wrapped around buildings. in kentucky, a tight congressional race in a district president trump won by double digits in 2016. that wraps up at 6:00 p.m. eastern. it pits three-term incumbent republican andy barr against marine corps pilot amy mcgrath. polls will close in a race that drew names like obama, oprah, and pence. that's the race for georgia's governor between democrat stacey a abrams and republican brian kemp. also, joe donnelly trying to hang on against businessman mike braun. in northern virginia, republican congresswoman barbara comstock is attempting to hold off
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democratic challenger jennifer wexton. that's where we find cnn's brian todd. in northern virginia, specifically sterling. tell us about the energy and turnout today. >> reporter: jake, the turnout is off the charts. according to the registrar, they have broken records here. it is more than double the voter turnout from 2014's midterms. one of the reasons is because people are -- first of all, it's a steady stream of voters in precincts like this one, the 702nd precinct at park view high school. another reason is because they're doing a very good job of moving people in and out of here pretty quickly. you register here, check in here with your i.d. then you go to these stations and the votes are tabulated over here. we love it when little kids come to the polling places. votes are put in here by paper ballot then tabulated. another reason it's gone so smoothly here is because in this
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tenth district of voting, it's a simple ballot. check it out. you vote for senate. for the house of representatives, barbara comstock and jennifer wexton. then four ballot initiatives, front and back. then you're out. this is a smooth process, a simple ballot. just three hours now until the polls close. as you mentioned, jake, this is a hotly contested race. it's these suburban battlegrounds that are determining the balance of pour in t -- power in the house throughout the country. barbara comstock really in a struggle to save her seat against the democrat jennifer wexton. you mentioned it brought president obama to this precinct just yesterday, campaigning for both wexton and tim kaine. so it's drawn a lot of energy nationally and locally. what's also interesting here is that this could be the first time in nearly 40 years that a republican does not hold this seat in virginia's tenth
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district. so barbara comstock, you know, kind of up against the ropes in this fight against jennifer wexton, and it could be historic. >> brian todd live in the commonwealth of virginia. thanks. let's go to pamela brown now at the white house. you're learning the white house is paying close attention to one specific race, kentucky's sixth district. polls there, as we mentioned, close in less than two hours. that's a district that the president won overwhelmingly, but that house race is very competitive. >> reporter: that's right, jake. sources familiar with the white house's thinking are pointing to kentucky's sixth congressional district as one of the most closely watched races by trump's team. and there are a couple of reasons. as you pointed out, it's one of the districts to have the polls close first at 6:00 p.m. eastern time. also, it's a district that trump won by 16 points during the last cycle. now the republican incumbent andy barr is locked in a virtual toss-up with the democratic challenger amy mcgrath. if andy barr, the republican, loses this race tonight, then
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it's going to be a long night for republicans, as one of the sources told me. the president has been getting updates from his political team throughout the day on voting and models of how voting is going. he will be spending the evening in his residence with those closest to him, his family, vice president pence, as well as top aides, who will be briefing him throughout the night. now, one source close to the white house says that the president is realistic that his party could lose seats in the house, but that he's confident that republicans will gain at least one seat in the senate. we'll have to wait and see. >> pamela brown, thanks. we'll check back with you in a little bit. joining me now, our panel of experts. we have former communications director for republican senator ted cruz amanda carpenter. former ohio state senator, nina turner. and former trump campaign strategist david urban. david, i should point out, you signed that nondisparagement
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agreement when you were with the trump campaign in 2016. not sure you abide by it, but you did sign it. i want to ask you about this kentucky race. it's going to be one of the first ones we see the results from. andy barr against amy mcgrath. it's a district president trump won by 16 points in 2016. obviously a bellwether. one of the things we were talking about during the break is the democrats -- and i know this is much to your chagrin -- the democrats have done a pretty good job when it comes to candidate recruitment. >> democrats have done a phenomenal job. look this is the kind of war going on inside the democratic party. this new congress, if they do take over, is going to have a pretty interesting mix. it will be a battle, but the democrats have done a phenomenal job of getting great candidates. >> i'm sure you disagree. >> right, i do.
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i was going to say something, but you were reading my mind. variety is the spice of life. far be it for the republicans to talk about disruption within the democratic party. they've got their own disruption going on, battling their own president that refuses to talk about the economy but continues to talk about immigration. they are not republicans, they are democrats, and we are looking for a big night to really hold off the president. it's going to happen in the house. >> joe, let's talk about virginia right now. if barbara comstock -- she's one of the most vulnerable members of congress in the country right now. if she can hold on there, that will indicate, i think, that there actually is a red wall as opposed to a blue wave. but that's a tall order. >> that happens, that would tell people right off the bat -- it doesn't mean the democrats can't take the house, but it will be a long, long road to get there. this is a district that we need to pick up. coming from the democratic side,
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this is one we're already sort of counting. i know people have to keep voting out there, but this is one that if we don't pick up this one, it's problems. that's trouble. >> ayman darks one of the things we've seen in the way that president trump has chosen to present his closing argument, as it were, is maybe he's serving to rally his voters who like this very negative anti-undocumented immigrant message, which is the nice way of putting it. >> absolutely. barbara comstock is getting battered by a lot of forces. in the lead-in segment, the person noted that corey stuaewa is running at the top of the ticket. he's a drag for republicans. he dances close to the nationalist agenda that trump has laid out. but barbara comstock is a long-time gop fixture. she's a smart campaigner. she's a hard worker. she knows how to raise money. she's been down in the polls consistently. he also was one of the few republicans that said, i cannot in good conscience vote for
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donald trump. so it is heart wrenching that the people, the republicans most poised to hold the president accountable will be the ones to be wiped out. what you'll end up with at the end of the night will be a much smaller, much more trumpian party that will be less competitive. >> she's also battling demographics. the northern virginia suburbs -- >> republicans need the suburbs. >> but the district has been trending from red to purple, now to blue. >> anybody could win it. >> it's going to lead to fewer women in the republican party holding office. that's part of what's going on here. republican women defect over the democratic side on this round because of the language and the way trump is doing his fear and loathing tour, the more they're going to lose people like comstock. >> nina, i want to bring you in here and show you the latest ga gall gallup poll. it squares closely with what
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cnn's poll had the other day. 54% of respondents said they would support a democratic candidate in a generic ballot. 43% said they would vote for the republican. house minority leader nancy pelosi has been insisting democrats are going to regain the house. she said it again today, but i have to ask, state senator turner, do you believe the polls? are you confident that democrats are going to take the house today? >> i'm pretty confident. i don't think we should be overly confident. it's up to who votes. this is what i call the battle of the bases. the bases have to turn out, then we have to see which team the independent voters are going to pick. but if that generic poll is any indication, and god forbid we think about a poll given what happened in 2016 -- as a democrat i should probably swear off polls, but i think the democrats are very much poised to take the house. >> and david, the president has held 30 rallies since labor day. in the final six days of the
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campaign, eight states he's visited, 11 rallies. he has tried to focus on the senate, not the house. >> listen, there's no doubt the president has left it object field in terms of moving those numbers. a few months ago, you know, republican interest in this election was really low. you'd have seen a total blood path come today. the president went out there, and like it or not, like his campaign tactics or not, they move numbers, they motivated the base. the enthusiasm gap has closed. the base has turned out. we'll see what happe's going to happen, but it will be a battle. >> do you think it's the president that moved the republican voter enthusiasm, or was it the kavanaugh hearings or both? >> a combination of both. the president has done a very good job awakening republicans from the slumber. mitch mcconnell about a month ago said we can lose this thing. people say kavanaugh, but i think it was the mob argument that fed into it. that was something already going on before that. then the caravan is sort of the
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icing on top. if you want to really scare republicans into going to the polls because you can't make the hopeful, optimistic argument. >> it's not clear to me a tt al this is going to help. i spent all last night awake, unable to sleep, trying to just figure out how many districts there were in america in which women weren't a majority of the votes. there isn't a district that's safe with those kind of numbers. >> and nina, take a look. voters today facing a host of hurdles. long lines in wake county, north carolina. humidity has affected the ability of tabulators to read ballots. a ballot shortage in arlington, texas. power outages in knoxville. president trump was warning
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yesterday, with no evidence, of voter fraud. he tweeted law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any illegal voting which may take place in tuesday's voting. but the real issue here -- i mean, there are always a handful of cases of voter fraud, but it's never as big as people like president trump want it to seem, but the real issue is people who have difficulty voting, they go to their polling places, the state has cut back, made it tougher to vote, et cetera. >> that's right, jake. and it's the failure of government to make sure that they provide an atmosphere where people can vote. what you just read off -- and just sunday i was in miami. i was in north miami at a polling place where haitian-americans are the dominant personality. to see lines wrapped all around the building, the machines broke down, then they ran out of ballots. in some cases, people were waiting anywhere between two and three hours to vote. you had elders in line who had no one to stand in line for
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them. you had otherly abled people standing in line. the name of that library i was at was named after the 102-year-old woman who just recently died who stood in line six hours to vote for president obama back in 2008. so the irony of that. again, when president trump talks about voter fraud, we need to talk about the mechanisms in our american body politics that suppressed the vote, that have a suppressive mechanism to them. people standing in line that long, some people won't stand in line that long, not because they don't want to, because they can't. they shouldn't have to in the united states of america. >> everyone stick around. we're less than three hours away from polls closing in georgia, where democrat stacey abrams and republican brian kemp have been waging a fierce battle for governor. abrams has received support from oprah and former president
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barack obama. president trump and vice president pence campaigned for kemp. there are accusations of voter suppression and outside groups making racist robocalls. gary tuckman is at a polling station in georgia. what are you seeing on the ground? >> reporter: well, jake, i've been in this church gymnasium for more than nine hours now, since before the polls opened. when the doors opened, more than 100 voters ran inside. it was pouring rain out there, but they were waiting in line in the rain to vote. i will respectfully tell you that outside of the poll workers who work here, i know the mood of this room better than anybody. it's enthusiasm. people are not voting out of anger. they're voting because they're enthusiastic americans. the people are voting for republican kemp. most have told me they think he'll make a great governor. those voting for abrams said they'd think she'd make a great governor, and they want to make history. also republicans are telling me they're enthusiastically voting because they want to symbolically support donald trump. democrats are telling me they're
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enthusiastically voting because they want to symbolically prove donald trump wrong. one thing i will tell you, the turnout has been huge here in the state of georgia. huge in this particular precinct in cobb county. cobb county, by the way, is the home of former speaker of the house newt gingrich. hillary clinton narrowly won this county in 2016 despite the fact it's gone republican for so many elections before. before the doors even opened today, more than 2.1 million georgians had voted early. there's been three weeks of early voting here in the state. during the last midterms, 900,000 people voted early. so more than double this time around. the turnout here in the peach state seems immense. >> gary tuckman live in georgia for us. thanks so much. back with me, we have our panel. amanda, let me start with you. that's interesting that gary tuckman is hearing such positivity from the voters. that has been, especially on the air waves, a very negative race,
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the georgia governor's race. > yeah, it's very interesting to me because there seems to be a one-way conversation happening there about voter suppression, voter turnout, where the democrats are the only ones saying there's a problem here, and republicans are essentially saying, no, no, we don't know what you're talking about. that doesn't work. but also, the oprah speech, that speech was so accessible. she talked, made a deliberate pitch to women and minorities but in a way that wasn't partisan or political but so accessible to anyone. i think if stacey abrams wins this race, it will be because she's a good candidate, but people will look to that speech and say this is how progressive democrats can appeal to people outside their tent. they're figuring that out in a way that republicans haven't. there's no one else campaigning there except for trump and pence. >> david, race has been an issue in the georgia governor's race. abrams has been targeted by a white supremacist group. they released a couple racist
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robocalls. brian kemp strongly condemned that racist robocall. but kemp has been willing to use some racist -- or racial themes. last night he tweeted this, the black panther party is backing my opponent. retweet if you think abrams is too extreme for georgia. it's interesting to me how he's running towards these racial tropes, the black panther party, et cetera. abrams is not -- i mean, she could do the same thing. she could show pictures of klansmen with guns, saying these are brian kemp supporters. not only does she not do it, but sunday when i interviewed her, she wouldn't go there when it came to racial stuff, when it came to president trump saying she's not qualified. she wouldn't go there. she's trying to appeal to white suburban moms. >> and white suburban men. she wants to be the person who is accessible, reasonable, and that's how she wants to come across. she's doing a great job at it. wouldn't be this close if she wasn't.
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this is georgia, mind you. it's georgia. she's pretty progressive. >> absolutely. >> this is a state that's had newt gingrich. you may have a governor far left of the party running that state. it's a big deal. >> and nina, what does this say about how a very progressive woman of color can -- she's made it close, no matter what. we don't know what's going to happen, but she's made it close. how an african-american woman of color can appeal to the white suburban voters who normally vote republican. >> she's been authentically herself. what you see is what you get. and it is that authenticity. it is the fact that she was the leader of the house in that state, so she understands the needs of the people. she's been such a tremendous leader by every stretch of the imagination. she has taken the high ground because that is the ground by which she lives. she has no reason to go that way because she's running such a strong race. on the other hand, the other candidate has not so much.
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but she has been herself -- >> and i just want to say, jake had her on. it was a great interview. you did push her on some of these things, like second amendment. she's pretty slippery in that regard. >> not slippery. savvy. she was not slippery. >> she knows how to duck and dive. >> jake was saying, you want to take people's guns away? she's saying, no, we want to open a dialogue. >> it's slippery if you're on the other side. savvy if it's on your side. >> that's right. >> oprah weighed in on the racist robocall. i want you to take a listen. this is still part of her get out the vote. take a look. >> i just want to say, jesus don't like ugly. and we know what to do about that. vote. tomorrow, show up and show out and vote.
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>> again, positive, funny. jesus don't like ugly. but no grievance. just an appeal. >> absolutely. what i think is going on in a lot of these white suburban voters, they don't want division. they want that pulling people together, that accessible -- and i'm just putting it out there. i may have to address stuff like guns, but you know where i'm coming from. she does that. oprah did it. i think oprah is obviously just doing get out the vote there. >> there's a story within a story in these of these gubernatorial races. in three races in red states, the republicans may lose. florida, georgia, and kansas. each of those republican candidates were strongly supported by president trump when they had more moderate republicans who could have won their primaries. if the republicans lose in those three states, that is a firm
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rejection of trump, and people are going to have to rethink this narrow grievance driven republican strategy. >> and that started in alabama with doug jones. we've seen this movie before. >> it's about candidates. candidates matter. you got to pick good candidates here. if republicans lose, you have bad candidates. that's the issue. it's not the president. >> god forbid david and i agree on something, but i want to give credit to the candidates, not just anti-trump. what the honorable stacey abrams has done and what the honorable andrew gillum has been able to do is incite a vision of where we are going to go. they've made it clear they're different from the candidates they're running against. they've talked about trump here
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and there, but they have been visionaries. i don't want to give all the credit to president trump. >> that's a credit to them. i agree. >> all right. everyone stay with me. coming up next, we're standing by for the first exit polls for this historic midterm election. plus, the polls haven't even closed, and top republicans are already finger pointing. now details from our manu raju on capitol hill. and of course, john king at the magic wall. what will king be watching as the first polls close? stay with us. you're still here? we're voya! we stay with you to and through retirement. i get that voya is with me through retirement, i'm just surprised it means in my kitchen. so, that means no breakfast? voya. helping you to and through retirement.
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here we are, wherever "here" might be. election day. when you rise above the... the noise. the tweets. the talking heads. what you hear and what you see are two different things. you hear about how "we're a nation divided." yet, from where we sit, we see no such thing. we see half a million people - today alone - stitching together some supposedly very divided states. red states.
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blue states. and every shade of purple in between. we see people working across party lines. state lines. yes, even airlines. all looking for for that uncommon, common ground. a nice reminder: that if you really want to see what this country is made of. maybe it's best to go see it for yourself.
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welcome back to a special edition of "the lead," election day in america. as the polls begin to close in the next few hours, the blame game has already begun among top republicans. manu raju is live on capitol hill 37 wh hill. what are you hearing? >> reporter: the republicans are
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already sensing a loss tonight, potentially losing the house, and already assessing how this will play out tomorrow. the blame game is beginning. looking at one of the first polls closing in that kentucky race with republican incumbent andy barr. that's a race in which paul ryan's super pac has spent $3 million in that race. the national republican congressional committee has not spent anything in that race. they've actually spent $20 million less than it did in 2016. you talk to republicans in the national committee, and they'll say they'll spend $20 million on special elections instead. they don't have the same contribution limits. the overall concern that republicans all over washington are expressing about whether or not the white house is messaging, particularly the president's messaging, about immigration was effective, particularly for these house republican candidates, people
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like will herd in texas, whether or not that was more effective than the talks about jobs versus mobs and the economy. that was the republican message from last month. but the president instead shifting the conversation to immigration. the concern tonight from republicans is that could hurt some of these key gop lawmakers in those races and could eventually lead to democrats taking control of the house tonight. >> i guess we'll see. manu, you just spoke to the senate majority leader mitch mcconnell. what did he have to say? >> he was just leaving the senate floor. we caught up with him, asking about how he was feeling. he was mum, saying, ask me afterwards how i feel. i asked him, are you predicting republicans will stay in the senate majority? all he would say is, i sure hope so, as he went into his office. republicans today nervously looking at those senate races, worried they may only pick up maybe a seat. they'll be happy with that, but it could go either way as these races are so close as polls are closing in a matter of moments.
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>> all right. manu raju on capitol hill. we'll be watching how that plays out. two of the races we're watching closely tonight are the senate races in missouri and texas. we have reporters live in both of those states. ed lavandera is in l el paso, texas, at the headquarters for beto o'rourke. rebecca berg is in missouri at the headquarters for josh hawley. first to rebecca. polls show this race in a dead heat. president trump was rallying support there for hawley just last night. how does hawley feel? i saw he was behind in one poll, but it seems pretty neck and neck. >> reporter: that's right, jake. it's been neck and neck for pretty much this entire race. so both sides today very nervous going into tonight. no one knows how this race is going to turn out. that might be surprising to some of our viewers when you consider that president trump won the state of missouri by 19 points in 2016, but the politics here are a little more complicated.
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it's not a straight partisan state. in 2016 when president trump dominated here, republican senator roy blunt only won re-election by less than three points over his democratic rival jas jason ca jas jason candor. it's called the "show me" state for a reason. voters want the candidates to prove themselves. so one of the big questions is, did josh hawley, the republican candidate, close the deal with republican voters, with trump supporters here in the state of missouri? he's not very well known. he's only been in office for a couple of years. so he's been introducing himself to much of this state throughout this campaign. meanwhile, claire mccaskill has developed a reputation in missouri during many years as an elected official and someone running statewide in the state. of course, president trump working very hard to try to get his supporters to come out for republican josh hawley. he was here last night.
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he's been in missouri multiple times throughout this campaign. the wild card in this race, jake, will be which side has the energy? is it going to be democrats and claire mccaskill, or will the republican base turn out for josh hawley? we're going to be waiting here, bringing you updates on election night. there's no early voting in missouri, so all of the voting is happening right now, today, on election day. it used to be that missouri was a bellwether for the presidential election. tonight it is going to be a bellwether for the senate. jake? >> all right. rebecca, thanks so much. let's go to ed lavandera at o'rourke headquarters in el paso, texas. this race has got an lot of attention. congressman beto o'rourke is behind in the most recent polls. is the campaign feeling that what they see in the field will result in more votes than they're seeing in the polling? >> reporter: well, they are banking on this operation that they have spent the last 20 months building, and they are hoping that all of the polls and
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all of the analysis that has gone on beforehand, they believe has no way of really measuring what they've been able to build here. more than 725 what they describe as pop-up offices around the state to generate voter turnout and to canvas neighborhoods, block walk, and that sort of thing. it's still a question. beto o'rourke mentioned this last night as he capped off his campaigning, that essentially what this election will come down to is a real test of that operation that they've built, whether or not this has all been hype and for nothing, or whether or not the operation that they have built here is the real deal. here until the town of el paso, the election headquarter watch party will be held in the minor league baseball stadium of the el paso chihuahuas. that's the stage and sound checks you've been hearing going on behind me. here the giddiness and excitement among democrats is really hard to overstate. here in el paso, one local resident told me there hasn't been an event like this since
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1966, since texas western university, a team that fielded the first team of african-american basketball players, an all-black basketball team, won the ncaa basketball title back in 1966. one local resident told me here this would be, if beto o'rourke were to win, the biggest event to take place here in el paso since then. >> ed lavandera, thank you so much. democratic senator chris van holland joins me now. good to see you. thanks for joining us. >> good to be with you on election day, jake. >> so i don't know if you remember this, but eight years ago when you were the head of the democratic congressional campaign committee in charge of the house and i was with a different network, you told me that you were confident the democrats were going to retain the majority in the house. your party went on to lose more than 60 seats in the house. you were being polite and diplomatic at the time. how confident are you feeling today about the senate, about democrats in the senate compared to how confident you were feeling eight years ago about democrats in the house?
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>> well, jake, i've said from day one in the senate races that this is a very difficult road for senate democrats, certainly to get a majority. in fact, the story of this race is the fact that we're so competitive right now in the states that trump won big and that you and i are not even talking about the midwestern states that trump won -- pennsylvania, ohio, wisconsin, michigan. those are not on anybody's big board tonight. so we're going to be battling it out. this is a very difficult path. this is the toughest political map that democrats have faced in 60 years. so that's just a sort of realistic view. now, fact of the matter is turnout has been good in the early vote, and turnout is good around the country. let's wait and see, but this is a very tough road for democrats to get to a majority in the senate. in fact, i think the real story is the fact we're fighting it out at the point we are.
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>> we just did a reporter hit in texas, not a state where democrats normally compete very well. the map is definitely tough for democrats this year. republicans say they might even pick up a seat or two. north dakota, for instance, or indiana. do you think it's possible democrats might take the house but lose a seat or two in the senate? >> i do believe the democrats are going to win a majority in the house, but again, everybody has got to get out and vote, as you know. a lot of the polls are all open on the east coast. we got a lot more hours to go out west. look, as i said, the senate is a much tougher road to any kind of majority, so i'm not a going to make any predictions with respect to particular races. i will say that the president's really extreme rhetoric has turned off a lot of swing voters. the fact that republicans have spent the last two years trying to dismantle the affordable care act and take away protections
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for people with pre-existing health conditions has had a significant impact. if you look at nevada and arizona, there you've got a senator, a republican senator, dean heller, who voted to strip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. martha mcsally, the republican senate candidate, helped lead the charge in the house to take away those protections for people. they're trying to spin it all differently now, but the reality and the truth is that's how they voted and people are going to hold them accountable. >> i understand you're not going to make any predictions, but let me ask you, what state are you going to be watching as the best bellwether, meaning if you're doing well, it will likely symbolize there's a democratic wave that even helps the senate for you? >> jake, there are just too many states. we got seven toss-up states in the senate races right now. so i don't think there's any one state to watch. obviously florida's going to come in among the earlier
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returns. so we'll be watching very carefully what happens there. there are a lot of house races that can provide some indicators as to how some of the senate races will go, like nevada or arizona. but again, what i'm trying to do right now is monitor turnout in different states. turnout overall seems to be good and healthy for democrats and independents. as you know, in those very deep red trump states, in addition to winning democrats and independents, our senators have to win republican votes. the reason they've been able to do that in the past and the reason they're competitive today is they've always stood up first and foremost for their states. they've been very clear that they will work with president trump when it's good for their state, and they'll oppose him when it's not good for their state, like on the health care issues and certainly on mitch mcconnell, the republican leader's proposal to cut medicare and social security now
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that they blew a huge additional hole in our deficit and debt. so i think all these issues are coming into play as we speak, and voters will have to render their judgment. >> senator chris van hollen, democrat of maryland, thank you so much. always good to see you. >> good to be with you. thanks, jake. at 7:00 p.m. eastern, some polls will close in florida, though not the polls in the panhandle. that's a state with two of the most hotly contested elections in the country. democratic senator bill nelson is fighting to keep his seat against a challenge from current republican governor rick scott. and democratic mayor of tallahassee, andrew gillum, wants to become the first african-american governor in florida history. he's running against former republican congressman ron desantis. boris sanchez is live from desantis headquarters. ryan nobles is at gillum headquarters. first to you, boris. how bullish are republicans feeling about winning the governorship? they seem to have been fighting an uphill battle, in terms of
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how de tesantis has been fighti. >> reporter: that's right, jake. a source inside the desantis campaign today told me they're feeling confident about tonight, telling me that the candidate is feeling good. he's apparently already here at his campaign party upstairs, watching coverage with his wife. we've been told a number of times that desantis has tried to cast himself as a trump acolyte, somebody very closely aligned with the president on a number of issues, including immigration. you remember that commercial where his kids are building a toy wall and reading "the art of the deal." a source inside the campaign said they're watching several areas very closely, including the i-4 corridor from daytona, orlando, and tampa, as well as the panhandle, which you noted is closing polls later than the rest of the state. that's an area where president trump saw an overwhelming amount of support in 2016. they're also looking closely at miami, where they're counting on cuban-americans who also voted for president trump. that's why desantis was in little havana last week talking about indicting raul castro. this is going to be a close
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race, and ultimately, if de t desant desantis succeeds, the president could see this as a referendum at himself. last week he told supporters, this is my state too. >> all right. boris sanchez, thank you so much. let's go to ryan, who's with the gillum campaign. ryan, tell us what the mooed is whe -- mood is where you are. >> reporter: i've talked to democrats across the board in florida today. they all have the same exact feeling about tonight. they're optimistic, but they're not quite confident. the reason they're not quite confident is because, frankly, democrats have a miserable record in florida when it comes to midterm elections like these. in fact, they haven't won the governorship here in the sunshine state since the late '90s. they do feel like this year is different. one of the reasons they think it's different, because of the candidates at the top of the ticket. andrew gillum represents the type of voters that democrats are going after. young voters, voters that come from different minority groups, and they believe that gillum has the type of energy and enthusiasm to drive those voters to the polls. of course, the big caveat, jake,
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is those voters are traditionally unreliable, and they're especially unreliable in florida. however, the early returns have them encouraged. they believe they see an uptick in early voting among those groups. if those groups come home tonight, they feel that it's going to be very difficult for democrats, including bill nelson, who's running for the senate, and andrew gillum, who's running for governor, to lose tonight. but jake, everyone concedes this one will be tight and may be a long night for both sides. >> been there. ryan nobles, thanks so much. my panel is still here. joe, let me start with you. rick scott, the governor running for senate, and ron desantis, the former congressman running for governor, both republicans. they have approached president trump very differently. rick scott in ads saying he'll be with president trump when he's right, and he'll stand up to him when he's wrong. desantis embracing trump wholeheartedly. which do you think is smarter politics for a midterm election in florida? >> it's clearly supporting him
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when he's right and moving away from taking him on when he's wrong. i think it's really tough for republicans to separate themselves from trump. he's just so -- i mean, just shines a spotlight and grabs the whole thing. so divisive and abusive and on the attack constantly that even republicans who want to sound like they're for common ground can't get there from here with some of these voters. >> what's so exciting about the florida races is that you have two marquee races, the senate, the governor, two parties, but four extremely different candidates. you have the trump republican in desantis. you have the centrist kind of business republican in scott. you have the old-school moderate democrat with nelson. you have the exciting progressive in gillum. depending how those shake out, they'll win by different margins. it might be a grab bag, but that will tell us a lot about how to campaign and win in 2020. but we have no idea what formula
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is going to work. >> and what's interesting, nina, trump has said gillum is not qualified for the governorship. he's called him a thief. i know there are a lot of individuals in florida on the progressive left and african-americans who feel like president trump is using racial coded language, calling him a thief, et cetera. is it working in getting gillum's voters excited and enthusiastic about voting, or is it depressing the vote? >> i think in some ways it is exciting, but again, i was there on sunday. it's not just that. you know, the president has racialized this race. he racialized the race for andrew gillum. he racialized the race in georgia for stacey abrams. he brought race into this. to call an african-american man a thief, we all know exactly what he's intimating there. no secret. but people have something to vote for. the african-american community, the black community as a whole, and all of the residents of
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florida, it's not just against president trump, but it's for andrew gillum. there's a sort of pride. oh, no, you didn't. we're going to come out here and show you. to me, i got the same feeling in 2012. remember when leader mcconnell, senator mcconnell said we're going to make president obama a one-time president. he said that -- or one-term president, you're right. but then in 2012 when his back was against the wall and it was all on the line, the african-american community in particular had the same feeling. oh, no, he will get another term. and that is exactly what i saw on the ground in florida for mayor gillum. >> what do you see on the ground you find interesting? >> so let me go to joe's point. i'll give you african-americans someone to vote for. a good friend of mine, west point grad, running in michigan, john james, who had a great line. joe said, how do you run? he said, i don't want to misquote him because he's really good, i'm capable of disagreeing with the president without attacking him and agreeing with him without worshipping him. i think in that desantis ad, he
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kind of jumped the shark there a little bit. i think john james has the right message. hopefully it'll resonate in michigan. that's a winning message when you're running. you can attack the president -- you don't have to attack him, you can disagree. you can admire him without worshipping him. that's the line these members need to walk. >> there's also a lot of people saying that if nelson wins tonight, he has andrew gillum to thank. >> exactly. no doubt about it. >> because he's generating enthusiasm. >> that's where the excitement is, absolutely. >> even democratic friends of mine acknowledged at the beginning of this race that bill nelson was dead man walking. he was going to be done. if it wasn't for andrew gillum, bill nelson would be not a senator. >> i think the same thing is going on in texas with beto o'rourke. i don't mean about him winning. it's going to be close, and maybe he can, but what he's doing is he's really attracting a whole bunch of young people
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and other folks that may make a big difference in three or four of those house races. >> real quickly on beto, he's at 47. that's his top. he spent 80 million bucks for two or three points. it's crazy. >> if the voter models are correct, and i never have any idea -- >> but it could win three or four house seats for the democrats in d.texas. >> beto has all the money and enthusiasm in the world, but when you read the stories about his campaign, they don't have an internal polling director. why? they have no strategy to flip republican voters in a ruby red state. that seems like malpractice. >> he's still my pick. >> there was just a good article in politico about how he would have had a better chance, perhaps, if he had tried to appeal to all these republicans who don't like ted cruz. >> he still has a chance. >> who knows. >> democrats have to make an argument for republicans to win.
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>> thank you so much. coming up, we're standing by for the first exit polls. plus, john king at the magic wall, working his magic with what he'll be looking for tonight as the polls close. stay with us.
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welcome back to a special edition of the lead. kentucky's sixth district where amy mcgrath, former combat pilot and political newcomer is challenging andy barr. one of the races that president trump and his team will be watching most closely tonight. and john king is at the magic wall. tell us more about this race. >> kentucky 6th, jake, one of the bellwethers or canaries if you will. why this district? president trump carry this had district. mitt romney carry this had district. if amy mcgrath wins, you can be all but certain that the democrats will carry the house majority. amy mcgrath has run on health care and her former military service. if this district turns blue you
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can be almost certain that the democrats are taking back the house. one of the building blocks, if you will for the democrats to get that net 23 to take back the house. another place to watch early on, midatlantic reason. let's start in virginia. test for the democrats. do you just get one? their favorite to flip, this republican seat in the northern suburbs or can they get two, possibly three? prime target here and one of the key 2018 battlegrounds. why does this district tell us more than just what's happening in virginia? the richmond suburbs where democrats, especially democratic women, think they will do well. president trump's numbers down in the suburbs near richmond. can the democrats get propelled to victory there? dave brat in the other parts of the district, tea party. the trump base is there. classic confrontation of suburbs versus trump country in virginia 7. can the democrats pull that one off? if be a gallon spanberger wins
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tonight you can be certain that the democrats have the majority. democrats think they can pick up four, maybe five, maybe more seats just in the state of pennsylvania. watch status results come in tonight and cross the border into new jersey. this one is a national test case for the democrats. number one, they think in the northeast, including new jersey, targets of opportunity to pick up seats. some seats matter more than others to the democrats, including this one. new jersey is third. incumbent is tom mcarthur. one of the moderates who stepped forward to help broker a compromise, republican bill to repeal and replace obamacare. personal for the democrats, not just andy kim, the democratic candidate but democrats nationally. again it's a test. in the suburb, this is in new jersey. we look for control of the house. again, democrats think they can get most of the seats they need, if not all. midatlantic and northeast, not in the midwest. if they need other help, though,
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one of the places we'll be looking is red. texas. you look down in texas, two districts. houston suburbs, republican incumbent. will millennials and college educated women turn out? that's one. texas 32 in the dallas suburbs, endangered incumbent. we shouldn't be talking about this race in a normal year. the question, is this a normal year? is this a big blue wave? those two districts in texas will tell you that. that's the house map as you look at it. democrats favored coming in. plenty of targets of opportunity of the 31 toss-up races heading into election night, 30 of them held by republicans. that tells you when it comes to the house how much they run defense. battle of the senate. one-third of the senate up every two years. this year, this map is tilted in favor of republicans. in states the president carried, some of them hugely, up for re-election. we favored the republicans
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heading into the count tonight. take the races not on the ballot, plus those we lean or toss already, 49 republicans to 45 democrats. what does that mean? if nothing else changes, meaning if republicans hold texas. if republicans flip north dakota, if they hold montana. we're about to count the votes. if that happens, this is all republicans would have to do. if they can hold tennessee -- they think they can do well in these other states, too. this is all they would need for 50. mike pence could break a 50/50 tie. so it looms large. see momentum in florida, indiana, missouri, all states president trump carried. these ones, by giant numbers. can the democrats pull that off? democrats think they have a chance to flip nevada. to flip arizona. is there a chance the democrats can take the senate? not probable but possible. let's see what that would look like. six toss-up states you see in
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yellow. if democrats could win them all, then conceivably, 51-49. is that going to happen? republicans say no. they think they're competitive in all of those states and can win at least half of them. if there is a bigger blue wave than anyone anticipates, the senate map could be in play, which would make tennessee emerge as the republican firewall. marsha blackburn of all the rng candidates, has the biggest lead. it's quite possible tennessee could emerge if there is a bigger blue wave than people anticipate as the key firewall. as we come back to the map here, it's a midterm election year. democrats think they have a chance to take back the house. this is where we start. republican majority, 235. if there's a modest to big blue wave, they can take us back in time to the last time the democrats won a big house majority, right after the election of president obama in 2008. they lost this majority in 2010, but this is what america looked like the last time we had a house democratic majority. this is what it looks like now.
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the big challenge tonight, can the republicans keep all this red? can the democrats flip a lot of seats and restore blue, especially in middle america, down toward the south? that is the big challenge as we head into the night. we're about to count the votes. election night in america starts right now. it's a momentous election night in america and we're about to get our first exit polls on what voters are thinking. >> are they giving democrats control of the house and sending a message to the president? we're waiting for first results. >> this is the night when voters decide whether to reward or rebuke the president. >> i'm not on the ticket, but i am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me. >> after two years of trump, will democrats win new power to rein him in and call him out?
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>> we say to trump, we are not going backwards. we are going forwards. >> tonight, democrats aim to take back the house for the first time in eight years. >> democrats will carry the house. it's going to be a great night for america. >> republicans hope to hold on to the senate, against an energized opposition. >> there are a whole lot more conservatives in texas than there are liberals. >> we are going to celebrate a victory for texas, for this country. >> it's a high stakes midterm election. >> are you all ready? >> is southwest florida trump country or what? >> with women running in record numbers, breaking barriers. >> this is our moment, our chance to lift up georgia. >> and the president looming over it all. >> america is back, thanks to the leadership of president trump. >> mr. president, tick tock,
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tick tock. >> the battles for governor and the trump presidency. >> get your friends, get your neighbors and get your ass out to vote. >> anything is possible until the last vote. ♪ >> look at that rainbow over the u.s. capital right now. control of the congress clearly is on the line as voters cast ballots in one of the most consequential midterm elections of their lifetimes. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer, along with jake tapper. we're here in the cnn election center and we're counting down to the first votes on this election night in america and our