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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Virginia Governor's Race Too Close To Call; Elections Tonight: A Referendum On Obama?; Obama Faces Major Blow In Quest To Rid Syria Of Chemical Weapons; New Jersey Mall Shooting Updates; Toronto Mayor Admits He Smoked Crack;

Aired November 5, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett.

"OUTFRONT" tonight, election night in America. At this moment, the first poll is closing in the tightest and most watched race, Virginia, where a Democrat and close Clinton ally, Terry McAuliffe is fighting for the governor's seat against Tea Party darling Ken Cuccinelli.

This is just one of the key races across the nation that we are watching tonight. All the breaking news going to be coming in here. And I want to go to Wolf Blitzer as we begin our program with the latest -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much. We're only seconds away from poll closings, as you say, in the Virginia governor's race.

Control of a crucial battleground state clearly on the line. The top contenders, the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe. He's the former DNC chairman and close Clinton ally. And the Republican, Ken Cuccinelli, the state attorney general, a hero of the Tea Party movement.

We're standing by for results. Will the Republicans hold onto this race?

We cannot make a projection right now. In the commonwealth of Virginia, the race Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican; the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe; and the independent third-party candidate, Robert Sarvis.

As we wait, though, for real results to come in to help us make a projection, we want to share what our early exit polls are revealing. Remember, these are estimates. They're based on interviews with a sampling of voters in Virginia as they left select polling stations. Here are the exit poll results.

And let's take a look. The Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, with 50 percent. The Republican, Ken Cuccinelli, with 43 percent. Rob Sarvis, the independent third-party libertarian candidate with 7 percent. These are the exit poll results. Remember, they are estimates. The final outcome could be different.

We want to let you know, we use these exit polls to make projections only in non-competitive races. We're going to share more exit poll data like this through the night, but we want to be fully transparent with all of you so you get the same accurate information that we have and hear it directly from us.

Let's go to John King over at the magic wall. You're looking at the exit poll results. John, what are we seeing in Virginia?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's dig a little deeper. As you know, Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic with the lead in the exit polls, let's wait and count some votes. Virginia is changing, Wolf. Yes, the Tea Party Movement was an issue. Yes, the shutdown was an issue. Yes, Obamacare was an issue, but part of this is Virginia's changing demographics. Look at this, 39 percent of the electorate today in Virginia described themselves as Democrats, only 30 percent as Republicans and 31 percent as independents.

That number is stable from four years ago. This is a big switch. The Democratic population, especially in Northern Virginia, is growing and among Democrats, look at that, Terry McAuliffe held his base, 96 percent of people who say they're Democrats voted for the Democratic nominee. A smaller slice of the voters said they were Republicans, but Ken Cuccinelli did hold his base as well not by as big a number, but 91 percent of Republicans stayed home and voted for their candidate, Ken Cuccinelli.

Let's look at this a little bit closer. Virginia is now becoming a swing state, a purple state, some Democrats say even leaning blue, but to win then you have to win the middle of the electorate, 44 percent of Virginia voters today describe themselves as moderates. You see that shaded blue, why? Because among moderates, Terry McAuliffe getting nearly 6 in 10 of those votes, Wolf.

If that lead in the early exit poll holds up, this will be a key look, Terry McAuliffe winning in the middle of the electorate. Let's look at some of the issues. I'll slide this over for you. We know this was a big issue here, who was more to blame for the 16-day government shutdown? Obviously especially Northern Virginia, a lot of government workers.

Southern Virginia, defense installations affected by that. Nearly half of the voters today in Virginia said it was the Republicans in Congress to blame for the shutdown and look here, you see that play out. It is shaded blue because of those voters, nearly nine in ten voted for the Democratic candidate.

So the shutdown was also a factor there. Just one last point to make, Wolf, Terry McAuliffe said his opponent was a Tea Party extremist, right. He said he was too far right for a state like Virginia, 43 percent of the voters today in Virginia opposed the Tea Party Movement and you see it's shaded blue.

Because among those who opposed the Tea Party Movement again, Terry McAuliffe winning big. So if the early exit poll results hold up, you see Terry McAuliffe winning in the middle of the electorate taking advantage of the government shutdown using it against his Republican challenger, pushing his Republican challenger to the right in the state. If you used to think he was very conservative that you now say if you describe this more moving to the middle.

BLITZER: Yes, we cannot yet make a projection, but these exit polls we have had, McAuliffe and 50 percent, Cuccinelli 43 percent, 7 percent for the libertarian candidate, Sarvis. Let's go to the headquarters of the respected two major candidates in Virginia. Dana Bash is over at McAuliffe headquarters. How does it feel over there, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is quiet so far but talking to Democrats in Virginia, they are certainly feeling optimistic, feeling good about how the night will go based on a lot of things, primarily, the polls leading up to today and also some of the results that they've been hearing about back at the polling stations.

But if this state, the commonwealth does go for the Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, it will be the first time that has happened with a Democrat in the White House in nearly half a century. A big, big sign potentially for what this could mean as a battleground state for 2014 and more importantly, 2016.

BLITZER: Dana is in Northern Virginia over at McAuliffe headquarters. Let's to go to Cuccinelli headquarters. Peter Hamby is standing by in Richmond. How does it feel over there?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I was here four years ago at this very same ballroom when Bob McDonald, the Republican one. It was already bumping at this time of night and it is absolutely the opposite right now. Republicans are pretty much bracing for a loss, for an early night. One thing that Republicans want though, they want to keep this tight. Maybe three, four points so they can pull out a win in the attorney general's race down ballot. But Ken Cuccinelli is probably going to come out and give a concession speech here later this evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: At some point, let's see what happens. We'll actually start counting votes. Peter, Dana, guys, thanks very much. Erin, we're watching what's happening. We'll stand by for actual results. We'll go back to you.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Wolf, we are going to be coming back to you because, as we said, we're waiting any minute to see whether we can make a call on this race, the closest race that we are watching tonight. Candy Crowley and Gloria Borger join me now.

Candy, you know, it's so interesting when you hear about this. They talk about Cuccinelli, the Tea Party darling, the role of the shutdown, the politics in Washington. A lot of this is about the president. New poll numbers came out tonight for the president. They're pretty grim, disapproval rating 53 percent, approval 39. How is the president affecting the big races?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting because I would probably argue that the Clintons had more to do with Virginia than the president did --

BURNETT: They were down there all over the place. CROWLEY: -- McAuliffe is a very close friend of the Clintons. The president did go and campaign. I think when you look -- you have to take this as a multi-determined race. As all races are, it is some of what John talked about certainly, the changing demographics. And it is also always about the aura at this particular point of the presidency.

Nonetheless, Northern Virginia with all of those voters is very government oriented. Very defense contractor oriented. And they were among the most furious about the government shutdown. So it had sort of an outsized effect on them. Nonetheless, you have to look at the demographics and say maybe Cuccinelli was not the man for this time.

BLITZER: Too conservative perhaps.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: In New Jersey, Christie is running an anti-Washington race. I mean, his race is very personal. He is saying he is not ideological. He is not partisan although he is conservative and he can get things done where these guys in Washington just cannot and a prelude one would think to 2016, but clearly, anti-Washington, easy to run anti-Washington. Who wouldn't, right?

BURNETT: That's a no brainer.

BORGER: Who are those 8 percent?

BURNETT: Right. But it is interesting because the president made history winning Virginia in 2008 when he won. But Terry McAuliffe really leaned on the Clintons. That was who he leenld on. He did not want the president coming down there.

BORGER: That was not going on help. The president -- the president appeared late once and Joe Biden appeared late. Yes. And McAuliffe used moderate Republicans in his ads. McAuliffe are not running as a liberal Democrat. McAuliffe also is running as kind of a nonpartisan. Here in Washington, it has been in gridlock and good two major races we're looking at are candidates running to the center as fast as they can.

BURNETT: That is a great irony in that especially when you look to both. Terry McAuliffe is as much in the establishment as you can find somebody, right? We played here so many times, the president, 2009, 2010, 2011, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. We all know now, not true and probably something he regrets saying. Jay Carney today has been taking a lot of abuse and here's how he responded to our own Jim Acosta this afternoon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So if the president could go back, he would use the same words again?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president as awesomely powerful as the office is, can't go back in time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: So how does that affect Democrats?

CROWLEY: Ask me this time, you know, 11 months from now. I think that the ball game next year really is the affordable care act. Because in the end, if by June, people are going, you know, the anecdote to people saying this is great. I got some really great coverage. This is so much better than before. Wow! You'll be happy to be a Democrat.

But right now, a lot of Democrats aren't happy to be Democrats. They just think this is, you know, one thing after another. If it turns out that it works, it is not good for Republicans. But remember, it is a mid-term election generally runs against the president, the party of the president so it is a hill.

BORGER: A credibility issue for this president. It is huge. We went back and looked at his trust numbers when he was first elected and it was like 75 percent people trusted him. Now it is just under 50 percent. Part of that is the erosion that goes along being an incumbent, but trust is important as you try to get things done.

CROWLEY: Not so much the president because he is not on the ballot.

BORGER: But he has a general which we haven't heard a lot about.

BURNETT: We began this in Virginia. I was in Ohio election night. I remember talking to the secretary of state and he said middle of the day, this race is over. It was clear what he meant. At that point I knew loud and clear that race was going for the president. Ohio has always been seen as a swing state. Is Virginia now taking on more of that role, more of the Ohio role, the two-watch state?

CROWLEY: You know, it always comes down to one state or other. Virginia is a swing state. I mean, you don't to have call it red or blue, which you shouldn't, but it will be one of those states. With the demographics, which match a lot of what's going on across the country, it's in play now in a way in wasn't before.

BORGER: A higher minority, higher Hispanic population.

BURNETT: All right, well, thanks to both of you. As Gloria raises that issue about Hispanics and minorities, that's the story tonight for Chris Christie and that's a big part of the story for 2016 for him. We are going to be covering that later on in the hour.

OUTFRONT next, the president got more bad news today, not about health care. Our Barbara Starr is reporting just in that could spell serious trouble for a promise made about America overseas.

And then new details about a man who opened fire in a New York area mall, what drove him to do it? His brother answers that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It's election night in America. We're bringing you the results as we get them in. As you saw Wolf Blitzer there, we have reporters at all the campaign headquarters for the crucial and most close races around the country. The very first votes are coming in from Virginia. We're going to show you those at the bottom of the screen. The polls are close there, but it is too early for CNN to make a formal call.

Right now Terry McAuliffe in the lead from the exit poll that we have from Virginia with you it is too early for CNN to make a call. We are following news though beyond the election, the president facing a major blow tonight when it comes to ridding years of chemical weapons, a promise that was made.

And Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon. Barbara, what are you hearing from your sources tonight because, you know, I know the president, John Kerry, had said, look, we have this deal. It had been touted as a huge victory. Syria is going to voluntarily give up those chemical women's. What are you hearing is really happening?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, maybe not, you know. Everybody might need to take a deep breath on this, Erin.

U.S. officials are telling CNN that there is new classified information indicates Bashar Al-Assad may not be willing to declare, let alone destroy his entire chemical stockpile. Very serious.

Let me tell you exactly what a top official has said. And I want to quote directly. The official says, quote "there are various threads of information that would shake our confidence. They've done things recently that suggest Syria is not ready to get rid of all of their chemical weapons."

Why might this be the case? Well, it is not a definitive conclusion. But what they're looking at is the notion that Assad doesn't want to give it up as long as Israel is next door with its nuclear stockpile. The feeling Assad may have is he wants to hold a hedge against Israel. But look, that promise is out there. So, this puts the Obama administration in a very tight spot if they have on come out in public now and say that Assad is not living up to the promise. It is going to try and secretly hold on to some of his chemical stockpile.

BURNETT: Of course, Barbara, putting them in a position where they may have to take more action. Right? Jim Acosta, of course, asked the White House. They are not denying your reporting. The question is, this is a president, you know, who had stood up and said this is a moral imperative for our time, right? These are, you know, people have made equivalences in this administration to what happened in World War II in Nazi, Germany.

With moral pleas like that and Syria not going along with the plan to dismantle the weapons, how damaging is this for the president?

STARR: Well, it is damaging for the entire west which has put it, you know, intellectual muscle behind getting this agreement done. And of course, then there is Russia. This puts the U.S. back potentially at odds with Russia. The agreement was very tough to work out with the Russians. Does the U.S. go back to Moscow and say, hey, that you know, the Syrians aren't living up to it and will Moscow agree to all that?

So, that's why just part of the reason why this is so critical now to figure out what Assad is up to. What he has got? What he's declaring, what he is not declaring and what he may try to keep hidden.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much.

With that, breaking news from Washington on a night, of course, when all politics and the president, his popularity are very much front and center on election night.

Well, America on edge tonight. A gunman opening fire on the biggest mall in New Jersey, sending thousands fleeing for safety late last evening. The shopping center placed in lockdown for hours. Police searching for the shooter who took his own life.

The brother of the shooter Richard Shoop (ph) says there was no intent to harm anyone but himself and called the suicide self-indulgent. This comes less than a week after 23-year-old Paul Ciancia walked into the Los Angeles airport and killed allegedly a TSA officer. So, are these public shootings, new normal?

Brian Todd is OUTFRONT.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panic and terror inside a New Jersey shopping mall. Bullets fly but no one except the shooter is hurt.

JOEL CASTANEDA, SHOOTING WITNESS: We heard four gunshots and everybody was scared. Everybody was panicked.

TODD (voice-over): Authorities now believe the gunman only intended to kill himself. Days earlier, a man wielding an assault rifle kills a TSA officer at the Los Angeles international airport. Every time we turn on our TVs, it seems there is more breaking news coverage of a high profile shooting.

(on-camera): Is this the new normal in America, this trend of people wanting to go out the blaze and glory?

DOCTOR ALAN LIPMAN, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF VIOLENCE: It is not. Since the 1980s we've seen crimes exactly like this -- angry, psychotic, depressed young men, mentally ill, haven't been treated with a triggering event that causes them on emerge and to rage, want to go out in a blaze of glory.

TODD (voice-over): Criminal psychologist, Alan Lipman, says often at the peak of that rage, those people have easy access to the deadliest weapons. Collectively, it has put America on edge.

In Connecticut, a student's Halloween costume put a college campus on lockdown for hours. In California, a sheriff's deputy mistakenly shot and killed a teenager who carried a fake assault rifle. Even in overnight break-in at the Colorado middle school with the perpetrator's brandishing BB guns prompted police to surround the building.

LIPMAN: We're jumpy because the impression has been created by interest groups that any mentally ill person might jump out around a corner and harm someone. That is false.

TODD (voice-over): Why cannot our laws better address mental illness and gun violence?

DARRELL WEST, POLITICAL ANALYST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Even Democrats don't want to do this. You have Democrats who are representing rural areas where the right to have the gun is (INAUDIBLE), and nobody wants to put any limits on that. And so, you just simply don't have the clinical situation where you can have a ban on weapons.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Even lesser measures like tightening registration, closing sales loophole on gun shows and more stringent background checks on mental health and criminal history are not likely to pass in Congress any time soon. Analysts say there is just not the political will to do that -- Erin.

BURNETT: All Brian. Thank you very much.

Still OUTFRONT, our breaking news election coverage. We are going to get you results as they are coming in. We are going to be back in Washington in a moment as we anticipate those final results from the closest race of the night.

And one of the craziest news conferences you will ever see. That's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And big news out of North America's fourth largest city. After months of denials, Toronto mayor Rob Ford admits he smoked crack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Do you smoke crack cocaine?

MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: Exactly.

Yes, I have smoked crack cocaine. But no -- do I? Am I at it? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stoppers, probably approximately about a year ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Now, the mayor apologized for his actions. He said he is not going to step down. In a statement this afternoon, Ford admitted he made a mistake but then, he said he had nothing left to hide.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD: With today's announcement, I know I embarrassed everyone in this city and I will be forever sorry. There is only one person to blame for this and that is myself. I know that admitting my mistake was the right thing to do. And I feel like a thousand pounds has been lifted off my shoulders. I can't explain how difficult this was to do. I hope, I hope that nobody but nobody has to go through what I have been through. I know what I did was wrong. And admitting it was the most difficult and embarrassing thing I have ever had to do. Folks, I have nothing left to hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Paula Newton is in Toronto tonight.

Paula, I mean, this is an impressive thing. I've never seen this before in any city in the United States, in Canada. How are people reacting to the mayor's admission and do they believe him when he says it was once a year ago?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: People here and in Canada are stunned. But they are also riveted by this real human drama playing out in front of us. Do they believe him? I think a lot of people believe that kind of heartfelt contrition. But at the same time, he said months and months and months. Me, all of CNN, all of these different networks, his own family members, pleading with him to kind of come clean in a way. And this is the first inkling that we've had.

He spoke a lot today, Erin. And I want to you hear a little more from him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORD: I want to be clear. I want to be crystal clear to every single person. These mistakes will never, ever, ever happen again. I kept this from my family especially my brother, Doug. My staff, my council colleagues, because I was embarrassed and ashamed. To the residents of Toronto, I know I have let you down. And I can't do anything else but apologize and apologize and I'm so sorry. I know, I know I have to regain your trust and your confidence.

I love my job. I love my job. I love the city. Love saving the taxpayers money and I love being your mayor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: So through all of that, of course, you heard a lot of contrition. What you didn't hear is that I'm quitting, I'm stepping down, I'm taking a few months off. Technically, Erin, this is a man who is in charge of the police department, the police department that has had him under secret surveillance for months now.

There is a lot more to this story. There are trials ongoing. But right now, the police department said they have nothing to charge the mayor with so far. They said they did listen to all of his statements today and they are taking it under consideration -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Paula. Thank you very much.

And up next, our special election night coverage continues here. OUTFRONT, we're waiting for the results of that closely watched Virginia governor's race.

Plus, we are now in countdown mode for the results in New Jersey. And you will get to hear much more of the exclusive interview Jake Tapper had with Chris Christie.

And then should the TSA be armed? Attorney general Eric Holder answers that question when asked by CNN today. We have that. We will be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT. We have a full hour of coverage of election night in America.

But, first, I want to go through the other key stories today in the wake of Los Angeles shooting in which one TSA officer was killed. Serious questions being raised about airport security such as, should TSA officers be armed?

In an interview with our Evan Perez, Attorney General Eric Holder says the TSA's plate is already too full.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They're supposed to make sure that the flying public is safe, to make sure that only people who appropriately should get on plane do get on planes. When it comes to perimeter security, that is something that I think is best handled by others.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Holder admitted the national security threat that keeps him up at night is the lone wolf who becomes radicalized. Something, of course, we've been hearing from this administration for years.

Well, the history of vile words, video obtained by CNN appears to show Miami Dolphins football player Richie Incognito yelling the "N" word and other expletives during an outing with teammates at a bar.

He's been suspended from the Dolphins amid allegations that he bullied teammate Jonathan Martin with racial slurs and threats of physical violence. Many in the NFL, including former coach Tony Dungy say Incognito had a reputation for being a problem.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY DUNGY, FORMER INDIANAPOLIS COLTS HEAD COACH: We had the category DNDC, do not draft because of character. Richie Incognito was in that category for us. But a lot of people are going to take chances on the guy. He's a talented guy. But trouble seems to follow him. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: In college, Incognito was suspended or dismissed three times. In 2009, the Rams released him after two personal foul penalties and an altercation with the coach.

Well, Cleveland kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight describes one of many nights she thought she would die at the hands of Ariel Castro. In an interview with Dr. Phil, Knight says Castro tied her to a pole in a basement by wrapping thick chains around her neck and torso. He made her wear a motorcycle helmet and that made it difficult for her to breathe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE KNIGHT, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: He sits me down on the floor and he says this is where you're going to stay until I can trust you. Now, if I do it too tight and you don't make it, that means you wasn't meant to stay here. That means God wants to take you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Knight went on to talk about pedophilia, saying Castro thought she was a 13-year-old prostitute and was upset when he found out she was 21 years old at the time.

And now to the breaking news, election results are coming in. There are crucial races around this country.

And Wolf Blitzer is watching all of them.

Wolf, in states in every key region, states where you're going to have presidential candidates coming out of, states where you're seeing the real pull between Tea Party and the left, what is the latest that you have right now?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Tea Party between more traditional conservatives as well.

At the top of the hour, what, less than 25 minutes from now we'll get the results from New Jersey. We'll see if we can make a projection in New Jersey, the reelection of Chris Christie. He's up for re-election. Barbara Buono, the Democratic challenger to Chris Christie. We'll see what happens at the top of the hour.

I want to update our viewers right now on what's going on in Virginia, as most of you know by now, the polls closed at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, about 37 minutes or so. We are not yet able to make the projection.

But I want to share with all of our viewers, the exist poll results.

All right. Take a look at these exit poll results.

You can see Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, with 50 percent, Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate, with 43 percent, and Robert Sarvis, the libertarian, third party candidate, 7 percent.

Remember, these are exit polls. They are estimates. The final outcome may be different. We're going to share more exit poll data like this throughout the night. We want you to have the same accurate information that we have, hear it directly from us.

Let's check in the votes. The actual tally right now of what's going on. There you see 5 percent of the votes in Virginia have actually been counted. Ken Cuccinelli actually ahead by 12,000 votes or so, 52 percent to 39 percent. Robert Sarvis, the third party libertarian candidate with 9 percent.

But only 5 percent of the votes are in. We don't know where the precincts are very, very early in the actual balloting of this race. Critically important race in Virginia. We'll see if the Democrats can gain the gubernatorial seat.

Let's to go John King over here at the magic wall.

You're studying what's going on in Virginia. We're getting some fascinating insight for what this election could mean nationally.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are. We'll see who wins the governor's race. And the lesson from the governor's race will tell us a lot about the midterms and then 2016, because Virginia has become such a big swing state.

Virginia is changing, but it is by no means New York. It is by no means Massachusetts. It is by no means even another state we're watching tonight, New Jersey.

It is still a relatively conservative state. But it is moving to the center. Look at this -- opinion of the president's health care law, 51 percent. So, a majority of the voters today opposed the president's health care law. If the exit polls hold up, as they usually do, a Democrat will win the governor's race even though they say they oppose Obamacare.

Let's move it over again. This is not a state that is clamoring for a lot more government, but it's a divide. Government should do more, 46 percent of the voters today in Virginia said, government should do more, but a majority, Wolf, 51 percent said -- 50 percent said the government is doing too much. So, again, by no means a big liberal state.

And yet, here's the lesson. If these polls hold up, if Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat wins this race, this will be the fascinating conversation in the Republican Party -- opinion of the Tea Party movement, more than four in 10 voters. So, a plurality opposed the Tea Party in the state of Virginia.

And that Republican candidate you just mentioned, Ken Cuccinelli, was identified with the Tea Party, also identified with some very conservative views on social issues. Look at this -- 52 percent of the voters today in the state of Virginia said he was too conservative. The argument will be, did Republicans nominate someone too far to the right?

And among those who said he was too conservative, look at this. A huge margin for Terry McAuliffe, among a big slice of the electorate.

Now, this is the Virginia governor's race. Why do we care so much nationally? Let's move over here because we've seen how important this date has been in recent presidential elections. This is 2012.

When President Obama won big and, of course, he carried Virginia. Let's go back in time to 2008 when he won big. He carried Virginia.

I'm going on circle a few more states, because the president also carried Florida. He carried Ohio and he carried Ohio.

Let me stop right there. Let's go back to 2012. Remember, all carried by President Obama. Let's to go 2008, all carried by President Obama.

If Republicans are going to be competitive again at the presidential level, Wolf, this is what they have to do. George W. Bush won all four states including Virginia in 2004 and he won three of the four. Iowa switched back to 2000.

So, for the sake of argument, Virginia has now become once reliably red, now, one of the bi competitive swing state, almost impossible to see Republicans getting to 270, what it takes to win without Virginia.

Remember the four states I just touched? Here's what happened a year ago. Obama, 332. Mitt Romney, 206. If Romney could have taken Florida, could have kept Ohio in the Republican hands and could have picked up Ohio, where would that have put him? At 259 to 279, well, Virginia could be a decisive swing state. Switch that one and Romney wins the election just by changing those four states.

If you look out west. Nevada because of the Latino population, hard in the short term to see that going Republican. New Mexico of the Latino population, hard in one election cycle to see that one swinging back.

So, these right now, in some ways, the four most important swing states in presidential politics, one of them, Wolf, that important governor's race tonight. And people will study every line of this exit poll data, looking forward, not only to the midterm elections but into 2016.

BLITZER: And, once again, we are not yet able to make a projection in Virginia. We'll see if we can sooner rather than later at the top of the hour. We'll see if we can make a projection in New Jersey when the polls close there.

In the meantime, Erin, back to you.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Wolf. And, of course, that New Jersey race as we all know -- yes, the question is not so much the margin by which Chris Christie wins. It's who he wins. How do those women vote, how do minorities vote, can he win a Democratic state in 2016?

We have much more of our news coverage of election night. We're going to talk about a crucial race in Alabama, the rise or fall of the Tea Party, Virginia and New Jersey.

We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. Candy Crowley and Gloria Borger joining me now.

Because, obviously, these races are around the county. And one of the things that we're going to see tonight, which I think is so for crucial for everyone watching, we've been watching Ted Cruz and the big stand of the Tea Party, right on the shutdown, is the future of the Tea Party. Is it real? Is it going to mean Republicans are irrelevant for the next election or deliver them in the next election?

So, let's start with Virginia. And Ken Cuccinelli, about whom I've gotten more e-mails in the past four months than any of these candidates, the Virginia race.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, one of the things about Ken Cuccinelli, I think there's a variety of reasons if he loses. If he wins tonight, we're all going to be looking back thinking what did we miss here? If he loses, it has a thousand parents. His defeat if it should happen.

And part of the reason certainly is his stances on things which are much more closely aligned with the Tea Party than with moderate Republicans. But what Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate, seized on, was the woman issue. I mean -- and he just pounded, particularly in northern Virginia, on abortion, on birth control, on a variety of issues and got Republican women to run ads, and he just pounded him.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the Obama playbook. And we're just getting these exit poll numbers. One number that jumps out of you is non-married women, non-married women, which is generally younger women, went for Terry McAuliffe so far 70-22.

BURNETT: That's incredible.

BORGER: Right. That is incredible. But married men and married women sort of split Cuccinelli pretty evenly.

CROWLEY: That's skewed Democratic, but that's a big --

BORGER: And Obama won young women by nine points in the states. So --

BURNETT: Right. What about the ads? Because my understanding is in that state, McAuliffe started running all these ads and people in support of him on the women's issue, that Cuccinelli chose not to respond to. Now, was that a financial decision? Or was that just, they don't get how important these issues are? BORGER: Or a bad campaign?

BURNETT: Right. Which was it?

BORGER: Well, I think it could be, (a), that they didn't have the money. They were outspent like 10-1. And, (b), I think they just allowed McAuliffe to define him on these social issues.

CROWLEY: Early one -- I mean, McAuliffe went for two things early on, which is, by the way, I can work with the Republicans and Democrats. (INAUDIBLE) Washington, but I can really make it work here.

And the other message was, and this guy is a radical. And he just kept going and Cuccinelli did not have the money or the inclination.

He has counted -- Cuccinelli has counted on a fervent, passionate Tea Party backing to come out in droves. That's what it counts.

BORGER: We'll see if they do that.

BURNETT: And speaking of the Tea Party, the other place that we haven't talked as much about, but very crucial, is going to be Alabama.

CROWLEY: Interesting.

BORGER: It's a really important race, because what you've got in Alabama is a really conservative running against a Tea Party birther. The important thing, and you look to this, is that this is the first place where the Chamber of Commerce and the business community has gotten involved in a Republican primary because after the shutdown, they said we're not going to let this happen again. We're going to take control here.

So they have spent in the first district of Alabama, southern Alabama, $200,000 in a primary fight.

CROWLEY: The only cautionary --

BURNETT: To beat the Tea Party candidate.

CROWLEY: -- is that politics is a lot like real he is state. Location, location, location. This is Alabama. You're not going to get the same results that you might get in Michigan.

BURNETT: But they're trying.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: But they're trying because --

BURNETT: Conservative and a Tea Party. I mean, that's a change than what we've seen.

BORGER: When you think of it from the business community's point of view, they have an agenda. Immigration reform being one thing they would like to get passed. This is what we're going to see more of.

BURNETT: Yes.

And quickly before we go, because we're going to talk much more about this, because we'll hear from Chris Christie in a moment. Chris Christie is going to will win easily in a land slide. That's not the point. The point is what margins does he need among women and minorities to say, hey, I can handle the primaries, I can win the general election because I can get those groups?

CROWLEY: Honestly, when you look back at, say, Mitt Romney's numbers among Hispanics, among African Americans, among women, the bar is not that high. So --

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: Of course, yes, he does and look, Chris Christie's 2016 presidential campaign begins tomorrow. It begins with look at these people. Look at this big tent I have here. Now, it's partially that. It's also partially he was darn good in delivering after Hurricane Sandy.

BURNETT: I was going to say it might have began when we got that picture of him with President Obama during Hurricane Sandy.

BORGER: Right. But don't forget, he can say this is a state that President Obama won by 17 points.

BURNETT: Right.

BORGER: Seven hundred thousand more registered Democrats than Republicans.

BURNETT: Yes.

BORGER: And guess what? I'm going to win overwhelmingly.

BURNETT: Pretty incredible.

BORGER: It's a good message.

BURNETT: Win overwhelmingly for governorship but can Chris Christie take New Jersey for presidency? It's a crucial question tonight because the polls are going to close in New Jersey. We're going to get these final results and people are going to start talking about Chris Christie in a whole new way and it is going to be the way of the next few years.

We'll be right back.

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BURNETT: The other big election we're watching tonight, of course, is the governor's race in New Jersey. Now, based on the polls leading up to today, Chris Christie is going to one. That's not the question. Polls close very soon, the next couple minutes here. Jake Tapper spoke exclusively with Governor Christie and he joins me now, along with John Avlon.

Now, Jake, you know what's interesting is one of the most iconic images of Chris Christie and when people started to talk about his future very specifically, was that moment, right, after hurricane Sandy when he embraced the president, a lot -- that moment, we're looking at it there.

And people said, look at what he's done to Mitt Romney. He has just cost him the election. There was so few people frustrated about that, but you asked about the president today and that was a different Chris Christie.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. I mean, one of the things about Chris Christie, other moments in his repertoire include moments where he is berating people, get the hell off the beach is a famous one here in New Jersey.

And so, I asked him given his reputation for candor and given the problem President Obama is having making this promise in 2009, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan, obviously not the case for a small percentage but still millions of Americans, what would his advice be to President Obama?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Here's my suggestion would be to him, don't be so cute, and when you make a mistake admit it. Listen, if it was a mistake in 2009, if he was mistaken in 2009, 2010, on his understanding of how the law would operate, than just admit it to people. Say you know what? I said it, I was wrong. I'm sorry, and we're going to try to fix this and make it better.

I think people would give any leader in that circumstance a lot of credit for just owning up to it instead on now -- don't lawyer it. People don't like lawyers. I'm a lawyer. They don't like them, you know, don't lawyer it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Governor Christie, of course, referring to President Obama last night trying to tweak or amend his pledge from years ago, saying what we had said was if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan, if they don't change it after the date that the law passes -- which is, of course, Erin, not what President Obama said.

Big challenge for Governor Christie tonight, as you say, all polls have him winning here. The question is, how big will his margin be? He wants to have a big margin against the Democrat State Senate Barbara Buono, so he can tell national Republicans, look at what I can do in a blue state, I should be a national leader of this party -- if he decides to run for president in 2016.

BURNETT: Yes. And, of course, Jake, I mean, that is the point he's trying to make. Shakespeare, of course, was among those who knew. Everyone knows everyone hates the lawyers, all right? And I always say, my father is a lawyer, and that Shakespeare (INAUDIBLE), so that's why I'm allowed to say that.

But, John, let's talk about this issue that Jake just raised. All right. So, he's going to win this state in a landslide. Is there any way he wins it in 2016 and that is measure of success or failure? Because people are going to start talking about that.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

BURNETT: Can he win New Jersey?

But as Candy was just saying when she walked off the set, you look at Hillary Clinton versus Chris Christie in polls in New Jersey right now and -- well, Hillary bests him.

AVLON: Sure. It's not really about winning New Jersey. It's about doing more than playing to the base.

The contrast between Cuccinelli and Chris Christie tonight is a memo to the GOP for 2016 and that's why the margins of Christie's victory are going to be so crucial, making the case that he cannot only unite Republicans but when Democrats, when independents, in a state where New Jersey almost half the voters are independents, that he can win Hispanics, that he can increase his margin among African-American voters and crucially women. That is a revolution for the Republican Party right now.

BURNETT: Women, where he's been very open I know, he's had a problem with that before. He's turned that around, though.

AVLON: He absolutely has. I mean, this is a guy who won 8 percent or 9.5 percent of African-American voters. He's looking to double that margin or better. The Hispanic vote is key. And women voters, a big gender gap that's hurting the GOP nationally.

So, Chris Christie's margin tonight becomes a real marker for the 2016 election, and a memo to the GOP for how they can move forward together.

BURNETT: Really going to be the crucial numbers to watch. Thanks to John Avlon and to Jake.

And more of our election coverage, our breaking news continues now with "AC360."