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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Obama to Rally Voters in New Hampshire; Battle for Key Swing States; Democrats Hope To Take Senate Control From GOP; Obama Campaigns In New Hampshire For Clinton. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired November 7, 2016 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:22]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

We're waiting for President Obama in New Hampshire, where he will try to rally voters to go vote for Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state. We will go there live to the Granite State as soon as Mr. Obama hits the stage.

But, first, Donald Trump says disenfranchised workers across the Rust Belt and the country, for that matter, are -- quote -- "just one day away from the change they have been waiting for their entire lives." That's his closing argument, and he's hammering it home today in Florida, in North Carolina, in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and in Michigan.

Sara Murray is in Manchester, New Hampshire, where both Trump and his running mate, Governor Mike Pence, will try to rally supporters in a few hours.

And, Sara, our CNN poll of polls in New Hampshire shows Donald Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by three points. Is that where the Trump team feels the race is right now, just a few points behind her there?

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. They feel like it's an even closer race than that. Honestly, Jake, talking to some political operatives in New Hampshire, they feel the same way, that this could be a dead-even race, maybe a one-point race.

Look, Donald Trump has an affinity for this state. It's the state that delivered him his first victory as a presidential candidate in the primaries here in New Hampshire. The Trump campaign never really felt like this was a state where he was as far behind as some of the public polls suggested.

And certainly in the wake of the original Comey letter, in the wake of the Obamacare increases, they began to see Republicans coming home here. The question is whether he has broadened his base of support far enough beyond this primary electorate to be able to clinch a general election victory.

TAPPER: Interesting. And, Sara, Trump closing out the final day on the trail with a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Is he in Michigan because Pennsylvania might be out of reach and they need a state that size?

MURRAY: They're in Michigan because they need to flip a state, Jake.

They have seen the same early voting numbers that we have seen which suggest a spike in Latino voters in places like Nevada and places like Florida, and they realize, no matter what Donald Trump says publicly, privately, this does not bode particularly well for them.

And that's why you have seen them touching down in as many of these Midwestern states as possible. It's why he's having his closing rally in Michigan. It's why he even made this trip to Minnesota yesterday to just sort of put a toe in the water and say, hey, maybe there are enough sort of working-class white voters here that we could try to flip this as well.

They're very aware they have narrow paths to victory and they might have to sort of come up to a new route to 270 from Republicans we have seen in the past. But, obviously, all the public polls also show him trailing in Michigan. It is going to be a steep climb for him there, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Minnesota, a state that hasn't gone Republican in a presidential race since the Nixon landslide of 1972.

Sara Murray, thank you so much.

Be sure to tune into CNN tomorrow for all-day election coverage.

We are just minutes away from President Obama's second campaign stop of the day. We will bring that to you live right after this quick message. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:37:10]

TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

President Obama about to hit the stage any minute in New Hampshire. We will go there live as soon as he does.

But in the meantime, let's focus in on three other important battleground states, Michigan, North Carolina, Florida, where we have new information on early voting.

My political panel will join me to break it all down right now, senior writer at "The Federalist" Mary Katharine Ham, "USA Today" columnist Kirsten Powers, CNN chief political another Gloria Borger, and former Obama senior adviser David Axelrod.

Mary Katharine, let me start with you.

Fifty percent of Floridians have already voted, and more of that state's residents have voted early or absentee than all of the voters in Florida in the year 2000. Here is the breakdown of how people have voted, 40 percent Democratic, 38 percent Republican, 22 percent no party affiliation.

Donald Trump needs Florida. Republican say there's no path to the presidency for Donald Trump without the state of Florida. What do these numbers say to you?

MARY KATHARINE HAM, "THE FEDERALIST": He needs Florida. I think he personally wants Florida because he spends a lot of time there.

Republicans feel like they're doing fairly well on the early voting stuff. Their game has become better over the past couple of cycles. It's a little hard because we don't have 2008's exact early vote numbers to do sort of apples and oranges.

But the spike in the Latino vote certainly looks a little troubling for Donald Trump, if we assume they're not mostly for Donald Trump, which I assume. That's going to be hard to claw back.

TAPPER: Yes.

What do you make of it all in Florida, Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's maybe a little too -- closer than Democrats would like in the early vote because even if you're up, Democrats get more votes in the early vote, and so that means more people will be showing up on game day to vote.

But, again, there's a huge Latino vote and we have heard a lot about people saying that the Latino vote is being undercounted. In that situation, it could make up the difference. But, look, it's just neck and neck. I just really don't think we know what's going to happen there.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But when you have more than a 100 percent increase in one segment of the voting population, you have to pay attention.

And I was talking to a Republican earlier today who said, we are paying a lot of attention to this. This is very troubling. And I think Democrats now believe that they can win that state by two to three points.

Again, we don't know. It's early voting, but the surge in Latino voting is going to be a big story coming out of this campaign.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One of the things that is curious -- interesting, I should say, about the results in Florida in the early vote is this fairly significant increase in people with no party affiliation who have turned out, which, first of all, makes it harder to dope out, but that group is disproportionately non-white and Hispanic.

And so the suspicion is that a lot of new voters came in, registered, and are -- even though they didn't name a party affiliation, aren't there to vote for Donald Trump. Democrats are pretty confident about Florida.

[16:40:00]

TAPPER: David, let me ask you, speaking of confidence, what are they doing in Michigan?

AXELROD: I think it's a precautionary measure, because Michigan really -- a lot of these industrial states, Midwestern industrial states, will be closer, I think, than they were in 2012.

I think the problem for Donald Trump is, this isn't horseshoes. You actually have to win. You can't just come close. And what I think the purpose of being in Michigan is to try and make sure that it stays close in her favor.

And part of it has to do with turnout in Detroit, which is a concern, and some of these areas with the African-American populations, there is a real interest in hitting the turnout hard, because you don't have the first African-American president on the ballot this time.

BORGER: And you don't have early voting. So you really don't have as good a gauge as you might have in some of these other states, so I think they're trying to play protectively here and do the same thing in Pennsylvania as they are in Michigan.

POWERS: I just think -- I feel like a little too much is being made of the Michigan thing, actually.

TAPPER: You're very skeptical.

POWERS: I'm skeptical, yes, because I do think, look, they don't have early voting. You need to get -- turn people out.

This is the linchpin. They obviously can't afford to lose there. They have -- they're trying to get to 270, you know, and then anything after that is gravy. This is how they get to 270. They're going to states. Pennsylvania, again, they don't have early voting. They're going to states and they're turning out their voters.

I don't think that it means that they're in fear of losing Michigan and Pennsylvania to Donald Trump.

HAM: But I think his message was a threat to the Clinton campaign in those Rust Belt states, and somewhere like Michigan, where it is day of, they're hoping for this surge.

I think, frankly, if it had been coupled with normal TV spending and a normal get-out-the-vote that a regular, conventional Republican campaign would have had, he might have had a better shot. But I think this close, it's really a stretch.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Also, how about a normal candidacy because...

HAM: Right, take 20 percent off...

(CROSSTALK) AXELROD: ... part of the problem is, in these suburban areas, you have, particularly among women and college-educated women, you don't have the typical Republican vote. And that is hampering him in all of these states.

TAPPER: One of the things that's interesting obviously, Kirsten, is in North Carolina. I want you to take a look.

"The Raleigh News & Observer" says that the North Carolina Republican Party put out a memo saying, "The Obama coalition is crumbling there" and pointing to a drop in turnout along African-American voters.

In some ways, the Republican Party there is celebrating fewer voters turning out.

POWERS: Yes.

TAPPER: But also a lot of Democrats are saying, you know, this was planned. You know, Republicans and those who control have limited the number of early voting sites, et cetera.

POWERS: Right.

Yes, well, I mean, it remains to be seen, but they have done a sort of overt voter suppression effort there. We don't know if that's the reason that we're seeing lower numbers or not, but it's certainly conceivable. Hillary Clinton is underperforming Barack Obama in North Carolina right now.

I heard the Clinton campaign talking about how the Latino vote was going to really come out for them, which I'm sure they will, but that's a very small percentage of North Carolina.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: Let me jump in with the North Carolina numbers. Actually, overall, in the state...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: As a North Carolinian.

HAM: The hours and the number of sites for early voting were up. They were compressed into the last week for the most part, and they were fewer in the first week.

So, that's part of the drop-off. But the actual number is up. Even in the counties that people are complaining about, the number of hours and sites is up over a shorter period of time.

TAPPER: A little Tar Heel reality check there. Thank you so much.

We're going to take a very quick break. We're still waiting for President Obama to come. Stay with us. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:45:00] TAPPER: Welcome back. We're expecting President Obama to

come out on stage in New Hampshire any moment. He is vouching for Hillary Clinton on the final day of campaigning in this very, very, very long election. We're back with our political panel.

Let's talk about the other thing going on in New Hampshire, which is a very competitive senate race between incumbent republican Senator Kelly Ayotte and the governor, Maggie Hassan. How do you think the senate races are going to go? I'm not going to make you do a scorecard, but do you think --

BORGER: No.

TAPPER: -- the democrats need to pick up five seats to have a -- to have a clear majority.

BORGER: Five seats. So when we started this campaign, the conventional wisdom was that republicans were going to lose control of the senate. There's no way they were going to keep it. They had so many people up in blue states, and they were going to lose, and that is not the case now.

The people who are running the republican senate campaign committee have done a terrific job of localizing their races and allowing their candidates to do whatever they have to do to either distance themselves from Donald Trump if that -- if that is the case, or hug Donald Trump if they -- if they need to.

And I think that the candidates sometimes have been inartful about it, but they have run their own get-out-to-vote operation over at the republican senatorial committee, and I think that it's actually miraculous for them in their work that we are now talking about the fact that, you know what, the senate might not change hands.

TAPPER: There's only one republican that I know everyone is confident is going to lose his seat, and that is your senator, Mark Kirk in Illinois.

BORGER: Mark Kirk, yeah. Yup.

TAPPER: But even Ron Johnson from Wisconsin who looked vulnerable, it seems to be neck and neck.

BORGER: For her in North Carolina.

AXELROD: Yes, it is. It is much closer than people assumed it would be. On the other side, people thought Evan Bayh was a lock and there's a -- there's a strong sense he may not win.

BORGER: Uh-hmm.

AXELROD: Be in a establishment, anything is not necessarily good this year, but in Nevada, which is the one seat that democrats were worried about, it now looks like democrats are going to retain Harry Reid's seat. Illinois, Wisconsin, there's a lot of talk on both sides that Pennsylvania may turn democratic, that senate seat, Pat Toomey's seat. So, this New Hampshire race becomes very consequential because democrats need four if Hillary Clinton wins to control the senate. And people are watching this intently because it's been a very close race throughout.

[16:50:11] POWERS: And Donald Trump has dragged down, you know, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and I think even if you look at, you know, Pennsylvania, Toomey has had to, you know, distance himself being -- he's going to --

TAPPER: I don't think Toomey said who he's voting for.

POWERS: Yes, he's going to -- and I think he said he's going to be a check on Donald Trump or something like that. So, you're putting these two people in a very awkward position in a place like Pennsylvania where there are going to be, you know, Trump supporters who aren't going to like the fact he's doing that, and that Kelly Ayotte has had to do this back and forth of trying to figure out how to be close to him, not be close to him, and finally repudiating him, and so it could actually be consequential.

HAM: I mean, there's the "Indiana Jones" scene where the boulder is coming up behind him. The senatorial committee saw the boulder earlier than other people did.

POWERS: They did.

HAM: And they instructed the senate candidates who it turns out are quite good candidates to make their way in the best way they could. And I think that gave them a head start.

AXELROD: Probably the -- probably the strongest democratic newcomer this year is Candor in Missouri, such a young Secretary of State running against Senator Blunt, a veteran of Washington, and even though Donald Trump is doing well in Missouri, he -- both sides think that that could be a turned seat. Why? Because Blunt is a pillar of the Washington establishment. His whole family are lobbyists, which has been made a lot of in that race. Again, it's a bad time to be part of the Washington establishment.

HAM: Well -- but it's -- I have a good news for the senate candidates in somewhere like Pennsylvania and New Hampshire that there's all this talk about it being close because that keeps people interested, it keeps from getting out there, and if they lose too much on the -- on the Trump thing, they're washed, but --

BORGER: The question is with turnout. When you're trying to turn out voters say in a state like Florida and many people who were voting for Marco Rubio, for example,

are not going to be voting for Donald Trump. So when you're republicans and you're trying to turn out the vote, sometimes the senate campaign committee has to go separate ways from the Republican National Committee, because they may be trying to turn out different voters, and it's kind of like a Sophie's choice there. Well, what do we -- what do we do?

AXELROD: The flip is true, too, though. There are people who are voting for Donald Trump who may not be voting for the senate candidates. The reason the Nevada race turned was because Joe Heck, the republican candidate there, took a strong stand against Donald Trump after that tape came out, and there was a rebellion among Trump voters in Northern Nevada, and that has been jeopardizing him in that race.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You know, it's interesting, American voters used to split their tickets a lot more than they do. They don't do it now -- I think -- I think Ron Brownstein told me it was like 1 out of 10 does it now. I wonder if we're going to see more ticket splitting this election season because of the Trump effect both Trump voters who don't vote for the senate, because the senator, the republican senator, because they don't think he's been sufficiently supportive of Donald Trump and vice versa, people who like Marco Rubio but don't like Donald Trump.

HAM: I think we will.

POWERS: Yeah, I mean, I think we will. I mean, of course, it's only anecdotal but there are plenty of people who are saying, you know, the way that they're going to deal with the Trump phenomenon is just to go in and just don't vote for the top and, you know, vote republican all the way down or vote for Hillary and vote republican all the way down. Now, what percentage of the overall vote that is remains to be seen.

HAM: Well, to David's point, Trump is on the stump reminding people how he beat Rubio in Florida. In Florida, so he's just helping split it.

TAPPER: Did he do that? Really, he did reminded people?

HAM: I think he did. Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

HAM: And he's always talking about the primary.

AXEL: The tricky thing is for the Republican Party as an entity, who do you turn out? Do you turn out voters who are going to support your embattled senate candidates? Even if they're not for Donald Trump, do you turn out Trump voters? This is one of the organizational headaches that the republicans have in this election.

BORGER: Well -- and that's why the senate campaign committee is very often operating --

TAPPER: On its own, yeah.

BORGER: -- separately because they've -- you know, in last summer, the head of the republican senate campaign committee sent out a memo which we all read and which at the time was criticized, but it was about how we run with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, and how if you need to distance yourself, distance yourself. TAPPER: And you know what's interesting, the Republican National Committee, where everyone talks about how the Trump campaign doesn't really have any serious get-out-to-vote effort, no serious ground game, but the Republican National Committee does, and they have been building this based on the 2008 Obama model trying to match what you guys were able to build in 2008 that was so impressive, and right now, as David points out, in some cases, they're going to have to choose because there are voters out there that they've -- that they --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they are choosing.

TAPPER: -- that they know that are out there that have not yet gone to the polls, and they have figured out which ones are Rubio voters and which ones are Rubio but not Trump voters. They're going to have to pick.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Here's the other thing about this, you build a model -- like when we were building a model in the Obama campaign in 2012, it was built to create a profile of the voter who was going to vote for Barack Obama, not necessarily the partisan voter, but the voter who was going to vote for Barack Obama.

[16:54:57] If you build a party model, you're building a model to bring out republicans, people disposed to vote republican but not necessarily the model of the republican who's going to vote for Donald Trump. So there are all kinds of complications here because of this kind of shotgun wedding of Donald Trump and regular republicans.

TAPPER: Mary Katharine, let me just ask you quick because we haven't talked about the North Carolina senate race between incumbent Senator Richard Burr and the democrat Ross. How is that looking?

HAM: Well, I think they don't feel great about it in North Carolina. Burr is -- has a bit of an establishment reputation. I know plenty of republicans in North Carolina are not super enthused about him. Also not super enthused about Trump, and it's going to be a really, really tight race. So I'm not sure how that one is going to fall, honestly.

And -- but to the point about the RNC having the data and the predictor models for this stuff, you may have notice the Trump campaign doesn't always listen to the RN,C so I think that's a real issue as they try to figure out who to turn out and who not.

BORGER: That's why senate candidates are on their own. I mean, they just have to distance themselves when they have to and they've got their own set of analytics. They're getting out their voters for their candidates.

TAPPER: But it's tough thing to try to negotiate, a tough path, Kirsten, Senator Ayotte not a Trump supporter in particular, asked at the debate do you think Donald Trump is a role model, said yes. A few days later --

BORGER: Yes. (CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Unfortunate timing.

TAPPER: A few days later, the tape comes out, had to walk it back. No, he's not now, and even before that, she were struggling, she was saying something like I'm voting for him, but I'm not endorsing him. It's difficult for people like Kelly Ayotte who is a -- is a politician and a public servant in her own right to figure out how to deal with this guy.

POWERS: Well, I mean, I would argue you should probably stick to your principles but, you know, I'm not a politician. So -- but, you know, look, if you're a republican, you rely on, you know, white educated women voters, you're going to have to make a decision here because they're not voting for Donald Trump. And I think Ayotte -- I think --

AXELROD: But you go to Manchester, for example, with this -- and some other parts of New Hampshire where you have non-college educated white voters who are committed to Trump, you also don't want to slight them. That's where it's the --

POWERS: Can I just -- Ayotte is different.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Speaking of New Hampshire -- I'm sorry to interrupt. Speaking of New Hampshire, let's go to President Obama who's taking the stage in Durham, New Hampshire. There are only four electoral votes in the State of New Hampshire, but those four could mean the difference between President Hillary Clinton and President Donald Trump. Let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: Hello, New Hampshire! Oh, it is good to be back in Durham! And it's a good day to be a Wildcat. OK. Every day is a good day to be a Wildcat. Can everybody please give it up for our outstanding public servants, your Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Representative Annie McLane Kuster, and two women you can send to join them in Washington, your governor and next United States Senator, Maggie Hassan, and your next congresswoman, Carol Shae- Porter, your next governor, Colin Van Ostern. And give it up for two great friends of mine, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband and former astronaut, Mark Kelly!

I've got to say because this is I think going to be my last big event. Yeah, it's -- I mean, we got -- we got one in Philly but, you know, Michelle is talking there, so I won't get any attention. So, I want to take some time just to thank some very special people who put everything they've got into this campaign, not just here in New Hampshire but across America, and that is all the grassroots organizers who worked so hard every single day. They don't get a lot of attention. Some of them -- some of them started on my first campaign. They picked -- they picked up the phones. they hit the streets, they just live and breathe the hard work of change.

I could not be prouder of them. They're the best organizers on the planet, and I could not be more proud of you so thank you, organizers, for the great work you do. I love you back. I do. So one more day, New Hampshire, one more day. One more day and you -- OK. I can't hear you, but I appreciate you.