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THE SITUATION ROOM

Clinton Gives Interviews, Works on Speech; Trump Campaign Manager Optimistic; Standing By For First Polls to Close; Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Battle For 270; Exit Polls: Voters Are Split Over Policy Issues; Exit Polls: Latino Voter Turnout Surge in Key States. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 8, 2016 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: America votes and whatever happens next, American history is being made. Will the night end with the first woman president-elect, or a first-time candidate heading for the Oval Office.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Exit interviews, our first exit polling data coming in now. What the numbers could say about how the night ends, that and early signs that turnout is high.

BLITZER: Ballot brouhaha. Trump fired the first shot in what could be a long legal battle over the election, and a judge fires back.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper.

BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's a CNN election coverage special and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A very big night ahead. Our political director is crunching the exit polling numbers right now. We'll check in with him momentarily.

But first, let's go to CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's covering the Clinton campaign for us. She's joining us from New York. This morning Hillary Clinton voted. We just saw her leave her home in Chappaqua, New York, outside of New York City.

Brianna, what has she been doing and where will she be tonight?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, she had quite the late night last night, Wolf, as you know. She, after a four-stop swing through battleground states, wasn't home -- landing certainly in Westchester County until 3:30 a.m. this morning. So she charged through the morning, voted at about -- in the 6 a.m. hour, and then she took a bit of a breather, after doing some radio interviews.

She's done some more radio interviews and, as you know, she is now on her way from her home in Chappaqua to Manhattan. She is going to be hunkering down at the Peninsula Hotel. She'll be looking and waiting for the results to come in. But of course, many hours until then.

And until then, Wolf, she is going to be working on her speech, which is pretty characteristic for Secretary Clinton to do something, really, up until the last minute. And we do understand that she has two versions of that speech: one for if she wins and one for if she loses. But talking to Clinton campaign sources, they're feeling pretty confident about the night, Wolf.

BLITZER: What else are you hearing from the Clinton campaign? I know they're feeling confident, are they, shall we say, very, very confident? But are they, shall we say, very, very confident? Are they nervous? How do they -- how do they really sense this night could go?

KEILAR: I'm not picking up a lot of nerves. I will tell you that, Wolf. I think it's really for them, as they see it, more a matter of when, not if she wins. So that is going to be the question. And we don't know the answer to that question.

What I can tell you is that, while many people on the campaign, their work is largely done -- this is the day where they wait and see what happens and what the voters decide -- there is still a number of people who work for the analytics team and who work for the field team who are hunkered down in the Brooklyn headquarters, and they are waiting for information to come in. They're not just relying on, necessarily, the polls closing, but trying to see what the models they have generated, what they think the results are going to be Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, we'll check in with you throughout the night, of course. Let's check in with Chris Frates right now. He's in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Chris, what are you hearing? What are you seeing?

CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I've got to tell you, we are probably on our way to a record-breaking night of turnout, at least here in this precinct. Almost 900 extra ballots have just come in here. And to give you some sense, there's about 3,100 people registered to vote in this precinct. Already, they've seen 2,500 ballots cast. They expect another 1,000 people to register today.

And that is, because of course, New Hampshire, a battleground state. It's a small state. There's only about four electoral votes up, but it's a mighty state. You just have to ask Al Gore. If he had won New Hampshire, he would have won the presidency even after losing Florida. And that's a lesson that all the campaigns have learned from, and they're really getting out the vote here.

In fact, the Clinton campaign has knocked on more than a million doors. They've called two million supporters to get out the vote today. The Donald Trump campaign, 1.8 million doors knocked, 1.7 million phone calls made. And that's because there's no early voting here in New Hampshire. Tonight is the night. You have to get your supporters to the polls.

And independents, Wolf, are going to be huge here. As you know, the undeclared voters are -- outnumber both Democrats and Republicans here. And to just give you some sense of how this went down four years ago, 43 percent of people who cast a ballot were independents. They broke for Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton hoping those independents break her way today. Donald Trump trying to reverse the trend and break that Hillary Clinton blue wall. We'll see what happens.

But I can tell you, lots of excitement here, lots of turnout. New Hampshire is going to be a very exciting place to watch, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly will be. Chris Frates, thanks very, very much.

Momentarily, by the way, we're going to be getting the first exit poll results. Our political director, David Chalian, is crunching the numbers right now. We'll share them with you momentarily. But I want to go to Anderson right now.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. I want to bring in our panel. It's frankly too big to even introduce everybody. I'll get right to it and you all can figure it out.

S.E., what are you expecting tonight? What are you looking for in the next hour or two?

[17:05:05] S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, in like small ball, I'm looking at things like ground game. Are traditional things like ground game still important? We're going to be able to see whether trunk's [SIC] Trump's sort of disinterest in a traditional ground game will matter and whether Hillary's almost historic ground game will make a huge difference.

Big pictures...

COOPER: Because the Trump people all along now have been saying we're in a new age of politics.

CUPP: That's right.

COOPER: Those thinking about ground -- talking about big ground games, that's old-school thinking.

CUPP: He might be right. He flipped a lot of things on its head. And that's why tonight, among so many other reasons, is historic. But also, this is a referendum election. On a number of things. It's a referendum on Obama. Hillary Clinton sort of walked away from him in the beginning, but now she's right there. Four more years. Is that what people want?

But also on Washington. If Donald Trump, a candidate who is so unconventional, so controversial, lacking political experience, really alienating a lot of people, if he pulls this off, this will be momentous. I don't want to say more historical than the first woman president. It wouldn't be. But almost less believable.

COOPER: Well, either way, Nia, this is a historic night. You have probably the biggest outside candidate since -- I don't know.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Ever.

COOPER: Andrew Jackson maybe? I don't know.

HENDERSON: Yes, and unconventional, right, in terms of the way he ran, in bucking political correctness. And running this Twitter campaign, essentially, and rejecting ads and ground game.

And then Hillary Clinton, this person who would be historic, the first woman president. You see people going to the gravesites of suffragettes and leaving their "I voted" stickers. So I think for a certain segment of voters, particularly older women who have waited for this moment for decades and decades, it will be really meaningful.

But I do think, in terms of Donald Trump, there were two theories about why Romney lost. Was it because he didn't get enough white voters or was it because he didn't have a diverse base of voters who liked him? And I think we -- you know, I mean so far it looks like Trump is betting that it's about white voters. And it could be that he does better than Mitt Romney.

COOPER: David, you worked with, you know, candidates on both sides of the aisle. Presidents on both sides of the aisle. At this point do the campaigns themselves -- I mean, they all have internal data -- do they know whether or not their candidate is going to win?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they've got a very good idea. Usually the candidate will know the night before, one or two nights before, "We've got it. We don't have it. You know, you've got to prepare yourself. We don't have" -- yes. And what they really do is they start thinking about governing and, OK, what comes next?

And I do think tonight one of the things you've got to look for -- if it's Hillary, the question is how big a victory? If it's a small victory, it's not going to help her with governing. It's going to leave a lot of recriminations among Trump voters.

If it's a big victory, she'll be much more -- she'll have much more leverage going forward. For example, if Latinos really step up and deliver a place like Florida, pivotal state, the Republican are going to be under enormous pressure, "Let's go ahead and get a good immigration Bill done and get this issue behind us so we can appeal to these people."

COOPER: And if it's Donald Trump, I mean, how do you sort of bring together all these groups?

GERGEN: Donald Trump, I just think we're in unknown territory. I don't know where the hell you go there, because I don't how you put together a government. A lot of people I know won't go into government. I will tell you that a couple people in the foreign policy area, I think, have stayed on the sidelines in case they're needed, for -- in a Trump government. But I think you're going to see the markets respond extremely negatively. There are going to be a lot of other repercussions. That's not to say he can't put it together. It's going to be -- he's in really uncharted territory.

COOPER: Yes. Kirsten. KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's also talked about,

you know, if he wins, the type of people that he would put in office would be pretty divisive people, like Rudy Giuliani as attorney general or a Newt Gingrich as secretary of state.

COOPER: We just got the first exit polling. Let's go to Wolf for that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks.

Certainly, the first exit poll numbers will give us an indication who's actually voting, why they're voting the way they are. I want to go to CNN's David Chalian, our political director. You've been crunching the numbers. What are we learning so far? The first poll closing's, what, in a couple hours.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. This is interviews that we conducted across the nation with voters as they were leaving the polls. And these are preliminary numbers. These will shift throughout the night as more voters come in.

But one of the things we're looking at is when did people decide? And take a look at this. Very few late deciders. Seven percent tell us in the last few days. Another 5 percent say within the last week. That's about -- that's 12 percent there.

But the other 88 percent decided in October or before that. So swirl of headlines at the end of the campaign, just a small group of late deciders there.

Another thing that we looked at, Wolf, is a quality -- the qualities in the candidate that people are looking for here. This is an electorate hungry for change. Look at that: 38 percent of voters across the nation today say the No. 1 quality they're looking for in the candidate is somebody who can bring about needed change.

But, take a look at this. Looking for a candidate with the right experience? Twenty-two percent. Good judgment, 22 percent. Add those together, if you're looking for the right experience and good judgment, you're about 44 percent there. Add those together, versus the 38 percent change candidate. This has been a Trump stronghold. Change. This has been a Hillary Clinton stronghold, right experience and good judgment. They're splitting.

What's really interesting is that not many people were looking for an empathetic candidate, caring about me and my problems. That only 15 percent of the electorate said was their No. 1 candidate quality. Wolf.

BLITZER: And explain to our viewers, David, how we're dealing with these exit poll results. Because you're going to be giving us a lot more later this hour and certainly next hour as well.

CHALIAN: Right. So we're looking at sort of the racial makeup of the country, the education levels that voters have today in the country. Sort of the -- what the electorate looks like. And we'll be comparing it to what it looked like four years ago and what we can glean from that.

Also, these exit polls are married up with real vote returns as they come in so that our decision desk can start making projections as the night goes on and vote tallies start coming in.

BLITZER: I know you're crunching more numbers. We'll get back to you shortly.

In the meantime, let's go back to Anderson.

COOPER: Wolf, David, thanks so much. Interesting to see those exit polls. The day of Bill Clinton kind of I feel your pain, apparently they don't really care whether or not they -- they understand you. It's more about judgment. It's about change, and leadership.

HENDERSON: Yes.

COOPER: Do you think it helps either...

HENDERSON: It's hard to say. What, 38 percent were for change. You imagine those are folks who would vote for Donald Trump, right? And the other ones, in terms of temperament and experience, you imagine those are voters -- I mean, this is a split electorate. I mean, we can see that in all of the polls. And people seem to want different things.

CUPP: Well, and empathy just clearly isn't what voters are interested in this year, because you have two candidates who poll pretty low when it comes to empathy. And so I don't know. We might be sort of beyond the hope/change kind of idealism and more into a realism with what we need in the big hurdles that we have.

COOPER: Corey, one of the things Donald Trump kept hitting Hillary Clinton is what he said was what he said was a lack of judgment. You know, that she has experience, but it's the wrong kind of experience and the wrong kind of judgment. When you see those exit polls does that speak to your candidate?

COREY LEWANDOWSKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it does. But I also think if you look at there was another story earlier today about another exit poll that said, you know, what is the most important thing that you're looking for, and it was a strong leader. That's what, you know, Donald Trump has positioned himself in this race, whether you agree or disagree that he's going to be tough on our adversaries, he's going to be tough on crime, he's going to be tough on ISIS. And the exit polling that we saw a little earlier today that was reported by "Politico" and others had said that was the No. 1 issue that they saw in their exit polling data. If that is the case, that bodes well for Donald Trump in those exit interviews.

COOPER: Although Democrats will probably quibble with the definition of what being a strong leader actually means.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. I do think that people want a strong leader. They don't want the wrong leader. I think, for so many Americans and especially what we're going to see as the Hillary Clinton coalition come out and elect her tonight, they definitely do not see Donald Trump as the right leader for this country.

I also think that a big number that I believe will benefit Hillary is that 88 percent decided what their decision was going to be before October. And that was, you know, before the Comey letter. This was at the time after the conventions when Hillary Clinton was really running away with the polls, when people were thinking she is the one that has the temperament, the judgment to be commander in chief. By the way, that piece of what has come out in the polls has never changed for her.

COOPER: All right. We've got to take a quick break. A lot more with our panel just ahead. We'll get reaction to the polling data from a senior Trump advisor. That and more as our CNN election coverage counts down to election history. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:17:49] BLITZER: We're counting down to the first poll closing right now, and as we do, we're checking in with our correspondents across the country. CNN's Ana Cabrera is in Golden, Colorado, with an update on voting there. What are you seeing -- Ana.

Hey, there, Wolf. We are inside the Jefferson County Election Center where all these workers behind me are getting ready to process ballots that have been returned. Now, Colorado is a mostly mail-in ballot state. And we know at least two-thirds of all registered in this state voters have already cast their ballot.

We just got some new numbers from the Colorado secretary of state's office in Colorado that show 2.4 million voters in Colorado have now voted. And right now, registered Republicans are leading slightly, by about 36,000 vote returns or ballot returns. Again, we don't know who is voting for who. But when you just look at party affiliation Republicans have an early edge.

Now, remember, that was the same about this time last year, or last election, I should say, in 2012 where Republicans were leading early on, and ultimately, President Obama ended up sweeping the state.

Now, the workers here in this room are taking their ballots out of the envelopes. The envelopes are where people have signed their ballots. And so they'll take the ballots out. They'll straighten them out and put them in piles to get them ready to go through the vote-counting machine. Now, the vote-counting machine will process those ballots. There's anonymity to it. So they will no longer know who cast which ballot -- which vote on their ballot in particular.

But this is a process that's been going on now, Wolf, for about two weeks since the ballots. And so the ballots were sent out and are now being mailed back.

We'll keep an eye on what's going on here, as we're now hearing that there have been a few hiccups in the voting processing machines across the state. That is confirmed from Jefferson County election officials. I'm working to get some more information on that for you. And we'll check back shortly. BLITZER: Colorado a key battleground state.

Ana, thanks very much.

Jim Acosta is over at Trump campaign headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Let's go to him right now. So what's the latest? What are you hearing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, talking to a number of sources this afternoon, in the words of one top party official, momentum. They're feeling momentum in several battleground states.

Obviously, the Trump campaign, we've been talking about this, is very excited about Michigan. They feel like, looking at the public polls and the internal polls, that that race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the state of Michigan has tightened.

[17:20:11] I have talked to a very key Republican source in just the last few minutes that did say that there are concerns in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, obviously, is a key state that Donald Trump has targeted since the beginning of this campaign, chock full of working-class voters that are going to be instrumental if he's going to be successful later on tonight.

But there are concerns, I'm told, from a key Republican Party source, about how he is performing right now and what they're seeing in Pennsylvania.

Also, there are some concerns about North Carolina, according to this source. Obviously, Wolf, we've talked about this time and again. It's sort of that Trump trifecta. He needs to win Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and then peel away some more blue states if he has any hope of winning the White House.

But I'm talking to one Republican source, key Republican source, who says there are -- there are some jitters inside the Trump campaign when it comes to the state of North Carolina.

Now, obviously, the polls are still open. People are going and voting as we speak, and so we shouldn't draw any conclusions, and this could be a very long night. But just going into today, I can tell you from talking to several Republican sources, Wolf, and these are not just -- these are not "never Trump" people. These are people who are supporting the Republican nominee -- that there are concerns that Donald Trump can pull this off tonight, but of course, we have to watch and wait just like everybody else, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. We certainly do. Jim Acosta in New York. Thank you.

Joining us now, Trump campaign senior communications advisor Jason Miller. Jason, thanks for joining us.

JASON MILLER, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR: Wolf, thank you for having me.

BLITZER: So you know, going into election day, Donald Trump, he was down in the national polls a bit. His path to 270, as I think you acknowledge, is narrow. What does Trump need to see happen tonight in order to win? In other words, which states are the most important battleground states right now?

MILLER: Wolf, let me back up one second to North Carolina, with the intro that I had from Jim Acosta here, who -- at this point in the game, I mean, this is election day. I'm not sure who these anonymous sources are or if they even exist.

Here's the reality in North Carolina and here's why, if you're a Trump supporter, you should be feeling really good right now. Typically, Republicans trail when you combine absentees and early voting going into election day, and we have big performance on election day to ultimately bring home the win.

So in the state of North Carolina, right now the combined votes right now for Republicans were 140,000 votes better than the ticket was four years ago in North Carolina. So that's a huge momentum swing. So we're feeling very good about North Carolina.

I also want to back up and talk about Florida for just one moment. There are four key counties where Republican turnout is over- performing our percentage of the electorate. When you look at Duval, the northeastern corner of the state, you look at Hillsborough, which is where Tampa is. The Republican performance is 6 percent better, Democratic performance is 4 percent worse, giving a ten-point delta.

And we talk about powerful Broward County, we're a big stronghold of Democrats that are coming out. Republicans are over-performing their percentage of the electorate by six points. Democrats are under- performing by six points. That's a 12-point swing.

And over in Collier, in southwest Florida, it's a three, three and a half points better for Republicans, three and a half less for Democrats. So in four key indicators around the state of Florida, we're feeling very good.

And again, just like I pointed out with North Carolina, the early voting spread between Republicans and Democrats in the state of Florida is 81,000 votes closer than it was four years ago.

So we look at key indicators like North Carolina, Florida, and even today in Cuyahoga County in Ohio, where Democratic turnout is down, between about 2 and 5 percent. Those numbers are still a little bit moving around, but Democratic turnout definitely is down in Cuyahoga. We're looking at these swing states, and we feel very good with where we are.

BLITZER: Cuyahoga County, that's where Cleveland is. Usually a Democratic stronghold right there. You agree you need Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida, all three of them. If you lose one of them it's over. I think you agree, right?

MILLER: These are three core battleground states. We feel very good about where we are in early voting, feel very good about where actual voting is happening today. All the indicators are coming back positive.

We obviously want to win these states. There are other scenarios, if for some reason we don't win one of these -- don't win one of these, we look at Michigan. We feel very good about today. Colorado, feel very good. And even Pennsylvania. We're closing strong. We have a really good shot here today, Wolf.

BLITZER: This morning, Donald Trump said in a phone interview about the election results, and I'm quoting him now, he said, "Who knows what happens ultimately." Does Trump have some doubts about his chances for a win tonight?

MILLER: No. Mr. Trump is very confident he's going to win tonight. We feel good about the race. We're the ones who are closing strong. And a lot of it is the message, Wolf. It's this positivity, the fact that he's giving people something to vote for.

We're talking about the trade message. We're talking about repealing and replacing Obamacare. We're talking about going into African- American communities and saying, "We are going to present an urban renewal plan that will improve schools and help make sure we get money to black-owned businesses so they can start and expand their implications. These are very tangible, very specific things that we're seeing that we can go and do with the Trump and Pence ticket, and these are not things that Hillary Clinton is able to offer at this point.

[17:25:11] BLITZER: I know you've got to run. Let me ask you one final question. Your campaign, as you know, filed a lawsuit in Nevada last night over early voting, alleging a voting station was kept open two hours longer than it should have been kept open. Your request today was denied.

What they said was the people had gotten in line on time. The lines were so long, the let them vote if they were in line on time. What's wrong with that? Why did you file this legal challenge?

MILLER: Wolf, what the lawsuit was about was making sure that the election officials were preserving and securing the ballots that were cast that day. That's what it was about. And the reason why the judge made that ruling was because they said they were already preserving and securing them. There wasn't a disagreement about what we were trying to accomplish.

So to us that was a win. We feel good about it. We're going to continue to monitor elections around the country the rest of the day.

BLITZER: Jason Miller of the Trump campaign. Thanks very much for joining us.

MILLER: OK. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll have much more ahead this hour and throughout this historic election night. At this hour voters across the country, they're still heading to the polls in huge numbers after work, after classes, taking their place in long lines to cast their ballots. We're going to have much more, more exit polling results coming up, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right. Take a look at this. We're getting some live drone video from just outside Pittsburgh in what appears to be Trump country. Very long voting lines there. People said to be waiting -- get this -- two hours to cast ballots. Heavy turnout there; indeed heavy turnout across the country.

[18:30:35] Let's check in with CNN's Kyung Lah. She's in Las Vegas. Big turnout there, Kyung?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the turnout really happened in early voting. This is a state where about two-thirds of the voters do vote early, and that ended on Friday.

I'm standing, Wolf, in the busiest polling place, in what should be the busiest polling in the biggest county in -- in Nevada. And take a look. It's a little bit quiet. And don't read too much into this, the head of this particular polling place says, but it has been like this quite a bit of the day, even as you look at the voting machines. There are so many of them waiting for people to show up.

This is the story of Nevada, that early voting has been so successful.

And I want to give you a look here, too, Wolf. If you can swing all the way around. I'm going to walk over this way. The friendly faces you see over here, these are election observers. They are keeping an eye for anything representing both sides, both campaigns, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good thing about early polling -- early voting, I should say, is that they release, usually release those numbers very quickly on this night. Kyung Lah in Las Vegas.

We've got some more fresh exit polling coming in right now. I want to go back to our political director, David Chalian. So, what are you seeing in those exit poll results, David?

CHALIAN: Wolf, remember, I just want to caution. These are preliminary exit-poll results from across the nation. These numbers likely will change.

We're taking a look now at the racial makeup of the electorate. Look at this: 70 percent of the voters voting today, white. Twelve percent African-American, 11 percent Latino, 4 percent Asian.

So how does this compare to four years ago? Well, the white vote has ticked down a little bit. Four years ago, it was a 72 percent white electorate. It was a 10 percent Latino electorate. That's ticked up a notch. But it is roughly in line with what we saw four years ago. There's not a dramatic shift in the overall racial makeup of the electorate nationwide.

Again, these are preliminary election results, and these numbers can certainly and likely will change, as more exit poll results come in. We also wanted to get sort of the motivation behind why people are

voting for their candidate. Take a look at this. Forty-two percent of voters today tell us they are voting for the candidate that they're voting for because they strongly favor them. With all the negativity in this campaign, this is a bit of a surprise to me. I thought maybe this would be higher. Only 25 percent of voters today say they're making their choice because they dislike the opponent.

With these negatives really high on both Trump and Clinton, two very unliked candidates, I thought maybe more people would be voting for their opponents. But no. People out there today, a plurality of them, 42 percent, say they're voting today strongly in favor of the person they're voting for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And what you say, David, is these numbers will change as more exit polling results come in. Is that right?

CHALIAN: That's right. More interviews are being conducted. Certainly, these numbers are more about East Coast interviews. It has interviews from across the nation. But throughout the night you can go across the time zones of the country; and more and more from across the country will be feeding in throughout the night.

BLITZER: And we'll be checking back with you often. David, thank you.

Anderson, over to you.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. Back with the panel.

Bakari Sellers, it's interesting that only 20-some odd percent is voting because of who the person's opponent is, given the high dislikes that, frankly, both these candidates had.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think a lot of the narratives that we've been talking about in this race from the very beginning are just being shattered. I mean, people talking about the fact that this was going to be a low turnout race, because both candidates were so disliked. What we're going to see is that we're going to have turnout that breaks all records.

I think that you can attribute that to the ground game and the direct outreach to minorities of Hillary Clinton. And I think that you can direct that to Donald Trump's populism on steroids, is what I like to call it, talking about feeling the pain of these working-class voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. That's going to be the test tonight.

If you look at some of these numbers, one of the numbers that stuck out were the participation of minority voters in this election. You know, I think that you actually have to take away from the national sample and begin to look at these numbers in the states like North Carolina, in the states like Florida.

Because as we start to see the numbers come out about 7:30, 8 p.m. from Florida, you will start to see the impact of voters of color on this race. And that may not bode well for Donald Trump.

COOPER: Andre, what stands out to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the big things that stands out to me is, if you look at the money that was spent on this. Donald Trump, unconventional candidate, has been able to come in and has been able to run against almost every establishment. And if you look at what Hillary Clinton's spent in money to turn out vote, versus Donald Trump, it shows there is a new way to campaign in this country.

And it will be interesting to see -- I'd like to just see, per vote, when it's all said and done, what the Democrats had to spend per vote to get their candidates out -- or their voters out, versus what the Republicans had to spend.

[17:35:13] COOPER: If in the final analysis, though, Maria, Hillary Clinton wins, isn't that really all that matters?

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was just going to interject and say, except for if Hillary Clinton wins none of that will matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree. That doesn't mean you don't study it to move forward.

COOPER: That's a good point.

CARDONA: But then what I would say is, then, what will be underscored is how smart an investment the Hillary Clinton campaign was from day one. The kind of ground game that she has put together, the kind of infrastructure that we are now seeing that is pulling out every single one of the demographics that support her.

COOPER: And if Hillary Clinton loses and Donald Trump wins, I mean, there's going to be a whole new analysis, to Andre's point...

CARDONA: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... of how campaigns get run in the future, because it's been run for, you know, much less than what the Democrats spent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will mean the people control Washington again instead of special interests.

COOPER: Well, let's not go that far.

LEWANDOWSKI: But to Bakari's point, I think what you're going to see tonight is you're going to see massive turnout across the country. And I think that's a good thing for the country, candidly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a very good thing.

LEWANDOWSKI: I'm looking at the early numbers coming back in the state of New Hampshire, which I know very well. If you look at what the vote totals were in 2012, many towns have already reached or exceeded the vote totals from 2012. This is a state that doesn't have early voting. These people, before 5 p.m. tonight, have gone and voted at a higher level of participation than they did in the entire 2012 presidential election. I think that's a great thing.

COOPER: Also, when you look back -- and Donald Trump has a lot to do with this. You know, the numbers of people watching the primary debates. Unprecedented. From the beginning, from the get-go, people have been engaged in this election.

SELLERS: Well, that's also why you're going to be able to tell a lot about this race early on along the East Coast. Because you do have New Hampshire. You have Virginia. You have North Carolina. You have Florida. And if you look at Florida and if you look at the dynamics of this race, if Donald Trump does not win Florida, that's game, set, match. I mean, that's it. There aren't many paths that he can get to the White House that don't include him having an inside strait. I mean...

COOPER: Polls close in Florida at, what, 7:30?

SELLERS: Seven, and then you have -- then you have some at 8, and some are at 8 when you get across the Panhandle. So you will have the -- you will have these votes come out periodically throughout the night, and we'll be able to see what's going on pretty early.

COOPER: Yes. In past elections it's been, what, like 11:30 or so that we've often called races? Is that...

SELLERS: Eleven -- the A.P. usually calls it about 11.

GERGEN: 2000, it went a little longer.

COOPER: It went a little bit longer.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: Less than 30 minutes away from the first polls closing on this historic election day, no matter how you look at it. Stay with us throughout the night. Our coverage continues in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:41:54] BLITZER: We're watching late crowds of voters in Pennsylvania. Our CNN drone is flying over a polling place near Pittsburgh. We're live in many of the crucial battleground states right now that are so critical in determining who will win the White House.

We're back with a special edition -- election-night edition, I should say, of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're counting down to the first results in the presidential race. Votes will start coming in to the CNN election center just minutes from now from Indiana and Kentucky, where some polling places close early. Right now we're getting more insights from our exit poll results.

Let's go back to David Chalian. David, what else are you learning? CHALIAN: Hey, Wolf. We are looking at the Barack Obama factor in

tonight's election. You saw him campaigning hard out there for Hillary Clinton. Take a look at his approval rating across the country tonight in the exit polls. Fifty-four percent approve, 45 percent disapprove. This is about what we had seen in the pre- election polling. That seems to be bearing out among the electorate tonight.

Also, we asked, "Do you want to continue Barack Obama's policies or not?" Or do you want the more liberal or conservative, Wolf? Those who want to continue Barack Obama's policies or want more liberal policies, they add up to about 47 percent of the electorate. Forty- six percent of the electorate today say they want more conservative policies than Barack Obama's policies, clearly a divided country in terms of the president's policies.

And finally, we asked about the feelings of the federal government. I don't think this will surprise anyone paying attention to this election, Wolf. But take a look at this. Dissatisfied, 46 percent of voters today with the federal government. Add 23 percent of angry voters. Take a look at that. That is 69 percent of voters voting today are either dissatisfied or angry with the federal r government. That is what both of these candidates have been trying to respond to throughout this election, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to get more numbers from you shortly, David. Thanks very much.

Jake and Dana are with us. Jake, these numbers, what do they say to you?

TAPPER: Well, they suggest -- if they hold up, and these are still early-ish exit poll numbers. That this could be a long night and a competitive race, a very divided country. And if a lot of people feel resentful of Washington, that's significant. Fifty-four percent supporting President Obama, approving of the job he's done, that's also significant. And it shows what we've been saying all along. This -- this could be a very competitive race.

BASH: The fact that Barack Obama's approval rating is well above 50 percent is very telling. And it is so different from what we've seen in recent history with a president on their way out, Republican or Democrat. And it is a reminder of why Hillary Clinton has done something unusual, which is embrace a two-term president, and effectively run on a third term.

BLITZER: There are a lot of angry voters, based on these numbers out there that, as you say, Jake, that seems to bode relatively well for Donald Trump.

TAPPER: It would. I mean, that is the message that he's been driving home since the very moment he came down the escalator in the summer of 2015. The government is broken. It's not working for you when it comes to trade deals. It's not working for you when it comes to immigration or terrorism. And as he's been saying the last few weeks, it's time to drain the swamp of Washington, D.C. That has been a very powerful message.

[17:45:00] And, obviously, it's taken root in the minds of a lot of voters.

BLITZER: We're only 15 minutes away, Dana, or so from the first actual votes coming in. Exit poll numbers are important. They give us a clue, an indication. Sometimes they're right; sometimes they're not so right. But votes obviously count.

BASH: That's the whole ball game, no question about it. And it is going to be so fascinating to see, as those vote boards come in, as you start to read them, whether or not what we've been looking at, whether it is the divide in terms of the way that voters want this country to go or the divide with regard to these two candidates bear out in how we see these states come out.

BLITZER: Let's go over to Anderson for some analysis. Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Wolf. Thanks very much.

Kirsten, I mean, as we look at, again, more of these exit polls and, again, it's very early in the evening, just a reminder just how divided this nation is. I mean, essentially split evenly on whether they want policies akin to President Obama's or more liberal, or the complete opposite.

POWERS: Right. And angry. And, you know, there was poll right before the election that had two-thirds of all voters saying that they were ashamed to be an American. So you have a very unhappy electorate right now.

But I think if you look at the breakdown -- and I think we have to always remember there were a lot of early voters.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: And so the composition might be a little different when you add that in. But it doesn't look that different from the composition in 2012. So these are early numbers, we have to wait and see.

But, right now, we have White voters, about two points down; Black voters, about one point down; Hispanic, up one; and Asian, up one. So, you know, it will be interesting to see as the night goes on if that changes and how the overall composition once we factor everything together, come together.

COOPER: But as Kirsten pointed out, in the early voting, certainly in a state like Florida, we've seen much of larger turnout of Latino voters.

HENDERSON: Yes.

COOPER: And a different sort of Latino voter, not just sort of traditional Cuban voters. We have much more Latino population in Florida now from South America and Puerto Rico. HENDERSON: Yes, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic. You see some change

in terms of the Asian vote in a place like North Carolina. I mean, you see a voting surge there as well with Latinos in all across the south. I mean, those two voting blocs are the fastest-growing voting blocs. And historically, they haven't had the turnout numbers that African-Americans have had or Whites have had.

I mean, this is going to be the most diverse electorate that America has ever seen, and we have, in Donald Trump, a candidate that hasn't always known how to reach out to those groups and in many ways has repelled them. I think the fact that they're showing up in such numbers certainly speaks to Donald Trump, and also, I think, speaks to a lot of these grassroots organizations across the country, like Voto Latino, that had been registering these groups in droves. And we see in the early voting.

COOPER: It also speaks to where the future of the country is going.

CUPP: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes.

CUPP: Well, and that's been --

HENDERSON: Well, the future is here already.

CUPP: That will be the biggest question answered tonight or early tomorrow or, hopefully not, in weeks. But, you know, the rationale behind a lot of the Republican consternation over Trump, people who are not voting for Trump, was two things. One, it's kind of a bad look for conservatives, as the kid would say. Two, that he wasn't going to be electable in a general because of the changing demography of the country. That will bear out.

We will find out if that's actually true tonight. But it's funny, when you go back -- and I went back through some of the polling in the Republican primary -- about whether voters prioritized electability, they really didn't. If they had, we would have Marco Rubio or John Kasich as the nominee. So this issue, this, you know, angst over a Republican, you know, putting up an electable candidate might have really just been from strategists and analysts, because clearly it wasn't that important to the electorate.

COOPER: David.

GERGEN: When Bill Clinton ran for presidency in 1992, 88 percent of the electorate was Caucasian White. Hillary Clinton runs, it's 70 percent. You know, the numbers are coming down, down and down. And that's why, for both parties, you know, appealing to the minority vote matters.

And I think one of the questions, if Donald Trump loses -- now, he may win. These numbers suggest he could still win this thing. But if he loses, there's going to be a big question the Republican Party relationship, especially to Latinos. I would point out that California used to be a purple state.

Republicans could win California in the presidential level. And in the 1990s, the Republicans put a ballot out there, a proposition, The Proposition 187, it stuck a stick right in the eyes of Latinos, and Latinos went over to the Democratic side. And California has been a blue state ever since. It went off the board. If that happens nationwide, the Republicans are going to fracture as a party.

COOPER: And there's been so much talk of the autopsy that was done by the Republican Party --

GERGEN: Yes, absolutely.

COOPER: -- in 2012. If Donald Trump does not win tonight, I mean, there's going to be autopsies of the autopsies.

HENDERSON: But that would mean, do they --

GERGEN: There should be.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean, do they just re-release that same autopsy, and say, hey, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

CUPP: I honestly don't think an autopsy is need.

HENDERSON: Yes. I mean it's certainly --

CUPP: And the reason will be clear.

HENDERSON: Yes.

CUPP: And it will be because the results of the autopsy were completely sort of overlooked for a time but --

COOPER: But you know

(CROSSTALK)

[17:50:00] COOPER: But within the Republican Party, there's always a difference of opinion where there wasn't a true conservative candidate.

HENDERSON: Right. Yes.

COOPER: There will be that argument made or --

HENDERSON: Yes, yes. And that's the thing. And it's like you're saying Donald Trump might do better than Mitt Romney.

CUPP: Right.

HENDERSON: I mean, he's going to win Ohio possibly. He's going to win Iowa possibly. He could, ages, win the whole thing on this strategy that was really about White voters, right? And so -- GERGEN: Yes, but to lose to a candidate, and Hillary Clinton who has 54 percent disapproval rating going into the election, and if you still lose, then you've got t0 do some soul searching, if I were you.

ANDRE BAUER (R), FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: But the Republicans have to do some soul searching anyway because there were a lot of Republicans that wanted somebody talking about things that Republicans, for too long, have talked about but hadn't done, and that's reforming Washington. You know, the Republicans allowed the budget to be spent over a trillion dollars last year, so they haven't demonstrated what a conservative is.

And there are a lot of people out there saying the Republicans haven't shown anything different than the Democrats. And that's why Donald Trump was successful this year. There's problems within the party itself, within identity.

SELLERS: I think one of the things that you're going to see tonight, and Nia brought this up, and I think that Hillary Clinton's going to have a more difficult time winning a state like Ohio and Iowa, where she's going to fare much better than people think in a state like Florida. And then you see North Carolina, which is in the Deep South, actually turning purplish blue.

And I think that for a long period of time, you're going to be able to put Iowa and Ohio in the red category, and we're getting to the point where you can put Florida and North Carolina in the blue category. And what that shows is the shifting of demographics in this country.

I've sat here my times with you, Anderson, and I said Donald Trump's number one problem, the thing that will beat Donald Trump in November -- and we're here now -- is demographics. It was true when he was nominated and it's very true now.

And unless the Republican Party adapts -- there was a picture taken -- and I know Maria wants to get in, but there was a picture in South Carolina during the South Carolina primary. It was a picture of Trey Gowdy, Marco Rubio, Tim Scott, and Nikki Haley. It was what the Republican Party wanted their future to look like. The next day, Corey Lewandowski went out and beat them by 20 points in the South Carolina primary. And so the Republican Party has a real problem of how it wants to look in the future.

COOPER: Corey, where are you tonight? I mean, obviously, we've talked about this before. Florida is a must-win state for Donald Trump. You still agree with that, yes?

LEWANDOWSKI: Absolutely.

COOPER: What other states are you looking for for that path to 270? And where do you see the best?

LEWANDOWSKI: So I think the path that most people agree that is best for Donald Trump is you have to win Florida. You're going to carry the Romney states. That would include carrying North Carolina, as you know. Mitt Romney went into North Carolina down 450,000 votes on Election Day and came out ahead of Barack Obama by 77,000.

Donald Trump's numbers are much better than that. I think you include the State of New Hampshire there. And then I think if you look at the battleground states which are in play, Donald Trump is going to win the state of Ohio. No Republican has carried that state in two presidential election cycles.

He is going to win Iowa. It's a foregone conclusion. Barack Obama wanted to go there, and he was told not to go there because they are so concerned about the state of Michigan that Barack Obama was in Michigan on the eve of the election making sure that state stays blue. We will see if that is going to happen.

What we do know is that the African-American turnout in Detroit is 50 percent of what it was four years ago. What we do know is that the blue collar voters have historically --

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes, yes.

LEWANDOWSKI: Yes, we do know that from the early polling. Of course, we know that.

HENDERSON: Yes.

LEWANDOWSKI: What we also know is that the blue collar voters are exactly in line with Trump because they've been hammered by bad trade deals, which Hillary Clinton has called the gold standard. And now, they're trying to change that. The Democrats are campaigning in Michigan. That is where a state that's a great opportunity for Donald Trump.

And then you look at Colorado where he's got a 16,000 vote lead going into Election Day. That's unheard of for a Republican in a state like that.

COOPER: So, Maria, when you hear Corey's idea of where the path is, do you buy that?

CARDONA: I mean, sure, anything is possible. It's still very narrow, it's very steep, and it's riddled with thickets and thorns and holes that Donald Trump himself dug, the first one being, if he loses tonight, he will have started that loss the minute that he came down that escalator after he called Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals, and drug lords.

There is an exit poll, actually an election eve poll, that Latino Decisions does, and they're the premier polling firm for Hispanics in this country. They did it last night.

LEWANDOWSKI: You shouldn't reference poll --

CARDONA: They did it last night. Five --

LEWANDOWSKI: I mean, I don't recognize polls that doesn't matter.

CARDONA: -- 5,000 Hispanics and they do it bilingually, which is how you're supposed to poll Latino voters. They said the number one issue for Latinos that they are going to come out and vote on is immigration. That is almost unheard of because normally it's jobs and the economy. This is how much the discussion on immigration has impacted.

COOPER: OK.

SELLERS: In --

LEWANDOWSKI: It is not recognized.

COOPER: Bakari.

SELLERS: In 2008 and 2012, both President McCain and President Romney decided they were going to bet on states like Michigan and Pennsylvania in some hope that African-American voters simply were not going to come out and they were going to be able to swell White vote in certain parts. And that is the same gamble that Donald Trump is taking tonight.

It's this hope that somehow everybody in Detroit is just going to sit at home. It's this hope that everybody in Cuyahoga County in Ohio is just going to stay home, or everybody in Philadelphia is just going to stay home. And it just does not work that way. Every single cycle, the Republican Party goes after Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin as if they're their unicorn, and it hasn't worked for President McCain or President Romney.

[17:55:11] COOPER: Let's take a look with Wolf and John at the metro poll. Guys.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. John, we're here at the magic wall. Tell us what Hillary Clinton is looking for tonight, hoping for, what Donald Trump is hoping for. Work it off for us.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First and foremost, it's finally here. A little more than an hour, we're going to start to fill this in. The first poll's actually closing at, what, five minutes or so. We'll start to fill in.

I just want to tell our viewers, you see New Hampshire is already red. That's voting last night and a couple of small towns at midnight. So you'll see some states fill in during the night early on. They fill in by who's leading. That doesn't mean who wins. Follow us for the wins.

So if you're Hillary Clinton, Wolf, let's go back in time and look at 2012 map. You just heard the panel. They're excited tonight, aren't they, because they're expecting a close, competitive race?

So if you're Hillary Clinton, what are you looking for? Number one, protect the blues. Everyone knows that. Protect Michigan and Pennsylvania. Number two, early on, let's go through what happens. Here, let me take this off.

One of the things I'm going to look early on for Hillary Clinton, we probably can get this one a taste. See this little tiny county here in western Indiana? Indiana is likely to vote Republican tonight. It's a Republican state. It's the home of Donald Trump's running mate, Vigo County, Indiana. It says 49-49. He actually won by a few votes. It's only been wrong twice in the last 100 years. It has a 15 consecutive election streak, so it's one of the little quirky counties I like to look at on election night. So I'll watch that to see who the next President is going to be, period, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Then, if you're Hillary Clinton, as the votes start to come in, one of the early states that will come in is Virginia. Now, Clinton is favored here. It's the home state of her running mate, the former Governor Tim Kaine. Even if she's ahead in Virginia, Wolf, this is going to tell us a lot about what's happening in competitive states like neighboring North Carolina.

So the results start to come in here. Number one, how is Donald Trump doing out here? You asked me a question about Hillary Clinton, but her team is going to be looking at how much is Donald Trump running it up in these small rural counties because you have them here in Virginia. Guess what? You have them in Ohio, you have them in Pennsylvania, you have them in North Carolina.

Number two, Virginia close races are settled right up here in the Washington, D.C. area suburbs. This is Prince William County, used to be reliably Republican. Look how much President Obama won it by four years ago when Virginia was relatively competitive. Republican voters have become Democratic voters. So those college-educated White voters for Hillary Clinton, they are key in Virginia. They're key in the Pennsylvania, especially in the Philly suburbs. They're key in the Cleveland suburbs, in the Columbus suburbs. They're key in the research triangle in North Carolina. This will be our first laboratory of those voters.

Plus, one of the biggest population growths here in Prince William County, Latinos. Latinos, we expect Latinos to have a big imprint on tonight's election. Our first indication will be right here.

And then you're going to look down the coast. Obviously, Hillary Clinton's strategy the last few days has been a blocking strategy. North Carolina will become key to us all night long. President Obama won it in 2008. Mitt Romney took it back in 2012. It is one of the most contested states in America. One thing we're going to look for here, what percentage of the White vote is Hillary Clinton getting?

Back in 2008, President Obama got 35 percent of the White vote. He carried the state, but just barely. Look at that. Just barely. His percentage of the White vote fell to 31 percent four years ago and he lost the state.

Another place, a battleground within the battleground, we're going to look at Wade County. This is where Raleigh is. Yes, there's significant African-American population here that Hillary Clinton must turn out. A lot of that was done in early voting. But look at the margin here, 55-44. President Obama wins this county by 11 points, Wolf, but he lost the state just narrowly. If you go back to 2008 when he won it, he won it by 15 points.

Again, here, you're looking at African-American turnout and also those college-educated White voters.

BLITZER: If you're Donald Trump, what are you worried about right now?

KING: If you're Donald Trump, well, what you're looking at right now --

BLITZER: And what do you want to do if you're Donald Trump?

KING: If you're Donald Trump, let's start right here. If you're Donald Trump, you want to win this. Bakari was just talking about this as the unicorn. I covered George W. Bush both times. He wanted this very badly. Mitt Romney wanted this very badly. Republicans always look at Pennsylvania. Look at all that red. You look at all that red and you think, why can't I win this state? This is probably key to Donald Trump.

Donald Trump has to win Florida. He probably has to win North Carolina. Twenty-nine electoral votes in Florida, 15 in North Carolina. But then he still needs more. He has to turn -- let's go back to the winning map. This is the winning map for the Democrats. This is eight years ago. Here is the winning map for the Democrats four years ago.

If Donald Trump is going to win, yes, he has to keep all these reds from Romney, but he has to turn something big blue. This would be 29. This would be 20. This would be 16. Donald Trump is looking number one, that's a must. And if he gets that, then he needs a big blue to leap frog. He's also going to look in Corey's home state up there of New Hampshire.

Donald Trump's path is more complicated. He has to win many more states. So what is he going to look for within these states? When we -- 8:00 hour is Pennsylvania. We'll get some clues in the 7:00 hour. 8:00 hour in Pennsylvania, number one, what are the margins in these small, rural counties? Is Donald Trump running it up? Tiny, less than one percent of the population but he needs to run it up like that, maybe even more. That's your White working class voters coming out to vote.

Number two, what is he doing in these blue areas? He went to Scranton on purpose. Can this be a smaller margin for Donald Trump here? If it is, he's in play in Pennsylvania. Wolf and Anderson?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, John. We're about to get the first results of the 2016 presidential race.

COOPER: This election night will be historic no matter who wins.