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Virginia's Swing State Voters Send Message To Trump; Democrats Sweep Elections One Year After Trump's Win; Trump In China For Talks Likely Focused On North Korea. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 8, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It's 11:00 a.m. here on the east coast, and it is also gut check time for Republicans across the country, after Democrats racked up major wins overnight, in races both big and small.

In Virginia's governor's race, President Trump clearly was not on the ballot, but he might as well have been, as Democrat Ralph Northam crushed his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie.


RALPH NORTHAM (D), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness that we will not condone hatred and bigotry, and to end the politics that have torn this country apart.


BOLDUAN: And in the harsh light of the day after, even some Republicans, some Republicans from Virginia, too, they seem to agree.


REPRESENTATIVE SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: I think that last night was a referendum. I don't think there's any way that you can look at it in a different way, to be honest with you and be intellectually consistent.


BOLDUAN: So, what does the president have to say about that? Essentially, don't look at me. Tweeting after the Gillespie loss this, "Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for."

Let's get to it. Let's break it down. What message were voters really trying to send? CNN political director, David Chalian is joining me now with much more. So, David, the votes, they tell us one thing, of course, but the exit polls offered some really interesting insight last night, not much of it, I guess, I would say, uplifting to Republicans, though. What are you seeing? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No. One of the first thing we look for, Kate, was this Trump factor that you're talking about. So, when we ask voters in Virginia, do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job?

Take a look at the results, Virginia voters yesterday, he had a 40 percent approval rating among the Virginia electorate, 57 percent disapprove, 17 points underwater there. That is never a good sign if you are a candidate in the president's party and that's where his standing is.

Of course, how did those votes split? As you might imagine, the 40 percent who approve of the president overwhelmingly went for Gillespie, 91 percent to 8 percent, 57 percent, remember, a much larger share of the electorate that disapprove for him, disapprove of Trump went overwhelmingly for Northam, 87 percent to 11 percent.

We also asked, is he a factor in your vote choice at all? And take a look at this, do you see that middle number there, 34 percent oppose Trump in the reason why they went to go cast their vote.

So, while 47 percent of the electorate said, not a factor at all, by two to one margin, if Donald Trump was a factor, it was a factor in the negative direction, overwhelmingly, those voters who oppose Trump, 97-2, went for Northam.

BOLDUAN: So Trump was an issue in this election. But beyond that, what were the issues that got voters to the polls in Virginia?

CHALIAN: You know, I was quite surprised at this. Not surprised that health care would be a top issue and most important because it has dominated obviously a lot of the political landscape this year, but by how much.

Far and away, health care was the number one issue, some 39 percent of voters said it was their number one issue. The next closest issue was at 17 percent, it was gun policy. But if health care was your number one issue, and for four in 10 voters in Virginia, Kate, it was, you were overwhelmingly likely to be a Northam voter.

So, this was a vote against the idea of repealing protections on health care, looking to keep some of the protections in place from Obamacare.

BOLDUAN: So, do you see there being a biggest lesson learned or should be learned for Republicans today?

CHALIAN: I think the biggest warning sign, I don't know if it will be a lesson learned, but clearly, the biggest warning sign in the results is that Democrats are enthused. This is not -- and we were just talking about Virginia, but across the country, mayoral races, state legislative races, ballot initiatives, this was a sweeping Democratic win last night.

And it is because this is what it looks like when the, quote/unquote, "resistance" shows up at the polls. There's no other lesson to learn there. So, seeing that Democratic enthusiasm and turnout will give Republicans quite a bit of pause as they're turning the corner into an election year, where the House of Representatives, control of it, is up for grabs.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating stuff. Great to see you, David. Thank you.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Joining me now to dive into this a little bit more, Bryan Lanza, former deputy communications director for Donald Trump's campaign, Angela Rye, former director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Doug Heye, former communications director for the Republican National Committee. All three of those fine humans are CNN political commentators.

And then there is this guy, Chris Cilizza, reporter and editor-at- large of CNN Politics. Great to see you all. Doug, first to you. Republicans, they wake up today. They get their political teams on the line and they tell them what?

DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the first thing they do is they have a reckoning of what exactly happened. As David was talking about earlier, obviously, we know that Ed Gillespie lost in the marquise governor race, we lost the governor's race in New Jersey.

But more importantly than that are these state and local races where we saw in the house of delegates a massive sweep for Republicans. So, we know there's an army out there coming out against Republicans.

[11:05:02] But what we also see and hasn't really been talked about as much has been the retirements from incumbent Republican members of the House. We had two yesterday, one from a swing district in New Jersey. What we're hearing now is there are going to be more to come. This shouldn't be a surprise. Morale in the party is low.

BOLDUAN: Doug, do you think this pushes more -- what happened last night pushes more to retire?

HEYE: I think if you're thinking about it, you've moved that needle just a little bit more. And part of it is because suburban Republican voters who were uncomfortable with Trump, but came out to vote against Hillary Clinton certainly stayed home in Northern Virginia yesterday. That's something they need to be really concerned about.

And also says, focus on these local issues, on these national issues, it's not going well for you. If you can talk about local issues, how they matter to your constituents and what you've done for them, it's a good step forward for you.

BOLDUAN: It's so funny, because a Virginia Republican, someone you know pretty well, Doug Heye, Dave Bratt, he just said on CNN to John and Poppy --

HEYE: I have never met Dave Bratt.

BOLDUAN: Really? We'll try to make that happen someday.

HEYE: That's OK.

BOLDUAN: He said, we didn't nationalize it enough. You can hear the backstory. Anyway, I digress. Bryan, Republican Scott Taylor says this that this was a referendum on the president and he doesn't think there's any other way else to look at if you're being intellectually honest. If it is a referendum, what was the resolve?

BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I would say this. It was a referendum on an action that took place in Congress and the president, you know, some of that lands on the president, some of that lands on Congress. You know, we made promises, and we made commitments, and we have to sort of move forward with that agenda.

I hope that this is a wake-up call to the Republican Party in the House and the president that we need to do something. We need to put some lead on the target and start delivering on the policies that we promised and stop playing games.

I mean, the focus needs to be pushing an agenda for the American people that they voted for last November. Now, blue states went blue, that doesn't surprise me. But still, we would have like to have had won some of those seats.

BOLDUAN: Blue states so Virginia is officially a blue state in Bryan Lanza's book now?

LANZA: I mean, they have two U.S. senators and they control all the statewides. That is a blue state by every measurement.

BOLDUAN: All right. We heard that from Cory Gardner, as well. Dems won expectedly Dem seats, Chris. The line from "The New York Times" overnight was, Trumpism without Trump doesn't work. Was Gillespie's mistake do you think that he didn't run close enough to Trump, didn't bear hug him enough or didn't create enough distance?

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I think it's that you have to do sort of do both of those things, Kate, in order to win. Remember, Ed Gillespie almost lost the primary back in June to a guy named Cory Stewart, who was involved with the Trump campaign in Virginia, although was let go from that job.

No one thought that race was going to be close, including Ed Gillespie, he narrowly sneaks by. Why? Because the Trump base doesn't see him as sufficiently loyal. Now, when it comes to the general election, Gillespie tries to do Trumpism without Trump, we don't really want Donald Trump the person here.

But we're going to talking about MS-13 and sanctuary cities, even though there are none in Virginia. We're going to talk about keeping the confederate monuments up. That doesn't work, because in places like Loudoun County, Exurban D.C., he gets swamped in what was a swing county. Ralph Northam wins by 20.

So, that to me is the question, you ask Doug, what are people waking up to? If you're a Republican, you're waking up to the reality, which is to win a primary, you have to hug Donald Trump. To win a general election, you have to find a way to get away from him. I don't know how you square that circle.

BOLDUAN: It's been -- you know, you run to the right in the primary, run to the center in the general. That's been kind of the playbook for a long time. It seems that it's just on steroids now, when you're looking specifically at Donald Trump.

Angela, is Democratic exuberance too much too soon? Is there a case to be made, these state elections, they don't translate to federal elections, and we are a year out from midterms.

ANGELA RYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We are definitely a year out, but I don't think the exuberance is without cause, right? I think that it's been a very challenging season for Democrats and I don't know how as party you would have sustained a substantial loss yesterday, frankly.

There are a number of things in-house that have to be addressed. I think we see that -- a lot of that with Donna Brazile's new book. That it didn't take the book for us to see that. There is a firm divide between a Bernie camp and a Hillary camp, and all of us in between that just want to get it right before 2018 and certainly before 2020.

I think one other very important theme that we would be remiss if we did not address it, is that diversity and inclusion is not just a corporate concept. This is something that works as well in elections. We saw that with the lieutenant governors in both New Jersey and Virginia.

The very same person who frankly Ralph Northam left off of campaign literature was Justin Fairfax, someone who we've seen as a rising star for some time. We also have seen mayoral races, all over the country, taken over by black and brown people, by an Asian person, newly elected to a state legislature.

In my home state of Washington State, that Senate now has flipped, because there was a woman of color on the ballot, who had a successful and wonderful story to tell. We can no longer look at DNI like it is corporate alone.

[11:10:11] It is also time for us to incorporate those concepts. Not just as Democrats or Republicans should do in elections.

BOLDUAN: Doug, to Bryan's point earlier of Speaker Ryan was asked for his reaction about the Democratic wave today, as he focuses on tax reform, and he essentially says, as Bryan says, we need to get some points on the board. Listen to this.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), HOUSE SPEAKER: It just emphasizes my reading of the current moment, which is, we have a promise to keep. If anything, this just puts more pressure on making sure that we follow through.


BOLDUAN: Follow through. We need to get a win. We need to get tax reform over the line. Does last night change today at all for Republicans, when it comes to this now number one priority of their tax plan?

HEYE: I think what it does is it turns the pressure up. It turns the heat up for Republicans to know that they have to put some --

BOLDUAN: It wasn't high already?

HEYE: You know, to use spinal tap, I think one of Chris' favorite movies, we were at 10, it now has to go to 11, and Republicans have to look at it like this because what happened in the state legislative races could happen nationally. That bodes very poorly for redistricting moving forward and we know there's not going to be any phantasmagoric uniting of Republicans. The party is split in two. That's going to continue. If there are no points on the board, it's only going to get to worse.

BOLDUAN: I do love your references. Bryan, challenge to you, what movie reference are you now going to use? Trump used the same playbook, Bryan, here, as he did in Alabama and this is what I mean. He endorses a candidate and when that candidate loses, he turns his back as fast as he can. What should Republican voters take from that? Should they trust a Donald Trump endorsement?

LANZA: You know, listen, if we're doing movie references, I think the reference is, you need him on that wall. I think Republicans need to understand, to win, they need to embrace the president and push forward the agenda in a unified message.

What you don't want is division between these two camps. They need to know that the 2018 elections are critical. They're critical for moving the agenda forward, and they all need to be on the same page.

And when you look at of what the poll came out last week that showed that the public was unsatisfied with the goals that we've tried to achieve, and they want to actually see some real lead on the target I think that's where we need to focus.

BOLDUAN: Come together. Come together, Bryan, says.

LANZA: Fight together.

BOLDUAN: Fight together. There you go, Chris.

CILIZZA: Kate, one of the problems here is that look, the only person that could unite the Republican Party after the 2008 election was Barack Obama and he did so, and they scored huge gains in 2010 and 2014.

BOLDUAN: But who is that now? CILIZZA: Well, what Virginia suggests is that Democrats now have a uniting person and it's Donald Trump. The problem is, Republicans don't still have Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or as back in the day, Teddy Kennedy, someone --

LANZA: We have Nancy Pelosi.

CILIZZA: Nancy Pelosi, theoretically, but in my opinion, not as big a figure. That's what's hard, particularly in midterm elections and off-year elections, a lot of times voters are voting against something or someone rather than for something or for someone.

That was definitely true in 2010 and 2014 and Republican gains were largely about a desire to rein in Obama and Democrats and that agenda. I think yesterday, particularly in Virginia, was about saying, we don't want what Donald Trump is selling.

I'm not sure, and Angela mentioned this, I'm not sure it was a, we want what this Democrat or Democrats more broadly are selling, but that might be enough. You may not need that with Donald Trump in the White House if you're Democrat.

BOLDUAN: Let's flip the script. Angela, play along with me. Can you find the glass half full moment for Republicans after last night?

RYE: No.

BOLDUAN: Can you try?

RYE: I really -- I really can't. I think what's interesting and you just asked this question about this tax reform plan, what's interesting to me is after 60 plus attempts to repeal Obamacare and then Donald Trump trying to find his little small thing he could do to tear it apart, via executive order, I think it's interesting that their plan is still to go forward with tax reform.

If Virginia exit polls are right, as David mentioned, and folks were overwhelmingly voting about health care, it seems like you would really try to resolve this and make this work, because access to health care should be a bipartisan-based solution. Everybody needs health care. Everybody gets sick on both sides of the aisle. Everybody needs preventative care.

So that is what's interesting to me. The tax reform plan seems a little tone deaf. I somehow, for some reason, got on a mailing for a Republican member of Congress and they sent this e-mail out saying, don't you just want to fill out your tax returns on this little note card.

It's like, yes, but at what cost? If you're going to get rid of all of the deductions, of all of the things that makes taxes palatable in this country, probably not. So, it just seems a little tone deaf.

BOLDUAN: I think the breaking news of this segment is that Angela Rye is officially a persuadable voter. I'm just telling you. That is news. Great to see all of you. LANZA: What the hell do we have to lose?

RYE: Everything.

BOLDUAN: Just keep trying, Bryan. A wish and prayer, man. Great to see you, guys. Thanks so much.

[11:15:09] All right. This morning, Beijing is rolling out the red carpet for President Trump and despite trashing China quite often during the election, the president now has some big asks for China's leader when it comes to North Korea. What to expect and what's at stake in this crucial stop on his overseas trip?

Plus, the president told me I should talk to you, that's what the CIA director said while meeting with a man who pedaled a conspiracy theory that the Democratic National Committee e-mail hack was an inside job. Does the CIA director still think Russia meddled in the 2016 election, as the intelligence community has said? A new report, coming up.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Do not underestimate us and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty.

[11:20:05] We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated.


BOLDUAN: President Trump's stern warning to North Korea, while standing before the South Korean parliament, before Trump even spoke, North Korea, they had something to say and they called the president a mad dog and said they don't care what he has to say.

It is all of this against -- it is against that backdrop that President Trump arrives in China now for maybe the most crucial stop in his five-nation tour to meet China's leader.

CNN senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny is traveling with the president and joins me now from Beijing. So, Jeff, what is the White House saying going into what is absolutely a crucial day?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is, indeed, Kate. No question. This is the most sequential stop of all the president's travels through Asia, largely because of just the growing tension over economic issues and also certainly North Korea, front and center.

The president, of course, has had the red carpet rolled out for him here. President Xi Jinping is trying to flatter President Trump, no question. He invited he and the first lady to have dinner at the Forbidden City. The first U.S. leader in modern China history to do that. But no question here, President Trump is asking China to step up and increase its efforts to help rein in the North Korean nuclear program here. But, China is in a position of strength here.

President Xi Jinping, of course, is newly empowered in a historic fashion. Congress just giving him more power here. President Trump, of course, on weaker footing. But it is the -- these sanctions that President Trump will be asking for when they have their meetings.

There's no expectation of anything immediate to come from this, but it is building the argument for how China needs to be a part of this confrontation of North Korea.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. And Jeff, there was so much conversation before Trump even went overseas about, was the president going to visit the demilitarized zone when he was in South Korea? What happened with that attempt, that surprise visit?

ZELENY: Well, turnout yesterday, the president was going to try to do a surprise unannounced visit to the DMZ, of course, the border between South Korea and North Korea, and he was going to meet there with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.

Well, the South Korean president made it, President Trump did not because of heavy fog. He was unable to fly his helicopter there. So, the White House ended up being disappointed by this. The president was going to, obviously, try for a major photo op there.

Interestingly, just a week ago, the White House said he was not going. He views it as something that most presidents do, but it was not very substantive. But in the end, that photo-op was foiled by fog in South Korea.

But here in Beijing, the president scheduled to meet tomorrow with President Xi Jinping again for serious bilateral meetings. Again, this meeting, the biggest stop in his long Asia trip -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great to see you. Jeff, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, former spokesman at the State Department, Elise Labott, CNN's global affairs correspondent. Great to see both of you.

John, what is your expectation at this point of what President Trump will be leaving Beijing with after all of this pomp and circumstance, and a busy day of meetings ahead?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I don't know that he's going to be leaving with a whole lot, tangibly, to be honest with you. Kate, I think he obviously wants to talk about trade issues and try to get the trade imbalance settled. Certainly, North Korea is going to be on the plate in the object. I guess, I'm sure, actually is to get China to do more, to implement the sanctions a little bit more strongly. But I also hope that he takes a little time to talk about the South China Sea and China's militarization in that part of the Asia-Pacific Region and make clear to the Chinese that we are a Pacific power, and we are not going to go away.

So, I don't know if he'll come away with tangible benefits, necessarily, but I think this is an opportunity for him to hold some lines with China and to try to get them to do more against Pyongyang.

BOLDUAN: Elise, I am seeing some reporting that President Trump is going to be asking China to cut off oil exports to North Korea, even temporarily, close down North Korean bank accounts that are in China, send home tens of thousands of North Koreans who work in China. Is there an incentive for China to agree to this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There's an incentive for China to do as little as possible, Kate, but also look as if it's doing something. Clearly, China has not done enough. The U.S. and the international community know that China has a lot more influence on North Korea.

But that said, China has been continuing to do more. It started under President Obama, but certainly, under President Trump, is doing more than it ever did. It has cut off some banking relationships between Chinese banks and North Korean banks.

And it, you know, did stop coal shipments. Obviously, that fuel -- cutting off fuel would be the big thing that China could do, but, you know, China thinks that's not going to help them in any way.

[11:25:11] That could destabilize the regime and certainly, that's not something they want to see. You know, North Korea is really a buffer against a unified Korean Peninsula. They don't want to see this all go to pot.

They certainly don't want to see North Korea use a nuclear weapon, but there is some kind of benefit for China in the status quo. I think you'll see China continue to slowly, slowly dial it up, but I don't think it's going to be the big-ticket cutoff of all fuel.

At least right now, if you continue to see some North Korean nuclear tests, more provocation than China is going to have more difficult choices to make. But I agree with John, that I don't think President Trump is going to go away with everything that he wants on this trip.

BOLDUAN: John, let me ask you this. Last night in South Korea, the president spoke, he gave, you know, a 35-minute speech. He spoke directly to North Korea in part. Here's one of things that he said. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship. The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face. North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves.


BOLDUAN: John, did Donald Trump once and for all, with that speech, lay out the U.S. policy towards North Korea?

KIRBY: I think there's a lot of people that are hoping exactly that, Kate. The way I looked at the speech, I thought it was adequate to the task. And the way I looked at it was that he finally now is aligned with the rest of his national security team, which I think has been a doing a commendable job trying to deal with a much more urgent problem and working together as an inner agency.

And he's been out there sort of on his own tweeting and undermining the diplomatic efforts. I saw this as him finally in alignment with his team. What really needs to happen now, Kate, not just throughout the rest of his trip, but for months to come, he needs to now stay consistent, he needs to continue to deliver those same messages time and time again, and stay aligned with his team.

BOLDUAN: That might be the biggest question of all, the consistency. Great to see you both. Thank you so much.

Still ahead for us, I knew that was going to be my last day to live. That is a harrowing first account of what happened inside that Texas church the moment the gunman entered and opened fire indiscriminately.

Just as we're also learning more about the killer, that he once escaped from a mental health facility. How does that weave into all of this? That's coming up next.