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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Washington Post Denied Credentials To Moore Election Party; Early Exit Poll: 49 Percent Have Favorable Opinion Of Jones; Early Exit Poll: 49 Percent Moore Allegations Definitely Or Probably True; Trump In White House Residence, Following Alabama Race; Trump And Tillerson Differ On North Korea Talks. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired December 12, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Listen, no hold on, you're not named Ana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, your daughter is not here. Look, I can tell you that my African-American friends feel that he goes after African- Americans. The Hispanics see what he did with Arpaio, feels that he goes after Hispanics and women absolutely feel the he targets them.
Look, we saw it with Frederica Wilson. We saw it with the family of the dead soldier. We saw it with Gillibrand. We see it over and over again. You had a pattern of this (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take a break. Stay with us. Erin Burnett picks up our election night coverage next.
ERIN BURNETT, OUTFRONT HOST: And thank you, Anderson. You're looking at a live picture right now at the Alabama capital. The state's voters are choosing their next U.S. senator. This is a race being watched around the world, and it could be a defining moment for President Trump and his party.
I'm Erin Burnett. This is a special edition of OUTFRONT on this election night in Alabama. And I want to go straight to Wolf Blitzer as we begin here. Wolf, the stakes tonight could not be higher.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, indeed, Erin. We're closing in on the first results out of Alabama. Voting ends an hour from now.
The Democrat Doug Jones is battling against the Republican Roy Moore for the seat held by Jeff Sessions before he became attorney general of the United States. Moore was an extremely controversial figure, even before he was hit with multiple allegations of past sexual abuse and assault involving teen-aged girls. After initially staying quiet, President Trump cast his lot with Moore, stressing the need for a Republican win and suggesting he believes Moore's denials.
Many Senate Republicans, though, are deeply worried that a Moore victory will taint the Republican Party and sharpen its divisions with the 2018 battle for the control of the House and Senate just around the corner. The big question tonight, will that controversy be enough for Alabama voters to elect a Democrat to the U.S. Senate for the first time in 25 years?
Doug Jones and his supporters certainly hope so. Whatever the outcome, this is promising to be a historic night that will help shape the second year of Donald Trump's presidency. Let's bring in Jake Tapper. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, obviously, we don't know what's going to happen tonight, but with the fact that Alabama is so deep red. This is Roy Moore's race to lose.
We have reporters standing by at the headquarters for both the Democratic candidate and the Republican candidate. First, let's go to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's at Roy Moore's headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama. Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, the mood here has certainly been confident so far, but we just learned something that may show that the Moore campaign is not as confident as they projected so far. And an official tells me that Roy Moore is of the mind that this race could certainly go either way tonight because they say it's a special election and that certainly anything can happen here.
Now, when I asked if those concerns had anything to do with the fact that Moore took nearly a week off the campaign trail in the last few days before voters went to the polls, they said that surely was not a concern of theirs because Roy Moore has been campaigning for this race since April and really for 40 years. And when asked about his opponent Doug Jones has been knocking on 80,000 doors in the last weekend alone, they said that Doug Jones has his strategy and we have ours.
Now, we know he spent the day with his family, speaking with supporters who have been encouraging him all day. But the campaign official declined to say if he stopped at any polling places on his way down from northern Alabama to Montgomery where his election party is being held, like Doug Jones did earlier today. Now we know that all of this is going on, Roy Moore is not watching the returns at the RSA Tower where the party is being held, but he is watching them nearby in Montgomery.
There is one group that won't be at the RSA Tower tonight, and that's The Washington Post, Jake, because a Moore campaign official has just confirmed to me that they declined to give them credentials to this party tonight, and a Washington Post spokesperson said that when their reporters tried to enter the door, they were denied entry.
Now, the Moore campaign didn't say why they have declined to give them credentials to cover this event tonight, but it certainly could have something to do with how The Washington Post was the first ones to report on these sexual assault allegations made against Roy Moore. And we have seen the candidate be highly critical of them in the weeks since that was first reported, Jake. TAPPER: All right. Guilty of practicing journalism, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.
Now let's go to CNN's Alex Marquardt. He's at Doug Jones' headquarters, the Democrat in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex.
ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jake. Well, Doug Jones has had a pretty busy day after voting early this morning on the outskirts of Birmingham. He went around to different polling stations, shaking hands with the voters.
We're told that now with less than an hour to go before the polls close, he is out there doing the same. Once the polls close, he will come here to this hotel which is serving as his election headquarters. The campaign has a suite for him. He will be watching the returns come in with his staff and with his family.
Now, as for prepared remarks, what we can expect from Doug Jones later tonight, I'm told they have not prepared any sort of speech yet, that once the candidate is here, he will sit down with his campaign team. They'll go over what they want to say.
[19:05:09] But win or lose, according to the campaign chairman, I'm told that Jones will go back to a theme that he has been hitting pretty hard on the campaign trail, one of unity and one of working together. And then I'm told we are expecting at some point tonight, Moore and Jones will speak by phone. Jake?
TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt with Doug Jones' headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.
And Dana, you know, one of the big questions about tonight is if Moore wins, it will be a sign, I think, to a lot of people that tribalism Trumps everything. Can Roy Moore, because he is -- in a deep red Republican state, because he's the Republican candidate, can he convince voters, has he convinced enough voters that all of these allegations that many top Republicans, including the majority leader, the House speaker, the senior senator from Alabama, the governor of Alabama, consider credible allegations of the worst horrific kind of offense, can their hatred of the media and the elites be so powerful, and their desire to rally behind a fellow Republican, fellow conservative, be so powerful that they're willing to overlook what you wouldn't even accept in a neighbor or a member of your family?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a great question. And that's probably why the sense I got. I spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill today talking to Republican senators and their aides, and the sense I got was frankly depressed. Because the way that pretty much everybody says that they see it is there's no winning for them tonight.
If Roy Moore wins, they feel like it is terrible to a person for the Republican Party. If Doug Jones wins, the Democrat, then they lose a seat and a razor thin majority. So there is no winning. And look, I think the other thing that we should remember is that while President of the United States has endorsed and gone all in for Roy Moore -- TAPPER: Sure.
BASH: -- the Republican National Committee, while at least at the beginning when these allegations came out, they pulled their money, they put it back in. In the United States Senate, where if Roy Moore wins he is going to be going in a couple of weeks, not one Senate Republican broke ranks.
All of them to this moment have said that they do not believe Roy Moore is the right person for the job. Let the voters in Alabama decide. But that is why there is such trepidation and frankly like I said, kind of a darkness and depression about what's going on in Alabama and about the state of the Republican Party.
TAPPER: Yes. Let's go to Erin Burnett right now. We're getting some more early exit poll information out of the state of Alabama. Important clues about what voters are thinking, Erin.
BURNETT: Yes. We absolutely are, Jake.
And David Chalian, our obviously Political Director, has been breaking all this down. We have new information coming in right now. So David, what are you learning? I mean, this is some crucial information as we are just moments away from polls closing. That is going to tell us perhaps who is in.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It is, Erin. One of the things we asked folks is when did you make up your decision? Because we've been talking about these allegations that rocked this campaign at the beginning of November.
Take a look at these numbers here. Alabama voters today say, 39 percent of them that they made up their mind in November or December. Basically, 4 in 10 voters made up their mind with the knowledge of the allegations against Roy Moore. 60 percent, a clear majority of the electorate, had already made up their mind in this election before that.
We also asked, of course, what was the importance of the factor of the sexual misconduct allegations? A majority, small majority here, but a majority, 55 percent say those allegations were not an important factor in their vote choice. 40 percent said they were an important factor in their vote choice.
And then of course we asked the big question, which is do you think those allegations are true or false? Look at how this breaks down. If you add up the trues, the top two numbers, you get 49 percent. The bottom two, those that think it's false, that's 45 percent. That's a pretty even split.
But look at those that feel passionately about their position. The trues outweigh the false. 26 percent say the misconduct allegations are definitely true. Only 16 percent of Alabama voters today said that those allegations are definitely false, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, David Chalian. And I want to go to our political experts who were going to be us in this crucial hour as the polls close. So Chris Cillizza, what do you make of what David was saying, right? It's 49 percent say true, 45 percent say false. But when you look at who is passionate --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes.
BURNETT: -- you have more saying true, no pun intended, then the 16 percent who say false.
CILLIZZA: Yes. And look, what we know is that this will almost certainly be a relatively low turnout election. It's on December 12th. I mean, this is not a typical time when Alabama would hold an election. It's also 13 days before Christmas, and most people are focused much more on Christmas or the holidays than they are on this election.
One thing on the 49 percent believe the allegations or most of them to be true, 45 false. I found this fascinating. It speaks to how partisanship has won no matter who wins.
[19:10:06] Nine in 10 people who voted for Roy Moore said the allegations are false. Nine in 10 people who voted for Doug Jones say the allegations are true. What does it tell you? It's one state, but it's two totally different worlds where facts are whether or not they re-enforce what you already believe.
BURNETT: And Abby, you know, looking at some of the exit poll data as it comes out here, you know, when you look at this, you see two totally different electorates. Let's take another issue, the allegations, let's take abortion, we're learning now a majority of voters who voted say abortion should be illegal. Four in 10 say it should be legal. Obviously, in that case, you look at that and say OK, advantage Moore.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. And I think that if we break things down to all these little side issues, we might get a little distracted from the big picture here, which is that this is a red state. A lot of these voters are single issue voters. They vote on the issue of life and partisan ID is going to be what rules the day here.
So I think it's important to know how people feel about the allegations. It's important to know how people feel about President Trump. But I think that issues like abortion actually tell us a whole lot about who is voting and why they're voting. I don't think we can prejudge the outcome, but it's incredibly relevant and perhaps determinative in a race like this.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's very hard to see consistent trends in the preliminary data. You really need to know the turnout information. I see inconsistencies, 49 percent believe the accusations. That's bad for Moore because only 45 percent don't. Yet 55 percent say they weren't a factor. That would be good for Moore.
My question is how could you believe these charges and still say you're voting for Roy Moore? That to me is something that would be absolutely impossible to square. So people at this stage, I think, can read into the data whatever they want to read into the data.
CILLIZZA: Very quickly, one point. The way you can square it, in 2016, at least, Donald Trump squared it by people saying yes, I don't like how Donald Trump treats women, but there are things that matter more to me. That would be the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, right.
BURNETT: And is that what you would say, too, Bryan? Some people may say I believe it, but it was 40 years ago, or but, you know, it's better to be an accused child molester than a Democrat? I mean, there are ways to get there.
BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, there are ways to get there. But I think when you look at what the electorate is choosing, if they ultimately choose Moore, and I do expect an exciting election tonight. You're going to see them sort of having this partisan, you know, partisan pick.
You know, all we've seen all year is partisan races going partisan races. Blue states win blue, red states win red. That's what usually happens in an election year.
And I don't think we're going to see any difference in Alabama. But it's, you know, they gave up a good fight. The voters made the decision that an accusation of sexual assault doesn't marry up against abortion, doesn't marry up against gay marriage, doesn't marry up against tax cuts. These are the things they weigh and they decided the other things had a higher priority for them.
BURNETT: And then you got the role of President Trump, which as David was just saying, obviously he was vehement, he was very, very vocal about supporting Roy Moore. The exit poll that we have, Tara, 48 percent approval rating among voters thus far as we have just about 45 minutes until the polls close.
OK, that's under water. But it is higher than the national average. It is a deeply red state, but still higher than the national average. So what is that? Advantage Jones, advantage Moore?
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I still think that's -- well, that's interesting actually if we think about that. Given how red Alabama is, and given how much Donald Trump won Alabama by and traditionally how large the margins of victory have been for Republicans in that state. That tells me there is somewhat of a depressed turnout for people that are so pro-Trump. If that's the case, and that's good for Moore.
But just to answer your question about how do people square or even Michael's point --
BURNETT: Believing the allegations yet voting for Roy Moore.
SETMAYER: It goes back to something that Kellyanne Conway said last year that I found to be really profound. I had a tough time reconciling that also. She said it was, for people, it was about what affected them, not what offended them.
So how does it personally affect me? And that's how people were looking at the issues with Donald Trump. I think they're doing the same thing here with Roy Moore, to Abby's point about being single issue voters. I think that's problematic because that's how we got to a Roy Moore situation in the long run.
I think people need to stop being so myopic because there are bigger issues here at play. One senator is not going to overturn Roe v. Wade. One senator is not going to make a difference with gay marriage instead of a law, so -- but that's how the voters of Alabama feel.
BURNETT: Robby, what's your take overall?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think what's important here -- first of all, I shall say, exit polls have led us astray a lot of times. So I don't want to -- you know, I take them with a grain of salt. But what's important in these special elections is where, particularly in a deep red state, where is the electorate elastic? And that's in the university areas.
I heard the Secretary of State saying turnout in Tuscaloosa was very high. That's a good thing for Doug Jones.
BURNETT: That very popular Democratic mayor there.
MOOK: Yes. And then, you know, he was also saying outside Huntsville, outside Mobile, outside Birmingham. These are the more college educated white upscale areas. That's the electorate that can shift here. And that, I believe, is the key to this election.
[19:15:08] You know, we got to have high turnout in each party's base. But if Jones is getting 50 percent of the vote or even in the, you know, the high 30s in some of these areas, he's going to win. And we just -- it's hard to tone in these exit polls, at least at this point.
BURNETT: Right. And we don't have specific turnout data from any of these places, but, you know, we have 45 minutes coming in these final moments.
Breaking news out of the White House right away on what President Trump is doing tonight as he watches these returns come in. As well as a new clash with his Secretary of State over North Korea. And that's a big development this hour. We'll be back in a moment.
BURNETT: We are back with a special edition of OUTFRONT. This is election night in Alabama. And polls close in just about 40 minutes. The polarizing U.S. Senate race that people around the country and around the world are watching so closely tonight. Republican Roy Moore versus democrat Doug Jones.
And right now at this moment, we are getting a window into the White House. President Trump waiting, watching to find out if the candidate that he backed so aggressively and so loudly, Roy Moore, is a winner or a loser tonight.
Let's check in with our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. President Trump, as you said, has retired to the residence part of the White House here. I am told he is going to be watching these returns come in. Of course not surprisingly, he spends a lot of hours watching television from the residence and the west wing, but I'm told he's going to be following these returns from Alabama once they come in. He's going to be getting regular updates from the RNC.
[19:20:10] Of course, that was one big change here. The Republican National Committee had pulled its funding from this Alabama race. But when the President got back in, the RNC got back in. So he's going to be getting those updates as well as likely from Steve Bannon.
Of course, his former chief strategist is still very much in conversation with the President, often on the phone. So the President, of course, watching this. He's all invested, all in on this chilly evening here in Washington, Erin. But the reality is, this race is out of his control at this point. So that is one of the worries and wonders here at the White House.
Did he go too far in on this? Of course, he'll find that out going forward. And if Roy Moore does win, once he comes to Washington, will he be a loyal supporter? But those questions are hours away from being answered. For right now, the President is watching.
BURNETT: Watching very closely, and of course, no matter the outcome, a story line perhaps that they don't want to completely dominate. And as a result, I know the White House chief now weighing in on the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments on North Korea.
ZELENY: Erin, this is very interesting. We have been talking throughout the day of the Secretary of State saying that the U.S. is open to talking to North Korea without precondition. It was a very short time ago the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement saying that the position of this administration has not changed.
She goes on to say this, I'll just read this to you in one second. She said, North Korea is acting in an unsafe way toward Japan, China, and South Korea. But the entire world is watching North Korea's actions are not good for anyone, and certainly not good for North Korea. She is saying that the position of this administration has not changed.
Now, this is the latest in, you know, exchanges between the President and his Secretary of State being sort of on different sides of this. Will negotiations work, will they not? Unusual that the White House Press Secretary would essentially correct or add to what the Secretary of State said earlier. Erin?
BURNETT: Certainly so, but of course, with this Secretary of State, we see this all too often. Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
And now, as I said, just less now than 40 minutes away from polls closing. Let's go back to Jake Tapper in Washington. Jake.
TAPPER: Thanks, Erin. And, obviously, all eyes in Alabama right now. We're all awaiting the first results of the election.
One thing I wanted to go over is the idea of whether or not the Democrats have really made an effort to win this seat. Indeed, they have. Let's take a look at some of the statistics and data that we've gathered. First of all, Democrat Doug Jones has raised more than twice as much money as Republican Roy Moore. And spent more than twice as much money.
A lot of that money, obviously, going to TV spots. You can see here, Doug Jones, a Democrat, has run more than 10 times the number of TV spots as Roy Moore in this very competitive election. Let's take a look at what some of the messages are in these various TV spots. Here is an excerpt from one from Republican Roy Moore, basically using President Trump's words in which he is slamming Doug Jones and propping up Moore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His name is Jones, and he's their total puppet. And everybody knows it. He will never, ever vote for us. We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So that's a little excerpt, and obviously, the Moore campaign really leaning heavily into that endorsement from President Trump. And all the full-throated endorsements and testimonies to Roy Moore and against the Democrat, Doug Jones. Now let's take a look at the message coming from the Democrat's campaign, Doug Jones, with some of the words from a different Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ivanka Trump says "There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children. And I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts." Jeff Sessions says, "I have no reason to doubt these young women." And Richard Shelby says he will, "Absolutely not vote for Roy Moore." Conservative voices, putting children and women over party. Doing what's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That's a message from the Jones campaign, Dana Bash, clearly aimed at those more moderate Republicans in the suburbs of the major cities in Alabama. Hoping that they convince them, they can convince them. This just this one time, hold your nose and vote for a Democrat. Because what Roy Moore has been accused of is so horrific.
Also interesting, of course, the quote from Ivanka Trump, because last night at a rally for Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, President Trump's Former Top Strategist, took kind of a shot at Ivanka Trump.
BASH: No question. He said, he paraphrased her, there's a special place in hell line, and said there's a special place in hell for Republicans who go after people like Roy Moore. Meaning, Ivanka Trump. And I think that's another very important drama that's going on tonight.
[19:25:03] Not only is this going to be really important in terms of whether Roy Moore wins, in particular, and what it means for the Senate, what it means for the Republican Party, but also Steve Bannon forces. He has been all in on Roy Moore, was one of those who convinced the President to, at the end of the day, endorse Roy Moore.
And Republican after Republican I talk to who are, I guess, probably fair to say in the establishment, or in the non-Steve Bannon wing, are hoping that if Doug Jones, the Democrat, wins, that this could be an early stake in the heart to Steve Bannon. And those who are trying in the next election year, next year in 2018, to go after incumbent Republicans over and over again. That's very important point to watch tonight on how Steve Bannon and his forces do.
TAPPER: A real wrestling between the Bannon wing of the Republican Party and the establishment wing.
Coming up, does the Democratic Party stand to gain no matter who wins in Alabama tonight? We'll talk to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee ahead.
[19:30:21] ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Welcome back. We're counting you down to the poll closings in the Alabama race. We are now one -- a half hour away, less than a half hour away from that Senate Republicans anxiously awaiting tonight's result, in part because they feel they really lose either way.
Dana Bash has been reporting.
I want to go to Capitol Hill, our congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly.
Phil, you have been talking to Republicans. You've been talking to Democrats. But what you hearing will happen if Roy Moore is the victor when polls close tonight?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first thing that will happen is Senate Republicans tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. will meet in a closed-door session to try to figure out what to do next. And I'm told part of the calculation here will actually be can they afford to cast aside a Republican vote when they already have such a razor thin majority. Only two votes right now in the Senate. Keep in mind, President Trump supports Roy Moore. Some aides tell me
they expect members of the rank and file, even perhaps some of those who have made strong statements against Roy Moore will say, look, he was fairly elected. We need to bring him into the fold. I talked to one Republican official who said we know Democrats are going to hang him like an anvil around our necks no matter what. Right now, we need to figure out where our guys stand.
Now, to be clear, Erin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been not uncertain at all. He will push for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation. But that is a lengthy process. It's not something that's going to come to any type of resolution soon.
So, the big question or at least one of the major questions going into the meeting tomorrow morning is, are Republicans willing to cast aside Roy Moore when they only have a slim majority or are they willing to welcome him into that tent despite how many of them have had such strong opinions against his candidacy over the last couple months, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil.
And in just a moment, we're going to be joined by the chief political strategist for Roy Moore to find out what's going on in that campaign right now. Now, we want to go to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee in Washington -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thanks so much.
I'm here with Tom Perez. He's the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. We're going to bring him into the conversation in a second.
But I want to bring in John King because it's a big night. Both campaigns are claiming high turnout and expecting a close race. What parts of the map are you looking at tonight?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to go back to a race, 2012 here, and I'm going to skip here and go this is the last time Roy Moore ran state-wide for chief justice you'll notice, he just barely won. A close, 3 1/2, 4-point race. Mitt Romney in the presidential election got over 60 percent, Roy Moore gets 52 percent.
So, that's my question, Mr. Chairman. This obviously, let's start with this, this -- right across here is the most important area, and then you bring in Birmingham, and you come up to Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. Number one, Doug Jones --
TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Don't forget Mobile.
KING: I won't forget Mobile. Doug Jones is only in play if African- American turnout is off the charts. Some early exit polls show it at 30 percent of the electorate. That would be a major achievement. Take us inside your modeling, if it's close to 30, you win, if it falls under, what, you lose? PEREZ: Well, I think 30 percent is promising, because you look at the
places where Doug needs to do well, and that's exactly in the African- American communities. Madison County is one of the first counties. That's Huntsville, that will report.
And what's interesting about Madison County is that Hillary Clinton lost that in 2016, but Robert Vance, who ran against Roy Moore in 2012, won that county.
KING: Well, 52 percent. We'll show that.
PEREZ: So, I think Doug Jones -- yes, I think Doug Jones can do very well there. That's going to be an early bellwether of the evening.
And then obviously, Jefferson County, between Huntsville, between Madison County and Jefferson County, it's about a quarter of the vote that will be coming in in the entirety of the night. And so, we'll see, and early indications today was heavy voter turnout in Jefferson County. And then, obviously, the Black Belt and Mobile County are critical areas.
So, when I see 30 percent, it's obviously early, and the polls are still open. And so, people need to know that if they're in line, stay in line. So they can vote.
KING: I'm coming across to just quickly, to show you this is what they call the Black Belt in Alabama. It's called that for the soil, the rich, dark, deep, black farming soil, for the agriculture bluff around here.
But obviously, it's also a key part, if you look at the map, this is again the 2012 race, if a Democrat is to be competitive. You need a lot of blue across there.
TAPPER: Let me ask, if I can. Doug Jones is also, obviously, aiming a lot of attention and focus, trying to win some of the suburban voters, who are exurban outside the cities. Republicans, especially Republican women, Republican business people, that may be in Doug Jones' view of the world, can be shamed into not voting for Roy Moore.
Where are you looking for them?
PEREZ: Well, Doug's had a 67-county strategy. I have known Doug for 20 years. Doug has tremendous respect, not only in Jefferson County, which is metropolitan Birmingham, but across the state, because they know Doug has been a fighter for Alabamians. He's about kitchen table issues. He's about economic development.
[19:35:01] He's about preserving access to health care. And that's why I think it's really important, the key for tonight is for Doug to do well in places like Birmingham, Huntsville, the Black Belt, and then he's got, because he's had a 67-county strategy, you know, places where Hillary Clinton got shellacked, Doug, I think, can hold his own because we have been organizing everywhere. Our investments have been all across the state, and Doug has built a ground game that is indeed a 67-county ground game. KING: I brought this up, I'm sorry to interrupt, but I brought this
up to Jake's point, which is if you get the African-American vote, that gets you in play, but you need some of the suburban Republicans. You need suburban Republicans. You mobilize your base, and you need them to be disgusted.
This is the Luther strange/Roy Moore runoff. Roy Moore won much of the state, but to your point, Jefferson county, urban vote in Birmingham and a lot of votes here, and Shelby County, these are your moderate suburban Republican voters which we saw.
We saw in the presidential primaries in 2016 and we just saw in Virginia and New Jersey, these people have a lot of trouble with Donald Trump.
PEREZ: Well, I tell you, for a lot of voters in Alabama, and I spent a lot of time, I met Doug when we were in the Clinton Justice Department. So, I have known him for a long time. There are a lot of voters in Alabama who this race is not about right versus left, it's about right versus wrong.
And when they look at Doug's history of standing up for people and they see what Roy Moore continues to do, what he has done to young children, what he has done throughout his career, they want someone who is fighting for them. They don't want someone who is fighting the culture wars. That's why I believe Doug can appeal to women who have historically voted Republican.
And that's exactly what we're doing. And he can go into rural Alabama and talk to people about the fact that the opioid epidemic is a real challenge, and the Republican Party wants to limit access to health care, and he wants to make sure people can get that access. So, I think he can hold his own in these rural pockets that he's not going to get to 50 plus 1, but he doesn't have to.
And if these early turnout projections are there, at 30 percent for African-American turnout, that's certainly promising. Very early, and I hope again, people in line, you need to stay in line because every vote counts.
TAPPER: Yes, we have all been burned by exit polls before. We'll see what actually happens.
KING: The fact that the Democratic National Committee chairman is here thinking he has a chance.
PEREZ: That's amazing. I mean, Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points. And here we are. We have a tall mountain to climb, but the fact we're here is a tribute.
TAPPER: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Coming up, the Moore campaign strategy. How President Trump figures in. We'll talk with his top political strategist, next. Stay with us.
[19:41:53] BURNETT: All right. We're waiting the poll closings. We're less than 20 minutes to go until those polls are closed in the Alabama Senate race.
Right now, I'm joined by Dean Young. He's the chief political strategist for Roy Moore's campaign.
Dean, good to have you back with us. Obviously, this is the big night. Your candidate as well as Doug Jones just tweeting out, trying to get voters in these final moments to stay in line, get to the polls.
How is Roy Moore feeling about tonight?
DEAN YOUNG, ROY MOORE'S CHIEF POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Tonight is going to be a great night for the people of this nation because what we're seeing is we're seeing a huge outpouring of support in the counties across the state that are Republican counties. And we're breaking every record that was ever set in the state of Alabama with a turnout for a special election that involves candidates.
So, we're feeling real good, and Judge Moore is feeling good, and we're just going to fight to the bitter end. We're still with our get out the vote, we're sending out the text messages. We're still sending out Facebooks and we're even calling people to get our last voters out. If you're in Alabama and you haven't voted yet, please get out to the polls and vote.
And we've got to send a message to the United States, letting them know that Mitch McConnell and the establishment can't take this country away from us, because if they can beat Judge Moore in Alabama, they can beat anybody anywhere anytime.
BURNETT: It sounds like you're incredibly confident that you sort of sound like you think you have it in the bag. You're talking about report turnout in the crucial Republican counties. Is that fair to say?
YOUNG: Yes. We're feeling really good about it. We just want to get through this night and have a victory, and we're watching very closely the turnout across the state. And like I said, we have Baldwin County, South Alabama that's got a turnout almost of 40 percent. Those are record-breaking numbers. That's a huge Republican county for Judge Moore.
So, we're going to watch those, and the numbers will start coming in in about 20 minutes. We'll have precincts calling in letting us know what's going on. We will be able to predict it real quick.
BURNETT: All right. And a quick question before you go. If he wins tomorrow morning, it will be Senator Moore, and he'll be dealing with the GOP that does not want him in Washington and is not planning to welcome him, right? Ethics investigation, Mitch McConnell said he's not going to back off that.
What do you say to senator McConnell?
YOUNG: I tell Senator McConnell this, that the people of Alabama are having election tonight. And he should not overturn the election of the people of Alabama. They know who Judge Moore is, and they stand with Judge Moore. And we're not living in a third-world nation with a dictator, so they need to back off. The people are going to speak tonight, and they need to seat Judge Moore and get to the business of passing President Trump's agenda.
BURNETT: Dean Young, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.
Obviously, very, very confident, mentioning Baldwin County there, Michael, with a 40 percent turnout. Obviously, usually in a special election, you're looking at 20 percent or so. So, that's one county. He's talking about a record.
What do you think about the point he made about Mitch McConnell?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENATOR: If Roy Moore wins tonight and Republicans don't seat Roy Moore and there is then a special election and Roy Moore is a candidate, he'll win by a larger margin in that special election than he wins today.
[19:45:07] BURNETT: Which is pretty stunning.
ABBY PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think to Michael's point, and also to Dean's point, it is going to be very difficult for Republicans to turn around after this election and say, we're just going to forget that this whole thing ever happened and try to have a do-over. I don't think that's going to happen, frankly, and that's going to put them in a really tough position, especially difficult because the president has made it very clear where he wants his party to be. And he's still the leader.
BURNETT: With Senator Franken, for example, you know, all those revelations came out. He was already seated. Voters here knew.
Voters have voted in Roy Moore if he wins, knowing this, so that they would be going against the will of Alabama if they unseated him.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR AT LARGE: I think it's one of those deals that it sounds good in theory for Cory Gardner in Colorado to say if Moore wins we're going to expel him. The last senator to be expelled from the Senate was in 1862 for supporting the Confederacy. So, it doesn't happen a lot. So, let's not assume it's going to happen.
The other thing I thought was fascinating from Dean, this quote. He didn't talk about Doug Jones at all, right? The Democrat, he didn't talk about Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton. Mitch McConnell and the establishment can't take this country away from us.
CILLIZZA: I mean, that's remarkable. This is not a Republican primary, Republican runoff. This is a general election between a Republican and a Democrat, and the message that they ran on, Steve Bannon talked about it, Roy Moore talked about Mitch McConnell much more than Chuck Schumer or anyone else. I think it's worth noting that that's the closing message here.
TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's what Donald Trump ran on also, as I was saying before in the break, that it's very clear that the Roy Moore campaign has torn a page out of the Donald Trump playbook. It's more important to those voters in Alabama to stick it to the establishment in Washington and drain the swamp.
But apparently if Roy Moore wins, they're not going to necessarily drain the swamp. They're adding to a sewer because that's what I think Roy Moore represents here in this. But you have to remember how many more Republicans there are than Democrats in this state. I mean --
BURNETT: They're talking about the 28 percent margin by which Trump won.
SETMAYER: In the primary, he won more votes than all of the Democratic votes combined. So that's why it's such a herculean effort for Democrats to win in a state like Alabama and why it's so crucial for them to siphon off probably about 10 percent to 15 percent of Republicans if he has a chance at all.
BURNETT: Do margins matter? That's a crucial question here. You heard Dean Young say, look, if the Democrat can win in Alabama, a Democrat can win anywhere in this country, right? And that's a fair point to make.
But on that, when you look at the nearly 30 percent margin for President Trump, let's say that Judge Moore does prevail here in a few minutes when the polls close. Let's say the margin is five or much closer, do margins matter?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Margins absolutely matter, and this is all about margins because, you know, you notice he was talking about one particular county, and there was strong turnout there.
BURNETT: Baldwin County.
MOOK: Both candidates can get strong turnout in their base. Again, what I'm -- what I think is especially important here is where are people moving from traditionally Republican to performing more for Democrats. That's why I think the suburbs are absolutely key here, the more college-educated areas.
You know, we saw, I think it was 24 districts that Hillary Clinton won that currently have Republicans that are in Congress. We saw huge shifts outside cities like Houston and southern California and areas like this where there's predominantly college educated white voters moved to Democrat because of Donald Trump. If enough do that tonight, Doug Jones is going to win. If not, then Moore wins.
BURNETT: Dean Young extremely confident. Do you think that's also at this point bravado that he needed to portray that, or do you think they truly at this point from their internal numbers think that when polls close in 12 minutes, they're going to have this?
BRYAN LANZA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say they have a better understanding of the Alabama electorate than the national media. And they have hit that -- they have hit that sweet spot over and over again. They have turned McConnell, who is the Senate Republican leader, into a liability. They helped drum up turnout.
And I think this is probably a warning to the Republican establishment that Bannon took this candidate, flawed as he might be, and flawed in all of our hearts and our minds, and still was able to get him across the finish line with President Trump. We're now talking about a new level, a new playing field that's going to be going forward when these candidates -- when you have primaries coming up next year and a lot of these candidates are going to be aligned with Trump because they don't feel the establishment Republicans are supporting the president enough.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. Stay with us because we are now ten minutes away from polls closing in Alabama. The first results coming in from this incredibly divisive and incredibly high- stakes Senate race.
[19:54:15] BLITZER: We're just moments from the first results out of Alabama. Polls are about to close in the U.S. Senate special election, a contest with considerable risks for the president's party. Who will win, Democrat Doug Jones or Republican Roy Moore? The lightning rod, former judge embroiled in scandal.
Allegations of past sexual abuse by Moore involving teenage girls are testing the limits of GOP support on traditionally Republican turf, even though Moore adamantly denies those allegations. This is a new test for President Trump as well after he decided to support Moore despite the potential consequences for his party.
In the Senate, many fellow Republicans are deeply worried about the political fallout if Moore wins.
[19:55:00] If Doug Jones wins, it will be a historic victory for Democrats who have gone a quarter century without winning a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama.
This contest is promising to jolt the national political landscape heading into next year's midterm election.
Jake, polls close just minutes from now.
TAPPER: That's right. All day today, it's been in the hands of the voters of Alabama and now the polls are about to close. Let's check in with our reporters who are on the ground with the two respective campaigns.
Let's start with Alex Marquardt in Birmingham with the campaign of Doug Jones, the Democrat -- Alex.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, well, the Jones campaign sees this race being neck and neck, as a dead heat. And they say that they're acting like that, up until the last minute before these polls close. They said they had volunteers out knocking on doors and making phone calls.
They say that the one bright spot they're seeing right now is African- American turnout. They were hoping for a 25 percent black turnout. Now, to put that in perspective, in 2012 when Barack Obama was running for president, so that's a presidential race, not a special election, he had a 28 percent turnout and the senior strategist Joe Trippi tells me they believe they will either meet or exceed that 25 percent black turnout which could give their campaign a real boost -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Alex Marquardt.
Now, let's go to Kaitlan Collins, he's in Montgomery, Alabama, with the Judge Roy Moore campaign -- Kaitlan.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, we're told that campaign aides are huddled in what they're calling the war room in the building that I'm standing in right now, looking over different turnout models and possible projections for this night. And that's behind closed doors.
But on a more public front, we're told the campaign is making several last-minute pushes in order to get every single voter out to the polls, that includes phone calls, automated texts, Facebook posts, everything they can do to reach every single voter before these polls close here in just mere minutes. As for the candidate himself, we're told he's spent the last few hours making phone calls and doing speech preparation. Jake, whether that's a concession or victory speech, we're going to find out here soon.
TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins and Alex Marquardt, thank you so much.
You know what's so fascinating about this, Dana, often when there are allegations, ugly allegations, Democrats are on one side, Republicans are on another side, but that's not the case here. You have senior Republicans, even some top Republicans from Alabama saying they believe the women, and, in fact, there are a number of Republicans in the Senate who are really ambivalent, they don't want a Democrat in that seat but they don't want Roy Moore in it either.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ambivalent and quite anxious, Jake. You mentioned the fact that the Republicans who just can't believe that they are in this situation, I talked to one today who was all gung-ho on the notion of, you know, a Republican coming in to replace a Republican, who is, of course, Jeff Sessions, who said, I just can't believe that we are in the situation like this. Can't believe, frankly, that somebody who has these kinds of allegations didn't drop out of the race under the pressure that they've gotten, that Roy Moore has gotten from his potential colleagues in the U.S. Senate in particular. But it's the age of Donald Trump and things like this are different
these days. It worked for Donald Trump and we'll see if it works for Roy Moore.
TAPPER: In fact, one Republican today saying that Chuck Schumer is smiling at the prospect of Roy Moore joining the Senate to one degree -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Polls are about to close. Let's go over to John King over here at the magic wall. Only minutes from now, we'll begin getting results.
You're looking close at this.
KING: We'll fill in the map. It should start just shortly after the top of the hour.
I want to go to 2012 to show you the race that will be our guide. The last time Roy Moore was elected chief justice of the Supreme Court was a presidential year, but he underperformed among Republicans. Mitt Romney did much better. So, what are we going to look for?
Number one, African-American turnout, Jefferson county, absolutely critical. Doug Jones not only win it, but win it big and run up the numbers. Not just the margin, but he needs the math right there. If that happens, if the African-American vote is as high as some predict it is in Alabama tonight, that gets Doug Jones in the race.
Then how does he win the race? Look down here. In the 2012 race, the Democrat actually won Mobile County. Remember, the president of the United States went to Pensacola, Florida, just across the border last week to have a message here. This is a key battleground in the state right here.
Another place to look, the suburbs. Again, if Doug Jones can get the African-American vote, if he gets the turnout across what's called the Black Belt here, and keep it blue as the Democrat did in 2012 to get across the finish line, he's not going to need not only urban Birmingham, but the suburbs of Birmingham here, in Jefferson County and across the border in Shelby County, a couple of other places, Wolf, we'll be looking at as well.
Urban vote first, then the suburbs first and do the evangelicals who live down here in the southeastern part of the state and across here, do they turn out for Roy Moore? So, this is a turnout battle right now. Although with the polls about to close, we'll start to count them soon.
KING: We certainly will. This is the moment we've been waiting for, the polls within a few seconds will formally close. This has been an extraordinarily exciting U.S. Senate race. Alabama voters deciding whether to elect a scandal-tainted Republican or the state's first Democratic senator in decades.
Let's take a look. The polls are now closed.
All right. We have a key race alert -- obviously, too early to call right now in Alabama.