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Democrats Hope To Turn Tables on Trump in Ohio; Ohio Special Election Could Provide Key Midterm Clues. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 21:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Anderson, thank you very much.

I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.

Tonight on our watch, we're going to get election returns that will give us the best sense yet of what is motivating voters ahead of the midterms in some bellwether states, five exactly we're looking at tonight, because they reflect important demographic and political diversity -- a sense of the pulse, if you will, of voters across the country.

The stakes. For President Trump, it's all about losing control of Congress in November. Imagine what that would do to the third and fourth years of his presidency. The state of play is on the bottom of your screen.

What do we know? That Democrats need 23 seats to flip the House.

So, tonight, though, our focus is on one race in particular, the Ohio 12th district for Congress. Why? Mostly suburbs. That's my take.

Suburbs are the big battleground for both parties going into the midterms. That's the demographic that you're going to see talked about more and more. John King, the guru, is going to be with us in just a moment to take us through the state returns.

We're literally getting more by the minute. You will see them on the screen throughout the show, changing in real time. Now, the issues at play we're going to take you through, but the GOP in this race -- this is one of the things that make it interesting -- they have every advantage: history, demographics, turnout, organization.

So, why do polls show it could be an upset? What does that mean? We'll take you through it.

Trump made a race in Kansas a wild card? Why? He picked his pal, Kris Kobach, over the party's choice, who has a slim lead in polls over Kobach even though Trump is backing him.

The proposition is this: could Trump put this governor's seat in play by picking the controversial Kobach? You'll remember him of fugazi voter fraud fame. Remember that commission to find fraud that found none?

That's him. Trump remembers the loyalty. The GOP would like to forget he exists. So, we're going to watch that race.

It's also a crucial test for the other side. Democratic centrists are fighting the growing progressive wing for the future of the party.

Then there's something I'm calling the "X" growth factor. What can Democrats do to peel off Trump voters? What do I mean by Trump voters? Voters who are disaffected and who picked Trump for being an anti-politician. What can they do for that?

So, let's get after all of this right now with Chief National Correspondent, John King monitoring it all for us from the nation's capital.

John, I've been watching the coverage. It's coming in. Where are we now in terms of what the real-time picture is of that Ohio 12?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrat is still ahead, Chris, but if you are the Democrats, you're starting to get a little bit more nervous as the district still blue right now as we count the results, Danny O'Connor's lead, though, down to 4,330 votes. It was up around 8,000, 9,000, a little more than an hour ago. So, the race is getting tighter, 37 percent reporting.

But again, the Democrat is ahead in a district the Democrat hasn't represented since the Reagan presidency. So, just the fact that the Democrats are in play, just the fact that this race is in play tonight tells you that Republicans are in trouble this year. The question is, is it a bad year or is it a horrible year? That's what we're going to learn here in Ohio 12.

This is the district as a whole. Let's look at it by county. You made a keep point about the suburbs. For Danny O'Connor to win this district, Trump has to remain toxic in the suburbs, like we saw in the Alabama Senate race, like we saw in New Jersey and Virginia, like we saw in Pennsylvania 18.

Trump has been toxic among suburban women, among millennials as well. You find a lot of them in the suburbs. They're down here in Franklin County where Danny O'Connor at the moment, in the piece of Franklin County that is in this district, Danny O'Connor as 78 percent of the vote right now to 28 percent.

If that number holds up and if this county gives you 34 percent, 35 percent of the vote at this district tonight, Danny O'Connor is in play, Danny O'Connor could well have a stunning upset here. But only 37 percent reporting. So, let's keep an eye on it, let's not jump to conclusions.

But this is the key part. You mentioned the suburbs -- let me just show you here -- it's where the people live. The darker shading is where the higher population centers are in this district.

The Republicans expected to run it up big here. It's important. You need those votes, but there's not a lot of people in these rural counties. The people live down here in the suburbs. You move out to the exurbs.

Then it gets more rural. This is where you have your more college educated, affluent Republican voters, key to John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, key to the Republican electoral coalition back in the Reagan and the George H.W. Bush days, key to George W. Bush, a problem for the Republican Party right now.

Democrats run strong in the cities. They're starting to run strong in the suburbs. That's what the Democrats are hoping for tonight, Chris.

We can go through this race in more detail. At the moment, though, if you're Danny O'Connor, you like that in Franklin County. You love this in Delaware County, as you start to move out. This should be starting to turn red.

Go anywhere in America. Cities are blue. As you move away, it should start to turn red. If this stays blue, Danny O'Connor is in good shame. But remember, only 5 percent in Delaware County. So, let's hold tight.

You move into the more rural areas, the Republican areas --

CUOMO: Right.

KING: -- and you start to see Troy Balderson doing what a Republican should do here. The question is, let's keep counting the votes down here.

CUOMO: So, two observations and a question. The first one is we remember from the Clinton/Trump race that the way Ohio goes early is not the way it necessarily finishes. She was up double digits. She wound up losing I think by eight in that state.

Secondly, really late endorsement by the Republican governor and popular one in Ohio, John Kasich, for Balderson. We're not really sure if that was just about Trump/Kasich intrigue or how he feels about Balderson's positions, the state senator there.

The question to you this is this. There's this big question with the Democrats about where their future is, whether or not they have to embrace that they are now the party not of the traditional working class but of big cities, new immigrants, younger populations.

Do they embrace that and see the suburbs as a battleground, or do you think they continue to try to fight back for those working families that are all in those red areas?

KING: You can go to different parts of the country, and you have interviewed on your program, and you know over the years different Democrats who will give you different answers. In some degrees, it depends on what state you're in.

In a state as big -- let me switch walls here. In a state as big and complex as Ohio, this is the current House delegation, 12 Republicans and four Democrats. If you want to win this if you want to win in a house district, well, you've got to have working class voters here. Down here in Columbus, if you want to win the city, which they do,

then you're more of your progressive, liberal party, if you will, in the city. If you want to win statewide, it's a lot more complicated, which is why one of the other key 2018 big question, some would argue an even bigger question than the House of Representatives is can Democrats have a long-term trajectory back to competitiveness by winning some of these governor races?

To do that, you've got to win everywhere. That's what's complicated. Republicans have had great success at the governor's level during the Obama years. Democrats hope 2018 is a building block on the way back, we're going to see that play out.

And you see it in these races where you have, let's say, the Michigan Democratic primary tonight for governor. A progressive Medicare for all candidate who would be the first Muslim governor in America running against a more centrist Democratic establishment candidate. Tension in that party as well. We focus more on the Republican tension because of the president's high profile. The Democrats have their own tug-of-wars as well.

CUOMO: What are you watching most right now before we leave you? I'll come back to you later in the show when we get to the next wave. What are you looking at most closely in Ohio?

KING: I'm looking at the margins down here. I'm looking to see whether or not turnout is way down from 2016. 2016 is a presidential election. This is a special election in August, so turnout is way, way down.

Who showed up on Election Day? Most times, Republicans tell you the early votes come out for the Democrats. And then Republicans tend to be more traditionalists. We vote on election days. That's true most of the time.

Is that what's happening tonight? Can Danny O'Connor hold this lead in Franklin County, and are these big percentages out in the rural areas for Troy Balderson -- you see the big percentages, especially here, a little more so over here. The percentages are great. Is the math enough?

CUOMO: All right.

KING: Are enough rural Republicans coming out to vote tonight to offset at least what early on is a big Danny O'Connor advantage, down here, near Columbus, as you noted, in the suburbs where the people live?

CUOMO: All right. Well, let's do it this way. As you see the numbers change in an impressive way, get in my ear. I'll come right back to you.

KING: You got a deal.

CUOMO: John King, thank you very much.

Right now, let's bring in CNN Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash and Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger.

So, we've got both of you here. It's great to get both of your minds on the idea of the distinction between politics and policy.

Dana, you know, just starting with you here, by historical measure, Ohio should not be a race. You can't find a metric that is positive for the Democrats going into this, and yet you got Danny O'Connor is in a very competitive race.

What do we learn from a policy perspective about what buttons he's pushing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's an important question because I've been talking to Republicans and Democrats all day about these races, particularly Ohio. And there's one thing that they agree on, and that is something really simple, Chris. And that's candidates matter.

It's easy to forget that when you're in these -- what looks like potential wave elections. But even in a wave election, in a district like this, your point, where a Democrat hasn't won in almost 40 years, waves aren't enough.

And so in this particular case, what Danny O'Connor has done is focus on basically bread and butter issues, on health care, on Social Security, on Medicare, drilling down on those, attacking the parts of the Republican tax plan that they believe really -- that he believes really appeals to independents and maybe even some Trump voters who he can get. He also is very much aggressively distancing himself from all things Washington, including his own party leader, Nancy Pelosi.

And on the flip side, Troy Balderson, in any other environment, would be a perfectly fine Republican candidate in this district, which is, you know, Democrats didn't even bother for the past, you know, three decades. And in this case, Republicans say he's OK, but he was slow at getting up and running on the air and getting to the point where he understood that this was a real race.

Now, this could be a Republican win in the end. But just the fact that we're having this discussion about this race really is a reminder --


BASH: -- that the focus is where it should be as far as Democrats are concerned on these bread and butter policy issues, which could bring some of those rural voters that you were talking about back into the fold for Democrats come November.

CUOMO: That's a question. You know, I mean, I really believe that Trump didn't make the movement. The movement made Trump.

BASH: Yes, exactly.

CUOMO: And you had disaffected people who were looking for anti- politicians, not a savior but a virus to inject into the system and attack the elites and attack all the systems they didn't like. And they found it in Trump. I don't know what the Democrat play is there now.

So, let's shift over to you, Gloria. I love being able to pose a question that gets answered in real-time on the show.

What's going on with Governor John Kasich?


CUOMO: He's popular. He's a big GOPer there obviously.


CUOMO: He was slow on Balderson. Why?

BORGER: Really. Really slow.

Well, you know, first of all, let's talk about his popularity. He's got a 52 percent popularity, but he's more popular with Democrats in the state than he is with Republicans right now. So, number one.

With Balderson, he took months too endorse him for a couple of reasons. One is he disagrees with him because John Kasich, as you know from the presidential campaign, really believes governors should take that Medicaid money in Ohio. Balderson said, you know, no, you should not.

Also, it is no secret that John Kasich does not like Donald Trump at all. So this was kind of -- this was kind of dicey for him. But in the end, he ended up endorsing the Republican.

What kind of difference it's going to make at this point, we really have no idea. And, you know, he has been out there for him, but I think the question is in the areas where John Kasich is popular, Delaware County, suburban women, will he be able to convince those people who do not like Donald Trump that because he's endorsed him, they ought to go for him? And will he be able to convince those independent voters that they ought to go for Balderson?

And those are the folks that like Kasich. A little complicated.

CUOMO: It is, especially just because he endorsed doesn't mean he's out there burning calories for him.


BASH: He's not.

CUOMO: We haven't really seen that. I understand that there's a big difference between an endorsement and a commitment.

BORGER: Right.

CUOMO: So, we'll see how it plays out. Dana, Gloria, thank you very much.

BASH: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: You hear anything that we need to get to the audience, let me know. I'll come right back to you.

All right. Let's dig in to what this means tonight with CNN's Chris Cillizza.

Good to have you.

So, Tom Perez said to me once, you know, I heard you saying, Cuomo, everybody likes a tax cut. Because you know who doesn't like a tax cut? People who didn't get one.

So, now, that's something that O'Connor is working in Ohio.


CUOMO: They said they would help you. You didn't get helped by the tax cut. How resonant is that?

CILLIZZA: OK. So, I always think in campaigns, you got to pay attention to the ads because that's where the money's going, right? So, pay attention to the messages that they're using in ads.

So, Republicans started talking about the tax cut a few weeks back, attacking O'Connor, promoting Balderson. They stopped doing that very quickly and switched to a message, Chris, that was focused -- it's like a replay of 2010 and 2014. Nancy Pelosi is a liberal. Danny O'Connor wants to be for her. OK, that tells you one thing.

Now, Danny O'Connor and the Democrats now towards the end of this campaign are spending money on ads that essentially say Troy Balderson is for this tax cut. This tax cut would bankrupt Social Security, Medicare. It would help the wealthy and hurt you, average person.

That's not what we thought would happen and what Republicans insisted -- I remember when Trump signed that tax cut, Republicans said, we are going to run -- Mitch McConnell, we're going to run on this every single day. This is great for us. People like more money in their pocketbook.

They may, but I will tell you there is a reason that Democrats didn't start on taxes and ended on taxes and Republicans started on taxes and didn't end on it.

CUOMO: Here's a real-time check on the margins we believe we've seen a contraction, a shrinking. Look at that.

All right. Now, the numbers are pulling up, but you heard John King earlier. You have to watch this with patience because we saw with Hillary Clinton in Ohio, Democrats vote early in that state. They do early voting. They do voting by mail. So, they're already in the system. They tabulate them right away. But the real returns can often be very different. She was up by

double digits. She lost by almost double digits in that state. I think she lost by eight.

So, the numbers are contracting. It's going to be very close. That's unusual. But the Democrats have to get wins not just close losses.

So, let's leave it there. Let's take a quick break because we're going to get more numbers in and we'll be able to process them for you.

So, when we come back, we'll have the latest returns from the race we're watching in Ohio. But, remember, you have five big states all across the country tonight that are going to give us a look at where people's heads and hearts are in advance of the midterms. Our best look yet, next.


CUOMO: All right. This Ohio 12th district race has become a proxy for the state of play between Democrats and Republicans. This is our best look at what might happen in the midterms to date. We have people at both campaigns and you're getting such different stories.

Jason Carroll is at Republican Troy Balderson's headquarters in Newark, Ohio. Rebecca Berg is at Democrat Danny O'Connor's in Westerville.

But two very different stories. I'll get to Berg in one second.

Jason, what are you hearing from Balderson? What are they telling right now?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, just hearing some cheers here in the room as some of the results just came in. But, look, they are feeling very optimistic at this point. They realize it could be tight. The race could be tight. It could be a late night.

They're feeling especially good about the president, Chris, coming in this weekend. They feel as though he's going to give Balderson that extra bit of a push that he may need. They know that there is a lot of momentum coming in from Democrats, but the question is, can the president create enough enthusiasm to match the enthusiasm coming in from Democrats? The campaign feels as though that will be the case -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Jason. Thank you very much.

Now, the spin there is, hey, we knew this could be close. Really?

Trump won it. Romney won it. Clinton was up early. She got beat significantly, eight points in that.

And they've held this seat for 30 years, Rebecca Berg. So, now, O'Connor is close, but let's put the numbers up for people. We just had, you know, another Ohio moment, which is he was up. But the lead is now all but gone.

This race is neck and neck. There's still a lot of votes to be tabulated. If you look at the different plays, 66 percent in, now Balderson is ahead.

Just like that. As you jump from county and county, and John King is standing by. He's looking at the county by county mix in this because it's a big part of the state, the 12th district. You're going to see moves as they move from demographic to demographic. And the all- important battleground will be the suburbs.

Now, Rebecca Berg, O'Connor's people are not going to like what they just saw happen on the big screen. What's their mood?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: No. Well, they're certainly not going to be surprised, Chris, by these jumps in the polls, and they are expecting tonight a very close race. As you mentioned, this is a Republican district. A Republican has represented this district in Congress since 1940 for all about two years.

So, this is solid Republican turf, and Danny O'Connor has certainly overperformed. Democrats have overperformed. But overperforming is not going to be enough for them. They want to win this race.

They want to send a message for Democrats here in Ohio and also national Democrats going into the fall. And so, we do expect, of course, a close race. But they are definitely hoping for a win here tonight.

They've been working to get out the vote hard. They knocked on doors twice for every target voter. So this has been an aggressive campaign, and they're not looking for second place here tonight even if they do exceed expectations.

CUOMO: Is that Journey that they have blasting behind you there, Rebecca Berg? Are you too young to pick up on that song? The lyrics are --

BERG: It is. Don't stop believing, Chris.

CUOMO: Don't stop believing. But, you know, they better hold on to it right now.

BERG: Maybe a subliminal -- right, right.

CUOMO: Yes,, those lyrics are going to play one of two ways in this race tonight.

All right. Thank you very much. Jason, Rebecca, as you hear things in the campaign, we need to tell the audience. Come back to us.

Why are we saying Ohio is such a bellwether for tonight? Because you have all this history on the GOP side but you have this very tight race. So what does that contradiction tell us?

Well, I'll tell you what the main play is -- suburbs. I know people think that most of the votes come from urban areas, big cities, but that's not true. Forty-nine percent of the votes in the last election came from suburbs. And you know who won them? Donald Trump. That's why it's such an important demographic.

The Democrats need them. Can they start moving that direction? All of those factors are what makes it a bellwether and an awesome topic for a great debate.

As the results come in, these two gentlemen will argue over what it means, next.


CUOMO: All right. Now, up on the screen you're going to see over the course of the night what the state of play is. The Democrats need 23 states to flip the House. One of the reasons we're watching Ohio tonight is if Danny O'Connor pulls off an upset, and it would be a major upset in that 12th district race, it goes down to 22. Still a lot of wood to chop for the Democrats. But if they don't win this one, it's equally as impressive.

Let's bring back John King right now, the guru -- because since I last spoke to you, this race has flip-flopped twice.

KING: And it could -- in the course of this conversation, it could again. When you went to break, the Republican was ahead. You come out of break, the Democrat is ahead by a thousand votes, 1,018 votes.

Danny O'Connor leading 50 percent to 49.4 percent. Seventy-five percent of the vote in.

Chris, let's look at these counties because that's where this gets so important. Number one, Danny O'Connor is doing what his team thinks he needs to do most of all, keep it above 63 percent, 64 percent in Franklin County. That needs to be more than a third of the vote. If he can hold that number, they think he can win.

Why do they think that even though it's so close right now? Here's one of the issues. The reason this got closer is Delaware County started to report votes. It's up to 24 percent now. And the Republican jumped ahead. Troy Balderson jumped ahead.

Look at the margin there, 51 to 48. Is that enough for Troy Balderson? Probably not if the numbers stay her here. But this is the key county, only 24 percent of the vote in here. Watch Delaware County to see if Balderson can stretch that out a little bit.

Again, 88 percent in Franklin, only 24 percent in Delaware -- suburbs, exurbs closer in, more affluent Republicans. That's where Danny O'Connor needs to run strongest.

Here's the problem for Troy Balderson. It doesn't mean it's definitive, but rural county, 100 percent in. Yes, he's winning, big percentages. I don't know if that math is enough. The turnout, is that high enough out there. Come over here, 100 percent in. Again, winning with 70 percent, you

think, wow, that's great. The question is, is the math, is the turnout up here enough to offset more votes down here?

Ninety percent reporting now in Richland County. Again, a good margin for the Republican. Maybe not big enough. Turnout not necessarily great.

So, here's the point I'm trying to make. They're all counted. They're all counted. Some left here. They're all counted here. They're all counted here except for 2 percent.

So in the places where we know Troy Balderson can win and run up a lead, most if not all votes are in.

CUOMO: Accounted for.

KING: You start -- yes. You start coming down here, Delaware County is going to be key. There's always one. This is the late county.

CUOMO: What's the return percentage in the biggest county?

KING: I'm sorry again?

CUOMO: The biggest county, what's the return percentage?

KING: In the biggest county right now, we're at 88 percent.

CUOMO: So, 88 percent --

KING: So, still more votes to get here. The question is what's out, right?

CUOMO: Right.

KING: Is it a more -- is it a closer in, more Democratic precinct? Is it a further out? I don't have that information with me at the moment.

The O'Connor campaign believes if they can keep this at 63 percent, 64 percent --

CUOMO: Right.

KING: -- and the rest of the district runs normal, they can win. That's their guess. We'll see what happens.

But again, there's always one county. You know this. You've been at this for a long time.

CUOMO: Sure.

KING: There's always one county that lags behind the others. It happens to be Delaware County right now.

I just want to give you a quick history again. Turnout is going to be nowhere close to 2016. That was a presidential election year. This is a special election in a midterm year in August of all things.

But the Republican with 51 percent there, the last time Tiberi, the Republican incumbent who stepped down, won 72 percent in the presidential year in Delaware County.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: So, the question is, is that good enough?

CUOMO: Right.

KING: Is that good enough for Troy Balderson as we count the rest of these votes? Nothing else, just come back to the C.D., just to look at it again now -- 593-vote difference, Mr. Cuomo. Seventy-six percent in in the district.

We have some more counting to do.

CUOMO: It's so close.

KING: To your point, just that's it's close --

CUOMO: It's so close.

KING: -- is bad news for the Republicans.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: The question is, is this bad news or is it about to turn into terrible news?

CUOMO: I'll tell you what we know for sure. It's bad news for you because this is going to be another night where you're going to have to be around, because it's going to be close up to the end, but you're the best at it.

John, thank you very much.

KING: This is why they brew espresso.


All right. Let's have a great debate.

Van Jones, David Urban, we don't know the outcome so you know what? We don't have to take a lot of time on this.

There's one proposition. Who has the better message? This isn't about O'Connor and Balderson. All due respect to both their campaigns, they've both made some good plays in this race. We've been doing our research.

But, Van Jones, who had -- do the Democrats have the better case in these midterms?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, first of all, it does matter that we are right now watching a race where the Republican is running on flat ground, and the Republican is running uphill in the rain with short legs, and they are neck and neck.

We should not be within one point of anybody in a district that red. Something is happening out there. We've forced Republicans to spend 5 million bucks in the middle of the summer. They he had to fire Donald Trump, all his weaponry, and we're still neck and neck at this time of night.

Something is happening out there, and I think it has to do with the message on both sides. Donald Trump is causing himself problems. He's stepping on his economic message with all this nonsense that he does.

And you've got somebody who is out there running for the Democrats saying, I'm going to protect the 700,000 people who got that Medicaid expansion. I'm going to stick up for Social Security. And you've got a Republican who says, nah, actually 700,000 people with Medicaid expansion, I don't care anything about you. Even Donald Trump didn't say that.

So you've got a bad message from the Republican candidate. You've got a bad distraction from the president. And you've got a Democrat who is neck and neck when he's running uphill. It's -- something happening is out there.

CUOMO: Dave, rebuttal.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wow. Wow. So overly optimistic. Overly optimistic.

Let me tell you, Chris, you say candidates don't matter. Earlier in the piece, in one of your segments, I heard Dana say candidates do matter. I agree with her, not you, in this case. Candidates do matter.

This is like PA 18 which we watched and talked about, Conor Lamb versus Rick Saccone. You had a very tough primary. Look, I've been following this race for a long time.

One of my very good friends, a guy named Tim Kaine (ph), Air Force Academy grad, Stanford economist, very bright guy, ran in the primary there. So, I've been dialed in and watching this evolve over time, and I'm not -- look, I'm not sure that Balderson was the best, strongest candidate that emerge. But, you know, here you got it.

This isn't really about the president. It's about the individual candidate. All these - all these elections, especially special elections --


CUOMO: Have you looked at the list of guys who have held that congressional seat? Ohio has been -- this has been a GOP seat for all but two years in the last four decades.


CUOMO: They have not had like some Hall of Fame list of people holding it.

URBAN: Well, Chris, guess who won that district in the last presidential election? Not the Trump presidential election. Who won in 2012 and by what margin?

CUOMO: Romney.

URBAN: Let me tell you, let me tell you -- no, no, he didn't. Obama won by 53 percent.

CUOMO: I know.

URBAN: Obama won the district. So, everybody says this is such a Republican district, how did Obama win in 2012 by the same margin that President Trump won?

You know, it defies logic.

CUOMO: Romney won the state, though, and they've held the district for --

URBAN: But we're not talking about the state. We're talking about --

CUOMO: -- but two years in four decades.

URBAN: Look, Chris, we're talking about this district, OK?

CUOMO: The Democrats weren't even putting somebody up for some of those years because there was such prohibitive loss.

URBAN: We're talking about how -- listen, how ruby red this is and how it's impossible for Democrats to win. Well, a Democrat in 2012 won pretty handily.

JONES: Not for the congressional seat.

CUOMO: Not for the congressional seat.

URBAN: Listen, OK, well, don't paint it like it's this ruby red, dyed in the wool Republican --

JONESD: I don't know how red you have to be, sir. From 1935 to now, you've only lost twice.

URBAN: Van, you don't have to call me sir, buddy. You can call me Dave.


URBAN: Chris, I heard your earlier point, Chris, about the suburbs.


URBAN: Listen, I heard your earlier point about the suburbs, Chris. You know who doesn't believe the suburbs are important?


URBAN: The current flag bearer, standard bearer for the Democratic Party, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who said that, you know, there is no upper middle income --

CUOMO: Standard bearer for the Democratic party? Nancy Pelosi is going to come and punch you in the nose, Dave Urban.

URBAN: So, listen, if I were to take Nancy Pelosi around America or Ms. Ocasio-Cortez around, I could guess -- I bet you can guess who gets bigger crowds.

Listen, so, she's saying suburbs don't matter. Upper middle class doesn't exist. The Democratic Party has been focusing on those folks for too long. So, if that's the message, let me tell you --


CUOMO: Van, is that what Nancy Pelosi says? Is that what Ocasio- Cortez says?


CUOMO: Hold on, Dave. Let's get the last word from Van.

JONES: What I know about both of them, neither of them went to the district. Trump went to the district, and they are -- and he's in a foot race right now. His candidate is in a foot race with somebody who nobody ever heard of three months ago. I'm going to tell you --

URBAN: Listen, so Danny O'Connor said he won't vote for Nancy Pelosi.


JONES: Hold on. You had your time. I want to give some credit on one issue we haven't talked about is that there were a bunch of voters who were purged in Ohio because they were so-called infrequent, a progressive group called Demos got out there and got a deal cut so that everybody could vote this time.

That's the kind of stuff happening on the ground, fighting for voting rights, for progressive values that is making this race so close.

CUOMO: We will see how it turns out.

URBAN: Hey, Chris, you know, what's making this race close? You've got Democrats like Conor Lamb and Danny O'Connor, who are running against Nancy Pelosi and who are running against the Democratic Party as blue dog Democrats.

CUOMO: How is he running against the party? He went after the tax cuts and said they didn't help it.

(CROSSTALK) CUOMO: You sound nervous, Dave.

URBAN: He's not going to vote for the minority leader.

CUOMO: You sound nervous.

JONES: You guys can only run talk about Pelosi, you keep -- I love Nancy Pelosi. You keep talking about her, but --


CUOMO: Hold on. Let's end the debate and go to the results because you'll have more fodder once we get the numbers. Let's got to break, but I want to show the numbers because they're moving in real-time. That's how close it is.

Look at the margin in this race. We have probably never seen one like this in Ohio in this district for Congress.

Why is it happening? You heard the two gentlemen making their points. Let's take a break. When we come back, we're going to give you more insight and a new round of numbers.

There are more returns coming in right now. Stay with CNN.


CUOMO: All right. Let's put up the latest numbers. O'Connor back on top. But again, look at the spread. This is why we have to keep checking it in real-time, and nobody is going to tell you that this race is concluded and give you a final result.

And if they do, don't believe it, all right? Why does this matter? Again, it's a bellwether. The GOP has held this seat, this congressional district, for all but like two years in the last four decades. All right?

Donald Trump did very well in this state. And word to the wise. Early on the returns there showed Hillary Clinton winning. Democrats get recorded earlier in Ohio for different reasons.

When the whole state came in, Clinton lost it by eight points. Obama did win this. Thank you very much, everybody, for coming in and saying, wait a minute. You told me different numbers.

Let's be clear. Obama won this state. However, Romney won the district that's in play right now, and he won it handily, OK?

That's why we're saying that this is a traditionally ruby red place. And that's why the suburbs here are such an important battleground. And that's why the fact that it's close is so interesting. But close gets you nothing in politics.

So, let's talk about what this will mean either way that it goes. Our next guest is the DNC chair, Tom Perez.

It's great to have you. Welcome back to PRIME TIME.

This is a big night. This is the best look at what the midterms could be that we've had to date. Ohio 12, you're close.

I don't think you've ever heard anybody say that to you as a Democrat before. Why are you close?

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Because we're organizing everywhere. We've got a great candidate. We've got a great message.

He's fighting for health care. He's fighting to make sure that people with diabetes or people like his mother, who is a cancer survivor, can get access to health care by protecting Medicaid. He's fighting to make sure that everybody's got a fair shot. He's fighting for prosperity for everyone.

And his opponent is fighting the Trump agenda, that agenda that said those tax cuts are OK. The agenda -- his opponent said, I'd be willing to change the age for Social Security and Medicare retirement eligibility. We're fighting for these basic Democratic issues that affect people's lives, and he's talking about Nancy Pelosi and things that aren't relevant.

That's why we're winning this race. And, Chris, there's been a remarkable --

CUOMO: I just put up the numbers, tom. Can you see them just so you know? Right now, O'Connor is up by like 100 votes.

PEREZ: This feels like Conor Lamb again. Yes, this is the Conor Lamb race where we saw it seesaw.

What I'm heartened by, as you pointed out before, is if he continues to be at 65 percent in Franklin County, that's going to do him well. And what his opponent's going to need to do in Delaware County is win probably 56 to 44, 57 to 43, and he's not doing it right now. A lot more to go there.

But I'll tell you the reason Danny -- one of the reasons Danny O'Connor is doing so great in addition to focusing on that message is that there has been remarkable unity. There were seven people in the Democratic primary, and when Danny won, everybody came together.


CUOMO: Well, that's an interesting point, Tom, because we've talked about this before, and we're going to talk about it a lot more during this election season. You know, which vein of thought is going to wind up owning the Democratic Party because it's one thing to want to get Medicaid for certain people, but Medicare for all is something different. You know, free health care for everybody, single payer is something different than going back to just what the ACA was in full.

The party is going to have to make a choice, is it not?

PEREZ: Well, look at -- look at the choices are, I think, best reflected in the elections that are being run. And you look there in the 12th congressional district of Ohio. And after Danny won, everybody came together.

The Indivisible chapter there supported one of his opponents and they have been all in for Danny. Swing left, all in for Danny. The labor movement, the DCCC, the DNC, the Democratic Party there, everybody coming together because they understand that people's health care is at stake.


PEREZ: Medicare and Social Security are at stake. Our democracy is frankly at stake. And we're fighting for all of these.

We saw this in Virginia last year, a spirited primary on the Democratic side. Everybody felt like their candidate got a fair shake. They came together, record turnout.

We've been winning across this country, whether it's Conor Lamb's district. Whether -- we'll see what happens tonight in Danny O'Connor's district. It's remarkable we're having this conversation.

CUOMO: Right. I mean, look --

PEREZ: And that's -- that's the bottom line. We're winning everywhere because we're fielding the candidates that reflect the values of the districts where they are running. That's key.

CUOMO: I understand the key of suit to fit. But eventually it's going to have to wind up galvanizing to a national message. It will have to be counter and somehow positive more than anti-Trump to win on a big scale. We'll see how you get there.

And, you know, as Van Jones, to borrow his metaphor, you are fighting uphill. Since the beginning of June, the president has been on some run. You know, he's backed 11 candidates in contests and he's won all of them.

So, let's see what happens tonight and what it means going forward.

Tom Perez, thank you for making the case from the side of the Democrats. Appreciate it on the show.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure to be with you, Chris.

CUOMO: All right. Be well.

All right. So, that's Tom Perez. You know why that matters for him. But again, being close ain't a win.

Let's take you back to these numbers. This is not the kind of thing we've seen from this district in Ohio before, 155 votes.

We'll be back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CUOMO: All right. Let's bring back John King.

John, I'm looking at the breakdown right now. You show people what you're seeing on the board. I'm tracking it because I'm trying to get word from people on the ground about what they think is going to happen in that last big population center, about 10 percent of the vote that they're waiting on -- 155 votes separates them.

KING: That is amazing. And if you're the Democrats you're thinking, we've already won tonight. Now, that doesn't mean you want -- you do want to win the district, that's what you want. But the fact that this is so close is amazing.

Before I get to the numbers, I just want to make this point. The fact that Democrats are competitive in a district that is 88 percent white is why they can be optimistic going into November. They should be solid Republican county. But tonight, it is not.

Let's get it to the county level and look at this. To your point, you all see this red, Danny O'Connor, the Democrat, is leading only in the Franklin County portion of the district. Everywhere else the problem is ahead.

Here's the problem for Troy Balderson -- 100 percent is in here, 100 percent is in here, 100 percent is in here, 100 percent is in here and 100 percent is in here. Two counties that we're going to watch as we have 155 vote difference that we're counting this out.

Delaware County, only a little more than half of the vote in. Troy Balderson ahead, 52-47. Is that enough? His campaign want that up?

We're going to watch as the rest of the votes come in here. It's the second biggest part of the district. The biggest part, as you noted, you've been talking about the suburbs all night. This is where more people live, a third of the voters live down here in the slice of Franklin County that's in the 12th district.

CUOMO: Ninety-four percent in.

So what kind of space does that leave, what is 6 percent?

KING: If it comes, it's 6 percent of precincts. So, if it comes -- if it keeps coming in like this, the question is, is it enough to offset if Troy Balderson holds his lead here? Is there -- what's the math?

If your question, what's the turnout? As we see the remaining precincts come in, that's the part we don't know. But that tells us how close we are, this has slipped from 65 plus now just below 65.

CUOMO: Right.

KING: Watch the percentages and do the math.

I think the interesting thing we're going to see tonight -- remember, this is the August special election. Turnout is down. One of the questions, are enough people coming out for Danny O'Connor down here? And did enough people since we're at 100 percent, come out up here? The percentage up here is great. Is the math enough?

CUOMO: Right.

KING: Is the math -- is a 3,000-vote difference here enough to offset what's happening down here? That's what we're going to go through as we get these final numbers. But we need the final numbers.

CUOMO: So, it's a question of perspective. Obama won this state, Romney won the district. Hillary Clinton, how did she do in this county? Just in terms of getting us perspective of how Democrats have done here in the past, we've been telling the audience all night, this congressional district has been GOP ruby red for all but like two years in the last four decades.

KING: Come on over here.

CUOMO: But just in terms of -- give us some perspective of how Democrats have done in this county, in this district?

KING: Come on over here and let's look at the 2012 presidential race. You talked about it. The Columbus area, this is Franklin County, this is the entire county. The part that's in the 12th district is up here. The Democrats win this country. That's 2012. But Mitt Romney carried the district in 2012.

Let's go to 2016. We can look at this by congressional district here, this is the 12th district. President Trump carried the district. But this is -- you see this piece down here, Hillary Clinton if you look at the statewide map for president, let me try to get you to that, president there -- Hillary Clinton carried Franklin County if you just pop up Franklin County.

Again , you can see this anywhere in America. The cities are blue, as you start to move away, it gets more red, especially through the suburbs. But that's been during the Trump presidency. The close-in suburbs in here have turned against this president.

That's why Alabama has a Democratic senator. That's why Democrats did so well in Virginia. I could go on and on and on including Pennsylvania 18, and Conor Lamb.

So, this district is ruby red Republican. The fact that it's so close is a big deal. If you look ahead to November, let me switch again for you.

Here's what you're looking at, we have 95 House races that we view as the most competitive going forward, 82 of them are held by Republicans, Republicans are on defense, if they're worried about this district, ruby red here, guess what? No matter what happens in the next couple hours, every one of these other Republicans goes to bed tonight a little more nervous.

CUOMO: John King, thank you very much. Let's put the returns up there, we've had another flip. Look at this now. Troy Balderson, 131 votes ahead. Danny O'Connor was ahead by 155 votes. Now, this flip.

As John King just told you, you got 89 percent in, 11 percent of the precincts still have to report. This could go either way.

What's the big takeaway? We have that for you next.


CUOMO: All right. There has been another shift in the numbers. There you see it, Balderson now with 1,031-vote lead over Democrat Danny O'Connor.

CNN's Chris Cillizza has been with me all night tonight.

Now, you heard me be saying, hey, look, this is about wins and losses.


CUOMO: Close doesn't get it done. But there's another take about why it matters, how so?

CILLIZZA: OK. We live in a world of wins and losses, particularly in elections.


CILLIZZA: So, winning is always better than losing. That said, what you are looking at with those numbers, and it's not going to change that much, whoever winds up ahead, it's effectively a tie, right? I mean, you're talking about 1,000 votes between out of 170,000.

CUOMO: Except the Republicans keep the seat of vote --


CILLIZZA: They do, they absolutely do. But here's the note I would tell you, Mitt Romney wins this district that we're talking about by 12 points. Donald Trump wins this district that we're talking about by 11 points. OK, what does that tell you?

If Republicans have to deal with basically a tie, very close to a tie, a slight, slight win. If they have to deal with a district that Donald Trump won by 11, that Mitt Romney won by 10, that is problematic in the fall.

Again, any honest Republican strategist will tell you, Democrats have no business being close here, O'Connor, Balderson, I heard David Urban and Van talking about candidate quality. The truth is, they're both perfectly fine. Neither is terrible. Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania 18 earlier this year, not a very good candidate, sort of bad contrast with Conor Lamb who is quite good, the Democrat.

These two guys are fine -- a state senator and a guy who's in office, the Democrat, Franklin County, just an office, OK?

CUOMO: Right. CILLIZZA: So, in some ways, it's just a generic who do you -- what party do you like better? Because these are ciphers (ph) for Trump and Pelosi.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: OK? That's what this election has been about, the fact that it's this close.

If you're a Republican and you say, whew, Troy Balderson is ahead by 1,039 votes, let's say Troy Balderson goes on to win, there's a whistling past the political graveyard element there because that should not be -- that can be a takeaway. That should not be the key takeaway.

CUOMO: Right.

CILLIZZA: Let's see if you're an incumbent or a Republican incumbent in a district that Donald Trump won by eight, Chris? This should worry you, if you are smart. This should worry you.

CUOMO: Or does it tell you, anti is not enough? Now, I know to be fair, O'Connor was going on Medicare, the Medicaid thing, but it's going to be interesting to see, what it means in terms of projection of what the party messages on the other side.

Now, that said, look at the numbers now, Danny O'Connor back up on top 201 votes. He was just down by 1,000. That's how tight my margins are.

My thanks to Chris Cillizza.

Let's keep our coverage going. Let's bring in Don Lemon with "CNN TONIGHT" right now.

This race has changed five times on our watch. Don Lemon is going to see it through.