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GOP DeSantis, Democrat Gillum on Florida Governor's Debate; Trump: GOP Planning Major Tax Cut for Middle Class; Angry Protesters Confront GOP and Democratic Leaders; Migrant Caravan Resumes March North. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired October 21, 2018 - 19:00   ET


[19:00:00] MARK PRESTON, CNN EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF POLITICAL PROGRAMMING: Ron DeSantis goes on to win. The congressman then is going to be facing a Democrat, Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who had no shot of winning, very much a long shot heading into this race, but he himself won as well.

So, now, you have these two men who are very young. A lot of people look at them as the future of politics here in Florida, but they are so diametrically opposed when it comes to just about every policy issue, whether that becomes the economy and job creation or immigration. Just about, name it, they are polar opposites.

When we talk about a divided country right now, we're talking about a divided governor's race. And that's why what we see here tonight will definitely give you an idea of really what's happening across the United States.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And help us -- give our viewers a little more context in terms of where the race stands right now because we have some brand-new CNN polling on this race. What does it show?

PRESTON: We do. So we have new polls right now that shows that Andrew Gillum has a 12-point lead in this CNN poll. And there's been quite a bit of controversy about that, wondering if it really should be that high, but let's just dig into it very quickly why it would come to that number.

If you look at here, you can see that Gillum has done well -- done much better with independents. But let me just stop here on the numbers right now and say we are in the closing weeks of an election, a very competitive election right now, a very engaged electorate.

In the closing weeks, we are going to start to see Republicans come home, we're going to start to see Democrats come home, and, really, where this election is going to be won. It's going to be won on the edges, and it's going to be won with independents.

And it's going to be won by Democrats, Republicans who are not sure they want to support their nominee. Those independents as well. And they're going to learn tonight where they stand on the issues, Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Mark Preston, we are excited. Less than an hour from now is when it all begins. Thank you. The stakes in Florida tonight couldn't be higher. During a town hall

in Saint Petersburg, Friday, Democrat Andrew Gillum revealed how he is preparing for this debate.


ANDREW GILLUM, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR FLORIDA'S GOVERNOR: He takes his cues from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has no relationship to the truth either.

Now, I'm going to do everything that I can to try to keep this conversation at a high level. I'm going to do everything that I can to have a debate that is deserving of the people of Florida. But if I have to go there --


GILLUM: If I have to go there, I'm going to go there. All right?


CABRERA: Joining us, Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gates. He is a member of the House Armed Services, Judiciary, and Budget committees. And he is a supporter of Andrew Gillum's opponent, Ron DeSantis.

Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. MATT GATES (R), FLORIDA: Oh, it's great to be here. All eyes on the sunshine state in the oldest state in the country.


GATES: I think it's very exciting that we have two 39-year-olds running for governor. I expect a very engaging and informative debate tonight.

CABRERA: We all do. Let's talk a little bit more about it. Again, this is a debate that will be moderated by our Jake Tapper. It starts at 8:00 p.m. It's Democrat Andrew Gillum taking on Ron DeSantis.

What is the message you expect to hear from DeSantis tonight?

GATES: Well, we're going to put the Gillum record on trial. Andrew Gillum is a failed mayor who's overseeing a crime-ridden city. And he's probably under FBI investigation, and so I think that the people of Florida want to know that folks can get the job done.

CABRERA: Although he says that the FBI investigation of the city doesn't have anything to do with him, but please continue.

GATES: Well, unfortunately, he has had some text messages, e-mails, trips to New York, trips to Costa Rica with lobbyists and FBI agents. And my suspicion is we'll be learning more about that in the coming days. The people of Florida want to know that you got somebody who can

respond in the time of need. Whether that's responding to rising crime rates or even dealing with jobs and hurricanes and all the dynamic things we have in Florida.

Ron DeSantis has been a combat veteran, a prosecutor. He is a conservative who served in the Congress, and I think he's going to do a great job tonight.

CABRERA: Now, people in your district -- you mentioned some of the other factors that may be coming into play, including Hurricane Michael. How are your constituents doing, first of all? And do you have concerns that voters there and elsewhere in the Panhandle may have obstacles in their way to try to cast their votes?

GATES: Yes, I am concerned. And we've still got a lot of folks working hard and rebuilding. And we certainly wish well to all the first responders and all the folks that they're working to take care of.

And I am concerned that there may be some folks that have higher priorities than voting, but we've got supervisors of elections in Bay and Gulf counties, two of the most impacted counties, that are setting up super-voting precincts so that no matter where someone lives, they'll be able to go to a precinct that will be able to accept their vote. And so we've got to get the information out to people.

We want to see high turnout in the Panhandle and across Florida. And I think that when Ron DeSantis really excites the Republican electorate and makes the case to independents that Andrew Gillum has been a failed mayor, then he'll be the one that will be the governor of the great state of Florida.

CABRERA: I want to ask about your work in Congress. The President, yesterday, talking about another tax cut before the midterms. Let's listen.


[19:05:02] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are looking at putting in a very major tax cut for middle-income people. And if we do that, it will be sometime just prior, I would say, to November. I would say sometime around the 1st of November, maybe a little before that.


CABRERA: Congressman, obviously, when voters hear middle-class tax cut, their ears perk up, but Congress is out of session. How do you get a tax cut in the next 10 days?

GATES: I would love it if we would go back to Washington to cut taxes in the next 10 days or, really, at any point in time because President Trump's tax cut has really invigorated the economy. I'm not sure that that's a likely outcome, but I love the President's enthusiasm for the reforms that help people live better lives and become more secure in their jobs and careers.

Because when we've got an optimistic, forward-looking America, there's nothing we can't accomplish. And that's one of the reasons why I think the President has a very strong approval rating in Florida. And that will be a factor in this race, is he works to try to create good turnout for Ron DeSantis.

CABRERA: But he's talking about a tax cut that he says is going to happen, another tax cut just focused on the middle class. Not businesses, he says. And he said it's going to happen before November 1st. Do you know the details of this tax cut?

GATES: I'm unaware of any scenario between now and November 1st. But one thing I know about President Trump, he really -- he understands that reform is never over, and so I wouldn't be surprised if he had plans for additional economic reforms. And it's one of the reasons why I think the American people are trusting President Trump on the economy because it's doing so well.

CABRERA: Are you concerned about the deficit?

GATES: I am. I voted against the Republican budget that allowed tax cuts to occur at the same time that we were too gutless to do spending cuts. I'm glad that President Trump has called upon members of his cabinet to have a five percent reduction across the board, but, frankly, we need so much more.

We need more courageous people in Washington willing to work together to try to get at some of the real drivers of our debt. And, frankly, Republicans and Democrats have failed us for a generation in that regard.

CABRERA: I also want to ask you about the situation with the Saudis. We still don't have all the details about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death, but here is what the President is saying about the Crown Prince this morning to "The Washington Post."

He calls him a strong person. He says he has very good control. He is seen as a person who can keep things under check. I mean that in a positive way, he says.

Congressman, should the President be praising the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia right now?

GATES: I hate to have to say that we grade Saudi Arabia on a curve, but we definitely grade Saudi Arabia on a curve. And if you look at some of the reforms the Crown Prince has championed, allowing women to drive, that may not sound like a big deal, but if you're a woman and you can't drive in Saudi Arabia, you're essentially a prisoner in your own home.

And so while the progress has been very slow, while the death of Jamal Khashoggi is something that is very serious and should not have happened -- there must be consequences there -- but, life, if we abandon MBS, we don't know what's behind door number two. We don't know if political Islam would take greater root in Saudi

Arabia if extremists would have a greater constituency in the elements of the royal family that were ruling. And so I think we've got to take this thing one step at a time and realize it's a very complicated region that's been essentially engaged in pretty barbaric tactics for the last 3,000 years.

CABRERA: Congressman Matt Gates, thanks so much for joining us. Good to have you with us.

GATES: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: It is the race for Florida's governor that no one predicted. See Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis in a live CNN debate at the top of the hour.

Coming up, protesters and the political divide. Lawmakers confronted out in public as the nation gets closer to the critical midterms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here. Why don't you leave our country alone?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave him alone, dude. Leave him alone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to come for Social Security.




CABRERA: Sixteen days to go until the midterms and we are counting. It's going to ugly, though, folks. We are talking protesters, screaming, and cursing at lawmakers at restaurants, out in public. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here. Why don't you leave our entire country alone?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leave him alone, dude. Leave him alone.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to come for Social Security.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to come for Social Security.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He threw their leftovers at him? I didn't know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of here.


CABRERA: You see, that is Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao. They're in the corner booth being heckled while out to dinner. They're at a restaurant. President Trump has used scenes like this one to open up a new line of attack against Democrats, labeling them a, quote, angry, unhinged mob.

But here is the thing. No party has the monopoly on the politics of incivility. Just ask House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this piece of (INAUDIBLE) Pelosi right here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't belong here, you (INAUDIBLE) communist. Get the (INAUDIBLE) out of here. Get the (INAUDIBLE) out of here.


CABRERA: With us now, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Doug Heye; CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four U.S. presidents, David Gergen; and CNN chief media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.

Brian, I'll start with you. Are protests like this new, do you think, or are they just more documented now because everybody has a smartphone?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: There's an element to that about the videos going viral, but I do think we are seeing this explosion of anger and frustration, as you said, on both sides because people do not feel represented.

We're coming two years after an election, a presidential election, where the person who won the most popular votes by a landslide was not elected president. There's a lot of rage on the left about the election of President Trump. There's also a lot of frustration on the right that's bubbling up. [19:15:00] And we're seeing that in all these different ways, some of

it in the ballot box but some of it in these confrontations. I just want to say, first things first, the more protests, the better. That's what -- I felt that during the tea party, I felt that during occupy, I feel that now.

CABRERA: As long as they're peaceful, right?

STELTER: But they have to be peaceful. It can't get to the point of violence or to the point where people feel physically, violently intimidated.

The problem recently is we've seen that line crossed with the Proud Boys, this far-right group here in New York, with members of Antifa, the far-left group in Portland, Oregon. There's been too many cases where that line gets crossed where it's not just peaceful protests, where it's intimidation.

CABRERA: And now, the President's new pitch these last few weeks is to paint Democrats as a mob. Listen.


TRUMP: The Democrats don't like being called an angry mob but, really, that's what they've become.

You can either vote for Democrat mob rule, or you can vote for a Republican Party that stands proudly for law and order, fairness, freedom, and justice.

The Democrat Party has become an angry, ruthless, unhinged mob determined to get power by any means necessary.

Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs.



CABRERA: David, do instances like we just saw with McConnell and Pelosi help reinforce the President's message?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. That harassment of the McConnells out to dinner was not only wrong, but it was stupid.

Just as it was to go after Sarah Sanders Huckabee -- Huckabee Sanders in a restaurant in Virginia and chase her out here recently. Just as it was to come into the Kavanaugh hearings and, you know, raise hell in the background so you couldn't hear what was going on. They just play into the Republicans' narrative and help the President.

And you know, the President is wildly off base by calling this an unhinged mob. It is not but they give him that kind of material he can then demagogue with and score some points. You know, Brian was right. This is also happening, you know, on the

-- with this brawl in New York City by a group called the Proud Boys, you know, who are coming from the far right. And they went after transgender kids and beat them up in the streets of New York. They haven't paid a price for it, at least not much of one.

So it's on both sides. One last thing, though, Ana.


GERGEN: The physicality of protests and the beating up, they have deep roots in American history. If you go back into the 1850s, in particular, there were -- you know, the famous caning of a senator who was an abolitionist by a Southerner who was a member of the House, almost beat him to death. There were instances like that.

And if you don't control these, if you don't call them out for what they are and get people to stop, it can get far worse.


GERGEN: And that's eventually what led to a civil war.

CABRERA: And so, Doug, you know, we're all talking about how it is happening on both sides.


CABRERA: Not just Republicans being harassed. You saw the video of Pelosi. Is it right for the President to try to take advantage of this division? Or as our national leader, should he be trying to heal the divide?

HEYE: Yes. You know, I've obviously been pretty critical of Donald Trump's rhetoric in the past. And while I think he's right that this is an angry unhinged mob -- that's certainly what Ted Cruz and his wife saw at the Fiola Restaurant here in Washington, D.C. -- that's exactly what Nancy Pelosi was subject to as well.

And this is where we need the President to lead. You know, we're so divided right now, more divided today than we were before the Kavanaugh hearings, that it's not -- it's certainly clear that the President won't be able to fully unify the country on this, but he can lead by changing this rhetoric.

And ultimately, it's because somebody is going to get hurt. It may be a Republican, it may be a Democrat, it may be a journalist who's been subject to some ugly language by the President. And what we also know is that people already have been hurt.

STELTER: Yes. Yes.

HEYE: And last summer, three of the four people who were shot at the congressional baseball practice were people that I know. And we're seeing a rise in violence, this rise in anger. We don't talk to each other, we don't trust each other, and we don't

like each other anymore. And the President needs to begin the leadership here. Even if everybody won't follow him, if he steps the rhetoric back, it will have an effect where Democrats, hopefully, will do the same as well.

CABRERA: Brian, Trump has been out campaigning now almost daily, almost, for the past couple weeks doing these rallies.


CABRERA: He's been giving a lot more interviews. Is this all about the midterms?

STELTER: Definitely. It's a temporary -- it's a short-term strategy because he believes the more Trump is out there, the more Trump is talking, the better it is for the GOP. We will see if that's the right bet or not in about two weeks, but he does have three more rallies coming up this week.

And, frankly, a rally is another way where at least he gets to engage with his fan base. I mean, we're talking about protests and people going up to lawmakers. You know, we don't see a lot of protesters or hecklers anymore at the Trump rallies, but we used to see that. And that was another way for people to petition their elected representatives.

[19:20:02] That's the thing about this, right, is a lot of these protesters, they are trying to engage in their First Amendment constitutionally protected right to petition their lawmakers. There's just that line that has been crossed again and again recently where it becomes more than that.

And we've got to make sure we protect that ability to go up to your local congressman, go up to your lawmaker, speak to them. You know, a lot of these guys and women, they're not holding town halls anymore. They're not really accessible in their district.

So there's a lot of good reasons, I think, for people to be angry, but it's about how that anger is applied, how that anger is expressed that's important.

CABRERA: But you talked about accessibility and, again, the President seems to be --


CABRERA: -- a little more accessible than he has then.

STELTER: Definitely, yes.

CABRERA: And I wonder, David, if that's working for the him because there's this new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll released just today showing Trump's approval rating is now up at 47 percent in this poll. That is the highest it's been in this particular poll. Is this perhaps because of his constant campaigning? GERGEN: Oh, I think he had been helped by the campaigning and in

particular, in the red states. He's gotten the base to be more enthusiastic, but I do think that there is -- you know, the backlash also increases on the Democratic side.

So you get a lot of suburban, college-educated women who hear some of the rhetoric or hear him talking about, you know, body -- praising a congressman who body-slammed a journalist, talking about, you know, inciting violence. You know that just causes a backlash that gets the other side sort of excited.

So he has been going up in the polls. The average of the polls is less than what NBC poll has shown, but we ought to think seriously of the fact that his numbers are rising.

I think it's largely due, as well, to the economy because that's where -- you know, if you -- his biggest supporters have been White, non- educated men. And those are folks whose jobs -- the jobs are more plentiful today for them than they have been.

CABRERA: In that same poll -- as you point out, take it with a grain of salt. The President's numbers are going up but it also shows likely voters want Democrats, not Republicans, in control of Congress.

GERGEN: Right.

CABRERA: Doug, what should Republicans take away from that?

HEYE: Well, it means that they've still got a lot of work to do. I would tell you, by comparison, when I worked at the Republican National Committee in 2010 when we took back the House, our magic number for Obama was at 46. We felt if he was below that, that we'd take back the House. Ultimately, it was at 45.

And I think, at the day that Donald Trump was sworn in, that we'd be looking at Trump being at a higher approval rating two years in than Barack Obama was, it would surprise people. But Republicans still have a lot of work to do, especially because Democrats not just want to see a change in Congress, they're very excited about it.

And given the map on the House side is expanding for constantly for Democrats, it's shrinking for Republicans for what those opportunities convey, it's up to Republicans to really bring this home right now.

Their voters are coming home, but the candidates have to really bring it home for Election Day in early voting which has already started.

CABRERA: That's right. Doug Heye, Brian Stelter, David Gergen, good to have all of you with us. Thank you so much.

HEYE: Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: They marched for miles, faced police and tear gas, some even jumped off a bridge in hopes of crossing the border. Coming up, an update on the migrant caravan pushing its way toward

Mexico and the U.S. CNN's Bill Weir is with them. Bill?

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, the caravan has now topped 7,000 and growing. And so many people wonder, why can't they do this in a lawful, orderly fashion?

I'm going to introduce you to one mom who hung from a bridge as a symbol of exactly why. Her story when we come back.


CABRERA: Despite efforts to push them back, crowds of Honduran migrants are pushing ahead with their treacherous journey north. They're trying to cross the Guatemalan border with Mexico in hopes of reaching the U.S.

But, already, a warning from President Trump. He says they won't be allowed in and says he will cut aid to any countries that don't stop the caravan's progress.

Earlier today, he tweeted this: full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our southern border. People have to apply for asylum in Mexico first. And if they fail to do that, the U.S. will turn them away. The courts are asking the U.S. to do things that are not doable.

Our Bill Weir is following this caravan. He joins us now from Mexico's southern border. Bill, take it away

WEIR: Well, Ana, just to give you a perspective, Friday at high noon, about 4,000 or so migrants reached the bridge on that border between Guatemala and Mexico. And there was that standoff over the weekend.

We thought maybe that would break it up and turn it up. Now, we are 25 miles into Mexico, and there are 7,000 members of this caravan. So it's only going to grow as they make this arduous journey forward.

I'm seeing on social media so many people wondering, who are those people? What do they want? Why can't they do things legally and do things the right way?

So we happened across a mother dangling from that border bridge yesterday. It turns out I had seen her children the day before. And so they seemed like a perfect example to show you what kind of desperation would make these people walk 3,000 miles to chase a dream.


WEIR (voice-over): After 24 hours stuck on a bridge between nations, the caravan finds another way. Most go back to the Guatemala side and pay a few pesos for an inner tube ride, while others find a hole in a fence and jump.

(APPLAUSE) [19:29:57] WEIR (voice-over): While the stress of it all is too much for the sick and the weak, a few of strongest managed to scavenge a ladder and rope and come back to help others down, including a mother named Rosalina. The migrants on the bank of the (INAUDIBLE) gasp and cheer as she is

lowered to the rafts.


Yes, we can. After a slash of relief from the heat and the thirst, she looks up anxiously for her babies. A 5-year-old daughter named Candy, a 3-year-old son named Carlitos.

It's stunning to see him here because the day before I spotted him playing inside the Mexican gate. The little boy was fascinated by the riot gear and helmets. And one member of the Federales displayed touching humanity amid all the chaos.

I assumed his family was among the lucky few allowed through the process but they were actually separated from candy in the tear gas panic. So (INAUDIBLE) went back to find her and another way north.

What made you decide to climb onto that ladder?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): To complete the dream that I have.

WEIR: This bridge, this river, they can't stop me, she says. I am an all-terrain woman.

But there are people who see what just happened and would say you are using your child as a shield to break the law.

I don't think we are abusing the kids, she says. We can't leave them at home. They have to eat. I want them to study, have a good future. I do this for my kids. I ask you with all your heart, wouldn't your mother do the same for you.

Do you know that President Trump is threatening to use soldiers to keep you out and he's separated families? He has taken children like these away from their mother? You know this?

She knows but says we have faith in God. He has the final word.

In town, they are met with cheers from fellow travelers and a bit of Mexican hospitality. There's shelter here and vise from human rights workers and precious nourishment for the kids.

She borrows a phone to call her mom.

They are OK, she tells her, and are not turning back. They will rest here for the night waiting for the caravan's strength in numbers and are back on the road at dawn. From here it's a 2500 mile walk to America.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WEIR: Now, unlike many of the women I talked to from Honduras, she admits she is not a refugee. She is not fleeing violence. She is just so impoverished and so worried about her kids that she is going to throw herself on the mercy of the system in the United States knowing full well the odds are stacked against her.

We got official numbers from the Mexican government. They are saying now the caravan has 7,233 people, that's I guess the number they get from a census. It's impossible to really count. About 2,600 men, 2,200 women, and 2,300 boys and girls, but only 340 people have filed for refugee status and now have 45 days before they will find out whether that's approved and they can stay for a while or whether they have to turn around and go home.

Honduras is trying to claim that 2,000 migrants have already been sent back home. That's kind hard to believe because that this numbers are growing literally by the thousands by the day. But as you can see, these folks who walked about 20, 25 miles this morning, they are up at dawn. They just took shelter here in the town center and trying to catch a little bit of rest. And who knows if they will camp here. They usually don't move through night, Ana, but you know, there is strength in numbers. But the price they are paying is those images going back, President Trump, and those determined to turn them away. We will see what the next few days brings. Back to you.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Wow. It's all I can say. It is so eye- opening.

Bill Weir, thank you for helping us understand what's happening. Thank you.

With the midterms racing closer, some new tougher voter I.D. laws are getting a lot of attention. We will take you to North Dakota where the old voting traditions for Native Americans will be much different this time around.


[19:39:01] CABRERA: Welcome back. As we get closer to the midterms, voter I.D. laws are at the center of a heated debate. Democrats are complaining that changes enacted by several states are designed to hurt their turnout. Republicans disagree. And tonight our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin digs into it.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota, Terry Yellow Fat for years voted with an I.D. with no address. In fact, he didn't know knew his street address. He knew his post office box, and that was enough until now.

TERRY YELLOW FAT, STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE: I have no idea why they want a physical address. The post office box always worked.

GRIFFIN: A North Dakota law passed last year and upheld by the Supreme Court last week demands voters in this state and on tribal lands present a valid I.D. with an actual street address. While that may sound like it is no big deal to you, here on the Standing Rock reservation and tribal lands across North Dakota, the law is seen to have one purpose, keep Native Americans from voting.

[19:40:03] MARGARET LANDIN, NATIVE VOTE ND: It is a very complicated problem because we don't -- some reservations they don't have street addresses. Majority of them don't have house numbers. So -- but they have been utilizing is a P.O. Box.

GRIFFIN: Margaret Landin, a Native American voting rights advocate says just weeks before November's election, some Native-Americans, her husband included, are scrambling to get new IDs just to vote. Neil Landin had no idea what his street address was. He had to call his county emergency coordinator to find out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I got three first avenue east is what they told me on the phone.

GRIFFIN: The process did take just minutes and he now has a tribal I.D. He will be able to vote.

Did it cost anything?


GRIFFIN: That's not the point, says wife, Margaret.

LANDIN: It's discriminating and disenfranchising to our people to not allow them to vote. And it's discouraging on top of that.

AL JAEGER, NORTH DAKOTA SECRETARY OF STATE: It is not design to just disenfranchise anybody.

GRIFFIN: Al Jaeger is North Dakota's secretary of state. He is trying to implement the new law which he says is designed to protect the integrity of the vote. And what could be simpler he says than to merely present an I.D. that says who you are and where you live.

JAEGER: Pretty simple process. And so others seem to be, you know, making it a lot more than it is. It's pretty simple.

GRIFFIN: Others seem to be saying that you are trying to disenfranchise Native-American voters, right?

JAEGER: Well, we are not. We want every qualified person in the state of North Dakota to be able to vote.

GRIFFIN: The backdrop for the push to get this voter I.D. law in North Dakota began shortly after Democrat Heidi Heitkamp narrowly won her election for U.S. Senate in 2012. She won by less than 3,000 votes with the backing of Native-Americans who tend to vote Democratic.

There is a much bigger story going on here. Laws across the U.S. are being passed to make it harder, not easier to vote. Since the 2016 election according to the Brennan center for justice at

New York University, nine states with Republican state legislators have passed laws restricting the vote. .

In Georgia, a law requiring an exact match of voter registration information has placed 53,000 mostly African-American voters on a pending list.

In Arkansas a new photo I.D. requirement goes into effect this election.

And in Indiana, the state's use of a nationwide cross-check system to purge voter rolls was ruled a violation of the national voter registration act. Why so many laws? Take a guess.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In many places like California, the same person votes many times. You probably heard about that. They always like to say that's a conspiracy theory. Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.

GRIFFIN: Actually, it is a conspiracy theory. There is no evidence, none, that massive voter fraud is taking place anywhere in the United States. North Dakota included.

So Mr. Secretary, was there, is there a large problem with illegal voting in this state?

JAEGER: Well, one thing, we can't prove one way or the other. In the past we have - I can't prosecute so in the past we have referred situations and they haven't been prosecuted. We had a case --

GRIFFIN: I mean, how many?

JAEGER: Well, just a handful.

GRIFFIN: Myrna Perez with the Brennan center for justice says these voter fraud laws have little to do with fighting actual voter fraud.

MYRNA PEREZ, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: We are instead seeing the kinds of laws that make it harder for people who are poor, traditionally disenfranchised, minority groups and folks who generally have a hard time participating in elections and this is just another barrier for them.

GRIFFIN: Now, because of this new law, activists fear thousands of North Dakotans will not be able to vote.

While CNN has yet to find any evidence to back that up, those same activists say the real effect could be discouraging voters from even showing up with or without proper I.D.


GRIFFIN: Ana, to be absolutely transparent, we spent a good deal of time in North Dakota. We will also spent much more time talking on the phone with tribes, voting rights advocates, and with activists, searching for even one person who would not be allowed to vote because of this new law, and we couldn't find that single person. What the activists tells is they believe this law in and of itself will keep people from turning up to vote. That is much harder to measure -- Ana.

CABRERA: Drew Griffin, thank you for that reporting.

We will be right back.


[19:49:18] CABRERA: Just in to CNN. Saudi Arabia's crown prince today making a phone call to the grieving eldest son of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to Saudi state media the crown prince called and expressed his condolences to the entire Khashoggi family and the eldest son expressed sincere thanks to the crown prince.

Now earlier today, President Trump doubts about the Saudis' explanation for Khashoggi's death. The Saudis' claim Khashoggi died accidentally after a fist fight erupted at the consulate in Istanbul.

Now Republican Senator Lindsey Graham just spoke to CNN's Manu Raju about the crown prince.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If the crown prince truly loved his country, he would not have put his country in this position. If he truly respected the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, he would have never thought of this. The question is was he involved? I think the answer is unequivocally yes.

First answer was a lie. The second story line is just manufactured. The relationship is important, but our values are more important. I have been there enough to know. I have been the leading supporter along with John McCain of the U.S.-Saudi relationship. I feel completely betrayed.


[19:50:29] CABRERA: We are also hearing from Republican senator Ted Cruz.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need to have transparency to understand what happened. At this point the facts are still unclear. We have the allegations that were presented by Turkey. We have the Saudi's explanation which frankly does not sound very credible. I think we need to press vigorously for real transparency to understand what happened. And when we know the facts, if in fact the Saudi government ordered the murder of a journalist because he was expressing views they didn't like, there need to be serious repercussions for that.


CABRERA: Also today, we learned secretary of state Mike Pompeo spoke with Turkish officials and reiterated the offer of U.S. assistance with the Khashoggi investigation.

Coming up, we are just moments away from the first debates in one of the most closely watched races in the country. Florida's candidates for governor about to face off with Jake Tapper moderating. Stay right there.


[19:55:54] CABRERA: In just minutes, a showdown live on CNN. On one side Andrew Gillum, considered a rising star in the Democratic Party. On the other Republican Ron Desantis, a candidate who has openly embraced President Trump and his policies. Both hoping to woo voters in one of the most highly anticipated raced of 2018.

And CNN correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us now from the CNN debate site.

Ryan, set the scene for us in the sunshine state.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there is no doubt we are going to see two candidates who have very different opinions on any range of issues on that debate stage tonight. Ron Desantis, a conservative Republican, Andrew Gillum, a progressive Democrat by any measure. Tonight, they should be appealing to those middle of the road voters here in Florida that could determine who the next governor is.


NOBLES (voice-over): Aaron Ward runs a barbecue food truck in one of the most important states on the midterm map, and he thinks Floridians are sick and tired of both Republicans and Democrats.

AARON WARD, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: I think people are pretty much hammered with politics.

NOBLES: Political fatigue could be a big problem, especially for the two candidates for governor who won their primaries by appealing to the bases of their respective parties.

ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I believe we are going to win this, not by capitulating on what we believe.

NOBLES: On the left is Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee. He won his primary with the support of Bernie Sanders calling for abolishing I.C.E. in its current form and plugging a multi-state Medicare for all plan. Gillum believes that policy portfolio will attract voters of all stripes.

GILLUM: I actually think we talked about the issues through the primary and will in the general that whether you are an independent or a reasonable-thinking Republican or a Democrat that you care about. NOBLES: Gillum is drawing big crowds of enthusiastic Democrats, such

as Tony and Belva McNair.

GILLUM: Appreciate your support, you all.

NOBLES: Impressed with his bright blue politics and the fact he has promised to take on President Trump.

But for many Floridians such as Maegan Morris just being opposed to Trump isn't enough.

So you are not even necessarily a fan of President Trump but you think the focus on him is too much.

MAEGAN MORRIS, FLORIDA VOTER: I think there's a lot of focus on him, probably more than any President ever. And would I like to seat issues addressed more.

NOBLES: Separating this race from the President won't be easy, especially for the Republican Ron Desantis.

RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL. CANDIDATE: Then Mr. Trump said you are fired. I love that part.

NOBLES: Desantis ran arm in arm with President Trump during the GOP primary, oppose tax increases, supporting construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and voting to repeal the affordable care act while in the house.

DESANTIS: We need a governor who is going to work constructively with the Trump administration to advance Florida's priorities.

NOBLES: He, too, has GOP base voters fired up, and his Republican supporters believe that Desantis can attract middle of the road voters just by being himself.

NORMA RENO, DESANTIS SUPPORTER: People really need to listen and follow him for that because he was the best for the people. He was the best for Florida.

NOBLES: But at a time of fierce polarization, middle lane in Florida politics may be up for grabs, and for Ward who talks to voters every day, the candidate that's able to attract the middle and hold their bases effectively just might be the winner on Election Day.

WARD: How do you merge those together to come out what is it that this one state wants?

NOBLES: Right, right.

WARD: That's tough. You're going to get a ton of different backgrounds trying to merge into one single situation.

NOBLES: Sometimes they vote Republican, sometimes they vote democrat because it's shifting, right?

WARD: Absolutely.


NOBLES: And there's no doubt that this race has been ugly. Both sides have attacked each other with fierce negative ads as have the pact supporting them. The question tonight, Ana, will those attacks make it on to the debate stage. Both Desantis and Gillum said they are prepared to attack but only if they are attacked first. We will have to see what happens -- Ana.

CABRERA: Can't wait to see it.

Ryan Nobles, thank you.

And be sure to tune in. It is next. I'm Ana Cabrera.

Don't go anywhere. The Florida's governor's debate moderated by Jake Tapper airs next right here on CNN.