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Trump: Top Democrats Country in Final Midterm Push; Kemp's Office Claims Failed Voting Hack; Polls Show a Close Race in Indiana for U.S. Senate Race; Polls Show a Dead Heat in Battleground Florida Governor's Race; Trump Obama Make Closer Arguments Ahead of Midterm Votes; Democrats Facing Tough Challenge to Retake Senate; Trump Stokes Fear About Undocumented Immigrants; Trump Cabinet Member Criticized for "Cotton Picking" Remark. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired November 4, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:00] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Appreciate it. We've got so much more straight ahead in the "Newsroom" and it all starts right now.
All right. Hello again. Thanks so much for being with me this Sunday from Washington, D.C. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
Closing arguments from the current and former president on what's at stake come election day. With just two days now to go, Republicans and Democrats are pulling out all the stops. President Trump, Vice President Pence, Former President Obama and Former Vice President Biden are dominating the campaign trail with stops in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Georgia.
And now Georgia is the focus of a new investigation. The office of the state -- Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, who also is the Republican candidate for governor, is accusing the Democratic party of hacking into the voting system there in an attempt to expose its vulnerabilities. We're still awaiting details and evidence supporting the allegation. In the meantime, it's a very busy day.
CNN correspondents are crisscrossing the country following candidates and their big name backers in Illinois, Florida, and Georgia.
So, let's begin in Macon, Georgia. That's where the President is on his way, soon to arrive if not already. CNN's Sarah Westwood is there. What will be the message?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Fred, President Trump already previewed the advocacy that he'll display here in favor of Brian Kemp. This race is as tight as they come. It's one of the most closely watched gubernatorial contests in the country.
Brian Kemp, the Secretary of State of Georgia skipped his last debate with his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams today to be here with the President. Abrams has been using that against him.
And Stacey Abrams is looking to make history on Tuesday by becoming the first black woman to become governor not just of Georgia, but any state in the country. And she has attracted Democratic star power, the President Obama and Oprah Winfrey both came down to pit state to campaign on behalf of her.
If neither Abrams nor Kemps gets 50 percent on Tuesday, this race will move into a run off. And that's why President Trump is coming here today. He wants to stop that run off from happening.
And Georgia is one of the only stops on his eight states 11-rally campaign tour ahead of the midterm that doesn't have a competitive Senate race. The President has been spending time in states like Montana, Missouri, and Tennessee where Republicans are hoping to defend the GOP House seed or pick off a Democratic incumbent.
Now on the way here to Macon, Georgia, the President is speaking to reporters with the expectations about election day. He's mentioning that it's been difficult to him to get out and campaign on behalf if the House, that's why he said he's been keeping his focus on the Senate. And like I've mention he previewed some of the words of support that he will be delivering here in favor of Kemp.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Georgia campaign of Brian Kemp has been extraordinary. A lot of people are voting. And I think a lot of Republicans are voting because they want to see Georgia go forward not go backward.
If she gets in, Georgia is going backward. If he gets in, Georgia goes forward, and that's what people want.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now, the President has five rallies left on his schedule including the one tonight before election day. After this he'll be heading to Tennessee or likely to see him continue to double down on his Trumpian midterm message of immigration, focusing on the caravan of Central American migrants heading to the border and inflaming passions around what has been his central focus heading into election day.
WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood in Macon, Georgia, thank you so much. We'll check back with you.
All right, right now former President Barack Obama also on the campaign trail. He is in Gary, Indiana, holding a rally with Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is in a tight race to hold on to his Indiana Senate seat.
A recent poll shows Donnelly with a narrow three-point lead over his Republican challenger, Mike Braun. CNN's Ryan Young is in Chicago where Obama has another campaign rally scheduled later on. Ryan.
RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The former president is scheduled ahead here and you can imagine in his hometown there's a lot of energy behind that. If he'll make the appearance here, you can already call him a heavy weight when it comes to this city.
There had been people who have been waiting in line for hours in the rain to come inside and hope to hear from the president. And this will take a different kind of sort of stage here. Common (ph) will perform, so they'll have a concert atmosphere. And you know, it seems like Obama has been throwing a lot of punches lately while he's been on the campaign trail. It's that energy that we have talked to people in the crowd that they want to hear.
Now, I was talking to one woman who says in her neighborhood, more people have been getting out the vote than ever before. They're trying to start more caravans to make sure early voting and of course the vote on Tuesday counts with so much more than it has before.
But when you think about this race, the race that so many people have been focussed on maybe nationwide is that there is a race for governor here and if more money has been spent in the last year than any governor's race across the country. More than $200 million has been pumped on to the airwaves here and some of these campaign ads are nasty.
[15:05:02] And I will you, when you talk to the people in the crowd, they say they want to see a step back from that sort of political wrangling in public.
But listen to President Obama on the campaign trail Friday talking about politicians and what they've been up to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we have not seen the way we're seeing right now is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, baldly, shamelessly lying, just making stuff up. That's what they're doing right now all the time. Don't be bamboozled. Don't be hood winked.
When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn't matter, when people can just lie with a band on, democracy can't work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YOUNG: Where we might be two hours from the president actually hitting the stage here. You can see the crowd sort of filing in.
I'm talking to some of the people here who are students at this college. They seem energized more than before. And asked them, "Hey, look, it doesn't look like millennials are going to be turning out to vote in record numbers." They say they can't worry about everyone else, they got to do their part. You understand there's a lot at stake here. It will be interesting to see if the President and everyone who's been lining up including Senator Dick Durbin can fire this crowd up.
WHITFIELD: Yes, voters can see it and obviously surrogates of all of the candidates can see it too that there's a lot at stake. People are pumped up in already record numbers of early vote turn out. We'll see what Tuesday brings as well.
Ryan Young, thank you so much in Chicago.
All right now, the investigation looming over Georgia's election. The office of the Secretary of State, Brian Kemp who is also the Republican nominee for governor claims the Democratic Party tried to hack into the voting system in an attempt to expose it's vulnerabilities.
CNN's Kaylee Hartung is in Augusta where Democrat Stacey Abrams is hosting an event. So, Kaylee, this investigation, you know, is coming two days before the election day and still awaiting evidence. Where is the momentum behind this investigation?
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Fred. The Secretary of State's office is not providing us with any evidence to explain why they have decided to open this investigation into the Georgia Democratic Party where they say there was a failed attempt to hack the states voter registration system.
A spokeswoman in the Secretary of State office saying they can't comment on an ongoing investigation. And so, no further information has been given to us other than the fact that this investigation has been opened.
But Brian Kemp's gubernatorial campaign has been much more direct in how they are correlating all this information in saying, quote, the Democrats tried to expose vulnerabilities in Georgia's voter registration system.
Now, the Democrats say that these claims are scurrilous. They say they are "100 percent false." The executive director of the states party saying "we did not create, discover, or attempt to take advantage of the deeply vulnerable system run by the Secretary of State."
Earlier today, Stacey Abrams was on "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper and shared her reaction to the news of the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STACEY ABRAMS, (D) GEORGIA GOV. CANDIDATE: I've heard nothing about it and I would -- my reaction would be that is this is a desperate attempt on the part of my opponent to distract people from the fact that two different federal judges found him derelict in his duties and to force him to allow absentee ballots to be counted. And those who are being held captive by the excitement (ph) system to be allowed to vote.
He is desperate to turn the conversation away from his failures, from his refusal to honor his commitments and from the fact that he is part of a nationwide system of voter suppression that will not work in this election because we are going to outwork him, we're going to outvote him and we are going to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARTUNG: All of this news comes as we're also learning of from claims from the Coalition for Good Governance, an organization that is involved in some of the litigation against Brian Kemp in relation to those allegations of voter suppression.
This organization claiming that the online voter registration database that is used to update the electronic polling roles, they say that that system has been open to manipulation. The Secretary of State's office saying their "systems are secure" and they say that "no personal data has been breached."
But, Fred, what we've heard all through this campaign, it has been contentious and allegations being leveled back and forth. And we have heard the calls before for Brian Kemp to step down from his role as Secretary of State, the conflict of interest that present as he runs for the state's top office. Stacy Abrams has called for him to resign, even Jimmy Carder has called for him to step aside, but he continues to refuse to do so.
WHITFIELFD: And no further comment from Kemp today who is no longer going to be at a televise debate with Stacey Abrams, but instead appearing with the President in Macon?
HARTUNG: Yes. That's right. We will see him on stage shortly in Macon.
Again, there is -- we have to delineate between the statements that his campaign is making versus the statements that his office of Secretary of State are making.
[15:10:08] But those statements we received today have come by way of spokesman not from Brian Kemp himself. We will see if he addresses this controversy on stage in Macon next to President Trump later today.
WHITFIELD: All right, great point. Thank you so much Kaylee Hartung, appreciate it, in Augusta.
So, in the key battle ground State of Florida, the governor's race is getting a lot of attention there as well. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic Mayor of Tallahassee is trying to flip the state and beat former Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis. The latest CNN poll shows that it's a dead heat between the two with Gillum holding a slim one- point lead, well within the margin of error.
And people are also turning out big numbers to vote early with four million already casting ballots in the State of Florida.
CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami Beach outside an early voting location.
So, Rosa, both President Trump and President Obama have campaigned there in the last week. How potentially influential? ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, very influential, for sure, Fred. And I can tell you that people here in Florida are busy with two things, first being bombarded by political ads. There are so many in this state, you can't watch T.V. without watching one of them.
And then there is the early voting. Take a look behind me. I'm at the Miami Beach city hall and this line has been steady for the last hour.
Now, I can tell you that just yesterday, 33,000 people voted in Miami- Dade, but if you look at early voting for the State of Florida, hear this. Almost 4.5 million people have voted. That's according to the Florida Secretary of State.
But, you know, Florida is known for nail biting races because elections here are won by razor-thin margins. I want to show you the nail biting break down of that 4.5 million. One point eight million of Republicans, 1.7 million are Democrats. And then there is another block of no party affiliation or other. And those are 835,000.
Now, it's no mistake that we've seen some major a-listers closing the midterm elections here in Florida. President Trump has been stumping for Republican Ron DeSantis. Now, DeSantis of course is the candidate that had the political ad where he is teaching his son how to build a wall with child building blocks.
And then of course President Obama was here in Miami on Friday for Andrew Gillum. And for Dems it's almost like a passing of the baton from President Obama to Andrew Gillum. And then just today we learned that even P. Diddy is going to be in Tallahassee stumping for Andrew Gillum.
So, you know, Fred, when you think about Florida and elections and these nail biting races, you're going to have to get a gel manicure this time around, Fred, if you're thinking about this. If you're going to be watching these elections because we're talking about razor-thin margins this time around.
WHITFIELDF: Yes. People are inspired for so many reasons to get to those, you know, polling stations. If not the early polling station like where you are at least on Tuesday.
So, you know, as the Democrats, you know, fight to regain, you know, the Senate, you know, Florida is, you know, one seat that they think they can hang on to. But the incumbent, Bill Nelson is facing a tough battle, you know, from the former Governor Rick Scott.
So, how close is that race? How topical is that for voters? How much does that inspire them to get to the polls?
FLORES: It's nail biting, Fred. We can't describe it any way else.
Let me show you the numbers here because this is the latest CNN poll issued Thursday. Here you go. Bill Nelson, 49 percent of likely voters. Rick Scott, 47 percent of likely voters. That is within the margin. So we are talking about razor-thin elections, that's what we are talking about. And that's why they're bringing a-listers into the State of Florida to close the midterm election in their favor.
Now there is this misconception that most of Florida voters are senior citizens. Hear this. This time around, 52 percent of registered voters are millennials, gen-xers and gen-zers. And this is the younger voting block. They care about the environment, about jobs, about health care.
And when you look at health care and the statistics there, if you look at the top 10 counties in the country, it is a country, OK? The top five are in the State of Florida. So when Democrats talk about health care, when they talk about preexisting conditions, that's one of the reasons why because it is so important for this young building block and of course for the rest of the people in this sunshine state.
WHIFIELD: Well, those are remarkable numbers 52 percent of Florida voters are millennials or gen-xers. That's pretty impressive.
All right. Rosa Flores, thank you so much.
All right, still ahead, from the White House to the campaign trail, President Trump and President Obama going head to head and making their pitches in key races across the country. Their messages coming in sharp contrast just two days now before the midterms. Will their words really make a difference on Tuesday? We'll discuss, next.
WHITFIELD: All right, the 2018 midterm elections are looking more like a proxy war between the sitting President and his predecessor. Both President Trump and former President Obama are stumping hard for Republicans and Democrats respectively. So this might be what people at their rallies in Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois can expect to hear today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[15:20:00] TRUMP: One of his accusers, false accusations, just came out a little while ago and said "it was all lie," that she never met now Justice Kavanaugh. She never met -- it was a made up story.
She made up the story. It was a lie. It was a total lie. It was fake.
OBAMA: They promised to take on corruption. Instead, they have racked up enough indictments to field a football team.
I didn't have anyone in my administration get indicted. I mean, I just thought that's how you're supposed to do things.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right, joining me right now, President of the Senate Conservatives fund and Virginia's Former Republican Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli. He is now a CNN Legal and Political Commentator. Also with us, Bakari Sellers, a Former Democratic Member of the South Carolina State House and also CNN Commentator. Also with us CNN Senior Political Analyst, Ron Brownstein. All right, gentlemen, good to see all of you.
All right, to Ken, you first. You know, --
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to be with you.
WHITFIELD: -- we heard President Trump, you know, say that he is not focusing, you know, his rallies on the economy. He said this right before getting on Air Force One on the way to Georgia. And I'm quoting him now he says, you know, "I want to focus on the economy, but you people don't like to focus on that. They would much rather focus on immigration."
Yes, OK, so you laugh because we all laughed. He is the one --
WHITFIELD: -- who has been bringing up immigration, caravan, et cetera. So, what is going on?
WHITFIELD: I mean, I may read into --
CUCCINELLI: Well, this weekend for both of the --
WHITFIELD: -- the psychology here.
CUCCINELLI: Sure. I mean, this week is about the base for the President and the ex-president. You know, it's -- you -- we heard President Obama's comments to the crowd where they laugh. Well, people who already agree with him laugh at that sort of thing.
And the same is true for President Trump. He is talking to the Republican base about the things that fire them up the most.
Now, what matters to them most in their life is the economy which is true of Democrats and Independents, but it doesn't drive passion which is what's going on in this last weekend to make sure as many people from your political base turn out as possible. And the immigration situation has not been resolved. It propelled the President in 2016. Certainly even through the primary and into the general.
And because it's not resolved, it's still a matter of concern to the base and it's worth talking about. It's timely news with the caravan coming up and being in the news the last two weeks. So, that's what he's doing.
And, you know, they laugh about what they'd like to talk about. What they're talking about is what they think is actually effective at this stage of the election with two days to go.
WHITFIELD: All right. So, Bakari, this is all about winning votes. What wins votes? The strategy of fear or the strategy of --
BAKARI SELLERS (D), FORMER MEMBER, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE: Yes.
WHITFIELD: -- setting the record straight? Because that's what you see in this contrast between the sitting President and his predecessor.
SELLERS: Well, this may sound a little strange coming from a Democrat, but I would like to say that the strategy of fear playing on those cultural wars does not work, however if anyone looks or wants to look for some statistical analysis to prove that it does work, all they have to do is see that Donald Trump is President of the United States.
I think the Democrats closing message is not focusing on whether or not you're talking about Andrew Gillum or whether or not you're talking about Stacey Abrams or Joe Cunningham or (INAUDIBLE) or Andy Kim from the Congressional level down to the United states Congressional Level. They are not talking about Donald Trump and the caravan that is 1300 miles away. They are talking about the economy, they are talking about health care.
And I think that the bet the Democrats are making is that the country is weary of having these us versus them battles. Whether or not that bears out to be true still yet to be seen. A lot of this build up is like Tyson versus holy field it appeared in Tennessee. Hopefully nobody bites somebody else's in ear off on Tuesday night. But we make that as well.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Hopefully not on set. Hopefully not on see.
SELLERS: So, we'll see how this all plays out because Democrats are taking a bet on what we always do which is not necessarily getting in hand to hand combat. And Republicans and Donald Trump are doing what they do best which play on fears and all the isms that people want to stamp out.
WHITFIELD: So, Ron, you know, Obama is not running again.
WHITFIELD: But the President does want to run again in 2020. So, the outcome of this midterm, how much might that have an impact on poising him for 2020 or not?
BROWNSTEIN: It will certainly shape his final two years in practical terms whether or not Democrats won the house. You know, you can really learn a lot about this election just by looking at the travel itinerary of President Trump and former President Obama.
President Trump is consistently appearing in small town, rural, preponderantly white, conservative -- cultural and conservative areas. President Obama is appearing in the metro areas, diverse, big cities. And that I think is the tip that we are going to see an election that is going to see a significant divergence between those two Americas.
[15:25:005] There's two polls, NBC "Wall Street Journal," ABC "Washington Post," each had a 20-point gap, the biggest ever between the way college educated white voters are voting, mostly Democratic and the way non-college educated white voters were voting, mostly republican. You add in the minority voters, you have the potential for an election that was simultaneously repudiate President Trump and reaffirm him. With Democrats making a lot of gains in white collars suburban areas and finding it much tougher in those rural. We could have a very divided, divergent kind of result on Tuesday night.
WHITFIELD: And while we're talking we're seeing President Barack Obama is there in Gary, Indiana. He is campaigning for Senator Joe Donnelly there. And then he'll be making his way to Chicago.
So, you know, Ken, yes, the concentration of populous while it might be in the metro areas, you can't underestimate the power of the rural areas. So is that potentially a real --
WHITFIELD: -- asset for the President then when he campaign?
CUCCINELLI: Well, look, the better predictor of President Trump's travel itinerary is close Senate races. He is not playing in the Congressional House races except for the ones in these contested Senate race states. And Florida is one of them, Montana, West Virginia, Indiana, and Missouri those are where he is going. Whether they are rural -- where do you find a big city in Montana? You don't.
BROWNSTEIN: No, you can't because there's a reason he's not playing in the House race.
CUCCINELLI: And -- but it's a closely contested race.
BROWNSTEIN: The reason he's not playing in the House races is because there are essentially none -- if you look at the places that can decide the House in the suburban areas around the big metros, you know, he is looking at 35 percent, 36 percent, 38 percent approval in many of those districts. They are not Republicans. It is just a reflection of where we are.
And in fact I would argue to you that the way he is closing this campaign with his very sharp edge cultural message is a form of trash because the Republicans running in the suburban areas will say "this closing argument about immigration rather than economy makes their life harder."
On the other hand, it does strengthen probably Republicans in this rural Senate seats as well as the kind of more suburban and rural Houses. I believe he is kind of drawing a fire wall trying to prevent the Republicans from kind of falling off the table in the House. But in the process essentially acknowledging that he cannot help, he can not save these suburban Republicans and as a result he probably can't save the House itself.
WHITFIELD: And these Congressional races --
CUCCINELLI: Well, I think --
WHITFIELD: Go ahead. OK, Ken.
CUCCINELLI: Yes. Well, I think the House is definitely more problematic than the Senate. The Senate map has got a lot of opportunities for Republicans and Conservatives, which is why my organization has been so active in this cycle. And those are in states that the President won in 2016 with Democrats who've been on the other sides of these issues.
And you can characterize the issues however you like. In these states, the majority of people support the President on immigration. They support his economic policies and so on down the line.
And you got people like Joe Donnelly and Jon Tester and Clair McCaskill who are on defense on substance. They are out of step with their states. And that's the problem Democrats have in those races.
And that's what the President is focusing on and that's what those candidates are seizing on. And we'll see how it plays out in two days, but that's why the focus is there.
WHITFIELD: And this is a particularly unique midterm election. You know, while this midterm can also be very sleepy, you know, voters are apathetic. It's very different this time. And you got two presidents who are dueling. I mean, it's almost this is the presidential, you know, race here.
What is it about this where, you know, President Obama for very long kept relatively quiet. I mean, there were a few appearances but now, I mean, he is putting a lot on the line for any, you know, for any Democratic gains.
SELLERS: But it's not necessarily these two presidents and Barack Obama being mobilized. I think it's the candidates who are below that. And I think that as much as we talk about, the United States Senate and the United States House because we are in Washington, D.C., there are a lot of people who are looking at these races that are right below that, that he is right below that.
If he wasn't -- as much as he was campaigning for Bill Nelson, he was also very much there for Andrew Gillum. He wasn't there for United States candidate in Georgia. He was there for Stacey Abrams.
SELLERS: If you look in Wisconsin, if you look in Michigan, if you look throughout the country, if you look at Deirdre DeJear in Iowa, these Secretary of State races, you are starting to see the Democrats are doing something they haven't done in a very long period of time which is fill out and flash out of ticket.. And so as much as Barack Obama is there and it looks as if he's there for Bill Nelson per se or he's there for Joe Donnelly per se, it's actually an entire ticket.
SELLERS: And these candidates are driving the excitement.
WHITFIELD: And it's more than the Democratic ticket. In fact President Obama, former President Obama is talking about that right now. He says this really is about civility and character.
WHITFIELDF: This is him right now. Let's listen to him --
WHITFIELD: -- real quick in Gary, Indiana.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And it is because of the efforts of folks like you that we abolished slavery and we ended a great depression.
[15:30:12] And workers won the right to unionize. And women won the right to vote. It's why we had a civil rights movement and a workers rights movement and LGBT movement because people fought for it.
And by the way, every time we gained a victory, we moved the country in a more generous, more progressive direction. Usually there's somebody that's pushing back, wanting to preserve the status quo. We get periods of progressive advancement, but conservative retrenchment.
And in the closing weeks of this election, we've seen repeated attempts to divide us with rhetoric, to try to turn us on one another. It's an old playbook where the powerful and the privileged say whatever it takes to protect their power and their privilege. Even if it hurts the country, even when it puts people at risk.
The good news is, Indiana, when you vote, you can reject that kind of politics. When you vote, you can be a check on bad behavior. When you vote, you can choose hope over fear. You can choose a bigger, more prosperous, more generous, kinder version of America.
Where all of us, whoever we are, whatever we look like, whatever our last name is, however we choose to love, however we choose to pray, we can all come together to shape our country's course. And Indiana that's what Joe Donnelly stands for. That's what you can vote for on Tuesday.
Remember, progress never comes without a fight. Every time we pull closer to those founding ideals that all of us are created equal, the status quo pushes back. You win the right to union and then suddenly somebody wants to try to bust your union. You win higher minimum wage, suddenly Congress decides we won't raise the minimum wage for 10 years. You win the right to vote, they try to make it harder for you to vote.
Making this country better has never been easy. Joe mentioned 10 years ago, I was campaigning for president, I had no gray hair at the time. Victor Oladipo was showing me a picture of me and him together. And proud of Victor, by the way. But Victor is showing me a picture and he looked the same, but I don't.
But you know what, I earned this gray hair because when I was --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: We're listening to former President Barack Obama there making jokes about, you know, earning his gray hair, but really he is getting to the bottom of trying to inspire the vote by reminding people about the meaning behind the vote.
So let's get back with my panelist here, Bakari, Ron and Ken. This is a telling moment.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I --
WHITFIELD: Quintessential Obama.
BROWNSTEIN: I saw him deliver that version of that speech Friday night in Atlanta before a big crowd. And what's striking about this, Fred, is that across the country there are very, very few Democratic candidates who are choosing to engage directly with President Trump over his rhetoric, over kind of the issues that he is stressing in there. Really keeping their heads down and trying to just talk about health care essentially.
And what you saw, which I think is a missed opportunity because if you look at where the Democrats have the biggest opportunities for gains, it is in these white collar suburbs that are doing fine in the economy but are basically morally offended by the way Trump comforted himself as president.
[15:35:00] And what President Obama is doing I think is much work thoroughly than any Democratic leader basically drawing attention to that choice. So this is not only a question of kind of interest, but of values.
WHITFIELD: So, I'm channeling a message to those who may feel somewhat conflicted.
BROWNSTEIN: Who may feel conflicted and it is not just the base, it is the swing white collar suburbanites who are doing very well in the economy and yet that is a place where Republicans are at the greatest risk and is precisely because of the kinds of issues that president -- former President Obama is highlighting in these speeches as he goes around the country.
SELLER: I think it shows you how gifted President Barack Obama is as well. And in these images I watched his speech in Florida and it was so good. I watch his speech in Georgia where he give a very similar speech.
and I chuckled and in my text group and I said "44 has his swag back, right?" And so you see him. He's out there, he's eloquent, he's being the orator. He's engaging the audience. But he is doing something that Democrats haven't done well which is engage Trump on the level of cultural war.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, absolutely.
SELLERS: And he is talking about the fact --
WHITFEILD: I mean, isn't that happening?
SELLERS: Because I think people are afraid.
WHITFIELD: It's their fear.
SELLERS: It's afraid to delve into it. And it's a fear and it's something that I keep harkening on Andrew Gillum because --
WHITFIELD: A fear, sort of backlash?
SELLERS: -- Andrew Gillum has actually done extremely well.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. And he is one of the fewest one. The only Democrats --
SELLERS: Because when you are a black candidate in the south and I've been on state wide, you walk on eggshells because you think you have to thread this needle or you think you have to run fast or work harder and be smarter and do all of those things. But also you are almost petrified of your own blackness.
And what Andrew Gillum has done is embrace all those things as Barack Obama is doing. But what he's saying to people is that we've been here before.
SELLERS: Women in this country, gays in this country, black folk in this country, and Hispanics. And we have to reject that politics of fear because every time we have attempted to make progressive policy changes moving forward, there have always been people on the other side. That person today is Donald Trump.
BROWNSTEIN: Where he says the character of the country is on the ballot. He is saying what the Democratic Congressional leaders have decided they do not want to fight on kind of bread and butter, lunch bucket economics. But in fact, that is the core -- why are Republicans facing the kind of risks they are with unemployment at four percent particularly in the places below that are doing the best?
BROWNSTEIN: It is precisely because of those concerns about the values of the country.
WHITFIELD: So then, Ken, I'd like to hear your input because if President Obama --
WHITFIELD: -- is trying to reach independents or Republican voters who are saying, "Hey, we celebrate the economy, we like all these things, but we just don't like the rhetoric and don't like the style of the President." Why isn't the President trying to appeal to them? Why is he only speaking to his base as opposed to making an effort to expand the base and appeal to those who are uncomfortable with his rhetoric but perhaps celebrate, you know, the economy?
CUCCINELLI: Well, as President Obama did so well in 2008 and 2012 and that is turnout his base. People have come to realize again that turning out your base is awfully important in just the pure numbers of who wins in a down election like the midterms.
And as much interest as there is relative to other midterms, it is still a midterm, it is not going to reach presidential levels of participation and we heard President Obama do the classic thing that politicians do and say "we are loving and everybody is with us." And the other side is mean and divisive. And he did that through his presidency, he was extremely divisive after promising not to be.
And I would also note as the head of the Senate Conservative Fund, supporting Mike Braun, which we are, I was glad to hear the extraordinary drop off in applause when President Obama switched from his general themes that he was expressing to. And now, the person who personifies that here in Indiana is Joe Donnelly.
Woo! Joe Donnelly could have taken much heart from that, but I do as a Mike Braun supporter. And I just don't find this close at all surprising. And I also don't think it is going to affect those tenuous House races that you heard discussed. The die is sort of --
CUCCINELLI: -- cast there. I have seen Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock and Jennifer Wexton Congressional ads in the last couple of days. And Jennifer Wexton isn't talking about the economy. Barbara Comstock and Dave Brat are in their district. And I have seen mail where they are doing the same. So, those messages aren't gone. They are being delivered.
CUCCINELLI: And they're being delivered right to the doorstep.
WHITFIELD: We shall see how influential if at all just two days away now, 48 hours away. Thanks Ken Cuccinelli, Bakari Sellers, Ron Brownstein, thanks to all of you gentlemen. Appreciate it.
And of course, don't miss our special pre-election edition of CNN prime time, that's tonight starting with "Anderson Cooper 360, followed "Cuomo Prime Time" and "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon." It all begins right here on CNN starting at 7:00 Eastern Time.
[15:44:14] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump and former President Obama both campaigning hard just two days away from election day. The Democrats are working to regain the majority in the House. And while they may have a pretty good shot at it as CNN's John King explains "the battle for the Senate is a very different story."
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For all the midterm talk of a big blue wave, it is advantage Republicans, advantage to the President when you look at this map, the fight for control of the Senate. Why is that? Well, this map has always been tilted against the Democrats because of the races at play this year.
Ten Democratic incumbents seeking reelection in states the President won just two years ago, some of them by 20, 30, even 40 points. So, all is a top challenge for the Democrats.
Can they get a Senate majority? They can, but it's very difficult. We have right now 49 Republican and 45 Democrat.
[15:45:00] You see the six gold or yellow states on the board those are the toss upstate states heading to the final weekend. All of this, very close competitive race.
Here is the challenge for the Democrats, if nothing else change, they would have to run the board. The Democrats would literally have to run the board in this states. Pick them all. Get Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Nevada, Arizona. That would get you 51 to 49. So it is possible if the Democrats have a huge night Tuesday, they can retake the Senate.
But this is why that seems unlikely or at least extraordinary difficult. In this scenario, Republicans only have to hold Tennessee where Marcia Blackburn, their candidate, has been narrowly ahead in the late poll. If of the six toss up Republicans won only Tennessee and nothing else changed, that would be 50-50 Senate. The Vice President would break the tie, the Republicans would still be in control.
That's why it is so difficult if you look at this final map, and these six toss up states. Republicans think they will hold, they actually think they can build or add seats even in a blue year. They think they can add seats.
Why do they think that? Let's take a look at something here. In the House races, the President is a drag. In the Senate races Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and Tennessee, for example, four of the six toss ups, look at this, the President's numbers, you may say that's not great. Only in Tennessee his approval rating above 53 percent, but it's higher than the national average in all of the states, plus it's up from our last poll in Arizona. Up from our last poll in Nevada. Up from the last poll in Florida. Up from our last poll in Tennessee
So, later in the campaign when the President is focusing on the Senate races, his standing in the states that matter is improving. Which is why Republicans think they may lose the House, but we like this map. They think they'll at least hold, maybe gain, when it comes to the Senate.
WHITFIELD: All right, John King, thank you so much for that break down and don't miss how it all shakes out on Tuesday.
Follow "Election Night in America" right here on CNN starting Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.
[15:50:45] WHITFIELD: All right, President Trump making a final midterm sprint with less than 48 hours before election day, and much of his closing message has been focused on stoking fear of undocumented immigrants.
Here is what he said today on his way to a rally in Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The level of fervor, the level of fever is very strong on the Republican side, so I can't speak to the blue, but I can speak to the red. There's a lot of energy out there. They want to see border security. They don't want people pouring into our country. They don't want open borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: The President's hardline "anti-immigration rhetoric" is a stark change from the message today from the head of the RNC, speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union."
Ronna McDaniel says, "We should be sympathetic and welcoming of migrants who want to come to the U.S."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONNA MCDANIELS, CHAIRWOMAN Republican NATIONAL COMMITTEE: We know good people are trying to get in this country too. They see the prosperity. They see the economic growth.
They're coming to this country because they see it as a beacon of hope. We need to find a legal way to get people here. We need to find a way to fix our immigration system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right, with me now is Congressman Ryan Costello, he is Republican Representative from Pennsylvania. Congressman, good to see you.
So, you decided not to run for re-election because of the divisive, you know, political environment. So, what is your reaction when you hear the President campaign on fear and intimidation?
REP. RYAN COSTELLO (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I take the Chairwoman's comments more to heart in terms of the fact that we have the highest wage growth in over 10 years, lowest unemployment in 49 years, more money for veterans' health care, and more money for NIH funding, which is going to improve public health outcomes by modernizing a lot of pharmaceutical drugs and medical device discoveries, as well as more money to fight the opioid epidemic.
We have a positive message. I have never subscribed to the fact that we need to double down and get divisive on the immigration issue. I think that we would do much better if we would be talk about how we're going to reform the immigration system from everything from our visa program to dealing with the DACA children who now are actually adults.
This caravan issue is a bit of a side show. I don't buy into it. And that's not going to motivate --
WHITFIELD: OK, but then, what do you believe is the motivation for the President? Because he seems to believe that there are gains in talking about that even though before he boarded Air Force one on his way to Georgia, he was asked about that. And he says, "you know, well, I want to focus on the economy." I'm quoting him now, "but you people don't like to focus on that. I'd much rather cover -- you'd much rather cover immigration." So he is placing blame --
HITFIELD: -- on that, and driving the conversation elsewhere, when it's the President who keeps bringing it up, caravan, you know, invaders. That's the language.
I think you and I can both agree that he's trying to have it both ways. But I would say that in competitive House districts, the focus should be on the economy and what we have done in Congress, and that the caravan issue is not something that's going to generate positive political results for Republicans in those districts.
And to the round table you had a little earlier, I think many of them were even saying that your local or your Congressional candidates are focused on an economic issue, not an immigration issue. So, I think in the closing two days here, those messages are in competition with one another. And I'm concerned that for swing voters, those who maybe haven't determined how they're going to vote, I would much rather have them be focused on and lean into a positive economic message than the caravan issue.
WHITFIELD: OK. And while the Congressional, you know, races are big, there are gubernatorial races that are getting a lot of attention, particularly two states who stand to, you know, make history in these races. The Democratic nominees are black. And we're talking about Florida and Georgia. And if they win, they could be the first to lead those states.
So in the Florida governor's race, you know, you had Republican nominee Ron DeSantis a while back imploring voters not to monkey it up.
[15:55:03] And now days ahead of this election, you've got the former Georgia Governor, Sonny Perdue, making this reference to the Florida contest, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONNY PERDUE (R), FORMER GEORGIA GOVERNOR: Public policy matters. Leadership matters. And that's why this election is so cotton-picking important in the State of Florida. I hope you all don't mess it up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Some taking offense to the cotton picking and saying, you know, that is code language. Why this tactic?
COSTELLO: So, I wouldn't respond to what DeSantis said. But I think in this instance -- look, a synonym, you know, the synonym for gosh darn is something that you don't want to say. And euphemism for that is that phrase.
So you can take it that way, but I really do not think that there was anything intended inappropriately by that comment. I don't know the Agricultural Secretary at all, but that is a general way that people -- I don't use that phrase, I'm from Pennsylvania. But that is not -- I don't take it that way.
WHITFIELD: Well, does this now, I mean, I feel like you're struggling over that. So is this exemplify how difficult it might be for some Republicans to even explain moments like this as just coincident or there's no meaning behind it and then it really is a very difficult sell?
COSTELLO: Oh, sure. Well, I think it's a very sensitive issue for sure. And I think that that's because of some of the -- I mean, there were phone calls against the Florida gubernatorial candidate, which are disgusting.
So when you have inappropriate things said, and then you have something like this, which I think was not intended the way some may be taking it or are trying to take it.
COSTELLO: There's a cumulative effect. And so therefore, you have to be that much more sensitive and sensible when you speak.
WHITFIELD: For sure.
COSTELLO: My guess is the Secretary will come out and make plain that there was no intention to speak about it in that way.
WHITFIELD: OK. All right. We will leave it right there. Congressman Ryan Costello, thank you so much.
And we'll be right back.