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James Polite is facing four hate crime charges for anti-semitic messages; Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger paid tribute to the victims of the recent tragedy in Pittsburgh; President Donald Trump and Former President Obama have been travelling all over the country; the governor's race is getting a lot of attention; Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 4, 2018 - 16:00   ET


[16:01:05] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again. And thanks so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C.

The countdown is on. And both President Trump and former president Barack Obama are giving dueling messages in a final push before the midterms. President Trump is headlining rallies in Tennessee and Georgia, where he just touched down in Macon just a few moments ago. And former President Obama wrapping up in Indiana to finish up in his hometown of Chicago a bit later.

So this as an investigation now is launched in the bitter Georgia battle for governor, a red state which could turn blue. The office of Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, who was also the Republican nominee for governor, is accusing the Democratic Party of hacking into the voting system there in an attempt to expose its vulnerabilities. We're still waiting for details and evidence supporting this 11th hour allegation.

All right. Lots to get to today. CNN correspondents are following candidates and their big-named backers on the trail in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Georgia.

Let's begin with Kaylee Hartung and this hacking investigation in Georgia now. She's in Augusta -- Kaylee.

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Fred, this morning the secretary of state's office announcing they would be opening this investigation into Georgia's Democratic Party after what they described as a failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system. But they're not giving any evidence as to why they believe the Georgia Democratic Party is involved in this probe, and the secretary of state's office spokeswoman says they can't comment on any ongoing investigation.

That being said, Brian Kemp's gubernatorial campaign, they are being much more direct in saying the Democrats tried to expose vulnerabilities in Georgia's voter registration system. Democrats are strongly denying these claims, calling them scurrilous, saying they're 100 percent false. The executive director of the state's party saying we did not create, discover, or attempt to take advantage of a deeply vulnerable system used by the secretary of state's office.

Earlier today Stacey Abrams went on "STATE OF THE UNION" and shared her reaction to the news of this investigation with Jake Tapper.


STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I've heard nothing about it, and I would -- my reaction would be that 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 have forced him to allow absentee ballots to be counted, and those who are being captive by the exact match 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're going to outwork him, we're going to outvote him, and we are going to win.


HARTUNG: Both Republicans and Democrats playing the PR game, trying to motivate their incredibly polarized bases, as they have throughout this campaign. And this news today coming as we're also learning of claims from the Coalition for Good Governance, an organization that's already involved in litigation of Brian Kemp, as they say that the online voter registration database that he used to update the electronic polling rolls, that that system has been vulnerable to manipulation.

The secretary of state's office, though, saying, Fred, that the system is secure and that no personal data has been breached.

WHITFIELD: All right. Kaylee Hartung, thanks so much. Share when you learn more about this investigation.

Meantime in Macon, Georgia, the president has just arrived, taking to the podium there. CNN's Sarah Westwood is also there.

So, Sarah, there we see the president. Pretty ruckus crowd there. What's the likely message as the president is also being joined by the vice president, right? And the Republican candidate for governor.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They're both here today, Fred, to campaign on behalf of Georgia's secretary of state, Brian Kemp. He's the Republican candidate in one of the tightest gubernatorial contests in the country right now, just a couple of points separating them in the polls.

[16:05:06] Stacey Abrams obviously aims to be one of the -- the first black woman governor of any state. She's aiming to make history, attracting Democratic star power to this state in recent days. Former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, they've been here in Georgia. But President Trump is hoping to keep Brian Kemp above 50 percent on Tuesday because if neither candidate gets 50 percent or more of the vote, it'll go to a runoff. So the president here trying to boost Brian Kemp as he heads into Election Day touting his message of immigration -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. Clearly a big crowd there. Signal is a little choppy so it's not your television set at home. We'll continue to monitor the comments coming from the president as he campaigns for the gubernatorial -- the Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp. The vice president also there.

Meantime, moments ago former President Obama spoke at a rally for Indiana Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. Donnelly is a moderate who has at times supported President Trump. He 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.

For more now, let's go to CNN's Ryan Young.

So, Ryan, what will be the closing message from the former president?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, that race is definitely a dog fight. We're here in Chicago, waiting for the president. You can see and feel the energy that his presence is starting to bring to this area. We know here there's been a governor's race that is going to be one of the most expensive ever in the history of the country, where two billionaires are facing off, trying to control the state. Over $220 million has been spent on this campaign.

Of course, Obama is on the campaign trail talking to Indiana voters just about how the word divide has become a common speech in terms of the fact of using politicians to show ads that could divide people. And we've even talked to people in this crowd who said they want to see more unity in politics. They don't want to see this division. In fact, listen to the former president talking about how he wants to see politics get more civil.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.


YOUNG: So I had one woman actually grab me earlier and she said she wanted to hear the conversation from all of us, including us in the media, change the world, what's going to happen in terms of policies. That's why she was happy to see the president back out there, the ex- president back out there, talking about what's going on with politics. And in fact they've already mentioned that up here, the fact that they're happy to see the former president come speak to them about changes that could be heading for America.

When you talk to people in the Pritzker campaign, they feel really good about the race they've won in terms of what's going to be happening. He of course (INAUDIBLE) over Governor Rauner here. Governor Rauner actually went to a Trump event last week and didn't even get up stage with the president. So you can see there's some division within that party. But a big conversation now is what's going to happen next.

One last thing, Fred, there will be a concert here. Common will be performing so over 5,000 people will be able to have a lot of energy when the president hits the stage.

WHITFIELD: Right. Bottom line, the former president there really challenging voters more so than challenging the candidates across the country.

Thanks so much, Ryan Young. Appreciate it.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: All right. Now let's go to Pennsylvania, where former Vice President Joe Biden is headlining two events with Democratic Senator Bob Casey.

CNN's Arlette Saenz is live for us at the rally in Yatesville, Pennsylvania, nearby Biden's birthplace of Scranton, by the way.

All right. So, Arlette, what are the expectations there?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, former vice president Joe Biden is going to be closing out his campaign blitz here in Pennsylvania. He's speaking in a short while at Harrisburg and then later tonight here in Yatesville. You already see folks lining up for that event here. And over and over, the former vice president has painted this campaign as a battle for the soul of America. And he stressed the need for political leaders to restore a sense of decency, as well as moral integrity, to American politics.

Yesterday in Ohio, he told voters that they are going to have the chance to reset the moral compass of this nation come Tuesday.

Now former vice president Joe Biden has really been maintaining a breakneck pace over the past week, almost presidential campaign level speed with which he's campaigning. This is going to be his 12th rally of the week. We've seen him in eight states, including Ohio, Wisconsin, even Iowa, sparking a little bit of speculation about what he's going to be doing in 2020.

Now, for the most part, the former vice president has really been trying to keep the focus this campaign on the candidates in the House and Senate races, as well as governorships that Democrats see that they could potentially pick up come Tuesday. [16:10:09] But come Wednesday, there's going to be a lot of attention

turning to his presidential ambitions and whether he's going to be running for 2020. For now, in that home stretch, he really wants to keep the focus on Democrats in these final days -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Arlette Saenz, thank you so much.

All right. Still to come, the year of the woman. A historic number of women will appear on general ballots in congressional and Senate races. The impact could be quite sizable in today's politics. This as we have dueling presidents on the campaign trail. We're back in a moment.


WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. We've been talking about Stacey Abrams and her historic run for governor of Georgia. She is just one of a record number of women on the ballot during this midterm election.

[16:15:07] This graphic from "The Washington Post" gives you a pretty good idea of how many women we're talking about. 235, one nomination for the House, 22 women for the Senate, and 16 are on the governor's tickets, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

So could 2018 indeed be the year of the woman in American politics?

Again, joining me right now to discuss, former Democratic governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, Tara Setmayer from Stand Up Republic, she is also a CNN political commentator, and Republican strategist and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz, Alice Stewart.

Good to see all of you.



WHITFIELD: OK. So this could potentially be yet another historic year. It was 1992, Jennifer, when the year of the woman --

GRANHOLM: The first one.



WHITFIELD: Right. The first one following the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.


WHITFIELD: What has provoked this kind of excitement and engagement among women? GRANHOLM: I think Donald Trump is the greatest recruiter for

Democrats in particular, maybe for women overall. But I think women are angry about a number of things. They're mad that this president has been so utterly divisive and has used rhetoric that is calling people names. You wouldn't tell your children to behave like him, so they're mad about that.

They're mad about the notion that he preys on fear and not on hope, as President Obama said in the rally that you played recently. They're mad about him taking health care away or Republicans in general doing that. They're mad about guns. They're mad about safety. So women are like -- they're like we're going to -- enough of this.


GRANHOLM: We're going to take it back. There's only -- we only have 20 percent of women in the House and Senate. And when I say we, I'm talking about women overall, Democrats and Republicans. There's only 20 percent. That -- we should have 50 percent.

WHITFIELD: And also, you know, if 1992 was inspired by U.S. Supreme Court confirmation, this year there was inspiration coming from confirmation hearings involving Brett Kavanaugh. And if that was so polarizing for so many, why is it, Alice, that the president would use this, you know, to encourage people to get to the ballots, to vote Republican?

STEWART: Well, he's used -- he used the Supreme Court confirmation process because that's what got him elected. There's a lot of people like myself, that was the number one issue for me being able to vote for Donald Trump, as --


WHITFIELD: The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing was incredibly polarizing.

STEWART: It was.

WHITFIELD: And then now for Kavanaugh to be used as a -- you know, a political tool.

STEWART: Yes. It's been on both sides. There are a lot of Republicans that say they were frustrated with the fact that they saw that Democrats overplayed their hand on that and pushed back too hard on that issue, and really undermined the presumption of innocence. And on the other side, there are Democrats who say that they were mad, as the governor said, mad as heck and they're not going to take it anymore.

And this started back right after the president was sworn in. We had the Women's March. Let's be clear, that was not a women's march. That was an anti-Trump march because I have -- I represent women's groups --

WHITFIELD: That brought out a lot of women. STEWART: That were not allowed to participate because they were

conservative. That was an anti-Trump march and he has gotten them galvanized. He has gotten women involved. And it's good to see women no longer looking at politics as a spectator sport. They're running for office. They are donating money. They are organizing. They are activating. And many of them running for office and I think that's good. And were voting.

WHITFIELD: And it's not just running for office. I mean, 256 women, you know, House and Senate races, 16 women running for governor, Tara. But women voters are powerful, too. We saw that in the Alabama Doug Jones victory Senate race over Roy Moore.


WHITFIELD: Women coming out in big numbers again --

SETMAYER: Particularly black women.


SETMAYER: In the Alabama race.

WHITFIELD: In that race, black women particularly were very pivotal.


WHITFIELD: So if you're -- if women are not inspired to run, women are also inspired to get to the ballot boxes.

SETMAYER: Absolutely, because I think -- I think that is -- for those of us who have not been -- I mean, I'm a conservative who's not a Trump supporter. And if you want to look at some of the upsides to what's going on with Trump, it's the level of engagement. I can't tell you how many women have stopped me on the street or send me messages on social media and say, I've never been involved before and I'm involved now. I cannot -- I can no longer sit back and watch what's going on in our country and not do anything.

And I think that that's important. I mean, women have been, especially in the black community, you know, running the household and, you know, getting things done. And this time, I think more so than ever with the Me Too Movement, with the way in which Donald Trump has just been so utterly misogynistic in the way he approaches women, women's issues, and that so many Republicans have actually enabled him in those things that I think these women -- they've had enough.

And I don't blame them for it. And I'm glad to see so many women. And another aspect of this that's fascinating, we always talk about candidate recruitment. This is not only necessarily about the numbers but it's about the quality of the candidates. And this time around we've seen a lot of women veterans running, which I think is an important dynamic because women are oftentimes seen as not strong enough or they're soft on national security.

[16:20:09] But you have some women like McGrath in Kentucky, another -- her name escapes me now, in Texas, women from New Jersey to Texas to Arizona that are veterans, combat veterans, saying, no, we're also tough on security. But they're Democrats.

GRANHOLM: Can I just say quickly, just to ratify sort of what you're suggesting, in the numbers that we've seen so far in the early votes, women have outperformed men by significant percentages. Georgia is a great example. I'm sure a lot of that is African-American women in support of Stacey Abrams, but it's women across the board.

Just quickly, I mean, in Tennessee, women outperforming men by eight points, which is really interesting because you have a race there with a woman Republican against Phil Bredesen. And the question is, what does that mean for a state like that? In Arizona, six points. In Florida, nine points. I mean, women are surging in the early votes so far. So we'll see if that continues on election day. But I'm telling you, women are mad as --


WHITFIELD: Heck. And you know --

SETMAYER: And women traditionally vote more than --


SETMAYER: At a higher percentage than men anyway.

WHITFIELD: And speaking of Georgia, you know, with Stacey Abrams, you know, Brian Kemp, does this only exemplify how contentious this is? Because now you've got the secretary of state's office, Brian Kemp's office, for the second timed now in the midst of trying to challenge the validity, the eligibility of voters, the veracity of the voting system, now with this investigation. Is that a sign of desperation, Alice?

STEWART: No, that is a sign of him also being the secretary of state, making sure that we have elections that are --


GRANHOLM: Then he voted --

STEWART: I mean --

SETMAYER: Are you OK with that, Alice?


SETMAYER: I think that -- you know, Brian Kemp being secretary of state and in a position to manipulate the voting rolls however he so chooses and running as a candidate, I think that that shouldn't be allowed. This is a little suspicious, don't you think?

STEWART: In all honesty, having been deputy secretary of state in Arkansas, our number one priority was the integrity of the elections. And that included the integrity of the voter rolls. WHITFIELD: Right.

STEWART: And these numbers --

WHITFIELD: But when a candidate is then involved in policing the integrity, that doesn't send suspicion?


STEWART: That is clearly --

WHITFIELD: Makes them uncertain about their votes.

STEWART: He's been able to separate himself. He has a full staff of people that are truly overseeing this election process. And that was clear from the very beginning. The most important thing he can do as secretary of state and his office can do, there's many levels under him that oversee that, is to make sure that the integrity of the voter rolls are intact and we have free and fair elections.


WHITFIELD: But wouldn't it send a message if he just recused himself?

GRANHOLM: He should have recused himself. Yes.

STEWART: And at the end of the day, at this stage, we would probably have a lot less concerns about it if he had stepped down or taken himself out. But at this stage of the game, I -- what has happened with regard to the voter list and the voter rolls I think everything has gone in the proper --

GRANHOLM: Oh, I would not say that. And I would --


SETMAYER: He's disproportionately affected minority voters.


SETMAYER: Conveniently are the people that could potentially vote against Brian Kemp and for Stacey Abrams. The whole thing smells. And whether it's legitimate or not -- but you know, purging people from the rolls because they don't have a hyphen in their names, and things like that, I get it.


GRANHOLM: And even though --

SETMAYER: At the rules.


SETMAYER: And the court did step in and says -- WHITFIELD: The message may not be out particularly to many of those

who are among the 50,000 who were told that there may not be an exact match with the driver's license, voter registration. You know, they may be reticent. You know, they may not believe. And isn't that what voter intimidation is all about?


SETMAYER: It's still too raw. And just for -- you know, for Republicans, this -- I just think it was not a good look to keep Brian Kemp in that position, and maybe in some states didn't allow, you have to step down from certain positions if you're going to run for another one.


SETMAYER: And I just think that that's something that the legislature should look at. You should not be allowed to be the fox in the hen house.

WHITFIELD: Yes. And perhaps more than just not a good look is something that happened last night on "SNL." And, you know, "Saturday Night Live" getting a lot of backlash now, particularly because of a skit, a cast member, you know, Pete Davidson mocking Dawn Crenshaw, who is Republican candidate for Congress in Texas. Crenshaw is also a former Navy SEAL who lost his eye after an IED exploded in Afghanistan. So take a listen.


PETE DAVIDSON, COMEDIAN, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": This guy is kind of cool. Dan Crenshaw.



DAVIDSON: Hold on. You may be surprised to hear he's a congressional candidate from Texas and not a hit-man in a porno movie.


DAVIDSON: I'm sorry. I know he lost his eye in war or whatever.


WHITFIELD: OK. So he actually did know about that part. I mean, how does this --

STEWART: It's disgusting.


STEWART: And it's not a surprise to hear this guy is a Republican, and "Saturday Night Live" is trashing him. It's just more of the same, this entertainment industry going after Republicans. It's just insulting.

[16:25:02] SETMAYER: Hundred percent tasteless. This is exactly what Republicans have complained about. Liberal Hollywood gives fuel to that fire. And that -- that candidate should get an apology. I'm sorry. Oh, he lost his eye in war or whatever. My best friend's husband was Special Forces.

WHITFIELD: What's funny about that?

SETMAYER: And he almost died in a mission in Afghanistan. He's blind now in both eyes. And he is a hero. And that is so disgusting and despicable to all of the wounded warriors in this country who have lost limbs, eyes, their lives.


SETMAYER: And so for a comedian on "Saturday Night Live" to just poo- poo that for a joke, I just think there's a certain line of decency.


SETMAYER: You can't complain about Donald Trump and his indecency.


SETMAYER: And then think jokes like that are fun.

WHITFIELD: He is not funny, and Crenshaw himself tweeted, responded -- and saying that, you know, he's hoping that "SNL" recognizes that vets don't deserve to see their wounds used as punch lines for bad jokes.

SETMAYER: Amen to that.

WHITFIELD: Jennifer?

GRANHOLM: Yes -- no. I mean, what can you say?


GRANHOLM: You should stay away from mocking in any way veterans. That's just the bottom line.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Period. Exclamation point.

STEWART: They shouldn't be having it (INAUDIBLE) for our veterans. And a better joke.

SETMAYER: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, ladies. 48 hours to go. You ready?

STEWART: And counting.


GRANHOLM: I am so ready.


WHITFIELD: All right, ladies. Thank you so much.

Tara Setmayer, Alice Stewart, Jennifer Granholm, appreciate it.

All right. Meantime, Republicans, well, they're not holding back when it comes to their midterm messaging. How the strategy could impact voters, especially in Pittsburgh, where the community is still reeling from a tragic hate crime one week ago.


[16:30:01] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: All right. We're now learning the man charged with writing anti-semitic messages inside a Brooklyn synagogue once worked to fight hate crimes. Twenty six year-old James Polite is facing four hate crime charges, including arson, for allegedly setting a fire at a Jewish study school, just miles from the synagogue.

Polite reportedly worked on anti-hate crime initiatives about a decade ago as an intern for former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Polite's life, which included years in and out of the foster care system, was profiled in a New York Times piece last year. CNN Correspondent Polo Sandoval is live for us at the Union Temple in Brooklyn this afternoon. So Polo, what else are we learning?

POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, Fred, the NYPD posted outside of this temple for much of the day here. Now, police saying that they suspect that James Polite was not only responsible for the vandalism that took place here, but also at least six other locations here in the Brooklyn area. Most of them related to the Jewish community. Exactly who this person is, well, you can dig up an article from 2017 in the New York Times, who was essentially a profile on James Polite.

It tells a very different -- or at least paints a very different picture of the 26-year-old man, as you mentioned, somebody who had struggled with not only homelessness but also various issues, had eventually secured an internship with a high-ranking city official in the city of New York. That official that you mentioned there now speaking out, obviously saying that (Inaudible) these allegations but at the same time something like this certainly unacceptable.

When you look at that profile piece by the New York Times, you're also able to read that this individual attended Brandeis University, apparently had taken - was ordered to take a health leave of absence because he apparently had been smoking marijuana for -- to relieve some stress. The New York Times writing that during that treatment, during that rehabilitation period, it was discovered that he suffered from bipolar disorder.

Again, all of this written by the New York Times, we do understand again, that this individual is still in custody. In fact, he was arrested not far from this location after police were investigating an arson that investigators believe he likely is behind as well. All of these various charges, Fred, they are all being treated as hate crimes tonight.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. All right, meantime, the city of Pittsburgh is rallying around its Jewish community in the wake of its own hate crime. Today, Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger honored the victims of last weekend's deadly synagogue shooting by wearing these special cleats with the words stronger than hate. The heated and divisive rhetoric of this election season is a concern for so many voters, including people in the area where that attack in Pittsburgh happened.

And that is also where a hotly contested congressional race is playing out. The latest poll from Monmouth University shows Republican Congressman Keith Rothfus trailing Democrat Conor Lamb by 12 points, Congressman Rothfus joining me now from Pittsburgh. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: So just a week ago, the worst anti-semitic attack on American, you know, Jewish people happened in your community. Synagogue members and even the Rabbi said this caustic language preceding that shooting has to end. So how will you help end discourse and promote civility?

ROTHFUS: Yeah. This has been a traumatic week for the city. And Rabbi Myers has really done a tremendous job in showing leadership himself. As he said, I think yesterday on the program about being a victim, about being a pastor, being a witness, he has a compelling testimony. I was able to participate in the show up for Shabbat yesterday with members of the Jewish community. It was an incredible privilege to do so.

[16:34:53] You know after this heinous attack happened last Saturday, I went home. And like all of us, you know, we're struggling with this in our own individual way. And I talked to the folks who do my ads and I said, look, we need something that's transcendent. We need something that speaks of Lincoln, speaks of the founding, speaks of the God-given dignity and value of every human life.

Because that kind of sums up what I talk about all the time, about getting people back in the game and a fair playing field. And they came up with some ideas, and we launched an ad last Tuesday. It's really a message of hope. And I hope a message of healing for people. And so we've gotten a very good response to it.

WHITFIELD: And is that the same ad that, you know, you apparently you do target your -- you know, competitor Conor Lamb? And there has been a response that they thought it was largely negative, and you're saying it's largely positive?

ROTHFUS: No, no, no, no. You have to take a look at the ad called indivisible. This is not even a political ad. I think it's more of a public service announcement about everything that this country is and everything we want this country to be. And there have been divided times in our history before, 1968 was a very divided time in our country, and so was the 1850s.

And Abraham Lincoln talked about the need to go back and look at what's in our Declaration of Independence. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all are created equal and (Inaudible) by your creator with certain (Inaudible) rights. That's the fabric of our country. And that's what we need to be talking about.

WHITFIELD: So then how do you combat the style the style and approach that you've taken by way of your most recent ad and even your language right now, which is promoting civility? How do you combat, you know, words from the President, who you are a supporter of? And when the President uses words like invaders and, you know, talking about, you know, migrants making their way, you know, to the southern border.

And then the President has also praised a Montana congressman for, you know, body slamming a reporter.


WHITFIELD: You know how do you square the difference? How do you, you know, take the approach of civility, advocacy, of peace and harmony, and at the same time, you know, be an ardent supporter of the President who uses those tactics to persuade or stir his base?

ROTHFUS: Look, anybody who knows me, knows the language I use. And the language I have used throughout my career, both in public life and in private life. You know my opponent's first ad talked about knock him out. Look, I don't use that kind of rhetoric. I know others do. We can take -- we can have -- we should be having discussions about what's going on around the world. We should be having a discussion about the caravan in Mexico.

We should have a discussion about the need to secure our borders. I am in western Pennsylvania. We have a horrific opioid crisis. We really don't get to talk a lot about the 90 percent of the heroin that is coming into our country courtesy of the evil cartels in Mexico. This is an issue that I have raised a number of times in hearings about what's been happening south of the border, 150,000 dead over the last 10 years.

These cartels kill with impunity. The cartels control what's going on at the border and traffic humans and drugs into this country. We have a need to secure that border. Countries have a right to secure their border. That's the kind of conversation we should be having. People can use different types of rhetoric. I know I have always been very deliberate with the language I use, because I am looking for solutions.

We had a bill up a couple of months ago that would have provided a good solution, would have provided a legal status for the DACA kids, would have ended family separations at the border, but would have secured the border. Those are the kinds of things that we should be talking about. And then also, talk about, frankly, the best economy we've had in 20 years that's lifting everybody. I talk a lot about the need to get everybody back in the game. People need to talk about the opportunity's own program that Senator

Tim Scott put into the tax bill. That's going to provide a lot of opportunity for communities that have been bypassed for decades. So there are a lot of good things that are happening. And it's unfortunate that we see the rhetoric that's repeated in the media, the social media. People get into their own little eco-chambers, and it reinforces what they're hearing from other sources.

We need to have more deep and meaningful conversations. And I think Rabbi Myers really has just done a wonderful job.

WHITFIELD: Are you in agreement -- even the Rabbi said, it begins with leaders. And do you agree with Rabbi saying, you know, cleaning up that rhetoric or at least sending the right message, it really starts from the top?

ROTHFUS: Well, again, I am responsible for the words I use. And I am always willing to engage in conversation. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to put this ad out there, because I want that ad to be a conversation piece. I want people to be focusing on what unites us, not what divides us, and you have -- just like Lincoln did, look at what's in that declaration.

Look at what makes America exceptional. It's -- we have, again, the best economy going in 20 years, but we also need to be talking about some of those broader aspects that cause us to raise our gaze as it were, and what makes us unique about a country.

[16:39:58] WHITFIELD: All right. Congressman Keith Rothfus, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much.

ROTHFUS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And we're back in a moment.


WHITFIELD: All right. President Trump and the Former President have been dueling it out while they crisscross the country, stumping for their candidates of choice. There's a lot at stake. Democrats have a very tough battle to retake control of the Senate. Here is CNN's John King.


JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: The final hours now of the midterm campaign, and when it comes to this map, the fight for control of the House, a clear Democratic advantage. A majority clearly within the Democrats' reach. Let's look at the race rankings, 207, we at CNN rank as solid, likely, or lean Democratic, 218 it takes to get the majority, 207, solid likely lean for the Democrats as we head to the finish line.

[16:45:04] Republicans in a weaker position here, what jumps out in the map, see the yellow, 31 toss-up races in our CNN rankings, 31. Of those 31, 30 currently held by Republicans. So the Republicans on their heels playing defense, Democrats in this basket of opportunity. The toss-up districts more than enough to get to the majority, 218 in the House. How do the Democrats think they can do it?

Start in the northeast and New York. New York and New England states up here, the Democrats think they can get at least a third, if not more, of the 23 net pickup seats they need just in this region alone. Then you move down here to Pennsylvania, the mid-Atlantic, including Virginia. They think four, five, possibly even more just out of Pennsylvania, because they've redrawn the House district lines there.

Virginia will be a fascinating test on election night. Are the Democrats reaching their goals? Did they just get this one? Flip that one seat in the northern Virginia suburbs, or can they get a second or a third by flipping more Republican but toss-up seats heading into the campaign? So watch that. Another big region of opportunity the Democrats see is the Midwest.

You see a lot of toss-up districts here. We've already flipped some toward the Democrats in our likely rankings. What makes these yellow districts, what do they have in common? Most of them touch the suburbs. And that is why the Democrats are optimistic when it comes to the House. Let's take a closer look at the numbers. Number one, I talked to you about the northeast and the Midwest, look how dismal the President's numbers are in the northeast.

This is an NPR/Marist Poll, 67 percent disapproval in the northeast, a lot of targets of opportunity here for the Democrats. Midwest, numbers aren't so bad. But the President is still underwater. So Republicans think between those regions, they can pick up the seats. One more factor in that, a lot of those districts, as I noted, touched the suburbs.

Six in ten Americans who live in suburbs disapprove of the President's job performance. So while the Republicans in stronger standing in rural areas, there are a lot of competitive districts for the Democrats that touch the suburbs. Here, here, and even as you continue to the west. More than enough on this map in the final hours, Democrats believe, the House majority is within their reach. We'll count the votes on Tuesday.


WHITFIELD: All right. John King, thank you so much for that look. All right, still ahead, the Florida governor's race is razor close as millions turn out to vote early, coming up, how millennials could be key in this contest.


[16:50:00] WHITFIELD: In the key battleground state of Florida, the governor's race is getting a lot of attention. 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 a dead heat between the two. CNN's Rosa Flores is in Miami Beach outside an early voting location. What's the activity been like at those early polling stations? ROSA FLORES, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Slow and steady, Fred. If you take

a look at the line that's behind me here at Miami Beach City Hall, it has been slow and steady for the past few hours. Go ahead and take a look. I can tell you that here in Miami-Dade, about 33,000 people voted just yesterday. But take a look at the numbers for the entire state of Florida.

When we talk about razor thin margins in Florida, and that that's how elections are won here, and this is what we're talking about. In total, 4.8 million people have voted. But take a look at the nail- biting breakdown, 1.9 million Republicans, 1.9 million Democrats, and 920,000 with no party affiliation or other. Now there's this misconception around the country that most of Florida voters are seniors.

But hear this, 52 percent of registered voters in the sunshine state are either millennials, Gen-xers, or gen Gen-zers. Now this younger block of voters, they are more diverse. They're disenchanted about the two-party system. They're very worried about the environment, they're worried about jobs. They're worried about health care. So, you know, for a lot of young voters out there, if you're watching your television, you actually have more power than you might think.

But the big question, of course, Fred, is will they actually go out and vote? That's the big question.

WHITFIELD: Right. That is the big question. And then they're really not watching us on TV, are they? They're watching us on their phones and their computers. All right, Rosa Flores. Thanks so much in Miami Beach. All right, finally, we've just revealed our top 10 CNN heroes of 2018. Meet Maria Rose Belding, who's making a huge difference for those going hungry in her hometown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was a food pantry in my church that I grew up working in. You would have way too much of one thing and would be in desperate need of a different thing. Inevitably, some of it would expire. And I ended up throwing a lot of it away. When I was 14, I realized that doesn't make sense. The internet was right in front of us. That's such an obvious thing to fix.

This has now been claimed. It has turned green. You would really think of the novelty of it would wear off. It doesn't.


WHITFIELD: So to vote for any of our top ten heroes, go to right now. Thanks so much for joining me today, this Sunday, from D.C. I am Fredricka Whitfield. Our special coverage continues with Wolf Blitzer right after this.


[16:55:00] WOLF BLITZER, NEWSROOM ANCHOR, CNN: Happening now, the last push, President Trump and Former President Obama both urgently campaigning for their parties candidates, making a last-ditch pitch to voters just two days before the historic midterm election. Hacking accusation, a stunning 11th hour twist in the closely watched Georgia Governor's race, tonight, the Republican candidate, who's also the Secretary of State, is accusing Democrats of trying to hack the state's voter registration system.