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STATE OF THE UNION

Interview With Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate Stacey Abrams; Interview With Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez; Interview With Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Utah Mayor Killed In Afghanistan. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 4, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Down to the wire. Two presidents hit the campaign trail in Georgia.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The character of our country is on the ballot.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That state will be in big, big trouble very quickly.

TAPPER: Will Georgia voters embrace President Trump's message? Or can Democrats flip the state blue?

Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams joins me next.

Plus: closing arguments. President Trump stoking fear to turn out his base.

TRUMP: Democrats want to totally open the borders.

TAPPER: As Democrats face a big test at the polls.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We Democrats have to make it clear who we are.

TAPPER: Which side will get out the vote? The chairpeople of both political parties are here to make their cases.

And state of play. Only hours away from one of the most highly contested midterm elections in history, we will break down the key races with the latest analysis. What will the balance of power look like Wednesday morning?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is on the edge of our seats.

The polls officially open for midterm Election Day in less than 48 hours. Voters will deliver their first verdict on the Trump presidency and test the Democratic message.

The stakes are enormous for both parties, President Trump fighting to keep Republicans in control of Congress, Democrats trying to take back that power and significantly curb President Trump's agenda.

Now, with time running out, both sides are relying on their biggest political stars to try to turn out the vote, former President Obama on the trail, offering withering criticism for his successor, the likes of which we haven't seen a former president do since maybe Herbert Hoover in the 1930s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn't matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can't work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: President Trump, meanwhile, rallying his base, talking about undocumented immigrants and the threat of the caravan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If you want to protect criminal aliens, you should vote Democrat. If you want to protect law-abiding Americans, vote Republican. It's really very simple.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Today, President Trump will be in Georgia, campaigning to win one of the tightest and most closely watched races in the nation, the battle to be Georgia's next governor.

Joining me now, Democratic candidate for Georgia governor and the former state House minority leader, Stacey Abrams.

I want to note that we did invite Abrams' opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, to join us, but he declined this Sunday, as well as on two previous Sundays.

Leader Abrams, thanks for joining us.

President Trump is going to be in Georgia campaigning for your opponent this afternoon.

Here's what the president had to say about your candidacy earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia. She's not qualified.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: What's your response?

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: He's wrong.

As President Obama pointed out, I am the most qualified candidate running, if you look at both my academic background, my work history. I have been deputy city attorney. I was the Democratic leader for seven years. I have been successful as a businesswoman, as a writer, and as a tax attorney.

I know what I'm talking about, and I have the plans to prove it.

TAPPER: What do you make of his attacking you that way?

ABRAMS: I think that they can see the same numbers we are seeing. Early voting is up dramatically. We have a plan in place for remarkable turnout on Election Day.

We have folks knocking doors across the state of Georgia. And I think they're getting scared. And I think desperation tends to lead to, you know, comments that aren't necessarily grounded in reality.

TAPPER: You're running for Georgia governor, so I was curious about your reaction to something a former governor of Georgia said last night.

Take a listen to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at a campaign event for Republican Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis. He's running against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SONNY PERDUE, U.S. AGRICULTURE SECRETARY: Public policy matters. Leadership matters. And that's why this election is so cotton-picking important to the state of Florida. I hope you all don't mess it up.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TAPPER: "This election is so cotton-picking important to the state of Florida."

Did you have any reaction to hearing that?

ABRAMS: I think that there's certainly a throwback element to the language that we're hearing coming out of the Republican Party that is, unfortunately, disparaging to communities.

It may be unintentional, but it signals a deeper misinformation about what Andrew Gillum can accomplish, what I can accomplish.

And what we are going to do is stand on our records and our plans, and we're going to win these elections.

TAPPER: President Obama hit the trail for your campaign in Georgia this week.

He recently made headlines after calling Medicare for all a -- quote -- "good new idea."

You have not expressed support for Medicare at all, at least not right now. Why do you think President Obama is wrong?

ABRAMS: I don't think that he's wrong. I think that, as a national conversation, there certainly should be an ongoing review of what Medicare for all can do.

But a single state cannot make that change. Georgia does not have the financial capacity to provide that type of coverage. That is a federal conversation.

[09:05:02]

I am running to be the governor of the state of Georgia. We have to do the fundamentals, including the expansion of Medicaid. That's how we provide access to health care. That's how we reduce costs. That's how we protect preexisting conditions.

My focus is on how I can serve Georgia, and that means a focus on Medicaid expansion.

TAPPER: Let's talk about that.

You want to expand Medicaid, under Obamacare. You say that would cost your state nearly $300 million. You have also proposed a $150 million earned income tax credit for lower-income families and a $40 million renewable energy plan.

Now, I understand you have proposed a few ways to bring in some of that money. But will any families in Georgia need to pay more in taxes in order to fund these ambitious plans?

ABRAMS: We do not need to raise taxes under my plans to raise expectations and to raise outcomes.

Georgia spends about $1.75 billion per year on uncompensated care. That's health care costs. By expanding Medicaid, we can join states like Kentucky that cut that number in half. That's savings that will go directly into providing access to the programs I'm talking about.

My plan is to put money back into the pockets of hardworking Georgians. And all of the plans I have proposed, which are detailed, specific, and have pay-fors, all of those programs can be done under our current budget in the state of Georgia.

TAPPER: So...

ABRAMS: What's more important is that the economic benefit to our state is dramatic, thousands of more jobs, thousands of good-paying jobs, access to health care coverage, and improvement for our state overall.

TAPPER: So, you're telling Georgia families that none of them are going to have to pay higher taxes with you as governor?

ABRAMS: I do not intend to raise taxes. That is not the necessity.

What we have to do in Georgia is cover health care costs. What we have to do is create competitive wages for our teachers, so we can keep more in the classrooms. What we have to do is create better good-paying jobs throughout the state of Georgia in all 159 counties.

That is the economic imperative for our state. And that's how we continue to move Georgia forward.

TAPPER: Let's talk about gun policy. When you were a state lawmaker in 2016, you co-sponsored a bill that would have allowed Georgia state authorities to take away so-called assault weapons from current gun owners.

Most similar bans would grandfather in existing weapons of that sort, semiautomatic rifles that are called assault weapons. So, is that your current position, that law-abiding gun owners in Georgia should have to give up those weapons, if authorities deem it necessary?

ABRAMS: In the state of Georgia, you introduce legislation to start conversations. I am happy to work with the legislature to figure out how we make an assault weapons ban work.

But what I fundamentally believe is that we have to have commonsense gun safety legislation. I am someone who supports the Second Amendment, who knows how to shoot, who knows how to hunt, but I believe that our responsibility is to make certain that the most vulnerable in our society do not face those who are irresponsible with their weapons.

AR-15s are not necessary on our streets. Semiautomatic weapons have to be put under a certain level of responsible control. And I believe that, as the next governor of Georgia, I can work with Democrats and Republicans to come up with commonsense gun safety legislation that will allow us to make our families and our communities safer.

TAPPER: Well, just to be clear, you were one of six co-sponsors of this bill, House Bill 731, introduced January 11, 2016, not that long ago.

Your co-sponsor told reporters the law -- quote -- "would require gun owners of these particular models to turn their guns in."

ABRAMS: And, again, my point is this. The legislation introduced was the beginning of a conversation.

I am absolutely certain that, were we to pass this in Georgia, we would have a conversation about grandfathering in, about whether or not people would turn their guns in, whether there would be buybacks. There are a number of approaches to take to accomplish this goal.

But the fundamental responsibility is commonsense gun safety legislation in Georgia, making sure we get dangerous weapons off the streets, and that responsible gun owners stand together to hold those who are irresponsible accountable, and we reduce the risk of harm to the rest of Georgia. TAPPER: Well, just to be clear here, though -- I'm just trying to

understand. So you don't support the actual legislation; you just support having a conversation about it?

ABRAMS: No, what I have said is, legislation in the state legislature is about starting the conversation.

Very few pieces of legislation are introduced and come out the same way they go in. That's the process of making the law.

My mission in 2016 was to be a part of the conversation. I believe that we have to ban assault weapons in the state of Georgia. But what I'm saying is, as part of my leadership, I'm going to work across the aisle, and we're going to have a conversation about how we accomplish this.

TAPPER: I want to bring your attention to something that you might not know about, because I think it just came out. The Georgia secretary of state's office -- that's your opponent, Brian Kemp -- they have just announced they have opened an investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia for possible alleged cyber-crimes, after what they say is a failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system.

Have you heard anything about this? Do you have any reaction?

ABRAMS: I have 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.

[09:10:02]

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 are going to outvote him, and we are going to win.

TAPPER: All right, Leader Abrams, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it.

ABRAMS: Thank you.

TAPPER: The president says the booming economy isn't exciting enough to campaign on exclusively, but is the Republican Party comfortable with the scare tactics the president seems to prefer instead?

We will talk to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

President Trump is acknowledging that Democrats might win control of the House on Tuesday, but he's wrapping up the midterms with a cross- country campaign blitz fighting to try to save Republican majorities in the Senate.

Joining me now is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel.

Ronna, thanks so much for joining us.

Let me ask you. The economy is booming. Unemployment is at a 49-year low. Annual wage growth topped 3 percent for the first time since 2009.

But -- and you knew there was a but -- the president's closing message is not on that. It's centered on scaring people about undocumented immigrants.

Would you personally feel more comfortable if this closing argument was focusing more on the positive, on the achievements, instead of incendiary appeals that people should fear undocumented immigrants?

[09:15:03]

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think the president is closing on the economy. He's talking about, obviously, these great jobs numbers we saw on Friday, as you saw, the lowest in history, unemployment levels for the African-American and Hispanic communities.

We had wage growth above 3 percent for first time in a decade. But, you know, the immigration issue is something that's -- that's relevant right now with these caravans coming to our country. We have got to recognize that we have not passed comprehensive immigration reform.

It's something that's a problem we have to face together, as Republicans and Democrats. And it highlights once again how Democrats have refused to work with this president on anything. They didn't support the tax cuts. They didn't support deregulation. They won't come to the table on immigration reform. All of these things together show what our message has been, results vs. resistance.

We have a record of results over the past two years. Lives are better. Our country is doing better. Democrats haven't come to the table to work with this president on anything.

TAPPER: Actually, quite literally, Democrats and Republicans came to the table to talk to President Trump about immigration reform, and they thought they had a deal, and then, ultimately, they did not have a deal.

And one of the reasons was, President Trump insisted on changing immigration laws, and not just working on immigration reform. But to your point about whether or not the president is emphasizing

the good economic numbers, more so than fearing undocumented immigrants, take a listen to the president explaining why he is emphasizing the caravan, as opposed to unemployment. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: And they all say, speak about the economy. Speak about the economy. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: But, sometimes, it's not as exciting, to talk about the economy, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That's the president's own words. It's not as exciting to talk about the economy.

MCDANIEL: Well, I'm with him. He's talking about both.

I mean, I have been at every rally. He talks about the jobs coming back. He's talking about four million people off of food stamps. He talks about the fact that no Democrat voted for these historic tax cuts and the deregulation that have kick-started our economy, and the fact that President Obama said 2 percent growth was the best we could ever get in our GDP, and now we're -- we're averaging between 3.5 and 4 percent GDP.

So the president talks about that. But he can talk about multiple things at once. And he's talked about our safety, immigration reform, funding our military, taking on the opioid crisis. And he's not just talking about it. He's delivering on it.

And Democrats, what are they running on? I mean, what are they running on right now? What's their vision? Stop him? Resist? Obstruct? They can't take any credit for this good economy because they have sat on their hands for two years, and all they have done is try to stop this president from being successful.

So, what's their closing statement? Abolish ICE? Raise taxes? I mean, we have a record.

TAPPER: Yes.

MCDANIEL: We are going to the American people and saying, we have delivered, your lives are better, the economy is booming. Let's not go back.

TAPPER: So the president's closing argument in the midterms is focused on fears of undocumented immigrants. That's the focus.

He tweeted out this racially charged video about an undocumented immigrant convicted of killing two sheriff's deputies. Here's a little snippet of this incendiary video. I mean, factually, it's not true, because, actually, he was let into the country most recently under George W. Bush's administration, and Joe Arpaio is the one who released him, I think, most recently.

But setting aside the factual errors, several Republicans have condemned the substance of this video. Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, called it sickening, saying that -- quote -- "Republicans everywhere should the denounce it."

Congressman Carlos Curbelo, Republican of Florida, says he hopes this doesn't work. Congressman Ryan Costello, Republican of Pennsylvania, says, no Republican in a close district wants to talk about this.

Do you have any concerns at all about this Web video?

MCDANIEL: I think the president's highlighting the point once again that we don't -- and I think everybody agrees with this, Jake -- we didn't want this individual in our country. He came in first under Bill Clinton and then under George Bush. And he did kill police.

And you see in this video, he said, I would kill more people if I could.

We don't want people being deported and being criminals and then coming back into this country. And the president was very clear in his speech this week. Listen, 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. Democrats won't work with us.

And when he brought that table -- that deal to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, he said, let's end a visa lottery system that just brings people here willy-nilly, instead of based on merit.

By the way, Canada doesn't have a visa lottery system. He's saying, let's have merit-based immigration. We have more jobs right now than people to fill them. Let's bring people in based on the job needs that we have in this country, very reasonable proposals that Democrats have supported in the past.

[09:20:00]

And now they're saying, no, we won't support it. And he also had a deal on the DACA with...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You don't have -- but you don't have any issues what so all about...

MCDANIEL: So, why won't they come to the table with him on anything?

TAPPER: You don't have any issues at all about -- about... MCDANIEL: I think the president is talking about a multitude of issues. And to say he's only focusing on one thing is false. He is focusing on the fact that Democrats time and time again won't work with him.

TAPPER: But on that Web -- but that Web video, you don't have any issue with that?

You don't -- it's factually inaccurate and it's racially incendiary. You don't have any issue with that?

(CROSSTALK)

MCDANIEL: It's -- I have an issue with our immigration system that's not being fixed, and Democrats won't work with the president. And we have caravans coming.

Listen, Jake, in eight years, asylum claims are up 1700 percent. By the way, what about the 12,000 kids that have come here unaccompanied? We have an immigration system that is attracting young children to come here alone without their parents. Why do we have that? Why aren't we fixing that? Is that good for these young kids to be traveling alone?

TAPPER: You think the president -- do you really think -- you know what?

I completely agree with you that there needs to be a big immigration reform bill, and Democrats and Republicans need to come together.

Do you really think President Trump is doing...

MCDANIEL: Well, where are the Democrats talking about this? Are they saying, let's solve the problem? They haven't said one thing about that.

They're not saying anything about these 12,000 kids being held by DHS.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: President Trump is inaccurately, inaccurately blaming them for putting a cop killer -- for letting him into the country, for letting him into the country. The last time he came into the country was under George W. Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

MCDANIEL: Regardless, we don't want him in the -- we didn't want him in the country. He killed police. That's not good. This is exactly why our immigration system is failing.

And he's pointing that out. And, by the way, he did come in under Bill Clinton. So he's come in twice under different presidents.

TAPPER: And then Clinton deported him.

MCDANIEL: But he got here, and he shouldn't have been here, and he killed two policeman. We don't want that.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Is it the Democrats' fault?

MCDANIEL: And while their -- the majority of those people who are coming here want good things, there are bad actors within some of these caravans.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Of course, and he's a monster and he was sentenced to death, and good riddance.

MCDANIEL: Yes, he should.

TAPPER: But was his presence in the United States the Democrats' fault?

MCDANIEL: It's -- it's -- it's a system -- systemic failure...

TAPPER: Yes, that's true.

MCDANIEL: And there's only one person right now talking about fixing it. And that's the president.

TAPPER: It's a systemic failure. That's my point.

MCDANIEL: That's it.

TAPPER: It's a systemic failure, Democrats and Republicans. That's the failure.

But he blamed it all on Democrats, so how can you expect Democrats...

MCDANIEL: But who's the party saying, let's fix it, Jake? Who's the party solving every problem right now? Opioids, we're leading.

TAPPER: I know you want to change the subject to...

MCDANIEL: The economy, we're leading on. Our unemployment is at a record low. Democrats aren't coming to the table on anything.

TAPPER: Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House.

MCDANIEL: They have sat on their hands having the largest temper tantrum for two years. And they should be fixing the immigration problem.

TAPPER: Democrats, the minority party, should be fixing the immigration problem?

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: You control the White House, House, and the Senate. MCDANIEL: They should be working with the president.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: The White House, the House, and the Senate, you control them all.

MCDANIEL: Listen, we do not have a filibuster-proof Senate. We only have 51 senators. We need 60 to solve major issues.

TAPPER: It's not the Senate. You couldn't get legislation through the House.

MCDANIEL: Well, what Democrat is leading on any issue? How many of them are coming to the table saying, I have a solution, let's work with this president? Name one.

Name one who said, let's unify this past week, when the president went forward and said, this is a time to unify. They said, no, we're going to make it political again.

I do not see a single Democrat say, let's bring this country together. I only see them running on resist and obstruct. Even with these good economic numbers, they can't even tout how good our country is doing right now.

So, yes, the president's leading. He's saying, come to the table. We have major issues we need to face, by the way, our economy is humming, people are working, wages are up, I will work with Democrats. And they're sitting on their hands.

TAPPER: All right.

Ronna McDaniel, thank you so much. And good luck on Tuesday, which I will also say to your Democratic counterpart.

MCDANIEL: OK, fair enough.

TAPPER: Oprah, Obama, Democrats deploying all their biggest names to try to build momentum for Tuesday's votes, but are they any match for President Trump?

The DNC chairman will be here next.

And early voting in many states is surging, but which party is benefiting from that enthusiasm? Our latest breakdown on the state of play.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:27:46]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Democrats are taking back the House. It's a win we need and a win we're going to get. I'm sure of it.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: They say don't trust the polls, but I'm choosing to. We're finally going to put this administration in check.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Nervous Democrats on "Saturday Night Live" last night, a sign of the stakes for the party heading into Tuesday's votes.

After two years of resisting President Trump, can Democrats translate that anger and passion into victory at the ballot box?

Joining me now to talk about the Democrats' closing message is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.

Tom, thanks for joining us.

TOM PEREZ, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Good morning.

TAPPER: New economic numbers on Friday showed a quarter-of-a-million new jobs, steady unemployment at a 49-year low. I know wage growth has been lagging, but this is the best annual wage growth since 2009, topping 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession.

That's higher than it ever got during your four years as labor secretary. Yet your statement in response to the numbers was -- quote -- "Too many working families have been left behind in the Trump economy."

What are you talking about?

PEREZ: I'm talking about real wage growth.

If you're -- if you get a dollar more on your paycheck, and the cost of gasoline, the cost of health care, the cost of housing goes up by $3, you're not better off.

And, by the way, we created more jobs in the last 21 months of the Obama administration than in the first 21 months of the Trump administration.

But what it's all about, Jake, is that people need to feel that, if they work a full-time job, they're actually able to feed their family and not tread water. And that's what's happening across this country. Too many people are working two or three jobs to make ends meet, because their salaries aren't enough.

And the cost of living is going through the roof, and health care is under attack. That's the number one issue in this election, is health care...

TAPPER: Yes.

PEREZ: ... because they want to do away with coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

They're not -- I talked to someone the other day who is diabetic. The cost of insulin has skyrocketed, and this administration has done nothing about it.

TAPPER: I understand why you...

PEREZ: That's why so many Americans have angst.

TAPPER: I understand why you want to change the subject to preexisting conditions, but let's focus on the economy for one second, because you just said two things that are not borne out by the -- by the facts.

A new poll just out this morning said that optimism in the economy is at its highest point since January 2001. And your claim that all of these people are working multiple jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that's only 5 percent of the current work force that has multiple jobs.

[09:30:10]

So, it looks to me like you're saying things that aren't true to try to put a gray cloud over the economic good news.

PEREZ: The -- the -- Jake, here's the problem.

Real wage growth, if you -- if you have wage growth of 3 percent and your cost of living goes up by 5 percent, you're not even treading water. And that's the challenge across America.

It's a simple challenge. And we have an administration who just the other day said, I don't even believe in a minimum wage. We have an administration who is constantly attacking the labor movement, so that we can't work to lift wages for workers.

And we have an administration that is constantly attacking health care.

TAPPER: Wage growth -- but wage growth is better than...

PEREZ: That's -- they're trying to change the subject away from health care.

TAPPER: Wage growth is better than it has been since 2009.

That means it is better than it has been for seven out of eight of the years that Obama was president and all four years that you were secretary of labor.

PEREZ: Jake, the issue now is not just nominal wage growth. The issue is also inflation.

If your salary goes up by $1, but the cost of buying insulin, the cost of buying gasoline, the cost of housing, the cost of health care goes up by $3, you're not better off. That's the challenge here. And the challenge for the American people is the fact that so many

people with preexisting conditions thought they would be able to retain their coverage. This administration doesn't want to do it.

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, they're on the ballot. That's why there's so much energy on the Democratic side. Chair McDaniel talks about results. They have delivered results for very wealthy people and large corporations, in the form of the most reckless tax cut in American history.

TAPPER: So...

PEREZ: It's a tax cut that's mortgaging the future for our children and grandchildren. And people get that.

That's why you don't hear Donald Trump talking about it, because it was reckless, and it's hurting us.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I want to ask about President Trump's closing argument.

He's obviously talking about immigration, undocumented immigrants. I know you disagree with what he's saying. You have said a lot of very tough things.

But I think there is a question out there about, what is the Democratic alternative here? Do Democrats care about deterring people from crossing the border illegally? Is it important to Democrats for there to be border security?

PEREZ: Of course there -- of course it is.

And, in 2013, Democrats and Republicans came together in the United States Senate around a bipartisan immigration reform bill that had tough enforcement measures and a tough, but fair pathway to citizenship.

It didn't become law because the Tea Party Republicans in the House killed it. We have a plan, and that's what we have been fighting for. But the Republicans don't want to go that way.

And now what you see in the closing argument is dog-whistle politics, appeals to racist -- just the worst of America. And you know what? I ran for this job, Jake, because I believe we're at our best when we come together. I believe we're at our best when someone doesn't get ahead, only if someone else fails.

That's the zero-sum politics of Donald Trump. And the reason why he is doing that is because they're hemorrhaging on health care. He wants to change the subject. We're focused like a laser on the issues that matter most to people, good jobs that pay a fair wage, health care, and making sure that we have checks and balances in Washington, because this -- America in which we have a president who's constantly divisive, that's not the America that my children want. TAPPER: So, one of the most important movements of the last year or

two is the MeToo movement and the Time's Up movement, women standing up and saying, men can't treat us like this anymore.

The ex-girlfriend of your deputy at the DNC, Congressman Keith Ellison, is accusing him of domestic abuse. Now, an investigation commissioned by the Minnesota Democratic Party was -- quote -- "unable to substantiate the claim of physical abuse."

Is that good enough? What do you say to women in the Democratic Party who say, why is this guy still the vice chair of the DNC?

PEREZ: What I say is that we should always take those complaints seriously. And we do. And that's why an investigation was conducted. That's why Congressman Ellison asked for a House Ethics investigation.

And Democrats have never hesitated to take action, unlike Republicans. And you know what? Part of why we're going to do so well...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Wait a second? Democrats have never hesitated to take action? You mean like in the last year, or do you mean historically? Because, historically, I could -- I could go through a list of people.

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: Again -- well, and, again, you saw what happened in Senator Franken's situation. Democrats didn't hesitate to do something, even if it was difficult, because that was the right thing to do.

TAPPER: OK, so you mean just like in the last year? You're not talking about Ted Kennedy or President Bill Clinton, or -- I mean, we only have a couple of minutes left, but...

PEREZ: I have -- Jake, I have been chair of the Democratic Party for the last 18 months.

And what I'm talking about is, we have worked hard to make sure that we are a party that understands that, when women succeed, America succeeds. Look at what Donald Trump is doing to women, not...

TAPPER: So, do you think Keith Ellison's ex-girlfriend is lying, then? Is that what you're saying?

PEREZ: I think Keith Ellison's ex-girlfriend deserves to be heard and deserves to be treated with dignity and deserves to have a fair and full investigation, and that's exactly what has been done.

I also believe that, when women succeed, America succeeds. And the agenda of this administration is an agenda that's making it much harder for women to succeed.

And one of the reasons why Democrats are doing so well is that we are fielding candidates across this country. You look at the women who are running for office, and they're running for office around a platform of health care, around a platform of inclusion.

When we have more women in the U.S. Senate, in the U.S. House, more women in governorships, more women across the board, we are a better America.

And that is why, you look at the number of women running on the Democratic side, and you look at the quality of those candidates, if 1992 was the year of the woman, 2018 is going to be the year of the woman to the nth degree, because women are leading this, have led this charge to take back America...

TAPPER: OK.

PEREZ: ... to make sure that our children can have an America that we can be proud of, an America of inclusion and opportunity for everyone.

TAPPER: DNC Chairman Perez, thanks so much.

And, as I said to your Republican counterpart, good luck on Tuesday.

PEREZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: Less than 48 hours until a hugely consequential Election Day. Which side says they're more enthusiastic about voting? We'll break it all down for you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:13]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper. Months of campaigning and the balance of power all comes down to a few dozen close, close races.

CNN political director David Chalian is at the magic wall with the state of the race heading into Election Day -- David.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, the battle for the House and the battle for the Senate, they're playing out on two totally different landscapes.

Let's look first at the battle for the House. Look at this. This is the competitive universe.

Nearly 70 districts truly in play. Some leaning a little blue, Democratic. Some leaning a little red, Republican, 31 in yellow, true toss-ups, total coin flip.

And of those, 30 of them are currently held by Republicans. Republicans are on defense in the House, largely with voters. In the suburbs, independent voters, college-educated voters, the very voters Donald Trump has a problem with.

And that is why the president's approval rating is so critical to his party's chances in the House. Our latest poll of polls has him at 44 percent approval. That is below 50 percent. That is a warning sign for Republicans and let me show you why.

Take a look at his most recent predecessors the in the modern era. Look at this. Only Ronald Reagan at 43 percent in 1982 is slightly below where Donald Trump is right now.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama was at a 46 percent approval rating. His party lost 63 seats that night in 2010.

That is why the president's approval rating gives Republicans some heartburn in the battle for the House. But it's an entirely different story in the battle for the Senate.

Take a look at this. This is playing out in Trump country. The story of the Senate is Democrats trying to win re-election in states Donald Trump won.

And take a look at the president's approval rating in some key Senate races. He's now at 47 percent in Arizona, 49 percent in Nevada, 47 percent in Florida.

And take a look at this. In Tennessee, the president's at 53 percent, majority approval. He's got a plus 11 approval rating in Tennessee.

Let me show you why that's critical in the battle for control of the Senate. If, indeed, Marsha Blackburn can hang on to Tennessee, then the Democrats, even if they pick up all of the rest of the toss-ups, this shows you how tough the map is for them. If they win Florida and Indiana, if Claire McCaskill finds a way to hang on in Missouri.

And if the Democrats flip Arizona and Nevada, look at that, Republicans still control the Senate with Mike Pence breaking the tie. This is a Senate map stacked against Democrats, Jake.

TAPPER: That's fascinating. David, thank you so much.

As we just saw, a lot of these races are coming down to the wire. Both parties are relying on their biggest surrogates to make their closing arguments. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Joe Donnelly is holding a rally this weekend with Barack H. Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Blatantly, repeatedly, boldly, shamelessly lie.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Barack H. Obama, Senator Santorum?

(LAUGHTER)

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He didn't say "Hussein."

JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D), FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR: Oh my, God.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: There's that Trump subtlety that we're used to.

SANTORUM: Yes, very subtle. That was remarkable restraint on the part of the president.

I don't know why the president is going -- if I was Joe Donnelly, I would not bring president Obama to Indiana. I'm not too sure that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

The reality is that, you know, Republicans have to count on the silent vote out there, that happened two years ago, shows up again. And if it does, this can actually be a pretty good night. A remarkably good night.

I mean, just -- just think about how -- how much abuse this president has gotten over the last two years, how controversial --

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And given. And given.

SANTORUM: And given.

JONES: (INAUDIBLE).

SANTORUM: But the point is, I mean, this is the most controversial president I can ever remember.

[09:45:04]

And yet, he may come out of this thing with a pick up in the Senate maybe -- I think it's likely to pick up a seat or two in the Senate. And he might even hold the House. And that's just remarkable.

I mean, I don't know if it's going to happen --

TAPPER: He's going to hold the House. I mean, even he was saying, on Friday --

SANTORUM: I said, he might.

TAPPER: He might.

SANTORUM: If those -- I'm saying, if the silent voter comes out. There's a lot of toss-up seats that could go the Republicans' way.

JONES: I think it's very hard to determine who is a likely voter in this midterm election. And I think that cuts both ways, frankly.

TAPPER: Totally.

JONES: We talk a lot about, you know, Obama and Oprah, and I hope we get into that. But you've got people on the ground right now whose knuckles are raw from knocking on doors. You've got the Center for Community Change is out there. They've got -- they've knocked on 1 million doors in Florida alone. You've got the Domestic Workers Alliance in Georgia. Housekeepers who are out there, fighting for their lives right now.

So it's not just the stars. You have a pro-democracy movement with grassroots people on the ground. And I guarantee you, most of those people are not being polled, either.

TAPPER: Well, with Mary Katharine, you actually live in a swing district-ish in Virginia.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Near one.

TAPPER: But it's a place -- there's a lot of stuff going on. What do you think is going to happen? What's your best guess?

HAM: Yes. I think looking at some of the indicators, neither Republican enthusiasm nor the president's approval numbers have gone quite as low as we would be led to believe, if you were watching sort of the conventional wisdom. And so that, to me, is very interesting.

I'm not sure Democratic enthusiasm is way up, and importantly, I think it showed its face first in Alabama, in that special election, they have turned enthusiasm into votes, which is what you're talking about. But I don't think Republican enthusiasm has ever dipped so low.

The question to me is, I think it actually rallied some of that swing district Republican vote after the Kavanaugh hearings. And the question to me is whether some of this late shift to the immigration rhetoric might have blunted some of that, in those areas where toss-up suburban, sort of well-educated women voters might be turned off.

TAPPER: And, governor, I'll come to you in one second. To Mary Katharine's point, I just want to bring up this poll, NPR/Marist enthusiasm poll showing, when it comes to people who are very enthusiastic about voting in the midterms, Republicans actually have a slight edge, 69 percent to 65 percent. If you add up people who are also somewhat enthusiastic, then Democrats go up.

GRANHOLM: And the question is who considers themselves a Republican, as well? Because there has been some migration by people who are women in the suburbs who would have otherwise called them Republican, who feel so angry.

And who feel, you know, when you ask Senator Santorum about this "H," where he puts it in the air to emphasize it without saying the name. There was a story on the front page today of the "New York Times" which talked about the increase in this, in hate crimes. And this rhetoric about immigration and about who we are as a nation and about whether people feel safe.

The fact that there is an increase in these hate crimes, causing people and especially people who are not just in those groups, but who are raising their kids in a country that they thought was inclusive. They don't want to feel unsafe in going to a yoga studio. They don't want to feel unsafe in their places of worship. And this president is making people like that feel unsafe and not safe. And that, I think has a pushback in the polling, but also, I think at the polls, you will see the rise of people who are angry about that.

TAPPER: I know you disagree with that, but I do -- we only have a limited amount of time. And you are four of the smartest people I know about politics, and I'm very curious about what specific races you are individually going to be looking at. Like, if I had to ask you, what's one race you're looking at to see how the night is going to go, let's start with you, senator.

SANTORUM: Yes, it's Pennsylvania four, which is incumbent member Scott Perry. Remember, Pennsylvania got redistricted, and so I picked that race because it's actually a blend. He has 45 percent new district.

So it's like are running in an open seat and 55 percent incumbent district. So I think it points out, it has got the city of Harrisburg, the city of York, it has got some rural areas, it has got suburban, it has got suburban Harrisburg areas, it's a pretty good microcosm. And he -- it went from a plus nine district now to a plus five or six district.

It's is a race that's margin of error right now is up two points in the latest poll that I've seen. He got caught napping a little bit and the candidate that's running against him, typical of what the Democrat -- an army veteran. Someone who, you know, has come out -- he won the primary by throwing an AR-15 into the fire, but now he's running as a moderate Democrat.

TAPPER: Right.

SANTORUM: And so this is the kind of thing you see. Run to the left in the primary, run to the middle and say, I'm not that -- I'm not that -- I'm not that crazy afterwards.

TAPPER: So -- and, Van, what are you looking at? What race?

JONES: Well, I've got two. Ben Jealous is running as a governor in Maryland. He's African-American, not as much attention as Georgia and Florida.

[09:50:06]

But if he can pull it off, against a very popular governor that's a sign that there really is a blue wave out there because he's -- he's finding out the hard way.

But I'm also looking at Ojeda in West Virginia. You've got a guy, Democrat strong, passionate for working class, a veteran, 49 points I think Trump won that thing by and he's still within shouting distance. If you see Ojeda coming on strong there is a blue wave out there even in West Virginia.

TAPPER: It is fascinating, fascinating race. I think he said he voted for Trump in the last election.

JONES: Yes.

TAPPER: But now he is running his own campaign -- Mary Katharine.

HAM: Yes. I was tempted to say Virginia five because it's close and I just wanted to say the heated battle of Riggleman/Cockburn in Virginia five on T.V. but I'm going to go a different direction.

TAPPER: I'm glad you didn't (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

HAM: Florida.

(LAUGHTER)

HAM: Yes, I know. And bigfoot (ph) features there. But Florida 26. Where Curbelo is trying to hold on as an incumbent Republican.

He runs as a moderate. He has pretty aggressively distanced himself from Trump. But it is sort of -- it's definitely a D leaning district but it has been listed as a toss-up for lean R.

It has been moving sort of slowly off the map for Republicans. If he can hold on there, I think that would be an indication that some of this late turn to the immigration rhetoric did not have as much as impact as others thought and that some Republicans can hold on in those more swing districts.

TAPPER: Yes. And he condemned President Trump's focus on the immigration bill -- governor.

GRANHOLM: Mine is -- I think David Chalian and I have in this in our top races which is Michigan eight. And that is a district that is currently held by a guy named Mike Bishop. He's a Republican.

Trump won this district by almost seven percent. Romney won it by three points. It was redistricted to incorporate areas that Mike Bishop would end up winning.

The woman who's running against him is named Elissa Slotkin. She has a defense background, an intelligence background.

This is a district that contains Michigan State University. And this particular voter suppression tactic that was adopted in Michigan before I was governor to prevent students from being able to vote where they go to school has caused Democrats to lose this area.

However, this campaign, Elissa Slotkin's campaign, has really gone out of their way to register, to get students to decide to say that Michigan State is their home, which is what they have to do in order to vote there, and that has caused an increase in 20,000 student registrations. She's hoping that that including their work on the ground will help to flip this to a blue district.

TAPPER: Let's talk about bigger trends. One thing that is so interesting is just about the fact that things are still up in the air. We still don't know.

Normally midterm elections it seems like you know that there's going to be a blood bath one way or the other. Conservative columnist Bret Stephens wrote in the "New York Times" -- quote -- "Democrats should be walking away with the midterms. That they are not is because they have consistently underestimated the president's political gifts while missing the deeper threat his presidency represents."

Do you agree?

GRANHOLM: Well, I think one of the reasons that we are not walking away is because redistricting has created gerrymandered that has favored Republicans over Democrats, which is why all of these governor's races are important for redistricting in 2020.

I also do believe though that in 2016 we missed the angst of people who felt like trade, et cetera, was not being addressed by the Democrats. So I think in that sense, that is true.

But boy, help save us in this nation. If the deep thread he is mining is a thread that is about hatred or a thread that is about fear because that's not the America that Democrats want to build.

SANTORUM: I think people are rejecting -- the reason I think the Republicans are doing as well as they are in spite is I think people are rejecting this idea that because the president brings up immigration or because he brings up other issues that the left immediately says, oh, he is a racist or he's a bigot. I think that -- people are bristling at that. And that's why I think you see the enthusiasm is high.

Look -- and then you -- you have the fundamentals that are very strong for the president. He is doing things that are popular, the tax cut, cutting the regulations, growing this economy, fighting on trade, blue collar workers having their wages go up. Look at -- look at high school educated men and see -- you have 40-point gap that are --

TAPPER: Yes.

SANTORUM: Why? Because they are feeling it personally. And a lot of this is right there, it's the pocketbook. And people are going to vote on their wallet and pocketbook and I think that's why you might see some surprises on Tuesday.

JONES: A couple things. Bernie was trying to tell the Democrats about the trade issue and so I don't think all of us (INAUDIBLE) the trade issue. But I think Republicans have to look in the mirror now. If you have a kid that had As and Bs on their report card, doing well with their trumpet lessons but also happen to be selling meth out of the basement you would say, hold on a second.

I can't just talk about the good stuff. I've got a problem with this kid. You already got your tax cuts, you've already got your Supreme Court you have to look in the mirror about the kind of rhetoric and the kind of tone this president is setting, and the poisonous division and hatred that he stirring up. [09:55:02]

And if he can't -- if after this last couple of weeks where he was going after these migrants in a way that was despicable, you can't say there is nothing wrong here, there's something wrong here.

TAPPER: I do want to take a moment now to mourn a loss in our STATE OF THE UNION extended family. Van, you lost your mom, Loretta Kirkendoll Jones just the other day. She was 74 years old. There's a picture of her. Look how pretty she is.

She must have been very, very proud of you. And we just wanted to take a moment to let you know that we are all thinking about you, we're praying about you, we love you. And we hope as they say my tradition may her memory be a blessing.

JONES: Thank you so much. I am prouder to be her son than she ever was proud of me.

TAPPER: Doubt that.

I want to leave you today with the words of Brent Taylor, he was the mayor of North Ogden in Utah and the member of the Army National Guard who was killed in Afghanistan yesterday. In his final Facebook message he posted images of Afghans voting and called for them to be an inspiration to us, to us Americans.

He wrote, "I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote and that whether the Republicans or the Democrats win that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. United we stand, divided we fall. God Bless America."

Thanks for spending your Sunday with us. Anthony Scaramucci joins Fareed Zakaria in minutes. Stay with us.