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Missouri Senate Race Between McCaskill & Hawley Deadlocked; White House: Trump Will Protect People with Preexisting Conditions; U.S. Reinstates All Sanctions on Iran & Adds 2 New Targets; New Poll Shows Massive Gender Gap Ahead of Midterms. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 5, 2018 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: CNN political reporter, Rebecca Berg, is on the ground for this very important race. She's in Springfield where the president is headed tonight.

Rebecca, it's great to see you.

What are you hearing there? What are you hearing on the ground?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Hi, Kate. Well, the race is deadlocked heading into Election Day. A pretty surprising dynamic here because Missouri supported President Trump in 2016 by nearly 20 points. It's a state that's trended Republican over the past decade. And Claire McCaskill is facing some serious headwinds. Nevertheless, the race is tied. And that's why we have President Trump returning to Missouri later today for the second time in a week, finishing off this election season in Missouri. He'll be joined, of course, by Rush Limbaugh, a Missouri native. Also FOX News host, Sean Hannity. They're going to be in the southeast corner of the state today.

We're in Springfield, Missouri, in the southwest corner of the state. Josh Hawley was here earlier today, the Republican candidate, trying to gin up Republican enthusiasm. This has been one of the big problems for Republicans here in Missouri and across the country this election cycle, getting their voters excited to get to the polls tomorrow. Missouri doesn't have early voting so it all comes down to tomorrow.

And take a listen to Josh Hawley's closing message. It's all about painting Claire McCaskill as a liberal Democrat, trying to tie her to Democrats like Hillary Clinton. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH HAWLEY, (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Senator McCaskill supports amnesty, just like Hillary. She supports higher taxes, just like Hillary. She supports open borders, just like Hillary.

We told Hillary Clinton what we thought of her in 2016. Tomorrow, it's time to say to Claire McCaskill, you are fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERG: Meanwhile, Kate, the closing message for Claire McCaskill has been that she is a moderate Democrat who will work across the aisle. That she's not going to Washington to fight President Trump but to fight for Missourians.

Of course, we have talked here on CNN about that radio ad airing currently hire in Missouri by Claire McCaskill's campaign that says she's not one of those "crazy Democrats."

We'll see tomorrow if Missourians voters, many of them Republicans, many of them Trump supporters, can cast their ballots for Claire McCaskill or if this is a state turning over to Republican hands -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Rebecca. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, of Maryland. He's the man in charge of getting Democrats elected to the Senate.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, (D), MARYLAND: It's great to be with you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Since you have all of no time on your hands, I appreciate it.

What do you think of McCaskill's race right now?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, Claire McCaskill has been fighting for the people of Missouri. And as the person who did the lead-in mentioned, that's been her north star. That means if President Trump has an idea that's good for the people of Missouri, Claire McCaskill has been there. If he has an idea that is bad for the people of Missouri, she'll fight him.

One of the big issues, of course, that we have been fighting on is the issue of protecting people who have pre-existing health conditions. And Josh Hawley, her opponent, who is the attorney general there, helped file that Texas lawsuit, which would take away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. So those are the kind of issues front and center in Missouri. But Claire McCaskill, she's about Missouri, not about party.

BOLDUAN: I want to talk about health care in one second. But laying out a landscape that you know in your sleep, but for our viewers, there are 35 Senate races this cycle. Democrats defending 26 of those. And 10 Senate Democrats are defending their seats in states that Trump won, in some cases, if you look at McCaskill especially, double digits. When I lay out a road map like that, or when I lay out a map like that, what is going to happen tomorrow, Senator?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it all depends on turnout. I can tell you, the early voting has been really good. But as you mentioned, Kate, this is the most difficult political map that any party has had in the last 60 years. We are defending a lot of territory, including states that Donald Trump won. But the good news and the real story here is that we're as competitive as we are going into the final stretch where there's a narrow path to a Senate Democratic majority. You know, 18 months ago, a lot of Republicans were predicting they would win eight seats and have a filibuster-proof Senate. So we're really pleased where we are right now. And it is a testament to the fact that our Senators are standing up first and foremost for the people of their states, and the people in their states know it.

BOLDUAN: The art of managing expectations ahead of a big vote.

Senator let me play for you what you're talking about, you mentioned health care. Let me play for you what White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has been clear, whatever policy he puts forth on health care, it will protect pre-existing conditions. There are some people out there in the country that want to tell you a different story. But at the end of the day, the president's going to do what is necessary to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But also create a health care system that actually works.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:35:06] BOLDUAN: I mean, Democrats have been literally banking on health care being their issue. Does this pledge from the president and what we have been hearing from Republican candidates, them cutting ads talking about protecting pre-existing conditions, does this take this issue away from you?

VAN HOLLEN: No, it doesn't because it's not true, and the American people aren't going to be fooled. They watched over the last two years as Republicans, including the president tried, to blow up and destroy the Affordable Care Act, including the provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions. And that's why you saw an uproar around the country, a lot in rural areas with rural hospitals. You had local chapters of the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, all of these patient advocacy groups, having nothing to do with party, stood up and said no. And yet, Republicans continue to push it. I mentioned the lawsuit that Josh Hawley is pushing in Texas. That would destroy protections for people with pre- existing conditions.

And on top of that, you have the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, now saying they have blown up the deficit, you know, $2 trillion as a result of the corporate tax giveaway, and now they're going to come back and cut Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid.

So this is a moment where everybody needs to watch out. And I think most people want Senators who are not going to be rubber stamps but are going to stand up for their states and hold people accountable.

BOLDUAN: Leader Pelosi, she stuck her neck out last week on late night TV saying she's no longer couching it, she says Dems are going to win back the House. When you were chair of the D-triple, would that have been music to your ears a week out or nails on a chalkboard?

VAN HOLLEN: Look, I think that what Nancy Pelosi was talking about, in the House races, you've got this more of a wave effect because you're talking about competing in suburban districts primarily. And look, I think what we're seeing is a call to action. I'm going to go back, Kate, to what I said. This is all --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Wait. Are you confident -- of course, it's about turnout, Senator. Are you confident, too? Are you confident that Dems are going to take the House now? Are you with Nancy Pelosi on this?

VAN HOLLEN: I believe Democrats will take the House, but I also always caution that it isn't over until it's over. And nobody should be sitting back right now and expecting a certain result before we count all the ballots.

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN: And everyone just has to get out to vote.

BOLDUAN: That's my point, because I interviewed a Democratic candidate, Alessa Slotnic (ph), last week, and when I asked her about what Nancy Pelosi said, she said, no, that doesn't help at all, that doesn't help on either side when people are starting to make broad -- big predictions like that. So let's see what we shall see together when it shakes out tomorrow, because, let's say it again, it's all about turnout. It's all about turnout.

VAN HOLLEN: As Yogi Berra said, it ain't over until it's over. It's all about turn out.

BOLDUAN: Thank you, Senator. I appreciate your time.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you. Good to be here.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the Trump administration hits Iran with new sanctions today. Iran vowing defiance. Where does this go from here? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:41] BOLDUAN: Effective today, the Trump administration is slapping a new round of sanctions on Iran, which means all of the sanctions lifted through the Iran nuclear dear are now reinstated. This round hitting Iran where it hurts them the most, its oil and gas, shipping and banking industries.

Here are the secretary of state and the treasury secretary kind of announcing it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities around the Middle East and, indeed, around the world. Our ultimate goal is to convince the regime to abandon its current revolutionary course.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: We're making it abundantly clear to the Iranian regime that they will face mounting financial isolation until they fundamentally change their destabilizing behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: So will this maximum pressure campaign work?

Joining me right now, Tony Blinken. He was deputy secretary of state under President Obama. He's a CNN global affairs analyst.

Great to see you, Tony. Thanks for being here and welcoming me here.

The point of this is to convince Iran to change course. Of course, that's the point in every move when it comes to Iran, to make it stop destabilizing, being such a destabilizing force in the region. You clearly disagreed with the president pulling out of the deal. At this point, do you think these sanctions will work, or the course to take?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Kate, I'm skeptical. When we imposed sanctions on Iran, which we did under Obama, we had the full cooperation of our allies. The reason we had cooperation is they thought the objective was to get Iran to the table to negotiate a nuclear agreement, which is exactly what we did. President Trump doesn't have the cooperation of our allies. They're trying to do everything they can to avoid complying with the sanctions. Even countries that are not allies, like China, are getting waivers to be able to continue to buy oil from Iran. Because they said, look, we're not going to go along with getting down to zero and not buying any oil. It's tougher because basically what President Trump is trying to do is get more with less pressure than we were actually able to exert a few years ago.

BOLDUAN: These waivers, I wanted to ask about. I'm confused by it. The U.S. is exempting eight countries, including six of the Iran's biggest oil buying customers. Why exempt any country? What does the exemption do then?

(CROSSTALK)

BLINKEN: The reason --

BOLDUAN: -- to the whole point.

[11:45:04] BLINKEN: The reason for the exemptions is these countries said no. They said, we're not going to get to zero. We need to buy --

(CROSSTALK) BLINKEN: We need to buy oil. We need the oil for our economy. So what they did is, is they got the countries to take a little less. The money that Iran gets from selling the oil will go into an escrow account and allegedly can only be used to buy humanitarian goods. But --

BOLDUAN: Does it take the bite out of it?

BLINKEN: It takes some bite out. Basically, what we're seeing is Iran going from Iran selling about 2.5 million barrels a day probably down to one million barrels a day. Meanwhile, the price of oil has gone up. It was $50 or $60 a barrel a couple of years ago. Now it's up to $70 or $80. Some of the difference is made up by the price of the oil.

BOLDUAN: When Rouhani, President Rouhani said Iran will proudly break the U.S. sanctions, what do you think of that response?

BLINKEN: I think what's really going on is this. Here's what the Iranians are likely to do. They're likely to stick, divide, and wait. Stick with the deal, the nuclear deal, continue with their obligations under the deal, try to divide us from our allies, and wait out President Trump, and see if they get a different president in a couple years to renegotiate a nuclear deal or to come back to the nuclear deal with the United States. There's an alternative. If they don't do that, if the economic pressure really does mount, and the hardliners in Iran say we're not getting the economic benefit of this deal, they may restart their nuclear program. It'll take time, it'll build up over a couple of years. But at that point, if they do that, we'll be back to the really bad choice we faced, which is either allow them to have a breakout nuclear capacity, to be able to develop a nuclear weapon quickly, or attack them to stop it. That was the choice the nuclear deal was designed to get out of. And it did successfully. We might be right back there. So either way, it's probably not a good thing.

And what's so perplexing about this is President Trump threw out the one thing that was actually working with Iran, the nuclear agreement. There's a lot of things they're doing that we don't like that we need to stop. Why would you throw out the one thing curbing their nuclear program that actually was working?

BOLDUAN: Because he promised he would. I'll put it that way.

Great to see you. Thanks for coming in.

BLINKEN: Thanks, Kate. Good to be with you.

BOLDUAN: I really appreciate it.

Coming up for us, forget red versus blue. The 2018 midterms may all come down to men verses women. The massive gender gap and what it means for tomorrow's results and far beyond.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:51:36] BOLDUAN: Control of Congress come could down to the gender gap. Look at the new CNN poll. This gap is really amazing. And 62 percent of likely women voters would vote for a Democratic candidate, while just 35 percent say they would vote for the Republican in the midterm. Compare that to the statistical dead heat among men for the parties.

Joining me now to discuss, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster, and Democratic pollster, Molly Murphy.

Great to see you guys.

Kristen, the gender gap has been consistent through line of this midterm, our conversation about this. Are the numbers that we just showed, is that a failure on the part of Republicans or just success on the part of Democrats?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The gender gap has always benefitted Democrats, among women to a slight degree.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: What we see this year is there's enormous levels of enthusiasm, particularly around college-educated women. The reason why it's so much more in this midterm is there tends to be lots of women with college degrees in these suburban House districts that are the types of places most likely to flip this year. Even though, say, in the U.S. Senate, where you have a lot of red states with rural areas where Republicans are probably going to do quite well, it's the geography of where these swing districts are that makes these women, particularly the college educated women that are driving the gender gap, so important.

BOLDUAN: We talk about enthusiasm. Molly, that's a huge thing that everyone has been watching. It was all about the Democratic enthusiasm and then there was enthusiasm among Republicans. In our poll, Republican enthusiasm, the lead for Dems narrowed to just four points. Is that concerning to you one day out?

MOLLY MURPHY, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I do think that there has been consistent enthusiasm for Democrats since Trump took office. If you look at the special elections that happened across the country, you look at the 2017 elections and places like Virginia, you see that Democratic enthusiasm converted those Democrats to show up and vote. I think there's reason to feel encouraged.

On the flip side, in the closing days, as you get close to an election, Republicans are feeling more galvanized. The open question, particularly when you look at where the early vote numbers are coming in, is that people are voting. Democrats are voting but Republicans are also voting.

BOLDUAN: What's the data point, Molly, that you are most interested in tomorrow's results? MURPHY: I think it is the degree to which you see younger people, the

18 to 29-year-olds, turning out and Hispanic voters turning out. I think there were a lot of people were very surprised after 2016 who may have sat it out, who feel, OK, if you sit elections out, the outcome may surprise you in a way you don't like. Whether those young people and Hispanic voters show up at the levels that you hope you see in a wave is going to be the thing.

(CROSSTALK)

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I'm interested in the same thing but for a slightly different reason. I'm interested in knowing have we reached what a midterm electorate looks like. That could break one of two ways. President Trump is out there trying to make the case, make your vote about me, make your vote -- send me a Congress I can work with. He won last time. He was on the ballot nationally. Does he want a 2016 electorate? On the other hand, if low-propensity voters turn out, the demographics of these national presidential elections tend to favor Democrats more than what Republicans have benefitted from the last two times around. If we see turn out levels -- I doubt they will get to 2016 but looking more presidential than the last midterm, that'll just be --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Kristen, I remember when we were sitting down together at the Citizen by CNN conference, you said you would maybe make a midterm prediction.

(LAUGHTER)

Maybe today, before the election.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: No, no.

BOLDUAN: We have arrived on that day.

(LAUGHTER)

[11:55:08] SOLTIS ANDERSON: My last polls are not out of the field. It's going to be a good night for Democrats, but there are too many data points pointed in opposite directions.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: And as Senator Van Hollen said --

(CROSSTAKL)

BOLDUAN: As Senator Van Hollen said, it's all about turn out, guys. It's all about turn out. Yes, it is.

Thanks, guys. Great to see you. Thank you so much.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Thank you. BOLDUAN: All right, coming up for us, soon, President Trump takes off for his final campaign stop ahead of tomorrow's elections. What is his final message on this final day? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)