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CNN Polls Show Seven in Ten Voters Say Vote is Meant to Send a Message to President Trump; Democrats Hold Double-Digit Lead Over GOP in Generic Congressional Ballot; Trump and Top Democrats Rally for Votes in Last-Minute Midterm Push. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired November 5, 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] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming to you from Washington. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot happening. Tomorrow is a big day. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington. A day before really a consequential midterm election and a new CNN poll shows a clear majority of likely voters want Democrats in charge of Congress. On the so-called generic ballot asking not about specific races but party preference overall, 55 percent say Congress should be controlled by Democrats, 42 percent say Republicans. 13 points apart there.

HARLOW: Yes. It's a big one. As for the Republican, who is not on any ballot this year, but whose political future is very much in line -- on the line, the new CNN poll shows a job approval rating for President Trump at an historic low, 39 percent of American voters approve of how the president is carrying out his duties. That is the lowest of any president facing his first midterm election in well over 60 years.

At the same time, look at these numbers, more than half of Americans think the country is doing very well or fairly well right now. Bottom line, this thing could go either way. The president is still going full throttle for Republican candidates, today holding rallies in three states. This hour we have reporters in those states, also here in D.C.

Let's begin with Rebecca Berg in Springfield, Missouri.

Rebecca, good morning to you. So the president will wrap up his election eve blitz there tonight. What can you tell us?

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right, Poppy. Well, the president knows what's at stake here in Missouri for both parties. Missouri could decide control of the Senate. It's going to be one of the key races we're watching tomorrow night. So President Trump is coming tonight to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on the southeast side -- excuse me -- of this state, probably trying to turn out the Republican vote joined by Sean Hannity and also Rush Limbaugh, a Missourian, Cape Girardeau native.

Today we are on the other side of the state, the southwest side of the state here in Springfield, Missouri. This morning, Josh Hawley in just a few minutes, the Republican candidate for Senate, is going to be here, trying to get out the vote for Republicans. He'll be joined by some top Missouri Republican officials, including the governor, Mike Parson, and just really trying to get out that Republican energy.

This is a very Republican state and yet the race between Hawley and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is neck and neck. And so the closing argument we're hearing from Josh Hawley is that Claire McCaskill is too liberal to represent a state like Missouri that has trended so Republicans. You might be able to see this poster behind me that features Claire McCaskill with Chuck Schumer. So this is the point Republicans are making.

On the other side, Claire McCaskill, her closing argument is that she's a moderate who can work across the aisle to get things done, that she's not going to Washington to fight President Trump but she's going to fight for Missourians.

We'll see if that closing argument holds. We'll be here on the ground in Missouri over the next two days through tomorrow watching for any new developments and of course we'll keep you updated, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Rebecca, please -- I mean, yes, she's running that ad, talking about crazy Democrats, clearly trying to hang on to this thing. Thanks so much.

Now to Georgia's -- now to Georgia where the governor's race has made national headlines, especially when it comes down to voting rights and election security, it is shaking up once again. The Republican candidate who is also in charge of running Georgia's elections because he's secretary of state is now accusing this morning Democrats of trying to hack the system.

Let's go to my colleague Kaylee Hartung. She joins us in Georgia.

So what is this all about and what is Stacey Abrams, the Democrats' camp, saying in response?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Poppy, something of a political firestorm was set off yesterday morning when two days before the election, secretary of state's office announced that they were opening an investigation into Georgia's Democratic Party for what they say was a failed attempt to hack the state's voter registration system.

Initially the secretary of state's office didn't provide us with any evidence to explain why they believe the Democratic Party was a part of this probe, but we have since obtained a series of e-mails that the secretary of state's office tells us led them to launch this investigation and, as it turns out, these communications between two Democratic operatives that the secretary of state's office got their hands on, discussing vulnerabilities in the state's voter registration system, and also a computer program that could effectuate a hack if they wanted to, well, it turns out those communications were just passing on concerns that they had received from a concerned voter, a man who says he is unaffiliated with any party and wanted to flag this, so the system could be fixed. Now Democrats, of course, have called these claims that they are

involved in any way scurrilous, 100 percent false. And earlier today, Stacey Abrams addressed the news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: It's a witch hunt that was created by someone who is abusing his power. Friday Brian Kemp was notified that there was yet another flaw in the election security system twice before he has accidentally released the information of six million Georgians. This was about to happen again. Instead of owning up to it, taking responsibility and seeking a way to fix the flaw, he instead decided to blame Democrats because he does that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:05:07] HARTUNG: Now we have to delineate any responses from Brian Kemp's camp to be those communications from the secretary of state's office versus those of his campaign. His campaign very strongly saying, "This was a fourth quarter Hail Mary pass that was intercepted in the end zone thanks to the systems and protocols established by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. No personal information was breached. These power-hungry radicals should be held accountable for their criminal behavior."

And again when we get back to the evidence it all begins with this series of e-mails that we now know started with a concerned voter, flagging the Democratic Party who runs a voter protection hotline to the vulnerabilities that he believed he found in the system.

SCIUTTO: So just to be clear, Kaylee, the charge from Republicans of criminal behavior, is there any evidence of criminal behavior by the Democrats in this race here?

HARTUNG: No, there's not, Jim. Democrats simply passing along concerns from this unaffiliated voter. But the way the secretary of state's office sees it, any intention to attempt to hack the system is a matter of cyber security and thus what's led them to this investigation. They are meeting with the FBI, the GBI and DHS this morning, being members of Brian Kemp's secretary of state's office to see where this investigation will go in the coming days.

SCIUTTO: Kaylee Hartung, thanks very much for following that.

To the key battleground state of Florida, one of the biggest races for governor in the country at stake tomorrow. Ryan Nobles is following this matchup from Tallahassee, Florida. It's a tight race running into the final hours here.

What are you seeing, Ryan, on the ground?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, you said it there very well. It is very tight here in Florida, not just in that governor's race but also the race for United States Senate between the current Governor Rick Scott and incumbent Senator Bill Nelson. An NBC News- Marist poll out this morning shows the race very tight on both sides and these polls have really been within the margin of error from the very beginning. So both sides say that in all of these races it's really too close to call.

You know, President Trump has had a very specific focus on the governor's race here. He has been to Florida on two different occasions in support of the Republican nominee, Ron DeSantis, and he was tweeting this morning about this race saying, quote, "If Andrew Gillum," who's the Democratic nominee, the mayor of Tallahassee, "did the same job with Florida that he's done in Tallahassee as mayor, the state will be a crime-ridden, overtaxed mess. Ron DeSantis will be a great governor. Vote."

Of course President Trump has a home here in Florida. That's one of the reasons that he is so focused on that but also because Ron DeSantis in many ways is a clone of President Trump. He ran an ad during the primary campaign where he was reading a bedtime story to his son about President Trump building a wall on the southern border.

Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum is a very progressive candidate. He has the support of Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator and former presidential candidate. So the big question here, as we look at the returns come in on Tuesday night, is this really a swing state or is it a state filled with an equal number of partisan voters and which party will do a better job getting their base out? That's the question we won't have an answer to until tomorrow night -- Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Ryan Nobles, great reporting. Thank you.

So all 435 House seats at stake in the midterms. The Democrats still favored to take the House majority. It may not be the so-called blue wave, though, that a lot of people have been talking about.

Let's go to our senior political analyst, Mark Preston, he joins us. And my friend, let's begin in Florida, Ryan Nobles just reporting there. But specifically Florida 26th. You've got the Republican Carlos Curbelo versus the Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. It's a largely Hispanic district, includes Miami-Dade, Key West, et cetera.

Look, Curbelo took this easily in 2016 and now he's in the fight for his political life. Why?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly is. And what we're going to talk about is three districts right now, starting here in Florida, where they have something very much in common. They have a suburban rural difference within their district right now. And look at where we have. A disapproval rating, let's start right now with President Trump. A disapproval rating of 60 percent right now from suburban districts, Poppy. His approval ratings amongst the rural is 60 percent.

Now when we talk about, as you said, we get down into Miami, Carlos Curbelo is in this area. And if you look down here this is just south of Miami and it encompasses the Keys. This is what's very, very important. Carlos Curbelo has been arguing with President Trump on some very key issues, whether it has to do with immigration or disagrees with him when it comes to global warming, but he is also taking a lot of heat, Poppy, when it comes to his vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

As you said, he won by 12 points back in 2016. Hillary Clinton won that district by 16 points. Democrats are hoping they can pick it up -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes, I mean, it is fascinating. Right? You can't say you're for pre-existing condition protection but then also, you know, be in favor of the DOJ effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Right? Both can't be true at the same time.

What about Virginia District 10, Barbara Comstock, running for a third term, against the Democrat Jennifer Wexton.

[09:10:05] What's interesting, the president did not go to Virginia on this 11-stop push in the end.

PRESTON: Yes. Very interesting race. Again we want to talk about this urban-rural divide. We're going to go up here to Virginia. As you say Barbara Comstock. As we're looking right now, this is a race that we have that Democrats are going to likely pick up. What is the reason why that they're going to likely pick up this race? Well, look at where it is located. Right here is the heart of the federal government. That is Washington, D.C. And in all these surrounding areas right here are all federal jobs.

People who work in those jobs live in this part of the district or somehow they're connected to the federal government. They are not very well liked. I should say Donald Trump is not very well liked in this part. Now again we have a rural divide out here but certainly not enough voters we think that could make it up and help her and then, of course, Poppy, there is the whole Me Too Movement and the fact is she has had to answer for Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: So, Mark, a lot of bellwethers, particularly in the Eastern Time Zone, might give us some early indications as voting results first come in. But one of them, New Jersey District 3. The incumbent there, Republican Tom McArthur. He's represented since 2015, running against the Democrat, Andy Kim. You say this seat is not just about New Jersey but could tell us a lot about the whole state of the race.

PRESTON: Well, it certainly could right here. And as you said right now, a Trump ally, Tom McArthur, did two things that are not being viewed very kindly right now by Democrats and independents in New Jersey. One is he supported the tax bill. And by doing that in the tax bill, there was a provision in it that is going to hurt New Jersey upper income voters, and that is specifically where his district is right here, when you're looking into New Jersey.

Now in addition to that, he also was a key vote in voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This is what his problem is right now, too. We talk about the suburbs. His district in New Jersey has the Philadelphia suburbs up to its west. So he has a lot of problems heading in. And if he loses in what is considered probably the most conservative part of New Jersey, then you'll probably likely to see other Republicans lose in that state as well and then it could be an idea, a portend of what we're going to see for the rest of the night -- Jim.

HARLOW: Yes. Which, as Jim points out, you know, on the Eastern Time Zone getting some of those pretty early tomorrow night could tell us a lot.

Mark, we know you'll be here through it all. Thank you.

So the president is not on the ballot, but he says vote like he is. Does that help or hurt Republicans on Election Day?

SCIUTTO: And in another story we've been following closely now for weeks, the sons of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi spoke exclusively to CNN and they had one emotional plea, a simple one. Simply return their father's body.

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[09:15:00] HARLOW: All right, welcome back in this heated midterm election. There aren't many issues on the ballots that can unite Democrats and Republicans, but there's one thing, and he is not even on the ballot and that is President Trump.

SCIUTTO: In a new Cnn-SSRS poll released just this morning, majorities in both parties say that he is extremely important to their vote, whether good or bad. Joining us now to talk about this and how it will affect the races, our panel of experts Patti Solis Doyle, Marc Short, Rachael Bade, Ayesha Rascoe, thanks to all of you for joining us this morning.

Marc, interesting number this morning because you have the ballot advantage for Democrats widening here, 13 points in this poll. But you also have enthusiasm gap narrowing. I believe it was 68, 64 percent. But anyway, about two-thirds of both Republicans and Democrats enthusiastic to vote today. How do you read these numbers?

MARC SHORT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that the enthusiasm gap closed during the Kavanaugh hearings and Republicans were excited to come out. What I'm seeing in mostly exit -- I should say with early returns is heightened interest with both Republicans and Democrats. So I think it does continue to show a nation polarized.

But you know, I remember on election night two years ago, I was responsive to all the exit poll that I have been receiving from friends in the media and I texted that to the vice president so he could be prepared for his concession speech. And --

HARLOW: Oh, there you go.

SHORT: Mike texted me back a picture of Truman paper saying do we win?

SCIUTTO: Yes --

SHORT: So, you know -- SCIUTTO: Don't say the phrase narrow path in this election cycle --

HARLOW: Right, or no path, right?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Patty, good to have you guys here. To you, interesting quote from "New York Times" conservative columnist Brett Stevens that stood out to us yesterday. Let me read it to you, quote, "Democrats should be walking way with the midterms, but they're not because they have consistently underestimated the president's political gifts while missing the deeper threat his presidency represents.

There's a lesson here worth heeding." Is he right?

PATTI SOLIS DOYLE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's -- we need to talk about how the deck is pretty much stacked against Democrats, you know, and how is the re-districting and the gerrymandering.

HARLOW: But to this point --

DOYLE: But it looks like --

HARLOW: Just about the president's rhetoric on all of this. Does he ever point for the party as a whole?

DOYLE: I think the president from your poll today is at 39 percent favorability. The economy is strong, I would say the economy is strong because of the policies that Obama did when he was president, but the economy is strong, why is his favorability at 39 percent?

It's because of his rhetoric. It's because of the divisiveness. It's because of the demagoguery. But also it's because of the chaos, right, that he brings. And it helps with his base, but it also helps with our base, you know. For Democrats in midterms, the key is to bring people who don't normally vote in midterms, that's African- Americans, that's Hispanics, that's young people.

And I think that President Trump is motivating and inspiring to those demographics as much as Barack Obama did in 2008.

SCIUTTO: Short, can you argue from those numbers that the president -- I mean, look, historically low unemployment, right? The economy growing like gangbusters --

[09:20:00] SHORT: Right --

SCIUTTO: Right, can't you make the argument on the opposite side is that Republicans should be running away with this race, should they not? And should that not send a message to the White House that the president's rhetoric isn't working actually because he's driving away Americans who might typically vote Republican?

SHORT: Jim, I think Americans like divided government. That is the reality. In 2010, minorities won party in power and Republicans won 63 seats at a time I think Barack Obama's popularity was still high. So I think that the trend is that that is the direction that we often head. I do think that Republicans have a favorable map in the Senate this cycle, and I think that you could see a split decision.

HARLOW: Aisha, to you, I think it's really interesting when you really dig into the Cnn poll numbers. One thing that they do show us is that two-thirds of Republicans, 64 percent of Republicans say immigration is extremely important to them.

And so for all those who have questioned the president's strategy here, calling them invaders in the migrant caravan in the final push and not focusing more on this remarkable economy, it's remarkable any way you slice it. Maybe this is a winning strategy for the president, for Republicans.

You can always hear him leaning --

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: Yes --

HARLOW: Some suburban voters.

RASCOE: The president certainly seems to think so, and that's why he's leaned into it so much. And there are some signs that maybe that message is breaking through, like before Google releases numbers on the top search political issues.

And up until now it's been health care, but just recently, it went to immigration. So, it does seem like all of this rhetoric around immigration is kind of breaking through to voters. Now, the question is like you said, is it going to do more to motivate his base to get out or is it going to do more to kind of --

HARLOW: Right --

RASCOE: Motivate the other side to come out and vote against Republicans?

SCIUTTO: Rachael, it's interesting, so we heard Marc lay the ground, maybe some expectations management say, hey, we may lose the house, that's typical in these, you know, midterms and you know, hope to get the Senate, the playing fields a bit better there.

But even Trump's focus of that message on the base, is there from the political contacts in the Democratic Party -- in the Republican Party you talked to, is there an understanding here, you know, that's probably lost ground in the house. So let's focus our resources where we can to keep what we can.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Senate Republicans are absolutely welcoming his immigration -- heated immigration rhetoric. But I can tell you, house Republican leadership is really concerned about this. They initially welcomed the president talking about the caravan just two weeks ago, thinking it would energize the base, turn people out in these Republican-leaning districts and potentially help them, you know, keep the majority. But there is an understanding that he went too far when he started

talking about birthright citizenship, put out this ads suggesting that immigrants are cop killers --

HARLOW: Right --

BADE: Because one immigrant did this really horrible thing. And there's a concern that this is going to be -- there's going to have some sort of suburban backlash, and a lot of these districts that Republicans need to keep the house. And this is why my understanding is that Speaker Ryan called Trump yesterday morning and said Mr. President, please talk up the economy, talk up the jobs report.

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: And Friday, they had great numbers, quarter million dollars -- quarter million jobs created last month, record-low unemployment rate for, you know, 50 years. But again, the president would rather talk about immigration --

SCIUTTO: It's a lot -- it'd be a lot to run on. The numbers are pretty clear, yes --

HARLOW: The numbers are clear, not only in the economy, you've got, you know, wage growth, it was at sort of sticking point that the Democrat --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

HARLOW: Could talk about, now, they can't talk about that --

SCIUTTO: Big growth --

HARLOW: Wage growth is the best it's been since 2009 and then, Patti, some other good numbers in this Cnn poll. When you mix together how Americans feel about the overall state of the country, very well or fairly well, it's more than half of American voters. It's 54 percent, that's tough for Democrats to run against as well, no?

DOYLE: But some of the numbers that I like in the poll is that Dems have a 13-point advantage on the generic ballot. Dems have a 27-point advantage with women and Dems have a 14-point advantage with independents.

So you add all that up together, I think Democrats are going to have a pretty good night tomorrow, but more importantly, these races are going to be won by women and by independents. Yes, sure, his base is going to come out for him, they're going to vote for him or the Republican, but what are women going to do and what are independents going to do?

SCIUTTO: Marc, I'm going to put you on the spot here, you've gotten used to me doing that, but --

HARLOW: Fair warning.

SCIUTTO: Beyond what works --

SHORT: I think I knew that when I signed the contract here.

SCIUTTO: Well, we all know what works in the election tomorrow, is it good for the Republican Party, for the president of the United States to be taking such an anti-immigrant path focused on fear and anger? How does that make you feel as a Republican when you hear that, when you see these ads and you hear the language coming from the podium that the president is standing behind?

SHORT: Jim, my first introduction to Mike Pence was when I was Chief of Staff for Kay Bailey Hutchison, and we were working on a legislation for a guest worker program to allow more migrants to come into this country to work. I don't believe that border security is a legitimate serious issue.

[09:25:00] SCIUTTO: But I didn't ask about border security --

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: I asked about the language, the rhetoric, the portrayal of violence --

SHORT: I think he's trying to --

SCIUTTO: And rapists --

SHORT: Jim, he's drawing attention to a very serious issue that a lot of Americans feel. And if he didn't think that it was something that Americans feel or was resonating, you wouldn't see Claire McCaskill and Joe Downley(ph) becoming strong border hawks in the last two weeks than most Republicans --

DOYLE: I just think there is a false -- has to do it. There's no invasion of the border, right? He cannot take away birthright citizenship, that's like -- it's in the constitution and he cannot do it. The caravan is a 1,000 miles away, there is no imminent threat --

HARLOW: But to Mark's point about the president, he says this is him drawing attention to it, sure, he draws attention to it. But he's talking about a lot more than a wall and border security. It's five and a half years since Republican autopsy, right? Saying we have to as a party open our umbrella, open it up to Hispanics. What does this mean for the party going forward on this front?

RASCOE: This is the party of Trump. And Trump doesn't -- Trump is not going for an open umbrella. He's not trying to bring in new voters, bring in people who wouldn't just ordinarily vote Republican, he's not trying to do that.

He's trying -- he's banking on the fact that if he can kin of stir up anger and frustration about the border, that his base will come out and that they will come out in a way to just kind of boost him and continue to boost the Republican Party. That's the bet that he's making and that's what we will see tomorrow whether that works.

SCIUTTO: Rachael, quick final thought.

BADE: Well, I think that Senate Republicans are absolutely leaning into this. I mean, I think that we're talking about two different maps again --

HARLOW: Yes --

BADE: The Senate --

SCIUTTO: Yes --

BADE: Map to picking up seats is through these rural districts, and there's a sense among house Republicans that the president has abandoned them because he knows --

SCIUTTO: Right --

BADE: The house is going to flip, he would rather say I saved somebody so he's focusing on the Senate, he's trying to pick up seats, and you know, he wants to be the winner.

SCIUTTO: He may say he doesn't like polls, but the Republican Party is its own polls too, he may be looking at those internal numbers, making a judgment.

HARLOW: Right --

SCIUTTO: Rachael, Ayesha, Marc, Patti, thanks so much as always. A wave of candidates this election could break major barriers. We're going to talk to one of them and that's right after this.

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