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Trump Using Fear to Send Last-Minute Midterm Message; CNN Poll: 7 in 10 Say Vote Meant to Send Message to Trump; Dems Claim 'Witch Hunt' as Georgia GOP Candidate Using Position to Probe Democratic Party; Trump to Hold Rally in Missouri as McCaskill Struggles to Hang Onto Seat. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 5, 2018 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, all about Trump. On election eve, our new poll shows 70 percent of voters say they're casting ballots to send a message to President Trump. With thousands of local, state and national seats at stake, is this midterm election a referendum on the president?

[17:00:12] Bracing for defeat. White House officials advise President Trump to brace for Republican losses tomorrow in the House of Representatives. Is that why he's been focusing on the Senate in recent days?

Suggesting voter fraud. President Trump makes unsubstantiated, last- minute claims about voter fraud. Is he preparing to use that as an excuse for any election setbacks?

And fault lines. With the country split along the lines of race, gender and education, will this election show the president is at fault for deepening the divide? And is his own inner circle divided over his anti-immigration stance?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're down to a matter of hours now before the first polls open in America's midterm elections. Thirty-six governorships are at stake, 35 Senate seats, and all 435 House seats. But our new poll shows, this is largely a national referendum on President Trump.

And even though his approval rating is the lowest for a midterm president in six decades, the president has been doing everything he can to make this a race about him; betting he can turn out his loyalists with his inflammatory rhetoric, appealing to fears about race and immigration. He's holding three final rallies today.

I'll speak with Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono, and our correspondents and specialists are all standing by with full coverage.

President Trump is betting on his own inflammatory rhetoric, rolling the dice on last-minute rallies. He's heading to Fort Wayne, Indiana, right now. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us.

Jim, apparently, no letup at all from the president. JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

President Trump has three different campaign stops today in what has become a brawl to keep his party in control of Congress.

The president is brushing off concerns about an ad on immigration for his campaign that was deemed too racist and insensitive by multiple TV networks to run, including CNN.

One top Republican aide up on Capitol Hill told me the worries are growing up on Congress that the president's rhetoric has gotten so out of control, it may turn off suburban swing district voters and tip control of the House to the Democrats.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Facing a referendum on his divisive administration, President Trump is going all-in with rally after rally on the final day before the midterms. Punching hard, even if voters have grown weary of all the jabs below the belt.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want America to be a giant sanctuary city for drug dealers, predators and blood- thirsty MS-13 killers.

ACOSTA: Earlier in the day, the president tried to sound optimistic, even as he acknowledged his party in control of Congress could be in trouble, chalking it up to some historic headwinds.

TRUMP: I think the Senate, we're doing very well; and I think we're going to do very well in the House. If you look over 100 years, for whatever reason, the -- the party with the president doesn't do very well. I think we're going to do pretty well.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump embraced the midterms as something of a report card for his own presidency.

TRUMP: The key is you have to go out and vote. Because in a sense, I am on the ticket. You've got to go out to vote.

ACOSTA: The president has gambled on the risky strategy of tapping into conservative outrage over immigration. His racist TV ad falsely portraying a caravan of migrants heading for the border as an invasion has been rejected not only by CNN and NBC but also by FOX, Mr. Trump's outlet of choice.

When pressed on the offensive nature of the ad, the president pushed back.

TRUMP: I don't know about it. I mean, you're telling me something I don't know about. We have a lot of ads. And they certainly are effective, based on the numbers that we're seeing.

A lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive, a lot of times.

ACOSTA: The president is still trying to gin up concerns over voter fraud, even after his own administration appointed a commission to study the issue and failed to prove it's happening on a large scale.

Still, Mr. Trump tweeted, "Law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any illegal voting, which may take place in Tuesday's election."

TRUMP: All you have to do is go around, take a look at what's happened over the years, and you'll see.

ACOSTA: But the bogus claim fits right into the president's midterm playbook, as he pounds the topic of border security.

TRUMP: And I noticed all that beautiful barbed wire going up today. Barbed wire, used properly, can be a beautiful sight.

ACOSTA: Add to that, the president's incendiary rhetoric, from his emphasis on Barack Obama's middle name --

TRUMP: Barack -- H. -- Obama.

ACOSTA: -- to his comments on African-American candidates Andrew Gillum in Florida --

TRUMP: I will say this. Andrew Gillum is not equipped to be your governor. He's just not equipped. It's not for him.

ACOSTA: -- and Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and it's shaping up to be the most racially-loaded appeal to voters in modern times.

[17:05:07] TRUMP: She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia. She's not qualified. And Georgia's a great state. It's a great, great state. Take a look. Take a look at her past. Take a look at her history.

ACOSTA: In response, Obama is calling on voters to look at every possible way to compare Mr. Trump's record in office with his own.

BARACK OBAMA (D), FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They've racked up enough indictments to field a football team. Nobody in my administration got indicted. Which, by the way, is not that high a bar. I mean --


ACOSTA: And the president says he'll have plenty of work to do after the midterms tomorrow. He says he'll name a new U.N. ambassador by the end of the week. He'll likely not meet, he says, with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the trip to Paris over the weekend, and that he will be making changes to his cabinet, saying that that is customary for any administration after a midterm election.

Wolf, they know full well what the polls show inside the Trump campaign, inside Trump world heading into tomorrow's midterm election vote. But the president said earlier today, and they feel this way inside the Trump campaign, inside Trump world, as well, that they can shock the world tomorrow, just as they did in 2016 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much.

The president's first stop of the day was in Cleveland. Our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is there for us.

Kaitlan, after CNN refused to run what was clearly a racist Trump campaign ad, other major networks, including FOX and NBC and MSNBC have now pulled that ad, as well. Is the White House acknowledging tonight that this is a repudiation of the president's closing argument?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when the president was asked about the ad being pulled earlier, he feigned ignorance and said he hadn't heard that that decision had been made. But he said overall, he thinks the ads they've run have been pretty effective.

So, Wolf, that's where we are one day before voters are going to the polls. With networks, even the president's favorite, FOX News, refusing to ad -- to air this ad, because they believe it's too inflammatory.

But that is a message in this ad that the president and the White House are sticking with, to tell voters on their last day of campaigning.

And Wolf, that goes with new CNN reporting that the president hated an ad released by the campaign last week that focused on an upbeat economic message and was focused on the economic numbers throughout President Trump's presidency. He didn't like that ad. He didn't think that should be the closing message to voters. And instead insisting -- insisted on focusing on this anti-immigration hardline message in the closing days of the campaigning before the midterm elections. He hated that ad; he didn't want that one to run. And instead wanted to focus on immigration, we are told.

And that is also the same ad that the president tweeted out -- raw footage of it on his Twitter feed and did not tweet out the video that showed the economic numbers.

Instead, advisers have wished the president would focus on those and less on immigration. But instead, he said he's trusting his instincts, and he wants to focus on immigration, Wolf, because he thinks that's what's going to energize his voters.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, I understand you've also learned that aides are warning the president to be prepared for some major Republican losses in the House.

COLLINS: That's right, Wolf. There is not a lot of confidence inside the White House that they are going to keep the House. So they are trying to brace the president for this and temper his expectations ahead of tomorrow. They're telling him they don't feel good about what their chances are with the House, but they do feel pretty confident about keeping the Senate.

And you've seen the president try to cover himself by that, saying he can't campaign for all of these House races; he wishes he could. But instead he's focusing on the Senate. Because he wants to be able to walk away from tomorrow, saying that he helped some of these Republicans maintain their seats, or win their seats.

Now, Wolf, the president has been doing multiple rallies a day, two, three days -- three rallies a day over the last two weeks. I'm told by someone inside the White House he has nothing on his schedule for tomorrow. And instead, he's going to sit back and watch the results come in and see if all of his hard work over the last few days has done anything to help out Republicans.

BLITZER: Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much.

Whether it's a governorship, a House race or a Senate seat, in many ways, this midterm election is clearly all about President Trump. And our latest survey makes that very apparent.

Let's bring in our political director, David Chalian.

David, almost 24 hours from now, the polls will be closing. What will this election come down to?


Listen, the midterm election for the first midterm that a president has is usually a referendum. Even more so here.

Our latest poll, Wolf, shows 70 percent of Americans in our poll say they are casting a ballot tomorrow to send a message to Donald Trump. Now, more of those say they're sending it in opposition than say they're in support. We'll see how the voters who show up tomorrow send their message.

But this is an energized electorate. We're seeing record levels of enthusiasm among very and -- very and extremely enthusiastic voters who say, on both sides of the aisle, that they are eager to cast a ballot. Donald Trump has energized and engaged the American electorate, there's no doubt about it.

[17:10:18] And one other thing that we are looking at is total turnout, Wolf. There are some observers who think more than 100 million people will cast ballots in this election. We've seen some record early vote already. If that's the case, if we break 41 percent of the voting age population, this could be the largest midterm turnout in half a century.

BLITZER: And 31 million have already voted in early balloting, which is a huge number, as well. I don't know exactly what that means. But it's a huge number. People are showing up.

CHALIAN: It means it's an engaged electorate, and that is because of the president.

BLITZER: Yes. You know, the polls, what are you going to be looking for? Because a little more than 24 hours from now, the polls will be closed. CHALIAN: Yes. I'm going to look immediately at those exit polls that

come out to see sort of who turned out in the electorate. What is the shape of the electorate, specifically female voters.

We know we've seen a lot of information about women voters being motivated. I am taking a look to see if the gap that Hillary Clinton won women voters by back in 2016 -- that was about 13 points -- does that increase now and become a bigger advantage for the Democrats?

I'm looking at young voters. We have long talked about the youth vote. And they don't always show up, right? That's the big story about the youth vote. In a post-Parkland universe where young people have been active this season, do we see them show up in greater numbers? Hillary Clinton won them by 20 points in 2016. Do we see that advantage for the Democrats go?

And how about this? Independent voters, in this tribal era, where everyone puts on their jersey, independents can still very much make the difference here. I think a lot of people forget, because we talk so much about Donald Trump's play for the base. He won the independent voters four years ago against Hillary Clinton. In all the public polling this year, independents have totally drifted away from the president. How do they cast their ballot tomorrow? They could be the key to control the House.

BLITZER: Two years ago.

CHALIAN: Two years ago. Sorry, yes. Thank you.

BLITZER: In 2020, it will be four years ago.

CHALIAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: David Chalian, excellent analysis, as usual. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She's a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.


BLITZER: Do you believe the election tomorrow is a referendum on the president?

HIRONO: Of course. And here's what the Republicans are banking on. A president who is stoking anti-immigrant fears and appeals to racism, to the point where even FOX News has had to pull his latest ad. An overt voter suppression in place like North Dakota and Georgia. Because why? We have a Justice Department that doesn't give a rip that voter suppression is going on.

And third, out and out bald-faced whopper lies from the Republicans and their candidates, saying we are the ones -- the Republicans -- who are protecting everyone's preexisting condition coverages, when they have voted dozens of times against it.

Now, I know that the president's advisers are asking him, encouraging him, to focus on the economy, which is supposed to be good. But, of course, we can always count on the president to go to fearmongering and divisiveness.

But as far as the economy, it is very clear that, while the richest 1 percent of the people and corporations in our countries got their big tax breaks, the working people are not so fortunate. And I know that, for example, there are 7,000 hotel workers that are striking Marriott hotels in three states, including in Hawaii. And their position is one job should be enough.

And I did talk with and walk with the strikers here in Hawaii, and one job should be enough. So this so-called huge tax break that was supposed to help everybody is not helping the working people in our country.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator, that the Democrats are going to win the majority in the Senate tomorrow? Need to -- a net gain of two seats to get to that magic number of 51.

HIRONO: I know that our candidates are doing their darnedest to get the message out that -- you know, our country -- there are so many people in our country. And I use the word "screwed" because that is exactly what's happening by the Republicans, every single second, minute, hour of the day. And our candidates are out there doing their best.

And we have a word in Hawaii called bocce (ph), which means that you shouldn't say anything in case you, you know, prejudge something. So I am very hopeful that we'll be able to take the Senate; and clearly, we are on track to take the House. But we have to go down to the wire. I take nothing for granted anywhere.

BLITZER: What does it say to you, Senator, about Democrats if the -- in these midterm elections, and if it is a referendum on the president, your party still can't win control of the Senate?

[17:15:03] HIRONO: That means that we just have to keep fighting. This idea that when they go low -- when they go low, we fight back. And that's what we have to do.

Because clearly, with the 2020 elections coming up -- and I'm certainly not going to concede that we're going to lose the House or the Senate. With the 2020 elections coming up, we have to get our message out even stronger than ever that there is danger with this administration and with this run-away president.

BLITZER: Well, so what is -- let's say in one sentence, speaking of message, what is the Democratic Party message? What is the message you're trying to send voters right now? Just give me a sentence.

HIRONO: Everybody who cares about preexisting conditions being protected, it is the Democrats that have been fighting tooth and nail to make sure that that is happening. Do not believe the lies of the Republicans that they are the ones protecting your health care.

BLITZER: And if you take the majority in the House and maybe even in the Senate, what will your message then be?

HIRONO: That the American people have spoken, and we will continue to focus on the things that really matter to the people of our country, which are an economy that works for everybody and health care that actually provides health care coverage to millions and millions of people in our country. Not to mention, we need true infrastructure, an infrastructure bill. Not the president's phony infrastructure bill that puts all of the -- the onus on the states, but a true infrastructure bill that will create jobs and lasting benefits and education reform. Because right now, we have an education secretary that doesn't even believe in education.

So there are so many positive things that I'd like to see happen, not to mention we should review the tax bill that provided benefits, unasked for, for the richest 1 percent of the people and corporations in our country and not helping the middle class. We need to help the middle class.

BLITZER: We'll be counting all those ballots starting tomorrow night. Senator Hirono, thanks --

HIRONO: So will I.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us.

HIRONO: Aloha.

BLITZER: Aloha to you, as well.

Up next, voters make it clear, they see the midterms as a chance to send a message to President Trump. Will tomorrow's elections be a referendum on the president?

And we'll also take a look, a closer look, at some key races, including a very bitter fight right now for governor in Georgia, where the Republican candidate is using the power of his current office to investigate Democrats. Is that right?


[17:22:04] BLITZER: In an already bitter race, Georgia's Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, has upped the ante by accusing Democrats of trying to hack the election. He's using his position as Georgia's secretary of state to launch an investigation. Democrat Stacey Abrams calls that a witch hunt.

Let's go live to CNN's Kaylee Hartung. She's joining us from Atlanta right now. Kaylee, what's the latest?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today we've learned that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is opening a criminal investigation into these alleged cyber-crimes. As you mentioned, this has been an acrimonious race, a bitter race

among Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp; and something of a political firestorm went off yesterday when this announcement came out from the secretary of state's office that they wanted an investigation opened into the Georgia Democratic Party, because of what they described as a failed attempt to hack into the voter registration system.

Now, this announcement came out without any evidence to support a hack or even an attempted hack. But the secretary of state's office did point us to the string of e-mails, where they saw two Democratic operatives sharing information about a massive vulnerability in the voting system with cyber-security experts.

As it turns out, the Democratic Party says that wasn't the beginning or the origin of this discussion. It was actually a concerned voter who came to the voter protection hotline that is run by the Democratic Party with this information. The Democratic Party was simply passing that information along.

Now, it has been a point of controversy throughout this campaign, the conflict of interest that Brian Kemp is perceived to have in his role as the state's top election official, overseeing an election that he's running in. That controversy will not quiet down in these final hours. There have been allegations of voter suppression. There have been these discussions of the security of the election, and also a discussion of Brian Kemp overseeing a recount, should we get to that point.

And Wolf, something we need to keep in mind. Tomorrow there's actually a third-party candidate running in this race. And if no one receives a majority of the votes cast, this drama will carry us into a December 4 runoff.

BLITZER: Kaylee Hartung, reporting for us from Atlanta. Kaylee, thank you very much.

Let's go to Missouri right now, where President Trump holds his final campaign rally later tonight. Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is in a very, very tight race with Republican challenger Josh Hawley.

Our political reporter, Rebecca Berg, is in Springfield for us. Rebecca, if Democrats hope to take back the Senate, this is certainly a must-win.

REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Democrats will essentially need to run the table on election night if they hope to take back the Senate.

If they lose here in Missouri, Republicans are going to be feeling very confident about their chances, at least on the Senate side, on election night.

Claire McCaskill, a Democrat in a very red state, has had her work cut out for her from the very beginning. This state went for President Trump by nearly 19 points in 2016. So she's been running as a moderate, saying she's not afraid to buck her party. And she even has backed the president on immigration in the past few days, saying she 100 percent supports his decision to send troops to the border to try to cut off this migrant caravan.

[17:25:14] But President Trump, on the other hand, working very hard to try to defeat Claire McCaskill and elect Republican Josh Hawley. He is returning to Missouri today for the second time in a week. His final event before election day, he'll be joined in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, by Rush Limbaugh. Also a Missouri native.

And one thing we know for certain, going into election day, is that this is a very close race. It is coming down to the wire. An NBC News/Marist poll just out shows this race is locked in a tie within the margin of error. There's no early voting in Missouri, Wolf, so this really will come down to election day.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. Rebecca Berg, in Missouri for us. Thank you.

Coming up, despite his outward show of confidence, is President Trump really bracing for a Democratic takeover of the House tomorrow?

And why is the president suddenly warning about illegal voting?


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, on the eve of the 2018 midterms, President Trump already has concluded one political rally and has two more to go tonight. The president insists there's great electricity in the air and is predicting Republicans will do very well tomorrow. Also, he's acknowledging tomorrow's elections are a referendum about him.

[17:31:07] Let's bring in our political experts, hear what they're having to say. You know, Gloria, the president says a vote for Republicans is a vote for him. Listen to what he's been saying in some of the more recent political rallies.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A vote for Marsha is really a vote for me.

A vote for Morrissey is a vote for me.

And a vote for Steve is a vote for me.

A vote for David is a vote for me.

And a vote for Cindy is a vote for me.


BLITZER: Is he right?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. He's 100 percent right. I mean, according to our polls, 7 in 10 voters say when they vote, they're going to be sending a message directly to Donald Trump. Forty-two percent of those are going to be opposed to him, and 28 percent are going to support him.

He has made this election about him, as he is fond of telling us. And he's going to take credit if they -- if they keep the House; and he's going to blame Paul Ryan if they -- if they lose the Senate. As simple as -- Paul Ryan, if they lose the House. Sorry.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Gloria is exactly right. One more number. I think it will be so important. So overall, Gloria, 28, "This will be a vote in support of Trump"; 42, opposition. Among women, 25 percent vote of support for Trump; 48 percent a vote to oppose Trump. A quarter say it's not sending a message at all. So half of women say that their vote tomorrow will be a vote to send a oppositional message to Donald Trump. Which I think -- if you see a major takeover of the House, you see the Senate close, see gains on the gubernatorial level, I think we're going to be talking about this is -- I mean, I'm not going to say another year of the woman. Probably find another term. But women will make the difference, if that's what happens.

BLITZER: You know, Abby, a whole bunch of Republicans are happy that this is a referendum on the president. But there's a lot of Republicans who are very nervous that he's decided to make immigration this closing argument.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: If you're in the Senate, you might be very happy that this is the Trump election, because his supporters still really love him. They still really want to come out for him, as you can see from the thousands and thousands of people showing up at his rallies.

But if you're in the House of Representatives and you're in any kind of suburban district at all, any kind of blue district at all, you're in big trouble. This is a president who -- whose personality has become a major issue for a lot of moderate voters. A lot of women voters, to Chris's point, have a major issue with that.

And the president is very stubborn about this, because he feels that, in his case, it worked really well for him. But he doesn't realize that that does not necessarily transfer at the district level to Republicans who have to broaden their base in order to win.

BORGER: But it's about him. I thought.

PHILLIP: It is -- well, it's going to be about him on both sides.

CILLIZZA: Right until it isn't. If they lose, it will not be about him.

BORGER: Of course.

BLITZER: David Chalian, the elections might be a referendum on the president, but he seems to be hedging his bets a little bit if the Republicans don't do so well. I want you to listen to this.


TRUMP: Get out and vote. I want you to vote. Pretend I'm on the ballot.

I'm not on the ticket. But I am on the ticket. Because this is also a referendum about me.

(via phone): Many of them saying it's a referendum on what we've done. So I don't know about that. I can tell you, though, that's the way they're going to play it.

(on camera): I think we're going to do well in the House, but as you know, my primary focus has been on the Senate.

This is a very important election. I wouldn't say it's as important as '16. But it's right up there.

I haven't heard the term blue wave, but you better get out and vote, otherwise, I'm going to look very bad with this statement.


BLITZER: Is he already looking to blame someone else if things don't go his way?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: My favorite bite of that whole montage was when he said, "Well, as you know, I've been really focused on the Senate. So see you later, House guys."

You know, there is a clear understanding in the White House that the House is going to be tricky. For all the reasons Abby was citing.

[17:35:05] And the president knows, just because of where he's been traveling, and his travel schedule is not something that the president put together by himself, right? This is a detailed, data-oriented kind of travel list that the White House political shop said, "Where can you do the most good and the least harm?" And that meant not going to the majority of battleground House districts. He was confined to help Republicans maintain the Senate.

BLITZER: He spent most of his time, S.E., in these red states on Senate contests.

S.E. CUPP, HOST, "UNFILTERED": Yes. There's two things. There's one, the math of this. But also, he likes to go where he is liked. He wants to be loved. He doesn't want to go and have a tepid reaction, you know, 18 people coming out to see Steve Bannon. He wants to go and be loved. He knows the optics of that are good. He knows that energizes him and makes him feel sort of, you know, rejuvenated. So I think it was as much about his ego as it was about the map.

BLITZER: You know, he's already tweeting, April, about that there could be some illegal voting and maybe seeing that, potentially, as an excuse if the Republicans don't -- don't do well. "Law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any illegal voting, which may take place in Tuesday's election, or early voting. Anyone caught will be subject to the maximum criminal penalties allowed by law. Thank you."

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are some -- well, he is right. There are some voter issues, voter irregularity issues when it comes to suppressing the vote.

But, you know, when it comes to voter fraud, which he likes to tout, the Heritage Foundation has come up saying things like 1,300 cases of voter fraud. OK, fine.

But in this moment in time, we have what's happening in North Dakota, with our -- with the Native Americans who are on a reservation who don't have P.O. boxes. That's an issue of voter suppression.

Then you also have what's happening in Texas and in the state of Georgia. And he's not paying attention.

I have asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I even tried to scream several times to the president when he was flying off on Marine One, "Mr. President, what do you think about voter suppression?" They never answer. They can't come up with a real answer to this, because they understand that they're going to have to win by claiming that they have a problem when there are big problems on the Democratic side, as well.

BLITZER: By raising the issue of illegal voting, seems to be potentially coming up with an excuse if the Republicans don't do well.

Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we need to discuss right after this.


[17:40:11] BLITZER: We're back with our political experts. And Gloria, let's look at our new CNN poll, likely voters' choice for Congress. We'll put it up on the screen. Look at this: 55 percent say they prefer the Democrats, 42 percent the Republicans. So what does that say to you?

BORGER: Well, it says that the Democrats have a real edge. I think that -- that people want to vote Democratic, according -- according to this.

I went back and looked at 2010, when Barack Obama lost 63 seats in the House. And that generic ballot, that difference, was ten points. And Obama's popularity was higher than Donald Trump's is now.

So if you use that -- and you know, nothing is a real guide, particularly. But you can use it as a reference point and say, look, if 2010, Barack Obama -- the issue was the Affordable Care Act, remember that. He lost 63 seats. And that generic number wasn't as large, and he was more popular than Trump.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. You know, Chris, the president is betting that his last-minute appeal to the Republican base will turn out voters in key battleground states and congressional districts. If he does manage to keep a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, that would be a remarkable validation of his political instincts.

CILLIZZA: It absolutely would. Not just because of the history.

I always tell people, there have been three midterm elections since the Civil War in which the president's party didn't lose seats in the House: 1934, 1998, 2002. In each of those, going reverse order, 2002, September 11; 1998, the Monica Lewinsky; 1934, Great Depression. We don't have that cultural moment, big like you would expect would change it. So if he does, it's bucking a lot of history.

And to Gloria's point, pick your poll. We have 39. One out there has 40. But he's not at 60. He's not at 50. Nor has he ever been. Donald Trump's highest approval rating is in the mid- to high 40s.

So it would go against a lot of what we know, because it would, at that point, I think, raise questions about what we know about politics.

But let's always remind people, the 2016 election went against a lot of what we know against -- about politics. And that's why you see a lot of people more wary of making predictions, because the numbers suggest you're looking at a very good election for Democrats.

BLITZER: Yes, that's what they suggest. But we'll see what actually happens.

You know, Abby, the gender gap seems to be significant. Let's look at the numbers in our new poll. Likely voters' choice for Congress. Among woman, 62 percent prefer Democrats; 35 percent Republicans. Among men, it's basically even, 48 percent for Democrats, 49 percent for Republicans. But the divide among women, what's driving that?

PHILLIP: Donald Trump. Donald Trump is driving that. And everything about him, about the way that he leads, about the sense of anger in the country, I think that is what's driving that issue among women.

But at the same time, I think we should be careful, because remember, in 2016, Hillary Clinton was doing quite well with women, and she lost to Donald Trump. And I think that that's what's in the president's head right now.

He's saying, "Gender gap? What gender gap?" He's saying, "I think I can overcome this."

And I think some of that has to do with the fact that, if you break it down even further, it depends on which women you're talking about.


PHILLIP: African-American women are with the Democrats. College- educated women are more with the Democrats. But non-college-educated women, you know, they're available to President Trump. And I think he feels that. That's why a couple days ago he was saying, women -- you know, it was almost like someone told him. Women want security. He thinks that he can speak to them, to his women, in, you know -- in a certain language.

BORGER: His women.

PHILLIP: That would allow them to overcome this. I think he feels he has his little group that he can go to.

BLITZER: David, by going after illegal immigration as much as he has over these past several weeks, is he ignoring women and independents, two key groups that Republicans have been seeking to score some in roads in?

CHALIAN: I don't know that he's ignoring them, because I think independents and females also care about immigration as an issue.

I mean, listen, the numbers you just showed there from our poll -- remember, this is a poll. We will learn tomorrow which voters actually show up. If it looks anything even remotely like that, this is going to be a much bigger night for the Democrats than anybody is anticipating. Because that's an enormous gender gap with a Democratic advantage. But we'll see. That's just a poll, Wolf.

What I think is key here about the immigration point, what Donald Trump has done is taken the issue among Republicans and skyrocketed it to the top of their list of the most important issue. That was not -- that's just not where even Republican voters were before he made this the closing message.

So he's been able to take a message, get his base really enthusiastic about it.

And you are right to ask the question, what is the cost to turning off some independent voters who are turned off by his hardline immigration?

That cost-benefit analysis is what has Republicans who are involved in House campaigns very concerned because they think there's more cost than benefit and Republicans who are with Senate campaigns pretty pleased because they think there is more benefit than costs.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: S.E., what do you think?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, we talk about women like a, you know, conglomerate sometimes. And to David's point, plenty of women care about immigration and plenty of women respond to Trump's immigration policy, if not his rhetoric.

But I spent the better part of the day talking to suburban, White, educated women in Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan, two in Massachusetts, one in Florida. Not scientific but to get a sense of where they were.

They lean right. They all but one plan to vote Republican down the line this year. They all said we don't like Trump's rhetoric but we like what he's done.

Again, that's not representative, but I wanted to just get a sense from people who would lean right. Women like me who might be inclined to vote for Republicans, not really turned on by this message but generally a block that Republicans have been able to count on.

So I'm not convinced Republicans aren't going to keep the House. I think it's a long shot. These numbers allude to that. But I think we could be in for a bit of a surprise tomorrow.


APRIL RYAN, WASHINGTON D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, AMERICAN URBAN RADIO NETWORKS: The President is popular but he is unliked, particularly for his rhetoric. And let's get to this immigration thing. Let's go to MS-13. It's fear. He talks about fear.

And then this caravan that he acts like is knocking on the wall that he wants to build, they're -- he's acting like they're right there when they're hundreds of miles away and the election is tomorrow. This fear has got women believing, that support him, that he is going to protect them.

But you have to remember, when you get down and bull down into this female number that supports the President, when the President was elected, he had a majority of White women -- a little over, in the low 50s, 50 percent, the 50 percentage range of White women, particularly married White women.

And the psychology was, many have said, to include Gloria Steinem, that these women were voting their husbands' politics, voting their husbands' ideology and sociology, as well as their economy. So let's see how it plays out this time.

BLITZER: All right. We have a lot more news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now, including a video of a new provocation of U.S. Navy by Vladimir Putin's military. Stand by. We have the details.


BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning new details about an incident the U.S. Navy is now calling unsafe and unprofessional maneuver by a Russian fighter jet. Let's go to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr.

Barbara, tell us what happened.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Wolf. Earlier today, over the Black Sea in Eastern Europe, a dangerous encounter between the U.S. Navy and the Russians.

A U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea, according to the Pentagon, when a Russian Sukhoi fighter -- and you see it there in the video -- came up alongside at high speed and close range to the American aircraft.

As you see the plane pass by, the Americans reported that this encounter lasted for 25 minutes. On one pass, the Russian aircraft caused the Americans to feel turbulence. On a second pass, vibration before the Russians put on their afterburners and banked away from the American aircraft.

This is something that the U.S. does not like to see. Obviously, the last such unsafe, unprofessional encounter by the Russians was in January. The U.S. thought these were pretty much put to bed, if you will, but apparently, the Russians back at it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, has the U.S. addressed this close encounter with the Russians?

STARR: We expect that they will. That January encounter, for example, got a very stern warning from the U.S. government.

This is something that the U.S. has -- repeatedly, the U.S. military has said to the Russians they have to stop doing this sort of thing because, at these high speeds and close ranges, miscalculation can happen very quickly and you can have an absolute disaster.

Of course, thankful this time no such disaster, no crash, no collision. Nobody got hurt, but it was a very dangerous few moments indeed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly was. All right, Barbara, thank you. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Coming up, our new polls show 70 percent of voters now say they're casting ballots to send a message to President Trump. With thousands of local, state, and national seats at stake, is this midterm election a referendum on the President?


BLITZER: Happening now, referendum on Trump. President Trump finishing out his marathon campaign swing for Republicans tonight in red state strongholds and privately acknowledging the election is about him even as his aides brace for him to get a loss of the House of Representatives.

Offensive things. More networks and social media decide to stop running the racist campaign ad tweeted by President Trump, but he says he's not aware of the controversy. And he is adding -- and I'm quoting him now -- a lot of things are offensive.

Purging his cabinet. Mr. Trump says cabinet changes are coming after the midterms, calling it very customary and saying he loves his cabinet -- and I'm quoting him now -- for the most part.

[17:59:52] And racism and robocalls. As the President continues to make subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle nods to racism on the campaign trail, other groups have followed his lead, recording calls mocking and disparaging African-American candidates. Is race being used to divide voters in this?