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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Congressional Balance of Power at Stake in Midterms; Trump Frames Midterms as Referendum on His Presidency; Trump Defends Racist Ad as "Effective", Media Outlets Pull It; Trump's Regrets. Aired 12m- 1a ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 00:00   ET

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


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CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME. It is just after midnight here in Washington, D.C.

You know what that means, right?

It is officially Election Day.

Who wants their "I voted" sticker?

Then go vote if you want one. That's how you get it. The first poll opens in less than five hours. President Trump is about to receive his midterm report card. He can say he's not on the ballot all he wants. It's not true and there will be a verdict from voters on his presidency.

He warned his base tonight, everything we have achieved is at stake.

With all the fearmongering, his plan of fear and loathing, will he get his base to the polls in numbers that allow his party to keep power?

There's lots on the line. You've got control of Congress, governorships across America that could matter now and certainly in 2020. And, of course, you've got the mandate for the president's agenda.

The big question for Democrats is, can they win?

Cory Booker has been deep in this fight. He's not on the ballot but his party is. And the senator is here tonight with one last plea to voters.

And wait until you hear one of President Trump's biggest regrets -- or the fact he actually has a regret, what is it over the last two years?

It's decision day, my friends. Let's get after it.

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CUOMO: It's Election Day, big deal. Big deal. I hope you're pumped. I hope you go out there and exercise the franchise. All around the country, that's what we need to show those in power that we care and they must care about us. The balance of power in Congress now in your hands.

Candidates all over the place, all up and down the ballots will soon find out whether their long months of pitches pay off. For Republicans, the party of Trump now officially, victory will mean validation.

For Democrats, they're looking to wrest back control.

Where are they in that fight?

Let's get after it with New Jersey Democratic senator Cory Booker.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: Senator, thank you for joining us on PRIME TIME.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), N.J.: Chris, it's great to be on. I take a little bit of personal insult that, when I come to New York to see you, you hightail it down to D.C. where I usually hang out.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: You're on to me, Senator.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: The check's on me, I promise. I apologize for the inconvenience.

BOOKER: No, it's a pleasure to be here.

CUOMO: Everybody's talk about what happens if the Democrats win. This is the metric if they win, this is the margin, will it happen. Let's reverse it for a second just for the sake of argument.

What will it mean to you if sometime late, late Tuesday night or into Wednesday morning, it turns out you gain seats but you don't take the Senate and you don't take the House?

What would that mean to you in?

BOOKER: I've just surrendered hypotheticals. I got so wrapped up in that in 2016 and was wrong in every way. Right now I'm focused on just running through the tape. Everybody should be focused on sprinting through the tape, even tonight when I finish this show, I'll go back to work, calling into other states, calling the Nevada workers.

I think everybody should put it all on the line, put it all on the field and let's just see what happens. Right now the most important thing to me is when polls close, working until then.

CUOMO: The tactics, everything becomes clear at the end of an election. There's never any mystery about what the game plan is on either side and what is inside the heads and hearts of all those inside. There's no more time for subtlety.

And now we see that and it's somewhat blowing up in the president's face. He put out that Willie Horton ad and it was as ugly as everyone knew it was when they made it. The president's saying I don't know anything about the controversy about it. But it's enough that the news agencies are now following CNN's example and they're pulling the ads. It's not the only ugly ad.

I want to play you just one line of an ad that is out there about Stacey Abrams and Oprah Winfrey, just one line. That is all that I will play from it. I won't allow any more of it.

BOOKER: OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the magical Negro, Oprah Winfrey, asking you to make my fellow Negress, Stacey Abrams, the governor of Georgia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: This is from some bunch of animals in the white supremacist group. But for some reason they have felt empowered by this administration to come out and put out ads like that. The president today was asked about that vile ad with the Mexican murderer and him blaming you and other Democrats and these other ads that are done in his name or to support his agenda. I have the sound of the president. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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, so, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: He's always offended by tough questions.

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CUOMO: But Senator, the idea that he knows how ugly the ad is and yet he says but they're effective, what does that tell you?

BOOKER: Again, we cannot become a country where our leaders, Democrat or Republican, it's all about the ends and the means. There's no moral compass whatsoever when it comes to the means. We define ourselves by what we do. I think the ideals about Gandhi, ends and means really being the same thing.

So for people having a no-holds-barred, anything goes, whatever works, whatever makes money, whatever scores points, that's not the truth of our nation. We are a moral nation and I believe that people are going to respond to that. I see in my own state what the kind of toxic ads now running against

Bob Menendez that "The Washington Post," "Star-Ledger," "The New York Times" have all called outright, blatant lies. Those stuff come back to haunt you and I do believe that this is a moral nation and we are disgusted by those kind of attacks.

So you know what?

Bring it. Bring what you got, show who you are, reveal your colors because I think, at the end of the day, this country is going to vote for decency, honor, vote for kindness, vote for love.

And I'm so happy there are leaders, not Democrat or Republican but there are people in this country standing up for those ideals and voting in accordance to who's showing the kind of character we want in office, in higher offices.

CUOMO: The president says he's not on the ballot. Now he's been all over the place. We've shown clips of him saying a dozen times, vote for so-and-so; it's like a vote for me. Look at it as a vote for me. It's really like I'm on the ballot, I'm not on the ballot but I'm on the ballot.

Now as we've gotten closer and there's somewhat of negative momentum on the Republican side in terms of the House at least, he's backing off the House and focusing on the Senate. Now today he's saying it's really not about me, I'm not on the ballot.

Do you accept that or do you think that whatever happens tomorrow, it is a referendum midterm on the president?

BOOKER: I don't accept what he's saying. I learned someone from in my community in North New Jersey that hope doesn't exist in the abstract. Hope is the act of conviction that despair will not have the last word.

There's a lot of folks out there who have been listening to the president for two years. The way he's talked about Nazis, what he's done to people at the borders, Muslim bans, attacking health care, trying to rip it away from folks.

There are a lot of folks going into this election, saying the president will not have the last word. The president is not the end of the story.

I'm going to be the last word. I'm going to show my -- who I am, demonstrate who I am through my actions. And so this election, I think it really is a test of those ideals of patriotism. And what I mean by that word, politicians often use that word as a way to put down other people.

I think patriotism is a love of country and you cannot love your country unless you love your fellow country men and women. We don't always agree, we don't always like each other.

But patriotism is not a slogan, patriotism is an action. I think people are going to the polls right now because they want to define America. They want to have a statement.

Trump has been dominating the airwaves, sucking the oxygen out. But this is the time, whether you're a president or a billionaire, whoever walks into the polls, we're all equal. And this is time for the power of the people to demonstrate that they're more powerful than the guy that's in power.

CUOMO: There's a difference between being a patriot and a jingoist or a nativist. Now one point of concern, the big game is tomorrow. The big show is tomorrow. The big moment is tomorrow.

Do you have any reservations that it wasn't more of the method of your party to go toe to toe with the president about immigration?

When I ask you about it, you're going to give me answers. You're not on the ballot right now. But Democrats have been avoiding the president, ignoring the president, talking health care, not going toe to toe with him on immigration.

Why not?

BOOKER: The way he's going about this, Chris, and you know, as if our country isn't strong enough to deal with a lot of the -- 700 miles away, 800 miles away, people in a caravan, if he wants to make that the issue, when people in my state of New Jersey are worried about their health care, people in my state of New Jersey are worried about their retirement security --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: The thing about immigration, it's up there in the ratings.

BOOKER: Again, I think when I go -- when I run around this country. I've been all the way from North Dakota to Florida. And when I'm sitting in diners, when I'm walking in senior citizen centers, you know, as much as the president wants to try to whip up fear and hate, sort of the tired tropes that he's wielding out there, Americans are concerned about the sort of bread and butter issues.

I'm happy that people aren't falling for his trap again. Here's a guy that came down the escalator and immediately started playing the race card, as they accuse us of doing. Talking about the Mexicans, talking about the Muslims, he was trying to whip up fear and hate.

Our history's not bereft of that. We have -- there's always been demagogues, there's always been bigotry. But the story of --

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BOOKER: -- America is the goodness of us overcoming that, not allowing that to be the playing field, of not going down into the gutter but defining the higher ground of common cause, common purpose.

And so I'm proud of the candidates who are out there that are talking about those issues. And again, I'm not just talking about Democrats. These are issues of -- right now we're in a moment in America where it's not Right or Left. It's right or wrong.

And you're hearing a lot of voices from Christian evangelicals, what he's doing on immigration is an affront to the ideals of your faith, my faith, of so many faiths.

I'm hearing it from fiscal conservatives, who are saying, how can this country blast a $2 trillion hole in the budget, all to give corporations even greater profits when they're already at an 85-year high?

I'm so proud of people on both sides of the aisle. I just got off a show with the outgoing governor of Ohio. We were in the Green Room. I wish that was filmed, a Democrat and a Republican, having real conversations about issues that matter. This is a moral moment in our country.

It is a moral moment in our country. It should be driving all of us to do what makes America great all the time, which is demonstrating -- we are here where we are now not because of the presidents or the senators but because of millions of acts of personal grace extended to other Americans.

That kindness, decency and love that drove the civil rights movement, which ultimately changed Washington, which drove the protests against being amord (ph) that ultimately changed our policies. It drove every green movement in this country, came from those personal acts of grace of individual Americans doing their citizenship, not as a song or slogan or a pledge but their acts of grace toward other Americans and toward voting getting out there and taking responsibility for their democracy.

CUOMO: Well, we'll know tomorrow, Senator, which message wins, who the American people deliver the mandate to and then the question will be, what is done with that mandate?

And we'll be in on it every damn day.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I haven't had a chance to say this to you; at a time when you and others are being singled out as enemy of the people, I just want to say Godspeed to you and you have not flinched, you have not faltered, you're doing the job of media, calling people like me and others to the mat when you think we're wrong.

You're calling balls and strikes in a way that this democracy needs.

And what's different with us than Russia, than Turkey, I can go through the other countries, is that we have a vibrant media, no matter how much a president wants to attack our Bill of Rights that our founders wrote, it's important enough to talk about freedom of speech, freedom of the press.

You guys here at CNN have stood strong and I'm grateful to you in particular. And I haven't had a chance to get that out publicly. But I just wanted to put that forward. CUOMO: Thank you, Senator. Although that will allow you no favor with me.

(CROSSTALK)

BOOKER: I know it won't. I know in future shows you'll be kicking my tail.

CUOMO: I appreciate you saying it. It's an interesting time and that's why the motto of this show is "Let's get after it," because that's where we are.

Be well, Senator, and thank you.

BOOKER: Thank you very much. Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, so the president has said many, many times that his base should consider any vote in the midterm a vote for him because he is effectively on the ballot. Why am I saying it so deliberately?

Because when the House became a distinct possibility of a loss for the GOP, all of a sudden, the president went like this, well, I'm not really on the ballot, it's not really about me. Candidates on the ballot don't have that luxury and we have the races to watch -- next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But the key is you have to go out to vote. Because in a sense I am on the ticket. The contrast in this election could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Jobs versus mobs. It rhymes but it's in keeping with everything else the president says. He's pushing fear and loathing and hoping that that works, that that fear motivation brings his base out to the polls. Let's bring in Phil Mattingly. He's the man of the moment up at the mat.

Now historically we know in terms of context a president gets beaten up in his first term. That's not unusual. However, we've never seen a president at the rating that this president is, especially with an economy that he is getting the benefit of.

So how do you factor that in and what does that mean?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you make an important point. You look at this map and see 435 districts. This can't all be about the president.

But history will show a correlation. I want to pull up President Trump's latest approval ratings. On this wall, you have 41 percent. That's the most recent CNN/SSRS poll that was released today. Over here, you have 43 percent, that's a combination of Poll of Polls from a lot of major news organizations. These are low.

You're saying, look, President Trump has been bouncing between the low 40s and mid-40s throughout the course of his entire term.

What does this mean?

Let me give you a historic comparison here to give you a sense of what this means. Look at these ratings back through the last couple of decades.

When you look at a president who has had a wipeout or a bad midterm, look at the correlation of the ratings. In 2010, President Obama lost 63 seats. His approval rating about 46 percent, right around where President Trump is, a couple points higher.

Bill Clinton lost 53 seats, sitting at 46 percent. Pretty much every president you're seeing here lost seats --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- for people, Phil; 2010, 94-82 with Reagan, bad economy, bad economy, bad economy. That's the outlier here. President Trump doesn't have a bad economy but his numbers are sitting at or lower than those rates. That's the new metric.

MATTINGLY: There's no question about it. And look at this as a tool, not unlike the polls, not unlike anything else you're looking at right now. These are pieces of the puzzle you're trying to put together.

But I think the important thing to note is, historically, as you noted, first midterms for a president, not a great year. When you're sitting around 41-42-43 percent, that is potentially problematic for your party, no question about it.

CUOMO: When you're looking at that -- because we don't know what it's going to mean -- you'll have to see tomorrow, we'll have to see the follow through and then we'll see where the mandate is rewarded and why.

But at this point it does seem, just based on the fundamentals, the president is his own problem. Because the economy is where it should be; nobody, thank God, is hurting us. We're not about -- ready to be in a conflict. So what are you --

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CUOMO: -- looking at now?

MATTINGLY: The reason why you point to a correlation is because what this actually does for the map. If you talk about the 23 seats Democrats need to pick up, that magic number, there's 25 districts in 2016, where Hillary Clinton won districts, where Republicans are currently sitting in those seats.

So there's a road map there for Democrats to basically secure a majority on that alone.

Why the approval number matters and you heard about 10-15 days ago a lot of Republicans working on these campaigns feeling good about things was President Trump's rating tried to tick up and why they're feeling a little bit less good about things is it started to tick back down, is because of districts like these.

I want to zone in on a couple of them, start right here, Illinois' 14th District right now, Randy Holcombe. This is somebody who won his race in 2016 by 19 points. President Trump won this district by 5 points.

When you talk to Republicans their concern is not about those Clinton districts, most of which they think they're probably going to lose anyway; it's about whether or not Democrats have the opportunity to expand the map.

If Democrats pick up this seat, where you can see Randy Holcombe in our analysis is a lean Republican district, he should win this race but it has been closing quickly, according to sources from both parties, that is major concern for them.

Continue to move over here to Kentucky, where you have another race. A lot of people have been talking about the Kentucky 6th District, this is another one. Andy Barr won his district by 23 points in 2016. President Trump also ran up a high number in 2016.

If the president's approval ratings are low, the correlation there is maybe his supporters don't come out and vote. Maybe some in the suburban areas of Lexington here, in this district, decide to vote for Amy McGrath, the Democratic challenger.

That's the direct correlation. One more, this is also instructive because these are also triggers for how the night's going to go for Democrats.

You look at Virginia 7, Dave Brat is as conservative as you could possibly get. However, there's Richmond suburbs in this area. If those voters, because President Trump's approval rating is low, because perhaps they've turned away from him, come out more than the rural area voters that are in here because maybe they're not as enthused as they were before, that's a major problem for Dave Brat.

Again, these are races Democrats have to win but these are races where Republicans have gotten nervous about in large part because the president's approval rating hasn't been sitting in the 45-46 territory, where they believe they will be safe if their base voters come out and vote for traditionally Republican districts.

CUOMO: It'll be interesting to see if it's a watershed moment in a state like Illinois where you were. Presidential cycles recently, it's been getting more and more blue. However, the state itself, if I'm not wrong, the southern part and the eastern part is actually red.

And it's become more of a stronghold; Trump did better there. Sometimes you have to look at a state and see what's happening internally on its local level and its congressional level because sometimes it's at odds with how it goes in the presidency. That state is one to watch.

MATTINGLY: No question about it. It's interesting, you talk about the president's approval rating and the southern part of the state, as you noted, is more Republican, has moved better in the director for some of the Republican House districts in the southern area.

But I will tell you we're also keeping an eye on the governor's race. Top of the ticket. You're going to hear that in a lot of states, like the Illinois governor's race, that's where places like Chicago suburbs, like Randy Holcombe's district, could be in danger, not just because of where the president sits but also where that top of the ticket sits.

CUOMO: Man, you've got your head working, brother. We'll be together doing heavy hours tomorrow. I couldn't have a better wing man. Phil, be well, get some rest.

All right, if the House does flip, OK, and the GOP keeps control of the Senate even with its filibuster burden, what does that mean?

What do the Democrats really gain?

What can they really do?

Let's do some analysis looking forward on that -- next.

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CUOMO: This is the first official coverage of Election Day, right, because we're past midnight here in Washington, D.C. You're going to have the polls opening in about five hours. The Democrats want to take over the House of Representatives.

Tom Perez, the chair of the DNC, said to me earlier tonight on CUOMO PRIME TIME, he believes they're going to shock the world and take the Senate, too. In the CNN poll it says they have a double digit lead but who knows what that's worth. It's all on you and whether or not you go out and vote today.

The midterms are especially sensitive in terms of whose base comes out and how much and where. So there's a lot to be discussed here. I've got a great panel for you.

Brian Karem, Francesca Chambers and David Swerdlick. I said before the break, just one thing.

Let's assume, all right, remember --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- remember that.

CUOMO: -- if the Democrats get the House but they don't get the Senate, what do you think they use the mandate for?

What are the first couple of things, Brian, you think we see in the first three months?

BRIAN KAREM, SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: I think you're going to see oversight where you haven't seen oversight before.

CUOMO: What does that mean?

Does that mean hearings on Trump?

KAREM: I think you're going to have hearings on a number of things, including the EPA. I think you're going to have hearings on spending. I think you're going to have hearings on a lot of the foreign policy --

CUOMO: How do they make it look like it's not payback?

KAREM: That's a risk they're going to run. But at this point in time it is going to be payback. I don't think there's any way --

CUOMO: That's a risk.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: We're so tired of it, right, the American people are so tired of the acrimony. We give you this mandate and now it's redoubling efforts. I know some people are like that. Some on the Left would say --

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, "DAILY MAIL": And some Democrats believe that this is why they're getting elected in this election, to have that oversight and have the checks and balances. That's the argument Nancy Pelosi has been pushing.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- not the I word but oversight and checks and balances on the president is something she has been pushing as a message in this election.

But you asked about what are things they could do, certainly the president thinks there's infrastructure, some bipartisan effort that could be made on infrastructure. Today he seemed to suggest there could potentially be a bipartisan deal on immigration. We obviously haven't seen that happen yet. (CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: But that's an area where the president has suggested we keep looking.

KAREM: -- the problem is, he will twist that -- as he has come out, as we came on the South Lawn, he has hedged his bet both ways. He came out and said --

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KAREM: -- look, as you said, it is about me but he came out two days ago on Sunday and said, look, this isn't about me at all. It's about the Republicans --

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: -- like it was going to be bad --

CUOMO: -- that's him, though. That's what he's done with immigration.

And David, if we look at, you have to consider if the Democrats get the House and they go right into oversight mode, which is a generous term for it, that's a little bit of a dicey proposition for them, yes or no?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, as Brian was saying, they don't want to go -- at least the leaders of the party don't want to go as far as impeachment because they're afraid to walk that far out on the plank. What they want is to flip those committee chairmanships, to do that oversight.

So that for instance on the Intelligence Committee, Chairman Nunes becomes Chairman Schiff and now they can investigate into some of these ongoing queries into the White House, into the president's inner circle a little further than the Republicans have gone.

The other thing more broadly in terms of legislation, I agree with Brian. Not a lot is going to get done because there's a Republican president and, potentially, let's not get ahead of ourselves, a divided Congress.

But if Democrats have the House, it'll be like they have a goalie to block a Republican Congress from doing anything.

CUOMO: I see two dynamics you've got to be careful about. One is the Tea Party equivalent happening in the Democratic Party. If they get the House but now their party has its own kind of curve going to it. And there are those on the Left -- I don't believe there's a real "get rid of ICE" movement. I know people have said it. I don't think that's the kind of thing once you get it, you're going to spearhead once you see the pushback from your own.

But they could have a Tea Party equivalent. That's one thing.

The second thing is on the positive side, the president seems to have an unusual amount of leverage, Francesca, in the Senate.

Look what he did to Lindsey Graham. Look at Rand Paul. These are guys who always owned their own oats.

KAREM: It makes you wonder what he's got on them.

CUOMO: So, look, if there's something about him that works for them, maybe he could cut a deal with Democrats, where he says, listen, you have to help me with the Florida settlement, we have to be able to keep families together because we don't want to pull the kids apart. You got to let us keep them longer, though, so we can process them.

Give me that, I'll give you DACA, let's do a one-off.

CHAMBERS: And you mentioned Senator Lindsey Graham. He's been someone who's been able to cross that divide. But at the same time, at this point, the president has had the Senate, he's had the House, he's has Lindsey Graham and other senators who believe that they are ready and he wasn't able to get it done.

So the question is whether he could do it with Democrats in charge of the House, even if Republicans keep the Senate. We could be looking at infrastructure week every single week for the next year.

KAREM: That would be the real test for this presidency. If he loses the House -- and I think Donald Trump has made his case to the American people of being a dealmaker -- let's see what kind of dealmaker he is if he does lose the House.

I don't think that he's too sworn to any particular thought process, so I don't think he's going to be committed to the far right.

CUOMO: Not burdened by conviction, I'll give you that.

SWERDLICK: He's not a deep policy thinker and he's ideologically completely flexible. The problem I think for the president, Chris, is that if you have divided government, it's not in the president's interest politically in terms of looking at his base to look like he's too cozy with the Democrats.

I don't think it's in the Democrats' interest political to look like, all of a sudden, they're playing such comfortable ball --

CHAMBERS: And they're looking ahead -- and if you're looking ahead to 2020, then the argument becomes again, they opposed my agenda every step of the way --

CUOMO: That's why some say this is better for him.

If he loses the House and the Democrats have it, at least he has a foil. There's a bogeyman.

KAREM: Make no mistake about it, the president is addicted to noise. Whether you like him or you don't like him, the reason why he's out talking about immigration instead of his successes in the economy is because he's addicted to the noise level. So that's not going to change no matter who wins, Democrats or Republicans.

CUOMO: I'll tell you what, Brian, I hear you. And I've taken your counsel on this before but I've never seen -- I think I said this last show -- (INAUDIBLE) --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- for CUOMO PRIME TIME, I think there's three things I've never seen before that I saw today. One is -- well, I've never seen the media block out an ad.

Now CNN did it first. We wouldn't run the racist ad the president put out, the new Willie Horton ad. I used it for purposes of instruction. But we wouldn't take money for it, wouldn't run it. I've never seen the media back off this close to an election that way.

The second thing is I've never seen a president in their own party get sideways with each other about their closing argument right before a midterm the way that we saw it here.

They want to go with the economy; strong ad, the vote Republican with the woman who goes through looking at her kid and then she votes for them. I thought was a really good, sophisticated ad but he doesn't like it, he didn't want to go that way. I've never seen that.

And we just heard, David, the president says he has regrets. This is man who during the race said why would I ask God for forgiveness? I've never --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: -- hold it -- he said I regret my tone.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: To be --

[00:35:00]

KAREM: -- fair, he did say in the first six months, when FOX first interviewed him, they asked him what he had done well and not done well. He said almost the same thing but not with regret. He said he gave himself a C in communication.

SWERDLICK: He's covering all his bases. He wants to tell one audience, I understand the tone is at issue here. But big picture he's closed out with fear and division, leaving optimism and unity to the Democrats. You saw that with President Obama last night.

But President Trump is most comfortable with being divisive. And he likes immigration. He won on it in 2016 and I think he thinks, until he loses on it, he's going to stay.

CUOMO: He likes the emotional feel of a franchise. Let's play this piece of sound from him today, because if you believe he's going to have regrets because of his tone, that can't be true and what you're about to hear.

Listen to the sound bite of him talking about the ad and what he thinks he knows about the ad and what's going on with this racist ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT THUMAN, SINCLAIR: Is there anything, as you look back at your first almost two years, that you regret, that you wish on you, that you could just take back and redo?

TRUMP: Well, there would be certain things, I'm not sure I want to reveal all of them but I would say tone, I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do, and maybe I could've been softer from that standpoint.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Hold on a second. We talked about this. But this is what I wanted to say, I'll role play it out for you. They're asking about the controversy surrounding the ad, which is no secret to anybody.

That's why they made this Willie Horton.

"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 we're seeing.

But Mr. President, a lot of folks have said the ad was offensive. Why did you like that ad?

Well, a lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of the time.

It can't be true that he knows that his tone is a problem and then when told that bigoted ass ad you put out there, people won't run it anymore, including the mother ship, FOX pulled the ad.

It's another thing I've never seen. FOX pulls the ad --

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- watching television, watching his -- the covering of his presidency. So he's got to be aware that there's a controversy surrounding the ad.

Well, I think that he does believe that immigration is an effective closing argument for him. His whole entire point was to get Republican voters so ginned up they would come out and vote in very large numbers, not necessarily Republicans, people who supported him in the last election.

(CROSSTALK) CHAMBERS: And this is all about turnout in this election. It is about getting all those of people to come, getting them out in large numbers.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Well, that's the bet. But his party was telling him, Paul Ryan -- Quiet Paul, as I call him -- go for the economy, go with what we've done, our standing around the world, go with any of that

He didn't want to do this. It'll be interesting to see if they lose the House and if some of his own who lose those seats say, he was driving everybody against me. I wonder if that --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Well, let's see. Let's take a break. I want to take another block with these guys. You're that good.

Here in the first coverage of Election Day, stay with CNN and we're going to talk about what is motivating the turnout we're going to see today. The president made a big bet, maybe the biggest we've seen in his time as president. What he put on you guys banking on turnout today is a big gamble. We'll tell you why -- next.

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[00:40:00]

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CUOMO: So Phil Mattingly was showing you before how historically we haven't seen a president where President Trump is in the opinion polls right now, given the economy he's benefiting from. And that has to lead to an assumption that the president is his own problem.

We see that again with what argument they're going to go with to the American people. Now the president, he's got a good gut for what will get people going, certainly in his own base. And he has been saying it to anybody who will listen within his own ranks, it's got to be immigration. We've got to pound it hard. His party didn't want to do it. The leadership didn't want to do it. They wanted to do more economy, work more of a positive message.

So then, the day before the midterms, their biggest ad, the new Willie Horton ad, a really disgusting ad, NBC and FOX -- FOX -- decides can't run it anymore; it's a racist, anti-immigration commercial.

And even though it comes from the Trump campaign, even though it was late last week, even though it was, you know, we're so close, we're not going to run it anymore. That is unheard of and it does race the specter of, did he place too big of a bet on hate and fear and loathing?

Let's bring back Brian Karem, Francesca Chambers and David Swerdlick.

Now I could be having a nice big meal of crow tomorrow night, maybe a few hours from now, 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday morning, where their base comes out, performs and overperforms and Trump becomes another anomaly, where, even though he's low in the polls, even though this is his first midterm thing and he's supposed to lose some seats, they lose some but not enough.

And Francesca, they keep the House.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- supporters at the president's rally, I think you did hit on an important point, that the people in those audiences do think he is correct on immigration and they are in lockstep with him on some of these issues. Before even gets up at rallies and says certain things, he'll be saying it to the reporters in the crowd before he gets on stage.

For instance, when we were in West Virginia the other day, before he ever started talking about the Kavanaugh situation, I was asking them, what's your problem with Joe Manchin?

And they said, I don't really have one with Joe Manchin. It's just he's not a vote for the president. And we need someone who's going to vote for the president's agenda and the president said it's going to say that I can't vote for him.

The president gets up there and essentially says that. So he's very in tune with his base and the voters and what they're looking for in this election. So I think it's very important to keep in mind as we head --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: It's seven out of 10 Republicans --

[00:45:00]

CUOMO: -- say immigration is at the top of their chart. You can play chicken and egg with that, but either way Trump is hitting on what they want to hear most.

SWERDLICK: As you said, the president does have a good gut if nothing else. That's why they have the expression, this is why they play the games, right?

Even though in the new CNN/SSRS poll, Democrats have a nice 10-13 point lead in the generic congressional ballot, even though President Trump in the CNN poll has dipped back to the 30s in approval, if you look at his approval in the polling averages, he's about where he was on Inauguration Day.

He's held onto his base, those West Virginia voters Francesca was talking about. And he's going to ride them. And count on the fact the Democrats' coalition has not performed well as voters in 2010, in 2014 and even in the presidential in 2016. That's what Trump and the Republicans are counting on.

KAREM: There's really two points to make. He is appealing to a base that appears to be shrinking. But the louder he gets, the more he shouts at the base core supporters, the more he's trying to whip them into a frenzy to vote.

The Democrats, while there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the country, the bottom line is, if he whips his group into a fervor, if the voter turnout is lower than everyone thinks it's going to be in -- look, this is still a midterm election. I guarantee you we still won't see 50 percent of the voters.

CUOMO: That's a huge number.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: We usually see about 30 percent.

KAREM: -- somewhere between 30 and 40.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: -- the early voting is bigger but that just means they won't show up to vote on the day of election. So those really don't mean anything.

But the second point -- and really to the point that the president is doing -- Larry Speakes -- and I hit this all the time because it's very true. Larry Speakes, when he was with Reagan said, look, don't tell us how to stage the news and we won't tell you how to cover it. And Trump has taken that a step further.

What Trump is saying is we'll stage the news, we'll tell you how to cover it and then I'm going to come on the South Lawn and deny that I said what I said to begin with and now you're going to cover it the new way I want you to cover it.

And there are people buying it and they vote. And that's what he's counting on and that's what he's banking on. And that's the frightening part for us in this business, to have to fight that back and push back at that.

I can't tell you the times he's come out just in the last week and said, you all don't talk about the economy.

And I said that's not true, Mr. President, we report on it all the time.

CUOMO: He just told his own party, he told an audience that it was boring.

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CUOMO: -- Francesca, what do you make of what I hear from some people in the leadership of that party, which is, you know, because he's not burdened by conviction, which is the polite way of saying it, that if we lose the House and the Democrats have it, you will see a different Trump.

Not a not going to call you fake news, not going to chase you away but that he needs to make deals because now he'll feel threatened, he'll feel weak and he will not want to be in that position and he'll say to his Republicans, you bunch of dopes, you guys got nothing done for me. Let me go get something done.

What do you think of that analysis?

CHAMBERS: We were having a nice conversation about this earlier, about how at times in his presidency, he's had those meetings where he invites the press in to watch him and to see the dealmaking, the sausage making as it happens.

And he said things to Dianne Feinstein about, let's take a look at those gun restrictions you want to put in. Why don't you come back with something on that. And, of course, the next day we see him really pull back --

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- we've seen this on several issues, where when it's originally presented to him, he's been open to those ideas and then seemingly after hearing from conservatives or the people who disagree with that in the party, then he pulls back on those things.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: -- if he has the House, he's able to do that with impunity. If he doesn't have the House, he cannot do it with impunity. But to Francesca's point, that doesn't mean the leopard is going to change its spots.

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CUOMO: But the leopard wants to eat, David.

(LAUGHTER)

SWERDLICK: The two sides of President Trump are, on the one hand, he wants to be seen as this tough, take no prisoners, zero-sum guy. But on the other hand, he likes that image as the who's your daddy, I'm going to take care of everybody.

It's going to be great for everybody.

And so you get issues like immigration or guns or health care, where he both wants to say, we're going to repeal and replace ObamaCare. He also wants to say, I'm going to cover everybody. And he can't satisfy both sides and square that circle because you either repeal and replace ObamaCare and you satisfy Republicans or you do something to make a deal with Democrats that alienates his base.

KAREM: He can repeal ObamaCare, reinstitute a version of ObamaCare and just rebrand it --

CUOMO: -- which is what they're doing on --

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- about a list of accomplishments --

[00:50:00]

CHAMBERS: -- to run on in 2020, two choices here, there's a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, which would be he either wants to make deals and wants to get something done to be able to add to the legacy and have something to run on in 2020.

Or he's going to run on resist and obstruct for another two years and only he can make that decision.

KAREM: I think he'll run both ways. It's Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

KAREM: -- I think he's going to say whatever he needs to say, however he wants to say it, depending on what the audience is. He'll come out, for example -- that's exactly what he did just in the last two days.

He came out on the South Lawn and said softer, kinder, gentler nation and I'm a loving guy, the smooch, smooch, smooch. He goes to the rally and says, hey, enemy of the people, you're --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: I'm tired of that. Let's say he wins the House.

How huge a blow, David, is it for the Democrats if they lose?

SWERDLICK: It's huge for two reasons. One, because in the immediate next Congress, they have the same lack of leverage that they have right now. They don't control committee chairmanships in either house. The president can still get his bills passed through with his own party on at least a limited number of issues, even though they didn't legislate probably as much as they might have wanted to in this Congress.

The other thing is that Democrats, looking towards 2020, have to say, wait a second. We have been planning on having this, as Ron Brownstein would say, the coalition of the ascendant come out. We're going to focus on white women with college degrees, voters of color, younger voters.

And if they can't at least get the House back for Democrats, which, like you say, it could happen.

KAREM: There's a bigger picture there. If the Democrats don't win the House, we have done -- my newspapers have done a lot of polling.

People come to me and say, look, does my vote count? And I tell them yes. In Montgomery County, there was a guy that won by 79 votes. There was somebody else who won by one vote in another part of the world. So your vote does count.

But with young voters, the Millennials, if the Democrats don't win back the House, there are a lot of younger voters who will think they have no voice in this government. That's the larger picture.

CUOMO: I hear you. We want people to get out there.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAMBERS: -- and if the president, let's say the Republicans do win the House and they do win the Senate, you can find yourself in a similar -- he could find himself in a similar situation as it is currently, which is that with 51 votes, 52 votes in the Senate, it will be hard to push forward his agenda, which is what he's been doing this entire time.

He's been at all these campaign rallies, saying I need to expand my majority.

It hasn't been keep the majority. It was expand the majority in order to push his agenda.

And will that happen in the United States Senate?

We don't know.

CUOMO: To have the first panel of the Election Day be as good as this one, we are off to a good start in terms of having the right vibe and getting everybody moving towards progress.

Thank you very much. Good to have all three of you.

So the analysis is the easy part. All of it predicated on whether or not you decide to take control back of the system.

Here's the irony. You don't think you need to vote because it's about the special interests and the money. The reason it is because politicians act out of fear of consequence, not conscience. And if they don't think they have to worry about the many, they will worry about the few.

So when we come back, we'll talk about turnout. Stay with us.

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[00:55:00]

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CUOMO: All right. You never want to say never in this business. The president is actually expressing regret. In the hours right before the polls open. Here's what happened. He was willing to admit that he had a regret about his tone. Listen to what he said.

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SCOTT THUMAN, SINCLAIR: Is there anything, as you look back at your first almost two years, that you regret, that you wish on you, that you could just take back and redo?

TRUMP: Well, there would be certain things, I'm not sure I want to reveal all of them but I would say tone, I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do, and maybe I could've been softer from that standpoint.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: You have to put it in context. The president insisted he has already toned down his tone in the last few weeks. Let's bring The Lemon on this one now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: That was me going, oh, my gosh.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: It would be really weird if they thought it was me. Two voices coming out of me at the same time.

LEMON: That's happened before.

CUOMO: But I'm big into redemption and forgiveness. I think people change. I haven't seen proof that the president really toned down his rhetoric. After he said that, we had the new Willie Horton ad.

But do you think he's coming in earnest when he says I regret my tone?

LEMON: No. No, of course. He thinks it will win him over some votes. That's a similar question David Gergen in my earlier hour here on CNN said, yes, well, maybe that will get him seven more votes.

But he said -- remember, he said I'm going to be so boring when I'm the president. He didn't do that. He said he wanted to have a softer tone or a more even keel tone, however you put it, I'm paraphrasing, after the synagogue shooting. Didn't happen.

So why would he say it now, looking back?

That's the kind of thing you say when you think you're going to lose something or when it's all over.

CUOMO: It's certainly different. The president -- that was the real Trump there in the beginning where he said I have regrets; I won't tell them all to you.

But he is not one to be quick to show weakness about things. And I wonder if it is a nod to his feeling that the reality is, this could go either way. He could lose control of the House. It would be on him. LEMON: I'm sure. But it also depends on your definition of weakness. For -- most people will tell you that weakness is never looking back over things, having regrets and figuring out what you could have done better, what you shouldn't have done. That's actually a strength.

And so for, in his definition, I think his definition of weakness is to never have any regrets. Never say you're sorry. Never let them see you cry or that sort of thing or any sort of emotion that way. I want to portray myself as strong all the time.

That's an odd thing for most people.

Why is that?

What is the insecurity?

What insecurity is he trying to hide, that he can't allow himself to be a human being?

CUOMO: Well, I'll tell you what, though, he's in the right place --