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High-Stakes Midterm Elections: What to Watch For; Tight Texas Senate Race Between Cruz & O'Rourke Most Expensive Ever; GOP Gov. Scott Walker Fighting for 3rd Term in Wisconsin; How Important is the Midwest for Democrats; Trump Has No Public Events Scheduled Today. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] (CROSSTALK)

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He held a ceremony in the Rose Garden celebrating them voting to do precisely that. Your client, Karen Handel, voted to do that. Martha McSally, who now says she never met the Martha McSally who voted to do that. In court, the administration is now, with Republican attorneys general, in court arguing the ACA provisions protecting preexisting conditions should be declared invalid.


BROWNSTEIN: For him to say some day --


BROWNSTEIN: -- he would sign a deal to protect it --


SHIELDS: So that's fine. That's fine. Democrats are playing on their fear. That's what Republicans did. Republicans are talking about border security, and Democrats are vulnerable because they want to abolish ICE and they want an open border policy.


SHIELDS: It's OK to talk about fear when there's a policy.



BROWNSTEIN: You think the way the Democrats talk about preexisting conditions and the way the president talks about race are comparable?

SHIELDS: Yes. I think they're both fear.

SANDERS: No, that is not comparable.

SHIELDS: Democrats try to scare seniors on Medicare every single election cycle.


SHIELDS: That's a fear motivation.

SANDERS: The fact of the matter is they're not trying to scare --


SANDERS: The fact of the matter is they're not trying to scare folks. People are scared. Paul Ryan and Republicans in House and Senate have said that we are going to have to raid Medicare and Social Security to pay for your tax cuts. They have voted on these things. I sat with mothers in Pennsylvania three weeks ago who have children who have complicated medical conditions, whom if they were to lose coverage for preexisting conditions, their kids would literally die.

SHIELDS: That's a fear message.

SANDERS: But this is real life for these women, for these mothers across the country. The fear that the president and Republicans have played on is manufactured fear. It's scare tactics. It's demonizing brown people, saying they're coming to the border and are going to invade our country and take your jobs. That's not true. It is true Republicans have voted to take away preexisting conditions and will do it again.


BOLDUAN: Here's the only thing that matters. We can say it all together. The only poll that matters today is everyone heading to the polls and voting because voters could have the final say on this fabulous debate we're having here.

Thanks, guys. Really appreciate it.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the southern showdown that has already made history. Ted Cruz fighting to keep his seat from Democratic challenger Beto O'Rourke in the most expensive Senate race ever. We'll go live to Texas.


[11:36:54] BOLDUAN: Now, to the battle in Texas. A showdown that's garnered national attention throughout the campaign. Democrat Beto O'Rourke trying to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz in what has become the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history.

CNN's Athena Jones is in the Dallas suburb of South Lake, Texas, for us.

Athena, what are you seeing there now?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kate. There's a lot of enthusiasm here in Tarrant County. This is the third-most-populous county in the state of Texas, and it's the last large urban county to be a red county, to vote Republican. There's -- this is a bellwether county, that's why we're here. This county, President Trump won it by nine points. That's exactly the margin that he won the state of Texas by. And we have heard from folks, from Beto O'Rourke, who hopes to replace Senator Ted Cruz, they're going to be watching closely to see what happens in this county. O'Rourke has said, as Tarrant goes, so goes Texas. We have to win Tarrant County to win Texas.

Our cameras caught up with O'Rourke outside a polling station in El Paso this morning. Listen to what he had to say.


BETO O'ROURKE, (D), SENATE CANDIDATE IN TEXAS: Texas is not going to be defined by our fears. We're going to be governed by our ambitions. We're going to be fiercely focused on the future. And we're going to do this together. We just do not care about the differences between us right now. We want all of us, Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike, to come together and do something great for this country. And that's what I have heard from the people of Texas over the last 22 months. That's what folks are voting for today. I think that's what it's going to represent.


JONES: And Beto O'Rourke is going to need high enthusiasm on his side. We have seen the early voting numbers here in this county. The early voting ballots topped 465,000. That's far more than in past midterms. It's even more than the early vote totals in 2012, according to the election administrator here. Early voting in Texas, 4.8 -- more than 4.8 million. A lot of enthusiasm. The question is on which side. We talked to voters on both sides. Supporters of Ted Cruz who support him because he's going to support President Trump. They believe President Trump is sending this country in the right direction. They want to see strong border control. They care about the selection of conservative judges. People supporting O'Rourke tell me they are concerned about the heated rhetoric in the country. They want a unifier. And that's what they see in O'Rourke. We'll see how it turns out -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Good to see them all there.

Athena, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

[11:39:23] Coming up for us, Republican Governor Scott Walker in a tight race to keep his seat in Wisconsin. He's not the only Republican on the ropes right now in the Midwest. Details ahead.


BOLDUAN: Wisconsin is one of 36 states choosing governors today. Republican Governor Scott Walker is running for a third term, facing his toughest challenge yet. He's in a dead heat with the head of the Wisconsin state's public schools, Democrat Tony Evers.

Let's go to the ground there. CNN national correspondent, Ryan Young, is on the ground for us there, and has some people with him.

Ryan, what are you hearing?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's been one of those days where it's been raining and cold. People have been lining up since early this morning to vote.

I grabbed these two voters to ask them their opinions about what's going on.

I asked you before, what motivated you about wanting to be here to vote today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just important. We have a close race with our governor. So it's important for us to get our vote in.

YOUNG: How do you think Scott Walker is doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he'll do fine. You know, we got low unemployment. Taxes are going down. I don't want to go back to the old days, so that's why we're out here today. Basically. But there's a Senators race going on, too, so we had to put our votes in for that.

[11:45:11] YOUNG: Fantastic. Thank you.

So you heard that from them. They basically believe things are going well in the state. We also heard from people concerned about wages and health care. A lot of issues but what we have also seen is a motivated public in terms of people filing in there and getting ready to vote -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Ryan. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

Great to see those voters as well.

Joining me now, the former Democratic mayor of Maryland and former presidential candidate, Martin O'Malley.

Governor, great to see you. Thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: We were talking about it in the break. You have been all over the place, campaigning, speaking out, campaigning with Democratic candidates. It's not just Wisconsin. You have governors throughout -- you have governors in races throughout the Midwest that are getting a lot of attention. And it makes me wonder, you know, Trump made big inroads in the Midwest in 2016. How important is the Midwest in terms of what happens for Democrats in 2018 and beyond?

O'MALLEY: It's critically important. It's also critically important to the sort of Congress we have.

BOLDUAN: Yes. O'MALLEY: Because I think you're on to one of the big stories potentially of this night. That is the potential sweep from Pennsylvania through Ohio and all across the Great Lakes of Democratic governors being elected in states that have had their congressional delegations gerrymandered in a kind of lopsided Republican way. You look at the exciting race in Ohio, with Cordray, you look at Wisconsin, of course, and Michigan, Minnesota, Fred Hubble in Iowa, and even Billy Sutton in South Dakota is making it close, even beyond that swath. You could see a whole swath of blue across the Great Lakes from Pennsylvania to South Dakota.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about there are some big-name progressive candidates that have been getting a lot of attention as well. You have the Florida governor, the governor's race.

O'MALLEY: I was there the other day.

BOLDUAN: You also have the Senate race in Texas. If progressives do not win in some of these big and critical seats, is it time for the party to move away -- is it a message the party needs to move away from the progressive wing going forward?

O'MALLEY: No, I don't think so. Look, I think what's really happening out there's a new generation of leadership, somewhat suppressed over the last few years, is actually coming into their own. So many of the attitudes that progressive attitudes, the messages have been greater inclusion, socially, economically, politically. You see it in, you know, wanting people to vote rather than trying to suppress the vote. You see it in the economic policies. These are attitudes that are endorsed by young Americans, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. I think this is a movement forward in the Democratic Party and for the country.

BOLDUAN: If today, if this election, these elections are a referendum on President Trump, what does -- what does success look like for you come tomorrow? You have been out in -- you have been out in these races, out with these Democratic candidates. What does a rejection of President Trump look like in the results to you?

O'MALLEY: I think it's an affirmative vote for those messages that you have heard on your show today, of decency, dignity, solidarity, that we're are all in this together. And I think -- what does victory mean? I think it means regaining Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives. I think it means regaining a majority of Democratic governors across the country, particularly in those Great Lake states and other states like Florida, Georgia, places with lots of Democratic voters. And it also means one other thing, and that is flipping a number of state Houses across the country, Iowa, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Colorado, New York. There are many states that are on the verge of turning their state Senate or their state House blue. And that is also critically important for the sort of governing coalition that these governors will have and also for the redistricting that follows in just two years. That's how I see it, House of Representatives, Democratic governors and also a number of state House chambers.

BOLDUAN: Notably missing from your victory list is taking over the majority of the Senate.

O'MALLEY: That would be awesome. And that would be --

BOLDUAN: Less likely.

O'MALLEY: Yes, that would be awesome.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Mayor.

O'MALLEY: Great seeing you.

BOLDUAN: And Governor. Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

O'MALLEY: Thank you.

[11:49:18] BOLDUAN: Coming up, after an aggressive campaign push, President Trump is planning to stay out of public view today. So what's he up to behind the scenes?


BOLDUAN: One of the people most talked about this election is so far nowhere to be seen. President Trump staying away from the cameras as voters head to the polls today. What is he doing instead?

CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House.

Sarah, what's the president up to today?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, the president is staying out of the public eye as voters cast their ballots. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said he will be making calls and keeping tabs on the races unfolding all around the country. And we're told, at some point, he will likely be stopping by the war room that his political team set up in the East Wing of the White House, where they are also keeping tabs on all the races. He and first lady, Melania Trump, have invited friends and family to watch the election returns in the White House residence. And that's where the president will get a chance to see if the divisive immigration rhetoric he unleashed at the home stretch of the midterms motivated voters to get to the polls like he and his allies had argued it would. This, even as President Trump told Sinclair Scott Thurman (ph) last night that one of the top things he regrets about his presidency is his divisive rhetoric, and saying perhaps he would like to change it. That's something, Kate, the president will have a chance to see how effective his divisive rhetoric was, later tonight.

[11:55:04] BOLDUAN: Let us see if there was a change in the rhetoric after tonight and if we will see the president come before cameras at all.

Great to see you, Sarah. Thank you so much.

In case you couldn't notice, it is Election Day, friends. The first polls close in six hours. Taking a look right now at live voting in Cleveland.

More of our special election coverage straight ahead.