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Voters Hit the Polls in High Stakes Midterm Elections; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a timeless and cherished honor to serve in our country's armed services. That honor has been Brent's since he served in the Utah National Guard for the past 15 years. And it has been mine for just as long, as I have proudly stood by his side.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Brent Taylor touched a lot of lives. An Afghan officer who served alongside him also testified to his character in an emotional letter written to Taylor's wife. And we have a copy of it here. He wrote in part, Major Abdul Rahman Rahmani, "Your husband taught me to love my wife Hamida as an equal and treat my children as treasured gifts, to be a better father, to be a better husband, to be a better man."

That is the legacy that Brent Taylor leaves on this election day.

A very good -- Tuesday morning to you.


SCIUTTO: It is election day. I'm Jim Sciutto. Thanks so much for watching today.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We are live for you in Washington. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. It's 10:00 a.m. out East, 7:00 a.m. in the West. Polls coast to coast are open now from sea to shining sea. Every state except Alaska and Hawaii where it's still super early. In Oregon and Washington, which do their elections by mail.

If you are not one of the 33 million voters who cast their ballots early this year, and that's an astounding number, by the way, for a midterm, then today's your chance. Your last chance to help choose 435 House members, 35 senators, and 36 governors.

SCIUTTO: You know, we talked to see many midterm elections about not enough people voting.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: It does not appear to be a problem this time around. Literally thousands of offices, judgeships, ballot questions are on the line today, but no question looms larger than this one. Will voters decide to break the Republican monopoly on power here in the nation's capital or give President Trump another two years of virtual free reign.

We have reporters and crews this hour from New York to Texas, Wisconsin to South Florida, across the country. We begin with Gary Tuchman, he's in Powder Springs, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. The man in charge of running elections in that state happens to be running in the state. The secretary of state running for governor. It's quite a tight, quite an acrimonious race.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, Brian Kemp, the Republican, is a player in the election. And he's also a referee in the election. He's the secretary of state in charge of the elections yet he's running in it. And he's running against Stacey Abrams, she's a Democrat. If she wins, and this race is too close to call, she will become the first African-American female to ever be a governor in the United States.

This is Cobb County, Georgia. This precinct in this church gymnasium has been crowded all day. We can tell you, we got here at 6:00 a.m., it opens at 7:00. It was pouring rain outside. We came inside to capture people entering. And it looked like a Black Friday sale when the doors opened at 7:00. There were more than 100 people waiting to vote, and it's been a steady stream since then.

We've been talking to people, unsolicited here. We haven't talked to them before. We don't stage anything. We just want to get an idea.

Can I ask you a quick question, ma'am? Turn around this way. I hope it's not too nervy for me to ask you this. First of all, what's your name?


TUCHMAN: OK, Diana, it sound nervy, but can you tell me who you're voting for for governor? Is it Kemp or Abrams?

CLAIRE: I'd rather not say.

TUCHMAN: That's OK. You don't have to say. You're not required to in this country. But I do want to ask you another question which you are required to answer. OK. Because it won't give away who you're voting for. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, is he helping you determine who to vote for, either for him or against him?

CLAIRE: Yes and no.

TUCHMAN: Yes and no. And yes in what way?

CLAIRE: Yes in certain issues that they are covering that they feel is important for us is what we feel is important.

TUCHMAN: But he is influencing you, Trump, in some way, shape, or form?

CLAIRE: Yes. Yes.

TUCHMAN: OK. And that's the question. Thank you for talking with us.

CLAIRE: Thank you.

TUCHMAN: I didn't mean to grill you so hard.

Everyone is very nice to me when I asked them who they're voting for. No one ever hits me or anything like that, because I set it up like that, that way they don't have to answer the question, but we have been asking everybody if Donald Trump is a reason they're here.

Almost everyone we've talked to, Jim, has said that the president of the United States has some influence in why they're here, either pro or con.

Jim, back to you.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And you can sense some of the sensitivity there. You know, politics are always sensitive. They're particularly sensitive in this time.

Gary Tuchman, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Only Gary can ask those tough questions with a smile and make it work.


HARLOW: All right. Let's get to the battleground state of Virginia. That is where our correspondent Brian Todd is in Sterling, Virginia. So much talk about Virginia, Virginia 10th, what it all means. How the president weighs in there? What are you hearing?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, this is the heart of that Virginia 10th voting district. We're four hours into a very energized morning here in northern Virginia. This is one of those a suburban battlegrounds that's going to be so crucial to determine whether they -- Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives. That's going to play out here where Democrat Jennifer Wexton is challenging the Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock.

I heard Gary talking about -- you know, talking to a voter about what drove them to the polls. I've got a voter here. This is Joe Schuler (PH), he's been a voter here in Loudon County for seven years now.

Joe, tell me what brought you out today. It's a very energized turnout. What brings you out?

[10:05:03] JOE SCHULER, VIRGINIA VOTER: The conservatives and especially the Trump administration leading this country in a disastrous direction and completely unethical direction as well.

TODD: And so Donald Trump is -- was he may be the sole reason that brought you out or there are other things that you care? SCHULER: Not the only reason. I generally vote, but he was

definitely an energizer.

TODD: And what about the people you talk to, your friends, family? Does Donald Trump play a big role in their decision-making against whether to come out and vote or to stay home?

SCHULER: Many of the people I know, yes. He's playing a big decision in them coming out.

TODD: And what about issues? You know, we hear that immigration, health care are the big issues. What's the thing that you care about most that brings you here?

SCHULER: I'm not generally a single-issue voter, but the complete gutting of the ACA and --

TODD: Affordable Care Act.

SCHULER: Yes. It's just -- it's horrible and it's exactly the opposite direction the government should be moving in.

TODD: All right, Joe. Well, thank you very much for talking to us. Pleasure to meet you, and that kind of gives you an idea, guys, of what brings people out here. For better or for worse, for positive or negative, President Trump is driving a lot of people to the polls. People now have roughly nine hours to vote at this polling station. We're told that if people are still in line when they come in here, they're going to get a chance to vote.

And let me swing something around here and show you really quickly, this is a handicap space. They have been helping people who have come here to vote by actually coming to their cars if they can't walk in, giving them ballots, and taking them back in. So they're making it very conducive for people with challenges to come here and vote.

Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: That's great to see. They're going the extra mile for all those folks so everyone can cast their ballot.

Brian Todd, important reporting. Thank you very much.

SCIUTTO: Well, imagine this. Florida, a key race, couldn't have an election without Florida being at the center of a high stakes race. Hialeah, Florida, is where our Rosa Flores finds herself today.

What are you hearing from voters there today about what's bringing them to the polls?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, I talked to one voter who said that this is the best country in the world. We enjoy democracy. We enjoy freedoms, and how do you maintain that democracy and those freedoms? By exercising your right to vote. That's why one voter said that she was here very early this morning. Take a look over my shoulder. Polls here opens at 7:00 a.m. and we do

have an update from the secretary of state here in Florida. Updated early voting numbers. Hear this. 39 percent of registered voters in Florida have already voted. That's more than five million people.

Now Florida is known for its nail-biting races because races usually are here won by razor thin margins. You've got to look at these numbers with me. Republicans, the breakdown -- this is the breakdown by party. Republicans make up 40.1 percent of those votes. Democrats, 40.5 percent of those votes, with no party affiliation and other making 19.4 percent.

Again, nail-biting races here in the state of Florida. And there are --

SCIUTTO: Rosa, sorry to interrupt. We're just seeing a live picture now of Andrew Gillum, who's Democratic candidate for governor in Florida casting his ballot in Tallahassee, Florida, where he happens to be the mayor as well. Just one of the most hotly contested governors races, bellwether for which party is going to have the upper hand. A little bit of a difficult signal from inside there.


SCIUTTO: But that was Andrew Gillum casting his ballot.

Rosa Flores, thank you very much from outside a polling station there as well.

HARLOW: OK. Rosa, thank you.

On a day when millions will go to the polls, where is the president? Our White House correspondent Sarah Westwood joins us live outside the White House.

You know, Sarah, ahead of today, the president has talked a lot about that Florida race and a lot about that candidate who just voted, Andrew Gillum.

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and President Trump had endorsed Gillum's Republican opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, in the primary. There was a lot of controversy around that decision, given that this is one time considered a very winnable race for Republicans, and there was some thinking in the party that perhaps DeSantis' primary opponent could have been a better match against Gillum. And this is just one of the many races that the president will be watching closely today.

We're told by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders that the president will be making calls today, keeping tabs on those House, Senate, and gubernatorial contests. We're also told that the president is likely to stop by the war room that his political team has set up in the East Wing of the White House to keep tabs on voting throughout the day, and then later the president will be inviting friends and family into the White House residence to watch the election results. There's no clear answer yet on whether the president will make some

kind of statement or appearance tonight once the verdict to voters becomes clear. And the president has already started to set expectations when it comes to the House. He's acknowledged that there's so many districts across the country that he wasn't able to visit them all or at least that's the excuse that he gave for focusing primarily on the Senate in the final weeks of campaigning when he visited those eight states, held those 11 rallies just in the past week.

[10:10:04] The president seems to be staking more of Republican hopes on the Senate, and of course, he'll be watching those returns tonight from the White House residence with his family -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Sarah Westwood, thank you. Appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, we are focusing on your vote today. We have reporters across the country following all the key races. We're going to bring you updates from each of those races as we go forward.

HARLOW: It's not just the names on the ballots today. Amendments in several states could have very significant implications on voting rights across the country. Stay with us.


HARLOW: All right.

[10:15:01] There you're looking at a shot, not the best shot, but Andrew Gillum, the Florida Democratic candidate for governor there, is voting. This is at a polling station in Tallahassee, Florida.

This is a race that the country has put a lot of attention to, but also of course the president has talked a lot about this race. We'll bring you -- I think he's going to make remarks to reporters in a little bit so we'll bring that to you. This is him voting just moments ago.

SCIUTTO: Well, the candidates know every vote counts. It's a message we're hearing from a lot of folks.


SCIUTTO: Get out there, exercise your right.

Joining us now, CNN political analyst Jackie Kucinich, CNN political commentators Ana Navarro, Paul Begala, and Steve Cortes.

Steve, if I can begin with you. There's a fair amount of doom and gloom privately on the Republican side and some, you know, positive expectations among Democrats.


SCIUTTO: Listen, polls could be wrong.


SCIUTTO: We've seen that before. How do you feel this morning for the Republican Party?

CORTES: Look, you know, I've said for a while that it's an uphill battle clearly. History argues against us doing well in the House. Polling hasn't been great. That said a lot of the doom and gloom that I'm hearing now is exactly what I heard in 2016.

Now this is a different race than 2016. I'm not saying that, but I would caution those who are already dancing in the end zone that there was a lot of that in 2016 and then a lot of eating crow.

Here's my honest take. I think that it's an uphill battle. Republicans are clearly underdogs, but it is doable. It is winnable.

SCIUTTO: Doable in the House?

CORTES: In the House. OK. Yes. Correct.

SCIUTTO: To be specific. But, Paul, are you also --



BEGALA: Steve makes a great point. You don't want to be sorry, to continue the sports metaphor. The guy who flips the ball to the ref one yard before the goal line.


BEGALA: You know, so Democrats have to get out and vote. These districts have been gerrymandered, you know legally, after the last -- 2010, at the last census, to favor the Republicans. The districts are really stacked against the Democrats. It will take a wave. They need to get out and vote. Especially young people. They really tend not to vote. I was telling Jim during the break, my 18-year-old son, just turned 18, he's going to vote with his old man today. His high school class is watching this.


HARLOW: I mean, how good your son not vote? Right?

BEGALA: Well, he's a good American, and this is the key for young people. Your parents don't tell you this. Voting is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. So --


BEGALA: Young people, go vote.

KUCINICH: All right. That's a bumper sticker.

SCIUTTO: I have not -- right. KUCINICH: All right.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I can't think of much other -- much better things to do that would be more fun.

HARLOW: Let's talk to someone.

NAVARRO: You know, like internet shopping.


HARLOW: Someone to my right who just voted. This was a very difficult vote for you to make. And you wrote a fascinating opinion piece on it on, that you, a Republican for life, voted for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum.

NAVARRO: You know, first, I hated my choices. Right? I've always thought of Florida as a moderate state. This is the place that, you know, nominates people like Jeb Bush, like Marco Rubio. Happy warriors. Optimists. And here I was with a choice of either, you know, Trump's mini me, Ron DeSantis, or a progressive Democrat. And that word scares me. I'm a Republican. The word progressive scares me.

And so I thought about it a lot. And look, unless you've been living in the International Space Station for two years, you know I don't like Donald Trump. Therefore, I don't like his mini me either.

HARLOW: Hold that thought.

NAVARRO: I like that guy.

HARLOW: Let's listen in to the guy you voted for. That is Andrew Gillum after he voted in Tallahassee.


ANDREW GILLUM (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: OK. All right. My wife also voted for me. But we are extremely excited. This has been a long journey. 21 months moving across the state of Florida. Talking to everybody that we can meet. Even as late as yesterday in the Panhandle of the state, talking to folks that are part of the state that, you know, a lot of folks don't think might go my way, but that's OK because what I want folks over there to know, including in the deepest red areas is I want to be their governor, too. And in order for that to be true, you've got to go there, you've got to hear from people, you've got to talk to folks. And let them know that you're planning to work on their behalf, too.

So we're excited about the day, are hopeful that it won't be raining in the rest of the parts of the state. And that we'll do what we have to do to bring out a good victory. So thank you all very much. Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you say to a Republican voter who says she wants to keep a good economy going and that's why she couldn't vote for you. GILLUM: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How do you counter that?

GILLUM: Well, I'll tell you, first off, I get that there are some people who are bought in to the messages of the president and Mr. DeSantis, but what we're going to do is grow an economy where people can work one job instead of two and three jobs in order to make ends meet. We're going to lean into the kind of economy where folks can earn enough where they can not only pay their bills, they can save up enough to take a vacation every once in a while.

That's the kind of economy that we envision for ourselves. Right now in Florida, 44 percent of people say that they cannot make ends meet at the end of the month. 36 counties today out of 67 are economically worse off than they were in 2007. And so when we talk about a recovery, we want a recovery for everybody, not just some but for all.



[10:20:03] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: When we were here, we spoke with you about the historical implications of what may happen today.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you do win today, what does that say about where we are?

GILLUM: Well, I mean, us winning tonight, I think, will send a message to Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis as well that the politics of hatred and of division, of separation, that they have come to an end. At least in this election, that's what we're going to show. That people are going out and they're voting for something and not against. And by voting for something, we're returning the politics of decency and what's right and what's common between all of us. We'll worry about history later, but today, we're working to win.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) worries that the allegations of racism against your opponent, allegations of corruption against you, have overshadowed the issues that matter to people in Florida?

GILLUM: Well, I tell you, all the way along, we tried to talk about the issues that matter to people. I am extremely proud that we ran a campaign focused on expanding access to health care, paying teachers what they're worth, leaning in to the green economy.

We've really, at every turn in spite of all the distractions, have tried to keep voters in the state focused on what matters. I believe that that is what is going to allow us to walk away with a win today. And I'm looking forward to then turning around and going back to those voters whose votes I didn't get and letting them know that I plan to be a governor for them, too. Thank you all very much. HARLOW: All right, there you have it. The Democratic candidate for

governor of Florida, who would make history if he wins as the first black governor of Florida.

Ana, back to you. Look, what struck me was when he said to those in the deepest reddest parts of Florida, I want to be your governor, too. He talked about voting for something, not against something. That was a lot of your calculation as a staunch Republican to give him your vote.

NAVARRO: Yes, you know, and I think it's something that Hillary Clinton missed in 2016. I think she took for granted, she thought Latinos, African-Americans, young people, women, are going to vote for me because they are voting against Trump.

Andrew Gillum understands that it's not enough to give something -- you know, to have people vote against something. People want to feel inspired. They want to feel unity. Look, it's a very sharp contrast between DeSantis and Andrew Gillum. You go to DeSantis rallies and there's people screaming, chanting CNN sucks, you know, we're going to turn, you know, if Gillum gets elected, that he's going to turn Florida into Venezuela. That just kind of demagoguery and division and anger.

And this guy has been campaigning on a positive message of optimism, a brighter future for Florida, and talks about unity. That's the choice Florida has got in front of them. I don't know how they're going to go. I don't know. I'm very nervous about this election and the others, but I think the choice could not be more stark.

SCIUTTO: Jackie, I mean, is it correct, I mean, you contrast that message to what you have heard from the president during his rallies which has been much more focused on immigration, fear, division. Is that message, though, you heard from Andrew Gillum there, has that been a national message from Democratic candidates?

KUCINICH: I don't know if there has been a national message from Democratic candidates across the board because they don't have the figurehead that Republicans have. They don't have someone, I mean, yes, Obama has been to a couple of places, but they don't have the same messenger that has said this is a national election.

I think a lot of the campaigns have been more localized. Perhaps the most common thread is health care, is something you have heard from Democrats and some Republicans, strangely, who may or may not have voted to get rid of Obamacare. That, I think, is probably the most cohesive thing that you've heard across the board.

But listen. And I don't want to talk about 2020. It makes me go like this, but that's going to be one of the challenges.

SCIUTTO: You can wait until tomorrow morning. You know --


KUCINICH: That's going to be the challenge of the Democrat that eventually, you know, rises up through the massive field of candidates, is to bring the Democratic message.


SCIUTTO: Right. Yes. I'm curious how you feel about this, Steve, when you see that message there. Would you have preferred the president to stand on the podium and brag about what he has every reason to brag about?

CORTES: Right.

SCIUTTO: Historically low unemployment and say to some degree what you heard Gillum said there, is that, you know, I want to be the president for red states and blue states.

CORTES: Right. Well, look. Two things, yes, first, I think he should have emphasized the economy more. Absolutely. We got a jobs report this last Friday that honestly our campaign practically wrote that report, I mean, you would think. That's how stellar it was, you know, absolutely firing on every cylinder. And by the way, vastly different and better than the slow growth of the Obama years. So I would have been trumpeting that nonstop these last four days.

So I think the president perhaps missed an opportunity there. But I will also say this. You know, I have seen this constant narrative from media and from his opponents that he's only talking about fear. Look, fear of open borders is absolutely part of his message. But if you actually watch his whole rally, a huge part of it is growth, is economic growth, opportunity.

[10:25:03] So it's both. I mean, it's not either-or. We don't have to choose. We can do both. We can have secure borders and have a strong economy. And you know, regarding Florida, it seems like we're always focused on Florida. Right?


CORTES: It's almost like we should move the show -- move the network to Florida.

NAVARRO: I honestly think you guys should pay us some sort of, you know, tax because we provided you so much political entertainment.

CORTES: Right.

NAVARRO: And just, you know, culture entertainment for decades.

HARLOW: A lot more than entertainment.

Steve, just to you on that point. I mean, you know, handful of months ago on this network, you were on another show and you said they're not immigrants, they're invaders. And you apologized for that and said I shouldn't have used that word. Well, that's a word that has taken on a whole lot of meaning since then. And I just wonder 5 1/2 years after the Republican autopsy and your party said we have to do better with Hispanics, Latinos. We have to have a broad umbrella. Whatever happens tomorrow. CORTES: Right.

HARLOW: What has the use of that rhetoric in the closing days here done to the party as a whole for the long term? Are you worried about that?

CORTES: Right. No, I'm not, and here's why. And yes, look, I don't like the term invaders. You know, I used it myself, I think inappropriately so, but believe me, I'm not remotely soft on illegal immigration. They are trespassers, they are trying to break and enter into our country somehow. I will use very clear, harsh terms. I just don't love the term invader because that connotes that they're coming armed essentially.

But to answer your question more broadly about the future, Hispanics I believe in particular, there's a myth out there on the left and among a lot of media types that Hispanics are soft on illegal immigration. And that's simply -- it's a myth, it's not true. And to a lot of Hispanics, people like my father who came here legally, it's an incredibly difficult process to become a legal American citizen. It's expensive, it's lengthy, it's insanely disrespectful to them, to them presupposed than others can come on their terms.

That they can wave a foreign flag and march to our border and demand that we take them in. I mean, that's offensive to a lot of Hispanics. And what Trump is doing for Hispanics, by the way, which is most important, is increasing their prosperity. And I think that's -- that lived reality is going to really benefit, if it doesn't today, it will in 2020.

SCIUTTO: You know, it's interesting. I think I have these numbers right that Trump, despite his anti-immigrant rhetoric --

CORTES: Anti-illegal.

SCIUTTO: Anti-illegal immigrant, but there are other messages there that-- you know, we've seen the ads. He got 1 percent more support from Hispanic voters than Mitt Romney did.

CORTES: Right.

SCIUTTO: Even with that message so fair point taken.

Paul, final thought. Just as we do this, we were showing some views there -- well, prior was Florida, a nice, big long line in Florida. This is another long line in Powder Springs, Georgia, where one of our reporters is.

But, Paul Begala, your thoughts?

BEGALA: Coming back to what Andrew Gillum was saying after voting. This is something. I helped run the super PAC that ran $190 million of attack ads on Donald Trump and yet we lost. Negative alone -- and I love negative ads. I love them. I'm out of that business now.

(LAUGHTER) BEGALA: But Andrew Gillum has shown us something really important. You've got to be for something, not just against. You have to reach out. You cannot demonize your adversaries. I think the president frankly has been unable, he started, 46 in the election, at 39 in our poll today despite a booming economy. I mean, come on. Like a moderately well-trained chimp in this economy would be at 55 or 65. I mean, a chimp who couldn't do Twitter.

HARLOW: Let's not be comparing any humans to chimps.

BEGALA: Well, I'm just saying, our president is -- should be at 50 percent, 60 percent.

HARLOW: Let's all rise above this today, right?

BEGALA: No, but I'm just saying, we should -- so Democrats should learn, the president is giving us the field of the future of hope, of unity, of positive agenda, and Andrew Gillum, Beto O'Rourke, Stacey Abrams, the three breakout starts of this midterm are all running much more positive campaigns than I think are Republicans.

NAVARRO: You've got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. They've also kept up and responded.


NAVARRO: You know, I mean, look, the debates, the one that Jake Tapper moderated, it was a -- you know, it was wonderful debate and it was lively. And they went toe to toe on policy and on issues that matter to voters. So you've got to be able to respond. You've got to be able to hit back. But you've got to be able to do it with a smile on your face and say it's all for the sake of unity.


SCIUTTO: Well, listen, we're going to know a lot more after we get the results today.

Everyone, thanks very much.

Texas voters at the polls right now to decide the winner of what's turned out to be the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history. We'll be right back.