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Up for Grabs -- 36 Governor Raises, 35 Senate Seats, 435 House Seats; Georgia Voters Are Deciding an Historic and Heated Governors Race; Senate Currently Has 49 Democrats And 51 Republicans; Trump Is Not on The Ballot but His Presence Looms Over All Midterm Elections; Americans Turn Out in Record Numbers for Early Voting; A Divided America Voting to Decide Who Controls Congress. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there, I'm Brooke Baldwin, live here in the nation's capital. You're watching CNN's special coverage of election day in America. In less than four hours the very first polls will close in Indiana and Kentucky, giving the nation the very first signs of whether President Trump and Republicans will keep control of Congress.

In the meantime, voters are pouring into polling places with multiple reports across the nation of long lines at the polls and the early vote is already showing how exceptional this election really is. Here is the number for you, 33 million, at least 33 million ballots have been cast. That exceeds all the votes in last midterm four years ago. And the specifics as far as what's at stake today, you have 36 governor races, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats, not to mention all of the ballot measures, state and local offices all determined by you, the voter, today.

CNN has crews all across the country to bring you the very latest on what both parties are calling most consequential midterm ever. Let's start this hour in Florida where races for governor and U.S. Senate are still neck and neck. Rosa Flores is outside a polling place there in Miami and Rosa, set the scene for us.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, nail biting here in Florida of course. That is what Florida is known for, nail-biting races. Let me set the scene for you because I am live in the financial district in downtown Miami. This is as far as we can go when it comes to getting close to the polling place. You can see that this polling place is at a church. Now, don't let the fact that you don't see a line fool you because here in Florida there has been a very involved electorate.

Before you woke up this morning, 39 percent of Florida registered voters had already voted. If you compare that to 2014, that is a 62 percent increase. Now, when you break that down by party, this is where you get these nail biting, razor thin elections here in Florida because that's the setup that we're starting to see here. Take a look at these numbers. If you break down the early voting numbers, Brooke, 40.1 percent are registered Republicans. 40.5 percent are registered Democrats. And then the rest, the 19.4 percent that are left are no party

affiliation or other. Now, since President Trump took office, about 1 million voters have registered. Now, there is this sense across the nation that most of Florida voters are seniors. That is not the case. 52 percent are millennials, Gen-Zers and Gen-Xers. So young people have a lot of power this time around. The question is will they actually exercise their power and go to the polls?

BALDWIN: We shall see. In Florida, Rosa, good to see you. Meantime, just north in Georgia, the Georgia race for governor is expected to be incredibly close as well. And as we've been reporting, it's already quite controversial with Democratic accusations of voter suppression and Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate, making last-minute claims that the Democrats tried to hack the election without offering any evidence whatsoever. It is also a race that could prove to be historic, as Stacey Abrams tries to become the nation's first black female governor. So, let's go to Nick Valencia at a polling station in Atlanta. Tell me what you're seeing and hearing there.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in Morningside. We saw this morning an incredible amount of enthusiasm. We'll pan over to that corner, the spaces taken up by cars, that was taken up by people earlier this morning. The weather passed through here, raining a good ten minutes and it fizzled out the crowd.

[14:05:00] People did come back and we've seen that ebb and flow all day. We are still being told there's about a 40-minute wait. I took a look inside just a short time ago. I talked to the polling manager here. She's worked here for 20 years and said she's never seen this time of enthusiasm or turnout, not even during Presidential elections. We had historic turnout for early voting, 2.1 early votes cast. I talked to a 24-year-old who said she's never voted in an election, never felt inspired to. She's so upset, she came out and she said her friend are as well. Georgia has the chance to elect the first black female governor in history. I spoke to one voter who said that has inspired him. This is such a close race. It is really neck and neck. What has thrown a wrench into all of this, which could potentially lead to a runoff in December, is that there's a third-party candidate. He's not expected to get much of the vote, maybe upwards of 2 percent. That could be enough in this state where you need 50 plus one majority to win, to send it to a runoff.

BALDWIN: Nick Valencia, thank you in Atlanta. Meantime voting in Texas is under way in what may prove to be a key battleground for control of the Senate. Republican TED CRUZ is in one of the most high-profile and surprisingly competitive races in the whole country, as he faces off with Democrat Beto O'Rourke. So, with me now from a polling place in south lake, Texas, is CNN's Athena Jones. Athena, what's the story in Texas?

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brooke. We're in Tarrant county, the third most populous county in the lone star state and this is a bell-weather county. O'Rourke himself said at the beginning of his run if they're going to win Texas, they're going to have to win Tarrant county. The early voting numbers were very, very strong. Here more than 40 percent, about 41.5 percent of registered voters here cast their ballot before today. 465,000 voters. Of course, we don't have a party breakdown here in Texas, so we don't know exactly what the shape of the electorate is but the size is very large. The administrator here said the voting turnout surpassed even the 2012 Presidential vote. Cruz supporters say they're supporting him because they feel he will support President Trump. President Trump is taking the country in the right direction, they're worried about border patrol and gun rights and conservative judges. Speaking to Beto's supporters, they're talking about how they're concerned about the rhetoric going on in this country, they want unifier and they're fearful for the state of our democracy. A lot of enthusiasm here. We'll have to see how it all wraps up.

BALDWIN: That's one of those Senate races we're watching very closely. Let's expand on that, the battle for the Senate. Republicans are hoping to expand on their narrow majority. Democrats are trying to pull off an upset in a couple of states that Trump won big in 2016. There are key Senate races, Harry, that you will be watching tonight to educate us.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: There are five key races. If the Democrats sweep all of them, it's my guess they will probably take control of the chamber. If Republicans win just one of them, they will maintain control and if they win more than one, they may expand their majority. Arizona, key race. This would be a Democratic pickup. Jeff Flake is retiring. Sinema over McSally. Josh Holly has given a good challenge, the polls are really, really neck here. Let's look at more of them Texas, we just spoke about that, Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz, there hasn't been a Democrat elected to the Senate in Texas since 1988 but O'Rourke Is giving Cruz a good challenge. Let's keep going, Indiana. This is another state that Donald Trump won overwhelmingly. Polls have been really, really close there. And let's go to the state of Nevada, Jackie Rose the Democrat against Dean Heller. The polls are very, very close. We really don't know who is going to win here, just like we don't most of those other states. If Democrats can win all, they'll take control, if Democrat Republican can win one of them, they'll probably maintain control. Don't most of those other states.

[14:10:04] If Democrats can win all, they'll take control, if Democrat Republican can win one of them, they'll probably maintain control. I'm wearing chinos, no tie, though.

BALDWIN: Harry Enten showing off his sartorial choices and also of course the Senate races as well. We'll be brewing the coffee. I have a feeling a lot of those races are going to keep people up overnight. Harry Enten, thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you

BALDWIN: Coming up, we'll look at the Trump impact on these midterm elections where we will see record setting turnout. Has Trump made voting grade again for both sides? Let's delve into that. On the eve of the election President Trump admitted he does have one regret after his first two years in office. He says his tone could have been softer. Hmm. What does he plan to do about that? As for predictions tonight, we will leave that to the lawmakers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you 100 percent sure of victory tonight in your mind?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes, I am. I feel confident that we will win. It's just a question of the size of the victory.



BALDWIN: Welcome back, I'm Brooke Baldwin here in Washington, D.C. you're watching CNN special election day coverage. Let me cite a piece, called "The Two Americas Are on A Collision Course Today" written by senior Analyst Ron Brownstein. He writes "from one direction, Trump faces antipathy among your people and minority voters and unusually broad resistance among college-educated white voters, especially women. On the other side, Trump retains strong support among evangelical, rural and non-college-educated white voters and Including women."

He goes on and he says the results could be a bifurcated midterm result that simultaneously repudiates Trump while providing him some reaffirmation. So let's begin with CNN political commentator and conservative blogger, Mary Catherine Hamm, senior political analyst Rachel Bade, Congressional reporter for "Politico," and CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, former advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford Reagan and Clinton.

So happy election day all. Good to be in your town. Let me start with you and then follow up with you, David. Has Trump managed to do something, no matter what side you're on, that bloggers and politicians and TV ads haven't been able to do because he's made voting great again?

RACHEL BADE, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER FOR "POLITICO": Look, I do think there's energy on both sides and I think it's a bit understated that some of these Republican enthusiasm numbers are pretty good. That's not to say Democrats aren't outdoing them because they are but they're closer to parity than what they're given credit for. What's interesting is and what we will see in the results is whether we have a situation like 2016 when you have a lot of really excited Trump voters and you have a lot of sound and fury in the Trump way of doing things, we appear on the top line, but you have races that are run completely differently. I'm thinking of an Ohio Senate race in 2016, the Republican outperformed Trump doing a very different game. There are a lot of House candidates on the ground doing a very different thing. Whether that can exist outside of the Trump orbit is the question. It can happen with Senate races. The House is more difficult.

BALDWIN: So, in terms of the enthusiasm, we've seen all the early numbers. Typically, in midterms it's more white, older folks. Typically, skewing Republican than Democrat were really enthused about voting in the midterms. Looking at Trump, do you give him the credit for what he's done?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND FORMER ADVISER TO FOUR PRESIDENTS: The credit and the blame. I do think having more people voting, more millenniums voting, more engaged is a good thing. American politics has always had a raucous quality to it, it has always been rougher. But think about how much more fortunate we are to live in a country where can you vote and can argue than countries like China where you're suppressed. So, I think that is all the good thing.

The bad thing is our divisions -- we have always been divided but we're now divided in ways which I think are quite destructive. Usually after an election people come together and say you guys won, we'll come back another time but right now we're Americans together. The tribal differences are deepening in this election. My greatest fear is we're going to have one party that is basically white and blue collar and another party which has lots and lots of diversity but it's more college educated and those two just have different cultures and different views of life.

MARY CATHERINE HAMM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND SENIOR WRITER FOR THE "FEDERALIST": Speaking of those divisions, Paul Kane at the "Washington Post," he's been covering elections for decades.

BALDWIN: We love Paul.

HAMM: He had a great analysis today saying that the house has flipped control three times in the past 12 years and sort of highlights how divided the country is that we keep going from back and forth and back and forth. I do think if Democrats end up taking the House, we're going to see nothing but gridlock for the next two years.

BALDWIN: I want to get to that but first we talked a lot about your "Politico" piece yesterday and how one of the quotes was from a senior Republican in the House saying Trump has hijacked this election. And part of that conversation and you mention the blame is rhetoric and some rhetoric we just haven't seen in this country since the 50s and the 60s. So that said, this is also what President Trump said just yesterday.

[14:20:00] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 have been softer from that standpoint.


BALDWIN: He's the President. He has a choice.

HAMM: You know who regrets his word choice even more? Peter Roskam running in the suburbs of Chicago, John Culberson who is in the suburbs of Dallas, all the Republicans and traditional Republican strongholds that we shouldn't even be talking about today but they are filled with suburban voters who are educated women who are totally turned off by the President's tone. It comes at a time when the economy is doing great. If Republicans could sort of silence the President for a while and just run on the economy, there are GOP leader who think they would be doing better. Everyone doesn't agree with that because Trump does turn out the base but the economy, everyone thinks it's doing pretty well right now. Still we've got this blow back.

BALDWIN: What's the big surprise in what could send a total curveball your direction through all of this election coverage this evening?

BADE: If you want to be really out there, I'd be very shocked in the Republicans kept the House, right? But I think a more realistic one, a Georgia win for a Democrat, an African-American woman running as a pretty progressive governor for Georgia would be interesting. That's a close race.

BALDWIN: My prediction on that is runoff. Who knows, 50 plus one but what do you think?

GERGEN: I agree absolutely with Mary. If Republicans keep the House after all these polls and all this enthusiasm on the Democratic side, we've had two national polls, CNN and Gallup in the last two days showing a double-digit lead by the Democrats. If the polls are that far off, I think we're all going to be completely at sea in misunderstanding the American politics. I think we may get a hundred women elected to the House. That will be a big breakthrough. And I think we may get a record number of new veterans coming in who will be working in across the aisles.

BALDWIN: 156 veterans on the ballots up and down the country. I was talking to Paul Rieckhoff about that just yesterday. What about your point about gridlock. If the Dems do what we are all assuming, do what the polls show and they do take back the House, you have a Democratic controlled House, Republican controlled Senate and a Republican in the White House, is that gridlock with a capital G?

BADE: All bold and all capital.

BALDWIN: Talk of impeachment and investigations and immigration pushback.

HAMM: Yes. Impeachment TBD but absolutely investigations. The House oversight committee, the House judiciary committee are already ling up their first subpoenas, who they're going to bring in, which documents they're going to request. They're going to go back and look at all of these things that the House Republicans totally ignored, these controversies in the White House. Trump is going to want to fight back against at that. I was talking to mark short just yesterday. He thinks, he's a former White House legislative affairs director, he thinks there's a possibility Dems might work with the President to get something like transportation done, like rebuilding the road and bridges, but I think there's going to be so much bickering. I don't see it happening.

BALDWIN: What does that look like, Trump and the Democrats?

BADE: I do think it's important, there's not a small number of Americans for whom gridlock is a feature, not a bug. They're attempting to give check to him. There's going to be fighting and he's going to counterpunch, his favorite thing to do. And it will be chaotic.

GERGEN: There hasn't been much done legislatively, anyway. For years. And with Republicans in charge of everything. One power the President is likely to retain is appointing judges getting them through the Senate. As long as he holds the Senate that is -- that's been a major feature of what he has done. The number of things he hasn't passed is quite long, such as infrastructure, which is pretty critical to the future. That is one area we might see cooperation across aisles.

HAMM: I do think that House Dems will sort of use this to build the party's platform for 20 as well. They'll use the House to pass legislation that would, you know, expand universal background checks, legislation that reinforces protections for preexisting conditions, bills that go after corruption and money and campaigns. The Senate won't touch them but then the party can use this as a platform to say this is what we stand for, we're going to take Trump out in 20 and launch their own counter-Trump.

[14:25:05] BALDWIN: I didn't want to cut you off, David. Thank you, guys, all so very much. We'll look to see who is surprised on which issue this evening here on CNN. Coming up next, two candidates for governor in Florida, Drew Gillum and Ron DeSantis cast votes, both holding their little ones. We'll look at Florida and other gubernatorial races today. Also, your hour-by-hour viewing tonight. We will highlight which early races could signify the rest of the night will unfold. You're watching CNN's special live coverage. We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: As voters head to the polls today, they will be casting ballots for governors in 36 states. Among those being closely watched, you have Georgia, Florida and Iowa where history could be made and in Wisconsin where the Republican incumbent is fighting to save his seat. And Ryan Young is our CNN national correspondent, who is watching voting traffic outside a polling precinct in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Tell me more about that race.