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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Standing By For Polls to Close in Six States. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:02]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Democrat Amy McGrath has a chance of defeating Republican incumbent Andy Barr, who rode the Trump wave to a big victory two years ago.

In the fight for the Senate, Democrats are on the defensive in Indiana. The incumbent Democrat, Joe Donnelly, has embraced key aspects of the Trump agenda to try to hold on to his Senate seat in this state, where the president won by double digits. Donnelly is facing a tough challenge from Republican Mike Braun.

As we stand by for the first votes, let's check in now with our Manu Raju on Capitol Hill -- Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, senior Republican officials who are bracing for the possibility they may lose the House believe that President Trump's scorched-earth message on immigration may have hurt vulnerable incumbents in key races.

For instance, one in Texas, John Culberson, a Republican source told me internal polls showed him up by a small amount before the president shifted on this message. The president went to Houston, railed on the issue of immigration. Now internal polls show him losing that race narrowly.

The same goes for key Republican candidates in Florida, Carlos Curbelo, as well as some in California as well. They believe the message should have been about jobs, their message of jobs vs. mobs, and not the immigration issue.

So if Republicans do, in fact, lose the House, expect that blame game to intensify tonight and into tomorrow morning, but already concern about the way the president has handled this issue in the last several days here, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Now let's go to Pamela Brown. She's at the White House.

Pamela, what are you hearing?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump and his team, Jake, are anxiously awaiting the results in Kentucky. This is one of the most closely watched House races by the president's team. It is a district that the president won by 16 points during the last

cycle, but this has been a tight race for the Republican incumbent, Andy Barr, and his Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath. Another closely watched race here at the White House is Pennsylvania, polls closing there at 8:00 p.m.

One White House official I spoke to earlier that says if the Republican incumbent, Scott Perry, wins that race in Pennsylvania, they will view it as a signal there will not be a blue wave. That said, the White House is already framing the possible outcomes. If they lose the House, they're viewing that as historical trends.

But if they gain any seats in the Senate, they're basically painting this picture that the president should deserve all of the credit. And he will be watching the results roll in from the residence this evening with Vice President Pence and those closest to him -- back to you.

TAPPER: No blame for the losses and all of the credit for the wins. That's an interesting idea. Pamela Brown at the White House, thank you so much -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're about to get the first results from the two states where the polls are closing right now.

In the meantime, let's go to David Chalian. He has got some more exit poll results.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf.

We are taking a look at some key areas of President Trump's agenda and seeing how voters are responding to them. Immigration up first, of course. This was his big closing message. We asked folks, are Donald Trump's immigration policies too tough, not tough enough, about right? How about this?

Forty-eight percent, nearly half the voters voting today, tell us that the president's immigration policies are too tough. Only 16 percent say they're not tough enough; 32 percent call them about right.

That may have been a miscalculation on the part of the president in the closing days. How about the tax law that Republicans thought was so critical to their chances of keeping the House? Well, look at this. We asked folks, did the new tax laws help or hurt your personal finances? Twenty-eight percent say helped, 23 percent say hurt.

So a little bit positive, but split decision; 45 percent said had no impact at all, not the clear winner Republicans were hoping for. We also asked about the president's trade policies. How has it impacted the economy in your area? Here is what voters told us today.

A quarter of them said the trade policies of the president helped in their area; 31 percent said hurt. This is upside down, a net negative for the president. And 36 percent said had no impact -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. You know, if we take a look at these numbers, you know, Jake, once again, the president probably is going to be disappointed as far as immigration, the tax law and trade are concerned.

TAPPER: Yes. More people saying that the president's trade policies hurt them than said helped them, most saying, a plurality at least saying no impact.

Tax law, 45 percent saying no impact, 28 percent helped, 23 percent hurt. I'm not sure who would be hurt by it, but in any case. And then there, of course, is the idea about his immigration policies. Forty-eight percent, that's the plurality, saying his immigration policies are too tough, 16 percent say not tough enough, 32 percent about right.

If I were in the White House right now, I would be looking at it and saying, well, 48 percent say too tough and 38 percent say either not tough enough or about right. That's a wash. But this is about policies. I'm not sure if rhetoric is another question that they asked about.

Either way, these are not good answers for President Trump if he is expecting to have a good night, at least when it comes to the House of Representatives.

[18:05:00]

BLITZER: The president made immigration an important issue because he thought it could generate a lot of support among his Republican base.

TAPPER: Yes. And a lot of Republicans in Washington, D.C., were asking him, please talk about the economy, it is less polarizing, the economy is doing so well, unemployment is so low, consumer confidence is up.

But the president decided that he was going to close not just talking about immigration, but specifically demonizing undocumented immigrants, a campaign of fear based on a lot of things that are just not true.

BLITZER: Yes. And as you correctly point out, if the economy is doing as well it's doing, job numbers very good, unemployment very good, why do the majority of the population think the country is moving in the wrong direction, as opposed to the right direction?

TAPPER: It is fascinating. I have never seen such a split.

More than 60 percent -- I think it was 68 percent of the public, according to the preliminary exit polls, saying that the economy is good and yet a majority, something like 55 percent, 56 percent saying the country is on the wrong track.

Normally, people tend to think of the economy as the main deliverer, the main gauge of how the country is doing. But obviously there is something else going on, where people think the economy is going well, but the country is on the wrong track. And that's something that we will have to find out more about as people dive into these exit polls in coming days.

BLITZER: Let's go over to John King.

And, John, we are getting the first actually results, Kentucky 6. Some numbers are beginning to come in.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's the best part of Election Day, when we can start counting them, Wolf.

And they're starting the count in one of the races that we care very much about tonight. One of the big key races, Democrats trying to take back control of the House. Andy Barr, the Republican incumbent in Kentucky's 6th District, one of their targets -- you just heard Pam Brown at the White House. The president carried this district by 15, 16 points.

This should be safe Republican territory. I'm going to say this a lot tonight. Forgive me if I'm a broken record at home. It's early. Let's just strap in for the night. But Andy Barr, short of just shy of 1,000 votes, Andy Barr with 58 percent, Amy McGrath with 41 percent, 172-vote lead.

Again, this is very early on. We will watch as the numbers change. They might change while we're standing here. You tend to get some early votes right away. It's interesting.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Do Democrats think they have a realistic chance to pick up this district?

KING: It's a very tough district, very, very tough district.

But the late polling showed a very competitive race. And, again, why? If you look at the district, you have some suburban areas here around Lexington, some suburban areas here around Frankfurt.

You get out to the rural areas here. I was just touching the district next door. This is Hal Rogers' district. This is a safe Republican seat. The first results came in from this district. You get out here to the western -- the eastern parts of the district -- excuse me -- this is rural Republican country.

But if you get over here, you do have some suburban areas where the Democrats think they have a shot. And, again, this has been a classic race in terms of the big themes of the campaign. Amy McGrath has said, number one, she just she -- she hoped it's baked in President Trump's unpopular in the suburbs. Number two, he voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare.

Andy Barr has said, look at the tax cuts. Look at the unemployment rate. Why would you send me packing?

BLITZER: So far, a tiny number. So let's see what happens.

KING: Very tiny. BLITZER: Dana, we got our first key race alert.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Wolf, in the state of Indiana, this is state we're going to be looking at closely all night. Right now, it is extremely early. But the Republican challenger, Mike Braun, is a head by about 10 percentage points of the incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly.

And this is one of those important states that will determine the balance of power, Donnelly is one of five Democratic senators who is up for reelection in a state that President Trump won by double digits -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana.

Where is the vote coming in? It's, once again, as we keep pointing out, tiny percentage, very, very early.

KING: A little bit closer to the results. And, again, forgive the broken record. This is very early, but we like to report them as soon as they come in.

Mike Braun, 200 votes ahead, 199, 52 to 49. Will that percentage holds? Who knows. Here's the votes down here. They're coming in from Sullivan County down you see in the southwestern part of the state of Indiana.

The only thing I would say, again, a very tiny percentage of the vote. The only thing you do, when you see them, they start to come in, you think OK, that's a small number. The only thing you do start to check is, how does that match?

For Joe Donnelly, the incumbent, he has to run it up in Indianapolis. He has to run it up in South Bend. He has to run it up in Gary, the urban areas where you have a Democratic vote. He has to run it up in those places.

But if you go back to his race in 2012, he did carry this county. Now, again, he had a weak candidate back then, a weak Republican challenger back then. But he did carry Sullivan County with 51 percent of the vote. So it's one of the things you watch in a race that we expect to be close. We expect to go through the night.

You come back to the results here, again, a few more starting to come in here. Mike Braun stretching it out a little bit. That's not a surprise, because of where those votes are, central part of the state, rural, Trump country, Tea Party country.

This is Mike Pence's home state. Remember, the vice president, just taking a look at it, 67 percent. Just go back in time, for kicks. Again, the Republican won this county last time, a much weaker Republican candidate against Joe Donnelly six years ago than he has today.

Then factor in the Pence effect and the Trump effect in Indiana. It makes it very difficult state. Let's just pull out and see if any more are coming in.

So if you look at the state, I just want to go back to Joe Donnelly's last win. You see up here it's critical for him. Obviously, the urban area, Bloomington, Evansville, Indianapolis, Indianapolis being the most important right there.

[18:10:02]

But as you watch the map fill in, this is Republican country. Mike Braun's challenge, get in the 60s, as high in the 60s as you can, and not just a number. This will be a key test everywhere, but including a state right here.

Are Trump voters coming out? Are the Republicans winning places like this, and not just by the margins, but the numbers, the numbers? And so that's what we will watch as we play this out.

Just come back and see if we're getting any more. Not yet. Very early on. The Republican Mike Braun, Joe Donnelly, again, this seat absolutely critical. If you're a Democrat and you're doing the math from your perspective, if you're a Republican and you're doing the math from your perspective, you're looking at Indiana tonight.

Joe Donnelly must hold if the Democrats have any shot -- it's a steep hill -- to take back control. And Republicans think maybe we can add one, two, in a dream scenario for Republicans, add three to their majority. Indiana would be one of them. So we're just starting. Let's go.

BLITZER: And, once again, let's point out 1 percent, if that, of the vote is now in, tiny, tiny number tiny.

KING: Tiny, and just the first county to go blue. So let's give Joe Donnelly his due.

We showed two Republican counties going blue. Again, you're looking at 3,500, 3,700 votes there, almost 3,800 votes. Little tiny county out here. But, again, they're just starting to come in. This, we expect to be a neck-and-neck race throughout the night.

Just if you remember back in time, 2008 presidential primaries, that tends to come in late. We will see if they surprise us tonight.

BLITZER: We spent a lot of time thinking about Gary, Indiana. I remember that.

All right, the first votes are starting are coming in. We are going to have much more coming in just ahead.

And, remember, the polls will be closing in other states at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:15:15]

BLITZER: Washington, D.C., getting ready for potentially some significant changes. We will see if that happens.

Let's go back to Dana. She has got a key race alert.

BASH: Wolf, we are still watching Indiana. The votes are coming in, slowly, but definitely surely.

Mike Braun, the Republican challenger, is still up right now, but only a little more than 1,200 votes against the incumbent Democrat. Look at that. It just went up a little more as we get more and more votes in. Incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly is trying to hold on to this seat, despite the fact that it is very Republican territory.

And remember, Wolf and Jake, the president went here not once, not twice, not three times, but four times for rallying and campaigning to keep this seat -- or to take this seat out of Democrats' hands.

BLITZER: We will see if it paid off.

Jake, why is Indiana so important right now for both parties?

TAPPER: Well, let's take a look at the Senate landscape right now.

So we start off with 23 Democrats, 42 Republicans not having to worry about tonight, 35 seats remain. Then there's 42 Democrats and 46 Democrats, if you just put the safe seats aside.

We are really only looking at 12 seats tonight. Of these 12, let's just allocate them. OK? Let's assume that Nelson wins in Florida and that Donnelly wins in Indiana, McCaskill in Missouri and then Montana for Tester, New Jersey, Menendez, North Dakota for Heitkamp, West Virginia for Manchin. OK?

Then all Democrats have to do if they hold on to all of those incumbents, which is of course a tall order, but if all they have to do that, then all they have do is pick off two other seats. Arizona, let's say if Sinema has a good night, and Nevada, let's say Jacky Rosen -- then the Democrats can take control of the Senate.

Everything relies on the Democratic incumbents winning tonight, winning.

Now, on the other hand, if you look at the same map and then you think about what the Republicans have to do, well, all they really need to do -- let's assume they win Mississippi, let's assume they win Texas, let's assume they win Tennessee, OK? Those are very traditionally Republican seats. Who knows is going to happen tonight, but they're traditional.

All they have to do then is win Nevada. That's it, and then they control the Senate. So it is much tougher to be a Democrat tonight when it comes to controlling the Senate, but the idea that the control rests on each one of these Democratic incumbents, they need to White House, Donnelly needs to win in order for Democrats to have any chance, any hope of taking the Senate tonight.

BLITZER: And as we will remind our viewers throughout the night, the Republicans only need to get to 50. The Democrats need to get to 51.

TAPPER: And that's because in a 50-50 tie the vice president breaks the tie, and that vice president, of course, is Mike Pence, who would break it for the Republicans.

BLITZER: And the vice president is the president of the Senate.

David Chalian, you got some more results?

CHALIAN: That's right, Wolf.

We're now digging into some of the state exit polls, again, early preliminary numbers.

But we have been talking so much about the governor's contests in both Florida and Georgia, real ideological battles in both states, representing sort of the wings of the parties in many ways. And take a look at this in Florida.

We asked about Andrew Gillum's positions on the issues; 44 percent of voters in Florida, they tell us that his positions are too liberal; 45 percent say they're about right. Well, if that doesn't speak to battleground Florida status, I'm not sure what does.

Ron DeSantis, we asked the same question. And take a look at this; 45 percent of Florida voters today also tell us that his policy positions are just about right; 37 percent call them too conservative. We asked the same question in Georgia about Abrams and Kemp.

Stacey Abrams, are her positions on the issues too liberal? Thirty- nine percent of Georgia voters today say, yes, too liberal. But 50 percent, half of Georgia voters, today, say that Stacey Abrams is about right on the issues.

Let's look at her Republican opponent, Kemp, on this score. And you see here that 44 percent say that he's about right; 36 percent call his policy positions too conservative -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: David, thank you very much.

Bakari, Georgia could easily end up in a runoff. There is a third candidate, and if not one candidate gets enough, it could very much be a runoff between Kemp and Abrams.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I think people recognize that, and that's why the Abrams campaign is telling everyone to stay in line, because I think Stacey Abrams is going for broke.

In fact, I know she is going for broke tonight to avoid that runoff. She wants to get to that 50-percent-plus-one to avoid a December runoff.

And what we have seen is, we have seen an influx of people come in and support her. You had Will Ferrell knocking on doors. You had Oprah knocking on doors. This has become a very, very national race with a hyper-local candidate. People forget that Stacey Abrams was the minority leader in Georgia,

but she represents something much larger than that. We have never had an African-American female governor in the history of these United States.

[18:20:02]

And for her to overcome everything that she's going through, I mean, Brian Kemp's voter suppression, today, they didn't even have power strips and power cords at some of the polling places.

People waiting in line three hours. And to beat back that face of what many people see to be the old legacy of bigotry, that old legacy of voter suppression, if we can get a black woman to do that tonight, then Democrats are going to have a hell of a night.

And that is something -- that race will be something that people pop champagne over, if we can get to that point, but it is an uphill battle.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And there's a really big concern among the president's allies that he did the wrong thing with these races, not only in Georgia and Florida, but also with Kansas and Kris Kobach.

They think that he endorsed someone who could win the primary, but could not win the general, and they think he has made the wrong move here and that they're not paying enough attention to this inside the White House and just how critical these races are going to be and how long-lasting these implications are going to be.

They think the president made the wrong move with DeSantis, Kemp and with Kris Kobach. And that's really a big concern. They do not think that the White House is focusing enough on that. And they think it is going to affect not only 2020, but possibly 2022, with redistricting and whatnot.

And that is a really big concern among the president's allies who are outside of the White House.

COOPER: But for those nationally who may not be interested in a governor's race in a state, it does have long-term effects on redistricting.

(CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: That's the most important...

(CROSSTALK)

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And it portends the future because President Trump's margin of victory, say, in Georgia was much smaller than probably you imagine it was.

In fact, it was closer in Georgia than it was in Ohio. And so Georgia may be the new Ohio. We talk about Ohio as the main presidential bellwether. It might be Georgia.

The Sun Belt phenomenon where Republicans are doing better -- or Democrats are doing better than they used to, it is going to move that 2020 battleground focus south a little bit.

COOPER: Scott, you know Kentucky very well, obviously. What do you make of the race with Amy McGrath and Andy Barr?

JENNINGS: Well, this is -- you know, people in both campaigns have said this is on a knife's edge for weeks. Nobody knows what is going to happen.

The Barr people felt confident in their rural turnout operation today, but I know the Democrats would tell you that they had the best on-the- ground turnout ever they have ever had for a federal congressional candidate in Amy McGrath. And that was all over that urban part of the district, which is Lexington, Fayette County.

That's about 40 percent of the district. President Trump went here. He went to Richmond, which is south of Lexington. Vice President Biden went here. He went to Owingsville and Bath County, also a rural county. The name of the game for McGrath, keep the margin of victory for Barr in the rural areas down.

If she does that and maybe gets better than 53 or 54 or Fayette, she's got a shot.

COOPER: Right now, Andy Barr is 357 votes ahead. Obviously, it is still very early. Polls just closed about 22 minutes ago.

Just in terms of the state polls, also just in Florida and the governor's race, that's also been a fascinating race.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it.

I mean, we talk about why governorship matters. Think back to the election of 2000 in Florida. Whoever is a governor matters in the next presidential election.

But one thing to watch tonight is the Trump map from 2016. Remember how he changed all of the Midwestern states from Iowa to Wisconsin to Michigan to Pennsylvania, Ohio. Those states all have governorships tonight. So, and Democrats in each one of those states are either within the grasp of winning or slightly ahead here.

So that will also be a repudiation for, you know, just what happened in 2016. So it portends big things for 2020, which is right around the corner's edge here. The president already thinking about this. I was talking to one ally of his.

I said, the rallies are finally over, right? And they said, no, no, he likes the taste of these rallies. He is going to keep doing them over and over again. The question is, he won't be able to do it in red states, but watch those governor's races tonight.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, imagine, imagine if Democrats, likely to hold Minnesota and Pennsylvania governorships, but imagine if they pick up Illinois, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin. Imagine what that does to the map.

The middle of the country becomes this blue stronghold. That will position Democrats very well likely for 2020.

SELLERS: But I just want to chime in real quick, because we mentioned something, but I want to make sure that the viewers understand.

As a former state legislator, the most important year that you have is 2020 and 2021, because that is when you begin your redistricting process and you draw congressional maps and you draw statehouse maps, and you can determine the fate of the United States Congress during that one year.

And so, when you have a governor, when you have a Democratic governor or a member of your party who is overseeing this process, who can veto a map, then that actually has ripple effects for an entire decade.

That's why these gubernatorial races tonight are so important.

COOPER: Just minutes away now, the first big round of results, as all voting ends in six states.

We will get results in the heated Georgia governor's race -- or the beginning of them at least -- much, much more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:30]

BLITZER: All right, let's check in with Dana.

She has got a key race alert in Indiana.

BASH: And, Wolf, Indiana is one of those seven battleground states that Democrats are trying to hold on to tonight in order to have any chance of taking over the Senate.

Right now, the Republican challenger, Mike Braun, is ahead. It is still, as you see there, very early, but he is ahead significantly against the Democratic incumbent, Joe Donnelly -- Wolf and Jake.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

David Chalian, you are looking at Indiana as well, courtesy of the exit poll.

CHALIAN: That's right, Wolf.

We are taking a look at the Trump factor in Indiana. We know -- we have been talking about how hard it is for these Democrats running for reelection in Trump country. Take a look at this.

Donald Trump's approval rating, according to voters in Indiana today, is at 52 percent. He's right side up. He has got a majority approval. We also asked about how Trump is impacting people's votes here. Are you voting in support of Trump?

Thirty percent say in Indiana they're voting to support Trump. But look at this; 34 percent in Indiana are telling us they're voting to oppose Trump, and 32 percent say the president is not a factor in this vote.

This suggests to me that this could be the close contest that some of those pre-election polls have shown it will be.

BLITZER: We certainly are anticipating a close race. Less than 1 percent of the vote is in, Jake.

And, clearly, if you take a look at the president, got a positive approval number in Indiana -- 52 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove, according to our exit poll.

TAPPER: It seems like so long ago, 10 years ago, when President Obama, then Senator Barack Obama, won the state of Indiana.

He did not go on to win it again when he ran for reelection in 2012.

[18:30:17] Donald Trump won Indiana by almost 20 points against Hillary Clinton. So the fact that Joe Donnelly has made this as competitive as it is says something positive about the campaign he's been able to run, but ultimately, this is a Trump-supporting state. And Donald Trump is a positive. He is a -- he is a wind at -- beneath the wings of Braun.

So the idea that Joe Donnelly, this always was going to be an uphill fight. We'll see what happens. It was kind of a fluke when Donnelly won. Not a fluke, but he was an underdog and it was an upset when he won six years ago. We'll see what he's able to do tonight.

BLITZER: Yes. His opponent, that was not necessarily a strong candidate.

John, let's take a closer look at Indiana right now. Once again, only 1 percent, if that has voted.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Just 1 percent.

BLITZER: Has come in.

KING: Has come in. So we're going to be at this a while. To Jake's point, the president is above water. That's one of the reasons Republicans think the Senate map is so different and one of the reasons they're hoping -- they're hoping at the end of the night Indiana is still red. It's the first of the Senate contests where we're starting to get results from, so let's dig in closer.

This doesn't tell us much, let's be honest. It's very early in the results, except that it tells you that Mike Braun is winning early, again, very early results in the places he has to win, the smaller rural counties. And if you bring it back out here -- I'm sorry, that jumped in on me -- I just want to show you what I mean by smaller rural counties. Ninety-two counties in Indiana. This is 0.4 percent of the population.

So you think, OK, Randolph County doesn't matter much, but yes, it does. When you've got a 50-50 race, every vote counts. So the challenge is are you running up the percentages but also, are you getting turnout, every last Republican Trump voter coming out.

So it's a key test as we look at it. Just two quick points I want to make. Here, Monroe County, college town, Bloomington, polls opened for an extra hour because of long lines. So the results are going to be Indiana is a late state anyway, sometimes.

Also up here, not Lake County. We'll get to that in a minute, but Porter County also has had some poll openings, polls extended, the closings delayed, if you will, because they want to let people vote longer because of some issues here. Nothing bad or anything, just time to keep people voting here.

So as we wait for the count, we're going to wait for it to come in. If you're Joe Donnelly, you never like being down, but you say it's early and so you're waiting to see what happens here. Can you pad it up here? Can you stretch it out here? More Democratic votes here as you get closer to Chicago, African-American population, suburban population.

Down here where I just said, the college town where the vote is extended.

So if you 're in Joe Donnelly headquarters, the red on the map, nothing on that map surprises you just yet. You're waiting for more votes to come in. This is one of these races -- I think it was Jake, Dana noted the polls were a dead heat at the end. Everyone expects it it's going to be very close at the end of the night. You get into a long count in the state of Indiana. We've done that before. We'll do it again.

BLITZER: Yes. Because the Democrats, they're waiting for Indianapolis, for example. That's a big chunk of the population right there, 14 percent of the population, no votes counted, at least released yet.

KING: Right, 14 percent, and in the race that Joe Donnelly won six years ago, again, against a much weaker Republican candidate, with 64 percent of the vote. I would posit, because Mike Braun is a stronger Republican candidate; because the president has been out there; because the vice president is from there and is closely in touch with the Indiana Republican operation. If you are Joe Donnelly, that's a good benchmark. You might even need to do better. You've got to run it up here.

BLITZER: Yes.

KING: You have to run it up in the city, in the suburbs around it.

David Chalian said the president's approval rating was 52 percent in Indiana today. He won 57 percent of the vote four years ago. Donnelly has to hope that slight drop in the president's popularity somehow brings him over. We're going to watch. Let's get back to 2018, make sure we're watching the result as they come in. Six thousand votes, just shy of that for Mike Braun, but --

BLITZER: One percent.

KING: -- remember that, 1 percent.

BLITZER: Let's take a look at the House of Representatives right now. There's some races, we're getting some results already. At the top of the hour we're going to have a whole lot more.

KING: Top of the hour we start to get some Florida, some Virginia, some Georgia. Right now, Indiana and Kentucky are what we're looking at.

And so let's start in Kentucky. All of the Republican districts are filling in so far. This will help people throughout the night. You see "leading the vote." It's leading the vote; that's not called. But you have no Democrats leading, five Republicans leading. Down the bottom here, you see if they're flipping districts. So five Republicans are leading, zero in Dem districts. So the Republicans are leading in Republican districts, doing what they're supposed to do, if you will.

What they need to do -- This is the district we' re watching most, the 6th district, and we got these early votes a long time ago. Nothing has changed. So we've just been waiting on this race to see more votes to come in.

Andy Barr is the Republican incumbent. Amy McGrath, the Democratic challenger. A good candidate. One of the things Democrats have done in most of these races -- there are some exceptions. We'll get there. We'll get there throughout the night. But in most of these House races that they're trying to make competitive, they've recruited good candidates. Retired military fighter pilot.

Andy Barr says, "We cut taxes. The economy's doing great."

She says, "You voted to repeal Obamacare and take away people's pre- existing coverage." The national argument has played out here in Kentucky 6. The president won here by 15-plus points. If this one starts changing to blue tonight, then you're seeing something.

If it stays red, what does that tell us? The Democrats can still get to the net 23 they need if this one stays red, but it tells you that it's going to be a harder task.

[18:35:05] BLITZER: In a few minutes, at the top of the hour, we're going to have poll closings in most of Florida and in Virginia. And potentially, we could get some indications of which direction the country is moving.

KING: In some ways better indications, not to discount Kentucky 6th, which is a huge race. If the Democrats -- the Democrats think they can get 23. The question is can they get 30 or more? Kentucky 6th factors huge into that. You're talking about these other races over here when you come to

Virginia right here, the 10th Congressional District. This is a must- win for the Democrats. Barbara Comstock, the Republican incumbent, Jennifer Wexton, the challenger. Washington, D.C., is right here.

This is the part of the country where Donald Trump, frankly, is most toxic, close-in suburbs. This was a struggle for him in 2016. It has become more of a problem during the first two years of his presidency.

Jennifer Wexton, this is what the Democrats hope is plus one in Virginia, one flip right there. We'll start to get results very soon.

Then the question for Democrats is if they get one in Virginia, yes, they can get to 23. Their goal is to get two or three in Virginia. Then they think, OK, if on the east of the Mississippi, especially out here way towards the east, they want to start to build fast to give themselves a cushion, if you will.

So what do they think? Much like we just talked about Kentucky 6th, watch Virginia 7th. This is Dave Bratt, knocked off Eric Cantor, a member of the House Republican leadership in a Tea Party primary upset, a Tea Party primary upset. Yet, the Democrat very competitive. The late polling in this race, Abigail Spanberger.

And, again, I talked in Kentucky, you have the health care versus the tax cut argument. Here, it's more about demographics: the suburbs versus the rural areas. Abigail Spanberger must do well in the Richmond suburbs where President Trump has issues with suburban women. They have younger voters. Do they show up? They have some minority voters. Do they show up? This should be Bratt country up here, but, again, as we watch it, Tea Party, Trump voters, not only is he winning but are they coming out? That will be a great test in Virginia.

There's another race down here, Scott Taylor's district down here in the corner here. Democrats think they have less of a chance here, but again, is there a wave? Is there a blue ripple or a wave? Watch the results here. It will give you an indication of that in Virginia at the 7 p.m. hour.

And again, as I noted, there are a couple in Georgia that are longer shots for the Democrats but a couple of possible races down here. If you come up here and you look, look at our key races right here, they're both in the Atlanta suburban area just north of Atlanta: the 7th District here, the 6th District here. These Republican incumbents should win tonight. These are safe Republican districts, but you have the governor's race down there and a lot of Democratic money poured into these districts. If the blue wave is building, these will tell us that.

BLITZER: We're standing by for our first chance to make projections in some of the key races tonight. Polls are about to close in six states. We'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:41:22] BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's quickly go to Dana. She's got a key race alert -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the numbers are still coming in a little bit more in the state of Indiana. Right now, as you see there on the screen, Mike Braun is still ahead by almost 60 percent; Joe Donnelly, the incumbent Democrat, is trailing.

This is such an important race. We can't emphasize that enough, because it is a key decision as to whether or not Democrats have any shot at taking back the Senate tonight. They have to hold this if the answer to that will be yes. The Republicans understand that, Wolf and Jake. That is why the president has gone to Indiana four times to campaign for Republican Mike Braun.

BLITZER: Very early. Very early in that contest.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Very early. But as we said, Indiana is Trump country, and that's going to be a challenge for Senator Donnelly to hold onto that seat. He can do it. He's kept it competitive. The polls were closing in, and the candidates were neck and neck. But he is facing a tougher challenger in Braun that he did six years ago.

BLITZER: He certainly is. David Chalian is with us, as well. He's looking closely at all of this.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: As you guys know, Wolf and Jake, the closing message for President Trump, he told the country in rally after rally that he wanted it to be, was Kavanaugh and the caravan. This is what he thought was going to juice his base and keep his party in this fight and perhaps save the Senate in Republican hands, as you've been talking about.

So we're checking in on where voters across the nation were on both of those issues. Take a look at this. The view of Kavanaugh's Supreme Court appointment: 43 percent of voters today say they support it, 48 percent -- more -- say they were opposed to the Kavanaugh appointment to the Supreme Court. So not a clear winner nationwide across all voters today for the president.

We asked the same thing about his immigration policies. Are they too tough or not tough enough? This seems to be a split also. Forty- seven percent say the president's immigration policies are too tough, but 16 percent say not enough, add in 32 percent who say about right and you've 47 percent too tough, 48 percent that say not tough enough or about right. Again, a split decision.

So he closed on two issues that weren't clear winners for him in this campaign. Anderson, over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, David.

Kirsten, it is interesting. I mean, clearly, on Kavanaugh, that is something which many in the base were obviously very happy about. It's one of the things that President Trump ran on, on Supreme Court justices. He's been able to get two on to the court. And also, now, immigration, interesting to see the numbers split, because it does sort of contradict earlier, some of the exit polling on immigration said that 23 percent of people said that was their No. 1 issue, compared to 41 percent on health care.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I think that on the Kavanaugh issue, I mean, if these numbers are correct -- and they may change -- this would suggest a more Democratic electorate, because most Republicans did support -- did support Kavanaugh nomination.

So -- and it's also something that, you know, many -- in many of the races was an issue. If you look at Claire McCaskill, this was one of the biggest things she was getting hit on, was her support for Kavanaugh. So there was an expectation, I think, that this was going to be a winning issue for Republicans.

COOPER: Scott, you made the point earlier that after Kavanaugh, that the president didn't really need to do much more to mobilize his base.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, Kavanaugh brought together all flavors and stripes of Republicans: the never Trumpers, the lukewarm Trumpers, the MAGA. It was the first time they'd all been unified, and it was around Brett Kavanaugh.

POWERS: Yes.

JENNINGS: And it really focused them in on what life would be like if these Democrats who were fighting so hard against Kavanaugh got control of either chamber.

[18:45:02] So, I think the party got unified at that moment. I know the national number is a little under water for Kavanaugh, if these election exits hold, but look at it state by state. Where is Kavanaugh in North Dakota? Where is Kavanaugh in Indiana? You know, if Republicans win the rural Senate races, I guarantee Kavanaugh is better off there than he would be in a national sample (ph).

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I think the Kavanaugh thing has been misinterpreted slightly. There are a couple of things. First is, it think it helped coalesce the Republican base as you say.

JENNINGS: No doubt.

SELLERS: But it also energized a lot of women in this country and energized a lot of Democrat leaning and Democrat voting women in the country to say that, I'm going to now grab them by the mid terms now, right? That is the saying you see floated throughout Instagram.

Now, the Kavanaugh bump was real. I was talking to my friend Amanda Loveday who was running a Senate race and you can feel the Kavanaugh vote all the way down in the Senate race, so it is real. But the excitement is something that I think worked for both parties, because women in this country, I think that's yet to be seen, especially college-educated white women which we have been discussing.

CUPP: I think if this election were a month ago, we'd be talking about Republicans taking the House very seriously. That still might happen, but most likely today. We'll see. I'm very curious to see what the Kavanaugh effect will be -- and we won't know until exit polling -- will be on Joe Donnelly in Indiana. He came out earlier than he probably had to --

JENNINGS: Yes.

CUPP: -- against Brett Kavanaugh. Heidi Heitkamp had to make that decision. As you said, Claire McCaskill had to make that decision.

JENNINGS: But there was a reason --

CUPP: The Kavanaugh factor will be interesting the look at for Democrats.

JENNINGS: But Manchin, obviously, there was a reason he did what he did.

CUPP: Yes.

JENNINGS: There was a reason Phil Bredesen in Tennessee did what he did. They could feel it. They could feel it in their states.

CUPP: That's right.

JENNINGS: The Republicans and the conservative Democrats want.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Let's quickly go back to John and Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson. Thanks very much.

John, it looks like a pretty significant flip just now with a key race.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For partisans watching at home, again, it's early in the night. You're all going to get mad at me. Democrats and Republicans are saying this over and over again, but if you are a Democrat, this is what you are looking for, you see blue in a place that started the night red.

This is Kentucky 6th district. We showed you earlier. We had the first votes in, Andy Barr was ahead. Just moments ago, Amy McGrath took the lead, 1 percent reporting, 1 percent reporting, but she is ahead, 5,300, 5251, a 49-vote lead. So, about as close as it gets here.

And again, this why this race, this is a district that should be safe Republican. This is a district the president won by 15, 16 points. This is a district Mitt Romney won.

This is not swing votes. This is not Clinton territory. This is a Republican seat that the Democrats think they have a shot at tonight. So, again, it's very early on, 1 percent of the vote, but as Democrats sit around saying, are we in the building blocks.

In the 7:00 hour which is coming up, the key first layer of building blocks, if you will, are in Virginia, in Florida. If you are looking at the second level, can we get to 23? What is our backup? Can we really get to 30? This is such a vital thing.

This would tell the Democrats, we're winning not just in the districts Hillary Clinton carried, not just in suburbs, districts that are full of suburbs, have a lot of suburban women but winning in places with a piece of the suburbs but stretch into rural tea party, Trump, reliable Republican territory.

So, again, 1 percent. But around the country tonight in both party headquarters, in kitchens, in living rooms around the country tonight if you are a partisan and you're watching this and you're starting early, be prepared to stay up late. The Democrats will be happy. Part is, A, can they win it and, B, can they keep it close and competitive. It tells them a lot.

And, again, just to pull out, it's in the same region. We're going to see what happens. This -- we know the president when you get to New York, New Jersey, the Virginia suburbs, down in Florida in the Democratic areas, you know the president has problems there. The question is can the Democrats perform and deliver?

If the Democrats are going to have an even better night beyond winning the places they should win or the golden targets of opportunity, then they have to start winning, see if they can hold the Indiana Senate seats. These are the House districts in Indiana you are seeing up here and see if they're competitive here in Kentucky 6th. But again, if you are a Democrat and you're just looking for a jolt of energy early in the night, can we get to 23, it is 1 percent, it's 1 percent, don't call your bookie, but the Democrats are happy.

BLITZER: Yes, the Democrats can take this seat, that's a pretty significant signal.

Anderson?

COOPER: David Gergen, is it possible the Democrats have been overly optimistic? I mean, you had Nancy Pelosi going on the Stephen Colbert show saying it was going to be a big night, and he reminded her about Hillary Clinton's firework barge.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they should be cautiously optimistic. Not sort of overwhelmingly optimistic --

COOPER: But if they do not take back the House tonight --

GERGEN: Oh, it would be a shock.

COOPER: -- for the Democrats.

GERGEN: Yes, it would be a shock, especially when you start out the evening with the exit polls looking encouraging.

One of the things watching the votes come in, it is somewhat sobering. You have to keep in mind, the exit polls can continue to be as favorable to the Democrats, but it's not clear the tide will lift all ships. A lot depends on what the conditions in the district or the state.

In Indiana, for example, to have Trump at 52 percent approval is different from having Trump at 44 percent approval, which is what the nationwide exit poll said.

[18:50:08] And so, in these red states, Trump is going to be more popular and it's going to be much harder for the Democrats.

COOPER: Jeff, exit polls are interesting to talk about, but time and time again, they have been misleading.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about it. And we should explain this is the first wave of them. So, as the night goes on, they add interviews and they change and they adjust. But soon, we'll have the real vote come in and the Republicans in the White House have the blessing of geography in Senate races this year.

So the fact that the president went to Indiana four times, that is going to help Mike Braun, without question. We don't know if it's going to be enough or not. But the Republicans I'm talking to right now are concerned about Missouri. I just got a note a second ago saying, keep an eye on Missouri there. Democrats feel stronger.

So as the night goes on, there's a lot happening. So these exit polls, interesting, but the real races will be coming in shortly.

Back to the Democrats in terms of their optimism. A lot of Democrats were wondering what Nancy Pelosi was talking about when she said that, if that was necessary at all. Never mind the fact that she is the central sort of villain in a lot of these ads and they think she's not been helpful. She's been a big fund-raiser for sure, but keep in mind the Democratic Party is still without a big leader.

If they lose the House tonight, boy, talk about a party in disarray.

COOPER: Yes. Let's go back to Jake.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much, just minutes away from the first major round of poll closings on this election night in America with huge consequences for the nation and indeed for the Trump presidency.

At 7:00 p.m. Eastern, all polling places close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia. We're about to get a much better sense of whether Democrats are in a path to retake the House of Representatives and possibly -- or possibly the Senate.

Remember, in the House, Democrats must win 23 Republican-held seats to take back the majority and not lose any of their own. In the Senate, they need to win two Republican-held seats to take control as long as they hold on to the number of seats they have right now.

So, Jake, what are you looking for at the top of the hour?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: At the top of the hour, Wolf, we're going to be watching a handful of contests where Democrats have their best chances, best chances of making early gains in the battle for control of the House.

One key race is in Virginia, the commonwealth of Virginia. Political newcomer Abigail Spanberger, she's in a toss-up contest against Republican incumbent Dave Brat. That race might be an early indicator of how this night will play out for the Democrats.

In the fight for the Senate, we're still watching that heated race in Indiana, incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, has been trailing Republican Mike Braun in the very early results that have already come in but it's very early.

We're also watch ago historic governor's race in Georgia. Democrat Stacey Abrams hopes to become the first African-American woman to lead a state in American history. Her opponent, Brian Kemp, the secretary of state is fighting to keep the open seat in Republican hands.

As we get closer to our first chance to make projections, let's check in with Manu Raju. He's now at Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Manu, what are you hearing?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, top Democrats are telling me they're optimistic after seeing some of the early exit polls showing that health care remains a top focus for voters in this midterm season. Behind the scenes, Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, has told her colleagues they made the right decision to focus on health care as the main issue this election season, and if Democrats do retake the House majority, that is going to be one of her key pitches to members going forward, saying they made the right decision politically and there's no reason to remove her from the top.

Now, Pelosi and her allies looking very closely at the ultimate margin that may come out from any house Democratic majority and Pelosi's detractors in the House Democratic caucus, Jake, also looking very closely at the margin. They believe there's only a Democratic majority of, say, 10 or 12 seats. She could be vulnerable and not become speaker, but her allies are confident because of the way this is looking so far and the chances of retaking the House majority that she will be elected speaker and Democrats will retake the House tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju at Democratic Party headquarters.

Now, let's go to Pamela Brown. She's at the White House -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, as White House officials await the election results, some of those that are watching are expressing skepticism about the polls showing Republicans losing certain races, saying lessons should be learned from 2016 when those polls favored Hillary Clinton.

White House officials I've been speaking with say that they believe the president's closing argument about immigration has resonated with voters but that hasn't been reflected in the polls and they're drawing the -- contrasting that with what happened in 2016. Also, they're making the same argument when it comes to exit polls.

These early exit polls showing that more voters are going to the polls today to express opposition of President Trump. One White House official I spoke with tonight disregarded that, expressing caution to draw any conclusions from those exit polls. Another official I spoke with said they're taking a deep breath. It's still early in the night. The president is laying low and he's watching TV just like the rest of us, according to the official.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown at the White House, Manu Raju at Democratic Party headquarters.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Thank you.

You know, John, the story line, the House of Representatives up for grabs tonight.

KING: Up for grabs and the 6:00 hour has given us a bit of an appetizer. We're about to go into the 7:00 hour, Wolf, which is primetime for some of the early tests of the key races the Democrats must win to get to net 23. What they need to retake the House.

Let's just look at what we have so far before we talk about the hour ahead. The one thing we're looking at on this map, these are safe Republican districts, most of them.

Moments ago, we showed you the Democrat, Amy McGrath had pulled ahead. Since that, just in a few minutes, this is what happens in a close race as the votes come in, Andy Barr, the Republican incumbent, now 60 votes ahead in the Kentucky 6th congressional district. So, this we expect this to be a very competitive race. We're going to count throughout the night.

This is one of the races the Democrats think if we can win here, very safe. Trump plus 15 Republican district, then they would be well on their way. If they can win this type of a district, well on their way to taking back the House.

The 7:00 hour, polls closing in just a few minutes, will give us much better clues on some of the races that are -- the Democrats think are more favorable to them.

Let me start in the state of Virginia. As you pointed out here, there are 11 congressional districts in Virginia but let's look at the races that CNN considers to be key races as w go through this. The first one, all Democrats would concede, to get to 23 and beyond, this is really a must-win.

The northern Virginia suburbs, Washington, D.C., is right here, Barbara Comstock, the Republican incumbent, President Trump, a big issue in this race, so are health care, tax cuts, the economy. Jennifer Wexton, the Democratic candidate. For Democrats to take the majority, this is a must. This is a must. And the questions is, can Jennifer Wexton win? And then you look at by how much. If Jennifer Wexton is performing very well in the close suburbs and reasonably well as you start to move out to the excerpts, used to be Republican territory out here, it's becoming more and more Democratic.

The margins here will tell you a lot. Another key battleground we've been tracking this race very close, shouldn't be, it's a safe Republican district, but again, President Trump's problems in the suburbs, helping the Democrat, Abigail Spanberger down here near Richmond.

Dave Brat who pulled up a huge Tea Party upset a couple of years ago, knocking off a member of the House Republican leadership, he's seeking reelection. This rural part of the district, absolutely critical to him.

Again, this is one of the building blocks the Democrats think, 23 and beyond, do they just get one in Virginia or can they get two or three? That tells you when they talk about, is it a ripple, is it a wave, is it national, is it just in the safe Clinton areas. Virginia will tell us a lot in the 7:00 hour.

So, too, will the state of Florida. Competitive governor's race, highly competitive Senate race as well. Those two races neck and neck. Florida also plays big until the Democratic building blocks if they are to retake the House majority.

You see the key races we have located here. This one's interesting. Nancy Soderberg, former Clinton administration, trying to run against a Republican. This is an open seat, why? The Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis retired because he's the Republican candidate for governor.

So Democrats think, can we? This should be a pretty safe Republican seat. Can we pick off a seat because of Republican retirements? That's a big theme as you go across.

The major battlegrounds, though, more down here to the south. This one, we'll watch very closely tonight. Carlos Curbelo, a Latino, Republican incumbent has spent much of the last two weeks criticizing the president's late campaign focus on the invaders, the caravan, birthright citizenship. Carlos Curbelo, a moderate Republican, believing the president has hurt his cause in recent days.

Another key district, another Republican retirement, Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, retires, Democrats see an opportunity. The question is, did they nominate the right candidate? Former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala against a former TV host and a lot of Democrats thinking this one here could be a missed opportunity because you have someone who more fits with a diverse Latino community here. We'll watch as this plays out again, part of the building blocks to get you to 23 for the Democrats in Florida.

Also at 7:00, there's Georgia, the governor's race, it's the marquee contest here. Brian Kemp, the Republican, Stacey Abrams, the Democrat, but as that race plays out, both parties pour money into turnout. This is a district that any other year should be Republican. We think it's likely Republican but let's see. The Democrats making -- thinking the governor's race might help them with turnout here in Georgia 6 and Georgia 7. Again, if you're thinking, how do we get to 23 and from there, as Manu just talked about, can you build to 30? We're going to get a lot of clues there in the 7:00 hour as the results start to come in.

East of the Mississippi, Democrats believe there are enough districts just there, east of the Mississippi, to get to 23. Wolf, as the polls close in the 7:00 hour, we're going to put their think to the test. We will put it to the test in Virginia, in Georgia, in Florida.

We'll continue to track the results out here in Kentucky 6th as we continue to watch the votes. Just want to check once more on that. The Republicans still ahead there.

Again, the 6:00 hour, the warm-up, primetime starts any second.

BLITZER: We're ready. We're only seconds away, John, from the first major round of poll closings, control of the U.S. Congress, the future of the Trump presidency, all of that and a lot more on the line.