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A Record Number of Women Elected to U.S. House of Representatives; Democrats Take Control of House, GOP Keeps Senate; Stacey Abrams Refuses to Concede Georgia Governor's Race. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: -- remain to be counted and possibly recounted in some very important races and some races are now headed for run-offs. But after midterm elections that most voters viewed as all about President Trump, the big picture is clear. Democrats now have reclaimed control of the House of Representatives. Republicans have strengthened their hold on the Senate.

Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to flip the House. Right now they already have 28. Come January, they will now set the House agenda. They will chair House committees. And the implications for this president, including with the Russia probe, could be seismic.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. The president is set to hold a news conference later this morning. You will hear from him live right here at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. He has already labeled the midterms a, quote, "very big win" for him and for the Republican Party. That is largely because of the Senate. Democratic senators trying to keep their seats in red states had a rough night. Just one Republican senator was toppled. As of now, Republicans have a net gain of two Senate seats, with four races still this morning undecided in that chamber.

All of this brings us to CNN senior political analyst Mark Preston, who has had, count them, 45 minutes of sleep in the last 24 hours.

SCIUTTO: Luxury. Luxury.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's been a big, big night. Of course it's going to be a very big day.

Well, let's just start with the House of Representatives as we're talking about what has happened so far right now. If we look at what's going on right now, Democrats have actually won the House of Representatives. They have 229 seats at this point. They only needed 218. But the reason why I have up this map right here is that I want to go in and show you where we are right now and what is left outstanding because Democrats can add more seats to their majority.

Specifically, here in California we have three seats right down here. Of course, we have a seat out here in Utah as well that we're still waiting on. We have a seat up here in the northwest. And then of course over here in Maine. Now Republicans have an opportunity to pick up a seat right here in

Minnesota. That was once held by Tim Walls. He actually became the governor. We project him to win the governorship. So Republicans could pick up one, but this has been a fantastic night for Democrats when it comes to the House.

SCIUTTO: So on the House side, bottom line, Democrats could be picking up mid-30s, even high 30s, but the Senate, of course, different story there, but still some undecided races, including Jon Tester.

PRESTON: Yes. No question right here. Look at this right now. The Republicans coming into this, I don't think they thought that they would get as high as 55. But look where they are right now. This is extremely important as we head into the new Congress. Where are we right now? When you look at what races we haven't called, look, we are going to head right up here.

You talk about Jon Tester right now. This is a squeaker. 95 percent is reporting right now. Jon Tester is down. Let's just see where the vote is in Missoula if we can. 73 percent reporting. This is good news for Jon Tester, the Democrat, the incumbent. The reason being is look at this. He has about a 9,000 or 10,000 point vote advantage in this area and a quarter of that vote is still out there.

In addition to that, we're not only looking at Montana, we're also looking down here. When you get into Arizona, another race we haven't called yet. And the reason being is that only 75 percent of the vote is in at this time. They are waiting to see what happens with absentee votes, mail-in votes and what have you. We'll see what happens in that race. If Democrats were to win that, that would be a Democratic pick-up. Republicans, McSally pull it off, she will hold it.

And then we go down to the great state of Florida. That's right. We always seem to talk about problems in Florida. 0.4 percentage separates now Rick Scott, the governor, who has challenged Bill Nelson, the incumbent senator. The reason why we haven't called this race right now is because less than 0.5 percent, it goes to an automatic recount in the state.

If you're talking about legal challenges, think about Florida.

HARLOW: Yes. We've never seen that before.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Legal challenges in Florida, so unfamiliar.

HARLOW: What? What?

Before you go, key, key governor's race and that is in Georgia. Stacey Abrams' camp not conceding this morning. What can you tell us?

PRESTON: Yes. Well, look, as we're saying, what's going on here in Georgia is we haven't been able to call this race right now. Stacey Abrams is not conceding. She thinks that there is 77,000 votes still out there that could get her back in the game. We'll see what happens.

HARLOW: All right. Mark Preston, go get some sleep. Thanks, my friend.

Now that Democrats have control of the House they intend to hold the president accountable. So many in leadership are saying.

Let's bring in our correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.

I do think it's interesting, though, because the key question to so many Dems this morning in leadership is, OK, do you move to impeach the president? Do you wait for the results of the Mueller probe? And Nancy Pelosi, they're saying, just hold on, take a breath.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Absolutely right in that Nancy Pelosi has issued some restraint and some caution there to her members, when you're talking about impeachment. But really for everything else in this new reality for the Democrats in the House this morning, it's essentially game on.

[09:05:03] We will very quickly likely start to see the oversight, the investigative committees, really start to ramp things up. They will, in their new power structure in January, have Democratic heads of these committees. And that means the power to issue subpoenas, the power to launch investigations, and they have already signaled that they intend to be very aggressive and they say provide the oversight that they think has largely been lacking over the last two years.

That could be everything from looking into Trump's ties to Russia, even more. His business dealings, focusing certainly on Cabinet secretaries providing some oversight there. And of course the big one that they've already signaled that they intend to look and try to get is Trump's tax returns.

Now we have heard some very pointed language already from Elijah Cummings. He is the person that stands to take over the very powerful House Oversight Committee. He says in part this morning, "I plan to shine a light on waste, fraud and abuse in the Trump administration. I want to probe senior administration officials across the government who have abused their positions of power and wasted taxpayer money, as well as President Trump's decisions to act in his own financial self- interest, rather than the best interest of the American people."

And the White House this morning really already trying to downplay this new dynamic, the fact that you have House Democrats, of course, embolden and potentially going after the administration even more.

Jim, Kellyanne Conway saying that it's the quite the contrast that Dems will now be talking about investigations and subpoenas and she says President Trump will be focusing on the issues. Certainly a huge new dynamic here in Washington -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: No question. Sunlen Serfaty on the Hill, thanks very much.

The president will be speaking later this morning, this after calling the night a tremendous success. I will say a presidential adviser told me a short time ago the president does blame Paul Ryan for losses in the House. So conscious of where he gained, where he lost.

White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny joining us now from the White House.

Looking at those mixed results, what is the actual feeling in the White House residence today? A sense of relief? Victory? What are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Jim, it's a mix of both, no question about it. The president, I am told by a senior White House official, quote, "feels vindicated" about this. And there was a sense here really for the last several days, if not more than a week or so, that Republicans were poised to lose the House of Representatives.

Now he can blame Speaker Paul Ryan. We should fact check that every time we say that because the reality is there is also a school of thought that the president's immigration arguments and rhetoric was also hurting those suburban districts and they were likely to lose some anyway. But more on that in a second. But the president does believe that his campaigning worked and it largely did.

Look at those senator races. He went down to Florida, he went to Indiana, he went to Missouri. He, you know, was campaigning aggressively in Ohio for the governor's race. It's still unclear what happens in Montana. That of course was the race that he most wanted to win to knock off Jon Tester. That is still too close to call this morning.

But overall, the president feels vindicated. And that is the tone he is going to take into that news conference he's going to have later this morning. He's going to declare victory and he's also going to set the tone for House Democrats. But just a short time ago this morning, he already started that, got a bit of a head start setting the tone about what he is expecting from House Democrats.

Take a look at this tweet he sent out a few minutes ago. He says this, "If Democrats think they are going to waste taxpayer money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of classified information and much else at the Senate level. Two can play at that game."

So that is not a very sign of working together on something, but officials do say the president wants to have serious conversations with Nancy Pelosi or whoever the leader is on infrastructure. We'll see how much that happens.

But, Poppy, there is no question here the president will declare victory, even though the fine print is a little more complicated than that -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Just a little bit. All right. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

With us now, Robby Mook, Alice Stewart, Ron Brownstein, Wes Lowery. Thank you all. Important morning. Wes, to you, I heard Van Jones last night early in the evening say

it's not a blue wave, but it's still a blue war. And the way that former Republican congressman Charlie Dent put it this morning, the red areas got redder, the blue got bluer.

Are we just in a more divided America this morning? And what does it mean if that's the case for the next two years?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Certainly one of the things that was really interesting last night was the level of turnout across the board.


LOWERY: Across states, both Republican voters and Democratic voters. But that said, there were certainly some blue pickups in places that you wouldn't otherwise expect them. Right? A lot of our attention went to these big sexy races, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Gillum. But when you look at Texas, for example, you have members of Congress like Pete Sessions who is no longer a member of Congress in the Dallas suburbs. Will Hurd who is in a not called race yet but a very close race in the San Antonio suburbs.

And so you did have places where -- that were traditionally we would have colored them in in red with crayon before the night even began that went blue. And I think that does speak to -- not just in Texas, in Colorado suburbs and upstate New York, in Staten Island, you have again seats that were pretty traditionally safe red seats that are now blue coming into this new -- into this new Congress.


[09:10:14] SCIUTTO: So, Ron Brownstein, You could say that the president played the cards that were in front of him, right, in that he knew going in that the House races didn't look good. And he knew that the Senate races is where he had potential. And he drove home that anti-immigrant message. Seemed to work there. I mean, is this a demonstration of where the Senate and the House really stand with the American --



SCIUTTO: Yes, politically.

BROWNSTEIN: You know, I have been saying for the last few weeks, it was not a wave. It was going to be a realignment. And that's what we saw. We saw the metro areas of the country, the diverse, white-collar dense metro areas move almost uniformly against the president in the House. It wasn't only the suburbs of Philadelphia and Chicago and Minneapolis and Denver. It was also the suburbs of Kansas City.

SCIUTTO: Yes. BROWNSTEIN: And Houston and Dallas and Atlanta and Oklahoma City and

Charleston. So the urban kind of consolidation against the president, the price of the realignment he is driving, became more apparent and more secure. On the other hand, the other side of this, is that the president is improving the Republican position in blue-collar, rural, evangelical communities. That was the core of the map.


BROWNSTEIN: And it allowed him to sweep out these Democrats. The consistent note in both of them is that attitudes toward the president, whether positive or negative, were an overwhelming -- over 90 percent of the people who disapproved of the president said they voted Democratic for the House. Almost 90 percent of the people who approved voted Republican for the House.

We have been heading in that direction but this was still the highest number in at least the last 35 years.

SCIUTTO: And the states -- the states that matter in 2020. Right?


SCIUTTO: That's where the --

BROWNSTEIN: By the way, on that point, before -- and I know Democrats are disappointed about losing the big three heartthrobs in the sunbelt, but they won the governor and the Senate in each of the three states that decided the --

HARLOW: Yes. Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.

BROWNSTEIN: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

HARLOW: I was just going to say that, Robby, to you about those gubernatorial races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


HARLOW: The president won them all. Dems took them last night in terms of the governor races. And also strong showings for Democrats in the House in those governors races despite the really strong economy.

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, that to me is the failure for the president here, is he lost. If you look at the House map nationally, he lost this election by seven to nine points. That's more than the Republican wave in 1994, more than the Republican wave in 2010. Gerrymandering is a real thing, and it made the districts harder for Democrats to win. So you have -- it's kind of like 2016 where you have this huge popular vote win, second biggest ever. But the way that the system is set up, it doesn't work out.

And -- but you're exactly right. We won the upper Midwest. That's really good for 2020. I think we need to continue to figure out Florida. That's just been a real sticky wicket. And the other thing I'd say, you know, Ron Brownstein called them the heartthrobs. You know, I just looked before we came on here. Texas, Hillary lost Texas by nine points. Beto O'Rourke lost it only by two and a half. Arizona Hillary Clinton lost by three and a half. Looks like we're losing there by one. There's a lot to go.

HARLOW: So too much money pouring in for Beto in Texas, a miscalculation by the party?

MOOK: I think it was -- no. I think it's good that these candidates ran.


MOOK: But we can't expect miracles. I think we need to celebrate that we closed this gap by seven points. That's a huge accomplishment.

BROWNSTEIN: He won more votes in Texas than Hillary Clinton did.

MOOK: Huge accomplishment.


BROWNSTEIN: That's unimaginable.

STEWART: People are too quick to blame the losses on Trump. In the House, we have to look at there is several factors that go into it. As we know history is still not kind to the party in power. In this instance, we have many Republicans who have retired, which opened up a lot of seats and created an opportunity for Democrats.

SCIUTTO: Forty. Yes.

STEWART: Right. And fundraising. Democrats did very well in fundraising, and that was a big factor in moving this along. The problem moving forward is that, as Nancy Pelosi has said, now there is a check and balance. Will they -- the question is, will they legislate or investigate? Will they spend all their time on these investigations against the president? And I don't see that as being productive but that is something that we can all certainly expect.

HARLOW: We'll ask. We have (INAUDIBLE). We'll ask him.

SCIUTTO: For sure. Listen, and we're going to -- we have a lot more to talk about, particularly about what that control means for this president and his legislative agenda as well. So please stay with us.

The other big headline, women winning in record numbers. And CNN exit polls show that 80 percent of voters say that that is exactly what they wanted to see, more women in office.

Plus, Democratic wins for governor in key states as we were saying that could decide the presidency in 2020. Is it setting the stage for the 2020 battle? HARLOW: And it was a night of firsts. Candidates making history from

coast to coast. Some of them will join us. Stay with us.


[09:15:00] POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: All right, a record- shattering night for women, both the House and the Senate electing a slew of female candidates at least 100 women will serve next year in the House of Representatives, that includes the youngest woman ever elected, that is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents New York 14.

Also the first-ever female Muslim women elected to the house, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib also of Michigan, our panel is back with us. Interesting night.

JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: No question, and I wonder, Ron Brownstein, I want to hear your view --


SCIUTTO: Alice Stewart on this different sides of the aisle, but how the Kavanaugh hearings affected this for women and but not just Kavanaugh, and also Trump's overall message with women comments, et cetera.

Ron and then Alice.

BROWNSTEIN: Women are monolithic, and I think to borrow a phrase, class really trumped gender. The Democrats amassed their highest margin ever recorded in exit polls among college educated white women with whom Kavanaugh was very unpopular.

The Democrats got almost 60 percent of them, that was the key to these suburban games, in fact, 80 percent of the districts that Democrats won in the house, according to Cnn analysis, were -- had a higher college education level in the national average.

[09:20:00] On the other hand, Republicans, although the margin was somewhat diminished, still won a clear majority of blue-collar white women, and that was important for their gains in the Senate. Trump is strengthening the Republicans on one side of the playing field --

SCIUTTO: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: Weakening them on the other, and that is the dynamic we faced in 2016, it's moving and it continues to grow.

HARLOW: And I'm just thinking, for Republicans, conservative women as well like yourself, you have Arizona, we'll see what happens there, but both are female candidates. How much was this about -- even before Kavanaugh getting women to run? Our colleague Brooke Baldwin did this great series before the Kavanaugh hearings called American women and it was about both parties getting women to run.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think Democrats did a better job of recruiting women and getting them not just to run for office, but organizing campaigns, being active as organizing these marches and getting women out to vote and that is critical.

And I hope the Republicans learn on that, and we do much better in 2020 and beyond. And I think that's critical. As Ron said, women are not monolithic voters, it used to be where you got pigeonholed into do -- we only are concerned about reproductive --

HARLOW: Yes --

STEWART: Rights, and now this year, it may have been we're only concerned about Me Too. But woman are as he said is more about the education levels, higher educated women tend to be more for Democrats and non-college-educated woman for Republicans.

But they're concerned about jobs and the economy, and they want to make sure that they can put food on the table and gas in the tank. And what we're seeing here, which is strong to have -- we want the best candidates, but women are good. And I'll take a quote from Margaret Thatcher, "you want something said, ask a man, if you want something done, ask a woman."

And I'd like to --


STEWART: Say that this means --

HARLOW: There you go --

SCIUTTO: Amen, Robby Mook, you have a lot of great stories here, a lot of firsts. What you don't have is a clear national standard bearer for the Democratic Party. And a lot of folks that the party invested that hope in --


SCIUTTO: Andrew Gillum in Florida, Beto O'Rourke in Texas, Stacey Abrams in Georgia look like they're on the losing side --

HARLOW: Such a good point --

SCIUTTO: Of those races. So where is the national star power? Who carries that banner to 2020?

MOOK: That's such a great question, some of this will just work out, right? People will declare their candidacy for president and leaders will emerge. But I will look at these House members, we've got some amazing people who were elected to the house, military veterans, former police, intelligence officials.


MOOK: You know, I was just watching the interview with a new member elected in Oklahoma City, I think you're going to see a lot of people rise up, and I feel like the Democratic bench is so much fuller today than it's been in a long time.

HARLOW: So what should, Wes, Republicans do about that when it comes to the next two years and women and matching what Democrats were able to do as Alice pointed out?

WESLEY LOWERY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course, I mean, what was interesting in this cycle was Democrats were able to make an argument across their House races that their candidates were representative of the country, right? When we -- when the next Congress gavels in, it will be more representative of the country than the last Congress was. There are an addition to the first we talked about, the first black woman ever represent Massachusetts.

The first native women ever elected to Congress which is actually pretty stunning when we think about --

HARLOW: Yes --

LOWERY: That, right?


HARLOW: One joining us later --

LOWERY: You know, and so what -- and in many ways, that was -- well, maybe not explicitly, an ideological grapple with Trump. Who are we as Americans, right? Who do we represent? And what the Republicans will have to do as we approach 2020 is they have to make a decision.

Are they going to continue to dabble --

SCIUTTO: Right --

LOWERY: And triple down on messaging that, well, we are kind of the aggrieved white party versus everyone else or will it be a broader -- where they attempt to bring in more of these candidates. Let's just say they didn't do any of that, this cycle.


LOWERY: You did have the first woman governor elected in South Dakota for example, the first woman senator ever in Tennessee are Republicans, right? But there is a question about when you look at these full slates who is being represented and who do voters see across the board? And the Democrats clearly had a slate that was much more representative of a country like ours --

BROWNSTEIN: This was the first election ever where white men were not a majority, the Democratic candidates for the house.

HARLOW: Interesting --


SCIUTTO: Interesting -- BROWNSTEIN: And white members still three-quarters of the Republican

candidates, having said that, you know, in some ways the most positive thing the Democrats had amid some worrying signs was they did recover some blue-collar white voters in those key Midwestern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

And amid all of the talk about the Democratic coalition reflecting the diversity of their voters, they need to keep an eye on that because Trump showed again last night, I mean, he is kind of the whisperer to those working class white voters and in 2020, it may be even more challenging --

SCIUTTO: Right --

BROWNSTEIN: To win them back and it was last night.

SCIUTTO: Listen, we're an interesting country, we're a diverse country --

HARLOW: Thank you for that --

SCIUTTO: Folks, you should never pitch in homes where the women --

BROWNSTEIN: They're Mets fans --

SCIUTTO: Are working class or they're Mets fans, we are oddest and the smallest --

BROWNSTEIN: Right, group, yes --

SCIUTTO: Big picture though, no, I just want to ask you because as we get closer to time, we can't understate, though, the importance of one of the branches of government going to the Democrats here. You had two years of Republican control, right?

Now you have the house, you have all those critical chairmanships, House Oversight, House Intelligence, look at the rebirth of many lines of the Russia investigation -- and I'll love your thoughts too as well, Alice, on this.

[09:25:00] How important is that? How much of a change will that be going the next couple of years?

MOOK: It is a huge change. I mean, look, thinking back on 2016, the investigations against Hillary Clinton were enormously damaging in the race. And so if we think purely from a political standpoint in terms of Trump's re-election, this is a game changer for him.

But I was really heartened listening to Nancy Pelosi last night, she didn't talk about investigations in those speeches, and I think there's -- I think she gets this, and I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on the caucus, these members got elected as pragmatist, they really want to get something done.

One quick thing we're talking about, representation, women will still be less than a quarter of the House of Representatives, tons of work to do.

HARLOW: Yes --

SCIUTTO: Alice, are you concerned about the House Oversight of this and the investigation track?

STEWART: Sure, I think she may not have said the word investigation, but when she is saying a check and balance and a check on the presidency, that's certainly what this means. But I hope there is more of legislating and not investigating when they come into power.

But this is an opportunity, I believe, now Republicans need Democrats to work across the aisle. They need them, they can't just --


STEWART: Cast them off, they have to work together and they can't just go back in back rooms and have talks. They have to come forward with something, and I think that's critical that they both realize, OK, if we don't work together, we're not going to get something done.

If Trump wants the wall, he may have to concede on DACA and vice-versa on many of these issues --


STEWART: They have to give an order for something to move forward.

HARLOW: We know they can do it, they just did it on opioid legislation --

SCIUTTO: Right --

HARLOW: They've done it, they have common interests. Will they do it?

MOOK: And both sides want --

HARLOW: Yes --

MOOK: An infrastructure bill --

HARLOW: I was just going to say that --

MOOK: That would be a great tool for the president --


MOOK: What? Call me a skeptic, there is also --


MOOK: A big incentive for both sides to -- and a lot of disincentive to be seen as working with the other parties --

HARLOW: Yes, and that's -- MOOK: Well, and the wall could be important --


HARLOW: That is so true when Jeff Flake said, you know, I couldn't say this if I was --


HARLOW: Running again. All right, everyone, thank you very much --

SCIUTTO: Thanks guys.

HARLOW: Georgia's Stacey Abrams says she will not concede until every vote is counted in the governor's race there. We'll take you live to Atlanta next.