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CNN NEWSROOM

Abrams Refuses to Concede; Election Outcomes in Key States; Florida Senate Race; New Hampshire's First Openly Gay Member of Congress. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 7, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:31:26] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it is not over this morning. We are watching very closely Georgia's governor's race still too close to call. Republican candidate Brian Kemp ahead with slightly over 50 percent of the vote. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams not conceded, her team says, until every vote is counted.

Let's go to our colleague, Nick Valencia. He joins us in Atlanta.

Look, we knew this was going to be close, a nail biter, and it really, really is. Where do things stand and what happens now?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Well, if you listen to Stacey Abrams, she'll tell you that she has a chance at turning this into a December runoff. But we want to be clear about something, Poppy, she is down by a significant number of votes. If you look at the mathematics, tens of thousands of votes. And what's still unclear to us, what we still don't have an answer to from the secretary of state's office, is just how many ballots are left to be counted, how many of them are absentee ballots.

What Stacey Abrams is banking on are these absentee ballots, principally here in the metro Atlanta area, where her progressive base lives. Last night at a rally she was very optimistic, but so was Brian Kemp, saying the math is in his favor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STACEY ABRAMS (D), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: But I'm here tonight to tell you votes remain to be counted. There are voices that are waiting to be heard. Across our state folks are opening up the dreams of voters in absentee ballots, and we believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach.

BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: There are votes left to be count -- to count, but we have a very strong lead. And, folks -- and, folks, make no mistake, the math is on our side to win this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VALENCIA: Right now 99 percent of the presents are reporting. There's about a 68,000 vote differential between Kemp and Abrams. And what Abrams needs to do is get Kemp below a 50 percent threshold. A lot of this election was about turnout. It was about the Trump effect. But it was also about voter suppression. And it was last night speaking to her base that Abrams didn't mention Kemp by name, but said that there were people out trying to take our voice away, eluding to allegations of voter suppression, which she accused Kemp of. Of course, Kemp, denying those allegations.

Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. A lot of talk there from her team about that exact match law that is, you know, what rules (INAUDIBLE). It's the law of the land there in Georgia on this one.

Nick, it's fascinating. We'll keep watching. Thank you.

Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Word to the wise, don't forget the state house races. High stakes governor races in 14 states key for both parties this year. So far Democrats have flipped at least six states, while the GOP looks to hold on to some key races in Florida, Ohio, and Georgia.

Joining us now to break it all down, CNN politics senior writer and analyst, Harry Enten.

Oh, my God, we're talking about Florida.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Florida, Florida, Florida.

SCIUTTO: Are there -- Florida. There were a lot of hopes for Democrats going into this. And yet, in the governorship, tell us how it went.

ENTEN: Yes, I mean, look, the board tells the story here. Ron DeSantis, who a lot of people thought was a bad candidate, and Andrew Gillum, who a lot of people thought was a great candidate, was going to become only the third elected African-American governor in this country's history. He failed in that. It just turns out that the Trump effect seemed to work in DeSantis' favor in this state. And DeSantis was able to run up large vote totals in the southwest corner of the state, as well as in the panhandle, where President Donald Trump is really popular.

SCIUTTO: Is Florida, just as a brief follow, is Florida redder than we think?

ENTEN: I think it is. If you look back over the last few gubernatorial elections, you saw Rick Scott win two terms. You also saw in that Senate race, which is still very, very close at this hour, but Rick Scott holds the lead over incumbent Bill Nelson and Donald Trump won in 2016. I don't think it's a swing state. I think it's a battleground state, but one that certainly leans red.

SCIUTTO: OK, other side, Kansas, the state of Kansas went big for Trump. A big pick-up there in the governorship and by a remarkably wide margin for Laura Kelly over Kris Kobach.

[09:35:06] ENTEN: I mean, look, Kris Kobach, we obviously knew him nationwide from that voting commission that really went nowhere with the voter fraud.

SCIUTTO: Examined fraud that did not exist.

ENTEN: Right, as well as the Republican brand in the state, especially the far or the very conservative brand, Sam Brownback, who was the former governor, was quite unpopular with these tax cuts that just put the state's economy very much -- in a very bad spot. And it just seemed that Laura Kelly was able to play off of the fact that Kris Kobach was too far to the right and was able to coalesce what I call the moderate Republicans in that state, along with the Democrats, because there are very many Republicans in Kansas. But if you can get those moderate ones, you can pull off a victory, and that's exactly what Laura Kelly did there.

SCIUTTO: Forgive me for looking forward to 2020 12 hours after the 2018 election --

ENTEN: You know what, I --

SCIUTTO: But a race like that, a governorship in the midterm, prior to a presidential election, going one way, is that historically an indicator with how it goes in the presidential race or no?

ENTEN: It actually -- it really actually is. And, in fact, there's a reverse correlation, believe it or not, where if you control for the governorship of that state, you actually find that the other party does better in the next presidential election. Very odd, but that is how it works.

SCIUTTO: OK, fair enough. Question answered.

On Ohio, another key swing state. Another key -- big win and again by a fairly wide margin, this time for the Republican.

ENTEN: Right. I mean, look, if 2000 was Florida, Florida, Florida, 2004 was Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. These are the two big swing states. But again here, President Trump's brand is just very strong in this state and it seemed to carry Mike DeWine over the finish line, the attorney general, against Richard Cordray, the former attorney general. The final polls actually show Cordray with a bit of momentum, but it just turns out, this is just not even that close, right? It's a nearly 200,000 vote margin. Mike DeWine was easily able to win. And that, to me, is a real question going into 2020, is Ohio a swing state? You know, I think we might have to say it leans a little bit red.

SCIUTTO: All right, interesting. Harry Enten, interesting as always.

Poppy, got to look at those state races. We learned a lot last night.

HARLOW: Hey, Harry Enten, you're pretty good at your job, my friend. You were like almost on --

ENTEN: I mean these --

SCIUTTO: He's fine. He's fine.

ENTEN: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Stay with us, OK, we've got an important two years ahead. You're going to be busy.

All right, that was fascinating.

So next we're going to take you to Florida, where the Senate race is still too close to call, but we do know this, voters just gave felons back their right to vote. Everyone, this is huge. This is over a million new people that can vote in 2020.

Stay with us.

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[09:41:30] HARLOW: All right, shocker for you this morning, Florida still up in the air.

SCIUTTO: Imagine that.

HARLOW: Never seen that before. A highly contested Senate race in Florida. Governor Rick Scott, Senator Bill Nelson, neck and neck in the polls.

SCIUTTO: Right now we should note that Scott is leading with slightly over 50 percent of the vote. You see it there. 0.4 percent. The difference with Nelson, less than 35,000 votes.

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores, she is in Miami with the latest.

Rosa, it's not quite 537 votes in 2000, but it is tight. What are the candidates saying this morning?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this morning the candidates have not said anything just yet. But last night Rick Scott announced his victory. Bill Nelson has not conceded. CNN has not called this race because it is in re-counter territory.

And let me explain, and let's go over these numbers. And, Jim and Poppy, we talked about the razor thin margins in Florida. This is exactly what we're talking about. Take a look at these numbers. Rick Scott, 50.2 percent, Bill Nelson 49.8 percent, with 99 percent of the votes in. That is a 0.4 percent margin.

Now, according to the secretary of state here in Florida, when the margin is 0.5 percent or less, it is an automatic, automatic recount. And so the other thing that we're learning that could impact this is that there are still some votes missing. Votes that are missing are overseas military and absentee. Those votes could take up to a week. What happens in between? We're trying to figure all that out as we go with the secretary of state. But, meanwhile, Rick Scott has announced his victory, saying that he

wants to work for every family in Florida. And we're expecting Bill Nelson to make some sort of statement today.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: OK, Rosa, before you go, something Jim and I are fascinated by, and that is amendment four that passed in Florida. Didn't get a whole lot of attention before the election, but now the nation should pay attention because this is restoring voting rights for more than a million people that are convicted felons.

FLORES: You know, you're absolutely right. And this law was seen as a tactic to suppress votes, specifically in the African-American community, because of the amount of African-Americans who are rated. And so what this amendment does is it restores the voting rights of about 1.5 million individuals. And, of course, they have to meet their sentence, pay their fines, paroles and any penalties.

But, Poppy and Jim, you're absolutely right, some people saying that, you know, if those 1.5 million people could have voted this time, maybe Gillum could have won the race.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Well, yes, you don't know how they're going to vote, but, I mean, 2020 implications, here you go.

SCIUTTO: A million votes and we're seeing -- we're seeing a race there divided by a few thousand.

HARLOW: And counting.

Yes. All right, Rosa, thanks. Great reporting all the way through.

So ahead for us, a history making night for candidate who are part of the LGBTQ community. Next, we will talk to the first openly elected congressman ever elected in the state of New Hampshire.

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[09:49:01] SCIUTTO: Welcome back.

We told you they were still counting the votes. And we have a key race alert this morning. This in the state of Connecticut. The Democrat there, Ned Lamont, holding out over the Republican, bob Stefanowski. This is a hold for the Democrats. Lamont will succeed the prior governor, Dan Malloy. Also a Democrat. A fairly tight margin there. About 1 percent, 1.3 percent.

But, again, Connecticut govern, we are now calling for the Democrat, Poppy, and lots of votes still to be counted across the country in other close races.

HARLOW: Right. A lot of this far from over. Jim, thank you very much. So women didn't just make history last night. It was also a big night of firsts for the LGBTQ community. Voters in Colorado elected Democrat Jared Polis, making him the first openly gay man elected in a gubernatorial race in the country. And Democrat Chris Pappas of New Hampshire will become the first openly gay man elected to Congress from the granite state.

Congressman-elect Chris Pappas of New Hampshire joins us.

Good morning.

CHRIS PAPPAS (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: Good morning. It's great to be with you.

HARLOW: And congratulations. We're really glad to have you.

So, I mean, just so many firsts, whether it comes to the number of women representing us in Congress, whether it comes to Native American women now first time elected to Congress, first Muslim women elected to Congress, you a first for your state. The list goes on and on.

[09:50:12] What do you think it says about the country right now?

PAPPAS: I think it says that everyone deserves a seat at the table and that we benefit in terms of public policies that we see being pushed in Congress when everyone is represented. And so I think it's really exciting to be a part of an incoming class in Congress that looks a lot more like America. And I think we're going to be able to come together in a way that's going to lift people up, that's going to respect the dignity of each and every person in this country and make sure that we get back to making progress again for people.

HARLOW: Congressman-elect, I think it is really interesting to see what you did in your state, and that is, you didn't just win the blue parts, you won some of the red parts. Whether you talk about Bedford or Gary (ph) or Lundonberry (ph). We had your opponent, Mr. Edwards, on earlier this week and he said to us, quote, they're not, meaning the voters of your state, they're not really interested in whether you're black, gay, straight, male or female. Do you agree with him? Is he right?

PAPPAS: Well, I think voters are looking for results. And I didn't run to make history. I really ran to make a difference for the people of New Hampshire. And this is a real swing district. Most voters are independents. They tend to choose based on the individuals and the issues and not based on party affiliation.

HARLOW: So --

PAPPAS: And so I think the message that the voters of New Hampshire sent last night was that they want checks and balances in Washington, D.C. They want someone who's going to be willing to work across the aisle to get results and who will also be willing to stand up to the president when he's wrong. And that's the type of leadership that I'll bring to the table.

HARLOW: So talking --

PAPPAS: And when you have experience at the -- yes, go ahead.

HARLOW: I was just going to say, talking about some of the issues. I mean let's take health care for example. That was the biggest issue, right, that Democrats ran on. And it worked for many of them in the House. You have declined, unlike some of your fellow Democrats running, to support a Medicare for all proposal. Now, as you know, the price tag on that is steep. You've got independent estimates saying upwards of $32 trillion over a decade.

Do you have a message to your fellow Democrats who are pushing that on why you don't support it and, you know, to caution them on moving forward?

PAPPAS: Well, look, I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege.

HARLOW: Right.

PAPPAS: In New Hampshire we expanded Medicaid. We did it in a bipartisan way that expanded coverage. And I believe we can look for ways to expand coverage and make sure that everyone has access to affordable health care.

It's going to take a president who's going to help lead the charge. And we don't have that right now.

HARLOW: But you've said not this way. I guess you've -- you've said not this way. You've said, you know, essentially not with that price tag, not Medicare for all. And my question is, is it because it's just impossible, some argue, to do it without raising taxes?

PAPPAS: No, look, I think we need to start with what we have. We should keep our eye on that end goal of covering everyone. And let's put the political assault on the Affordable Care Act behind us and look for ways to expand coverage and to bring down costs.

As I travelled around my district over the course of this campaign the past year, that was the top concern. Everyone can point to the fact that their premiums are going up, the price of prescription drugs is going up, coverage doesn't work for them when they need it. And so this has got to be job number one for the next Congress. And we've got to do it in a bipartisan way.

HARLOW: So --

PAPPAS: Look, we've got power shared between a Republican Senate, a Democratic House, a Republican president.

HARLOW: Yes.

PAPPAS: People want us to deliver results.

HARLOW: And it seems like in the early hours President Trump, Nancy Pelosi kind of making nice. They had a phone call last night. He tweeted about her this morning. We'll see what this actually results in.

Do you think that Nancy Pelosi, as speaker of the House, is the leadership that your party needs right now?

PAPPAS: We'll see how this all shakes out. I think it's really exciting to see the results from across the country today.

HARLOW: Well, but you have an opinion, Congressman-elect. Respectfully, you have an opinion. I mean you're going to get to vote on this. Are you going to vote for her? Do you support her? Or do you need newer, younger leadership?

PAPPAS: I think we do need new voices in the leadership that represents the new generation that's stepped forward to run for office. And we'll see what the contours of the leadership race looks like as it unfolds over the next few weeks. But I think, at the end of the day, we do need checks and balances and we need a Democratic caucus that's going to be willing to stand up to this president when he's wrong.

HARLOW: We appreciate your time this morning. Chris Pappas, you've certainly made history and we wish you and all of those elected the best of luck. Thank you.

PAPPAS: Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, we're on top of the latest midterm headlines. The president will speak in a little bit over an hour. We'll be right back.

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[09:59:13] HARLOW: All right. Top of the hour. Good morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

A big welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

This was a big day, a consequential day for this country. Come January, one party rule in Washington will end for at least the next two years. Democrats will have a meaningful check on and oversight of the Trump administration for the first time. Republicans, however, will tighten their hold on the Senate. That means a lot of things. With thousands of ballots still to be counted or recounted, though, in several big races, the bottom line of the 2018 midterms is still to be decided in many places.

[09:59:50] HARLOW: Yes, still very much a dividing line. Democrats have picked up at a minimum 28 seats in the House of Representatives, giving them the majority, flipping that chamber for the third time in 12 years. Meantime, Republicans have gained at least two Senate seats. Four Senate races still undecided.