Return to Transcripts main page
Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Final Pitches To Voters In Crucial Pennsylvania Senate And Governor Races; Tight Race For Arizona Governor Nears Its Finish Line; Senate Control Could Come Down To A Runoff In Georgia; Trump And DeSantis, From Friends To Rivals; Biden Rallies For Kathy Hochul In New York As Trump Campaigns For Rubio In Florida. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 06, 2022 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Tomorrow night at 7:00 on OUTFRONT. On election day, I'll be here with Wolf Blitzer from 12:00 noon to 4:00 Eastern as Americans are voting. And we have reporters across the country, plus John King at the magic wall.
CNN will have live coverage throughout the night as the votes get counted, and on Wednesday I'll be back with Wolf from noon to 4:00. We're still going to be waiting on results from key races to determine the balance of power. We all need to be patient.
Thanks for joining us. A special Sunday edition of "AC360" starts now.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN host: And good evening. Just two days to go until the first big nationwide electoral contest since 2020, the 2022 midterms will decide who controls the Senate and in turn what the next two years the Biden administration will look like.
That's as expected. The rest from election deniers running, to armed civilians at polling places, to the former president teasing a 2024 run is not. Nor our presidents and former presidents warning as President Biden, former presidents Obama and Clinton add this weekend that democracy itself is at stake this Tuesday.
They and former president Trump all on the trail the last several days. He was in Florida late today, and that is a story in itself we'll talk about tonight. President Biden tonight in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you all show up and vote, democracy is sustained. This is not a joke. This is not hyperbole, for the second time. Not a joke. It matters and it's in your hands. And look, you're one of the reasons why, as I said, I have never been more optimistic about the future of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, this, too, is a story. Democratic presidents spending the final days campaigning in a blue state, where the race for governor is closer than expected, and Republicans could pick a number of newly competitive House seats.
Nationally take a look. Out of the 435 seats in play, all Republicans need this week is a net gain of five seats to take control of the House from Democrats. Over on the Senate side where 35 of the 100 seats will be decided, just a single net loss will hand control back to the Republicans. And in one key race after another, Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, to name just four, the latest polling shows no clear leader.
We have correspondents across the country right now over the next two live hours tonight, covering all the close races and important issues driving them. We begin with CNN's Jessica Dean in Pittsburgh, a key city in a key state that saw President Biden, former presidents Obama and Trump campaigning this weekend, where the Senate race between the Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz is close.
So, Jessica, what is the message to voters that Fetterman and Oz are pitching tonight?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, tonight we see Fetterman and Oz crisscrossing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Anderson. And remember, this is an open Senate seat. Republican Pat Toomey is retiring so that means Republicans certainly want to hang on to it. Democrats would certainly love to flip it. That is why it is the most expensive Senate race we've seen. It's also why there are so many eyes on the commonwealth.
And so we saw Presidents Obama and Biden rallying for Democrats yesterday, really trying to turn out the bases in the Democratic strongholds of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. And we saw President Trump in a more rural part of the state, really trying to rally the Republican base, and then the candidates hitting the trail again today really trying to get every last voter they possibly can in this final sprint to election day.
We've been hearing from Oz. He really wants to cast himself as an independent voice, and to that end, Anderson, we didn't hear him name President Trump or the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano, when he was at the Trump rally yesterday. He stuck with his stump speech which is generally one about unity and what he can do if he goes to Washington to overcome extremism.
Fetterman, for his part, who of course is overcoming and recovering from a stroke back in May, he's also been on the trail all week leading up to this final stretch, and he's really trying to cast Oz as a phony, saying that he is simply not telling the truth that he is a phony, and that it's Fetterman who has been here in Pennsylvania, that he's going to stand up for the little guy. He says over and over again he got knocked down by the stroke but he got back up.
And, Anderson, those are the closing messages we've heard both on the campaign trail but also in the ads that have flooded the airwaves here in Pennsylvania.
COOPER: Yes. Jessica Dean, appreciate it. I want to go to Arizona where the incumbent Democratic Senator Mark
Kelly is defending his seat against Republican challenger Blake Masters who's one of four GOP candidates for top offices in the state who are 2020 election deniers.
CNN's Kyung Lah is at a Republican campaign stop in Queen Creek, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.
What's the state of play as we get into the final hours here?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're certainly feeling that. There is this mad dash to the finish because we're seeing a lot of these bus tours as they crisscross the state. I am at a final stop of the day, just of the day, Anderson, not of this bus tour, but the final stop of the day for the Republicans. They have been campaigning together, the entire top of the ticket.
And what we have heard again and again at these various bus stops, and there have been multiple over and over again, that they are closing on the economy, as well as border security, that they believe the Democrats have failed and that they deserve to be in charge.
What you're hearing from the Democrats is that they are countering, saying, look at who the Republicans have nominated, all of the top of the ticket have in some way or the other repeated election lies, some very boldly again and again, saying that they believe Donald Trump won the election? And the Democrats say that they cannot be elected just simply being too extreme for the state of Arizona.
What you will hear both campaigns, all the states from either party, Anderson, is that they do not know who can win. It is that close at the top of the ticket -- Anderson.
COOPER: And Kyung, I understand there was an incident at Kari Lake's headquarters?
LAH: Yes, it was an incident overnight. And it was quite alarming for the campaign. For seven hours the campaign headquarters was shut down. The Phoenix Police saying that there was some type of substance found in an envelope. The campaign says -- one of the campaign staffers opened up an envelope filled with white substance and they had to respond, the FBI, the bomb squad, police, fire, everyone responded. They were evacuated and the street was closed for seven hours.
Now Kari Lake has not commented on camera about this, but we anticipate that she will be here at this event talking about it. The campaign, though, did release statement saying, quote, "Rest assured we are taking this security threat incredibly seriously. Know that our resolve has never been higher and we cannot be intimidated." The campaign trying not to highlight it too much, but certainly putting their stamp on it saying it is unacceptable -- Anderson.
COOPER: Kyung Lah, appreciate it. Thank you. As only CNN can, we've got the best political team back today. CNN
senior political commentator and former top Obama adviser, David Axelrod, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, three CNN political commentators, former Obama special adviser Van Jones, former Pennsylvania Republican congressman, Charlie Dent, and Alyssa Farah Griffin who served as White House director for Strategic Communications in the previous administration.
All right, David. Let's start it off with you. Expectations? What are you watching tonight?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, first of all, we'll know in a few days, maybe a few weeks, so -- I mean, the time for guessing is beginning to end. But here's the thing, Anderson. You know, I have been through a lot of these waves in my life. I should be here in the wet suit. I've been on the right side of them and the wrong side of them, but they have a certain inexorable kind of quality to them.
They're almost impossible for the incumbent party to win, certainly seats in the House, and that's particularly true if people are sour on the economy and if they are sour on the president. All of those things pertain right now.
So you would say that would favor Republicans, but as you pointed out at the top of this broadcast, there are unique circumstances here and the question is whether these issues -- the abortion issue and the election denial issue, whether President Trump's role in this campaign and the candidates who he recruited for some of these races who are not necessarily the most competitive candidates, whether that will allow Democrats to overcome some of the affect that you would expect in a typical midterm.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, midterms are brake pedals on unpopular incumbents. Generally that's what it is. And you have a pretty unpopular incumbent right now hovering in the 40s. And you know, I was talking to a political strategists this week, a Republican, who said to me, you know, the president is out there saying trust me to get you out of the ditch that I put you in.
And that's a very difficult sell because -- I know you're smirking at me, but that's what people believe is that it's his fault. It may not be, right? It's a very difficult sell for them. I think the thing that David is talking about, and Mitch McConnell talks about it, says candidate quality matters, and so you have a lot of these Trump- endorsed Senate candidates who are deeply flawed and inexperienced, and the question is whether there is enough of a wave to get them in office.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think that everything you guys are saying is correct. The only thing I would add to it, though, is that talking to people at the doors who are talking to people at the grassroots level, and I think that there is an economic message that the Democrats do have that's working on the doors that you haven't heard from the big politicians which is that the Republicans -- it's not the lies about the Republicans tell about the election. It's the truth that they tell about their economic agenda.
They're saying they're going to come after Social Security and Medicare, when on the doors, when you say that, you get people's attention. So I think that we may look back and say there was an economic message here that Democrats could have gone with. I think it was this fool's gold that you're going to be able to talk about abortion, the democracy, and that was going to saver you, when people are sitting on a white hot stove economically and we do have a message that's breaking through on the doors possibly too late.
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, this midterm really it's about, if you're a Republican, your argument is real simple. You want to put a check and balance on the party in power. It's really simple. It seems to me, too, that the inflation-economy message is resonating. I would also argue the crime issue is very resonant. I know it is in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, particularly in the Philadelphia region. It is a front of mind issue for a lot of voters.
And if you look at this, too. I mean, the Democrats are just playing defense everywhere. I mean, in Rhode Island, in Connecticut, in Oregon, Nevada, they're going to will get wiped out, Florida is going to --
BORGER: New York.
JONES: In New York.
DENT: New York. I mean, they could lose five seats in New York including the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They have problems. So, I mean, you know, and there are the cross currents, too, you know, the Dobbs decision, no doubt, but I'm starting to think that maybe that's just driving intensity for Democrats, and maybe some turnout, but for voters they already had. And so that's why I'm starting to think it might not have the impact I thought it would have had a couple of months ago. So right now I think the Democrats are, you know, going to have a tough night.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: It took the Democrats far too long to get a coherent message and to realize about the economy as first and foremost the biggest issue to voters. And I would say secondarily crime. I think they were relying far too heavily on Roe, on Dobbs turning voters out, when in reality if, you know, the average American family lost $6,000 in buying power last year due to inflation, that is going to motivate suburban women who might be on the fences, far more than reproductive rights. So regardless of what side you come down on it, and I think that they
just went very far into thinking that that, and then also the message around democracy. I'm someone who has raised alarm bells about the threats to democracy and the threats of election deniers, but at the end of the day people are going to vote on pocketbook issues that motivate them. And it's also they haven't made the case of why specific races, like why does a seat in New Hampshire have implications for American democracy?
It works on a hyper local level. You could run that against Mark Finchem in Arizona. Of course you don't want a secretary of state who's an election denier. It's much harder to make it, you know, across the board. Any Republican is going to be a threat to democracy.
BORGER: But, you know, 70 percent of the people in this country think democracy is at risk, yet they are more concerned about what you are talking about which is the economy. So they kind of believe both things.
AXELROD: They also may differ on where the risk --
COOPER: Right. Exactly. I was going to say, 40 percent of them think democracy is at risk from --
BORGER: No, they disagree, totally, but they -- you know, a large majority believe it's at risk.
AXELROD: You know, I want to -- on this point that Charlie raised about crime. You know, there has been this big shift through September and October among suburban voters and suburban women in particular that the "Wall Street Journal" reported this week. And I think that yes, some of the economic issues may be taking route.
I actually think the crime issue has been effective in that regard, and you look at New York, Oregon, places where you'd expect Democrats to be competing well. They have got problems. A lot of it is associated with that issue.
ACOSTA: We've got to take a quick break. Later, the former president campaigning for Republican candidates but throwing a sharp elbow at one prominent state Republican governor and a potential 2024 president opponent, Ron DeSantis. We'll be right back.
COOPER: We're talking tonight about a midterm election characterized by how close the battle for control of Congress appears to be, but also by the unwillingness of some candidates to simply say they'll accept the outcome win or lose.
Back with our political team. We've seen former President Trump and some other Republicans already, Alyssa, casting doubt on the midterm results. Do you see this getting very messy or if they win, is it well, because we were armed at the polls? GRIFFIN: So this is the problem.
COOPER: We'd be back --
GRIFFIN: The problem with the dire warnings from the left, and President Biden's speech I thought was powerful but maybe not the right time because I think that most of the biggest election deniers, the Kari Lakes, are going to win. The only place I could see this getting complicated is Georgia if it goes to a runoff, so I actually don't know that I think this is going to be the next big challenging of results like we saw in 2020. The scarier part of course is what happens in some of these secretary of state races that just aren't front and center and top of mind.
COOPER: What I don't understand, if election deniers win and the Republicans have this huge sweep, what happens to --
GRIFFIN: Well, then the elections were fair and safe.
COOPER: Right. I know. But what happens with the Democrats cheating? I mean, if they cheated in 2020, why wouldn't they try to do it again?
GRIFFIN: I think, I mean, my guess would be the argument is somehow we cleaned up the process.
COOPER: Right. Cleaned it. Right.
GRIFFIN: But, no, I mean it defies --
COOPER: The armed folks at the polls in Arizona --
GRIFFIN: It defies logic.
AXELROD: Or I guess the alternative is we would have won by more. Right, I mean, that's the nature of election denial is we win or the election was stolen, there's no third option. And that's what's so dangerous of course. So they may win, so there won't be an objection.
DENT: We may have a little bit of a red mirage, blue wave situation in Pennsylvania on election night because there are about 1.5 million mail-in votes which cannot be processed until election day, and so it's going to take a while to count those. But Republicans will vote at the machines, and I think Republicans will probably be doing well on election night, but that lead will probably evaporate --
DENT: They may still win but it will evaporate. And so people will say, hey, look what's happened.
BORGER: I think we need to stop calling it a mirage because it isn't a mirage. That's sort of playing into the whole election denial thing. What it is is the way votes are counted. Votes are being counted and in different states they're counted different ways, and so mail-in ballots are counted after people who appear personally, so it's not a mirage, it's just a process. JONES: But I do think that given how important Pennsylvania is, and
given that you could have Oz and Fetterman neck-and-neck, and if you begin to see Oz early ahead and beginning to fade, that's when you're going to hear all the nonsense, and there's just --
BORGER: It's nonsense.
JONES: This consensus concern that says well, the big cities are so well-organized that they just sit back and don't count the votes until they figure out what is going on, and then they just deliver -- I wish I lived in a blue city that well-organized where you could have all these people, I can't get people to vote one time. If you can get people to vote 100 times is just nuts, but it could happen.
AXELROD: I'll tell you a state that will be interesting is Oregon because they're an all-mail voting state. All mail-in voting state. And they may elect a Republican governor this year. It's very close but it may well happen. So if mail-in ballots are so corrupt, how did that result happen in a state that's been -- you know, that's basically a blue state?
COOPER: Georgia, there's already been a lot of people casting ballots. That could go to a runoff.
AXELROD: It could. You know, and it's a tight race. I think that's the supposition is that it very likely will go to a tight race. There are Republicans and Democrats who have suggested that, you know, there has been a little bit of a tick in Walker's favor. I mean, you hear Republicans more confident these days that maybe Walker could win without a runoff. If there is a runoff and it's for control of the Senate, it's going to be a wild ride between now and December 6th.
BORGER: So I have a question for you. If Donald Trump is supposed to announce that he's running on November 14th --
BORGER: If there's a runoff in Georgia on December 6th, what does Donald Trump --
GRIFFIN: He will not delay announcing, and this will bring us right back to the special election in 2020 where he costs us two Georgia -- the Georgia Senate races that time. Self-interest will come first. He will still announce. I think he will convince himself it actually draws momentum to the runoff, but I think it hurts Herschel Walker.
DENT: It would be a disaster to announce in the middle of a Georgia runoff. I mean, that's the last thing Herschel Walker would want to make the election about Donald Trump. I mean, you want it to be a referendum on the party of power.
AXELROD: But as Alyssa says I think Trump will believe that he will bring out turnout. He will bring out excitement.
GRIFFIN: Ask David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler.
COOPER: We talk about abortion before. I mean, traditionally abortion has always ranked relatively low on the list, I mean, if you look at exit polls from past elections of the issue that is driving somebody to cast their ballot, do Democrats just think, well, now that Roe is overturned the outrage would be so great it would go right to the top?
AXELROD: Well, in fairness, it hasn't been that motivating issue as certainly on the Democratic side because for 50 years abortion rights were guaranteed by the Supreme Court. The Dobbs decision turned that on its head. I do think there's been over reliance on that issue, and I think people have realized it but they've realized it late. I think Democrats saw that as kind of a silver bullet issue.
And I think it has motivated people, and there will be people who'd come out who wouldn't otherwise. There may be some young voters who'd come out who wouldn't otherwise do. But here's an interesting thing about this -- one last point, Van.
You know, I mentioned states where a lot in Congress, Charlie did and everybody did, where congressional seats are up, where there are battles that are surprising, in a state like New York, in a state like Oregon, people aren't worried about their abortion rights because they know their states are going to preserve those abortion rights, so in a weird way this issue has been less effective in the bluer states than it has in some other states. Maybe in Michigan it'll be decisive.
JONES: I do think that for younger voters, though, there could be a riptide here that the pollsters aren't catching. People assuming younger voters aren't going to be there, you don't see the evidence that they are, but this is a shock for them. This abortion thing was a big shock for young people. And I've talked to a lot of college students saying this is the reason they want to vote. They'd never imagined they'd be in a situation where something could happen at a college party or something like that, and that they wouldn't be able to, and there is a fear, that a national ban, if you set this up, you get a national ban that they won't be safe, so -- but I do think there's been an over reliance on the issue, but I think to young people it's a big deal.
GRIFFIN: But just real quick. Leader Schumer deliberately didn't come out and say I would eliminate the filibuster to codify Roe, and I think that makes it a lot harder to then say you have to elect Democrats to the Senate so that we can codify Rose because that is not a given even if they hold on to a one-seat majority. I think that makes it a much harder selling point to voters who frankly are going to put the economy first in that environment.
DENT: Real quick on the abortion issue. When Roe was overturned, you know, the backstop was removed, but not everywhere. You know, that was the thinking. The goal has been pulled, but in some states it's not changing anything in New York or Maryland and a whole bunch of states so it's really not an issue. But this may have a moderating impact on this issue for Republicans in states like Kansas where they are finding out there are consequences to these very extreme bills and laws that they are passing. [20:25:08]
COOPER: Everyone, stick around. More to discuss next hour. But just ahead, a live report from Georgia on the race that could determine which party controls the Senate next year, and that is already breaking records in voter turnout.
COOPER: Today Georgia's secretary of state noted that more than 1 in 3 active voters in the state, 36 percent, have already casts their ballots. The early voting numbers have already set a record in the stat for midterm election. It is easy to see why. In addition to the high profile rematch between Governor Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, then there's the race for the Senate, pitting Republican Herschel Walker against incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in a contest that could determine which party controls the Senate next year.
Jeff Zeleny joins us now from Atlanta. You've been there as Walker makes his closing arguments to voters. What's he saying?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, basically Herschel Walker is blaming Senator Raphael Warnock for everything, from the economy to inflation to issues at the border, trying to link him to the White House, trying to tie him to President Biden through and through, saying a vote for Senator Warnock is simply a rubber stamp for this Democratic administration.
But Herschel Walker today as he was campaigning also had very sharp words for President Biden himself and how he's been sounding the alarm for democracy. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: You heard the president that the biggest threat to democracy is to vote for somebody in the Republican Party. Is he crazy? The biggest threat to a democracy is to have him in the White House. Is it not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So clearly, Herschel Walker joining the legions of Republicans who are essentially mocking the president's closing argument of his own there, you know, highlighting the challenges with the democracy.
But, Anderson, we can't state enough how critical this Senate race is in the puzzle pieces that we'll be looking at on Tuesday night. Of course Raphael Warnock is an incumbent Democratic senator, so they need to hold that seat, the Democrats do, to keep their Senate majority. Republicans feel more optimistic about this race in the closing hours and days than they thought they would be just a few weeks and months ago.
COOPER: And have you had a chance to talk to some Walker voters? What are you hearing from them?
ZELENY: As we talked to Republicans who came out today to see Herschel Walker, we asked them what was driving them and motivating them, and really the through line here was Republican control of the Senate, being a check on the Biden administration. Voters are willing to overlook the allegation of abortion payments, they're willing to overlook to some questions about Herschel Walker's own experience for the job. Simply Republicans are uniting around Herschel Walker, no doubt.
But Anderson, the key question is, those independent swing voters, women voters in particular, and others in the suburbs of Atlanta and elsewhere, have they been able to overlook some of these allegations and things as well? But this race again is closing in a much stronger position for Republicans. But we should point out that it's unlikely to end on election night itself. Each of these candidates, one of the candidates, the winner has to get over 50 percent in order to avoid a runoff.
There's a libertarian candidate in this race so this is likely to go into a runoff election on December 6th. Both sides are preparing for that -- Anderson.
COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, appreciate it. Thank you.
Perspective now from Georgia's current Republican Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan who has been critical of Walker saying the party should nominate candidates the American public would take seriously.
Lieutenant Governor Duncan, thanks for being with us. So most of the polls now have Walker closing the gap with Senator Warnock just in recent weeks. Do you think that's a result of conservative meeting independent voters coming home? Is that a reflection of something Walker himself has done in the race?
LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R), GEORGIA: Well, I certainly think it's a number of components. One is we've got a governor who's absolutely running away with it at the top of the ticket here in Georgia. I think Brian Kemp maybe wins this race by 10 plus points over Stacey Abrams. And he continues to help the entire ticket. And look, at the end of the day I know the Democrats want democracy to be on the ballot but the economy is on the ballot, and Joe Biden is on the ballot, and that's hard to explain if you are a Democrat. And certainly Raphael Warnock is having a hard time explaining the economy.
You know, Anderson, in the morning, there's thousands of people watching this show. They're going to go into work tomorrow just like they have for years, and they're going to be told that they're laid, and they're going to get home on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, it's going to continue because the economy is in shambles, and that's hard to justify.
COOPER: As you know, Mr. Walker's improved polling came as two women alleged he paid for them to get an abortion. Does it surprise you at all that those numbers have improved during those controversies, or is this really not about Walker that it's about a check on the Democrats and the economy?
DUNCAN: Well, yes, it does surprise me because I feel like I'm a rational minded Republican that really wants to elect folks to represent us in the U.S. Senate that are policy driven, they're able to use empathy to understand the other side. And use a tone that grows the size of our party and that's certainly not what's being put on display. But at the end of the day, Joe Biden is on the ballot, the economy is on the ballot, and that's the tailwind necessary.
It does feel like this is probably going to get either into a runoff or close to a runoff, and I can only imagine what the next four weeks will feel like in Georgia.
COOPER: That's what I was going to ask. You're pretty sure it's going to get to a runoff?
DUNCAN: Well, nothing is for sure especially in Georgia around elections. One thing I will tell you is we'll have a fair and legal election. There will be a winner or a runoff decided, and we will move on with that. But certainly, you know, a couple of changes. The last time we had nine weeks almost for a runoff, and this time we changed the law to only have four weeks. And, you know, I can't imagine how many hundreds of millions of dollars are going to be spent on TV trying to rip the integrity of each side over that period of time.
COOPER: Yes. I can't imagine anybody in Georgia still watching TV given all the commercials that must be running right now. I mean, it just must be wall to wall.
DUNCAN: Well, if you're a football fan who's stuck watching all these ads, I mean, my kids were screaming today in between, you know, the commercial breaks. But, you know, it is what it is. We've been here before.
DUNCAN: It's hard to watch nationalized elections here in the state. It just -- it makes it an awkward process to try to elect the best and brightest.
COOPER: So, as you said, Governor Kemp has maintained a lead against Stacey Abrams outside the margin of error in most polls for several months now. You said you think he can win by 10 points. Their early voting in Georgia is at record levels.
Secretary of State Raffensperger said today that more than 2.5 million people have voted early or absentee. Do those numbers give any concern to you that the turnout model might be wrong?
DUNCAN: Well, those numbers actually reassure me that Republicans have done the right thing to try to continue to make elections easy to vote and hard to cheat, and the record turnouts are a proof that we know what we're doing here in Georgia and we're going to continue to have fair and legal elections. But secondly, you know, it's hard to tell. We've accelerated voting patterns all over the country with the
pandemic and early voting and mail-ins. I think we're going to see a strong turnout that supports the governor that has absolutely done what he said he was going to do over four years. And I think folks in the middle and folks on the right, even some folks in the left are going to come in to the polls and vote for Brian Kemp.
COOPER: Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, I appreciate it. Thank you.
DUNCAN: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: Coming up one of the most fascinating story lines possibly from the next election, a cold war between the former president and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis heating up. A preview of that potential fight for the 2024 Republican Party nomination for president, next.
COOPER: In addition to the many midterm story lines we're following tonight, there's also a key 2024 story that is really difficult to ignore and that's the expected fight between the former President Trump and Florida Ron DeSantis for the Republican nomination. Both held dueling rallies in Florida today. No fireworks. But the same cannot be said for the former president's rally last night in Pennsylvania while discussing what he claims is his popularity among Republicans and voters at polls, he slipped in a dig at DeSantis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody's ever seen before. Let's see, there it is. Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonius at 10 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: More now on the once strong relationship between the former president and DeSantis from CNN's Randi Kaye.
TRUMP: I am thrilled to introduce the next governor of Florida, a great gentleman, Ron DeSantis.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Ron DeSantis first ran for governor of Florida and was locked in a tough GOP primary, it was Donald Trump who gave him a boost.
TRUMP: I endorsed Ron, and after I endorsed him he took off like a rocket ship.
KAYE: After that endorsement DeSantis really leaned in to Trump's support. GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Build the wall.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's teaching Maddison to talk.
DESANTIS: Make America great again.
KAYE: DeSantis went on to win that 2018 primary by 20 points.
DESANTIS: I'd like to thank our president for standing by me.
KAYE: Their alliance was at times very public. DeSantis visited Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago. In April last year, Trump even suggested DeSantis could be his running mate in 2024.
(On-camera): Still, somewhere along the way their relationship seemed to sour and now with Trump apparently accelerating his plan for another presidential run, two people who recently spoke to him told CNN the former president has complained about DeSantis, indicating he was ungrateful. Trump still believes he's responsibility for DeSantis being elected governor here in Florida in 2018.
(Voice-over): At the core of Trump's ire seems to be DeSantis ' growing popularity, and his refusal since last year to say he won't run against Trump. He also was served by a DeSantis robocall endorsing a Republican Senate candidate in Colorado who vowed to actively campaign against another Trump presidential run.
DESANTIS: Hello, this is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. America needs strong leadership and desperately, that's why I am endorsing Joe O'Dea for U.S. Senate.
KAYE: Trump called the endorsement a big mistake on his Truth Social platform. Three days later Trump announced plans to rally in Florida with Senator Marco Rubio. A source told CNN DeSantis was not invited. There was also this moment at DeSantis ' debate with his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist.
CHARLIE CRIST (D), FLORIDA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Yes or no, Ron, will you serve a full four-year term if you're reelected governor of Florida? It's not a tough question. It's a fair question. He won't tell you.
KAYE: DeSantis sidestepped that question about his potential 2024 ambitions. Trump then reposted a video in which former FOX News host Megyn Kelly said this.
MEGYN KELLY, FORMER FOX NEWS HOST: You really think a hard core MAGA is going to abandon Trump or DeSantis? They're not.
KAYE: Still DeSantis has made inroads with some of the wealthiest Republican donors who also helped financed Trump's campaigns. The Florida governor also has become a regular on FOX where he was asked about a possible White House run in June.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he runs, do you run? How do you make that decision? DESANTIS: Nice try, man, we're here to talk and having fun here, so
it's all good.
KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
COOPER: For perspective, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman, a senior political correspondent for the "New York Times" and author of the new best-selling book, a great book, "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America." And once again CNN political commentator Alyssa Farah Griffin who served as director for Strategic Communications under the former president.
Maggie, you wrote in your new book that the former president has kind of been privately calling DeSantis a variety of nicknames or names for months. Do you think he was speaking off the cuff here or he had thought this out? I think this may have been a Roger Stone reference.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This had been workshopped over the last couple of weeks by Trump.
HABERMAN: He tests these things. Alyssa worked in that White House. She knows how this works. He had been trying this out on people over the last couple of weeks, and Roger Stone actually posted on Truth Social using this nickname I think it was like eight days ago, nine days ago, so -- and we can do the math from there on how extemporaneous this was and how out of nowhere this was.
But Trump has been thinking about DeSantis for a very long time and I think he felt the need to lob some a shot ahead of Tuesday because DeSantis, if the poll is right, is going to win handily in his reelection bid, and Trump wants to keep people and the Republican Party and in the MAGA world from gravitating toward DeSantis. That's why he did it.
COOPER: Alyssa, Randi's report, I mean, you heard about, you know, their relationship. Was it completely transactional always?
GRIFFIN: For the most part, and she's right by the way that DeSantis largely does owe his governorship to former President Trump. Most Floridians thought Adam Putnam was the -- he was kind of the establishment choice for governor. The Trump boost brought DeSantis to where he was. He was able to win. I have known him since he was in the House, and while a very smart man, highly educated, he was kind of a back bench House member who seemed like a long shot to be governor, but with the Trump boost was able to get elected.
And there is a sense -- I'm actually with Megyn Kelly on this, like within Republican circles, elected Republicans would love it to be candidate Ron DeSantis. He, you know, Trump with not as much as of the bluster, and less drama and more serious, but the MAGA base is always going to be with Trump. I mean, it's just the notion that they would go with him when so many of them feel like Trump was denied the last election, which of course he wasn't but they think it was stolen from him.
So I expected this was going to come at some time. I think the hits are going to keep coming from Mar-a-Lago against the governor, and I don't think that, you know, some pushback from elected Republicans is going to do much to stop it.
COOPER: Maggie, do you agree with that?
HABERMAN: I do agree with that and I also think, another thing we don't know about Ron DeSantis for all of the wish casting from other elected Republicans who don't like Trump, a lot of them Senators, or from the donor class, which really does not like Trump at this point, is we don't know how DeSantis is going to do on a national stage. There's just no clue about it so far and he has had some really surprising -- I wouldn't call them stumbles, but they've been kind of cringe worthy moments.
That ad that he put out with him in a fighter jet and the jacket, and there are things that he has taken that, you know, novice candidates do on the national stage that look strange. And we'll see how he does after Tuesday. But it's not a sure bet that he's going to be able to take Trump on and he's really the only person who at the moment is seen as existing in Trump's lane.
Trump is willing to do and say things that no other candidate is going to say, and I am not sure DeSantis is either.
GRIFFIN: Right. You'll never going to out-Trump Trump. DeSantis is going to go about as far as he can, but he still has a backstop and I think has a moral compass that keeps him from going too far, and at the end of the day, to Maggie's point, there's a lot to like about DeSantis if you are a Republican. But there's a lot of unknowns. He does not have a sophisticated political operation the way that other potential candidates who I would argue Mike Pence has a much more sophisticated political operation.
And he's known for being very weak on retail politics, which has always been a big part of running. The only person who can get away with not being good at that is Trump because he's got 100 percent name I.D. He's a massive celebrity. So I think he's overhyping. I think he's peaking very early, and the hits are going to keep coming.
COOPER: It was interesting, though, that Trump didn't, you know, continue the name calling at the Florida rally.
HABERMAN: Well, I think that he was aware that was a bridge too far. I think that going into the state at a rally that he decided to hold without DeSantis being invited, you know, Trump's folks say well, DeSantis didn't ask, but to go into the state and insult the guy and give the Crist team something to use that they can put on video in a different way as opposed to Trump saying at a rally, I think even Trump realizes that's a rail he shouldn't touch. COOPER: Do you think he really wants to be president again, or does he
want -- I mean, is it just wanting to be part of the conversation and the focus of attention, and not being out of the loop?
GRIFFIN: And by the way, I think he didn't wanted to get booed in Florida. And I think there's a chance that he would get some boos.
HABERMAN: I agree. I agree. It's a really good point.
GRIFFIN: I'm not sure that he misses governing. I'm not sure he missing holding Cabinet meetings other than the top of them when people praise him, but I do think as the legal wall is closing around him, he thinks it's the best hedge to protect himself against potential legal vulnerability.
HABERMAN: I actually think he does miss being president. I don't think he misses governing. And I think there were days where it's questionable how much governing he was doing at all. But I do think he misses the power of the office, and I think that a next term would be so driven by spite, that that's what he's looking for. If anything, unlike 2016, when I think he didn't really want to be president but he did want to win, I think it's a bit of the reverse now. But I agree that he needs the infrastructure that he thinks the campaign gives him against these investigations. That's absolutely clear.
COOPER: Maggie Haberman, Alyssa Farah Griffin, fascinating. Appreciate it.
Still ahead, a shockingly tight governor's race brought President Biden to New York today to campaign for Governor Kathy Hochul. The president's closing message to voters, next.
COOPER: President Biden has been busy on the campaign trail this weekend. And a sign of just how competitive races have become, even in traditional blue states. The president spoke tonight at an event in New York tonight in support of New York's Governor Kathy Hochul. Polls indicate she is facing a surprisingly tight race against the Republican challenger Lee Zeldin. And as we mentioned earlier, yesterday the president was joined by former president Obama in Pennsylvania as former president Trump also campaigned in the state.
I want to talk about it with CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz.
Arlette, what is the latest thinking when it comes to getting the president on the campaign trail in this final push?
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Democratic strategists I spoke with today said that this is simply put just crunch time and they are trying to drive up that Democratic turnout heading into Tuesday's election. That is why President Biden was deployed to Democratic rich Philadelphia yesterday with President Obama. It's why he was up in New York in Yonkers with New York Governor Kathy Hochul as they are trying to save her from the possibility of defeat by her Republican challenger GOP Rep Lee Zeldin.
One Democratic strategist I spoke with today said that they felt that President Biden really could offer that contrast. Argue why Hochul and Zeldin differ especially on an issue that Zeldin has tried to make a center piece of that campaign and that is crime. Take a listen to what President Biden had to say earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: If a politician won't stand up to his party leaders, and keep cops on the beat, he won't stand up to the NRA and get assault weapons off the street, do you really think he's going to take and help your families keep safe?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAENZ: Now this was the second time this week that President Biden had deployed to try to help a governor in a blue state. The White House and Democratic officials arguing that they recognize that those Democratic governors would be key to enacting the president's agenda and that is why you've seen him go into these states to try to offer some assistance.
COOPER: What is the closing message for the president in the final days?
SAENZ: Well, Anderson, there's really two parts of this. One, the president trying to warn of the threats that election deniers and some Republicans are posing to democracy, that's actually something that he spoke to specifically when it came to Congressman Zeldin when he was in New York today. And then there is the economy.
I was out with him on the trail in both New Mexico and Illinois this week. And the bulk of his speech was talking about the economy, some of the bright spots that they're seeing in the recovery but also trying to warn of the threat he believes Republicans would pose to the economy including on issues like Social Security and Medicare.
But the challenge that the White House and Democrats are running up against is that for all of the messaging coming from the president, many Americans just simply aren't feeling that same level of recovery that he's talked to. There is still so much economic anxiety heading into these closing days and that is one of the key challenges for Democrats across the country.
COOPER: Yes. Arlette Saenz, appreciate it.
More perspective now from Evan Osnos, CNN contributor, Biden biographer and author of "Wildland: The Making of America's Fury."
So, Evan, President Biden has been selectively out on the trail in this final push. There were a lot of places he wasn't used because candidates probably didn't want him there. We just heard him in New York earlier today. What particular considerations is he navigating and thinking in these final few days?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, part of the message that he's driving home is sort of counterintuitive which is let this not be about me. You know, in a way an incumbent president is always facing the challenge of having the presidency -- having the election be a referendum on him and what he has said over and over again, said it in New York, said it in Pennsylvania, is let this be a choice between two very different visions for the United States.
Two very different visions on policy, on things like guns, on issues like the very future of democracy and how we buttress it. So he's trying in a curious way to say I know you may not be happy with me but really think about the choices you're making and who you're putting into power.
COOPER: How do the next two years play out for him if Democrats lose the House, even the Senate?
OSNOS: It's enormously important for him, Anderson. I mean, just on the policy level, obviously if they lose control of Congress that deeply constrains what they're able to do in terms of passing legislation. But of course also some Republicans have talked about launching investigations against the president or his family or even an attempt at an impeachment. But I also think you have to look around the world what the message that would be sent which is that a lot of people are looking at the United States and saying is the United States moving back into this chaotic period, the Trump years?
And, you know, the president in effect is trying to signal to allies in Europe who have come together to support the war in Ukraine to say that the United States can maintain focus on big issues. And I think if there is a really decisive move against this party and against this president it's going to be harder for him to sell that case.
COOPER: We talked a lot in the past about Biden's legacy. What that might look like. How much, I mean, the results of these midterms seriously would impact that?
OSNOS: They would. Look, it is going to be harder for him to make a case to the party if they get really seriously beaten back in this midterm that he's the one to carry it forward in 2024. But, you know, history says that this party has already got a disadvantage ahead of it. So if they are able to hold on to the Senate that actually fortifies his case for it. There are going to be younger members of the party perhaps who say it's time to think about another generation of power.
But I will add one other thing which is that Joe Biden has been through a lot in his life as he often says when he's faced a setback. He did it in 2007 when he ran for president, back in 1988 same thing. That when he is dealt a blow he often says, look, I've been through harder problems than this. And it's not just empty talk. You know, if there's one thing in his life it's that this guy had moments when it seems as if he has been dealt a really decisive blow that in fact he's able to find a way forward. And I think that's the message you're going to hear from him.
COOPER: Interesting. Evan Osnos, appreciate it. Thank you.
A lot more still ahead as candidates coast to coast make their final pitches to voters in some key races that could decide which party will control the House and Senate. We'll talk to CNN political director David Chalian to lay out what's at stake and the crucial races to watch.