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Virtual Tie in New Jersey Governor's Race; GOP Wins Big in Virginia; Democrats Lose Message War. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kate Bolduan. We begin this hour with breaking news, Democrats are reeling after a rough Election Night, that saw voters reject many of their candidates and policies, sending a warning to the party ahead of next year's midterms.

In New Jersey, that governor's race is still too close to call. We are watching it because the numbers do continue to change. Democratic governor Phil Murphy, he does have a narrow lead right now over the Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli.

Right now he stands at 5,700 ahead of Phil Murphy. That is what separates these two men.

This is a state that Joe Manchin won by 16 points just a year ago.

But in Virginia, Republican business man Glenn Youngkin is now the governor-elect after defeating former governor Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin's playbook now one Republicans are hoping to replicate.

In mayoral races across the country, voters offered mix messages of what direction they want their cities to take. But history was also made. Let's start with that still undecided race in New Jersey this hour, CNN's John Berman, he has the very latest. He is joining me now.

Thank you for sticking around to do this. I appreciate it.

Where are things right now in New Jersey?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 7,100 votes, that's what separates the Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy from Jack Ciattarelli with about 85 percent of the vote counted.

Where is most of the remaining vote?

Well, we think largely from the blue counties. Let's take a look, if we can, at the counties that have 85 percent or less reported at this point. You can see almost all of them are blue; in some cases very, very blue. Take Hudson County, the home of Jersey City, you can see Phil Murphy

has 73 percent of the vote, just 80 percent reported. Essex County, where Newark is, the biggest urban center in New Jersey, Phil Murphy has 72 percent, Jack Ciattarelli has 26 percent.

The only red county you see is down here; this is Cumberland County. You can see just 79 percent reporting. But it's a much smaller county. There is still some Republican vote out there. Monmouth, the fifth largest county in the state, Jack Ciattarelli is at 61 percent. Still some more vote to come in.

Still it is the largely Democratic areas where the votes still need to be tabulated.

BOLDUAN: At one point, we saw a 61-vote difference between the two. And part of this whole picture is a big swing in voters away from what Joe Biden saw just one year later.

BERMAN: Let me do this right.

How big of a swing?

Phil Murphy is leading by 7,100 votes. How much did Joe Biden win?

Yes, I did it right, 700,000 votes. There is a big difference between 7,000 and 700,000, Kate. Let me go back to the governor's race here so I can sort of tell you county by county where Jack Ciattarelli is doing better than Donald Trump or Phil Murphy is doing worse than Joe Biden.

Take Monmouth, Jack Ciattarelli is at 61 percent of the vote there. This is a county that Donald Trump won by only 2 percent. So he is up 24 percent; Donald Trump won it by just 2 percent.

If you go county by county, Ciattarelli up by more than 20 percent; Donald Trump who it by 4. He is vastly over-performing Donald Trump in a lot of the Republican areas.

Phil Murphy is more or less on pace in the Democratic areas. He is up by -- not great at math -- by about 50 percent in Hudson County. You know, Joe Biden won it by roughly the same amount. So Phil Murphy more or less on track where Biden was in the Democratic places; but Ciattarelli doing better than Trump in the Republican areas, Kate.


BOLDUAN: We will keep a close watch. John, thank you so much.

So that is where the vote count stands, let's look at the issues moving voters. CNN's Jason Carroll live in Ft. Lee, New Jersey.

Jason, yesterday what were the issues that people were voting on?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Yesterday seems like ages ago. But yes, when it comes to these issues here, it's really interesting to see what both candidates ended up doing here. The Ciattarelli camp feels they were able to chip away at Murphy's

leads because of those key issues being these, mask mandates, critical race theory another one and property taxes. As you know, Kate, folks here in New Jersey pay higher property taxes than anywhere else in the country.

Murphy, for his part, what did he do?

He pushed his progressive accomplishments that he was able to do during his time here, basically raising the minimum wage, raising taxes on the wealthy and expanding paid family leave. So these were some of the things that he was able to do.

Another point that Murphy made, he did all that he could to tie Ciattarelli to Trump, who attended the Stop the Steal rally, all those wild conspiracy theories. He did all he could to tie him to Trump.

It seemed to work in some ways. I spoke to a voter this morning. She used to be an independent. She said, during this race and after Donald Trump, she basically decided she was going to switch and become a Democrat. I want you to listen to what mattered most to her.


AMY NELLISSEN, NEW JERSEY VOTER: The argument about critical race theory being taught in schools really angered me because critical race theory is not being taught in schools. The Republicans are so good at coming up with these inflammatory phrases and pounding and pounding and pounding away at them, whether they have a basis, in fact or not.

And I think the Democrats need to find a better way to counteract those, just the phrases.


CARROLL: So there is some advice for Democrats going forward. For right now, Murphy continues to expand his lead; if he is able to do that, he will be the first Democratic governor to get reelected since 1977.

BOLDUAN: So in Virginia, let's focus there. Glenn Youngkin is the first Republican to win statewide office in over a decade. Big victory for the GOP. A big blow for Democrats for sure. Virginia has been turning blue, turning thoroughly in the last dozen years. We are live in Arlington, Virginia.

Sunlen, what happened in Virginia?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. That's exactly the question many Democrats here in Virginia and nationwide, frankly, are asking this morning in the aftermath of the election results here.

And certainly notable that, in the last hour, Democrat Terry McAuliffe officially conceding the race, saying in a statement, he hopes Virginians will join me in congratulating Glenn Youngkin for his win and wishing him the best. But this is a significant gut punch for Democrats and McAuliffe

officials acknowledging that they certainly underestimated Youngkin and they said that the race for them just shifted in the end.

Now for Youngkin, he was squarely focused throughout his campaign on the bread and butter state and local issues, issues like education. And exit polls really found that that resonated with Virginia voters. Here's the governor-elect, celebrating his victory last night.


GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA), GOVERNOR-ELECT: Together, together, we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth. And, friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one.


SERFATY: Now it's notable the exit polls last night showed that only 43 percent of Virginia voters felt that they approved of the job performance of President Biden. So certainly his first year in office and the challenges of getting his legislative priorities through are affecting these candidates, like Terry McAuliffe.

Also the strategy that the Terry McAuliffe campaign ran was squarely focused on trying to tie Youngkin to former president Trump. And that failed last night and the polling really showed that. So Democrats this morning, Kate, are going to have to re-assess that strategy going into midterms next year.

BOLDUAN: Sunlen, thank you for that.

Joining me is CNN political director David Chalian and CNN chief political correspondent and co-host of "STATE OF THE UNION," Dana Bash.

David, we are waiting for New Jersey to be decided.


BOLDUAN: We are keeping a close watch on that. You will tell me before anyone else for sure.

But looking at Virginia at the very least, do you now see the formation of a Republican playbook and how to run and win in bluish- purplish states going forward?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Certainly, I think Glenn Youngkin has provided a roadmap. But there are unique factors to Youngkin, his self funding ability, one of them. And the fact that he is new to politics. That is always -- a new brand to politics, not part of the old political class, running against like a former governor who is nothing but part of the political class.

So that will be the same anywhere. And also some Republicans, you know, most of them that will be on the ballot next year, Kate, were working in politics and serving with president Trump. And so, they may have had to take some positions that may be not as

easy to keep all things Trump and on flank, the way Youngkin did.

But I think the key of the playbook that got written is this. You can find a way, especially if Donald Trump is willing to participate, which is also critical, to embrace Trump in the way of accepting the endorsement, finding some issues that really fire up the Trump base.

I mean, Youngkin ran up the score in Trump territory in Virginia. And so finding that while also not having him around, not having him dictate the terms of debate allows you to bring back some of those independents. This is precisely what we saw Youngkin do last night.

BOLDUAN: I keep thinking about it as Trump adjacent, Dana. But give me your take, Dana, because, as David said, it works for Youngkin. He doesn't have a history that he has to explain with Donald Trump. Right?

He is new to it. He doesn't necessarily have ties to Trump. So he could do that, keep him at arm's distance.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He doesn't have the baggage of appearing at him, of -- we're looking ahead to the midterms, being in the Capitol on January 6th, taking a position on whether the election was free or fair. The most basics, basic of questions for fundamentals and for democracy.

That is why, if you think about Liz Cheney or Adam Kinzinger -- and they're two separate examples -- but I'll tell you where I'm going with this. If Liz Cheney were voting in Virginia, there is no question she would be fine with a Glenn Youngkin.

The reason is because he hasn't been a threat to democracy. It's not as if Republicans like that are looking for Democrats to vote for because they believe in conservative ideals or even independents are looking for people who are speaking to them.

The show-stopper for a lot of those Republicans is the way that the former president did and continues to fundamentally undermine the Constitution with his lies about the election.

So what Glenn Youngkin was able to do, because, as David said, he didn't have that connection and he was sort of able to stay away from it, is run as a traditional Republican, the kind of Republican, that we, pre-Trump, covered scores of campaigns just like that, talking -- particularly when you are trying to run up the numbers in suburbs, talking about low taxes, talking about education and choice in education and things of that nature.

Yes, a nod to the cultural wars that are also an animating issue, depending on where they are. But the question is whether or not that can be replicated and the question goes to Donald Trump and whether he will be able to stay back.

And I was told by somebody who knows the former president and how he operated around this, that he felt like he was OK to stay back because he didn't feel like he won Virginia or that it was stolen from him.

So he wasn't as aggressive with the Glenn Youngkin. That's not going to be the case in other areas, where there are swing states and swing races and swing districts within those states.

BOLDUAN: David, I want to focus on one exit poll question as you kind of help us all go through those throughout an Election Night. That I think we should focus on even today. And it's in Virginia, of course. On the question of, as Dana was talking about, education and the role parents should have in curriculum.

The numbers were huge. We'll put them up when anyone likes. That is huge, became hugely important and also seemed to speak to more than someone talking about critical race theory, which wasn't being taught in schools there.

CHALIAN: No doubt about that, Kate. This was a very savvy strategy. So if -- you saw education as an overall issue rocket up to the number two place, just behind economy and jobs. A quarter of the electorate roughly said education was the most important issue to them in Virginia last night, Kate.


CHALIAN: But here's what's more important. A majority of Virginia voters said that parents should have a say on what goes on in their schools. A majority of Virginia voters said that -- and look at how this split between the candidates.

Among Youngkin voters, 94 percent you see there said that parents should have a lot or some say of what is taught in schools. Even 74 percent of McAuliffe voters said that parents should have a lot or something to say about what gets taught in their schools.

So three-quarters of McAuliffe voters are at odds with the gaffe he made on the debate stage, which will go down if history as one of the great flaws and fumbles that a candidate has had. And they certainly didn't address it quick enough.

But the issue you note here is the important thing going forward. Glenn Youngkin was able to use education to dig in to independents, to dig in to suburban voters and really address their concerns post- COVID.

We're in the third COVID school year now. Right. And parents are tired and exhausted and had their kids at home. That's a broad kind of issue Glenn Youngkin tapped into. In addition, he was able to use the critical race theory to make sure the FOX News Trump crowd was still very much engaged, lumping that in.

So it worked as a double barreled base jolt and win over independents back for him.

Dana, David, if you can stick around. We have much more ahead, we are just scratching the surface with you guys. Coming up, we will talk about key mayoral races across the United States. And also why Minneapolis rejected an overhaul to policing after George Floyd's murder. Much more to come. Much more to learn as voters had their say last night. We'll be right back.





BOLDUAN: All right. Let's take another look at the too close to call, so far, governor's race in New Jersey.

As you can see, the latest difference between Governor Murphy and Jack Ciattarelli remains still too close to call. We're continuing to watch as these numbers change and more of these votes are coming in and being counted. We will stay close to this throughout the hour.

America voted and some history was made last night. In Boston and Cincinnati, voters elected their first Asian American mayors; Pittsburgh elected their first Black mayor. Voters in Minneapolis rejected an amendment to replace the city's police department. Dana Bash and David Chalian are back with me here.

Let's start in Minneapolis, the question of how to respond to the demand for police reform that followed George Floyd's death. It not only, as we saw, it was rejected, though, by voters but it also divided top Democrats in the state.

And the candidates, which I thought was obviously a very interesting part of this.

Is it clear, though, where this leads this movement, this march toward criminal justice reform?

BASH: Well, what is clear is that the way that the public sentiment was, particularly in Minneapolis, for obvious reasons, but even more broadly in the wake of George Floyd's murder and as the protests, the Black Lives Matter protests, were happening, the way that the activists took that and used the term defund the police, that didn't work. That backfired.

And that's not me saying that. That's just look at the initiative. The ballot initiative was effectively that. But they didn't call it that. They called it creating a department of public safety, which certainly sounds a lot less extreme than the idea of defund the police.

But even that, Kate, didn't get anywhere. It failed because the way that society felt and looked then is quite different than it is now because now you have a lot of people in cities across the country and even, you know, suburbs, feeling like there is a lack of safety.

Crime is up. Homicide rates are up. So the reality of what is happening on the ground and how people are feeling has changed dramatically.

Also, let's just say, for Democrats, looking at a direction and a road map of where to go to continue to win, they're going to look at the notion of defund the police and say, maybe, whether it's the terminology or the action, we need to talk more about bread and butter issues that Republicans did.

Whether or not it will help them, we don't know. But that is already what I am hearing from Democrats who are in tough races on the ballot next year.

BOLDUAN: One of the things we were also talking about leading up to the mayor's races, leading up to them, was the struggle you could see playing out between progressives and moderates, you also see that in these mayor's races as well.


BOLDUAN: I feel like there is something of a mixed message coming from the mayor's races in all this.

CHALIAN: Yes. You know, it's hard to draw big conclusions but you are right to note, you saw earlier this year in the New York City mayoral primary how Eric Adams positioned himself in the more moderate lane, even though he is clearly an progressive, not as far left as some of his opponents.

Being the Democratic nominee in New York last night, he won overwhelmingly but now you have Mayor-Elect Adams that represents that wing of the party in the nation's largest city.

But you had a mayoral contest up in Boston, where the more progressive candidate was the one to win; yet in Buffalo, New York, it looks like the self-declared socialist may go down to the incumbent mayor who had to run as a write-in because he lost the Democratic primary to that self-identified socialist.

So I think you are right; city by city, you may see different pieces of the Democratic Party emerge victorious. But I do think, you look at overall what we have seen throughout the Democratic primary season, this season when a lot of those battles were decided.

You look at the Minneapolis ballot measure, the Buffalo case, I do think -- quite frankly, look at Joe Biden from two years ago, how he emerged as the nominee in the party. I do think we see Democratic voters over and over again side a bit more with that center lane.

And obviously the progressive-moderate divide we see play out in a different way on Capitol Hill day in and day out right now, over the Biden agenda.

BOLDUAN: Let's talk about the broader of this. We focused a lot on the message for Republicans. Talk about the message for Democrats. You said bread and butter issues, Dana. I heard Claire McCaskill on another network say this morning, I think she was quoting someone, saying, if we don't get the mac and cheese right, you can forget about the macroeconomics.

It's a phrase that very much stuck with me because you see in some of the exit pollings. We don't need to get into the nitty-gritty details. But the economy was very important, top of mind when they were voting.

I am wondering, as we look at the message for Democrats, the message here for, honestly, the message here for Joe Biden, the enthusiasm for him and his agenda that hangs in the balance right now, Dana.

BASH: Yes, when you talk to Democrats, they argue that, what is in, of course, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which did pass, with huge bipartisan margins in the United States Senate, that has -- is full of bread and butter issues. It's full of jobs.

The progressive social safety net bill, they argue is also bread and butter, that, you know, what's more bread and butter than making it easier for you to stay home and take care of a loved one?

Or, you know, or make sure that your child gets good education with universal pre-K?

But that is not what the message coming out of Washington has been. The message out of Washington has been the infighting.

Is it going to be $3.2 trillion or $1 trillion or somewhere in the middle?

I have not talked to one Democrat who thinks that they have messaged that right, explained right, what they're doing. So that is a problem that they have identified for themselves.

The other is, David talked about Joe Biden running as a moderate. And that's true. The question is whether or not a lot of these voters, particularly independents, who rejected Trumpism and went for Biden, think that he has sold them a bag of goods and that he is more progressive than they anticipated.

BOLDUAN: Guys, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

CHALIAN: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing more arguments in a Second Amendment case right now, taking on the government's power to regulate guns. Details in a live report next.