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Coverage of the Midterm Election 2014

Aired November 04, 2014 - 15:30   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I want to go to Nick Valencia in Lawrenceville, Georgia. That's where the Democrats Michelle Nunn is in a tight race against Republican candidate David Perdue.

And Nick, there's a libertarian candidate, I know, that could throw a wrench into this entire race. Maybe not a win a lot, but throw the entire thing and the entire country, frankly, the potential disarray here. This race could last a long time?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Erin, people in Georgia and beyond are preparing for a runoff. And just a while ago, I spoke to somebody inside Michelle Nunn's campaign and they said that they're confident about an outright win. The magic number for both Michelle Nunn and her Republican challenger David Perdue is 50 percent plus one. That's the threshold that a candidate has to get in order to avoid a January 6th runoff.

Also, playing a factor in this is all, is early voting. And when I spoke to the Georgia secretary of state's office earlier today they said early voting is up 20 percent from the last midterm. We don't know which party is benefiting from the early voting. But at the point, Erin, every indication is that the Senate race between Nunn and Perdue is going to come down to the wire -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. This is could be fascination. Nick, thanks very much.

Of course, we just had the chief of communications for the democrat committee, for the Republican committee both, again, trying to talk about being confident of a win in Georgia as well as North Carolina.

Joining me now is a former White House chief of staff to president George W. Bush, Andy Card, our political commentator Paul Begala who works in the Clinton White House and the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" Candy Crowley.

All right, good to have both of you with us -- all of you with us, sorry.

Paul, Georgia and New Hampshire are two of the most important states in tonight's election. Obviously, as we talk about the six must pick up for the GOP. The Dems are trying to hold on. The president has not visited either of the two states, though. Bill and Hillary Clinton campaigned in both. In fact, they've campaigned for more than 30 Democratic candidates in 25 states. So did the Democrats make a mistake in pushing the Clintons over the current president of the United States?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. Short answer, no. You know, Andy has been there. I have been there. When Bill Clinton was president in 1994, man, we couldn't draw flies. People hated him. And we had a terrible midterm election. It happens every president at some point. It has happening to Barack Obama now. So very wisely, the Democrats are going to their bench. And thank God they have put my perspective. They have President Clinton and they have Hillary.

I mean had Ronald Reagan still been healthy in the Clinton presidency, can you imagine what he would have been doing going around the country and helping Republicans? So having a former president and a former secretary of state who are that popular -- and Bill Clinton is the most popular political figure in America.


BEGALA: And having them is a huge asset.

BURNETT: I mean, it is fair. They do have -- they are very popular at this time.

And Candy, Bill and Hillary Clinton haven't gotten so much time, though, in this midterm election. What are the stakes for them if they lose? If the GOP gets this sweep for the GOP seems to think they're going to get?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of political damage, zero. I mean, this not their election to lose. This is President Obama. He's the president. So this as, in a lot of ways, was win-win for them. Because for the Clintons, purely from their perspective, this is about picking up favors, this is about doing stuff for Democrats who might come in handy if one of them decides to run for president say in the next couple of years. So this was an easy one for them to do.

BURNETT: In that possible event that nobody expects will happen, obviously.

Andy, the president's campaign events for primarily gubernatorial, in blue states, alright? So very safe. But when you look at the possible, you know, places where you could see the Democrat wins, you're looking at the governorships. So maybe this was a smart strategy by the president?

ANDY CARD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I don't think it matters if he was going in for a gubernatorial candidate. If there was a Senate candidate within 500 miles, they were impacted by his visit.

This election, President Obama said, is a referendum on his policies. It's personified by him, even though the other personalities maybe standing at the ballot. It is good that there are other ballot personalities out there because it makes things competitive. I agree with Candy in her observation of president Clinton out campaigning or Hillary Clinton out campaigning within and what Paul says is right. But this election is going to be a referendum on how is the leadership in Washington, D.C. And the leader of Washington, D.C. and the country and the world happens to be President Obama and he's not very popular.

So I think people are trying to run away from him. The Clintons are very good campaigners. Bill Clinton in particular loves to campaign. So I don't think if you told him to stay away that he could stay away. He'll get involved and he's an asset.

BURNETT: He does loves to be there.

What about, though, the issue of what happens, Candy, if the Republicans get this win? I mean, we just saw a glimpse of it when we had senator Cornyn and he said well, I'm going to support Mitch McConnell and you have the Ted Cruz say but I'm not going to support Mitch McConnell. And you have the Republicans saying well, now, this is our chance to get things done. But they can't seem to agree in their own party.

So this might the big moment to show things they can get done to show complete dysfunction.

CROWLEY: Sure. But here's -- I mean, the presidential era which begins tomorrow for 2016 is a different kind of mix than midterms. I think it's very clear that Republicans know that they have to do something. They have to how show they can lead. They have to pass some bills. Will they be bills that the president signs? Who knows? But you know, the fact of the matter is there has to be some movement on Capitol Hill.

You are right. There are lots of internal divisions. It will only be exacerbated by the fact that there a number of U.S. Senators and those in the house, Paul Ryan comes to mind, that are looking at 2016. So they'll want to have their agendas out there. So there's absolutely no guarantee something will get done. But I believe that the president who is looking at legacy and the Republicans who are looking to prove they need to lead might get something done in the first six months of next year.

BURNETT: Well, that would be interesting. And of course, as you say, with all these possible senators sunning for president, nothing more possible to sign a presidential race than what did you do, absolutely nothing.

All right, all of you, though, are going to be staying with us because I want to play for you in a moment Jon Stewart telling CNN what it would be like if the Republicans take control of the Senate. Just his point of view. We will share it with you.

And since FDR was in the White House, the president's party has lost an average of six Senate seats in the president's six year in the White House. That's our sesame street number for this election. This is where we're at for this year. Will history hold true? We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: Voters hopefully right now you have already done it. If not you will soon, going to vote to determine who will control the American Senate. Republicans need six seats to take power away from Democrats. The latest polling shows that the GOP has the momentum.

My colleague Christiane Amanpour just got comedian Jon Stewart's take on the Republican controlled Senate and here's what he said.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are talking about Americans go to election, the midterms right here today.


AMANPOUR: Did you vote in.



STEWART: No. I just moved. I don't even know where my thing is now.

AMANPOUR: What do you mean?

STEWART: I moved to a different state.

AMANPOUR: Really? Where are you?

STEWART: I can't --

AMANPOUR: You can't divulge. Very secret.

STEWART: So it was very secretive.

AMANPOUR: So for your job, for your work, is this going to be equal fodder for you comedy? How can you see this playing out, this midterm election?

STEWART: In terms of?

AMANPOUR: Who do you think is going to win tonight? Who is going to hold the Senate?

STEWART: If I'm listening to the people that know these things and study these things, because that's not what we do, the Republicans are going to win the Senate. They're going to increase the House. They're going to win the Supreme Court and the judiciary. And they're going to win a lot of the restaurants and lobbyists. They're going to win K Street. So the only thing that they don't get, I think, is the presidency in this election. But if it goes the way they want, enough votes, they may get that too. Obama may have to leave as well.

AMANPOUR: He may very well.

STEWART: They may get everything that they want. And from what I understand, their first order of business will be to destroy ISIS and eradicate Ebola, if the commercials they've been running are to be believed.

AMANPOUR: So this is comedy as usual?

STEWART: This is major. This is not comedy as usual. This is a true changing point in American history.


BURNETT: Delivered as only Jon Stewart can you. Well, you can, of course, can catch Christiane's full interview with Jon Stewart. That's tomorrow on CNN international.

Back with me now, though, are former White House Steve of staff to president George W. Bush, Andy Card, our political commentator Paul Begala and our anchor of CNN's STATE OF THE UNION" Candy Crowley.

You got to like the way he delivers it. I think it is so much of the delivery.

But Andy, what about the issue of how things change, right? Jon Stewart stating, sure, they want to have everything. In his view, you know, you obviously could get the Senate.

Since FDR was in office, as no doubt you are well aware, right, that the party, the president's party has lost six seats in the president's six year in the White House. That's this year for President Obama. You were President Bush's chief of staff as you were coming into the midterms. He ended up, of course, losing both the House and the Senate.

How in the world do you get over the hurdle where you have the power and then you lose it and get something done afterwards?

CARD: Well, first of all, I wasn't chief of staff in that particular election you're citing. I was chief of staff up until 2006. But I do think the president was able to get things done because he focused on a much more narrow agenda. He was trying to deal with a changing of strategy in a war that was not going well and it made a big difference. And so he gave -- President Bush did a phenomenal job of exercising leadership within his power.

He didn't use the executive authority that president consist use to jam things down the throat of Congress and do things without Congress. He actually took his responsibilities that is constitutional and exercised them, and he informed Congress and he became a partner in the process.

I hope President Obama does not become arrogant in defeat where he refuse to work with a Congress that has been changed maybe because of the election. So I don't want his arrogant to be such that he is going to try to jam things through. I want him to recognize that the Republicans have a responsibility to lead.

I think they're going to step up to that responsibility. There is going to be a challenge for them to do so. But President Obama should be part of the solution, not just exacerbate the problem.

BURNETT: Well, it is certainly going to be a challenge for them when they still have something they are going to repeal Obamacare and they don't have the votes to do that. I mean, you have to hope those sorts of that sort of talk maybe dies down if they want to get stuff down.

Paul, what about the point, though, that Andy is making about whether the president will be arrogant in defeat. Is that a risk for him?

BEGALA: Well, it is always a risk. It's an occupational hazard in that building. I'm old enough to remember when President George W. Bush used his executive authority to sanction torture which violated basic American rights, basic American human rights. And it was a terrible moment in our history.

Certainly, this president will do nothing like that, thank goodness. But he does need to reach out always. You have to keep reaching out, keep working, keep at it. Then the Republicans, should they gain should they gain power in the Senate, will have to decide. And they're going to go one or three ways. Either they're going to pass a bunch of stuff that they know vetoes like repealing Obamacare or they're going to just investigate, investigate, Ted Cruz has already called for that. They want to investigate. Joni Ernst, the Senate candidate for the Republicans in Iowa has already called for impeachment or the third way is actually cut some deals. That's what I hope they do. You could cut deals on immigration reform, on tax reform, criminal justice reform. You can actually get this country moving again. But it is going to take two to do that.

BURNETT: What are the odds, Candy?

CROWLEY: The odds are that if they don't do it in the first nine months of next year, they get considerably smaller. Look, I think that there's opportunity here on some of the airs when I've talked to folks in the leadership on both sides and at the White House, they do mention things like tax reform, they do mention energy policies. So there are areas of commonality. The question is whether either side will drop some of the stuff they really want that kind of makes the deal unacceptable to the other side. It's called a compromise. They've got about nine months before they're heavy into 2016.

BURNETT: It's called a compromise. That's like a word in Russian or Arabic or mandarin as far as an understanding of most people in Washington these days.

Thanks to all three of you.

All right. And coming up, a veteran election watcher joins us with his crystal ball as we're getting near the exit poll numbers that are going to be coming in here at CNN. It is changing his outlook at the last minute at some of these crucial races.

Plus, CNN with those first exit poll results we are counting down to that. It is going to be coming out in just about one hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BURNETT: OK. So here's where we are right now. In just about three hours the polls are going to be closing in two of the most important race of the day that could determine who controls the Senate. We are talking about Georgia and Kentucky. They are two of ten states up for grab tonight that will determine which party controls the Senate.

Now, some are saying this could be a huge win for the Republicans. They already control the U.S. House. Larry Sabato is the director of the University of Virginia's center for politics. He predicts the winners and losers in every election cycle. And I always love watching when you do it anywhere. I'm thrilled you're doing it here with us right now, Larry.

So your final crystal ball prediction, I know is moving at the last minute, three states that you had as tossup to lean Republican, Georgia, Louisiana, Kansas. Throughout our hour we've had Democrats and Republicans all claiming that they're going to win all of those. So what's changed for you?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, it's the last-minute drift of the election more than anything else. We follow everything. The public polls, the private trackings, the historical data and what we learn from very smart people in those states that followed the politics there for many years.

The toughest one by far and the one we're least certain about is Kansas. That one could go either way. The Senate race between independent Greg Orman and Republican Pat Roberts, they are tied even in the private trackings.

Our tendency towards Roberts was really more because Kansas is so ruby red and we have a hard time imaging them voting out a Republican senator and a Republican governor, too. And we think the Republican governor is going to lose.

BURNETT: OK. All right. So, your final tally I know is that Republican gain eight in the Senate. The split will be 53-47. And no doubt, you just heard Joe Biden was doing a radio interview at the radio station in Connecticut and he said you're going to be the other way, they are going to end up with 52 Democrat. He's calling Kansas to be Orman and then Orman would caucus with the Dems. But obviously, he has a very different world than you do at this moment in terms of how this is going to play out. How did you get to this total, 53-47, favor GOP?

SABATO: We've been studying each of the 36 Senate races for two years and watching them develop. We actually called the Senate races, the governor races and all of the House races. That is 507 races, 498 of them we called before last week. We had nine remaining tossups and my team had a big fight about them. And we're all nursing wounds. It's very difficult to come up with those final nine races.

So look, the final ones are tossups. It might end up being 51 seats. It might end up being 54 seats. The odds are very clearly that the Republicans will get a majority, though. BURNETT: All right. And what about North Carolina? You know, we

just had on the communication chiefs to both the RNC and DNC. Both adamantly declared this hour that they are going to win North Carolina. Obviously, both can't be right. Do you have a view on NC?

SABATO: Yes. North Carolina is unbelievably close for the longest time Senator Kay Hagan, the Democratic incumbent had a two or three- point lead. That's virtually disappeared. From everything I've seen, it's an absolute dead tie. We have continue to keep it on the Democratic camp because we don't see enough evidence that the Republican Thom Tillis has actually pulled ahead of Hagan.

But, of course, that could happen if the Republicans have a better Election Day, get out to vote effort than the Democrats do. You never know those things in advance.

BURNETT: All right. Which is why it's so exciting that you can do everything you do and there's always a bit of it that's still art without it all being fully science.

Thanks so much, Larry.

And coming up, we're going to look at the most important races to watch tonight for the battle of control of the Senate. Will be right back.


BURNETT: OK. The president of the United States has just given an unannounced and unexpected interview to NPR in which he talks about today's races. What he had to say, pretty stunning. Let me play it for you.


OBAMA: In this election cycle, this is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower. There are a lot of states that are being contested where they just tend to vote Republican.


BURNETT: Candy Crowley is back.

So candy, an unannounced interview on Election Day where it sounds to me as if that's a big throwing in of the towel.

CROWLEY: Well, it's certainly greasing the skids for something that may not be a great night for Democrats. But it's also -- listen, the president has already said, I might not be on the ballot but my policies are. You can't then walk back and say, this is a terrible map. Because a terrible map doesn't explain Iowa and why that race is so close. It really doesn't explain Colorado. It doesn't explain New Hampshire.

So there will be plenty -- tomorrow and the next day and after that, we'll all discuss like why this went awry or went well or whatever it was. But the map is difficult, absolutely. But that's not the only thing going on.

BURNETT: So, it is interesting, as you are saying, it is sort of switching what the blame might be if it doesn't go his way.

Now, another thing just happened, Candy. We've been talking about Kansas, right, being this incredibly close race with the incumbent running against an independent. And we've been talking about Joe Biden in this radio interview talking about that independent that he thinks could win that seat. That that independent would then caucus for the Democrats. Here's Joe Biden in this radio interview he just did.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, we have a chance of picking up an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas.


BURNETT: And our Peter Hamby, Candy, is now reporting that they have already -- Pat Roberts, the incumbent, republican, is using that sound bites in a robocall right now to get people in Kansas to go to the polls.

CROWLEY: Right. Kansas is quite Republican. But let's remember, they've had many Democratic governors. It looks as though, as Larry Sabato said, they are going to throw out their current Republican governor.


CROWLEY: That has made it particularly difficult for Roberts who has been the Republican incumbent. I think what may be fueling Orman more than anything is, there is a Washington is broken, I don't like either party, and he has tapped into that and that's why Republicans are trying so hard to say no, he's a Democrat, don't believe this.

BURNETT: All right. Well, we shall see. That's going to be the one of the facts anyone. But there are going to be so many of them to watch tonight starting on the east coast when you start looking at those results coming in from North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire.

All right. Well, that is all for me this afternoon. Our continuing coverage of Election Day in America continues in just a few moments with Jake Tapper and "THE LEAD."