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How Independent Voters Could Shape The Midterms; Biden Readies For "Horrible Two Years" If GOP Takes Congress; Voting Underway In Several States As Midterm Polls Open. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 07:30   ET





PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Vote -- get it out of the way and do the civic duty. We have a big election -- the -- all of the Senate, the governor. All eyes are on Pennsylvania today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think both sides are so polarizing right now it's hard to determine where the middle is. And it's just crazy the way things are going -- the way people are at each other's throats about every little detail about everything. I think it's important for me.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes -- is that real, though? We're going to explore. You know what? It's Election Day in America. The polls are open here on the east coast. Millions of Americans have already cast their ballot. But as tense races come to a head between Democrats and Republicans, many will actually be determined by voters outside either party. That's why I said is that actually so.

So let's bring in now CNN senior political analyst, Mr. John Avlon. If you -- good morning. Good to see you. Oh, by the way, congratulations. Happy anniversary to you guys.



LEMON: Your wife was on earlier. So happy for you.

AVLON: I appreciate that, Don.

LEMON: So let's talk about this. If you look at this through a Washington or a -- sort of a partisan lens, you would think that the country is really, really divided. But that may not actually be so. That it's not --

AVLON: That is not so.

LEMON: It's not.

AVLON: No, and I want to reinforce this because Washington does present a vision of America as evenly remorselessly divided -- two choices, Democrat or Republican. But most folks don't think that way and here's proof.

This is a Gallup poll -- recent -- and this shows that a plurality of Americans -- more Americans identify as Independent than Democrats or Republicans. This is basic but this is important to remember. And you'd never guess this looking at the way Washington works but that's a fundamental truth.

Now, if you take a look at millennial voters, it even gets more so. Take -- check this out. If you -- if you look at the next slide you're going to see that a majority of millennials actually vote. Fifty-two percent identify as Independent, right? So as the younger you get, the more independent you get. Folks saying I don't want to have to choose between the Republican and the Democratic Party.

And here's what's even -- there you go -- the stat right there. And just in case folks missed the larger issue, there are eight states where registered Independents outnumber Democrats or Republicans. So this is a major driver and they are actually the deciders in most elections.

LEMON: So, then, what is the lesson? Is that the lesson from -- that we've learned from Independents that they are decide -- in the past, is that they're deciders? Is there a lesson there?

AVLON: Let's take a look at the data --


AVLON: -- because I think you'll see a very clear pattern.

All right, so this is the numbers we've crunched to show what Independent voters do in midterm elections. Let's go back to 2006. Democrats take the House. Independent voters pushing back against the Republican Party under George W. Bush by a pretty decisive margin, right -- nearly 60 percent.

Then in midterm elections under Barack Obama when Democrats had control, this is -- for president -- Democrats had control and they -- the Republicans go in the midterms for -- Independents go for Republicans. Then, at the end, they go back in 2018 heavily for Democrats.

Presidentially, you see the same swing -- more subtle, though, right? In 2008, Independents go for Barack Obama. In 2012, they start moving right. This is interesting. This is an outlier -- Mitt Romney. In 2016, narrowly for Donald Trump. Twenty-twenty, decisively for Joe Biden.

So in both cases, you see the swing vote in American politics is disproportionately Independents. You want to find out how the election is going to go, look at where Independents are going. LEMON: OK, so here's the thing. So depending on where your candidate is, right --


LEMON: -- most people will look at Independent voters. It's a spoiler, right? They're going to spoil the chances for people. They don't really have a chance.

What say you, sir?

AVLON: That's Independent candidates. And in some cases, that can be the case. If a third-party candidate runs, sometimes it acts as a spoiler.

You may see that in Oregon where earlier, we've got Betsy Johnson, Independent candidate, running on the ballot. I want to indicate this is rare and difficult to do, but that could end up empowering the Republican.

On the other hand, take a look at what's happening in Utah where Independent conservative Evan McMullen has provided the first competitive general election for Senate in Utah in almost 50 years. Because Democrats said you know what, we're going to sit this one out. We're not going to win it. Instead, McMullen is trying to throw a coalition campaign. That's one to watch. That's been surprisingly close.

And in North Dakota, you've got Independent congressional candidate Cara Mund, former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate.

So it's part of this trend, but these Independent candidates are the outliers. It's really what Independent voters as a whole do.

LEMON: John Avlon, you make us smarter, sir.

AVLON: Thank you, brother.

LEMON: Appreciate it.

AVLON: You bet.

LEMON: Good to see you. Thank you. Congratulations, again.

We're going to take you now live. Let's take you out to the field. Live pictures of our key battleground states. Look, people are voting. The polls are open on the east coast. This is where voters are casting their ballots and going to the polls. We're on the ground. This is Election Day in America.




REPORTER: How are you feeling about tomorrow, sir?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, I'm feeling -- I'm optimistic. But I'm always optimistic.

REPORTER: Can Democrats win the House?

BIDEN: I think it's going to be tough but I think we can. I think we'll win the Senate and I think the House is tougher.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Biden as he returned to the White House late last night. You can see it's so dark there.

Perhaps no one has more on the line tonight than President Biden. He has had two years of Democratic control of Congress, so a change in who controls the House, who controls the Senate, or both could put his presidency into an entirely different phase than what he has been through so far.

No one recognizes that better than the West Wing where officials have been gearing up for what a Republican majority could mean for them -- investigations, cabinet officials, judges. So many implications.

CNN's MJ Lee is live at the White House. MJ, White House officials seem to think they've really put it all on the line and they're waiting to see what voters decide tonight.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and Kaitlan, a horrible two years. That's what the president himself recently said about the next two years if Democrats lose the House and the Senate, sort of acknowledging that yes, the second half of his presidency could be kind of miserable.

There are two areas where Joe Biden's Washington could be completely transformed.

One area is, of course, on the legislative area -- an agenda. It is going to be very difficult for Democrats to get through any bills. We know that Republicans have already talked about rolling back some of their accomplishments so far, and we know that the president could start exercising his veto power.

Now, the second area that we've been talking about a lot is Republican investigations. Republicans have made it no secret that they want to flood the president and this White House with oversight probes on everything from his son, Hunter Biden, to the origins of COVID, various theories that are out there about the FBI and DOJ. And we also have heard of plenty of impeachment talks.

So the White House has been preparing for his possibility for a number of months now. They've beefed up their operations and they will say that they are ready to push back on all of this as politically motivated.

[07:45:06] But yes, I think the idea of endless investigations -- that's not really a fun prospect for anybody in the building behind me.

COLLINS: No, absolutely not. It's a lot of paperwork, to start with.

President Biden did say if they do take the House, if they take the Senate, he will still have the power of the veto pen.

I think a big question also is what does it mean for a potential second term for President Biden -- a reelection run that he's been gearing up for?

LEE: Yes. You know, the biggest question is, of course, going to be is he going to run for a second term? So far, as you know very well, his advisers have said the intent is to run but he is also going to take some time over the holidays at the end of the year to talk to his family.

There are going to be other factors, too, right? One is the Donald Trump factor, as in does he run? When does he announce? You know, Biden advisers always say they are very eager and ready for a Biden versus Trump matchup, part two.

And then, second, I think we are going to have to watch sort of the mood among Democrats. I'm going to leave you with something that Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota told me yesterday. Remember, he's a lawmaker who said over the summer that he doesn't think the president should seek a second term.

This is what he told me yesterday. He said, "Regardless of tomorrow's results, I believe Democrats must rebuild our brand and repopulate our bench of future leaders for both Congress and the White House. President Biden has fulfilled his promise to serve as a stabilizing 'bridge' to the future, and I expect a majority of Democrats will be seeking a next-generation candidate to take the baton in 2024."

So, he's basically telling me that he thinks most of his colleagues will join him in wanting somebody else -- somebody that is not Joe Biden -- to run in 2024. So we'll see.

COLLINS: Calls the White House does not like to see.

MJ Lee, though, thank you so much.


Let's talk about all of this. CNN political commentator and former Republican congresswoman from Utah, Mia Love is here. And CNN political commentator and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, Paul Begala is here.

Paul, let me start with you. Let's go back to 1992. I was --

LEMON: Oh, wow.


HARLOW: -- 10.


HARLOW: And you and James Carville crafted "It's the economy, stupid."

BEGALA: Right.

HARLOW: And it was then and it is now. So what is it going to mean for whoever wins control -- if it is divided chambers. If they both flip, what does it actually mean for the economy? Because all of these candidates come on and they say we're going to fix inflation. We're going to fix the economy.

BEGALA: Right.

HARLOW: Really?

BEGALA: Well --

HARLOW: What are they going to do differently?

BEGALA: Well, Republicans, particularly, have run on inflation and the economy a lot more --

HARLOW: But not on specifics.

BEGALA: Yes. But politically, it's been very smart. Look, they're in a pretty strong position. But substantively, that's the problem -- is that the election ends, and then governing begins. And they're going to have to come with an agenda to tame inflation, not just sloganeering.

And they're not -- my -- I don't have a lot of Republican friends. I'm telling what they're saying in Washington. Here's the dirty little secret. They're like, we're running on inflation, and crime, and borders. We're going to govern on investigating Hunter Biden, tormenting Anthony Fauci, and impeaching Joe Biden.

Well, there are not very many people getting in line to vote this morning for those three things. A lot of good people on both sides care about inflation, and crime, and border, and choice, but nobody out there is saying gee, I really hope my country ties itself in knots over Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci and impeaching Biden.

LEMON: So you're blaming that on Republicans but, I mean, shouldn't Democrats have a stronger messaging?

BEGALA: Absolutely, 100 percent. They -- Democrats are very good, I think, on policy and terrible on branding. You know -- and we all hate Trump -- and I'm not a big Trump fan but he's a great brander, right?

Why not pull together all the things that Democrats are for? They want to cap the cost of your child care, cap the cost of your insulin. They want to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. They want to -- Biden is talking about a windfall profits tax on oil companies -- reduce the price of oil.

Package all that together --

COLLINS: It seems likely (PH).

BEGALA: -- but package it together as an inflation protection package, right?


BEGALA: As a middle-class bill of rights.

LEMON: But how do you brand that for a bumper sticker? I know it's simplistic but how do you -- how does that become build the wall?

BEGALA: It -- we're going to help you make ends meet. We're the middle-class party.

LEMON: Help you make ends meet. Oh, OK. What do we think of that?

COLLINS: Mia, what about you? Because one thing we have heard about these Republican investigations -- I've heard from some Republicans who said let's not count our chickens before our eggs hatch because it's not like that they can all stay on message all the time. We have seen a Republican majority in the not-so-distant past.

What are you watching, though, today when it comes to what the messaging arguments have been between the two parties?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE, UTAH: Well, I think that the messaging -- I've always said this. Get -- don't hold Trump's water. Do not defend Trump. Your job is to talk about what you're going to do for the American people tomorrow. What are you going to work on?

And obviously, Democrats are in trouble in even some blue states, surprisingly, because Republicans have effectively channeled voter dissatisfaction with --

LEMON: Right here in New York.

LOVE: Right here in New York. I mean, we're looking at the Lee Zeldin race who is, full disclosure, a very, very good friend of mine. I served with him in Congress and was elected in the same year as Zeldin in Congress. And he has really channeled in the problems that New Yorkers are facing.


And that's happening somewhat throughout some areas in the nation in blue states where they're dissatisfied with the handling of crime and inflation is at top of mind.

HARLOW: Because you're here, I want to talk to you about what is -- I'm fascinated by the Senate race in Utah -- in your state -- between --

LOVE: We are, too.

HARLOW: I bet -- between Mike Lee and Evan McMullen. Here, you have a former Republican who ran for president, Evan McMullen -- flips Independent. The Dems -- the Democratic candidate gets out. The Dems get behind the Independent, Evan McMullen, and he promises if he wins that he's not going to -- not going to caucus with either side. That he's not going to be a sure vote in either way.

What do you make of all of this?

LOVE: More interest -- more interesting --


LOVE: -- than the Democrat getting out of --


LOVE: He was actually told -- he was actually pushed out --

HARLOW: Yes, like --

LOVE: -- by the Democrat --


LOVE: -- party because they wanted somebody who had a chance --

HARLOW: Who could win.

LOVE: -- who they could have a chance in a very red state. And the problem with that is it's also -- it's a double-edged sword. That's also really hurt Evan McMullen because he's funded and supported mainly by Democrats.

Where Mike Lee is saying hey, you don't know -- who is this guy going to caucus with? He's an Independent, he's funded by Democrats. He's on an island on his own. There's no way he's going to be able to get anything done.

And then you've got --

HARLOW: Or he could outsize power because he could be a key vote.

LOVE: I don't -- I'm just telling you what people are seeing. I don't think they see it that way.

LEMON: Mia, you're taking the fun out of it here -- the mystery out of it.

LOVE: They don't see it that. First, they're trying to figure out what's happening here.

LEMON: Yes. LOVE: What is happening and if this is going to be something that they use going forward. Something that Democrats use going forward? Whether they're going to be able to pull together their own candidate or whether it's going to be someone just because they need -- they want the seat.

LEMON: Well --

COLLINS: Another big part of this also, Don -- we were talking about this earlier -- is we've been talking all morning about Democrats and where they are competitive. Typically, they wouldn't be competitive in these races at all. You would normally see the president's party. They often get a shellacking, as some former past presidents have called it, in these midterm elections.

BEGALA: Right. There's a Democratic governor of Kansas -- she's up today. It's a dead heat. But Kansas voted once for a Democratic president in the last 80 years.

There's a Democratic congresswoman from Alaska. They haven't had an open seat in three generations because Don Young, God rest his soul, served for 50 years.

But so, there are -- there are places where Democrats were -- they hunt us down with dogs. And yet -- and yet, they've been able to win. It's -- I'm always impressed.

COLLINS: But is that --

LEMON: Metaphorically speaking.

BEGALA: Metaphorically speaking.

HARLOW: Is that Dobbs? Is that -- Kaitlan, you're saying --

LEMON: You said -- you said Kansas.

HARLOW: Is that --

LEMON: You mentioned Kansas.

BEGALA: Kansas -- Dobbs has been big and I think that's probably what's broken the tie.

If you asked me a year ago, I'd say this would be a 70-seat Republican gain, right? Every single midterm this century -- every single one for 20 years, the House or the Senate, or both have flipped. Does anybody think we're looking at a time now where people think well, that's enough change -- I want the status quo? Well, no.

So with high inflation and low popularity of the president -- you know, Obama lost 60, Clinton lost 50, Trump lost 40. Biden should lose 70. The Republicans will snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory thanks to the two MVPs of the Democratic Party, Sam Alito and Donald Trump. They're the best thing my party has. LEMON: Here's what I have to say and this is one thing I know for

sure, OK? And I'm going to make a prediction here that nobody knows you know what. We don't know anything. Look, I've been voting since --

HARLOW: That was just like don't make a prediction.

LEMON: I have been voting since the '80s. I've been sitting here covering elections on CNN since 2006. I covered Obama, I covered Trump coming in, and look what happened in 2016 or 2015 -- 2016 on election night. So, nobody knows anything.

We see -- the people who are going to decide are up on the right-hand side of the screen right now -- not the people on the left -- us. We can sit here and talk about it all the time but it's going to be the people on the right-hand side of that screen. And we don't -- we don't really know.

HARLOW: Final thought, Mia.

LOVE: Well, I think it's going to be interesting. I'm -- I -- we're not going to -- I don't think we're going to know tonight. I think we need --

LEMON: Of course, not.

LOVE: -- to be patient. And there are some states that are going to be -- that are going to be surprising. I -- one more thought is that I think Democrats are going to surprise us in some states, especially states where abortion is --

LEMON: I agree.

LOVE: -- top of mind.

But I agree with Paul. I do think that we are definitely -- Republicans are definitely going to take the House. I think the Senate -- we're going to look at some places, obviously. Pennsylvania, early on, is going to tell us a lot. Georgia is going to tell us a lot. So --

BEGALA: Can I just give a shoutout --


BEGALA: -- to all of the people in both parties who got up early, had bad coffee. They're going door-to-door. They're texting their friends. They're calling. I used to be one of those.


BEGALA: I used to go door-to-door. By the way, bring dog biscuits.

LEMON: When you go door-to-door?

BEGALA: I'm a dog lover --


BEGALA: -- but not all dogs love me. So if the dogs love you, give them a biscuit.

Everybody out there trying to pull the vote out, I honor them.


BEGALA: This is the most important thing they can do for their country.

HARLOW: Thank you.


LEMON: Good to see both of you.

HARLOW: Thank you, thank you. I know you (INAUDIBLE) with us.

LOVE: And late-deciding voters -- I think late-deciding voters --


LOVE: -- may break Republican, too. That's the way we're -- that's what we're not talking.

COLLINS: I think --

LOVE: Because when the pocketbook is at top of mind it's hard to try to weed through everything out.


HARLOW: OK, your vote counts, folks. That's what we're saying -- all right.

COLLINS: Mia and Paul --

HARLOW: Go vote if you haven't already.

Live pictures -- take a look here. Key battleground states where voters are going to the polls. We are on the ground. You're watching CNN's special live coverage. We'll be right back.

LEMON: That's where this is decided -- here in them there voting booths.


LEMON: Do you know what today is?

HARLOW: We do.

LEMON: Today is Election Day in America. Good morning. We're so happy that you could join us. And guess what? We're going to take you out and we're going to show you everything. You're going to see what's happening around the country.

The polls have opened in several key states. A live look now -- a first look at Cleveland, Ohio. People have been showing up since 6:30 this morning.