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Polls Start Opening in States across U.S. for Midterm Elections; Wisconsin Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson Says He May Not Accept Election Results If He Loses; Democrats and Republicans Issuing Legal Challenges to Some Early Vote Counts; Some Races in Virginia May Be Early Indicators of How Democrats and Republicans Will Fare for Midterm Elections. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A live look now at Cleveland, Ohio. People have been showing up since 6:30 this morning. The nation's capital, Washington, D.C., more polling stations are set to open there, doors this hour, like Milwaukee. And here's what one voter says that they want to see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just want to see some change, make sure we keep democracy safe, all the votes get counted properly and just, yes, elect people that are going to help regular, everyday citizens.


LEMON: Today, starting now, and happening already in some places.


LEMON: Voters will cast their ballots to determine who controls both chambers. Democrats are hoping to cling to their majorities while Republicans predict that they will win. CNN's team live, all over the ground, in Ohio and Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, covering this from all angles.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: In Pennsylvania, controversy before the polls even opened this morning. Democrat John Fetterman overnight suing to try to stop the commonwealth from not counting, at least not yet, thousands of ballots on a technicality over a date. We'll explain.

COLLINS: And on the heels of the Senate race happening in Ohio, a quote, very big announcement. That's what former President Trump was teasing what is expected to be another presidential run on the final night of campaigning on behalf of J.D. Vance. We will tell you where he plans to break the news after the midterms.

LEMON: Here is a big announcement right now. We're going to begin with what's happening on the ground. Wisconsin first, right now, polls are open, incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson is locked in a very close race with Democrat Mandela Barnes. Johnson won't commit to accepting the results if he loses. And if he wins a third term, he is already planning to launch a series of investigations into his political rivals. Let's bring in now CNN's Omar Jimenez in Appleton, Wisconsin, where a very contentious race is in the hands of the voters. Let's talk about what's going on. Good morning to you. What is happening in the closing hours of the campaign?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you. The sun is up, which is a good sign for voters heading to the polls, polls which just opened here in Wisconsin. And polls up to this point have shown no clear leader between Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and Ron Johnson. Now, Barnes is on the other end of a now more than 100- stop R.V. tour. And we talked about his strategy throughout. He told us they were really just trying to meet as many people as they could where they were and not to assume anybody's vote. And so I asked him, do you think you've done enough to unseat the two-term Republican? And take a listen to what he told me.


JIMENEZ: What you feel is the key to what you've done?

MANDELA BARNES, (D) WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE: I can honestly say we have done all that we could. We have been outspent by outsiders, the most expensive race -- Senate race in the history of Wisconsin. I can guarantee you we have not been outworked. We're leaving no stone unturned, all gas, no brakes.


JIMENEZ: Now, Barnes is planning to make a few more last-minute stops. But on the other side of things, Senator Ron Johnson has also tried to leave no stone unturned. He's also tried to paint Barnes as someone who doesn't like this state and the people in it for criticizing past institutions here. He's also, though, pointed to the wider implications of what would happen if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Take a listen to what he said just last night.


SEN. RON JOHNSON, (R-WI): I would be chairman of the subcommittee on investigations.


JOHNSON: I would like a mosquito in a nudist colony.


JOHNSON: It will be a target-rich environment.

It's a fight for freedom. It is not anybody else's fight. It's not someone else's fight. It's our fight. It's the fight that we actually have to win.


JIMENEZ: And those are stakes that not just he set, but also Barnes, that this isn't just a race for a Senate seat. This is a race for the future direction of this country. And it is a race, of course, that is now officially for this final day in voters' hands.

LEMON: Under way, thank you very much, Omar Jimenez.

HARLOW: Let's take you now to Arizona, where polls are open, and the potentially pivotal races there that are drawing attention and concern, 12 of Arizona's 13 Republican nominees for federal and state office have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election. That's according to "The Washington Post." Our Kyung Lah joins us live in phoenix for CNN this morning. Kyung, good morning.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. What we are seeing from the - and you just saw the split screen there of the two women who are vying for governor here in the state of Arizona. What we saw last night is the Republican final big powwow. It was a big blowout party, the big concert before voters head to the polls.


The Republican nominee for governor, Kari Lake, she delivered a familiar line, a line that's part of a familiar stump speech. But then she ramped up the rhetoric just a bit. I want you to listen.


KARI LAKE, (R) ARIZONA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: These bastards back there don't want us talking about stolen elections.


LAKE: Well, it doesn't matter what they attempt tomorrow, because we're going to show up like our lives depend on it. And there's not a darn thing that Katie Hobbs can screw up tomorrow to make our win any less significant, because we're going to win tomorrow. We're going to vote tomorrow. And we are going to take Arizona back. Are you up for it?


LAH: Katie Hobbs is her competitor. She is a Democrat running for governor. She is also the current sitting secretary of state. She spent the final day of the election process -- the campaigning process to go door to door and to talk to voters in suburban Phoenix, to try to target some of the swing moderates, Poppy. But, you know, Kari Lake there still questioning the election, talking about a stolen election, as voters just now head to the polls. Poppy?

HARLOW: Kyung Lah, thank you for not only today, all the reporting you've done on the ground there throughout. We'll see what happens.

COLLINS: All right, we have talked about the lawsuit that has been filed in Pennsylvania in part by John Fetterman's campaign over the thousands of undated ballots. We're also starting to hear reports of issues in other states, something we are following closely on this crucial midterm elections day. Victor Blackwell is joining us now from the voting desk. Victor, what are we seeing, how isolated is this, and what does it really mean for today?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Kaitlan, we're starting to get reports of some allegations of voter intimidation, also legal fights over which votes to count, even how to count in the most crucial states.

Let's start in North Carolina, where there is that crucial Senate race between Ted Budd and Cheri Beasley. The state board of elections there is investigating a spate of allegations of voter intimidation, about 15 of them since the start of early in person voting back on October 20th. Some of the most egregious instances are allegations of people outside of elections offices recording video of elections workers, even the election workers' license plates. Some election worker claimed that that person was followed from a voting site to the elections' office, and then on to their neighborhood. The investigations into these accounts are happening now, and that office will have to determine if they will be elevated to the Department of Justice or to a district attorney.

Let's go to Wisconsin now. That's the home of the Ron Johnson, Mandela Barnes Senate race. A Waukesha County judge denied a request to temporarily block the immediate counting of military ballots in that state. There is a group of veterans, also state representative, a Republican there, who argued that the Wisconsin elections commission, the guidance of county clerks wasn't in line with state law to have updated military electoral list in each county. About 1,400 ballots are questioned there. The judge said that this was a request to disenfranchise military voters, and he called that drastic.

Let's move on now to Arizona. This is in the southeastern part of the state there, Cochise County. A judge there blocked a planned hand count in a Republican-controlled county, Cochise County. Local officials in that county said that they didn't trust the electronic vote tallying machines, so they were going to do it by hand. The judge said in this 12-page opinion there is no evidence that the electronic tabulation is untrustworthy and that they were replacing with something with which was more trustworthy than what was already in place. Of course, Arizona as we just saw, Kari Lake and Katie Hobbs, Mark Kelly and Blake Masters, those tight races there.

And as we mentioned, Pennsylvania on the Senate candidate John Fetterman, his campaign along with the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees. They're suing to have Pennsylvania voters who mailed in ballots with the wrong or no date at all to be counted, about 3,400 in Philadelphia, 1,000 in Allegheny County, that's where Pittsburgh is, a couple hundred in Monroe. We'll see how far this goes. But we're starting to get these reports, the legal fights and the questions of voter intimidation. We'll continue to watch them. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, and the legal fights are going to somebody to watch closely, obviously, after what happened in 2020 election. When it does come to those other states, it's important to remember if there are small errors that get corrected quickly and they are fixed, that does not equal fraud, even if some people try to take advantage of those instances. Victor Blackwell, we appreciate the update.

LEMON: Victor, Kaitlan, thanks very much.

So, listen, voters are going to decide all of this. But one thing we want to focus now is what is going to happen in the House. All 435 seats are on the line. John Berman joins us now. So good morning to you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Hard act to follow.

LEMON: I know.

BERMAN: That Victor Blackwell was good. I was glued to every word he was saying.

LEMON: He does a good job. And he knows it front and back, just like you. Let's have it.

BERMAN: All right, 435 congressional districts, all of them, every district in America up for grabs tonight, kind of, right? However, CNN has identified, along with Inside Elections, 82 that we consider to be the most competitive, 82 congressional districts. They are the ones in yellow on your map right here. Let these districts in yellow sink in.

Of these districts, they're not all created equal in the sense that Democrats and Republicans have a different path to get to the majority. And for the Republicans, it is a bit of a shorter path in these competitive districts. Republicans have to win 30 of the 82 congressional districts CNN believes in order to take control of the House. Democrats have to win 53 of these 82 seats to win control of the House.

The reason for that is Democrats are defending more of their own turf tonight, Don. So you watch this very, very closely, as the night goes on, as more of these yellow districts turn, it will determine how the night is going.

LEMON: We just had the former Utah Congresswoman Mia Love on. She said we're going to have some -- there are going to be some things earlier in the night that will be a precursor of what's to come. What is that?

BERMAN: I'm going to come into your space right here, I can show you. What I think people should be watching early on is -- I'll turn this off here -- the state of Virginia, which does close -- the polls in Virginia close at 7:00 and we should start seeing some numbers coming in.

OK, Virginia, the gray districts here now are the competitive seats in Virginia. We think there are three competitive districts in Virginia. Two years ago, for frame of reference, two years ago in Virginia, we considered -- we considered all of these congressional districts in Virginia to be blue. These three congressional districts we believed to be blue at this point. Democrats need to maintain control of all three of these in order for this to be the type of night that they want.

Watch this space right here. Elaine Luria, Elaine Luria, you'll remember, is on the January 6th committee. She was elected in 2018, one of the majority-maker women, she's in a very tight district here in the southern part of the state, Virginia, Virginia Beach in the Norfolk area. Joe Biden won this area, this district, by 1.8 percent, a very narrow margin. I'm going to write that down. D, 1.8. I'm going to switch back so you can see. Again, as the night goes on, keep an eye on this. Is Elaine Luria doing about one point or two points better than the Republican here? If she's doing that margin or better, it might be a good night for the Democrats. If she's doing worse or losing, a bad night perhaps for the Democrats.

One other district you can watch in Virginia is right here, this is a Virginia seventh, Abigail Spanberger, also part of the majority-maker women who were elected in 2018. This district two years ago was a Joe Biden plus roughly six points -- plus roughly 6.7 or so right. So, as the night goes on here, again, is Abigail Spanberger not just winning, but winning by a fairly comfortable margin? If she's winning by one or two points, it might bode ill for Democrats as the night goes on.

LEMON: It just shows you in comparison how well or how poorly they're doing.

BERMAN: And again, Virginia closes at 7:00. Watch that.

LEMON: All right, Mr. John Berman, thank you very much, sir. I appreciate that.

The polls are open now, as we have been saying, in many places across America. We're live on the ground in several states. This is CNN special coverage of Election Day in America.





LEMON: OK. So, there you go. The applause and you see the handshakes there from a very familiar face. To a lot of folks, that is Mehmet Oz, going to the polls to vote. That's Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. I think it's Lower Merion Township, where he is, but it's just a --

HARLOW: You were educating me in the break.

LEMON: Yes, I --

COLLINS: I wonder who he's voting for.


LEMON: Very good, that was awesome.

HARLOW: Question of the morning.

LEMON: That was -- yes, I've worked there for a long time at the NBC 10 station, which was in Montgomery County, just on the other side of City Line Avenue, which is that main line as they call it. So, anyway, that's Dr. Mehmet Oz going to the polls this morning. I don't know who he's going to vote for. Kaitlan does not either, but --


LEMON: You know, there you go.

COLLINS: A lot of people voting this morning, though.

LEMON: So, the polls are open there. The polls are now open in high stakes races, midterm races all across this country. Let's go to Jeff Zeleny live for us in Atlanta, the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia, that is just outside of the City of Atlanta. Sort of still Atlanta proper. What's the feeling on the ground there? Good morning to you, sir.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Hey, good morning, Don. As you know, Cobb County here just north of Atlanta in the suburbs, such a critical piece of real estate we'll be watching throughout the day and the evening. Largely because the suburban voters in Atlanta and indeed across the country are going to tell a story of this midterm election that is shaping up to be a referendum on the Biden administration on President Biden, of course, that's what Democrats are bracing for. So, there is a sense of Republican optimism, but there's also some Democratic enthusiasm. But we caught up with Republican Herschel Walker, who of course, is challenging Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. And both men clearly had turnouts on their minds.

LEMON: Hey, Jeff, we're going to get back to you. Dr. Oz is speaking. We'll get back to Jeff in Georgia. Let's listen.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Because I'm very proud of how we run this campaign. Pennsylvania sending a very clear message to Washington, we want less radicalism, and more balanced. So, I encourage everyone to vote. It's your duty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Oz, what do you think about Fetterman's campaign lawsuit? Will you count mail-in ballots?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you accept -- would you accept the results no matter what?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Oz, would you accept undated mail-in ballots? OZ: Watch yourselves, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please back up. Please back up. Backing up.


LEMON: So, there you have it, Dr. Oz leaving the polling place in Montgomery Township of Pennsylvania -- Montgomery, Pennsylvania, saying Pennsylvania is going to send a very clear message to Washington. Less radicalism, he said, and more balanced. So --

HARLOW: Let's bring in -- because we just heard from Oz after he voted, though. Let's bring in our colleague, Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH." Obviously, Michael, you know everything there is to know about politics in the State of Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania native. OK, what's at stake here with this state? And what's the State of Pennsylvania going to tell us about the nation?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Well, first of all, good morning from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is swingiest of Pennsylvania's counties.

HARLOW: The swing county, yes. According to Kate Bolduan.

SMERCONISH: I should also mention -- I should also mention that the Dr. Oz that I just heard speaking of balance and, you know, putting people together, I'm all for that. Man, is that different than the Dr. Oz who was seeking the Republican primary. It's just another reminder that here we are in a general election, and the ground has shifted. You've been talking about the issue of the day, I think, it's the mail-in votes. Dr. Oz defeated Dave McCormack by 951 votes in the primary. The general election is believed to be equally close between Fetterman and Oz. I heard Don make reference to the fact that they're about 3400 ballots that are defective, of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia alone. If it's that close, it could come down to the interpretation of how you treat the signature and the date on the back of the envelope.

And look, we're new at this, we didn't used to have mail-in voting without cause. You needed to have cause if you're going to vote by mail. So, stuff happens and people make mistakes, human factors. And it's not just, you know, the low information voters among us, Citizen A in Philadelphia is Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, he's one of the individuals who turned in a defective ballot, he had to go to City Hall in Philadelphia and correct it. So, what I'm putting on your radar screen is, if the margin in the general is as close as it was in the primary, oh, man, this really could be a blank show for the next couple of days. I hope not. I'm hoping that whomever wins the Senate race doesn't win by a little, because it could get ugly.

LEMON: That was the point I was making with Kaitlan and Poppy earlier, and we're talking about these defective ballots. Two things, it's easy to make a mistake, I have to look at my phone to figure out what day it is sometimes, and look, I'm on the news.

SMERCONISH: Me, too. LEMON: So -- and when you're writing things down, sometimes you just

make a mistake, you may put, you know, month eight, and it's month nine, it's just little things like that. And I said to the group here, we should -- I feel like, Michael, we should be making it easier to vote for more people, and especially if we're going to -- if we're in this new sort of mail-in ballot thing, then we should sort of figure it out instead of throwing people's ballots aside.

SMERCONISH: Well, amen to that. Listen, Don, I was born in 1962, OK? I've got a tendency to write my date of birth when I'm asked for a date. So, listen to this now, if I signed my name on the back of that envelope and put March 15 ,1962, up until now, now it's being litigated, they would have accepted that even though obviously, I didn't vote in 1962. Meanwhile, if you had left that line blank, they would have thrown your ballot out. And the other thing to keep in mind is that the voting by mail-in ballot is still disproportionately Democratic voters, 70 percent of those who requested mail-in ballots in the Commonwealth are Ds. So, it's got a real partisan edge to it. And of course, Democrats want everything counted and Republicans want to be restrictive. Is it ballot security, or is it ballot suppression? All I know for sure is it's going to be litigated if this is a close race.

COLLINS: And, Michael, you're right that it does make a difference here because it's not expected to be a race with this huge margin. They have been neck and neck in the polls. So, that's why this is such a big factor into how we're looking at this today. I'm interested of your analysis, though, of what Mehmet Oz just told reporters, as he had just cast his ballot. He had just voted, because the closing message from him has been that he believes Fetterman is bringing extremism to Washington. That has been his argument. You saw Fetterman last night saying that he's feeling better and better every day and the month after the stroke he has, but he said by January, I'll be better. Dr. Oz will still be a fraud, and he sold miracle cures talking about his past, of course, in his time on television. I'm interested, though, in the way that the closing remarks have changed from these two candidates, as you've seen this progress, as you've seen voters head to the polls today.

SMERCONISH: I don't think the stroke, Kaitlan, is an issue. You know, from a -- from a distance, it's the kind of thing like in Georgia, with Herschel Walker, if you told me in the abstract, here's a guy who's going to run as a pro-life candidate, and then multiple individuals are going to emerge and say he paid for my abortion. I would say, well, the bottom is going to fall out of that campaign, and it didn't. After Fetterman's debate performance, many thought the bottom would fall out of that campaign, it really didn't. Although the race narrowed, I think the race was always going to narrow because that's the nature of Pennsylvania. We're a purple state. I think it's the crime issue and the commercials that have been run about Fetterman and his tenure on the pardon board much more than it is anything having to do with his physical abilities.

LEMON: You bet 100 percent for what I've been saying, Michael Smerconish, what is going on here that's (INAUDIBLE) though. HARLOW: You guys are in good company with each other. But Michael, one of the points you made this week that I was -- I thought -- I think it's so important for our viewers to hear again this morning, is the history in Pennsylvania of ticket splitting. And what you think is going to be a vote in favor of Shapiro may not be the same down the line for Democrats. Can you get into that a bit for us?

SMERCONISH: OK. So, Poppy, we got rid of, you know, big lever voting in Pennsylvania. There was a deal between the Rs and the Ds that took effect, I guess, in the 2020 cycle. You can't go in -- like Josh Shapiro is the presumptive, you know, gubernatorial elect. I'd be floored if Mastriano were able to run a competitive race tonight against Josh Shapiro. So, you might naturally think, wow, what coattails that's going to provide to John Fetterman. But you can't pull the big lever. You've got to go in there. You could vote for all Ds, you could vote for all Rs, but you got to fill it out one at a time.

And yes, we have a rich tradition of ticket splitting in this state. Think of Bob Casey, father, the late great Bob Casey, father of the U.S. senator, as the Democratic governor at a time when we had Specter and Heinz as two Republicans. Think about Tom Wolf right now with a state legislature that is Republican. Think about 2000 Al Gore wins the state and yet Rick Santorum is sent to the U.S. Senate. So, it might be a situation where people go and they vote for Shapiro. But now, all of a sudden, they have pause in the Senate race, because they look at who do they want to control the Senate. They look beyond Fetterman and Oz. I could see that happening.

COLLINS: We'll see what does happen, what the voters decide. The ticket splitting could be an interesting part, not just in Pennsylvania, but in many states this Election Day. Michael, Pennsylvania zone?

LEMON: What are you holding up? He's got up The Philadelphia Inquirer.

SMERCONISH: The Philly Inquirer is just really cool today. Like this is it, man, we've been talking about it for a year. Finally, it's game on in Pennsylvania.

LEMON: You're making me miss living there. You're making me miss living there.

SMERCONISH: Don, I remember when you were here. I remember where you were at Channel 10. We had -- we had some good times.

LEMON: We did. As I had conveyed this story, I would leave to go to the parking lot at the building. It was Montgomery County, right, down at Kenwood (PH) and --

SMERCONISH: Absolutely, yes.

LEMON: And Michael Smerconish would be inside of the little radio booth, and I would look through the glass, and he would be doing his show. I'd wave at him and then go to my (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: And look at you now. Look at you now.

HARLOW: And look at you now. And look at you now, Michael.

LEMON: Thank you, Michael.

COLLINS: All right. I love that headline. Let's see who voters decide Pennsylvania zone. Michael Smerconish, thank you. We are going to stay in Pennsylvania. CNN's Kate Bolduan is joining us live from Bensalem, where she has been all morning. Kate, what are you seeing at the polling stations as we know voters are starting to make their way over?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: First, can I just say -- I need -- we need to establish how far away Michael Smerconish is to my location right now. I mean, if we're both in Bucks County, we should be together. As I was sitting back, enjoying hearing Michael Smerconish's excitement for Election Day is 100 percent infectious.

COLLINS: It's contagious.

BOLDUAN: So, since we saw you last -- it is absolutely contagious since we saw you last. This polling station has really gotten very busy. It's a -- it's a huge parking lot. This is Bensalem High School. And so, it's a very big facility. It's been very busy all morning and understandably so. You guys and Michael were talking about it, Bucks County is key to the victory for everyone on the ballot. This is one of those swing counties where they are looking both candidates in every race, especially the Senate race are, at this point, begging for these independent-minded voters, suburban voters here in Bucks County, to come over to their side. Let's listen first to the final pitches that we heard to try to win over these voters from both John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz in their final rallies last night.


OZ: 10 Friends of yours going to hear from you tonight or tomorrow morning. And here's the question you're going to ask, are you ready?