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Big Elections in Some States; Supreme Court Hears 2nd Amendment Case; Father Learns Daughter is Likely Hostage. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired November 07, 2023 - 06:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I mean that shows the difficulty of progress going forward.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's a really great point, Jim, because prior to a month ago this was a nation really divided politically, right? And now look how united they are on this.

Thank you, Jim, for the reporting from Tel Aviv.

SCIUTTO: Yes, thank you.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, back home, overnight, the RNC revealed the five presidential candidates who will take the debate stage tomorrow in Miami. We're going to tell you who qualified, who missed the cut and who won't be there. It's Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Minutes from now polls open in Ohio, where the key issue of abortion access is on the ballot. More of our election day coverage ahead.



GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA): We've had a really good two - two years, but I think we can have a fantastic next two years if we can hold the house, flip the senate. So, come out today, please vote, and send me folks into Richmond who will work with me, not against me.


MATTINGLY: That was Virginia's Republican governor just moments ago urging his state's residents to come out and vote for Republican candidates.


The whole legislature is up for election today. Also voters in Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi headed to the polls. Very big races, big initiatives throughout the country.

Joining us now, CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt. And back with us, John Avlon.

Kasie, I want to start with you because particularly in the 24 hours of sheer panic and doom in the Democratic Party after, I guess it was 36 hours, after "The New York Times" polling, which was, by all accounts, not great for the current president, you look at the map today and you look at the races that are up, the initiatives that are up, and you say, this could be a day that, when it's over, people might exhale a little bit. What do you think is going to happen there?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if anything will stop Democrats from fretting, as you know, Phil, because there is always going to be a lot of hand wringing behind the scenes. But, yes, I mean this is going to be a key test, I think, for Democrats of whether abortion still carries the potency that it has in the last couple of election cycles. Are voters still focused on it, are they still afraid of losing rights that they have historically had when were protected when Roe v. Wade still stood. Is it still the motivating factor?

You know, I was looking at some comments that Abigail Spanberger, she is a Democrat from a swing district, Richmond suburbs, right? She is in an area where you get a lot of swing voters. She's been saying - she's been making the argument that voters are tired of being afraid. And this plays into Democrats who spent a lot of years being afraid of Trump, now being afraid of abortion rights issues. So, she was basically trying to raise a flag, like, hey, maybe they're tired of this. Maybe this isn't going to work. So, I think that's really going to be a key test here for them, Phil.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, I mean there's certainly a lot of fear and loathing around politics, but I think you make a really important point. For all the bad news in that poll and the fretting around Election Day, which is normal, Democrats have actually been on a pretty good streak. You look at special elections the last year, they've been winning special elections they've got no business winning. You look at attempts to, in the wake of Dobbs for -- to restrict abortion rights in red states and the pro-choice forces have been winning, pushing back on that.

Look, today's map, a lot of the races are in red states. States won - that Trump won handily. Not just Ohio, but Kentucky, Mississippi, of course Virginia being a swing state trending Democrat.

We will see. To your point, there's a Democrat incumbent in Kentucky. If Democrats hold on to that, there could be a very different feeling if swing - if things swing back the other way, you know, you can over index this. But the key point is, it's game day. It's Election Day. This is proving time. And Democrats, whether they're in despair or feeling a little bit of hope, will turn out a lot of close races.

HARLOW: Today is Election Day. Kasie, tomorrow is debate night.

HUNT: Yes.

HARLOW: You've got five Republican candidates who are going to be on the stage. And just it's -- I wonder how much of this will be about, I'm the one who can beat Biden, even though Trump is far and away polling that he can do the best, given what some Democrats are saying about Biden like what Tim Ryan just told you about the president, quote, "it would be the right thing to do for the president not to run."

HUNT: Yes, I mean Tim Ryan, Democrat in Ohio, who, you know, sees how and feels how the Midwest is feeling, and that's likely where this presidential election is going to be won or lost, with some tough words for the White House when I interviewed him.

But, look, I mean the debate stage right -- the test for the -- all the way along here has been, can anybody rise to the point where they are a serious threat to Donald Trump and the Republican nominating contest. And so far the answer has been a resounding no. This is obviously going to be a key night for Nikki Haley. People are going to really be watching her. She and Ron DeSantis are going after each other because DeSantis, of course, has been, you know, the number one, number two, I guess, is how you would put it, until basically now. And she's - she's giving him a run for his money.

But, you know, I've got to say, guys, to tie these two stories we're talking about together, Glenn Youngkin, who you just showed talking there, I think the conversation on Wednesday has just as much of a chance to be about him as it does about the Republicans on the debate stage because, again, this fundamental reality, none of the people that are taking the stage tonight have so far shown that they can realistically challenge Donald Trump for the nomination. And there is an enormous appetite among donors in the Republican Party, there is a significant chunk of them who really want someone else, anyone else, because they don't think that Trump can beat Biden. That he's, you know, I've got four criminal trials. All the things we know about Donald Trump, right? And if Virginia elects Republicans to the legislature and they sweep, just look for that. People are going to be talking about Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday morning as much as they are talking about Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and the people taking that stage.

AVLON: I mean the specter of Youngkin-mentom is he'll get raised again. I mean she's right, if Republicans get unified control in Virginia, that will be an index for '24, and that will be a new vote of -- boast of that boosterism.

That said, there are still folks on the debate stage. And if the argument is electability, which you see the poll out, you know, Ron DeSantis picking up a very key endorsement from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, but Iowa Republicans saying they want someone who can beat Biden.


But one thing all the polls show, including "The New York Times" poll the other day, if you want electability over Biden, Nikki Haley beats everybody head and shoulders. That hasn't yet translated to a rallying around and clear support, but that's consistent across every poll. Do you want to lean into electability, look for that tomorrow night at the debates.

MATTINGLY: I understand that you're keeping the faith, that in our long running bet that another Republican will rise.

AVLON: I'm just saying, look, prohibitive (ph) favorite Donald -

MATTINGLY: That perhaps the number one, number two that has changed from the number three to the number two (INAUDIBLE).

AVLON: I just - I just - I just like - well, yes, number one, number two, worst t-shirt ever. But, no, I just - I just like elections when people vote.

MATTINGLY: I understand.

AVLON: I just want people to vote.

MATTINGLY: And that's why today is a very big day and it matters.

John Avlon, Kasie Hunt, we appreciate you guys. Thank you.

AVLON: Thank you.

HUNT: Thanks, guys.

HARLOW: Thank you.

The Supreme Court set to hear arguments in a key Second Amendment case today. That decision could ultimately impact every gun law in this country. We'll explain.

MATTINGLY: And voters in Ohio are now heading to the polls where abortion access and recreational marijuana are on the ballot. More of our election coverage, that's ahead.

Stay with us.



MATTINGLY: Well, we are following a ton of news this morning. It's Election Day with key races in Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky and Virginia. And King Charles, as you can see to your right, is also giving his first speech to parliament. And we're watching smoke continue to rise over Gaza. We're keeping an eye on all of it. Stay with us.

HARLOW: Also, all eyes on the Supreme Court this morning. The justices about to hear oral arguments in a major text of the conservative majority's view on gun rights. This case involves a Texas man named Zackey Rahimi.

He is challenging his conviction under a federal law that right now bars people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. Rahimi is currently in jail on separate charges from those in this Supreme Court case, but yesterday CNN obtained a letter in which Rahimi wrote for -- asking for a plea deal, asking for a lighter sentence. And he also wrote, quote, "I will make sure to stay away from firearms and weapons."

Let's bring in our senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic for more.

This case is about him. It was an issue, domestic in a parking lot. He took out a gun. He fired a shot.


HARLOW: The real question here is whether this court is going to clarify where we are on the Second Amendment, and if there are any limits now to gun ownership and the Second Amendment.

BISKUPIC: That's right, Poppy. The most important part about the case that will be heard today is that it's going to revisit the 2022 case in which the justices greatly expanded Second Amendment gun rights by saying that when lower courts look at whether gun regulation is constitutional, they have to go back to the 1790s and see if there was a historic analog.

And in this case, when lower federal court looked at the prohibition on gun possession for anyone who's subject to a domestic violence restraining order, it said, there's no comparison back in the 18th century, and said our ancestors would consider this an outlier. And, you know, that really has shaken governments and all sorts of lower court judges who wonder how to interpret the 2022 case without just wiping just many, many gun regulations off the books.

HARLOW: It's interesting that a solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, said -- and her argument is, before, during and after the founding area, the government was allowed to disarm individuals who are dangerous.

BISKUPIC: That's exactly right. What she's saying, and what frankly the Supreme Court did, leave the door open to, it depends on how it's going to clarify things here, Poppy, is that you don't need an exact match. When the court wrote its decision in 2022, it didn't say it had to be a twin. It said that there shouldn't be a straight jacket here. But there also shouldn't be a blank check.

So, what the solicitor general, Elizabeth Prelogar, is saying is that, look at cases, situations in which the government prohibited anyone who was deemed dangerous or who was not law-abiding, who was not a responsible citizen from owning a firearm back in that era because, Poppy, one last thing is, as you know, society did not recognize domestic violence as a problem back then. So, it's virtually impossible to find the kind of match that the lower court was looking for.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, there were a lot of things that didn't exist back then, like AR-15s. And I could go on and on and on.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

HARLOW: Joan, we'll watch the court very closely today. Thank you for the reporting, as always. Phil.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, happening today, governors races in Kentucky and Mississippi. The issues that could sway voters and what it all could mean for the 2024 presidential race.

HARLOW: Plus, it has been one month since Hamas' terror attack and their kidnapping of some 240 people from Israel. CNN has been following the story of a father who just learned his eight-year-old daughter, who he thought had been killed, may actually be a hostage.


THOMAS HAND, HAMAS ATTACK SURVIVOR: It's her birthday. There will be no birthday cake. No party. No friends. She'll just be petrified in a tunnel under Gaza. That's her birthday.




MATTINGLY: It's a heart-wrenching story CNN has been following. The father of an eight-year-old girl says he was relieved when he was told his daughter was killed in the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel because he believed being held hostage would be a worse fate than death. But now Israeli officials tell him his daughter was most likely kidnapped and is still alive in Gaza.

CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now from Tel Aviv.

Ed, my heart sank when I saw this update. What are you hearing from the father right now?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Thomas Hand says that family and friends can only console him with a hug and the words, there are no words. But Thomas Hand found the words when he spoke with us.


THOMAS HAND, HAMAS ATTACK SURVIVOR: From the morning of the 7th, until now, is a nightmare roller coaster, tragedy.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The anguished Thomas Hand is about to describe has left him trembling for weeks. It's a journey of death and a hope of resurrection he says is impossible to imagine.

HAND: On the day it was Russian roulette whether you made it or not.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): On October 7th Hamas fighters stormed the kibbutz Be'eri, killing roughly 130 people and ravaging the community of 1,100 residents. [06:55:05]

That morning, Thomas' eight-year-old daughter Emily was sleeping at a friend's house. Thomas could not reach her as Hamas fighters took over the kibbutz. Days after the attack, the Irish-born father spoke with CNN's Clarissa Ward about the moment he was told his daughter had been killed.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Thomas waited two agonizing days before getting the news.

HAND: They just said, we found Emily. She's dead. And I went, yes. I went, yes. And smiled. Because that is the best news of the possibilities that I knew. She'd be in a dark room filled with Christ knows how many people, and terrified every minute, hour, day, and possible years to come. So, death was a blessing. An absolute blessing.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Thomas says leaders of the Be'eri's kibbutz community told him Emily's body was seen in the aftermath. But almost a month after the massacre, Thomas was given news that almost made him collapse. He says the Israeli army told him it's highly probable Emily is alive and a Hamas hostage.

LAVANDERA: How were you told the news that Emily might be alive?

HAND: That was official from the army with all the information that they have, the intelligence that they have, it's very likely that she's been taken to Gaza.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Thomas says he's been told Emily's body is not with the remains of victims, and that there was no blood found inside the home where she slept the night before.

Thomas also says that cell phones belonging to the family Emily was staying with have been tracked inside Gaza.

LAVANDERA: When you spoke with Clarissa Ward a few weeks ago, you said death would be a blessing in this situation.

HAND: That's how I felt at the time, yes.

LAVANDERA: How do you describe where you are now?

HAND: Extremely worried about her, obviously. What conditions she's been held in. She's, you know, more than likely in a tunnel somewhere under Gaza. Your imagination is horrible. And it's her birthday on the 17th of this month. She'll be nine. She won't even know what day it is. She won't know what day it is. She won't know it's her birthday. There will be no birthday cake. No party. No friends. Just be petrified in a tunnel under Gaza. That's her birthday.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Thomas is now flooded with the hope and the despair of what his daughter might be enduring. He prays she can somehow hear these words to her.

HAND: If Emily is watching, just to let her know that we love her, all of us. We're all waiting for her to come back safely.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The survivors of the Be'eri kibbutz are temporarily living in a hotel. In the lobby, there's a vigil to all the kidnapped hostages. Now Emily's family says the young girl's photo will be placed next to the others.

LAVANDERA: You described as being a hostage as worse than death.

HAND: I believe so. It's -- the unknown is awful. The waiting is awful. But that's what we got to do now, just pray and hope that she comes back in some broken state, but we can fix her. We'll fix her somehow.

LAVANDERA: Do you allow yourself now to think about holding Emily again?

HAND: In my head, I can see, you know, like a beach scene, her running to me, and me running to her, just picking her up, never letting her go.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Phil and Poppy, remarkably Thomas Hand says he feels no anger about this roller coaster of emotions that he's been on. He believes that the leaders in the kibbutz there simply were doing their best in those harrowing early days of this attack. So, he harbors no ill will. He is not angry. Right now his focus is solely on getting his daughter back. And he is grateful for the outpouring of love and support that he's getting from countless people here in his country and from around the world.

MATTINGLY: Ed Lavandera, not the update we wanted, but hopes and prayers for sure. Thank you very much.


And CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What happens on Election Day could say much about how voters will see key issues next year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion and guns, those are two big things. I don't think they're going.