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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Polling Models Forecast GOP Senate Takeover; Kansas Senate Candidates Virtually Tied; Last Minute Surge For Colorado Democrat; Record Number of Early Voters; Alaska Race Drawing Huge Outside Spending; Clinton Campaigns for Charlie Crist

Aired November 04, 2014 - 05:30   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In just hours, voters will decide who controls Congress the next two years. Late polling showing Republicans positioned to take control of the Senate, if it all holds, but Democrats are not backing down. Several of these races too close to call this morning. A heated midterm election could be a nail biter to the very end. We are breaking down the races and last-minute pushes that could decide it all right now.

Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. It is 30 minutes past the hour. It is Election Day. Here we go. I think Kentucky polls open in 30 minutes. The big prize this morning is the U.S. Senate. Will the Republicans pick up the six seats they need to control the chamber?

A lot of the late polling does give them reason to hope, but there are at least half dozen races that are well within the margin of error, essentially tied.

There is even a good chance that after this Election Day is done the fate of the Senate will still hang in the balance with runoffs leading to a political overtime that could last until January.

So the man who wants to be the next Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell on the trail for last-minute campaigning in Kentucky. Polls have showed an inching ahead of his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

McConnell attended only one event and expressed confidence he will win. Grimes losing her voice barnstorming the state comparing herself to David fighting Goliath.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: We have a unique opportunity here with this extraordinary partner of mine in the Senate to be an enormously influential position not only for our state, but for the country. We could have for the second time in our history the majority leader of the Senate setting the agenda for America and taking us in a new direction.

ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: You know that after 30 years, three decades of Mitch McConnell, we deserve better. We're coming down the home stretch. Let me tell you, this strong independent Kentucky woman, I got kick left still in me. I'm not giving up.


ROMANS: One of the tightest races in Kansas. Republican Senator Pat Roberts and Independent Greg Orman virtually tied in the latest polls. Orman is accusing his three-term opponent of spending too long in Washington. Roberts links Orman to President Obama even though Orman has refused to say which party he will vote if elected.


GREG ORMAN (I), KANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: We feel really confident that the voters of Kansas are going to take this historic opportunity to send a message to Washington that you can't just go there and hide behind your party label. You actually have to roll up your sleeves and go to work and get things done for the people of Kansas.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: We are going to win this race and we are going to win it because people know the difference. It is so much more than about me. It is about getting a Republican majority in the United States Senate and saying whoa to the Obama agenda.


BERMAN: Whoa either a Senate campaign or a House party. New Hampshire with a razor-close margin this morning, the incumbent Democrat Jean Shaheen and former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown more or less tied in polling.

Although most prognosticators say this state leans to the Democratic column. In his campaign to return to the Senate from another state, Brown has tried to tie Jean Shaheen to President Obama just like many other Republicans this election cycle. He has also run ads highlighting the threats from ISIS and Ebola.

ROMANS: Also too close to call in the U.S. Senate races, Colorado. A Quinnipiac poll released Monday shows the Democratic incumbent Mark Udall making a last minute come back against Republican challenger, Cory Gardner.

Now last Thursday, the same pollster had Gardner up by seven points. On Monday, he was only up by two. With the poll's 3.5 point margin of error, figure that in, it looks like Udall has a chance to keeping the seat.

BERMAN: One of the tightest races in the country in Iowa so tight that even Taylor Swift is now an issue. Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are slugging it out for the seat being vacated by retiring incumbent Tom Harkin. Tom Harkin not going quietly, not quietly enough for the Braley campaign. He added controversy in the race over the weekend. CNN's Pamela Brown is in Iowa with more on that.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Christine, the stakes are very high for the Senate race in Iowa because whoever wins today could tip the balance of power in the Senate. It has been a very tight race, extremely competitive, neck and neck.

It remains a toss-up. In fact, a record number of Iowans have voted early this year, more than 400,000. The Democrats have had a steady advantage, but not as much as they would like.

At last check, they were up around 7,000, but to put it in perspective, in the 2010 midterm, they had tripled that lead over the Republicans. It is important for them with the early voting numbers because Republicans typically have more votes on Election Day.

When talking to both camps, it's very clear that they're confident each side is going to win. That their candidate is going to cross the finish line as a winner. The polls have consistently showed them pretty close except for one this past Saturday.

It was a bombshell from the "Des Moines Register" showing the Republican candidate, Joni Ernst, up seven points over her contender, Bruce Braley, the Democrat in this race.

Democrats looked at that poll as an outlier, but Republicans say that gave them the momentum they need heading into this election today.

Also some controversy has been brewing between Senator Tom Harkin, the Democrat who is vacating the Iowa Senate seat and Joni Ernst. Take a listen to this.


SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: In this Senate race, I have been watching some of the ads and there is this sort of sense of Joni Ernst, she is really attractive. She sounds nice. Well, I got to thinking about that.

I don't care if she is as good-looking as Taylor Swift or as nice as Mr. Rogers. But if she votes like Michele Bachmann, she's wrong for the state of Iowa.


BROWN: So in response to those comments from Tom Harkin last week, Joni Ernst said that she was offended. If she were a man, he would never have said that. Just like Taylor Swift, she is going to shake it off.

Bottom line, you can feel the intensity heat up between the two camps on this Election Day. It's going to be a nail biter -- Christine and John.

ROMANS: There has been nothing boring about that Iowa race to say the least.

OK, the Senate race in Louisiana is complicated for incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu by the fact that she must get 50 percent of the vote to keep her seat.

The Tea Party candidate, Rob Maness, drawing enough votes from Landrieu and the Republican Bill Cassidy, this race could be thrown into runoff election next month.

Cassidy is doing his best to highlight the national implications of the race while Landrieu is trying to keep the focus local.


REP. BILL CASSIDY (R), LOUISIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: Louisiana may determine which party controls the United States Senate.

SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: This is about who is going to be the senator leading Louisiana for the next six years.


BERMAN: Neck and neck in North Carolina. We're saying this about so many states. Noticing a trend here? Democratic Senator Kay Hagan clinging to a two--point lead in recent polls.

She and Republican challenger, Tom Tillis, has spent tens of million dollars on television, but like any campaign the last few days, each side have been emphasizing the get out the vote efforts.


SENATOR KAY HAGAN (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I have 100 locations across North Carolina right now with 10,000 volunteers hitting the pavement and knocking on doors reminding people of the difference in this race and the importance of exercising our constitutional right to vote.


ROMANS: Alaska's tight Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Dan Sullivan drawing so much money from both sides. It is likely to break records for outside spending.

An analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice pegs spending by groups unaffiliated with either campaign, $39 million so far in a state with a tiny population relatively inexpensive media.

That makes it the sixth most expensive Senate campaign in history for outsider spending. It's a high stakes that drawn big names to campaign for the candidates in this far off state. Mitt Romney making the trip, made this pitch on Monday.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This state matters. It makes a big deal for people here in Alaska and people frankly all over this country because of the impact of what happens in the Senate race.


ROMANS: CNN's Drew Griffin is in Anchorage with more on the race for us this morning.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT REPORTER: from a cold, but at least clear Anchorage, Alaska, the big race, of course, here is the U.S. Senate race. The Senate race between the Democratic incumbent, Mark Begich, and his Republican challenger, Dan Sullivan.

And right now, this appears to be the Republican Sullivan's race to lose. He is up in most of the polls. Turnout shows that it should be favorable to at least his positions.

And we expect that this race will be decided. There is not going to be a runoff. The question is when. The polls close here in Alaska at 8:00 local time, which is midnight back on the east coast.

They will not count ballots until 1:00 a.m. so it is going to be a very long day of voting and a very long, long night of waiting while the whole nation waits to see if this is one of those pivotal races that could flip the Senate.

The big issue here also in Alaska is the governor. It looks like the incumbent governor is in trouble. He is facing a big challenge from an independent, but Republican leaning challenger.

Also we have two ballot measures. One which would raise the minimum wage up $2 over the next two years, that seems like it's headed for passage and a much tighter race over whether or not Alaska should allow recreational use of marijuana.

All that to be decided today, a very long, cold, but clear day in most of Alaska. Back to you, guys.

ROMANS: Drew makes a good point, incumbent governors in trouble. That is one of the story lines of this election. It's been fascinating.

BERMAN: Democrats are pointing to that saying like look this is not a wave election. Even if we lose the Senate here, we may pick up some of these governors' mansions.

There are so many tight across the country and the U.S. Senate is not the only prize up for grabs. Some of the races, the race for governor, we will break it all down for you next.


BERMAN: Control of the U.S. Senate is the big prize this morning in the midterm elections, but some of the closest contests are actually in the 36 governors' races.

Heading into this morning, nearly a third are considered too close to call and this has been bringing out the star power in Florida. The Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, is in a virtual dead heat with incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott.

Charlie Crist brought in the big dog as his big gun. A final campaign rally with big Bill Clinton right there, big Bill Clinton, politically speaking, of course. He is svelte now. The former president appeared at a Crist rally in Orlando last night.

ROMANS: He is very big politically. Chris Christie is in Connecticut and Michigan on Monday to support fellow Republicans running for governor in closely contested races.

At a rally for Michigan's incumbent, Rick Snyder, Christie said he has been transformational for Michigan. Christie chairs the Republican Governors Association.

He has been crisscrossing the country in campaign mode. Michigan was the 16th state Chris Christie has visited in the last week.

In Maryland, First Lady Michelle Obama giving Lt. Governor Anthony Brown's campaign a last minute boost against the Republican challenger, Larry Hogan, at a rally in Baltimore.

Mrs. Obama praised Brown for his work in education. She said the governor's race is close. She told Brown's supporters to take nothing for granted.

As critical as this midterm election is today, President Obama is expected to be at home today. The president has no public events on his schedule.

Sagging approval ratings nationally and in key states have seen Democratic candidates avoiding the president. Where that is a campaign strategy to stay remove from most of the races, we will soon know the answer to that.

ROMANS: You know, politics sadly is about money many times and voters have contributed $6 billion this campaign cycle. More than a quarter of that comes from a tiny slice of the population of about 30,000 people.

You may recognize some of the biggest donors, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who donated $12.2 million mostly to Democrats. Hedge Fund manager Paul Singer gave $5.3 million to Republicans. George Soros donated $2.5 million to Democrats.

Employees from Wall Street gave a record amount this midterm cycle, $78 million, 63 percent of that went to Republican candidates.

Time for an early start on your money, U.S. stock futures are down a little bit this morning. John, they are so really close to record highs here, oil prices this hour falling, $77 a barrel right now. That is the lowest oil price in four years.

All right, Indra Petersons has an early start on your Election Day forecast. Good morning, Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Everyone wants to know where it will be dry and where it is easiest to get outside today. The southeast is looking at warmer temperatures now making their way in the middle of the country, seeing milder temperatures, but nothing really that cold today.

Here is where the showers are today across the middle of the country across the Ohio Valley to Texas today. That's where we are going to start to see some of the heaviest amounts of rain.

For Election Day in the Pacific Northwest, we are going to be talking about some showers for some light rain and even a few snow showers at some of those higher elevations out there as the next system does kind of make its way through.

One of the things that is going to be a little bit tricky out there for you today will be the remnants of Vance. You have all of the tropical moisture in the south today.

Each day it will spread farther. Heavy rain will make its way into the Ohio Valley tomorrow. All that rain makes its way into the northeast as well so kind of a rainy start for the middle of the country today as they head outdoors.

BERMAN: All right, thank you so much, Indra. Let's look at what is coming up on "NEW DAY." Alisyn Camerota joins us. Alisyn, what's your lead today?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": You know what, we will pivot. We will talk elections. Let's get to the voting. The midterms are just minutes away from beginning.

We begin with the Senate where the Republicans are looking to control the chamber. Democrats think they can hang on, of course. We have all of the big races covered with correspondents across the country and the best analysis in the business.

We will also speak with candidate, Greg Orman. He is the independent running for Senate in Kansas. If he wins, control of the Senate could down to him.

But first, he has to dethrone the incumbent Republican Pat Roberts. We have so much to get to. We will have it all when "NEW DAY" begins at the top of the hour.

BERMAN: I am really looking forward to hearing Greg Orman. It's so interesting. We talk about possible runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia. There is the Orman runoff, too. This guy hasn't even said which side he will caucus with yet. He could decide that.

CAMEROTA: Maybe he will say it on our show.

BERMAN: I expect he will under the questioning.

ROMANS: All right, thanks, Alison. All right, Ferguson police is now responding to those accusations that they took drastic measures to stop the media from reporting on the Michael Brown shooting protest. We have that next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Administration officials are speaking out against a controversial no-fly zone put in place over Ferguson, Missouri. This ban was imposed in the city for nearly two weeks in August restricting news helicopters from covering the protests in the wake of Michael Brown's death.

The "Associated Press" obtained tapes in which you can hear police working with the FAA to keep media away, which is not sitting well with Attorney General Eric Holder.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Transparency I think is always a good thing. The American people need to understand what happened for instance or what was happening and what is happening in Ferguson.

Anything that would artificially inhibit the ability of news gathers to do what they do, I think, is something that needs to be avoided.


BERMAN: There will be those who see irony in Eric Holder's comments about transparency. Nevertheless, the St. Louis County police chief said that the safety restrictions were prompted by reports of gunfire. He also said the conversations on the tapes were, quote, "out of context."

ROMANS: All right, pot already legal in Colorado and Washington. It could spread to more states after today. We look at the ballot measures. Early start on your money is next.


ROMANS: All right. Time to get an early start on your money, Election Day edition, U.S. stock futures is slightly lower, still very close to records, a little bit of a retreat yesterday.

Wall Street is putting its money behind Republicans this midterm cycle. The idea here we could see stocks climb if Republicans do well today.

Oil prices are falling this morning. Crude oil is $77 a barrel right now, the lowest in four years, down almost 30 percent from summer highs.

Marijuana may become legal in a few more places today. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and D.C. decide whether to legalize recreational pot. Looks like those measures have a pretty good chance of passing.

In Florida, medical marijuana is up for a vote. If most of these votes get yeses, it's building momentum for legalization.

BERMAN: All right, let me give you a programming note, EARLY START will begin tomorrow at 3:00 a.m. Why? Special election coverage, here is the prediction. It will happen on this show where we tell you who controls the Senate.

Meanwhile, the fate of the Senate up in the air right now. It is Election Day. Republicans looking good at the polls, but not over for Democrats. Democrats saying they will keep control. "NEW DAY" covers it all right now.