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House Battleground Map Expands As Election Day Looms; North Carolina Senate Race Spotlights Shrinking Slice Of Persuadable Voters; Trump Urges Blake Masters To Lean Into Claims Of 2020 Election Fraud Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 26, 2022 - 12:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What if a Republican legislature did change the abortion laws, would you sign a bill into law?

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R) NEW YORK GOVERNOR NOMINEE: Well, first of all, there's not going to be a Republican legislature in January. I've heard from New Yorkers who say that they don't want their tax dollars, for example, funding abortions for people who lives 1,500 miles away from here.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Emily, that was not a direct answer, which leads me to believe and you're in the state. Tell me if I'm wrong. Zeldin is uncomfortable on that issue. Because of the point you made earlier to win in New York, you need to be a more centrist candidate.

EMILY NGO, POLITICAL REPORTER, NY1: When I'm out and about talking with Republicans and even some independents and more conservative Democrats, they say that abortion isn't front of mind for them necessarily because they feel that these rights are protected in New York State, but we do see today that the assembly speaker of the New York State, Carl Heastie is out saying that even as Zeldin, saying that he wouldn't touch those protections now in place, he could do so unilaterally through the executive budget. So some of the Democratic allies of Hochul now circling the wagons because these polls show this race is tightening and standing up for her.

KING: And one of the ways, Athena, Hochul, to borrow Emily's term circling the wagon trying to appeal to more moderate centrist voters was to bring up a former New York resident who's now a Florida voter. She asked Lee Zeldin, what did you think of Donald Trump. Listen.


GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D) NEW YORK: Is Donald Trump a great president?

ZELDIN: I worked closely with him on a --

HOCHUL: Yes or no, yes or no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please let to have a minute like you.

ZELDIN: And I believe that from our work to combat MS-13 on Long Island, I work to secure a $2 billion electron Ion Collider for Brookhaven National Lab. Well, that work is our job.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Zeldin.

HOCHUL: I'll take that -- I would take that as a resounding yes. And the voters of New York do not agree with you.


KING: It's a tough challenge for Zeldin in the sense that Trump is not popular statewide in New York, but Zeldin needs all the Republicans to turn out to and Trump does have a base.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so he has to kind of play it down the middle. He's got to appeal to Trump voters without offending them and also appeal to moderates and independents, that kind of people living in the suburbs that he needs to do very, very well in order to have a chance.

But it's so interesting to see that that response to that exchange there from Zelda and Hochul on this issue, it's -- I don't know how to put this but in the end, you know, she's trying to -- she's been trying to pin Zeldin to Trump this entire time. One of her opening remarks was about tying, saying, calling him one of Donald Trump's strongest and most loyal supporters.

And so this was clearly something that she wanted very much to do. And she -- you notice he kind of dodged on that answer. He also dodged on a question about whether he wanted to see Donald Trump run for president in 2024. So, it's very clear that Zeldin is a little uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with a matter of Trump.

KING: In 20 years, so as Emily (ph) notices , the Republican governors one in New York. We will continue to watch in the final 13 days, Athena Jones, Emily Ngo, thank you grateful for the reporting and insights. Up next for us. 13 days out and yes, the map is changing why the Senate math is so close, and where Republicans see new opportunities to flip House seats.



KING: 13 days out now from counting your midterm votes. And Republicans when they look at the map, this is the house map right here, Republicans increasingly confident heading into these final 13 days. Let's walk through it.

Right now the state of play in the House 220 Democrats, 212 Republicans. Republicans need only a net gain of five to take control of the House. A couple of weeks ago, it was eight to 20 maybe Republican predictions. Now some Republicans think they actually could get higher than 20. Some are talking even 30.

Why are they going there? Let me just show you this. We won't go too deep into detail. But look at the map of competitive House races. CNN working with inside elections as 78 competitive seats. You'll see these numbers add up to only 75. That's because three of these competitive seats are brand new house districts drawn up after redistricting.

Look at all the blue on the map, Democrats on defense. 53 of these competitive seats currently held by Democrats, 22 currently held by Republicans and look where you see the blue. Republicans think they can pick up seats in New Hampshire, in Rhode Island, in Maine, traditionally, blue states and then come across the country out in California, even in Oregon and Washington State places that have been democratic blue for quite some time. Republicans believe they are in play heading into the final 10 days or so.

Democrats have some opportunities as well. You see them there, but the Democrats are defending pretty easy to map. They're defending more seats in the Republicans. That's the House.

Now let's flip over to the Senate. And you look at the battle for control. You don't need me to say a word the numbers at the top lay out the stakes 50 to 50 for the Democrats. The Vice President currently breaks the tie. You have the toss up race in Pennsylvania and in Georgia right there. You have backup races, you might say to watch North Carolina and Wisconsin, a big race out in Nevada and in Arizona.

Here's one scenario for you. Why do the Democrats think picking up this seat is so important, currently held by Republican Pat Toomey not running for reelection. The Fetterman-Oz debate was last night. Democrats believe it's critical that they take this because they are nervous. Let's say everything else stays the same until we get out here.

Democrats increasingly nervous about this one, and they fear the Republican candidate could win in Nevada, which would keep it 50-50. If the Republicans can hold on in Pennsylvania, and the Democrats pick up Nevada, if those were the only chances then Republicans take the majority.

There are other races as well. But that's a narrow debate about how far the Senate will go in the final days. And out in Nevada, the number one issue Adam Laxalt the Republican candidate has spent more money on ads about inflation than any Republican candidate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do liberal career politicians become millionaires by putting their own financial interests over yours? They don't care about causing devastating inflation, they can afford it but we can't.


Catherine Cortez Masto doubled her own net worth becoming a multimillionaire while in office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big oil makes big profits. To lower our costs, you got to stand up to them big time, not Adam Laxalt. He's big oil's best buddy. He sells us out and cashes in.


KING: Great reporters back to the table for us. So none of the ads are pleasant. Not many of them are positive. They're all slashing attack ads out there. Let's big picture first, Republicans feel a lot better today than if we were having this conversation two weeks ago, and especially six weeks ago.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, absolutely. Democrats wish that the election was early September. They would have felt much better than they do now.

There's been a lot of interesting moves. There's a lot of attention on the Senate. But there's been a lot of interesting moves in the House where Democrats are having to retreat in districts that they thought that they were going to be able to pick up. They're completely on offense, trying to hold on to seats, the fact that they are working they're fretting about New York, and California and Oregon traditionally, I believe say Rhode Island.

And I'm told by some Democratic sources that some of the problem in these traditionally blue states that have Democratic governors is that there are some sagging support of these democratic governors that is flowing down to these House races. And that's why you're seeing these polls tighten in New York with Kathy Hochul and Lee Zeldin, that no one expected.

KING: But you just mentioned Rhode Island and she was talking about competitive House races. That's where I started my career. I was up there at the end of last week, and there's a competitive House race there currently held by Democrat Jim Langevin. He's retiring. This is Seth Magaziner to the Democratic candidate trying to convince people don't switch parties. Keep this seat blue.


SETH MAGAZINER (D) CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS, RHODE ISLAND : We need leaders in Washington who are prepared to fight for working people, the big oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies are making billions of dollars of profit. We are going to stand up to protect programs like Social Security and Medicare. I'm going to fight to the working people of Rhode Island.


KING: You hear they're the script that democratic consultants and pollsters are urging counties to use attack the big oil companies, attack corporate profits, say you're fighting for working people, because the Democrats are again in that headwind of voters angry about inflation. JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Angry about inflation in just giving them something else to talk about. There really isn't a lot of good news on inflation every time. You know, we see one month where it goes down just a little bit, maybe the next month, it comes back up touching a 40 year high.

I think what's really interesting as these races tighten, is that we've been listening to Republicans for almost two years now right after the 2020 cycle talking about immigration, and crime. And they've really, really ratcheted up the attack ads on those two issues in some of these states. And I think that's -- I think Democrats are acknowledging that the spending on the airwaves on those two issues is playing a role.

KING: Right, spending. Let's this -- if you bring that up, let's just come right here. If you look right now, Democrats have spent a boatload more money on abortion ads. When you look here, Republicans have an advantage narrowing on crime, because Democrats came in late realizing they need to count.


KING: The Republican ads on crime. You see a big Republican edge on the issue of inflation, and on the issue of taxation, essentially, democratic spending more traditional Republican messages there. The question is, it's a lot of money. And we're watching it shift in key races as we get across it and all that. The question is, who wins the ad war at the end?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, look, it ultimately comes down to as many midterms do base turnout. So Democrats clearly view based on what you just showed there, John, that abortion is what is going to motivate the key pieces of their base, whether it's young voters, whether it's voters color, as well, as women, you know. We've seen women, particularly white women kind of go back and forth between the Republican and Democrats.

And so ultimately, you know, in 2018 for women, it ended up being gun safety and health care, is abortion going to be enough there for Democrats to defy history, because it's the first midterm under a Democratic president, or whatever president ism whatever party is ultimately in power, it tends to go the other way.

And so again, they're really trying to defy history and Dobbs gave them an opportunity to try to do that. But all of those things, whether it's inflation, crime and immigration, Republicans are trying to stack against of it.

JAMERSON: This is something on abortion and feel like, you know, talking to some strategists who feel like the reason why some of these blue state governors aren't getting that benefit right now is some people who live in blue states feel like Dobbs maybe isn't the issue for them right now. And you saw in that clip you played.

KING: Right. If you live in California --

JAMERSON: Feeling that way.

KING: If you live in New York -- you live in New York, you're probably safe. Yes, that's what they think. Right? It's a key point. Your reporting in North Carolina is interesting in the sense that we always talk about the battle for the middle, right. Democrats vote Democrat, Republicans -- the middle is shrinking. And in the midterm election, your return tends to go down. We'll see if it does. Participation has been up since 2018. Midterm presentation was up, was that just Trump or participating in a step.

But this is Jordan Shaw is a former aide to Senator Tom Tillis. It just feels like there are fewer and fewer people who are gettable and more and more people who put their jerseys on at the beginning of the cycle. That has become the new politics and Trump played this very hard, which is turnout every last one of your voters and maybe that's enough.


JAMERSON: Right. I mean, I think we -- I mean, I think we all get sent out sometimes to find like that, you know, person who --

BARRON-LOPEZ: The elusive --

JAMERSON: Yes, exactly. But like kind of the not sexy part of campaigns these days is looking at the turnout operations. And I think in North Carolina, particularly, it's like kind of second tier level state, kind of like with Ohio that we kind of talked about as a potential pickup opportunity for Democrats. There was a poll out today that showed Cheri Beasley was tied with her Republican opponent Ted Budd.

So I mean, I think that's a race where you can look at, you know, some next day, potential fingerpointing after the election if she loses by a little bit. Democrats will be thinking about where did they put the money put in the right places, back to right candidates, back to right turnout operations.

KING: That's where the anxiety is these final days. You pull money out of one race and then you put it in another race. Are you making the right call?

CALDWELL: Yes, it's a complicated puzzle. And are they going to make the right decisions.

KING: 13 days.


KING: 13 days. Ahead for us Trump's obsession the former president tells the Senate candidate the path to victory begins and ends with a lie.


DONALD TRUMP, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: You'll lose if you go soft. You're go into to lose that base.




KING: A new Fox program profiling Blake Masters includes video of a phone conversation between Masters, the Arizona Senate candidate, and Donald Trump. The former president offers some campaign advice whatever the question he says answer by saying Democrats stole the 2020 election.


TRUMP: If you want to get across the line, you've got to go stronger on that one thing. That was the one thing, a lot of complaints about it. Look at Kari. Kari's winning with the very little money. And if they say, How is your family? She says the election was rigged and stolen. You'll lose if you go soft. You're go into to lose that base.



KING: It is of course a lie to say Trump won in 2020. He did not. The election was not stolen. But when you hear Trump say stronger on that one thing, he means this, a Master's debate answer that angered the former president.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that election stolen?

MASTERS: If big tech and big media and the FBI didn't work together to put the thumb on the scale to get Joe Biden in there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But not vote counting, not election results?

MASTERS: Yes, I haven't seen evidence of that.


KING: CNN's Kyung Lah live for us in Phoenix. Clear in that conversation between masters and the former president. He's trying to make amends for that debate answer.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it certainly is a bit of a light bulb on the timeline and an explanation, John. I was in that room for the U.S. Senate debate between Masters and Mark Kelly. And when he answered that exact question that exact moment, all the reporters in the room, our heads popped up. It was noticeable. And certainly Donald Trump noticed as well. And it explains why since the debate, we have seen Masters shift back to the right, back to talking about the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. We've seen him on Fox News, talking about how he believes that there's a problem with the election that he believes in the lie. He's been on conservative radio here in Arizona, talking about people need to go to the ballot boxes and watch and questioning the election process when this process has been around for many elections. And it also helps explained almost putting a period on this relationship this ad. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Biden Democrats created the worst border crisis in American history and their lines with their teeth about it. Mark Kelly voted with Biden nearly 100 percent of the time and surrendered our border to the cartels, Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, open borders, lost lives. Make America Great again, ink is responsible for the content of this advertising.


LAH: They're rapidly stated who's paying for it is Donald Trump's super PAC. So, Trump not only putting his image and likeness in this game, but also now throwing in the money. And John, I just want to add one last thing very quickly in that Fox moment that you did play. I'm also hearing from Republicans, moderate Republicans in the state that what they also noticed is that Masters disparagingly talked about rhinos, Republicans in name only the term that has been thrown around by the far right.

That is upsetting, because strategically, it is moderate Republicans, Independents, moderate Democrats, that Republicans need to win in order to win that Senate seat. And in that moment, he's also disparaging the very voters he needs to win over. John.

KING: That's one of the fascinating questions we answer in 13 days just currying favor with Donald Trump hurt you with voters where you live. Kyung Lah, grateful you're on the ground for us in Arizona. Thank you.

Up next for us a quarter feet from Mark Meadows. The judge says Trump's former chief of staff must testify before Georgia grand jury.



KING: Topping our political radar today, a South Carolina judge just ruling the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows must testified before the Atlanta Area grand jury investigating 2020 election meddling. You'll remember, Meadows was on that call where then-President Trump pressured Georgia officials to quote find more votes for him. Meadows plans to appeal that ruling.

Today a pair of new Biden administration sanctions targeting foreign adversaries the first on Iran, aims to punish the regime for trying to silence those nationwide protests we have been seeing over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The second targets Russian oligarchs and former Moldovan officials who aided and abetted Russia's malign influence campaign in that country.

A big debate night clashed in Michigan, the Democratic incumbent governor Gretchen Whitmer squaring off against Republican challenger Tudor Dixon. Two candidate sparring over election security. Dixon is an election denier also over schools and over a ballot initiative that would write Roe v. Wade into the state constitution.


TUDOR DIXON (R) MICHIGAN GOVERNOR NOMINEE: When Governor Whitmer tells you that this is going to be Roe, it's not even close to Roe. But it would be the most radical abortion law in the entire country the only place that has something similar are China and North Korea.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D) MICHIGAN: None of what she just said is true. She is the one that said a 14-year-old child raped by her uncle is a perfect example of someone who should not have reproductive rights and the ability to choose.


KING: Thanks for your time on IP today. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.