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Georgia: Republicans Stump For Walker Amid New Abortion Allegation; Latino Voters To Play Big Role In Winning Nevada Senate Race; Millions In Federal Election Security Money Remains Unspent. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 27, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And here we are back 12 weeks, 12 days, excuse me, until the Election Day and these attacks are flying back and forth. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: New twist on crime and law and order, I guess you might say in the Arizona governor's campaign, Kyung Lah, we'll stay on top of that story for us. Now we go to Georgia, another woman accusing Herschel Walker of pressuring her to have an abortion, here is how he is addressing that.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA), SENATE NOMINEE: This is a lie. And I've said it once and I've moved on my campaign and moved on because we're worried about what the Georgia people are talking about. If you are hesitant about voting for me, think about what Joe Biden and Raphael Warnock has done in less than two years. They've given you this high inflation. They've given you an open border. They've given you men and women's sports. They're giving you crime on the street.


KING: Republicans with big names rushing to support Walker despite this torrent of character question. CNN's Eva McKend is in Georgia for us. Eva?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: John, what we're seeing is the full weight of the Republican establishment rally behind Herschel Walker, Senator Ted Cruz on the trail with Walker today. But we've also seen Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the powerful chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senator Rick Scott, the RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. And what this illustrates is that Republicans really believe they have a good shot in flipping this Senate seat from blue to red. That support that we're seeing at the national level also seems to be mirrored here on the ground when you talk to his conservative supporters. They question the timing of these allegations. And they also suggest some frustration. They feel as though Republicans are often targeted.

Now, it's something that I've noticed that Walker has incorporated in addition to blanket denials. He's now also saying if they do this to me, imagine what can happen to you next. I'm curious to see how much he continues to make variations of this argument in the days ahead. Voting already underway in this state just a week and a half until Election Day. John?

KING: Eva McKend, thank you. And now we go to Wisconsin, the Democrat Mandela Barnes is challenging Republican Senator Ron Johnson. They don't agree on much. Barnes and Johnson, though, do share an affinity for calling each other extreme. CNN's Omar Jimenez is on the ground live for us in Wisconsin, beautiful foliage and a river behind you. Beautiful day, the campaign is not so pretty.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. I mean, at each event that these two do, they are very eager to attack the other and it makes sense, right? And we're less than two weeks to Election Day. Polls have shown no clear leader in this state. And there's a lot on the line. For starters, Johnson has characterized Mandela Barnes as someone who's soft on crime to which Barnes has said he's anything but Barnes has criticized Johnson for -- or characterize, I should say, Johnson, as someone who wants to bring Wisconsin back to the 1800s particularly when it comes to abortion. While Johnson has said he just wants that decided at the state level by the voters. But take a listen to some of what they've said about each other over the past few days.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): He got one side of the political spectrum wants to fundamentally transform America, they don't particularly like it. Now that's why running again because our nation is imperil, where do you hinge point.

LT. GOV. MANDELA BARNES (D-WI), SENATE NOMINEE: When the dollar decision came down, he celebrated and call it a victory. He said that women don't like the laws of their state like our 1849 criminal abortion ban, they can just move. Well, in 13 days women of the state get to help move Ron Johnson out of office.


JIMENEZ: And both candidates have been calling reinforcements in here. Mandela Barnes for one later today here in Green Bay is expected to do an event with labor secretary Marty Walsh as part of his win for Wisconsin bus tour that Barnes has been doing across the state. And of course later this week, President Obama will be in Milwaukee to campaign with barns and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers who's also locked in his own too close to call no clear leader race with the Republican challenger Tim Michaels. Johnson is expected to appear with some Republican surrogates later this week as well. And we know based on polls, the most important issues here are economy, followed by abortion, and then election integrity as well. And I can tell you, John, after we've driven all across the state, we've very much seen it reflected in voters we've spoken to.

KING: Twelve days left those targets coming in to turn up. Omar Jimenez in Wisconsin, Kyung Lah in Arizona, Eva McKend in Georgia, all of our correspondents out on the field. Thank you so much. We'll continue the conversation as we move forward. [12:34:21]

And up next, we follow the map west to Nevada, and we find the Senate's most at risk Democrat.


KING: Nevada tops the list of Democratic worries when it comes to the Senate map. Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto in a tossup race against the Republican Adam Laxalt. Inflation is a giant issue, rent and gas prices particularly high in Nevada. Latino voters are critical in the state growing to 20 percent of the Nevada electorate in 2020, could be even bigger this year. And a giant factor in Democrats success of the state in recent years is that Latino support. But Republicans see a big opening, a giant opening even against the Latina incumbent. CNN's Dana Bash was just in Nevada for an up close as in door to door. Look.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're trying to get people to vote against the first Latina in the Senate. She made history. Is it hard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't say so. Because I think a lot of these people they feel left behind. They feel that they have maybe a Latina representing them and they're Latinos and they're not getting better outcomes. All these Hispanic voters saying she may be Hispanic but she's leaving us behind and we're not going to vote for her.


KING: Our reporter is still at the table, including Dana Bash. Interesting in the sense that Latino seat -- Republicans who forgive me see this, some building in 2020, they think in 2020 they can grow even more build back their support with Latino voters and that would be a huge flip.


BASH: A huge flip. And this is a program called Vamos, shameless plug. This is going to be a piece at the end of State of the Union on Sunday, but going around with them going door to door, I was in Nevada, just in East Las Vegas in a place that is very blue. But they're using microtargeting and they're going and they're finding Hispanic voters who are either independents or what they call weak Republicans, it just -- they don't vote on midterm elections and having conversations with them, at least trying to do it. And in a place like Nevada, as you said, where there is a not just a already big Latino or Hispanic population, but a growing one. And people who don't feel like the Republicans speak to them. They're trying. They're at least trying because they argue, Democrats disagree. They argue that Democrats take those votes for granted.

KING: And again, this is one of the places where Democrats insist they're going to surprise us. They say they're registering new voters in Nevada and elsewhere, including Latinos, and they say they're going to surprise us. But if you look at the metrics right now, including this is the -- look at the recent polling of Cortez Masto in 2016. And the exit polls got 61 percent of the Hispanic vote, the Latino vote. Recent CBS YouGov poll had her dropping to 58 percent. Now you might say, oh, that's just a modest drop. In a 50-50 race, a drop like that on the margins can and does make the difference.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: It does. And I think that, you know, part of what's going on is in some ways, I think unique to the Nevada, right? It's economy is so driven by tourism, by the casino industry, that all shut down during the pandemic that it was slow to reopen, slow for tourists to come back. And, you know, we talk a lot about inflation in a macro sense, I think it really is very immediate and personal in Nevada, you know. And the struggle that Democrats have had is whether or not it is accurate or fair or right. Biden and Democrats have controlled all the levers of power.

And Republicans I talked to, even frankly some Democrats will say, you were the party in power as inflation hit a four decade high. Now, to be fair, there's a whole bunch of factors before that happening. But I think just on an instinctual level, people will, you know, people will point to the fact that the Democrats have had the options and the opportunity to address this situation.

KING: It's a key point because politics is not fair, as we all know, from covering politics sometimes not contextual. Donald Trump was president when the pandemic started, and Nevada was hit, the tourism industry was hit, Joe Biden is the President now. But Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate focuses on that like a laser beam. He says this state has taken a hit, please blame Democrats.


ADAM LAXALT (R-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE: They understand after many, many years now that the Democrat policies do not help the working class in this state. And if you want a chance at the American dream, and to climb out and go into the middle class, which by the way, we've always been in Las Vegas, you have to block the Biden-Masto agenda.


KING: It's a race that will give us two, answer two big questions. Number one, if Democrats lose that seat, that if -- they're 50-50 right now, so you got to pick up somewhere else, you better -- if you lose that, you better win Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or North Carolina. And then again, it was the 2020 growth with for Trump among Latinos. Was it an aberration? Or are Republicans building back?

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, exactly. And I think one of the things that Democrats have to sort of understand or have been trying to learn over the last two years is that representation is not enough, like Biden and Democrats promise to build an economy that benefits the middle class, it benefits poor people. And those people as inflation goes up as the economy tanks or whatever are the people that are being left behind. And if that happens, you will not win the election. KING: And it's also, Nevada is one of those states for the next two, three, four, maybe five cycles. It's going to be Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, maybe Wisconsin and Michigan are going to be deciding presidential elections, deciding the flip of the map, and you just look how close it is. My years covering politics, you saw Nevada start as a red state became a purple state. We thought it was moving blue. Obama wins by 6.6 points in 2012. Hillary Clinton wins it by 2.4. Cortez Masto, the same year gets elected by 2.4. Notice that you talked about ticket splitting earlier. Look at that match. Senator Rosen won by five points in 2018. That was the Democratic midterm year. In 2020, Joe Biden carries it again. 2.4. This is a highly competitive state that may have been trending blue. But now it has at least hit the pause button.

BASH: It has for all the reasons that we were talking about. One of the things that I found really interesting in going out to a lot of these states and talking to Democratic candidates in particular is I've noticed the shift in how they're talking about the economy. At the beginning, they weren't probably talking about it enough. Now they're doing some of the I feel your pain, but then trying to pivot to the one thing that people can understand in the inflation Reduction Act, which is the prescription drug part and we're going to -- it's going to bring your prices down, even though it's not going to happen for a while, but also corporate greed.

Why are prices so high? Is it that the prices really are that high? Or is it that these corporations are taking advantage? That is something that they believe clearly from focus groups and polling can touch a nerve with voters unclear if it's enough.


KING: The unclear it's enough part is why we have 12 more days, and that's part of what the President's been saying.

WOOTSON: Yes, I mean, Biden's trying over and over again to hit home that like there are other factors at play. There's corporate greed, there's there Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and all of that stuff. But the fact of the matter is that when you when you talk to voters, the people they blame for the economy, are the people that are in power include that there's a reason that Biden spent the weekend in Rehoboth and is not out campaigning with Democrats writ large next weekend. It's because people, by and large blame him for a bad economy.

KHALID: And I think now the challenge is the argument that the White House is taking, the Democrats are taking as well, if you elect Republicans, if Republicans to control, things will get worse. The challenge is that that is kind of like an amorphous reality that doesn't exist right now. And so point to repealing the Inflation Reduction Act or cutting Social Security. But those are not tangible things and people aren't yet feeling.

KING: And again, we'll hear from the President in New York later today. This quick programming note, don't just watch State of the Union to see that Nevada piece. Dana also sat down for an interview with the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff. Here how the man married to the country's first female vice president navigates that unique and historic role a new Being: Being the Second Gentleman airs Saturday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Up next, election security and red tape, some new CNN reporting finds millions of dollars in federal funding set aside to help keep federal election officials, keep election officials safe guess what, it has barely been touched.



KING: We want to share some important new CNN reporting on election security with you now and sadly, it includes this quote, vote, our security here is a joke. That's from a report that documents complaints from election officials who say the federal government is not delivering on promises to boost safety and security at the polls and read the reporting. It's a classic tale of bureaucratic red tape. Millions of dollars remain untapped. And we know this threat is very real. Just in recent days, remember these pictures armed vigilante seen patrolling drop boxes in Arizona.

Seven battleground states accounted for nearly 60 percent of all threats of physical violence. But in those states, CNN identified only a little more than $1 million dedicated to physical security for election officials. This reporting is done by CNN's Sean Lyngaas. He's here to share the details. Let's start with the big picture. What's the biggest issue?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: John, the big issue, you've heard about fighting the last war when it comes to wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, people talk about fighting the last election, what was the main concern coming out of 2016 Russian interference with cyber threats. Fast forward to after 2020, we're talking about physical harassment of American election officials by our own citizens. So the funding is very slow to catch up.

Election officials don't always know what they need until they need it. And then you're asking for money. And by that time, it can be too late. Now, I took a look at two grant programs worth hundreds of millions of dollars that the feds have tried to adapt to these new urgent threats. And I only found a little bit of uptaken in seven battleground states, which as you say, account for the majority of threats. And it's no coincidence that they do because that's where they are -- these so called audits and conspiracy theories are really blooming about the voting process, John.

KING: So it's not a shortage of money, right? How much money is available, ballpark?

LYNGAAS: Ballpark, you know, over a billion in these grants. Now these grants aren't just dedicated to election security. There are a range of crime fighting programs, there are other programs that have funding for this, but we took a look at how the federal government is able to adapt to the threats. And this is what we found a paltry uptake. KING: And you get complaints from state and local officials saying you know these programs, it's not clear, it's not clean, getting the money. But you also have the you have the Michigan Secretary of State telling you it's also sometimes there's maybe the states aren't doing enough job of figuring out where is the money? How do I get it and funneling it from the State governments and local governments, sounds like a lot of red tape?

LYNGAAS: Absolutely. I mean, the same reason that our elections are spread out and run by state and locals that that makes us more secure and that hacking or compromising one part of the system doesn't compromise the whole that makes it a challenge. That same system is challenging to get money out the door and down into the hands of people who need it. So yes, we found a lot of red tape in our reporting. We talked to one gentleman in a county in Colorado, El Paso County, who wasn't aware of the grant programs, but had taken money from the DMV, which he oversaw also overseas to pay for more physical security like cameras because they have received death threats in that office, John.

KING: The threats are very real. It sounds like you're going to have to figure this out for the next cycle since it's too late to do much more in this cycle. Sean, it's breathtaking reporting. It's important. Go to to read the full report in detail.


Ahead for us Joe Biden heading to New York, including for a top Democrat who finds himself in a very tight race.


KING: Topping our political radar today, Jill Biden hitting the campaign trail. The First Lady will make stop Sunday across New York including for the suddenly embattled Democratic Congressman Sean John Patrick Maloney. Mortgage rates topping 7 percent for the first time in two decades, they've risen almost every week since late August, more than doubled in the past year, the rapid increase of course fueled by the Federal Reserve's efforts to curb inflation.

History today in New York City, the city's fire department swearing in Laura Kavanagh as its first female Fire Commissioner. Kavanagh had been serving as interim Commissioner since back in February.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez under federal investigation again, the New Jersey Democrat says he does not know the scope of this investigation. It comes five years after his corruption trial ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors back in 2017 said Menendez had accepted thousands of dollars and luxury services in exchange for political favors.

Climate catastrophe, there's a devastating gap between what countries have vowed to do to cope to curb global warming versus what must be done. The United Nations report finding pledges from an international climate summit last year will reduce planet warming emissions in 2030 by less than 1 percent that is incredibly far from the 45 percent reduction that was targeted.


This quick programming note, you don't miss this on Sunday join Kyung Lah for a new special report as she talks with elected officials who fear violence in their communities, perilous politics. Americans dangerous divide begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN Sunday.

Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.