Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

CNN: GOP Feeling Optimistic In Final Week Ahead Of Midterms; More Than 20 Million Pre-Election Ballot Cast; Now: Supreme Court Hears Challenges To Affirmative Action; Two Americans Killed In South Korea Stampede. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 31, 2022 - 12:30   ET



EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: But Abrams says that the economic policies that the governor has championed, has left some Georgians behind, has not included all Georgians. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Eva McKend on the ground force in Georgia. Eva, thank you so much. Again one week to go in that contest. And the Georgia race, the governor's race does factor in to the late campaign Republican optimism. Governor Kemp has held a narrow but a steady polling lead for some time.

And the GOP hope is that he can offer coattails to other Republican candidates like perhaps the controversial Senate contender Herschel Walker. But there is no guarantee of that.

Some new CNN reporting today explores this big question whether voters will stick to one party or are they in a mood to deliver split ticket verdicts in contest for governor and Senate. Our great reporters are back with us including Jeff Zeleny, who's part of this reporting. It is a big question in Georgia.

If Kemp wins, if you can hold on to that lead, does he pull other Republicans including Walker within? You could ask the same question in New Hampshire popular Republican Governor Chris Sununu. In Ohio, popular Republican governor at least if you look at the polling, Mike DeWine.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You can. And it's going to be fascinating to watch on election day. I feel like our list of fascinating things is growing there, which will obviously be on top of it at the wall. But that is something that we'll be looking at, split tickets versus coattails.

And each state may do it differently. And this is not going to be a monolith here. But it is fascinating the sense. I was in Georgia last week and boy, one of the big reasons for Republican optimism in the Senate race is, you know, all these allegations of abortion payments and things seem to have sort of run off Herschel Walker.

I mean, they just have not been as effective as Democrats were hoping but an even probably brighter spot is that governor's race with Governor Kemp going against his tastes and Michigan.

But on the flip side, I was in Pennsylvania last week as well. Josh Shapiro is probably the Democrat in the most commanding position of any prominent race in the country in his governor's race. And can he bring Fetterman over the line with him? There are some open questions about that.

I'm getting much more of a sense of we'll see next week but much more of an appetite for split ticket voting with Shapiro and Dr. Oz up there, but we will definitely see. But people who are not campaigning together are Shapiro and Fetterman.

And in Georgia, they've been campaigning largely separately. So that is one of the dynamics here. But if there is a bit of a wave, there's no doubt at the top of that ticket can certainly help those below.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's no question. It's such an interesting dynamic this cycle. I mean, not only those cases, but Ohio, Wisconsin, Nevada, all have governor's races. And, you know, one reason why --

ZELENY: And Arizona.

RAJU: And Arizona. And then one reason why the Democrats are the -- lot of them had watched Tim Ryan's campaign in Ohio, and he's run an effective campaign. They think perhaps he could -- they may hope that he could pull it off. But they see that governor's race.

The Republican incumbent Mike DeWine, pulling well ahead of his Democratic challenger, and that one big hurdle for him to overcome. So this will be a dynamic playing out all across the country.

And in Georgia, the question will be, if Walker and Warnock don't get over 50 percent, then there is a December runoff. And if Kemp gets over 50 percent, he will not be in -- on the ticket in the December runoff. How does that affect things? So a lot of big questions.

KING: Great complication. So I just want to show you some new New York Times/Siena College polls, we'll go through them. In four -- look it's a 50-50 Senate. Vice President Harris now breaks the tie. So we say Democrats control the Senate, but it's 50-50. So Republicans need just one to take control of the Senate.

You see Warnock Walker, a very close race, no clear leader in Georgia. This poll has Warnock up a little bit but that's a statistical tie. They move on to Arizona. Mark Kelly, this one Democrats are optimistic about this one. He does have a six-point lead there just outside the margin of error when you look at Arizona.

In Nevada, no clear leader. The Democratic incumbent Cortez Masto, in a dead heat with the Republican Laxalt. In Pennsylvania Fetterman Oz, a lead for the Democrat in -- when you get to Pennsylvania outside of the margin of error, but it's close. So we just have some new updated spending on TV ads.

Look at the races I just talked about there, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania. The top five spending in terms of ad spending in Senate races, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, and number five is Wisconsin. Also a very close race.


RAJU: A lot of money that is staggering.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just every year, I mean, every cycle, it just goes up. Anyone who tells you that they know what's going to happen in the Senate is lying, no one knows, right? But I think the reason these governor's races matters, Jeff and Manu really pointed out is because all of these polls have really tightened in the States, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and mostly in Republicans favor.

And so if you have governors candidates or current governors who can pull them over the finish line, I mean, Republicans are much more likely to have a better night than just a few weeks ago and Democrats were in the lead and many of these races in the Senate.

KING: So your job, if you're the head of a campaign committee is to be optimistic. So this is Rick Scott yesterday saying no problem, we got this.


REP. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: We're going to get 52 plus. Herschel Walker win in Georgia. We're going to keep all 21 of ours. This is our year. The Democrats can't run on anything they've done. People don't like what they've done.


They don't like high inflation. They don't like gas prices, food prices. They don't like -- the public doesn't like an open border. They don't like high crime and that's what the Democrats are known for.


KING: He says we're going to keep all 21 of ours at the beginning there, which, you know, one advantage for the Democrats on the Senate map is all those blue Democratic senators up are in states Biden won.

RAJU: Yes.

KING: It doesn't mean you win the next time, but at least you're not defending a state that Trump won. He says we're going to keep all 21, that includes Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Ohio. They're all very close races.

RAJU: Yes. And he's obviously been very optimistic at this late stage of the campaign. Mitch McConnell has been on the other side where he's been optimistic in past election cycles. And it has not worked out for him, which is why he has been much more cautious. But the reality is that these races are controlled on a knife's edge.

And we simply don't know what's going to happen until we understand the -- who actually comes out on election day.

But Rick Scott wants to ride the national environment to the Senate Majority. Senate races are always dictated exclusively by the National Environment. We see that happen much more with House races. So candidate quality does matter. We'll see how much.

ZELENY: And of all the things we don't know, one thing we can track in this final week is where surrogates and prominent people are going. And an interesting addition to his schedule, Barack Obama now is going to Arizona on Wednesday this week. He was only scheduled to go to Nevada.

They've added Arizona I'm told because they are a little worried there, Senator Mark Kelly, because of that governor's races we're talking about. So interesting schedule addition there, which always gives us a sense of of what the -- via dynamics are inside the race.

KING: Yes, I was noting before we came on the air all of my incoming over the weekend from Democrats was gulp -- was a gulp about the current trends that would explain why you're calling out all the stuffs even in -- for the Senate race in Arizona.

When we come back, setting records, more than 21 million people, more than 21 million people across the country have already voted early. As you see some of them out in line before it gets bright out. We'll break down the numbers of few key states, tell you just what it might mean.



KING: So important new pieces of breaking news just into CNN. Sources tell us that Paul Pelosi, the House Speaker's husband of course, who was brutally beaten by an attack last week with a hammer spoke to investigators over the weekend from his hospital bed providing details of the attack.

We are also told the federal prosecutors may file charges against the alleged assailant, David DePape as soon as today. We will keep you updated on those developments as we get new information.

Back to politics now, eight days until the midterm elections and look at this, look at this. More than 21 million Americans have already cast their ballots. This is early voting across the country. More than 21 million ballots cast in 46 states. The deeper the green, the higher the vote total. Not as surprising in the largest more populous states. California, Texas, Florida, among the deeper screen, there are more votes cast.

Interesting when you look at this data, and we have to be careful not to read too much into it. But if you look at Georgia, big race for governors, we discussed earlier huge race for Senate, some other contests as well. More than 1.6 million votes cast, that's up 40 percent from the last midterm election in 2018.

Now, the COVID pandemic more people voting early is that just people are changing the way they vote, or is this a sign of higher participation? That's one of the big questions as we go from now through election day and in our analysis after.

Now let's look at Florida, and we're just going to take a now and then look at the state of Florida. Follow along with me here. This is the votes cast so far, 39 percent of the ballots cast early by people who are registered Democrats. That doesn't mean they voted Democratic but they -- the people who took those ballots were registered Democrats.

42 percent by registered Republicans. Again, no guarantee they vote for Republicans but 42 percent of the early votes cast by people who are registered as a Republican. That's now, go back to 2020. Remember, when Donald Trump was saying early voting was a scam? Don't do it. The percentage of Republicans then was at 36 percent. So 36 percent, then in Florida, up to 42 percent now, is that because Donald Trump almost every day is not saying early voting is a bad thing. We will see.

Similar question in Arizona, you see in 2018, 44 percent of the early votes cast at this point. In that midterm, were by registered Republicans. In 2020, that dropped to 34 percent. Trump's attacks likely responsible for that. This year back up to 37 percent. Not all the way back up to 2018 levels.

But Jeff Zeleny, that will be one of the questions. Early voting data now gives us insights. But we have to be careful about context until we actually see what happens on election day. Is there a flood of late voting that will, you know, people who show up on that day? Or is this early voting now part of our new norm?

ZELENY: Without question, and the reality is, I mean, it is astonishing that 21.4 million people have already voted. And it really, you know, makes you wonder if all the money on these ads at the end of the cycle are really well spent, you know, because a lot of people have already decided. But the reality also is that we have limitations to what we can learn from this data.

And I think because of the pandemic, because of other things, because of the fact that, you know, there's been some shifting around populations as well in Florida. We don't know exactly what it means vis-a-vis 2018 or 2020. How people vote in America is different now than it used to be when we all started covering these races? It probably will change every cycle.

But it does show that there is a big interest. And we also know that Republicans love to vote on Election Day. So any Democrat who's sitting back and, you know, totally feeling good about these numbers, which there aren't many, you know, know that Election Day is a big Republican day. So this is fascinating, but we don't know exactly what it means.

KING: And we talked earlier, this is about how people vote. And we want higher participation, whether you vote early, whether you vote on election day, whether you're Democrat, Republican, Independent, higher participation is good. We also talked a bit earlier about the debate about strategy in the Democratic Party and you talked about Barack Obama adding an event in Arizona in addition to Nevada.


He was out over the weekend. Again Democrats, there's a debate among Democrats. What should we emphasize most with voters? This is the former President's view.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Who will fight for your freedoms? Is it Republican politicians and judges who think he should get to decide when you start a family or how many children you should have or who you marry or who you love? That's the choice in this election. That's what you have to decide.


KING: It's interesting to watch it again. We'll know more after when we count votes and see how the states break. The former president when he was in office did not have good luck in midterm years. He's trying to help the Democrats this time.

CAYGLE: Absolutely not. And it's funny this time around. There are a lot of Democrats who are telling me and probably you guys, too, they wish Obama had started coming out earlier on the campaign trail and helping draft their message for them because really, until this point, it's been all over the place.

RAJU: Yes, we haven't seen the President he's not really been out much -- excuse me -- on the campaign trail. The -- Bill Clinton remember how -- remember when he was such a huge democratic surrogate? He, of course, he's not anymore for his own issues.

It is Barack Obama and his lights -- late stage of the cycle, is that enough to turn out and -- turn around an election that's going against them. Probably not. But perhaps it could turn out some voters in some key places.

ZELENY: Which is what they think. It's coming at a time where he's basically an organizing tool. He's basically as a beacon to get people out to early vote. So just presenting (ph), I was at the rally in Georgia with the former President on Friday and boy, happening behind the scenes for hours before people with clipboards and iPads and other things, you know, trying to make sure everyone at the rally either has voted or has a plan to vote. So that's the point of these.

KING: Right. That's one of the things we learned every day as someone who started this a long time ago in the pre-internet days, is the value of technology in organizing people, motivating people. And they know, the campaigns know whether Democrat or Republican. They know if you have voted, if you requested a ballot, if you ever returned it. That's why you're still getting those phone calls.

Up next for us, a giant case argued today before the Supreme Court. The question whether colleges can continue to use race as a factor in admission.



KING: Supreme Court Justice today hearing an argument on this question, should they overturn another decades long precedent this time on the question of affirmative action. Right now, the Supreme Court hearing arguments on whether colleges and universities can continue to consider race as a factor in their admissions. At the center of it all, the University of North Carolina and Harvard.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us live outside of the court. Jess, what are we learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are three hours into these arguments, was still a lot more time to go. And a clear clash has really emerged between the six conservative justices and the three liberal justices.

In fact, on the liberal side of things, the newest justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has really been leading the questioning here and pressing her points that she says race is crucial to a student's identity. And she just can't imagine a world in which colleges and universities would not be able to consider race as a factor in admissions, which would happen if the court reverses precedent here.

On the conservative side of things, we've heard several of the justices asking why other factors besides race wouldn't be sufficient and producing diversity. In fact, leading the questioning on that end is Chief Justice John Roberts.

And of course, in years past, cases past, the Chief Justice has really been critical of using race in any number of scenarios. So asking today, why in fact, colleges can't look at other factors to try to promote diversity.

But what we've heard from these colleges and universities both in argument and in their written briefs is that even in those schools where affirmative action has in fact been banned for several years, because states, nine states across the country banned affirmative action, they say when they don't have this affirmative action way of finding out what racist students are, they just haven't been able to achieve the right diversity that they say they want promoted on campus.

In another line of questioning here that could ultimately be what we see in this opinion, we've seen the justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, as well as other justices here talking about maybe time is up for affirmative action. They've consistently been pointing to a 2003 opinion from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, where she said that maybe 25 years would be enough for affirmative action.

And given the fact, John, that this spring would mark 20 years since that opinion, it's very possible that the justices here, the conservative justices could rely on that time frame to eventually do away with affirmative action either now or in the years to come. John?

KING: Jessica Schneider live outside the court for us. One of the many consequential cases this term. Jessica, thank you so much.

Ahead for us, guess who just might come to Thanksgiving dinner. One Senate candidate warranty could be crashing your turkey dinner if you don't vote.



KING: Topping our political radar today, some sad news out of Seoul. Two American college students among those killed in that Halloween stampede including the niece of Republican Congressman Brad Wenstrup.

Wenstrup confirmed his niece, Anne Gieske's death in a statement. The Congressman says he is devastated and he called Gieske a bright light loved by all. 20-year-old Steven Blesi also killed in that stampede.

Brazil has elected a new president, Luiz Inacio da Silva on CD (ph). The incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro in a tight runoff. Result show da Silva won by less than 1 percent of the vote. Bolsonaro has yet to concede or make any public statement. President Biden though congratulating da Silva on his win calling the elections, quote, free, fair and credible.

Today, this new ad from Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia, it features sweet potatoes at the Thanksgiving table and a warning to voters. If you're sick of seeing me, make sure there's no runoff election.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mom, we brought a friend.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison): Raphael Warnock?

REP. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, GEORGIA SENATE NOMINEE: That's right. I could be interrupting your Thanksgiving because if nobody gets 50 percent of the vote, there'll be a runoff and nobody wants that to happen.


KING: There's a chance someone or maybe multiple people may not show up to the office tomorrow. The Powerball jackpot tonight, an estimated $1 billion. The drawing set for 11:00 p.m. Eastern tonight. Don't worry. I'll be here tomorrow when I win.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.