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Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield

GOP to Pick up North Carolina; Dems Trying to Hold on in Iowa, New Hampshire; Kansas Senate Race

Aired November 04, 2014 - 12:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is well worth watching. Also doing a Facebook chat at 1:00 Eastern time. Thanks, Peter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. Thanks, John.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Boy, what a busy day. Stay with CNN for the latest. Our special election coverage starts at 5:00 p.m.

That's it for us.

BERMAN: "LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Right now, a heated fight for political power with one top prize, control of the United States Senate.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans in Congress love to say no.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: And there's nothing I would like better than for him to have a bad night November the 4th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All across America, voters are getting a say about the anger and gridlock in Washington.


SCOTT BROWN (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: The Obama administration is - it's maxed out. It's worn down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will this election be about him or them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I won't be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ready for new leadership.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN's coverage of "Election Day in America," the fight for Congress, the battles for governor and the warm-up for 2016.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Reports in the demise of the Democratic Party are premature.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to retire Harry Reid as majority leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The polls are open, the nation is choosing and anything is possible until the last vote.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. And welcome to our special election coverage on LEGAL VIEW.

No matter how many ads the candidates and the super PACs buy, no matter how much mud they sling, no matter how much the pundits pontificate, it is you, my friend, who gets the final word. So speak now or hold your peace, at least until 2016. The polls are open across the country and the first polls actually close in Kentucky and Indiana in just six hours. And at stake, every single congressional seat, 36 governor seats and literally thousands of state assembly seats.

Also, 36 Senate seats, more than enough to tilt the balance of power and give Republicans a lock up on Capitol Hill. Of those, three dozen - three dozen races, 10 of them get the most attention, not to mention the most ad dollars because they are close. Party flips are possible.

Here is the breakdown going into these midterm elections 2014. Senate Dems can afford to lose five seats, knowing that Vice President Joe Biden will be the guy to break all the ties. A Republican pick-up of six seats would give this man, five-term Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, a brand-new title, Senate majority leader. But only, only if he wins his own race for re-election. And that is not a lock right now. His opponent is Kentucky's Democratic secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes. With help from the national party and some very powerful friends named Clinton, she has made this thing a horse race. My CNN colleague Joe Johns watching the final stretch in Lexington.

Horse race, to say the very least. What do things look like right now? How's the turnout?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, turnout seems to be pretty good. Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who's running against Mitch McConnell, also happens to be the state election officer. She's the secretary of state. And she told my colleague, Deborah Feyerick, just a little while ago that turnout was higher than usual here in Kentucky. She voted here in the city of Lexington, as a matter of fact.

Senator McConnell, with his wife, Elaine Chao, also voted today in Louisville, Kentucky. He, of course, as you said, stands to become the next majority leader. That is if Republicans overtake the United States Senate.

It's been a real uphill climb for Alison Lundergan Grimes in the state. It is a very conservative state in a lot of ways. The last polls actually showed that McConnell was up by as much as nine points. But the question, of course, is, what's that turnout going to look like here in the bluegrass state and will Mitch McConnell become the next majority leader, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: So if you turn on the cable news or if you consume any of the commercials, that place is absolutely electrified. But then you're actually there. You're actually standing there. Does it feel the same where you're standing as it looks on the TV?

JOHNS: Yes, I tell you, this is a very interesting state. I've gone around Kentucky, this part of Kentucky, and talked to a lot of people. And it's very interesting when you look at the people who are going to the polls. A lot of people say they don't like Mitch McConnell that well. They don't see him as popular. But they really do see him as a politician who's done a very good job for their state and is actually very good at what he does. So there's a lot of admiration for him, even though people don't think they like him very much, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: OK, you've got a long night ahead of you, Joe, so keep an eye on things. We'll checking in with you as the day progresses. Thank you, Joe Johns, in that electrifying place.

I want to take you somewhere else that's really action-packed. New Hampshire. I bet you don't hear that very often. It doesn't always get a lot of buzz in the off-year elections, but this year is different because the Senate race there has these two folks going at it, incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen against Scott Brown, the former Republican senator from next door, from Massachusetts. For the Dems, this seat is a must keep or their path to the majority gets even steeper. CNN's Brian Todd is in Manchester.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, the Senate race here in New Hampshire is as tight as any race in the country and voter turnout is key. Depending on what poll you're looking at, Scott Brown, the Republican challenger, may be ahead by two points going into today, or the Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen might be ahead. This, of course, is a crucial state for the overall balance of power in the Senate. Republicans looking to pick off a Democratic incumbent. And, again, voter turnout absolutely crucial here.

At this ward one's polling station in New Hampshire, you come in -- in Manchester, New Hampshire, you come in, you sign in, you get your poker chip, then you go and get your ballot. This is old-school voting here. You fill in the ballot in one of those booths. Then you put it in a tabulator at the end of the row. Then they take it to city hall later on. No absentee - there are very little absentee balloting. There's no early voting here. So it's all old-school voting, day of. And, again, a razor-thin margin going into today. We're going to really be watching this race very closely later on.


BANFIELD: All right, keeping it old school, thanks, Brian Todd. Appreciate that.

The open Senate race in Georgia is offering Democrats one of their few opportunities to flip a Republican seat. And Michelle Nunn says that she is the Democrat who's going to pull it off. David Perdue claims that the seat for the GOP is going to remain that way, but a third party candidate could send this race into a run-off in January. And, yes, I said January. CNN's Martin Savidge is in the Atlanta suburbs.


As we all know, weather actually is one of the biggest deciders when it comes to the outcome of elections here in Georgia. There's no excuse for anyone not to vote. It's going to be a beautiful day. The turnout could be key for the Democrat in this race, Michelle Nunn, because the early voting, and there's been a lot of it in Georgia. There's been close to 1 million Georgians that have already cast their vote. And if you look at the demographic breakdown of those who have cast their vote, it would seem to favor her opponent, David Perdue. So, she needs a lot of people to show up today.

And we should point out that under the law in Georgia, a candidate has to get 50 percent of the vote to be declared the winner, 50 percent or more. And there is a third-party candidate here that could siphon off just enough of the vote. And it turns out that all of this may be just a warm-up to the run-off election, which would be in January. And many say then that actually the Republican could hold the advantage in that particular race because those who voted for the libertarian, the third-party candidate, might naturally flow towards the Republican when you only had two people in that race.

But that's looking too far down the road. Let's focus on today. Michelle Nunn has done very well so far. We'll see how it plays out this evening.


BANFIELD: All right, Marty, you've got the coat and scarf on. Hey, come on, a little bit of cold, what is that? Get out to the polls anyway, even in Georgia.

North Carolina, something else here. That state elected a Democratic senator named Kay Hagan back in 2008, the same year that it backed Barack Obama for president. But Obama did not carry North Carolina in 2012. And now Hagan is running for her political life against Republican Statehouse Speaker Thom Tillis. CNN's Miguel Marquez is watching this race in Winston-Salem and he's live with me now.

So, Senator Hagan, she said, thanks, but no thanks, to the president in terms of the campaigning, clearly thinking that that might not have served her very well. But he is sort of being heard sort of last minute, isn't he?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is indeed. And I'm standing here in the middle of a beautiful garden of campaign signs just outside a polling station here that has been busy in Forsyth County. The president's campaigning in a radio ad for Kay Hagan late on mainly because those last-minute numbers, the absentee ballots and those who voted early, they're showing 44 percent of African-Americans' participation in that early voting. Unaffiliated voters were way up as well, 43 percent in that early voting. Democrats were up over 23 percent in early voting. Republicans, interestingly enough, only up 4.8 percent. So perhaps maybe a sign of what's to come here, that the Democrats might have a good day. But that huge number of unaffiliated voter that showed up early on is also going to play into this and those may break heavily for the Republican candidate, Thom Tillis.

I can tell you that in Mecklenburg County, here in Forsyth County and in Wake County, very, very high turnout so far. There's lines, in some cases long lines, in Mecklenburg County. The official there told me they're not quite as long as the Cheesecake Factory, but they're pretty darn long.


BANFIELD: I like how you use the euphemism an election garden. I always think it looks like Uncle Sam kind of barfed, because I can never read that many signs as I'm driving by.


BANFIELD: They all cancel one another out. Miguel Marquez doing the job for us.

MARQUEZ: (INAUDIBLE) a little mishmash, exactly.

BANFIELD: It is. It's a mess. All right, thank you, sir. Long night ahead for you as well.

OK, don't miss CNN's special election night coverage beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We're going to have every single race up on the screen for you. You're not going to miss a moment of it.

Hey, two years ago a few key states went President Obama's way during the election, but what if that's not the case this time around? What if they change color? What if they go red? What will that mean for both parties? That story, next.


BANFIELD: So he's not on the ballot, but today could be very telling about President Obama, specifically in two key Senate races, Iowa and Colorado. Both have been Obama strongholds, voting for the president twice after being solid GOP states. But today, it's a different story. In Colorado, the Democratic senator, Mark Udall, is trying to hang on to his seat, but facing a very stiff challenge from Republican House Member Cory Gardner. Let's go now to Iowa with Stephanie Elam.

Stephanie, the GOP candidate defeats the Democrat, Iowa's going to send its first woman ever to the Senate. So give me the lay of the land.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's very true, Ashleigh, and you can see it right here on the newspaper that they are talking about that. What is going to happen here in Iowa? There could be some history made here as far as getting a woman into a federal office.

And we do actually have some breaking news for you here. As far as Iowa midterm elections are concerned, they have a new record for absentee votes, and that is 455,656 were cast. Of those numbers, 183,000 of them for Democrats and 175,000 for Republicans. So they're saying that this could work for the favor of the Democrats in this case. But when you take a look at this Senate race, it is going to come down to the wire here.

We're at a polling place in Altoona. People have been coming in here constantly since we've been here all day. We've seen a lot of women coming in here as well. This race that is coming down today is going to be between Joni Ernst and the state representative, Bruce Braley. This race is very tight here. And it looks like she may be pulling out the lead when in the beginning everyone thought it was going to go to this four-term congressman. So, this is a very tight race here. And we will be watching this one here all day.

Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: All right, Stephanie, thank you for that.

So what's this going to mean for Washington? What's it going to mean for the president and the entire landscape? CNN political analyst Donna Brazile is a Democratic strategist and Amy Holmes is a conservative commentator and they're both here and they're both lovely and they're both raring to go for a very late night.

OK, so here's the thing. I - we were just talking about Iowa and Colorado, but I actually want to talk about North Carolina and New Hampshire because those should be a lock. I mean they should be a lock for the Democrats. If it does not go well for those two states, is it kind of over for all the other ones we're wondering about?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so. It's an early indication of how I think how tight the races will be today, but I don't think it's the end of the night. By and large, we still have to wait for Iowa and Colorado, of course, my beloved home state of Louisiana and Alaska. We don't know just how long the election night will go or the election morning, in the case of Alaska.

But here's the point. I think Jeanne Shaheen, Scott Brown, who found another state to run in for the United States Senate, she's run an incredible campaign. People know her. They loved her as a governor, of course. This is a very unfavorable political year for the Democrats because we're defending more seats than the Republicans. That said, I think North Carolina is still going to break in Kay Hagan's favor and I think Jeanne Shaheen will pull out a nail-biter.

BANFIELD: Nice measured response. And I keep hearing and seeing Republicans just licking their chops. Like this is just a - it's just a free-for-all. That's the feeling that I'm getting from Republicans.

AMY HOLMES, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I can tell you, when I look at my Twitter feed, that conservatives are ready for the legislative agenda if Republicans take control of the Senate. But as Donna well knows, the only poll that matters is on Election Day.

BRAZILE: That's right.

HOLMES: What's really interesting about New Hampshire is that Scott Brown was behind and he's now pulling even with the incumbent, Jeanne Shaheen. And as Donna pointed out, he was the former senator from Massachusetts who won Ted Kennedy's seat. He's now running in New Hampshire. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, she's defending her seat as a Democrat. That was supposed to be a safe seat, but it looks like that again is down to the wire. The race in Colorado, I think, is very interesting. Mark Udall, he was just heckled by one of his own millionaire donor supporters.

BANFIELD: That's embarrassing.

HOLMES: It was embarrassing.


HOLMES: And that supporter even went to the newspaper saying, why is he only talking about abortion? What else has he been talking about on this campaign trail? Donna and I were discussing it in the makeup room, there hasn't been a lot of coverage about the issues this election cycle, but the (INAUDIBLE) --

BANFIELD: Some of the best journalism comes from the makeup room at CNN. I tell you, it's remarkable.

HOLMES: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Tell me - tell me this. And it's a big old secret that isn't even a secret. 2004, you know, John Thune comes out and Daschle gets roaded (ph) and aren't the Democrats looking for a little payback when it comes to Mitch McConnell? Isn't that just something that there's this hope and pray, if you can't get anything else, just that?

BRAZILE: Well, there's always that, you know, the Harry Reid in 2010, Mitch McConnell now in 2014. Of course you want to take out the leader. But in the case of Alison Grimes, this was an uphill fight for a very young, statewide official. She's taken on, you know, Goliath and the so-called Senate race. A big, expensive race. She's been able to kept it close. They left her for dead a couple of weeks ago. And, you know what, she came back. I think it's going to also be a very close race.

BANFIELD: Did you guys both bring a pillow and a blanket to CNN to stay the night?

BRAZILE: And a lot of coffee. A lot of caffeine.

HOLMES: (INAUDIBLE), thank you. Will you be there?

BANFIELD: And a lot of coffee. Here's an extra one for you.

OK, don't go anywhere, Donna, Amy. A really, really tight race for the United States Senate seat in Kansas could throw a big wrench into the balance of power. One of the candidates is independent and wants to challenge the entire two-party system. Exactly who we going to talk with though if he actually wins? What a mystery. This story's just ahead.


BANFIELD: In one Senate race, the colors are not blue and red. It is, instead, Republican versus Independent. I'm talking about Kansas where Republican Senator Pat Roberts is trying to hang on to his seat in a tough race with Independent Greg Orman. Both men were invited to talk to CNN on "New Day" this morning. Only Orman accepted.


GREG ORMAN (I), KANSAS SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, we feel great. We've, I think, over the last five months, run a good campaign. We've been able to talk to voters from around the state. And we feel confident. Voters, obviously, are attracted to what we're trying to get accomplished. They realize Washington's broken and that ultimately we're not going to solve the problems in Washington by sending the same people back there.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": As you know, Democrats and Republicans are anxious to learn which party you would side with, which party you would caucus with, if you were to win. Can you give them an answer this morning?

ORMAN: Well, you know, I think I've been clear about that from the beginning, which is, I'm not going there to represent the Democratic Party or represent the Republican Party. I'm going there to represent Kansans. And my goal is really to get Washington back in the business of solving problems for the people of Kansas. So, you know, we're going to end up working with senators from across both sides of the aisle and really work with anyone who wants to solve problems. That's, in fact, what it's all about.

CAMEROTA: And, obviously, your position has resonated with the constituents there because your poll numbers are high. And it is refreshing to hear a candidate say that they're going to put aside partisan politics and just sort of go with common sense. A lot of people respond to that. But some of your critics say that it's just - it's the worst kind of equivocation and it's political waffling not to be able to commit on Election Day. What do you say to that criticism?

ORMAN: Well, you know, I'm more concerned about what the voters in Kansas think. And the voters in Kansas have been clear from the beginning. They think Washington's broken. They think both sides have gotten far too extreme and have drawn childish lines in the sand. And, ultimately, they want - they want people in Washington who are going to try to solve problems and not play partisan games. And so for the voters in Kansas, I think our campaign makes a lot of sense. I think they want someone to go to Washington and genuinely be concerned about solving problems and not concerned about playing political games.

CAMEROTA: Do you worry that voters will feel betrayed if, say, Democrats come out and vote for you and then you end up getting to Washington and siding with Republicans?

ORMAN: I think we have gotten a broad base of support from Republicans, Democrats, independents alike. And the folks who are going to come out and vote for me today I think realize that I'm going there to try to solve problems and I'm going to use my best judgment on the best way to do that. So I think - I think every voter that I've talked to has as said, Greg, we love your independence, we want you to maintain it, regardless of their own personal political affiliation.


BANFIELD: So let's go out to Kansas right now where our Kyung Lah is covering the race for us.

So that -- we were thrilled to have, you know, Mr. Orman talk to us on "New Day" this morning, but we'd love to hear what Senator Roberts is saying today, if anything.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He is out on the campaign trail and he's trying to talk to voters, but we haven't heard or run into him specifically as of yet, Ashleigh. What we've been doing mostly this morning is spending our time looking at what voter participation has been.

This is a community hall where you can play racquetball, tennis, but today it is doubling as a place where you can vote. And you can see over here, people are checking in with the election judges and then they are heading to those electronic voting booths. This is an electronic machine state. What that means is -- look at this bag in my hand right here. We borrowed this from Johnson County. These SIM cards will then be counted this evening after the polls close at 7:00 p.m. local time. And it is the Orman/Roberts race that is one of the big driving forces getting voters out to the polls here in Kansas. And we spoke to the election commissioner and he says that he can wrap it up in one word -- enthusiasm. Here's what he said.


BRIAN NEWBY, JOHNSON COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSIONER: When you have intense races, and these all have to be considered intense because they're so close, you're going to have people who are really eager to make sure their vote counts, which is, of course, what we're all about here.


LAH: And voters here, Ashleigh, are frankly surprised that an independent is running neck and neck with - as a Republican because, as you know, Ashleigh, this is a very red state that is swinging back because of what's happened in the governor's race.


BANFIELD: Well, I'll be thrilled to see a whole bunch more people behind you. This is the best time to vote. I always tell everybody, go during the day and then you don't have to stand in line after work. I'm going to go around 2:00 or 3:00 today, bam, bam, done.

Thank you, Kyung. Nice to see you.

So that Kansas race raises a big question, will we even know which party is actually going to hold on to the majority, or hold the majority in the Senate? At the end of tonight's vote, it certainly counts (ph), make -- could an independent candidate like Greg Orman in Kansas have a big effect on which laws get passed by swinging from one caucus to another? That's kind of a cool idea, huh? We're going to talk about it next.