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Which Party Will Control Senate?; ISIS Massacres Hundreds in Iraq; Navy Commander Tells SEALs to Keep Quiet

Aired November 04, 2014 - 07:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly have tremendous get out the vote operations in really all of these key states. But here's the problem. Democratic sources admit this, it's one thing to go knock knock knock, please, Democratic voter, don't forget to go out and vote today. It's a lot harder to say knock knock knock, please would you please support this candidate. It's a whole lot harder to persuade even a registered Democrat or a likely Democratic voter to get out and voter to get out and vote for the Democratic candidate.

And that, I'm told by Democratic sources, that's what they're encountering in a lot of these swing states, not just make sure, don't forget to vote. But really try to get them to support the Democrat. And it's not that easy, in a climate like this.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Gary, we find you in Arkansas this morning. We've been talking already on the show about what an interesting race that's been. What are you feeling and seeing this morning, there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Mark Pryor is the incumbent Democrat, and Mark Pryor has been aggressively seeking and receiving the support of a certain president, but that president is not Barack Obama. That president is Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton has been here -- he's an Arkansas native -- three times campaigning the last month, including this Sunday.

And while he's been campaigning, Pryor has very publicly continued to distance himself from Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, his Republican challenger, Tom Cotton, has been only too happy to put them together; to put their names together, Pryor and Obama. So it is very clear that in this race, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are big parts of the campaign.

CAMEROTA: That is interesting. Ana, you are in Colorado. That race has been neck and neck the whole way through. What issues are voters focused on there?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think voters are definitely focused on the economy. And Colorado has one of the best economies in the country right now, with just a 4.7 percent unemployment rate. Yet, it's interesting, because neither the candidates are talking so

much about the economy. I know Mark Udall, the incumbent Democrat, who's facing a real uphill battle, being an incumbent Democrat under the unpopular president this cycle, he's really put all of his eggs in one basket, so to speak, and really going after those very active and engaged female voters here in Colorado. So much so, that a lot of his messaging has been focusing on women's reproductive rights and hounding his opponent on that issue, to a fault, some say; that he's simplifying women too much. And maybe it will, instead of bringing women to his side, will insult them and push them away.

We'll have to wait and see. I can tell you in the early voting, since Colorado does mail-in ballots, with more than 1.4 million ballots already cast, the Republicans do have more people turning in their ballots ahead of time. That's about 100,000 more Republican ballots compared to Democratic ballots at this point.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting. We'll see what happens this morning, if the Democrats can turn those numbers around.

So Jim, let's turn our attention to you, North Carolina. Senator Kay Hagan is doing something that many Democrats have not wanted to do on the campaign trail, this election cycle, and that is that she's getting a little help from President Obama. I know you have a radio ad to play for us. What does that say?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. The president staying very much behind closed doors today; no public events on his schedule. But he has been doing something behind the scenes, as you mentioned. He cut a radio ad for embattled North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. The ad is designed to go after and mobilize African-American voters. Here's a portion of that ad.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): Voting is easy. So stand with me, President Obama, and take responsibility in moving North Carolina forward by voting for Kay Hagan on November 4.

SEN. KAY HAGEN (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I'm Kay Hagan, candidate for U.S. Senate, and I approve this message.


ACOSTA: Now with all of these incumbent senators running scared, running away from the president, why would Kay Hagan do something like this at the last hour? This race is so tight down in North Carolina, they really need a key part of the Democratic base, African-American voters, to show up at the polls. Those are the same voters that propelled President Obama to victory back in 2008 in that state.

But get this: Kay Hagan's opponent, the speaker of the House of North Carolina, Thom Tillis, he also wants to mobilize his voters. You know what he did with the ad? He put it out on his social media to get his voters excited, to get them to the polls. White House officials say the president is cutting other radio spots,

but they're not saying where they are. They're letting the campaign announce those, knowing fairly certainly that sometimes a presidential endorsement isn't always going to make the difference in all of these races, guys.

CAMEROTA: Such a great point. And Dana, it's -- that just perfectly exemplifies whether or not President Obama is advantageous for Democrats this time around or a disadvantage. And it's funny to use him at the 11th hour, isn't it?

BASH: It is. You know, I was told early on by Democratic sources that they were likely to do kind of pinprick, get-out-the-vote operations with the president. But it was more likely to be robo- calls into the communities where he is still incredibly popular: African-American communities, other areas where there are Democrats who are upset about the fact that the president has, from their perspective, not been treated fairly enough in Washington, that he never had a chance.

But you know, what's also interesting, Alisyn, is when you look at a state like Iowa, that's a perfect example of a state where the president, his political life was born there. He beat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses in 2008. Nobody really saw that coming months before. He won there in 2008 and 2012 in the general elections.

But now you have a purple state where he's -- he was also nowhere to be found.

But I also just want to play something for you that is very telling about where things stand this morning on election morning. It's the closing arguments from both Iowa Senate candidates, the Democrat and the Republican. And if you look at these ads -- I think we have them -- they are almost identical in the way they look. Check that out. It almost looks like they use the same crew. One waited for the other to go. They're down the same dirt Iowa road with corn in the back in their casual clothes.

Why do I want to point this out? Because after all of the sniping about -- about positions, about really important positions and differences on minimum wage, on maybe women's issues, this is what it all comes down to. Voters out there want to see their candidates not part of Washington, not just linked to President Obama, but all of Washington. They're disgusted with Washington, and that's why those closing ads are very telling about the voter sentiment across the country.

CAMEROTA: I'm glad you showed that to us, Dana. They're even wearing the same jean shirt, I believe. They just borrowed it from each other basically, it looks like. That's fascinating.

And Gary, part of the reason that we're focused on Arkansas is for some of these same reasons, is that we all identify with the state that Bill and Hillary came if, but it's changed a lot since then. What are you seeing this morning in terms of the demographics and the issues? TUCHMAN: Well it's changed a lot, Alisyn. You're right. Republicans

think this state is ripe for a Senate win today.

It's been a downer for Democrats in Arkansas for the past several years, and there's a lot of reasons for that. but what we're seeing is ever since the Clinton years, the percentage of votes for the Democratic candidate in the presidential race has gone down each year: from '96 to 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012.

In 2012, Barack Obama received 37 percent of the vote, which is one of the worst performances in the United States, and his approval rating here in Arkansas is at 33 percent, which is much lower than the national average.

So what we're seeing is a state where Republicans think they need to pick up. They also want to pick it up very much. And you have a situation here where if Tom Cotton, the Republican, wins, it will be the first time there are two sitting Republican U.S. senators in this state since the '70s. Alisyn, I'm not talking about the 1970s. I'm talking about the 1870s, 140 years ago.

CAMEROTA: Wow. That is a good fun fact. Gary, Jim, Ana, Dana, thanks so much for all the information. We will check back in with you guys, obviously, throughout the morning.

Stick with CNN for full coverage of the midterm elections all day long. And at 5 p.m. Eastern, be sure to join us for "Election Night in America." We'll be with you until all of the big races are sorted out, even if that takes months -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Definitely a horse race, but the horse race matters. One big reason control of the Congress is going to be important is that we still don't have either house voting or even debating the ongoing war against ISIS.

We have developments for you in that war overnight. ISIS is continuing a deadly rampage across Iraq, slaughtering tribes that oppose them. Sunni tribes that have not been armed or supported by the Iraqi government. As a result, more than 300 have been killed in recent days.

New information in terms of what to do about it. U.S./coalition and Iraqi forces are said to be planning a major military offensive to retake key areas in northern and western Iraq.

We have CNN's Nick Paton Walsh live near Syria's border with Turkey.

Nick, how bad is it getting on the ground?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, the real issue is how fast can the Iraqi security forces actually get mobilized with U.S. help to undertake any offensive. Along gulf between moving against ISIS and organized this force. A lot of territory under its control; very ruthless. To actually being on the ground, able to move that through. Now you were mentioning the increasing death toll from these massacres

related to the Abu Nimer tribe. Deeply troubling, because there are three or four separate incidences in which members of these tribes were being abducted and then executed. In fact, reports from Iraqi state television that six women and nine children may have been caught up in this, too. Rare for ISIS actually to execute women and children.

This tribe potentially willing to stand up to ISIS. But the key issue for them is weapons from the Iraqi government. And we come back to the old thing here, Chris: the Sunni/Shia divide. The government in Baghdad predominantly Shia. The tribes they need to support to fight ISIS, also Sunni -- Sunni, as well.

So very complicated. A great amount of distrust and nobody really seeing Baghdad making enough of an effort at this stage to bridge that gap of distrust -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Nick. Thank you very much. I mean, that's one of the concerns. Not only a massive loss of life, but is Iraq doing the right things for its own counterinsurgency? We'll have to follow that one -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Chris.

Back at home, there's controversy brewing over members of an elite military unit spilling some big secrets. One member of SEAL Team 6 is already in hot water for writing a book and speaking about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. Now another is preparing for an interview where he is set to declare that he is the one who fired the fatal shot.

Their commander is lashing out about SEALs violating the strict code of anonymity. CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon with more on all this fallout.

Hi, Barbara.


Let's go back for just a minute. Remember that night. We know that SEAL Team 6, a number of them were creeping up those stairs, in the dark, at bin Laden's compound. At the top of the stairs was Osama bin Laden hidden in a room there. There were essentially three SEALs.

Think of the first guy as the point man. He goes through the door. He pushes aside two women in the room. Possibly fires a shot. Does fire a shot, he believes, that gets bin Laden. Second man through the door, known as the shooter. This may be the man that is about to unveil his story on television with FOX News. He's also believed to be the subject of an "Esquire" magazine article, where he also talked extensively about the mission and his role that night. He thinks he fired two shots that killed bin Laden.

Third up, Matt Bissonnette, also known as Mark Owen. He wrote a book. He talked to "60 Minutes." He think he fired shots. I've talked to people in the Navy SEAL Community. Their view, very

privately, is they're not at all convinced either of the two SEALs who are speaking out -- remember, we've never heard from the first man through the door. Neither of those two SEALs, they believe, are really telling the full story of what happened that night. They don't believe either of them really fired the kill shot.

But of course, they may never know. It was a dark night. It was confusing.

But that's just the beginning. Because the head Navy SEAL, Rear Admiral Brian Losey, has fired off a scathing letter to his community. I want to read you just a part of it, where he reminds them all of their ethical obligations, Admiral Losey saying their ethics require, and I quote, "I do not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my actions." Admiral Losey telling the Navy SEALs to zip it and stop talking about all of this.

Of course, most of them, the majority of them, do obey the rules. And just one more thing: Admiral Losey telling the Navy SEALs, if they disclose classified information, he will see to it that they face what he calls judicial consequences -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It's interesting to hear all of this coming to light. Barbara Starr, thanks so much for the background.

All right. There's more news to talk about. Let's bring in Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: There sure is. Good morning again, guys.

Good morning to you at home. Breaking this morning, the mayor of Iguala, Mexico, and his wife have been arrested in connection with the apparent abduction of dozens of missing students. Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria, were arrested in Mexico City. They are accused of masterminding the kidnapping of 43 students, who were reportedly taken by police officers, allegedly working for a criminal organization. Those students remain missing.

The latest numbers on Ebola are in from the U.N. They are staggering. More than 13,500 cases reported. The death toll now approaching 5,000. Those are global figures. We know the bulk, rather, of the victims are in West Africa. The nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Vice President Joe Biden contradicting the White House. In an exclusive interview with our Gloria Borger, he said he did not apologize to the nation of Turkey after a speech where he suggested that Turkey helped foster the growth of ISIS. Biden does say he called President Erdogan to clarify his comments. The U.S. has been pushing back and pushing on Turkey, rather, to take a bigger role in the fight against ISIS.

So -- that happened. Trending now, the photo bomber in chief, president Bill Clinton, getting his mug in the frame for these this photo taken at a campaign rally in Texarkana. The former president was in Arkansas stumping for Senator Mark Pryor's reelection. We heard our Gary Tuchman talking about this. And this photo was snapped, a little girl clearly not really thrilled about being at the rally, I'm sensing. Former president Bill Clinton was and was more than happy to sort of pop his face in the picture. Got to love the -- got to love mid-terms for these kinds of moments.

CAMEROTA: I love the juxtaposition and his enthusiasm.

PEREIRA: She's not so much.

CUOMO: Let me tell you, in a really phony business, that's one of the most genuine things we've seen in these campaigns. Bill Clinton loves to be out on the hustings, and he has certainly had enough opportunities. That guy has been everywhere campaigning.

CAMEROTA: It's true and 7-year-olds may not like it.

PEREIRA; Not so much.

CUOMO: It went from a picture that you're just as likely to delete as soon as you get the next space problem with the cloud to now, it's a keeper.

CAMEROTA: It's a keeper.

Well, the big prize today, of course, is control of the Senate. Republicans are confident they can make that happen. Well, our panel looks at the key races that could shift the balance of power in the Senate.

CUOMO: Today the ads and the candidates go quiet, hopefully. It is all about you, voter turnout. So who's coming out today, and who's sitting this election out? CNN's John King will examine that on "Inside Politics." Remember, don't forget to vote. Look at these people, good citizens out there. You've got the volunteers at the table. They're going through the rolls. "What's your precinct? What's your ward? Give me that I.D. I know you don't like the picture." It's going on right now all over the East Coast. Get out a little early. Get out a little early from work; do what you got to do.

CAMEROTA: You're really channeling the precinct.

CUOMO: I'm all about it. That's what they're saying.


CUOMO: All righty. The alchemy of politics is all around us. The GOP needs just six seats today to gain control of the Senate. We're going to take a closer look now at some of the tight races. We'll call them the big six. You got your old paper ready? Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. You also have Colorado and Iowa into the mix. They're bubbling up a little bit. All the states that the GOP is hoping to flip into their column, or at least expect to. Let's bring in John Avlon, CNN political analyst, editor in chief of

the "Daily Beast"; Margaret Hoover, CNN political commentator and Republican consultant; Errol Louis, CNN political commentator and political news anchor at New York 1 News and Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and editor -- editorial director for the "National Journal." That was the hard part.

So let's take a look at these states. Let's just -- let's take one step back. People getting ready to go to the polls. Three's all this urgency and expectation. Ron Brownstein, the media often accused of hyping elections just so people watch them. I don't remember this many horse races, even with the big shift in 2010. The unknowns.



BROWNSTEIN: A lot of close races, look, because you have a -- you have a public that is dissatisfied, really, with what's happening in the country and not really enthusiastic about either political party. President Obama has very low approval rating. The Republican Congress has an even lower approval rating. Two-thirds of the country say we're on the wrong track. You don't really have an overwhelming tilt toward one side or the other in that sense. But you have a lot of close races that are leaning Republican, and that put them in a very good position to win control of the Senate.

CUOMO: Errol, all about turnout. You know that very well. Early voting seems unusually robust. Does that mean that I've been wrong in anticipating unusually low turnout?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, no. I think you can get early voting and also get low turnout. I mean, what it means is that the motivated voters -- and they seem to be on the Republican side in many of these states -- are getting out. They're locking up their vote. They're going to have a robust turnout operation.

But in the end, because this Congress is so unpopular, because they've been so unproductive, the 112th Congress, the 113th Congress, people are really looking for a change, but they're very disillusioned. And in many cases, they're not going to come in.

Another factor to keep in mind is that, because of gerrymandering, because you have a lot of safe seats, you have many, many incumbents who don't really have a race.

CUOMO: That Gerry, when he was doing the -- the document with Madison, do you think he knew that his name would get dragged around like this?

So Margaret, you know, does this come down simply to -- for all the intrigue of why, why, why, why. These are states, most of these key states, these six states, that Romney won. These are purple. You should win them.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're right, this is the good luck of the map. And by the way, the Democrats have the good luck of the map in two years. So Republicans could very well...

CUOMO: Let's stick to now, Margaret. Let's stick to now.

HOOVER: I know. Heaven forbid we go to 2016. But I'm sticking on the Senate 2016. I mean, this could all flip in two years. This is really luck of the map. Republicans need to all win these seats, and it's -- I mean, there are more problems with the Republican Party if we don't. Truly. But I think we're going to, so it's OK.

CUOMO: Where are the Democrats' heads, John, in terms of saying, "No, we don't think it's going to happen"?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think a lot of Democrats are in denial and, obviously, it's political malpractice to say publicly, "Oh, I think we're going to lose the Senate tonight."

CUOMO: Because it's honest?

AVLON: Not just because it's honest, but sometimes I think we all get caught up in the polls and say, "Well, this is a done deal. Everybody knows the Republicans are going to win." And it really does matter who turns out today. And yes, early voting is going to be disproportionately older, maybe whiter. But do young voters turn out? Do minority voters turn out? That's a large part of the GOTV operation in states like Colorado that could provide the difference.

But you don't want -- you know, ultimately, the people are empowered today. They get to make the choice. And we spend so much time fixating on polls and acting like it's a done deal, we do them a disservice.

BROWNSTEIN: Chris, can I go back to Margaret's point from a minute ago? If the Republicans win the Senate tonight, neither party will have held the Senate for more than eight consecutive years since 1980. That is the longest period of that kind of instability, really, since the 19th Century.

CUOMO: Is that instability?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Neither side has been able to sustain the kind of majorities we've seen in the past, enduring majorities, much less unified control of the White House, the House and the Senate.

CUOMO: Is that bad or is that good, though?

BROWNSTEIN: It's a sign of the times that neither side can really establish a lasting advantage. And what you've got is an electorate that is moving back and forth between the parties and has not really seen either of them, I think, produce outcomes in the last several decades that would cement lasting allegiance.

AVLON: And that's in large part because we've got market failure in our politics, right? I mean, the parties are more polarized than ever before. More people are independent and in the center. And they keep vacillating between both. But you've got the least productive, least popular Congress in American history. And it looks like in this cycle, Republicans are going to get rewarded by taking over the Senate. But if most of the populist anger is against dysfunction in Washington, will this only compound it further? And that's one of the real questions. Do Republicans want to show they can govern for the next two years, or are they going to kind of revert to their grandstanding and alienating even more folks?

CUOMO: You know what's one of the nice things? Obviously, I grew up in New York politics here, watching the great Errol Louis take us through all these things. You know, for all we think we know, it comes down to this day. And let me tell you, everybody, no matter how big their mouth is in these campaigns, they're nervous because they're waiting on you. There will be surprises, I guarantee it. It is always that way.

We'll follow it as we get more information from the polls. For now, take a breather.

Alisyn, over to you.

CAMEROTA: All right, Chris. With election day finally here, which early signs can we watch for as voters begin to roll in? CNN's John King will tell us what to look for, "Inside Politics."

And, tragedy averted. Police in Baltimore foil a possible school shooting. The surprising details of how they discovered what a teenager allegedly had planned, that's ahead.


PEREIRA: Busy day here at CNN, but we want to give you a look at your headlines at this hour.

Police in Baltimore say a rash of car break-ins helped them foil a teen's plot to carry out a school shooting. Detectives say they managed to link Alexander Nemphos to car crimes. When they went to his home to interview him, he had a gun and explosive devices. The teen is said to have told police that he brought a gun to school Friday but decided not to do anything. He is now being evaluated and held without bail.

Special prosecutors in Texas argue Governor Rick Perry should not be given access to a grand jury transcript in connection with his indictment of abuse of power allegations. The defense has tried to get a look, but prosecutors are concerned it could lead to retaliation against witnesses, based on remarks Perry made following an August court appearance. We'll keep following that story for you.

The St. Louis County police chief is denying an Associated Press report that his department requested airspace restrictions to keep news helicopters away from Ferguson protests after the Michael Brown shooting. Police Chief John Belmar says the FAA imposed temporary restrictions after a 911 call reported shots fired and a laser pointed at police helicopters. The A.P. said recordings suggest the ban was, instead, to keep the media away.

Very, very special day for the family of Army Private First Class Thomas McGraw. His Purple Heart is being returned to the family today decades after it went missing. It was found on a playground at an elementary school back in the '90s, then stashed in a drawer before anyone managed to track down the rightful owner. Private McGraw was killed back in Vietnam back in 1966. He was awarded the Purple Heart after his death. I understand that the family will be presented with the medal at a very special ceremony that will be held outside Syracuse.

It took them decades to track them down. I kind of actually got the goose bumps thinking about this, what a meaningful moment this will be for this family.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that is beautiful, great story.