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2014 Midterms: Watching For Early Clues; McConnell Hoping For Good News; The Obama Effect Then And Now; Some States May Legalize Marijuana Today

Aired November 04, 2014 - 07:30   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that is beautiful, great story.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It really helps to remember the sacrifice.

PEREIRA: And it's interesting to note on today on Election Day too.

CUOMO: A lot at stake. For that, we get you "Inside Politics" on NEW DAY, with Mr. John King. Your plate is full, my brother.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Good morning, everybody, Chris, Alisyn, Michaela. Look, everybody out there. It is game day. It's Election Day. We've talked about this. We've had polls for weeks and months. The politicians are giving speeches.

With me this morning on "Inside Politics" to share their reporting and their insights are Julie Pace of the "Associated Press" and Jonathan Martin of the "New York Times."

Let's go through some of the early clues we'll be looking to see what kind of a mood you're in and whether, for example, you want to give Republicans control of the United States Senates.

Here's our Senate map, the races in gold are the ones we are watching most closely. Here's what to look for early tonight. Kentucky and Georgia close at 7:00, will African-Americans come out and vote for Democratic candidates in those states who have pushed President Obama away or will their loyalty cause them to stay home?

Can Mitch McConnell win his race in Kentucky and then spend the rest of the night trying to figure out, am I about to the Senate majority leader? Will we get a verdict? Will somebody get 50 percent plus one in Georgia tonight or will we have to have a runoff in January?

Key questions there. At 7:30, North Carolina closes, again the African-American turn-out question there. This is one of the most hotly contested races in the country. If Democrat Kay Hagan loses that race, it tells you Republicans are on their way to a big night.

One more in the east coast, 8:00 the polls close in New Hampshire. Scott Brown versus Jean Shaheen, a current senator versus a former senator, this is a very tight race to the end. Independents outnumber Democrats and Republicans in New Hampshire.

So do independents in New Hampshire give us a clue of how independents, voters in the middle, will set the table across the race? Jonathan and Julie, I just want to come back to them, just one more second, if the Democrats are to hold, if the Democrats are to hold, these are the key states, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire.

They have to hold those blues. They have to hold North Carolina. The question is late momentum for the Republicans, do we believe that the Democrats as they promise, I'm going to come back to the table here. Can they outhustle?

Their whole thing has been early voting. The first clue I'm looking for is those early races, if North Carolina being one of them is to see if the Democrats can prove they got the Republicans beat on the ground.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And look, Senator Hagan has been one of the most durable candidates in this election cycle in a really tough environment. She's hung in there. I think we'll know pretty early on the course of this night by watching that race more than any of them.

But look, John, the challenge for Democrats is even if they hold those races, they still got to be about perfect everywhere else. You talk to Democrats privately. They still have some hope in Iowa, Colorado looking tougher.

KING: One of the key questions here, I know we're going to let people vote. One of the key questions is what happens after the election. In a sense you cover the White House, what they're thinking, the words lame duck, especially if Republicans have a big night will be used pretty quickly.

I want to just bring, Julie, before we bring your perspective, this is Mitch McConnell. He is campaigning in Kentucky on his final day campaign. This could well be his final campaign.

He wants six more years in the United States Senate. He also wants the gavel. He wants to be the Senate majority leader. Listen to Mitch McConnell who sounds optimistic.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: We have a unique opportunity here, with this extraordinary partner of mine in the Senate to be in an enormously influential position, not only for our state, but for the country. We could have, for the second time in our history, the majority leader in the Senate. Setting the agenda for America and taking us in a new direction.


KING: What is the calculation at the White House? They continue to say they're confident Democrats will hold the Senate, but they have to be planning for the possibility they won't.

JULIA PACE, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": They absolutely are planning for that and they do see some areas where they think they could possibly compromise with Mitch McConnell and the Republicans if the GOP takes over the Senate. Things like infrastructure spending, tax reform, trade deals where Republicans and the White House actually have some commonality there.

But all of those things are issues that Republicans and this White House have talked about for several years and would require both sides to make compromises that they so far haven't been willing to make.

KING: You often say that you are who you are at this point in your life. The president and Senator McConnell, and this is on both of them. It's not on one individual. It's both of them. Don't have much of a relationship. Are we interested to see if after the election they decide we have a responsibility to try to work that out?

You mentioned the governors' races before we came on the air, things you're watching. What are you going to look for when you see the results come in?

MARTIN: Well, there's so much focus, John, for obvious reasons on the Senate map because that's what really in play, but the governors' races are crucial this year. I'm watching the Florida governors' race, the Wisconsin governor race, and Illinois and Kansas for clues about the sort of mood of the states.

But also, John, because of the reason -- the governors that win this year will have a shot at getting re-elected. They could redraw the congressional maps after the next census. It sounds wonky, but that's the key to future control of the U.S. House.

PACE: If you look at what President Obama has done on the campaign trail over the last couple of weeks, he's been focused on governor's races in part because the White House knows that governors can actually affect his policies particularly health care even more than the Senate can.

MARTIN: Talk to folks there privately in the White House and they are passionate about the governors' races because they know that the president's legacy is the Affordable Care Act more than anything else and the governors will expand Medicaid or not expand it.

KING: It will also be interesting if say, Mary Burke, wins the close race in Wisconsin. Some of these other governors in close where the president came in and we can show you the president's schedule today -- nothing, not so unusual. What is he supposed to do? Stand at a subway stop somewhere and shake hands? He's not on the ballot. Bill Clinton might, I don't know where Bill Clinton is. But this is -- this is the last referendum on this president, if you will. In 2016, he'll still be in the White House, but you'll have a different Democratic nominee on the ballot.

I want to go through some of these numbers because Republicans complain about the president all the time. The Obama years have been great for the Republican Party. When he came into office, 257 Democrats in the House, they were the majority, 201 now.

There were 27 Democratic governors, there are 21 now. The Democrats have lost, meaning Republicans have gained 600 seats in state legislatures. Those are the future governors, future attorneys general, maybe a future president out there somewhere.

And the Senate is the big question, the change has been less dramatic after the 2008 election, there were 57 Democratic senators, now 53, 55 if you include the two incumbents. This is a referendum on him, that's what midterm elections are.

PACE: It absolutely is and you know, you talk to folks in the White House and they'll say you have to analyze the results from presidential elections differently from midterm elections. There's truth to that, but politics will be part of President Barack Obama's legacy.

And if he loses the Senate today, both mid-term elections during his presidency will have been huge losses for his party. That will not reflect well on his legacy.

MARTIN: And the larger issue is that there's been a great tradeoff in his party. They have become a presidential majority. Close to that because of the coalition. He's put together, the down side of that is that all of these more conservative states, the Democratic senators for years, are now moving to the right and that's probably not going to change any time soon.

KING: Something else unlikely to change, the president's brand is clearly damaged. The Republican brand is equally if not more damaged. It's just the momentums at play and we have an evenly divided country. We forget about that as we focus on the personalities.

We have an evenly divided country. It looks like the Republicans will get some edge tonight as we count the votes, but that's not going to change a lot either. We're still going to be in this polarized world.

MARTIN: No, I think the long-term or at least the medium-term is going to be a closely divided Senate and a narrow GOP advantage in the House or a decent GOP advantage in the House because of how the contrary is drawn. You've got a lot of conservative states that for years had Democratic senators, they're moving more in line with the GOP.

KING: Before we go, you want the last word? Get it in quickly. Julie has been missing the last couple of weeks. She decided to put her life ahead of "Inside Politics." She went off, can you believe this, Alisyn, instead of coming in here at 7:00 in the morning to talk with us. She went off and got married. Can you believe that? We have a small gift for her. She has to drive so don't drink this today.

PACE: Thanks, guys.

KING: It is nice, Alisyn, as we get back to you in New York. I want to one more time say especially if you don't care and don't think it matters, get out and vote. It does matter. Show the politicians you are willing to hold them accountable.

It does matter no matter whether you're a liberal or conservative or in the middle, get out and vote. But I give Julie props she took a little time for her life in the middle of a campaign year.

CAMEROTA: Where are her priorities?

PACE: In the right place.

CAMEROTA: We need her to show up every day. OK. These segments don't write themselves, Julie. Now that you're married, congratulations and get back to work.

KING: No excuses now.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, John. See you soon. All right, stick with CNN for full coverage of the midterm elections, election night in America begins at 5:00 p.m. We'll be with you until all of the big races are sorted out even if that takes days or weeks. So keep it tuned to CNN.

And voters are not just choosing candidates today. Issues like marijuana and the minimum wage are also being voted on. We'll break down those hot-button ballot items.

And the focus is on the Senate, but dozens of governors' races around the country are being decided, too, we'll tell you how those races will have national implications.


PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us on NEW DAY. Candidates for House and Senate are not the only things on the ballot today. Voters will be able to decide also on a number of ballot measures, 146 to be precise. Let's take a look at a few of the more controversial and important ones.

Interesting, a topic that was once on the fringe for some time has now moved into the mainstream in recent years, marijuana. Florida is going to decide if medical marijuana should be legal. Two states, Alaska and Oregon, and of course, Washington, D.C. will ask the question should anyone over the age of 21 be able to use marijuana. If they agree, those states will join 21 other states that legalize marijuana in some form.

Another hot topic, minimum wage, five states are asking voters to decide whether or not to raise the minimum wage. Now what's really significant here is the national minimum wage is $7.25. That hasn't been reset since 2009. Illinois, we should point out to you, their ballot initiative is purely advisory and nonbinding.

All right, next up, a very controversial debate going on about personhood. Colorado and North Dakota, they're asking voters if they would like to define unborn as people. Proponents say the measures will protect pregnant women and opponents on the other side say, if voters approve this, this could inadvertently make procedures like invitro fertilization illegal. Obviously, we'll watch this.

Onto gun rights, a pair of ballot initiatives in Washington State, it's interesting because it has both sides of the gun issues squaring off. On the one side, Initiative 591, would prohibit the government from confiscating guns without due process and prevent background checks on fire purchases unless a national standard is required.

Now on the other side, the Initiative 594 would require background checks for sales at gun shows and online. So the question we want to explore is why are these important? Why are they so important? Some of the ballot initiatives could be in place to drive turn-out of specific constituents.

In fact, if I press this, no, yup, there we go, press why, we should give an example, a "Chicago Tribune" poll taken in August suggested that huge support, for example, a minimum wage increase in Illinois, that could bring more Democrats to the voting booth where they'll happen to vote for several Democratic candidates.

And in today's race, millions of dollars has been poured into Florida to oppose its medical marijuana initiative by conservative, Sheldon Adelson. So again, those are the initiatives. They very well could drive people to the polling stations.

We'll be watching. Make sure you read these through carefully and do a gut-check on what you think -- Alisyn, Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Mich, I got a secret for you. There's a lot of hype about the Senate because of what it means today and for 2016. But here's a secret -- when it comes to president, senators rarely win.

Governors do and that's why we're watching the red/blue coup taking place in 36 states who are picking governors. What's trending there? Who's going to rise up? We may get to know them too well in the years ahead. So stick with us next.


CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. A little bit more information for you before you get out the door and vote. It's 10 minutes before 8:00 here on the east coast. We're going to turn to the governor races. They matter, 36 of them nationwide.

A lot of them going to be a little bit iffy right now so we're going to need our experts because not only do they influence what happens in their own state and a lot of issues that come in state that used to be national, but presidents wind up being governors a lot. Sure, we have a senator who's one now, but let's bring in the panel. Shall we?

CAMEROTA: We welcome back Ron Brownstein, Errol Louis, Margaret Hoover, and John Avlon. Great to have you guys with us. OK, so which governor's races are you keeping an eye on in particular?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the most interesting are Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin, Wisconsin because Scott Walker could be a formidable Republican presidential candidate in 2016. If he can get to re-election, he has a tough re-election.

Colorado because it was a purple state where Democrats felt the demographic was at their back. They pursued basically a blue state social agenda and now are struggling to hold on.

And Florida, because Florida is just fascinating all the time and it's also because the implications of the governor's race and whether the state joins the expansion of Medicaid affecting hundreds of thousands of people in that state are really significant.

CUOMO: Ron Brownstein is making a good point, but now it makes me question my own premise. Should I care about these governor's races? After all, we are worried about the Senate and what's happening there in D.C., why do I care, John Avlon?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You should care for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's laboratories of democracies. It's where a lot of innovative policies come out of governors. They have more impact, at the end of the day, on citizens of their states and their senators, no question.

Second of all, with the exception of President Obama, I mean, we have only had three presidents the last 100 years that weren't governors that come from the Senate. So it's absolutely the breeding ground. I think one of the takeaways this presidency is looking at governors again.

One other interesting thing, I mean, you know, Ron pointed out exactly right, for example, Scott Walker wants to run for president. The RNC is also staffed by Wisconsinites. You know if he pulls this out, his third gubernatorial run in four years by the way that will be really significant. If he's defeated that's significant because --

CUOMO: Do you see that happening?

AVLON: It's tight. It's absolutely tight in Wisconsin.

BROWNSTEIN: Probably survives in this environment.

AVLON: But Florida incredibly tight obviously, Bellwether state with presidential election implications. But look at the governors in states like Ohio, John Kasich winning by 20 in what had been a swing state after a narrow win four years ago.

Brian Sandoval is going to probably win by 20 in the swing state, Harry Reid's home state. Gary Branstad going for his historic sixth term in Iowa, getting beat by over 20 points in a state where Joni Ernst is trailing.

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: And he's talking about the Republican governors who are able to reach across the state and you have potentially referenda on conservative ideological governance.

If you look at Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin, you have two governors who have really tried to take on unions in their state. And then in Kansas, you have Sam Brownback who has massively cut taxes and the state has really suffered for it.

A state that, you know, is three parties, conservatives, moderate Republicans and then Democrats. Sam Brownback may lose his seat shockingly.

BROWNSTEIN: He was trying to build a red state model that Republicans could hold up in 2016 with the tax cuts and now in Kansas --

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It gets a lot more attention with a Congress not doing very well.

CUOMO: Strong point.

LOUIS: So if you want to see what's actually going on, you actually do have to look at what the --

CUOMO: Health care on the state level, minimum wage, they are not taking this as valid initiatives.

BROWNSTEIN: Your point from before is absolutely right. The reality is that Washington is more likely than not to be gridlocked not only over the next two years but possibly the next ten. As we head through this structural divide in a country that neither party can really achieve a dominant position.

The inevitable result of that is more power, more decisions moving back to states and these governors' races matter. Thirty eight states now have unified control of their state legislature and the governor. You're seeing red states move more in that direction and blue states move more in that direction and really more innovation and energy coming out of the states.

AVLON: What is the really interesting point too is that a lot of these Republican governors, who are cruising the re-election by large margins have expanded Medicaid. They have essentially embraced the Obamacare. So that is not the political kryptonite that conservatives said it would be. In fact it seems to actually aid the popularity when you're dealing with a swing state and a Republican governor.

CAMEROTA: That was rapt attention. Much like you pay to me. Margaret, Errol, Ron, thanks so much. We'll back in with you. The balance of power is on the line today as voters head to the polls. We'll take you to some of the mostly hotly contested battleground states as voting gets underway. CUOMO: We'll speak with a major player. You have to see this, Kansas Senate candidate, Greg Orman. Remember, he's an independent. He wants to unseat the Republican Pat Roberts.

But here's the big question for him, which team is he on? Who's he going to align with? He has to talk about it and he will on NEW DAY when he gets the Camerota treatment.