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Virtual Tie in New Jersey Gov Race, Big GOP Wins in Virginia. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 05:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, November 3rd. I'm John Berman alongside Brianna Keilar this morning.

Breaking right now, it is still election night in America. One of the two most closely watched races still too early to project. That one in New Jersey, where the difference separating the gubernatorial candidates is 61 votes. 61 votes.

Republican challenger Jack Ciattarelli neck and neck with incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy. There are still votes outstanding. Mostly it seems from Democratic areas. We will show you exactly where in just a moment.

But the fact that it is even close, being claimed as a success for Republicans.


JACK CIATTARELLI (R), NEW JERSEY GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have sent the message to the entire country. Every single time it's gone too far off track, the people of this state have pushed, pulled, and prodded it right back to where it needs to be. Sometime real soon, we're going to do this again. Like we're doing it right now, and we will declare a victory.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The overall themes of election night are clear. A huge swing to Republicans and a wake up call for Democrats.

CNN projecting Republican Glenn Youngkin will be the next governor of Virginia. Youngkin made education a center piece of his campaign against Democrat Terry McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, and might have just delivered a road map to fellow Republicans for the 2022 midterms and beyond.


GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA GOVERNOR-ELECT: Together, together we will change the trajectory of this commonwealth.


And, friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one.


KEILAR: We're going to have much more on the Virginia race and its implications for the 2022 midterms here in a moment. But first, though, Berman is at the magic wall to take us through this nail-biter in New Jersey. Tell us about this.

BERMAN: Sixty-one votes, 61 votes separating the two candidates in New Jersey. That's not much considering over 2 million votes have been counted so far.

So, the thing we need to look at right now is where are the remaining votes? This is with 84 percent total reporting right now. I want to look at the counties, if I can, that have about 80 percent or less reporting right now. So these counties that have colors have 80 percent or less reporting right now.

You can see what most of them have in common. They're all blue. They're all Democratic counties, and in some cases, let's take a look in Hudson County, this is where jersey city, New Jersey, is.

You can see Phil Murphy has a huge lead in Hudson County, just 76 percent of the vote reporting there. So a lot more votes still to be counted in Hudson County. So a lot more room potentially for Phil Murphy to grow.

Essex County, that's where Newark is, a big urban area. Again, just 72 percent reporting. You can see Phil Murphy with nearly 73 percent of the vote.

Let me look at one more Democratic area here. This is outside Philadelphia, Camden, New Jersey, you can see Phil Murphy at 61 percent. As more votes come in from the Democratic counties, he'll be able to flip this race and get on top of Jack Ciattarelli.

You see one red county here. I know everyone watching says hey, there's one red county. It is. That's Cumberland county where there's 79 percent reporting. You can see not as many votes there total.

So potentially speaking, more Democrat votes to be had, Democratic votes to be had. They're still coming in. We don't know if they're early votes, vote by mail or what. That would tell us something when we find that out. We also don't know where they're still counting or where they've gone to sleep. We're waiting to find out. Stay tuned for that.

Let's take a look at Virginia right now. This is also very interesting in terms of the national trends, in terms of the overall story. You can see Glenn Youngkin there. We had projected as the winner of that race by about 2 points. A lot of focus has been on the suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. And, yes, Glenn Youngkin did well there. He held his own. Take a look

at Loudoun County there. This is a county that Joe Biden won by more than 20 points. You can see Terry McAuliffe's edge was just 11 points.


So, yes, Glenn Youngkin was able to make inroads in the suburbs, but if you want to know where Glenn Youngkin made the biggest gains, and had the biggest edge, I want to compare this race to the race four years ago that was won by the Democrat Ralph Northam. And I want to look at where Terry McAuliffe underperformed Ralph Northam, in other words, did worse -- significantly worse than the Democrat four years ago.

You can see the areas where Terry McAuliffe did worse, primarily these red rural counties. Not the suburbs here. You can see Terry McAuliffe basically did right around or within the margin of error, as it were. There's no margin of error in this. Right around what Ralph Northam did four years ago.

His real devastating came in these more rural counties. Take a look for instance at Smith County. You look at this and say, well, there's only 10,000 votes. Glenn Youngkin won 82 percent of the vote. Terry McAuliffe won 17 percent of the vote. That's not much.

I want to compare that to four years ago. You see Ralph Northam had 42 percent. That's terrible. Terry McAuliffe managed to do even worse. You can go county to county in these red rural areas to see those votes are just bleeding away, they're just bleeding away from Democrats in Virginia.

And that's got to be something that concerns Democrats around the country, especially if Terry McAuliffe and Democrats aren't able to expand their leads -- sorry, move that around. Expand their leads in these suburban areas, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, all in the margins there in the suburbs, but also in South Side, Virginia, it's very clear Youngkin really made a difference there.

Berman, thank you so much. You are going to, of course, taking us through county by county throughout the show.

I do want to bring in CNN's Jason Carroll who is live for us in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

No rest for the weary there, Jason. It is going to be a potentially long morning ahead.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yeah, talk about a nail-biter. This is the true definition of it. Governor Murphy and Democrats did not want to find themselves in this position. And, Brianna, you remember over the weekend Governor Murphy said if his base didn't turn up in huge numbers, this was going to be a coin toss. That's exactly what we're seeing right now. I mean, you look at where we are right now in Bergen County and Fort

Lee in North New Jersey, this is the suburb out here, I mean, President Biden back in 2020 carried this area by 16 points. Murphy again at this point, still more votes to be counted, ahead by just 4 points. So, you see that big shift you're seeing there.

Murphy saying, the campaign saying they can still pull out a victory, telling his supporters last night to hang in there and wait for every vote to be counted.


GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: We're all sorry that tonight could not yet be the celebration we wanted it to be. But as I said, when every vote is counted and every vote will be counted, we hope to have a celebration.


COSTELLO: Brianna, I've been on the phone this morning. Gosh, it seems like it was last night, but it was actually in morning with the Ciattarelli campaign, speaking to them about what they're seeing. They were actually encouraged by what they're seeing in the suburbs, by what they're seeing here in Bergen County.

I asked, what is make the difference? She said a couple of things. She said, first and foremost, they're seeing a lot more support from women. They're seeing a lot more support in their estimation from the minority community.

When I asked her what was the key difference here, she said three things. She said property taxes, property taxes, property taxes.

People here in the state of New Jersey pay some of the highest property taxes in the country and it is their feeling that one issue really made a difference here. Again, still votes to be counted. Both campaigns saying they want every vote to be counted and telling their supporters to hang in there -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, can it make the difference? We'll see here in the hours ahead. Jason Carroll, thank you.

BERMAN: We have our eye on New Jersey. We're watching the votes come in minute by minute there.

But as we watch that, I want to go to Arlington, Virginia, to talk about the other major race. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is there -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: John, certainly a big night for Republicans here in Virginia and a devastating gut punch for Democrats. Republican Glenn Youngkin defeating Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become this commonwealth's next governor and first time notably that a Republican has won a state race here in Virginia in over a decade.

And Youngkin did so by building his own brand, a brand that was separate from Trump, appealing to moderate Republican voters, but doing so without alienating the Trump voters and appealing to the base, focusing on state and local issues like education to get him elected.

Here's the governor-elect at his victory rally here in Virginia.



YOUNGKIN: On day one, we're going to work. We're going to restore excellence in our schools. We're going to start with 20 charter schools and we are going to make a down payment and close the gap on giving parents an opportunity to select where their kids go to school. Friends, we're going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.


SERFATY: And Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe really staked his candidacy on trying to tie Youngkin to the former President Donald Trump, and simply that did not work here in Virginia.

So not only will Democrats be certainly licking their wounds here this morning, John, but certainly reassessing that strategy going into midterms next year -- John.

BERMAN: Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

Joining us now CNN political commentator and senior editor of "The National Review", and CNN political commentator and former press secretary during the Clinton administration, Joe Lockhart.

Ramesh, I want to start with you, because America is telling us something this morning. You have at least a 12-point swing in Virginia where CNN has projected Glenn Youngkin is Republican is winning. In New Jersey they're separated by 61 votes.

Look, Phil Murphy may take the lead soon. But still, a huge swing there, as much as a 16-point swing in New Jersey from the last time around.

So what is America telling us?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think America is telling us what America frequently tells us, which is that it wants the pendulum to swing back, and it does that whenever you have unified control of the government. In Virginia you've had unified Democratic control since 2019. Of course, we had that in Washington, D.C. since the beginning of 2021. And always, the public starts electing Republicans at that time.

We saw it under Obama. We saw it under Clinton. And now we're seeing it under President Joe Biden as well.

KEILAR: What do you see the defining issues as these two races as? PONNURU: Well, I do think that a lot of it is just the impatience

with the way the schools have been handled, and what a lot of parents see as a lack of voice that they have in the education of their kids.

But really it's a whole lot of everything. It's high prices. It's the sour climate of our political debate. And as Jason was telling us earlier, it's property taxes in New Jersey.

So there's a lot of pain points right now in the electorate and it's all being taken out on the party in power, the Democrats.

BERMAN: And it's the president whose approval rating, Joe, in Virginia is under water. And according to the exit poll, he's 45 percent approval in Virginia, a state he won by ten points exactly one year ago.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, doesn't help that the president -- his support has ebbed right now. And the timing of his legislative package didn't get completed. It didn't matter that it didn't get completed this week because Terry McAuliffe needed it two months ago so he could talk about those things.

But the big difference, especially in Virginia, but also in New Jersey, is that Donald Trump is not on the ballot. That's what drove particularly women, particularly women in the suburbs out to the polls. It was this distaste for Trump.

And what Glenn Youngkin did is, maybe a model for Republicans, is he managed to be Trumpian enough, but moderate enough and acceptable enough in the suburbs. The irony is the person -- Democrats will be devastated this morning, we'll argue over why we lost. The person who may be most disappointed is Donald Trump, because in 2024, there's no model for him not being the best candidate for the Republican Party.

KEILAR: You know, I wonder if this is going to mean not just obviously in Virginia, but in other states. Is this going to be rowdy school board meetings coming to a swing district near you?

LOCKHART: Yeah, well, listen. Politics is general driven by hope or fear. Right now it's fear, you know. Terry McAuliffe is an optimist, so he was not the best deliverer of this fear-based message.

But education was the lightning rod issue in Virginia. It's interesting how it was. In southwest Virginia, rural Virginia, it was a lot of these racially charged rhetoric that was received Trump voters the way Trump has always given it.

In more moderate sections of Virginia, what Youngkin was able to do was to talk about local school districts. The big mistake Terry McAuliffe made was in the debate when he said, I'm not going to let parents decide what we teach in school. Now, most of us know what that meant.

But the way Youngkin defined it was, parents don't get involved, these crazy liberals are going to decide what kids are taught in school. Critical race theory, which is not taught anywhere in Virginia, became a big issue. And it was able to work with both groups.


BERMAN: What about, Ramesh, Joe's notion about a road map for Republicans. Glenn Youngkin trying to create a little bit of distance for Donald Trump there? Is that a lesson for Republicans? Because I guarantee Donald Trump won't learn that lesson.

PONNURU: Well, you know, you've got two issues here, which is there's the road map for Republicans that might succeed, but there is also a road map to failure for the Democrats.

So the Democratic campaign just dwelt on Donald Trump. In fact, Youngkin made an ad about how Trump obsessed McAuliffe campaign was. And even in states that Trump lost by ten points to Joe Biden, that message didn't work.

So you've got to wonder whether it's going to work in a lot of other states where Trump isn't as unpopular as he was in Virginia.

Now, the other question, of course, is what Republicans can do with this message. Can they follow this kind of Youngkin formula in the future? And I think that you're exactly right, Joe, that Trump is not going to want them to succeed in this way and is going to do everybody in his power to keep them from succeeding in this way.

KEILAR: We have so much more to talk about, so stick around if you will, guys.

Up next, a night of historic mayoral wins, plus voters reject being the defund the police movement across the U.S. this is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: A night of historic outcomes in some big mayoral races, Michelle Wu, the first woman and person of color to become mayor in Boston, Cincinnati electing its first Asian Pacific Mayor Aftab Pureval. Elaine O'Neal is the first black woman to hold the post in Durham, North Carolina. And Ed Gainey becoming Pittsburgh's first black mayor.

In New York, Eric Adams won easily. He will be city's second black mayor.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joining us live with more -- Miguel.


Look, Adams' win wasn't surprising, but worth remembering that the former NYPD captain and political moderate beat out a crowded field in the Democratic primary, including several progressive candidates. He's the second African-American to become his honor of the nation's largest city, but the first to go around nationwide.

Boston as you said, Michelle Wu, first woman and person of color, she beat out a centrist. Cincinnati elected Democrat Aftab Pureval, the first South Asian to become mayor there. He beat fellow Democrat who was a long-time party fixture. Democrats also now in control of the city council there. Durham, North Carolina, looking at its first African-American woman, a former judge, Elaine O'Neal. And Ed Gainey was elected the first black mayor of Pittsburgh.

Maybe the most surprising results of the night is in Buffalo, New York, where Democratic socialist candidate India Walton may have lost to write-in candidate and incumbent Democratic Mayor Byron Brown who lost the primary to Walton in a shocker. He's declared victory, but the majority write-in vote still needs to be counted.

And in Minneapolis, a proposition to replace the police department with the department of public safety has failed by a wide margin. This was a voter proposition coming out of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, with calls to defund the police, a call that hasn't sat well with voters who may want to see police reform, but the idea of radically changing public safety just isn't in the cards, particularly when the crime is up in many cities, a lot of firsts, a lot of young, new people of color, and not progressive winning at the local level -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Miguel, thank you so much for that.

Joe and Ramesh back with us on this.

Defund the police, the takeaway from this, Joe.

LOCKHART: Well, the takeaway is Democrats are losing on cultural issues. This is a cultural issue. This is not a policing matter per se. It's about Republicans' ability to drive these cultural wedges that alienate swing voters, and this is just one of many.

And Democrats have to get better about being more aggressive on the other side of this and not being for defund the police, but trying to take apart these cultural attacks and make Republicans own the worst of them.

And that's where I think Trump does come in. I think he will be a player in 2022 and obviously 2024, because if you look at the members of Congress that will be, they are all incumbents. They all have a long history of being with Trump, all through impeachment, all through his administration.

Youngkin was sort of a blank slate. He was able to fill in his own picture. So I think what Democrats have to do is wake up today and say it's not left or right. It's culture, and how do we get better on this. How do we neutralize that.

BERMAN: A lot of this was intramural fighting though on the crime and policing issue. It wasn't just a referendum in Minneapolis. It wasn't Buffalo where Byron Brown is leading India Walton right now, Brown went after Walton on the policing issue. And also in New York City where you have Eric Adams, former police

officer, the primary was the big game there. He won the primary seen as more pro-law enforcement really than any of the other candidates.

PONNURU: Yeah. So, themes of defunding the police, that is not a wedge issue invented out of nowhere by Republicans. That's the left. That is the online progressive left getting too far ahead of Democratic voters, let alone the electorate at large, and getting its head handed to them again and again.


Look, one of the reasons Joe Biden won the Democratic presidential nomination is that the online left is not representative of the Democratic Party overall. It's one of the reasons Eric Adams won his primary in New York City. But a lot of Democrats, they're listening to the most vocal people, not necessarily the most representative people and they're making this mistake time and time again.

BERMAN: It's very interesting to watch. Eric Adams literally ran on not being a Twitter Democrat, as did Joe Biden there.

Ramesh, Joe, great to see you. Thank you very much.

Our election coverage continues. You have Republicans with a very instructive win in Virginia, and in New Jersey, they are counting votes. Just 61 votes separate the two candidates as we sit here at, what, 5:25 a.m.

We're counting the ballots as they come in. We're trying to figure out what this means for the nation's mood and whether Democrats have misjudged.