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California Recall Election: Governor Gavin Newsom Has Early Lead In CNN Exit Poll With Most Votes So Far Against Recall. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 23:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: This election is too early to call, but based on our exit polls, it looks like it's going to be a good night for Governor Gavin Newsom. We are not yet able to make a projection, but CNN is getting an initial read on the state of the race. We can report that the no vote rejecting Newsom's removal as governor, the no vote has an early lead in our exit poll. Now, if that lead holds, Newsom will remain as governor of California.

Let us get more from David Chalian. David, what is behind this encouraging news for Gavin Newsom?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, issue number one, Jake, is the coronavirus. It's the most important issue on California voters' minds in this election. And we asked folks, what about -- what do you think about the current COVID situation in California? The plurality here, 39 percent of voters in this election say it's getting better, 31 percent say staying the same, only a quarter say that it is getting worse.

And I want to now show you that getting better contingent. Those 39 percent, how do they split on the recall? Look at this. Sixty-four percent of them say no, keep Gavin Newsom in office. Only 36 percent say yes to the recall, looking to fire the governor. He's winning the biggest slice of coronavirus voters that say, hey, we think things are getting better here.

We also looked at a couple of key demographics that are making up why he's leading in this race right now. Among Latino voters, 58 percent say no to the recall, keep Gavin Newsom, 42 percent say yes to the recall. That's a narrower margin of victory with Latinos than Newsom had three years ago in the 2018 governors' race.

But it is still a category, he is winning by 16 percentage points, and Latinos have grown their share of the electorate by six-percentage points since just three years ago. So that is benefiting Newsom.

And of course, we know female voters have been critical to the Newsom strategy and you see it here. Among female voters, 62 percent say no to the recall, keep Newsom in office, only 38 percent say yes, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. David Chalian, thanks so much. And Dana Bash, I mean, first of all, if these numbers hold, these exit poll numbers hold, a big night, a good night for Governor Newsom, a good night for the Democrats.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And they're hoping, the people I talked to in the Newsom camp and more broadly among Democratic strategists, that it is going to be decisive at the end of the day. It is going to potentially be a while until we get the total vote. But that is really critical for them, the idea of making a point, and the point being that they want to make is that this was republican overreach.

But much more importantly, they are trying to take what will happen, they hope, in California national, which is if you, Republicans, follow the Trump playbook, maybe you will do well in primaries, maybe you will do well with the base, but it is not going to serve you well with the larger electorate. California is different from other states. But --


BASH: Of course. But it's a lesson.

TAPPER: But the lesson -- the lesson can be applied.

BASH: Absolutely.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, because if you look at what has happened here, I mean, the only person that really sort of emerged was Larry Elder. And that could be a problem if this happens in other states. You think about a state like Georgia, for instance, Herschel Walker, possibly on the ballot there.

So something, I think, that is also interesting when you think about what's happening here, the Latino numbers. The Gavin Newsom campaign, Democrats more generally very worried about whether or not they would show up. They tend to be younger than average voters and a lot of drop-off in nonpresidential elections.

These numbers look good. You know, you talk to some folks on the ground there early on, Latinos were not so jazzed about Gavin Newsom, you know, after he won in 2018. So I think that's a good sign for Newsom.

HUNT: The one thing I do think though is if we're going to characterize what the campaigns are likely feeling now. I mean, certainly for Democrats here in Washington, this is a sigh of relief because again, he was in some danger earlier this summer. They had to engage people that they hadn't necessarily needed earlier on --

BASH: Like the president.

HUNT: -- like the president, exactly. They really had to bring out all of the guns here. And he's a Democratic governor in a democratic state who had presidential aspirations. He shouldn't have had to do that.

BASH: He shouldn't have had to do that but --

HENDERSON: It was smart that he did.

HUNT: Yeah. Go ahead.

TAPPER: All right. We have a key race alert for you now. Take a look. This is only six percent of the estimated vote, six percent. But with that six percent in, no, should Governor Newsom be recalled is at 60.6 percent of the vote, yes is at 39.4 percent of the vote. That's more than 170,000 votes ahead.


TAPPER: That's only six percent of the vote. But these are actual votes that we're talking about. And with these actual votes, Governor Newsom is in the lead to keep his job, John King.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And again, you make the key point. We are very early on, six percent of the estimated vote. All of them so far down here in San Diego County. Let's just bring it up. Percentages don't change, of course, because it is all the same. So 60 percent so far, 61 percent if you round up say no, keep Gavin Newsom, we don't want to recall him, 39 percent a little more voting yes.

Now, again, early numbers and we do know that the first numbers we're going to see tonight, first in San Diego right here. We'll get some others momentarily, maybe by the time I get back to the statewide map. These are mail-in ballots, early ballots, and we expect just like we had in November, Democrats voting disproportionately.

So let's watch and see if this holds up. If it does, it is a very good sign for Gavin Newsom. You mentioned the early indications are why so, because San Diego has had Republican mayors. The former San Diego mayor is one of the Republican candidates on the ballot. But San Diego and the suburbs around it have been trending democratic.

This is the governors' race in 2018. Forget the numbers. Just look at the margin, 57 percent. So if Democrats supporting Gavin Newsom and voting no tonight by roughly -- let me switch to this map here -- roughly even in excess of that percentages, it tells you that Democrats are holding on.

So let's pull out and see. We've got some more votes up here. Again, this is a key area for the governor. This is Napa County. You start to get up into the bay area, Wine Country to the north. He was the former mayor of San Francisco. This is where he believes his support is strongest.

Again, it is 68 percent of the estimated vote. That's just in this county. You see it is much smaller raw numbers than down in San Diego. But again, 71 percent say keep Newsom. They're voting no. Back in the governors' race, he got 65 percent. So he's overperforming in that county, if you will, if you consider no to be Newsom on that.

So we are going to have to watch as this plays out. When you switch map, you come back to the individual candidates. We don't have those numbers yet, on question, too. But 72 percent if you round up in Napa County. Come back down, you see no, 61 percent in San Diego County, a long way to go, 58 counties in California. Preliminary results in both Napa and San Diego, but the early count tells you that what the Newsom campaign was predicting, at least in the first numbers, is proving true.

TAPPER: It is very early. But we should note, as you did, that San Diego does have a history of electing Republicans to the governor -- to the mayor's office. And I believe that the Elder campaign and Republicans were hoping for a big turnout in the suburbs of San Diego.

KING: Yes. And they're also hoping -- I want the use the 2018 governors' race for just a second. Remember, 2018, governors' race, this is not tonight. But remember, California has evolved and become more and more democratic. But those people who become Democrats or become independents, they used to be Republicans.

So to your point, that's exactly why. If you look, 57 percent, you know, the Elder campaign, even just the yes forces, forget the other candidates, just those wanting yes, recall Gavin Newsom say, we know there is a history down here at least of Republicans. So maybe, maybe they turn on the Democratic governor. Even voters who maybe voters for Newsom in 2018 say, you know what, it didn't work out the way I wanted it to, they would vote yes.

So the key test, San Diego. This is the second largest county in the state. It is much smaller than Los Angeles but this is number two. If there is going to be a groundswell for yes, it has to come math, raw math is politics, where the people live. So you need big numbers in a place like this. The early indications are you're not getting them.

And then Orange County is another one. Stephanie Elam was there earlier in Huntington Beach. You saw the long lines. Republicans traditionally turn out on Election Day. So let's wait and let's count votes. But it would have to be overwhelming. Yes and no cannot split Orange County like they did, Democrat and Republican, back in 2018.

So when you come back to 2021 and you look at question one, which is yes or no, let us come back out, we have some votes now in Orange Company. Look at that. You stay here long enough, we'll get new votes. So here you have it. Again, Orange County, if Gavin Newsom is ahead by that, if no, keep Newsom, is ahead by that at the end of the night, it's a blowout. Forget about it.

So let us just pull out and see if we have any more coming in. Right now, we have Napa, we have Orange, and we have San Diego. You expect no to carry this, meaning keep Newsom in office, no to the recall by a big margin. If those stay blue, game over.

TAPPER: So Orange Count, let's go back to Orange County, because I think probably some of our viewers are aware that Orange County historically has been a republican stronghold although it has shifted in recent years. I think the Nixon Library is in Orange County. Larry Elder or the Republicans in general need, this is early though, but still they need much better than this in Orange County. I mean, yes, he is losing, but it is not even predictably close.

KING: Most. Again, here is the third largest, right? Los Angeles is the largest county. Then you go to San Diego and then you come to Orange. If there is going to be a no, then you're absolutely right.


KING: As I said earlier, you need every Republican and then you need Democrats and independents, enough of them who voted for Newsom either to vote yes or enough for them to stay home so the recall votes rack up, if you will. If the margin is like that, it is just not going to happen. There is just no way.

TAPPER: You don't have to sing the song but take me to Ventura County, if you would.

KING: I'm going to take you right here to Ventura County.

TAPPER: I was told we are getting some votes.

KING: Again, there it is right there. Everything that Newsom needs to come in blue, meaning Newsom needs to come in no so far is coming in no and it is coming in by pretty lopsided margins. Let's look. This is Ventura County, just to the north of L.A, if you will, for those of you who know. Let's just go back and look at the margins. Again, no, meaning keep Newsom in power. No is a vote for Newsom. And no is getting a higher percentage right now than it did it back in 2018.

Those are candidates. We are starting to get those results. I don't want to focus on those right now because the main dynamic for us early on is in the yes or no question. There is no question what is going to happen.

TAPPER: We got a new one.

KING: So here you go here. You start to see the fill in. You see down here around San Jose as well. Let's look at the one where we have our first yes, our first of California's 58 counties where at least the early votes are coming in yes. Again, this is the 48th of the 58 counties in terms of population. So it is very important for recall supporters for this to be red. Just in terms of the raw math, it doesn't do much for you because if you pull out and look at the raw math, here you are --

TAPPER: John, let me interrupt for one second. I want to go to Nick Watt right now who is in Los Angeles. Nick, what are you seeing?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake. Well, we just got the results of the mail-in ballots here in Los Angeles County, and no at 76 percent, yes is 23 percent. Now, there were more than 1.8 million mail-in ballots here in Los Angeles that were already sent in, have already been counted, and that is a big margin for Newsom.

Back in 2018 when Newsom won the governorship, he got 72 percent in Los Angeles. He has got 76 percent of mail-in ballots so far here in L.A., saying Newsom should remain as governor. This is, of course, the most populous county in the country. And also in California, 25 percent of the state's voters are here. This is not necessarily unexpected result, possibly above expectation from here in Los Angeles so far.

TAPPER: Nick, can you give us the raw vote totals from where you are if you have them?

WATT: Yes, I can. So no is 1,414,354, yes is 438,810. That's what we have so far from those mail-in ballots. Of course, the ballot boxes are going to start coming into this room behind me via helicopter, via boats from Catalina Island, and this is where they will be counting all the votes from here in Los Angeles County.

TAPPER: So, again, for people at home who are trying to keep track, this is the most populous county in all of California. These are the mail-in ballots. And you're saying the votes to keep Governor Newsom are -- give it again, the raw total.

WATT: Okay. So raw total, 76 percent say they want to keep Newsom. That's 1,414,354. To get rid of Newsom, 23.6% and that's 438,810. That's from the mail-in ballots so far which were about a third of all the registered voters here in Los Angeles County. So that's a big chunk.

But listen. More than half the registered voters in L.A. County are Democrats. Normally in the last couple election cycles, we've seen the Democrats perform in L.A., about 10 points above where they are in the rest of the state. As I say, Newsom got 72 percent in L.A. County when he won the election last time. He got 76 percent now saying that they want him to stay.

TAPPER: All right. Nick, thanks so much. And John, I mean, that's almost a one million vote deficit between keep Newsom and get rid of him.

KING: The last thing America needs to see is my scribble again, but we went through this some in November.

TAPPER: Those are numbers for people.

KING: Yes, these are numbers. This is why it is great to have our reporters on the scene, to get some of these results even before they're officially released or posted on the state website. What they tell you? Number one, again, a word of caution, remember back in November 2020, I want to keep doing this, but just to be careful, I just want everyone to be careful, especially when you have campaigns recklessly saying this is a rigged system.

I remember back in November where Joe Biden was ahead in Ohio, ahead in Texas for a while. Donald Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania for a while. We need to wait and get all of the votes. These are not all the votes. However --

TAPPER: These are the early votes.

KING: These are the early --

TAPPER: Disproportionately Democrat.


KING: We do know, but we do know, yes, they're early and yes, they're disproportionately Democrats, but we do know that the Newsom campaign and even those who favor the recall, this is what he needs and this is what he's getting. If these numbers hold up -- I'll take a closer look at the whole state as more of them come in. As you see, it is starting to fill in.

I don't even need to go into these individual counties to tell you. I would have told you yesterday or a month ago. These counties would be red, saying recall the governor. The challenge for Newsom is here, especially down here, if Orange and San Diego and up the coast and then up here which we know will be blue.

I'm going to tap right here, let's go into Santa Clara County, again this is San Jose, there's some disenchantment with the COVID restrictions down here. Without a doubt, there are Democrats and independents here who signed petitions saying put the recall election on the ballot. Keeping the governor is getting 78 percent in Santa Clara County right now. The governor got 71 percent when he ran for election three years ago.

Again, you have to do the steps here. I don't mean to confuse people. But again, these are the early ballots. But the early ballots tell us that right now, there is everything on this map to support what the Newsom campaign has been saying about democratic participation and nothing on the map in the early numbers, we will keep counting them, but nothing to suggest that yes, yes, at the moment, has a prayer.

TAPPER: All right. Numbers are still coming in. Governor Newsom is getting an early lead tonight with no ahead right now in raw votes. Several big counties are still waiting to report the results. We'll have those for you when we come back. Stay with us.




TAPPER: And we have a key race alert for you as more and more of the raw votes come in. Look, should Governor Newsom be recalled? No is 67 percent. That's with 52 percent of the vote in. Most of the vote is in. sixty-seven percent say no, 33 percent say yes. The no side, the keep Governor Newsom side, is up by more than 2.3 million votes, 2.3 million votes as of right now. Now, there's still 48 percent of the vote to come in, John King. But as of right now, if I were Governor Newsom, I would be feeling pretty good.

KING: You would be thinking, number one you're going to need to complete your term. And number two, Governor Newsom made this campaign in the end, about Larry Elder, but also about the comparison, California versus say Florida and Texas on COVID.

If you keep Newsom numbers stay anywhere close to that, the governor is going to think that it is a mandate by the people of California to continue those policies which will be a national debate heading into the 2022 midterms. It may well be a debate in Virginia, just across Potomac River, whichever governors' race this year.

So careful, don't overread what happens in California with the national message but also don't under-read it. In the next few days when we get final results -- we're not there yet -- it will be interesting to talk about this.

But look at this, with about half of the vote in, he's at 71 percent if you round up. Turnout, this was the challenge for Democrats. Democrats traditionally in off-year elections, this is a core key (ph) off-year recall, but Democrats in midterms often have a hard time turning out their coalition.

It looks as if the Newsom campaign, and again, they had spent a lot of money to this, they got panicked, which is why they did this, but it looks like once the alarms went off, so far, they've done what they need to do.

Now, you're looking at this map fill in and you see a lot of blue. We're going to get red which is yes. Red is yes, recall the governor. We will get more in these counties out here. The problem is they're not very populous. Los Angeles, the most populous county in the state, an overwhelming no, we want to keep our governor, 76 percent and counting, again, 59 percent.

Let's wait. We will get more votes on Election Day votes. The recall forces say their numbers will improve as we get votes later, but that is an overwhelming stark. And again, this is 26 percent of the state population.

TAPPER: Just to underline that point because it is such a good point, John. We have here almost a million votes in favor of Governor Newsom --

KING: Right.

TAPPER: -- in Los Angeles. So it is 76 (INAUDIBLE) red county, just to show people how difficult it is to make it up when you're talking about the numbers of people.

KING: So you come in here. This is in the middle of the state, 32nd, Madera County, the 32nd most populous county of the 58. And so yes is getting 56 percent, but look, it is 15,000 votes to 12,000 votes. So you're talking 3,000 votes in change here. This is why, you know, politics is about math in the end and politics in the end is about running it up where the people live.

So the challenge for the yes force was to change the last 15, even 20 years of dynamics in California, which is down here. These used to be strong Republican areas. Right now, Governor Newsom is not only winning Orange County. Keep Newsom is winning Orange County by more than Gavin Newsom won Orange County three years ago, 58 percent right now. Again, we believe that is about 64 percent of the estimated vote. If that margin holds up, it is a blow-up.

Again, we have to count the Election Day votes. Bur for the recall Newsom forces to succeed, most Republicans and smart numbers counters, anybody in California knows this needs to be red. This would need to be yes for Newsom. That's the third largest.

Just one more, again, you know, San Diego, you come down here, is the second largest county, a lot smaller than Los Angeles but you got to get votes where the people are. Again, keep Newsom, 61 percent right now when you round up in San Diego County.

When you pull out to the map, you say, okay, you are getting some red in here, I just want to remind people, if you are for recalling the governor, this is great, you're getting 82 percent in Lassen County, but it is the 47th, it is 0.1 percent of the state population, it is 5,500 votes and 1,200 votes.


KING: You can't win an election if your 5,500 votes are going up against those 1.4 million votes.

TAPPER: It is not the land, the votes. It is the people. Riverside County came in, I think, John, if you want to --

KING: We go around in California here. Let's go all the way out. Let us come to coast as we go. Santa Barbara County right there, the Reagan Library. Santa Barbara County, am I right? Sixty-seven percent there. Again, this is a democratic area. It has been trending that way for some time. But Republicans used to be more a lot more competitive. Keep Newsom there.

We come down here in Ventura County. We looked at that before. We go to Los Angeles County. Now, we can come out here to Riverside County. This is the fourth largest county in the state. Again, if you're trying to upset the apple cart, if you're trying to change the last 20 years of politics in California, this can be competitive. So you see it is closer.


KING: But again, if you go back to 2018, it was almost tied, right? The Republican candidate won Riverside County in 2018. Won it narrowly but at least won. Now, you come forward to where we are now and you look at it now. The keep Newsom forces are ahead. Again, we have to count more. If you accept the theory that Republicans vote on Election Day, these numbers might change. That's relatively close but that is not good enough.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: This cannot be close. For yes to win, that can't be close.

TAPPER: Another place where Republicans were hoping to do well, San Bernardino County. How is it looking there?

KING: San Bernardino, I have to hunt for that one. You got me there. You come up here, one more up for San Bernardino. Again, it is 58 percent here. And again, this is the fifth largest county. We are going to go through this, right? We can go from 1 to 10, and then we can go to other 48. San Bernardino, it is 58 percent right now. You go back to the governors' race here. Again, keep Gavin Newsom, meaning no, right now is outperforming the first Gavin Newsom election.

San Bernardino, fifth most populous, it is 5.5 percent, six percent of the population. That's 2018. This is 2021. And again, it's the math. That's almost a 50,000 vote difference right there. Those 50,000 votes for no just overwhelmed so far what we're seeing in the smaller counties where we are getting the yes.

TAPPER: But the votes, of course, still coming in. Governor Newsom is holding on to a rather significant lead. Most voters so far are saying no to the recall. We're standing by for more results from key counties. Stay with us.




TAPPER: We have another key race alert for you. Look at the vote coming in. Fifty-nine percent of the vote in for the California recall. And no, in other words, keep Governor Newsom, is at 68 percent with more than five million votes. Those who want to dump Newsom have 32 percent of the vote.

Newsom right now has a 2.7 million vote advantage, 2.7 million. Now, we're still waiting for roughly 40 percent of the vote to come in. But 2.7 million votes right now, Newsom in the lead. That's a big chasm.

KING: That's a shellacking in progress, unless it changes dramatically. No means keep your governor, 68 percent. Yes means recall your governor, 32 percent. And you noted, it is 5.1 to 2.4 million. That's enormous.

Now, again, to be careful, we count all the votes. Some votes will come in later and the numbers may change. The problem, we've been through this with any election. These are not candidates, this is a yes or no, but you pull out to that big of a lead, it is really hard to close a gap of just under three million votes, and so 2,765,000 million votes.

What's happening here in the math? Number one, again, politics matters most where the people live most. Not to offend people in small counties but the math is where the people live. If you're looking right now, all of the large counties are filling in blue, meaning no, keep the governor.

Back in 2018, the California Republican Party has been in tough straights for a long time. Two counties back in 2018, we just talked about Riverside a minute ago, the Republicans carried it in 2018. Just barely but they did carry it back in the 2018 race for governor.

In Fresno County here in the middle, again, very competitive race, but the Republicans were in play in Fresno County. You have had a 15-year even longer California Republicans will tell you a problem for the California Republican Party. Some would argue it was exacerbated under Trump.

But now, you come forward, that's the Elder vote. We will come back to that in a minute. But if you come back to the results on the yes or no, the fundamental question, who is winning on question two doesn't matter if that stays at 68 percent. It could matter for the future but it won't matter tonight on who is the next governor, 68 percent.

I just showed you Riverside County. It is more competitive than Los Angeles or San Francisco. But no, keep the governor is winning in a county the Republicans carried against Newsom three years ago. If you come up here to Fresno, again, more competitive than many, but this at the moment, map is filling in in a way that I would say even exceeds what the no forces could have assumed.

Again, you're seeing the red right here. The problem, Jake, is the red is yes, much smaller, the 18th largest county, 18th of the 58. You come up here, the 33rd, Kings County, a great name, of the 58 counties.


KING: So the no forces are filling in in the reliably republican areas, but the math is just overwhelming, especially, you just come up the coast, Madera County (ph) is the 20th and it is 72 percent.

You're seeing this all up the coast, 68, 69, and 70. You come into San Francisco, which is the governor's base. Look at that. 88.

TAPPER: So John, obviously, this is not 2003 when Arnold Schwarzenegger handily defeated then incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis. And there are more Democrats and fewer Republicans in the state. But California is still a state where Republicans can win, maybe not statewide as easily, but congressional districts.

Last fall, when Joe Biden was winning the state handily, there were two House races where Republicans, both Asian-American women, Young Kim and Michelle Steel, won. So people voted for Joe Biden for president and then also voted for a Republican for Congress. Tell us about those congressional districts.

KING: Those are both right down here. So this is the republican balance of power. Democrats, again, it is an overwhelmingly blue state. They are 42 to 11. Those states flipped right down in here. You can come down in here. You see this is the -- Young Kim beats Gil Cisneros in this case. I think it was a very close election. Look how close this is, a very, very close election.

Just remember where this is on the map. We come up. So here we are, down here, and now you come over -- you come back to question one today in 2021. It's all blue, all those congressional races. We're getting county results right now. We don't have congressional results. We'll get those in the days ahead as you break down things more granule.

What you're talking about, you know, right down in here as you come down through -- again, Orange County is a place where the Republican Party keeps fighting back and forth. But it is overwhelming, 58 percent here, 58 percent here, and then you get into the 70s when you come into Los Angeles County.

So it is south of Los Angeles. In Orange County, on your way down to San Diego, is where you still have a bit of a tug-of-war when you look at the congressional level, as you come down in here. In statewide elections, this is where the California Republican Party has been in decline back to the days of Pete Wilson (ph).

You mentioned the Schwarzenegger race. What is interesting about this, if you think about it, is that Larry Elder in some ways became more of an issue in this race than Schwarzenegger did back then, even though he was the action hero. Even though he was a globally known celebrity, Schwarzenegger was disciplined in the making the campaign not about his policy positions but about let's clean house. Let's clean house. We just need to clean house in Sacramento, then we will deal with what comes next.

TAPPER: So let me ask you because the Republican Party in California has been struggling. Schwarzenegger was the greatest thing to happen to the Republican Party in California for a long time until, of course, he became an independent.

KING: The last statewide elected Republican in California.

TAPPER: So here is my question. You gave as you little glimmer of this. It doesn't look as though the pro-recall, the get rid of Newsom forces are going to win. But of the people who voted to do that, who did they like?

KING: Sure. Let's take a long at that, if you want to take a look at the question. Here it becomes a question, right? That's red everywhere. That's Larry Elder. Question two, please, question one is what matters. Yes or no, do you keep your governor? If no carries the day, this has no meaning as in nobody here gets elected.

The question is, though Larry Elder did emerge as the leading Republican candidate, does he takes something out of this, Jake, to say, maybe it didn't go my way tonight but does he think he can entertain a run again? That will be a question for tomorrow. Let us first finish the vote count tonight.

TAPPER: All right, John, thanks so much. We can now make a major projection. CNN projects that California's Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, defeats the recall and will serve out the year-plus left on his term. Newsom turning back opposition. The game traction earlier in the pandemic dodging what would have been a serious blow to his party and his career in one of the nation's biggest and bluest states.

Again, CNN projects that Democrat Gavin Newsom, the incumbent governor, defeats the recall and will remain governor of California.

Dana Bash, this is a much earlier night than we thought. It is a good night for the Democrats, a good night for Gavin Newsom.

BASH: Absolutely. Look, a recall is by definition a referendum on the governor. And what the governor's aides are saying that they really feel that they did right is make this not a referendum on him but a referendum on what would happen if he's not there. What would happen if a Trump Republican took over? What would happen to people with their lives with regard to social issues and most importantly COVID?

And they had Larry Elder, the leading Republican, as a foil and also governors -- Republican governors of other states for Gavin Newsom to point to say do you want California to end up like Florida or Texas with regard to mask mandates, not allowing them or even not even pushing vaccines?


HENDERSON: No doubt about it, good night for Democrats. They ran a democratic playbook in a democratic state and won. Still some warning signs, I think, for Democrats. There is so much unease in the country around COVID still, around the economy, around climate change. And Gavin Newsom has to govern. And Democrats have to govern and they have to approve that they can solve these problems.

That is the big test, right? I mean, he didn't run on his record. He ran against Trumpism, he ran against Elder, he ran against DeSantis. Can he fix the homeless problem in California, which is such a big issue for so many people? So I think that's still the question for Democrats. What is their message about their party and their record of accomplishment?

TAPPER: And Kasie, let me ask you. I've seen it said in the last week by Democratic aides and I wonder if you agree that the best thing that happened to Gavin Newsom was Larry Elder shooting to the top of the polls for the alternative. Do you agree with that?

HUNT: Yeah. I've had both Democrats and Republicans say that to me over the course of the last day. I mean, I spoke to some strategists for some of the rival Republican campaigns in the California too and they said, you know, Larry Elder was the best thing that ever happened to Gavin Newsom.

I do think the one thing big picture, as John was so careful to point out, these numbers are not final obviously but the margin that we are seeing early in the night is huge for Gavin Newsom. It is bigger than many people expected, certainly many of my sources expected it to be.

I think that shows that you Democrats are still really engaged or that you can engage them. They haven't tuned out of the news after four years of Donald Trump. They are still afraid of that kind of governance coming back or living that way again. There is a way to activate that instinct. Sometimes, when you win elections, your voters sit back and say everything is fine, nothing to worry about, I don't need to get engaged, and I don't need to get to the polls. That didn't happen here.

TAPPER: Dana, some of the policy positions --

BASH: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: -- that were part of Larry Elder's decades long time in radio, doing talk radio, being provocative, which is the job of somebody in talk radio but necessarily appealing to voters, especially not in California, opposing a minimum wage, opposing maternity leave, opposing legal abortion. And, as you noted, during the COVID pandemic, he was not anti-vaccine but certainly didn't seem like somebody --

BASH: He said he got it but he didn't --

TAPPER: Yeah, he would not impose vaccine mandates as Governor Newsom for instance on health care workers and teachers. He is somebody who is against masking in schools. He is somebody who has voiced opposition to kids getting vaccinated.

BASH: Exactly.

TAPPER: This is not a state that wanted to hear that message.

BASH: And that is one of the questions that we are going to see being asked and that will be a test that states across the country are going to be looking at. And that is about the Republican Party. I mean, yes, in 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger won for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but also because he wasn't sort of base conservative because that doesn't work in -- it doesn't work in California but it wouldn't necessarily work in even a purple state.

And so when you see that there were other Republicans on the ballot like the mayor of San Diego, who are maybe more fitting for a place like California and they didn't stand a chance because that's not where the Republican party is, it is a warning sign for Republicans when you look at their national ability.

HUNT: To pick up on your point about the Republican Party, too, this is the second election that we've had after the 2020 presidential race. We had those elections in Georgia where you had candidates coming out and saying, don't trust the system, your vote is not going to be counted.

Now, before this election, we had Larry Elder already starting to say, your vote is not going to be counter, there is already fraud. And I was talking to one California Republican. I think we've all covered that California Republicans have actually been voting by mail for years, decades even in a way that had them extraordinarily comfortable with the system.

And now all of a sudden, these doubts have been sown. I think Republicans also think that really hurt them potentially and maybe part of the margin here as well. If you think about how that applies across the map, it is a real problem for Republicans and America obviously but also for Republicans.

HENDERSON: I think we'll see in it other races. You think about the Virginia governors' race, the way in which Terry McAuliffe is trying to paint the challenger there, Glenn Youngkin, as a Trumpist essentially. That is going to be the big question. How potent is Trump and Trumpism in 2022? We saw here that running against Trumpism was very easy in a democratic state. We'll see how that plays out in these House races, in these other governors' races and Senate races as well.

BASH: Very different dynamic.

TAPPER: All right. Anderson?


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, we are waiting to hear from Governor Gavin Newsom. We'll bring those comments to you live. Rob, what lessons are clear at this point?

ROB STUTZMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: California is behaving politically the way it is drawn. The map is coming through. I do caution that this is a blowout and those numbers probably shrink. We know from last year, all vote by mail election. Republicans are going to vote late, maybe even vote in person today. But it is clear. It is going to be a big blue victory in a blue state tonight.

COOPER: What do you expect to hear from Newsom tonight? It doesn't seem like -- how celebratory would it be?

STUTZMAN: Well, I'm sure he's being cautioned not to celebrate. He's not exactly known for introspection, though. I still think you will see a rather brash acceptance speech or a victory speech, I suppose it is. But he will be well served. There is not a party. It was just going to be a speech. He'll be well served to move on quickly and get back to doing the work of the people.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think he's been humbled by this experience. Your success is giving you confidence. Your setbacks give you character. He was looking down the barrel of his career being over. He has to find something in himself. You saw that with him. He connected with the grassroots. I think you are going to see something good from him tonight.

What I will say is, tonight it is fear times fear equals frustration. The Republicans were afraid of Gavin not just because of COVID. He was doing stuff on universal pre-K. He was doing a lot of progressive stuff that scared the Republicans.

Then the Democrats got scared of Larry Elder. Not just Larry Elder. The Republican Party, the stuff on choice that they've been doing, on voting that they've been doing, they're being nowhere on climate change, scared Democrats. You have Republicans get scared of Gavin and then Democrats got scared of Larry Elder.

But tonight, most Californians are frustrated because we wasted all this money and all this time and we are in the same with no progress. So at some point, we got to get out of fear of both sides.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Two hundred, seventy million dollars, $276 million for what?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: You talk about Newsom being humbled. The fact is it was that lack of humility that wound him up in this battle. He went to a restaurant in the middle of the pandemic and defied his own guidance. It was really the jet fuel behind the movement to recall him. It turned out to be the most expensive meal anybody ever had.

He had to spend $80 million to win this race. The state has spent $270 million. But the dessert is pretty good for him here. And people are going to look at this. I think Democrats are going to look at this and say is this a formula?

And Van, you're right. It is not just about vaccines. That clearly worked for him here. But there is this Trump-tinged extremism. Democrats, they are going into the midterms, they're going to be, I think, in a very difficult position to hold the House, perhaps the hold the Senate. The one thing they got going for them is Republicans. And the lesson here is, republican extremism does not sell outside the Republican Party.

STUTZMAN: This is Mitch McConnell's big concern with the primaries that lie ahead where he is going to need candidates that are not like Larry Elder.

BORGER: Or Herschel Walker.

STUTZMAN: -- or Herschel Walker maybe the next Larry Elder. What is playing out here in California is the demonstration that a Trumpian- style candidate cannot grow the base, right? You can't expand beyond, in this case, the fringe in California because we are already outnumbered 2-1. This is exactly why McConnell has engaged Trump --

BORGER: But I think that's a problem.

STUTZMAN: -- on this primary.

BORGER: But that is a real problem. We had a poll recently which said 60 percent or so of Republican -- self-identified Republicans see Trump as the leader of the party.

STUTZMAN: Yeah, that is the head win.

Well, larry elder is winning a land slide here.

AXELROD: Larry Elder is winning a landslide here.

BORGER: Yeah, right. So the question is, as you were talking about, the impact of Donald Trump in these other elections, Terry McAuliffe in Virginia is already saying his opponent is Trumpy, using ads, et cetera. And how will that play in the midterms and around the country?

And let's say now, don't forget, before tonight, everyone was -- Republicans including Donald Trump or led by Donald Trump were saying, does anyone believes this election is not going to be rigged? So what do they do now? What do they do now?

JONES: This is a deeper question in that this is anti-democratic tendency that is just getting more and more at home in the Republican Party. This recall election is a last gasp attempt of Republican Party that is a third or fourth party. They may be smaller than the Green Party at this point. Yet they're willing to try to overturn the election. They could have waited a year. They didn't.


JONES: You have at the national level, the big lie. You have this refusal to even look at January 6th. And at the state level, you don't just have recall election going against Gavin. You have local recall elections. This is now the tactic of the Republican Party. It is to do recall ambushes on people they can't defeat in a normal way. That's not good for Republican Party.

BORGER: Democracy.

AXELROD: It's not good for the country. Here is the reality for Republicans to -- in most places, to win primaries, you have to play Trump. To win general elections in any swing district or state, you don't want to be there. That is a fundamental problem that Republicans have to solve.

COOPER: We expect to hear from Gavin Newsom any moment about his victory tonight. Stay with us.



GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): -- overwhelmingly no vote tonight here in the state of California. But no is not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state.

We said yes to science, we said yes to vaccines, we said yes to ending this pandemic, we said yes to people's right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression, we said yes to women's fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself, what she does with her body, her faith and future.

We said yes to diversity, we said yes to inclusion, we said yes to pluralism, we said yes to all of those things that we hold dear as Californians and I would argue as Americans, economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has made so much progress. All of those things were on the ballot this evening.

And so I am humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians who exercise their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that has defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years. [23:55:09]

NEWSOM: I just think of our kids, watching all of this nightly news, day in and day out. I just wonder -- I've got four young kids, oldest about to turn 12 this weekend. And what they're growing up to in a world, we're so divided, these kids increasingly fearful, isolated, disconnected, and we're teaching them that. It doesn't have to be that way. I think we owe our kids a deeper sense of respect and all of us as adults have responsibility to disregard this false separateness.

We have so much more in common as a state and a nation than we give ourselves credit for. I've been all over the state of California over the last many years but notably in the last nine months. Conservative parts of the state, progressive parts of the state, folks that I know were going to vote no and folks that I knew were going to vote yes on this recall and turned out to do just that.

But one thing that's universal, everybody wants to be respected. Everyone wants to feel some connection to one another. We all certainly in this pandemic want to feel safe, protected. Those are universal values. And I think about just in the last few days, the former president put out saying this election was rigged. Democracy is not a football. You don't throw it around. It's more like a -- I don't know, an antique vase. You can drop it and smash it in a million different pieces.

And that's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up to meet the moment and push back. I said this many, many times on the campaign trail. You know, we may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The big lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country, what's happening with the assault on fundamental rights, constitutionally protected rights of women and girls.

It's a remarkable moment in our nation's history. But I'm reminded of something, I don't know, a few decades ago, someone told me, when describing a difficult and challenging moment, said the world is too small, our time is too short, and our wisdom is too limited to win fleeting victories at other people's expenses. And he went on to say, we must all triumph together.

So in that spirit of recognizing and reconciling this moment and trying to understand what's going on not just here in the state but all across the United States of America, I just want to say this. Tonight, I'm humbled, grateful, but resolved in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy, to make more gentle the life of this world.

Thank you all very much, and thank you to 40 million Americans, 40 million Californians, and thank you for rejecting this recall. Good night, everybody.


TAPPER: Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom speaking there in Sacramento after an overwhelming landslide of a victory, the no to the recall movement winning overwhelmingly. And Dana Bash, first of all, we should note, he's still in his first term.

BASH: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: In about six months, in March, he's going to have to start doing this all over again to win a second term.

BASH: Mm-hmm.

TAPPER: But beyond that, this was a -- the speech he just gave seemed a national speech. It was not just about California. It was not just about what happened today. It was about -- to be completely candid, it sounded almost like a 2024, 2028 presidential speech.

BASH: Which is entirely possible.

TAPPER: Campaign speech.

BASH: It is entirely possible. And the resounding no vote that you saw there certainly helps that case if he decides to go that route. But you're exactly right. It is a national message. There is a road map that they are trying to build in this campaign in California with national figures. You saw the president, the vice president, key Democratic senators go out there.

TAPPER: Liz warren, Barack Obama did a commercial.

BASH: Exactly. And what they're trying to do is frankly take advantage of the fact that the former president isn't going away, just the opposite. He is commenting.