Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

CNN Projection: Gavin Newsom Defeats Recall And Will Remain California Governor. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 00:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That the former president isn't going away, just the opposite. He is commenting -- he doesn't have his Twitter feed, but he has his e-mail and he is doing everything he can to stay involved and to keep his people within the Republican Party, front and center. And the more he's out there, the more Democrats are trying to take advantage to use him as a foil.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think that's right. And the question is what Republicans do about it, right?

I mean, they've got Larry Elder here who did horribly, everybody thought he would going into this. And there are other candidates who will be on the ballot in these coming months and years, and possibly in 2024 Trump himself on the ballot again.

So, if you're Republicans, you're nervous about that. But you also know that Trump has a tremendous hold on the Republican Party. He has made them believe utter lies about 2020. And he just has a strong emotional connection to those voters and Republicans who are running across the ballot know that.

So, this is I think, a real kind of moment for Republicans to take away what does this mean for their relationship to Trumpism. And in some ways, I think they've already figured that out.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And again, I think that the critical piece of this is the margin that we're seeing here for Newsom, because I think we knew going into the night it was most likely that this was going to be the outcome, but we didn't know it was going to be this significant.

And I think the question too as -- and I'm hearing -- I'm getting e- mails from both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans, frankly, expecting this, a lot of them.

But I've had some Democrats get in touch to say that, while they acknowledge there are a lot of challenges for national Democrats, whether they're related to inflation, the economy, getting the agenda through Congress. They feel pretty good about tonight, because Republicans again are giving them so much to work with.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And in fact, it was just a few days ago that Larry Elder said that Joe Biden had been won in a fair election. And then, he took it back. He had to take it back because he too is afraid of the base.

David Chalian, we heard a very national speech just now from Gavin Newsom. Tell us what you're picking up in the exit polls and more.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, as you noted in his speech, that one two punch you guys are talking about is now the Democratic playbook going forward, right?

Lean into science, lean into vaccine mandates, lean in to management of the coronavirus. And at the same time, Trumpify the Republican Party as much as possible, which of course, Republican voters help you do because, right now, Trump really is the life force inside the GOP.

Those two things together, you heard it all throughout his speech. So, that wasn't just California, that was nationally.

But looking inside these numbers, I will also say there are some to do items. Even with this huge Newsom victory, there are some to do items here for the Democratic Party, especially in less blue places.

You see real concern among voters when it comes to the economy, and to the cost of living in your community, inflation as Kasie was just saying, that's real.

And every politician on the ballot in 2022 is going to need to deal with that, acknowledge that and make sure they don't ignore it, that's one.

And the other thing I would just note, we see some of the demographic trends, Jake, that we saw in 2020, still very much at play in this Trump post-Trump era, which is that white college educated voters are going more and more for Democrats. We see this in the suburbs throughout the country. This is sort of the definitional thing of American politics at the moment. And we see that here for Newsom as well.

But as we also saw on 2020, Trump made some inroads among Latinos, among non-white voters overall, but among Latinos, and specifically Latino men. And we see that here too as a warning sign or a to do item for Democrats to work on. Because Gavin Newsom had one Latino men three years ago in his governor's race by 22 points. That's now down to six points in the exit poll.

So, it is something to be aware of, especially when you're looking at that battle for control of the House and where that vote may play so critically in some key House races.

So, there are items here to pay attention to even in a big Democratic victory for Democrats moving forward as well, Jake.

TAPPER: Very interesting. David Chalian, thank you so much. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Jake, I want to talk to Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, we were just hearing from David Chalian about how this may impact the midterms. I'm wondering if -- what have you been hearing? JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, talking to a variety of Democrats, as we have been for the last several minutes and all evening from the White House to the House and Senate Committees, there certainly is a sense of confidence. And quite frankly, a sense of relief.

Had this gone the other way? Had it even been a narrow race? It would have simply been disastrous.

But this landslide win is probably without question the biggest boost of confidence politically speaking for the Biden administration.

And actually, as President Biden was coming back to the White House after, of course, spending yesterday out in California and today in Colorado, I actually asked him what lessons he can draw from this. And he said, well, it's too early. Of course, the race hasn't been called -- hasn't been called in.


ZELENY: But on vaccines, he said, he can draw lessons and that is what Democrats are going to do. They do believe that there is now more of a sense for vaccine mandates.

Now, the president himself said not among everyone, there is going to be a small percentage that does not accept them. But that is what this is going to essentially offer a roadmap for Democrats going forward to, you know, be much more serious about COVID-19 on the mandates for mask wearing and for vaccines.

But, you know, we should also point out that history is never a kind to a president's party. So, in closing here, Anderson, one top Democratic official I spoke to just a couple seconds ago, he said it's more of a warning sign for them than a positive message for us. But we will certainly take this tonight.

So, that of course the takeaway. Bad news for Republicans, certainly the era of Trumpism was rejected tonight, Anderson.

COOPER: Jeff Zeleny, thanks. Now, let's go to our panel. Rob, what do you think is the message for Republicans?

ROB STUTZMAN, FORMER GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: The messages is Trumpism is not the future if you want to win. It's a -- it's a losing formula. It's on display here in California.

COOPER: There's not a lot of Republicans, though, who in the -- who seem to believe that --

STUTZMAN: There aren't. Well, the problem is not enough of Republican voters believe it. So, hopefully, there's still lessons taken away from this. Hopefully, they see that perpetuating the big lie of rigged elections is absurd. A night like tonight, when the margin is going to be in the -- in the millions, there's no type of fraud going on here.

We have to keep -- from my perspective, as a Republican that wants to move beyond Trump, we're going to have to keep confronting this, battling it and knocking it down. And it's going to probably take more time than we want. But it is a losing, losing, losing formula.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But Donald Trump is not going anywhere. People I talked to, a couple of Republicans this past week believe he's more likely, in fact, to run again for vengeance now than he was even at the beginning of the summer.

And you look at somebody like Mitch McConnell who is fighting for majority and Donald Trump is endorsing people that Mitch McConnell doesn't want or doesn't think can win or doesn't think can help the Republican Party and believes will happen -- in the future what happened in Georgia during the previous election.

So, what do Republicans do about that?

STUTZMAN: So, Trump fumbles the -- contributes to fumbling the midterms, the midterms should accrue to the Republicans for sure.

If there's any fumble there at all, you know, Trump then gets -- I think he gets taken on if he wants to run for that nomination again.

If people like Chris Christie, who I think may be able to do it, are really starting to lay down those more.

So, look, it's degrading, I think, by the day the Trump effect, but of course, it hasn't gone away. But nights like tonight, hopefully continue to degrade it for the sake of the country, absolutely.

But as a Republican, hopefully it degrades it so we can get back to opportunities to advance forward and win and broaden our coalition of voters in this country.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, you know, the dynamic, though, is the one that -- you can't win unless you get nominated. And Republicans in most places can't get nominated if they're seen as anti-Trump.


AXELROD: And that is the fundamental problem that they face.

Jeff is right, I agreed with the comment of the last demo -- the Democrat he mentioned, this was a moral warning sign for Republicans that necessarily, you know, a sign of great encouragement for Democrats. There are these historical barriers, and it's a redistricting year in which Republicans are going to benefit from redistricting.

Democrats really start behind in the race for the House, and so much is reliant on what happens, what course this virus takes, what course the economy takes.

You know, the president may score some big victories this fall that could help him. But the real lesson here is don't make it a referendum on the president. Don't play defense, you got to play offense, and Trump gives them the opportunity to play often.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But let me just -- I think one thing they say is, I'm proud of Gavin Newsom. Like, this is his night. He had to -- he had a tough hand. He was going down. He was in the toilet starting to swirl. And he figured out a way to get out of that situation. And I thought the guy you saw tonight was a guy you could respect.

This guy has had biblical level tragedies befall that state. Wildfires, droughts, a plague, pandemic, a recall election, and he was able to stand there and talk about not just himself, talk about the state, talk about the issues, talk about his kids and walk away a winner tonight. That's tough to pull off.

And when you see somebody pull something like that off, you know, on the national stage, I think you got to give him --


AXELROD: Let me just say, they also ran a great campaign.

BORGER: They did.


AXELROD: And I admire the campaign they ran, it was smart. As I said, they grabbed the definition of the race. They define what the stakes were about, you know.

And they made the pandemic, and Trumpism and Elder, the focus of that race. And that's why they won this big victory and it was very smart and very well done.

BORGER: Well, they were very agile at the beginning when they said, just vote no. Let's get rid of the rest of the Democrats. So, let's make this a simple proposition here. Just vote no.

And then, COVID was obviously a problem for him at one point, but then when the Delta variant came and people started feeling unsafe, they understood that the mandates might be important.

And then, when Elder rose to the top of the pack, that sort of --

AXELROD: An opponent of mandates, an opponent of requirements. And you know, in that whole mix as everybody's watching the news from Florida, the news from Texas, and asked themselves, you know, two-thirds of the voters today, according to this exit poll, either said that the measures that Newsom has implemented were about right or not strict enough.

Well, those not strict enough people did not vote for a recall.

BORGER: So, they could nationalize the election. About science, about vaccines and also, making it about Elder.

STUTZMAN: Elder was the key to this because early on the campaign, the Newsom team tried to run against Trump and Trumpism. First ad showed scenes of the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, and they tried to equate the recall to the storming of the Capitol and it didn't work. It wasn't believable.

So, this thing was in a vacuum and it was close. Gavin Newsom yes, no. And then, along came Larry Elder.

So, I agree, they have executed an excellent campaign from the point Elder came into the race.

He almost didn't make the ballot. He wasn't going to be led on and the judge put him on the ballot. That, you know, a case of wine to that judge from the Newsom camp.

COOPER: There's much more ahead on tonight's big win for Governor Gavin Newsom in California. Don Lemon picks up our coverage after a quick break.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right, everybody. Time now for the big show in the big studio. I'm Don Lemon. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the California recall election.

This is our breaking news right now, CNN is projecting that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom will handily defeat the recall and he's going to remain in office.

So, speaking just moments ago, Newsom saying that he is humbled and he is grateful, but also saying there's more than unites voters and divides them and thanking voters and turning for turning that recall back. So, that is our breaking news right now.

Let's get the big picture now. We're going to go over to the Magic Wall. CNN's Phil Mattingly here. Phil, good evening to you. So, we're over at the Magic Wall. Is it the wall magic or what's going on?


LEMON: There it is, it magically appears.

MATTINGLY: Did you just plan that?

LEMON: I did -- I did, it needed me to be over here.

MATTINGLY: Smoke for the entrance too and then do that.

LEMON: So, what's the deal? This is what it looks like?

MATTINGLY: This is what it looks like right now. Obviously, you've seen the blue fill in, you've seen the red fill in, we've been through this drill many times.

Here's where things stand. Right now, we've obviously called this race the no vote right now at 2.77 million more than the yes vote.

Remember, this ballot had two questions. You vote no on the recall, you're done. You vote yes, then you have 46 options to replace Gavin Newsom.

Clearly, Gavin Newsom and the no vote are winning handily. Here's why. And I think it's important to dig into these results here.

Keep in mind the baseline. Democrats have almost two to one advantage of registration. So, for Republicans to have any shot, whatsoever, they needed independence to break their way, major Democratic apathy, and you need Republicans to surge.

I want to pick out three counties in particular just to start things off. You start with the biggest county in the state. Los Angeles County, obviously Gavin Newsom, or the no vote. Right now, 73 percent to 26 percent. This is a blowout.

However, this was an area they hope there could be some Republican votes, or at least some apathy on the Democratic side. Look at this percentage right here. Go back to 2020. Where was Joe Biden at this point?

Gavin Newsom right now doing better percentage wise than where Joe Biden did -- what Joe Biden did back in 2020. That is obviously a very positive sign. Joe Biden won the state by 30 points.

Basically, the yes vote needed to blow away where Joe Biden was in terms of percentage.

LEMON: Let's see tonight again, where we are. You said this is --

MATTINGLY: So, right now --


LEMON: -- but a little bit better.

MATTINGLY: No Democratic apathy, a bigger spread.

Now, keep in mind, they've counted the mail vote first, mail vote trans-Democratic, these numbers will probably start to drop a little bit. But the reason why it's as big as it is right now is because there's no Democratic apathy, at least that we've seen so far.

Track down to the next county over, Orange County. This used to be the Republican base in the state. That has started to shift over the course of the last several cycles.

But in 2020, even though Joe Biden won this county, there were two Democrat -- or two Republican House members who won seats around this county.

Where's the no vote right now? 57.9 percent to 42.1 percent. Where was Joe Biden back in 2020? 53 percent to 44 percent.

So, it gives you a sense right now. The margins are just well in favor of where Gavin Newsom wanted to be.

Track down to one more. I think this is important. Second biggest county in the state. San Diego County, obviously home of San Diego. The no vote 60.6 percent, yes vote 39.4 percent.

Why does this matter? Again, inside this county was a Republican won district back in 2020. What did Joe Biden do back in 2020? Pretty much matching it up -- matching it up.


MATTINGLY: If you match up in a state that Democrats won by 30 points one year ago, you're dead. They're matching up or doing worse almost across the board in all of the major blue most populous areas. That right now is why Gavin Newsom is up by 2.77 million votes.

LEMON: So, when I asked you before the show, I said what does California look like? And he goes, it looks like an I, whatever.

What it looks like is basically this is what was blue during 2020 is blue now, what's red during 2020 is red.

MATTINGLY: And I'll even pull this up. This is -- look at the counties that Joe Biden won. Take a look at this map, the counties Joe Biden won in 2020. Every single one of them except for one is still blue.

And if you want to dig in on that county and see, all right, that this -- would this have made a difference? No, Butte County, this is the 27th largest county in the state, and it's very, very narrow.

So, everything that you saw in 2020, Gavin Newsom has replicated or done better then. The apathy that (INAUDIBLE) yes, Harry.

LEMON: Here comes, Harry. Harry Enten is here.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: What a surprise. It turns out that the blue state is blue. And it turns out that the guy who had a 55 percent approval rating in the exit polls ends up turning back the recall. There's just like nothing really shocking to me in this.

And the other thing I'll point out, though, which isn't shocking to me, is the polls all along, especially in the final week, had Newsom overwhelmingly turned back the recall.

I am so sick and tired of hearing folks bash the polls over and over and over again, when there was a 15-point lead for no over yes in the recall. And so far, the results tonight, if anything, illustrate that the polls might have underestimated Newsom's --

LEMON: Why didn't you call in earlier, Harry, because we've been talking about this all week?

ENTEN: We -- Don, you and I had a conversation on the phone last night. You called me up wondering about this race. And I said basically, that I might not have a job tomorrow if somehow yes was able to win in this race.

And so far, I'm still sitting in this chair.

MATTINGLY: Harry, you might have done that in private phone call with Don, I didn't have that call.

ENTEN: You were not on that phone call.

MATTINGLY: However, you Harry did not say that publicly. You were hedging consistently throughout. And so, I think, that that's --

ENTEN: What?

MATTINGLY: You constantly hedge and say there was always a pathway, even if it was small. This is making very clear, there was no pathway.

ENTEN: Well, there's no pathway anymore.

LEMON: Harry, let me tell you this -- let me tell you this.

ENTEN: Yes, Don.

LEMON: So, we've been saying, oh, the polls are often you never know, 2016 or what have you. But that was the electoral college, this isn't electoral college. This is what we said the major point was, this is the popular vote. Democrats outnumber Republicans in California about two to one, right?

And so, that showed up in what happened tonight, and that you were thinking that's going to show up or happen the entire time.

ENTEN: Yes, that's exactly right. And if you look back at the polls back in 2020, what did you find? You found that the final polls had Joe Biden winning the state of California by 29.2. points. Wouldn't he win by I believe it was 29.2 if my memory is correct, and usually it's pretty gosh, darn good.

So, in California, the polls right again, if anything, it underestimated the no margin, which is actually what happened in 2018 where the polls underestimated Newsom's margin. So perhaps, working --

LEMON: Mr. Ron Brownstein is joining us now from California. Ron, so that was our conversation last night. But how long had you and I have been talking about this?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We've been talking about it for a while. I mean, look, there was always only one question in this recall, given the inherent advantages the Democrats have in the state, and that was whether Democratic voters would sleepwalk through, you know, through the vote. And that was the threat that was raised by that Berkeley poll at the end of July, that showed Republicans were far more engaged in the race and as a result, among likely voters as opposed to all voters, it appeared close at that moment.

What happened after that is significant because the core problem -- we talked about this last night, the core problem that the president's party faces in midterm elections is their voters are usually less motivated to turn out than the voters that are out of the White House. And that is the problem that Newsom face.

Well, how did he solve that? He obviously solved it in a big way. He solved it by focusing not so much on what he has done, but on what Republicans might do if given power.

And he centered that question on one very specific issue, the pandemic, vaccine mandates, mask mandates. And what you saw in this result, in the exit poll was given that choice voters overwhelmingly wanted to stay the course on tougher measures.

You know, Don, 32 in the exit poll, the voters who said that Newsom's policies were too strict on the recall. Voted 90 -- excuse me, on the virus, voted 92 to eight to remove him from office.

But they were only one-third of the vote. That was the same share of the vote that Trump won in 2020. The remainder of the state 62 -- roughly 62 percent said either his policies were about right or not strict enough. And they gave him roughly 85 percent of their vote.

LEMON: But Ron --

BROWNSTEIN: So, for Democrats, there's a lesson here that there may be the ability to mobilize their voters. Yes, California is unusually favorable terrain, but pointing out the contrast on the mandate on how to respond to COVID. Tying Republicans not only to Trump, but to Florida and Texas, clearly was a big wake up call for Democrats in California. And I think some Democrats are going to see it as a wakeup call for Democrats.


LEMON: Ron, here, let me ask you this, how much of this (INAUDIBLE) -- this is just me, I'm not a political analyst. People just weren't dialed in. When you're -- when people -- there was so much consternation about oh, my gosh, Gavin Newsom, you better look out, things are getting tighter. Now, you know, you should be concerned. How much of it was just that people were not dialed in at the moment. It was too the polling was too early to people just said they weren't ready to -- they hadn't figured it out?

BROWNSTEIN: Just a quick -- my quick thought among registered voters as Harry knows, among registered voters, he was always way ahead. The only time the race was close in the polls was when people didn't like the voter screens and found fewer Democrats than Republicans paying attention.

ENTEN: One thing I would point out, Ron, which to me was very interesting was that as soon as Elder entered the race, what you essentially saw was, as Elders vote started building in that second round that obviously never came into play. We saw at the same point, the no vote, also gaining steam.

And it seemed to me that as soon as Elder entered, you already had -- you gave Newsom this opportunity to basically say, look, it's not just necessarily a referendum on me. It's this choice. And when it becomes a choice between two candidates, all of a sudden, the state like California, the deep blue state that it is, I think that very much benefited Gavin Newsom.

I think the question in my mind is whether you can really replicate that throughout the rest of the nation, perhaps so, perhaps maybe the coronavirus and the mandates might be able to be something that you could say use in other states, but I am yet convinced because obviously this is just one contest.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, right, absolutely.

LEMON: Hey, Ron, I want to ask you because you talked about Joe Biden and Democrats. You believe that this was a wakeup call. And I'm just -- I went to grab my phone to look at some of the things that were texting.

This is a wakeup call for Democrats, what Joe Biden did with the mandates, you think he -- it helped him, but also they saw the polling and what was happening with Gavin Newsom out in California, and they possibly realized that they needed to be stronger with the mandates with -- for masks and for vaccines as well.

So, this is a messaging -- this is a message or something that maybe Democrats should be repeating around the country that they've learned from California?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think, look, you know, I agree with Harry that you can't -- you can't replicate the exact same policies in every state. Obviously, there's a different baseline.

But in general, I think one of the clear messages of this is that everywhere, Democrats can lean into a tougher response to the virus than Republicans are offering in whatever state.

Like in Texas, you might not argue for a statewide mandate, you would certainly argue against a statewide prohibition on local governments requiring vaccinations or masks.

I think what happened here was that, you know, as the year began, the Republicans got this on the ballot because of a backlash in the most conservative parts of the state, to the stringency of what Newson was doing punctuated by the hypocrisy of him appearing at French Laundry.

As the year went on, and particularly as the Delta variant surge, and Newson responded with some of the most aggressive policies of the country. Mask mandate in the schools, vaccine mandate for educators and health care workers and government employees. He was able to make that the central point of distinction in the race.

When Elder got in the race, as Harry said, it gave him a foil but you know, there were a lot of issues where Elder is to the right of the state that Newsom could have chosen to focus on, he chose to focus on the mandates and kind of following science and not allowing California to go down the path of Texas and Florida. And I think if nothing else, that certainly energized Democrats. It

also from the exits, it seemed to have work with independent voters. And in that sense, I think it is reassuring to the president, that they are -- that they are kind of on strong political ground in emphasizing the -- you know, Republicans now whether it's Kevin McCarthy, Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott, their messaging is all about, "the rights and the choices of the one-quarter of Americans who are unvaccinated".

And I think what California showed is that there is a silent majority of the vaccinated who are ready for tougher steps to get those overall -- results.

LEMON: You keep answering -- every question that I have for you keep answering it before I can even ask it. This is a battle between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.

We've got a lot to talk about in the hours ahead here on CNN, standby.

This is what California looks like Phil Mattingly is here at the Wall. Everything that was blue in 2020 is blue now. Everything that's red in 2020 is red now pretty much.

MATTINGLY: For the most part.

LEMON: Pretty much for the most part.

A lot to talk about. CNN's rejecting the Gavin Newsom defeating an attempt to remove him from office. We're going to take a very quick break.

More of CNN's continuing coverage of the California recall election on the other side of this. Don't go anywhere.



GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): They 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, the assault of fundamental rights, constitutionally-protected rights of women and girls. It's a remarkable moment in our nation's history.



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. This is our breaking news. CNN is projecting that California Governor Gavin Newsom will defeat, or has defeated the recall and the attempt to remove him from office.

I want to get some expert analysis. Well, I don't know expert in Bakari, but we'll bring Bakari in anyway, Bakari Sellers. Alice Stewart, Mark Preston and Laura Barron-Lopez in this very over- caffeinated room tonight. Speaking for myself, coffee in!

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN ANALYST: It felt like three cups of coffee.

LEMON: And soda back here.

Good to see all of you back in studio. Thanks so much for joining.

I will ask you, as a conservative here, Gavin Newsom said Trumpism is not dead. Do you agree with that?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I agree with him. Trumpism is alive and well. And rumors of the death of Trumpism are greatly exaggerated.

The problem is Trumpism really just works for Trump. And to some degree, Trumpism will work in a state like Arkansas or a very red state. But to think you can do that in a state like California, it's absurd. If anyone heard Perry, like we all did, California is blue. It has been blue. It is blue, and it will continue to be blue for quite some time. And you cannot run a ruby-red campaign in a blue state.

And look, we all know that this started out as a referendum on the governor. But it became a binary choice between he and Larry Elder. And the problem is, the Elder campaign didn't read the room; didn't read the state; didn't realize that you cannot run to the right of Donald Trump in a state like California. And it came back and bit him in the butt. And it bit Republicans in the butt. And I know that that's something -- it's -- it's a lesson to be learned.

But the key is, Trump might help in a Republican primary in California. But certainly not when you're face to face with a very Democratic --

LEMON: Alice, why don't you say what you really feel next time? Bit them in the butt, I like that political analysis.

Was -- do you think Elder was the problem here? If it's someone else, would have a better chance? I mean, look, we know he's a flamethrower. He's an Internet troll. He's, you know, a talk show radio host.


LEMON: Provocateur. Was he -- was he the --

PRESTON: No, I mean, he certainly wasn't the candidate. I mean, I think the biggest problem was -- is that Republicans weren't able to coalesced behind a more centrist Republican, somebody who would talk just about business and not about abortions. Somebody to talk about jobs and how we're going to get people back to work. But you know --

LEMON: Someone who would do --

PRESTON: -- major mandates.

LEMON: -- what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a candidate. PRESTON: Well, I mean look at him. If you want to go back to Schwarzenegger, I mean, that was a race, I think, that we were all very -- we were shocked by. I mean, when he decided to run, when he got on the ballot, when he won. I think there was -- there was shock. However, he proved to be a pretty decent --

LEMON: He was likable. He wasn't a provocateur, in this sense.

PRESTON: Yes, but he --

LEMON: There was no Donald Trump thing.

PRESTON: I am sure that most people in California didn't even know who Larry Elder was.


PRESTON: There was, what, 20 plus people on the ballot anyway?

LEMON: What do you think? Trumpism is not dead? Does it work -- I don't even know if you can say, because California is blue, right, blue, blue, blue. Does Trumpism work when Trump isn't on the ballot, Laura?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that, to Alice's point, it can work in some places when Trump isn't on the ballot. It can work in certain congressional districts. It can work in certain Senate races and more centrist or redder states. In the state of California, no.

But it also shows that, to Mark's point, that there is no moderation right now in the Republican Party when it comes to distancing from Trump or trying to go more towards the middle.

But even in a state like California, the fact that they couldn't find some other candidate or coalesce around another candidate; that Trump went full in for Elder; that also before the election results even came in, they started to go with the big lie again, saying that the election was rigged and that -- Elder was saying, if he loses, that this means it wasn't a legitimate election. It, you know, portends for future elections down the road that this is going to become the norm now, where they constantly say that every election is stolen, falsely.

LEMON: Yes, she said that they were unable -- there's no moderation, Bakari. But is it -- have they just hitched their wagon to him and they don't know what to do?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, the answer is yes. This is Donald Trump's party. It's going to be Donald Trump's party. There's no question about that.

But, I'm hesitant about taking -- I know we want to jump on TV and take these themes away and what Democrats should do and the messaging for Democrats. Just a month ago, people were telling me that Eric Adams, when he won the Democratic primary in New York, was the future of the Democratic Party. Now, people are saying that the message we should take out of

California is this and that. The fact is, I mean, I could've beat Larry Elder tonight. That is not a difficult task in California. We -- the Democrats.

LEMON: You're so humble.

SELLERS: That was an ounce of humility.

LEMON: So modest.

STEWART: I think -- I think he could have beaten Governor Newsom tonight, as well.

SELLERS: I mean, but the fact is, Sean Clay (ph), Ace Smith (ph), Juan Rodriguez were able to turn this election on their head, and they were able to make this a referendum, not on their candidate, Gavin Newsom, but a referendum on Larry Elder, right?

And the problem the Republican Party has is that they have a long list of Todd Akins and is it Catherine O'Donnell? The one that "I'm not a witch"?

STEWART: Christine.

SELLERS: Christine O'Donnell, Christine O'Donnell. They have a long list of these type of -- thank you so much. They have a long list of these type of candidates. They include Larry Elder. They include Herschel Walker. The list is long.

And that is what you get with Donald Trump. And Republicans have to realize one thing. Trumpism works for Donald Trump. When Donald Trump is not on the ballot, he drags down everybody else around him. And you can't swap in somebody like a Larry Elder and say that we're going to be successful.

Gavin Newsom, if he were to run against a Mitt Romney type of Republican, was in trouble. There's no question about it. Gavin Newsom running against Larry Elder that they're trying to pass off as something substantive.


LEMON: Now, how did that happen?

STEWART: I think --

LEMON: How did that happen?

SELLERS: Because -- because it's a sprint to crazy.


SELLERS: Like with all due respect to my Republicans, and I'm from South Carolina. I have a lot of good Republican friends. More of them are like Alice than like anything else. But the Republican Party nowadays is a sprint to crazy.

STEWART: But the reality is this started off as a recall election to -- to call attention and to hold the governor accountable for his failures with COVID and the economy and how he handled the situation.

SELLERS: And he went to do is laundry.

STEWART: He went to do his laundry at the French -- French Laundry.

LEMON: He ate at the French Laundry.

STEWART: Exactly. But the fact is, Republicans wanted to get in. and it wasn't the California Republican Party or the RNC that anointed Larry Elder. He got in, and he ran, and he became -- he became the top of the ticket.

But there are some takeaways here. And we saw this in 2020. We saw this in the race in Georgia for the Senate.

LEMON: Can we hold that? Can you hold it on the other side of this break? Because I want to get this in, because there's someone I want to bring to the conversation I think is very important and can help us with that. So stand by, Alice and everybody.

So stay with us. I'm going to speak with California's secretary of state, Shirley Weber, after accusations of fraud by Republicans. We'll talk about that and other topics when we come right back. Don't go anywhere.



LEMON: Look at that gorgeous shot of Los Angeles, the L.A. skyline. And this gorgeous shot of our studio. We're back in studio. We're back, baby!

I've never seen traffic move so freely. So -- not a lot of traffic in L.A. at this hour.

Breaking news, CNN is projecting that California's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, easily surviving the recall reelection. The recall election, I should say, defeating the attempt to remove him from office.

So as promised on the other side of the break, we want to bring in Shirley Weber, California's secretary of state, who is a Democrat. And we appreciate her joining us at this late hour. No, it's not that late in California, but she has been going all day and has been very busy.

So thank you very much for joining us, Madam Secretary.


LEMON: I'll start with this first question. Both Larry Elder and Donald Trump have claimed, without any evidence, that the election is rigged and that it can't be trusted. What is your message to them and to California voters tonight?

WEBER: Well, I think the California voters demonstrated their faith in, hopefully, our democracy and in the voting in California itself.

We've worked very hard to secure our elections. There's no evidence of fraud or mishandling of issues. As the secretary of state office, we've been very even-handed in how we've handled every issue, even ensued by the governor, as well as by others, because of some of the decisions we made that were fair and just and needed to be made in terms of making sure that the election was fair.

So I think California -- you know, I think as we look at what the results may be, we don't know yet completely, but we know how it's trending, really is a statement that they believe in the process that we have, that they believe they can vote honestly and openly, and express themselves.

And so I'd like to say to those who continue to challenge this issue of fairness and justice and so forth and so on, I always say to them, where's the evidence? We are willing to accept the evidence as it is, not just simply open any empty allegations of fraud and deception. That's -- those things are easy to say.

But we have yet to get the information. We have yet to get the evidence that there's been fraud and deception.

So I -- you know, we welcome comments about our election process. We believe we're in the process of always improving what we do. But we don't chase false allegations, because that's a waste of our time. As we continue to build the confidence of Californians and begin to really strengthen our democracy in this country.

LEMON: Well, a lot of election officials and secretaries of state have been tested throughout the past year or so in this country, with these, you know, false allegations of election fraud.

As a top official in the state in charge of election integrity, I know that there is -- there are so many steps involved to ensure that -- the security of the vote. There are transaction laws that monitor the tabulation process. There's a manual tally of ballots. Ballot images are posted online to ensure transparency. Sheriff's deputies are assigned to escort ballots from each of the polling locations.

So again, all this -- all these claims of rigging, are they more about making an excuse for losing than anything else?

WEBER: Well, I think it's -- it's not only making an excuse for losing. But it also is a way in which you can energize people against others and divide this nation, at a time when we so greatly need to be together.

And it's a way in which people who -- who feel that there's something going on when there's no evidence of that, basically, to organize them and to keep them organized. And they're a small base, but nonetheless, they are persistent and consistent about what they believe in, and somebody's feeding it. You know, we have enjoyed in this democracy the -- the honor and

dignity of former elected officials, we are even though we disagree with them on political issues, they believed in this country. They believed in the vote, and they believed in keeping this democracy together.

We are in an unusual time where people really want to divide us and think that that makes them important and great, because they can.

And I am determined, as a secretary of state in this state, the largest state in the union, to make sure that we continue to educate our children, we continue to push the issue of democracy. We continue to build on the fact that it is very unique to have a country where every vote counts. And my vote, despite being secretary of state, is no greater than the person who comes and cleans my office's vote. That every vote counts in America.


And we have to make that our motto and our legacy. And we have to strengthen it, rather than weaken it with false allegations.

And so I stand very firmly on that. And most folks in the state know that. Because I know what it's like when you can't vote. I know what it's like when my father was denied the opportunity to vote in Arkansas for many years.

So I know what it's like when you can't vote, and I also know when there's nothing to vote for. And we have to make sure that those are two things that we keep in focus, always.

LEMON: You've just -- she just preached the word right there. I mean, those are auntie words, as we call them. Right? Auntie. That's -- that's a great message, considering what's happening around the country.

This panel has been transfixed by your message, Secretary of State, especially considering what we have been dealing with around the country and the suppression of votes, especially for black -- of black and brown people.

We really thank you for joining us. We know it's been a very long day for you. Hopefully, you can get some rest now. But I think you have a long road ahead anyways, even without doing this interview.

WEBER: We do.

LEMON: Thank you very much. You be will.

WEBER: We have a mission. And thank you so very much. Thank you. You do the same. Take care. Bye-bye.

LEMON: So we're going to take a quick break. CNN is projecting that Gavin Newsom, Governor Gavin Newsom defeats the recall. More of our continuing coverage in just a moment.



LEMON: Here is the breaking news on CNN. CNN is projecting that Gavin Newsom, governor there in California, will defeat the recall.

Back again with Harry Enten. Mr. Enten, what did you learn tonight?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Mask mandates were more popular than any politician. Seventy percent of California voters in the recall said that they supported mask mandates in school. I don't care where you are in the nation, that 70 percent of California will transport itself to be a majority in the rest of the nation. Tough measures on COVID win. It's a good message for Democrats going forward.

LEMON: And there you have it from Mr. Harry Enten. He knows all. What does Chris call you again?

ENTEN: The Wizard of Odds, my friend. The Wizard of Odds.

LEMON: Not a good name.

ENTEN: It's decent enough. Better than Harry.

LEMON: Harry, stand by. Stand by, Harry. We have a panel of experts here. We're going to get to them in just minutes here on CNN. So everyone standby.

News, our breaking news, CNN is projecting that Governor Gavin Newsom is defeating the attempt to remove him from office. Much, much more straight ahead on CNN's continuing coverage of the recall election.