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California Gov. Gavin Newsom Will Remain In Office; Larry Lender Acknowledges Defeat In CA Recall. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 01:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone top of the hour. I'm Don Lemon. This is CNN's continuing coverage of the California Recall Election. Our breaking news tonight, CNN projects that Democratic Governor Gavin Newsome easily defeats the recall remaining in office to finish out his turn.

I speak just a short time ago, Newsom thanking California's for voting down the recall saying that they rejected division. They rejected negativity, but also saying that voters gave a thumbs up to science, to vaccines and to ending the COVID endemic. Why don't we see how this all shook out where it is on the map. CNN's Phil Mattingly, he's over here. He's joining us from the magic wall. So, take us inside. But what happened?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Let's start top line. This isn't even close. It's not even close at all. At this point in time, 65 percent reporting obviously, we've already called it for the noes. That means Gavin Newsom stays in office. Right now the noes 2.7 million votes ahead. 66 percent to 33 percent.

Look, here's the reality when you look at this stage. Joe Biden won the state by 30 points. You go back to Gavin Newsom in 2018, he won this state by 23 points. This is a democratic state. Two to one Democratic registration advantage in the state. Republicans needed complete apathy from the Democratic Party, a surge in the very few Republican voters they had an independence to break their way.

At this point in time, it doesn't look like any of that has happened. If you want to know why, take a look at back at 2018. with Gavin Newsom. Gavin Newsom counties that he lost in 2018. Look at where the no vote is.


MATTINGLY: He flipped five counties right here based on where things stand right now. Now keep in mind, 65 percent reporting, mail-in vote was counted first that usually leans heavily democratic. But if you're looking at the results right now, it's pretty clear that Gavin Newsom is doing even better than he did back in 2016. Is he overperforming? Overperforming is 2018 results by more than 5 percent. Look at all the blue, overperforming in a number of counties around the state.

So if you're looking at the numbers still early, you're looking at the numbers. You want to know why this has been a blowout. Gavin Newsome is doing better across the board.

Now, this wasn't technically a binary choice. Your ballot had two questions on it. Do you believe Gavin Newsom should be recalled? If you answered yes, then you got to look at 46 candidates. If you answered no, that was about it. If you want to know why the no's are winning right now, talk about that democratic apathy. Did it actually happen.

In Los Angeles County, largest county in the state democratic stronghold, no question about it. Gavin Newsom, 73 percent. The yes vote 26 percent. Whereas Gavin Newsom back in 2018, doing better.


MATTINGLY: He's doing better than he did back in 2018. You want to take down a little bit as well, looking for the back. This was supposed to be where Republicans might search, quit search, used to be a republican stronghold, Orange County.

LEMON: What happened in the Orange County?

MATTINGLY: It just trended. It trended the way the entire state is trended. In fact, I'm going to pull this up. This is actually interesting. Look at California Republican voters over the course of the last 20 or so years. 1996, 36 percent of registered voters in the state, Republican voters. Where are they now? 24 percent in the state. Those are the odds that they were dealing with when they actually started this process.

So you go back into Orange County used to be a Republican stronghold. And yet, in 2020, when Joe Biden won this congressional -- these congressional districts in this area, Republicans actually flipped a couple seats in this area. So perhaps this was an opening here. Well, 56 percent to 43 percent. Where was Gavin Newsome back in 2018? Doing better than he did back in 2018. Where's Joe Biden in 2020? Doing better than Joe Biden did in 2020.

Again, there's still a lot of votes come in. You expect in-person going to lean towards Republican that could end up changing things. But Don, it's just kind of a good example. You can go county by county, you can compare to 2018. You can fair to 2020, the way things have come in so far. And the reason why Gavin Newsom is up by 2.7 million votes in a very, very democratic state is he's over performing what Democrats who've done the last several cycles.

LEMON: Yes, listen, it's not personal. I had to leave you over that magic wall because they got to bring someone else in.

MATTINGLY: It hurts.

LEMON: All right, we'll see you Phil. Thank you very much. Let's dig deeper on the results here. Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton joins us now. Mr. Reich, thank you very much. Appreciate you joining us this evening or morning here in Berkeley. So there's still evening there. Thank you so much. How you doing?

ROBERT REICH, FORMER LABOR SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Don, it's good to see you and we're breathing -- we're breathing a sigh of relief out here. Because you know, it was not all that evident. I think there was a lot of concern The Democrats would get complacent and assume that because there's so many Democrats out here that there would be no contest and therefore not even bother to vote, while Republicans, although fewer in number, they were fired up. And that was really a potential danger.

LEMON: Well, let me ask you. I want to know what your takeaway is on all of this. Because if you listen, if you look at Phil, he overperformed. There's a lot of consternation about oh, my gosh, this racist tightening. Gavin Newsom could actually be recalled. Can you imagine if Larry Elder becomes the governor of California, was that all of that overwrought, like what was that? What happened?

REICH: Well, it's easy to say in retrospect it was overwrought. And I think that there was a lot of panic certainly in the last few weeks. A lot of Democrats did rally finally. But there was a, you know, a potential danger here. I think what really helped Gavin Newsom, two things. One, he was for masks, particularly masking in schools. The leading Republican contender, Larry Elder was against it. And also Donald Trump, although not on the ballot.

This was a repudiation of Trump, because Joe Biden, President Biden was out here yesterday saying, look, either you vote for Gavin Newsom and you vote no against recall, you stick with Gavin Newsom, or you're going to get Donald Trump because the major leading Republican Larry Elder is kind of a Trump clone. Larry Elder believes the big lie that the 2020 election was fraudulent.

LEMON: You know, Mr. Reich, this runoff turned out to be a big waste of time and money for the state of California. Republicans pray -- pay a price for that with voters?

REICH: Well, I hope so. But again, you know, the state is overwhelmingly democratic. So the question is whether there is a kind of ricochet effect of what happened in California around the country. I think the lesson here for Democrats is that Donald Trump still plays well as a foil, that is a repudiation of Donald Trump, in democratic states. In blue states is still a major selling point. You have a candidate that that really is against everything that Trump stood for, and against Trumpism in general, that is a positive for, again, in a democratic state with Democratic candidates.

I think that Trumpism is still there. Trumpism still divides America.

LEMON: But is it that strong? Is it that the Wizard of Oz not in the way of, you know, but before Dorothy and the Tin Man and all knew who he was right there were afraid of him. But now we go behind the curtain, is this one layer or one curtain that is being peeled back?

REICH: Well, I think it is, in a sense. Now, you know, the interesting thing is the California recall, in 2003, you remember Gray Davis was recall.

LEMON: I remember.

REICH: And that's when the Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor. Now, you know, people had that 2003 image in their heads. They thought that it was possible. If it happened in 2003, it could happen again. And I think that there is something fundamentally flawed about the California recall system. And that is that you can, you know, if you get a group of people who get enough signatures and with enough money, you can get enough signatures. And they -- all they need to do is get 50, you know, they get 51 percent saying somebody want to get recalled. And then even somebody like Larry Elder with about a 18 or 20 percent, they can be installed as governor.

That recall idea, it was a good idea when it started in 2013. It was thought of as a reform, a democracy reform, a pro-democracy, progressive reform, but it has turned out to be a real waste of time and money and a real problem.

LEMON: Let me ask you something real quick, this is the follow to that. According to my producer there on the ground, CNN producer on the ground, Dr. Weber, who was just on, Shirley Weber the Secretary of State, wants to recall reforming California, higher signature percentage. Keeping an eye on big money paid to gather signatures, and so on. Sorry, my phone just went out here.

So what do you think of this, signatures has strong words for Elder complaint? So what do you think of that? It does it need to be overhaul? Does need to be looked at?

REICH: Well, I -- yes, I think it does, Don. I think we've seen from this particular escapade, how much it does need to be overhauled, but with tremendous waste of time and money and effort.

LEMON: Thank you, Robert Reich. We appreciate it.

REICH: Thank you, Don. Thank you.

LEMON: Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break and ahead more in our breaking news CNN projects. The California Recall election fails. Governor Newsom will remain in office.




LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Come on. Let's be gracious. Let's be gracious in defeat. And by the way, we may have lost the battle but we are going to win the war.


LEMON: Larry Elder admitting defeat there in California is not our breaking news. CNN projects California Governor Gavin Newsom defeats the recall and the attempt to remove him from office. I want to get straight to CNNs Kyung Lah in Sacramento.

Kyung, you have been following this recall from the very beginning. You're at Newsom headquarters. What is your takeaway from tonight's results and actually listening to Larry Elder saying let's be gracious in defeat.


KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's start with Larry Elder because this is just developing right now. Remember, Larry Elder spent his closing message talking about baseless election fraud. We're not really hearing that. He had set up this website. He said that he was going to have lawyers file lawsuits. I didn't hear any of that. So it appears he's taking a different attack.

Now, does that suggest his political future? It's hard to say. I mean, certainly, it seems like he is looking at the longer war. But the numbers for Republicans in the state are just simply are not on their side when it comes to a general election. And the recall, it's a different game. But in a general election, where, you know, evenly matched the registration numbers just are not on the side of California Republicans.

So what is the takeaway back to your other question, Don. As far as the governor here, we saw the governor take a much more somber tone and being very, you know, governing. He wanted to reflect on the moment. He did get emotional at one point. We don't know if it's exhaustion or what but the governor certainly is being reflective and looking back at what has happened over the last few months.

And he talked in some of these final rallies on about the urgency of the moment, and that Democrats have to fight if there is a takeaway for the larger Democratic Party. And we've heard this messaging from the governor's campaign again, and again, it is to fight and to fight for those national democratic principles, namely, in this time, those health principles, setting a contrast between what Democrats have done and what Republicans are outlining.

So, you know, that's the larger takeaway. It's hard to tell, though, Don, when you look at some of the closer battlegrounds, if that's actually going to work elsewhere.

LEMON: Yes. And if Larry Elder will keep speaking the way he's speaking tonight, you said at least tonight, you know, we're not hearing about voter fraud and such but the night is still young. We'll see. Thank you, Kyung. Kyung has been following this from the very beginning. We appreciate her reporting.

Let me ready to go now to CNN's Kristen Holmes at the Voting Desk. Kristen, good evening to you. We have called the election Larry Elder has accepted defeat, but what votes are actually still out there?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don, we're going to see those trickling in for weeks to come now. And the big question, of course, is, what will those votes actually look like? Keep in mind, the way that the votes come in, the results come in as the first wave we see is those pre-election votes, those are likely mail in ballots then we see the election vote day votes counted.

That will still come in. There will still be a few of those to count. But as we see the 65 percent of those votes already counted, a lot of these counties have already gone through that number. So the big question is what's actually in those trickle of votes that we're going to see for the next couple of weeks? Well, you have to keep in mind this, the ballots postmarked by September 14, so by today can be received up until a week afterwards received and counted.

So shortly after the election is called. So in the next couple of days, we'll start to see counties putting out these updated reports every few days of their voter tallies. What's in them? Well, what's in them is ballots not processed before election day, ballots postmarked before or on election day, but they still arrived in time, and then ballots with signature issues that need to be cured. That is something we talked about a lot in the general election what is cured mean, it means that there's some issue with the signature, sometimes it's actually an issue with just the ballot in general that the box looks a little bit smudged. They contact the voter, it takes a few days.

This is a small amount of ballots. It's not going to be any kind of surge. And as we know, mostly, and this is a pattern, the votes that are coming in through mail-in voting are Democratic votes. So something to keep in mind. So all of this happens next, the counties have to finalize their results by the 14th of October with the election being certified on the 22nd.

Again, we are going to see several vote changes in the next couple of days. But we are already ahead of where they were back in 2020. By midnight on 2020, they actually only had 56 percent of the vote counted. Now of course, we're already at 65. So, we got a lot of votes already in and I don't think it's going to take quite as long as it did in 2020. Don.

LEMON: We'll be here until like nine tomorrow morning. So that's good news. Thank you, Kristen. Appreciate that much.

Joining me now as a mayor of Oakland, California, Libby Schaaf. Mayor, thank you so much for joining. We appreciate you. You got a big smile on your face tonight. What's your reaction?

MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF (D) OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Oh, I am pretty ecstatic and relieved. California didn't just say no to the recall. We said no to stamping on women's rights, no to denying climate change, no to ignoring science and being a conspiracy theorists.


This was huge for California, California's values and people in Oakland are as static.

LEMON: Yes. Well, I can tell, as I said, you got a big smile on your face. Look, we know from the exit polling that the pandemic was the biggest issue for voters in this recall election. How do you think that impacted the race? SCHAAF: First of all, I'm glad that people weren't so distracted by the wildfires, by our pandemic, that they actually got out and voted. And I can tell you, Democratic mayors, we were on phone banks, and it's because Gavin Newsom has been in our communities. She was in Oakland for -- one of our first day of school, you know, shaking the hands of teachers, telling students that they were brilliant, and encouraging them to wear those masks and announcing a vaccination mandate for school workers.

This is the same time, you know, Florida is claiming that they're going to sue school districts for actually following the science. He's been congratulating the health workers that have been vaccinating people in our hardest hit neighborhoods. And so he has been on the ground really addressing the pandemic, as well as the economic recovery that California has got to turn its attention to right now.

LEMON: Mayor, were you worried?

SCHAAF: I absolutely was worried. You know, Oakland, myself, personally, we were at war with Donald Trump for four years. Finally, voters have gotten better, you know, leadership in the White House, and to see Larry Elder who I personally thought was a crazier Trumpster than Trump himself, to see how close he got to becoming California's governor was terrifying for me and most of the people in my community.

Right now, Gavin Newsom has 84 percent of the vote in our county. So I was worried. I think Democratic mayors were worried because we know what it's like to be at war with the governor. We talked to our colleagues across the country, and that's why we got into action. We were on those phones. We were rallying the troops reminding people to vote even though this is an offseason election.

LEMON: Is it --

SCHAAF: And boy, California, you did not disappoint.

LEMON: Is this result more an indication of the opposition to Larry Elder who is the, I mean, really, really far to the right fringe candidate? Then support for Newsom, do you think it was more about support for Newsom? I mean, Larry Elder becoming the governor of California, it seems far-fetched no matter what universe you're in.

SCHAAF: It does. But I think with these numbers it was both. It really was a resounding victory. I mean, this was not just a landslide. This was an old fashioned trouncing. And it really shows that Gavin Newsom has a mandate to continue his priorities to get back to work as the governor.

Yes, Larry Elder absolutely motivated us as Democrats to get out there and make sure every single vote was cast. But it is not crazy. We are seeing these divisive politics and we've got to do things to make sure that truth, facts and science are prevailing.

LEMON: Where I'm from and I think Bakari as well, maybe Mark Preston, we would just call it a beatdown. That's what happened tonight or, you know, maybe a drubbing depending if you've come from a fancy neighborhood. Thank you, Mayor. We appreciate you joining us.

SCHAAF: He got crushed.

LEMON: He got -- there you go. He got crushed. Thank you very much, Mayor. We appreciate it. Be well.

SCHAAF: Thank you. You too.

LEMON: Make sure you stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. CNN projects governor Gavin Newsome defeats recall. Republican Larry Elder acknowledging his loss, more in our continuing coverage just a head. Crushed as you say.


ELDER: Galup decide to ask which of these four candidates had the biggest --





GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: I think about just in the last, you know, few days and 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, antique vase. You can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up to meet the moment and pushback.


LEMON: There's quite a comparison there. Breaking news tonight, CNN projects California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom easily surviving the recall election, defeating the attempt to remove him from office. The Republican, the leading Republican Larry Elder acknowledging his loss tonight.

Back with me, Bakari Sellers, Alice Stewart, Mark Preston, Laura Barron-Lopez. Hello, all of you. It's quite a comparison of fancy antique vase that you can smash. It basically, I get what he's saying. It's delicate and you got to nurture it. You got to make sure you don't drop that vase.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That analogy went for me. But look, I want to throw a little bit of cold water on all these hot takes that we're seeing on Twitter and around the country tonight that there is not much that you can take from this race tonight. The one reason is because the recall system is so wonky in California. It only took just --

LEMON: (INAUDIBLE) talk about that.



SELLERS: I was just talking to one of the smartest people in the room, not Harry but Phil Mattingly and Phil -- and he recited the fact that it was 1.6 million signatures. That's all it took.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It takes 1.5 but they had 1.6 --

SELLERS: They had 1.6 so this isn't some huge, huge we want to get rid of Democratic policies in California. It was 1.6 individual Republicans who were in a different part of the state, upward north -- northeast part of the state who said that this was what they wanted to do.

So it wasn't a huge, huge referendum on Democratic politics. That's first.

Second, Larry Elder is someone who said he would vote against the Civil Rights Act. He said the minimum wage should be zero. He said the slave owners needed reparations. I mean this is somebody who is --

LEMON: He made inaccurate statements about vaccines and masking including a recent CNN interview where he said he doesn't believe the science suggests that young people should be vaccinated or wear masks.

SELLERS: So, he is a loon (ph). And that -- so you take these things together. I think that one thing that Democrats and everyone else can take from this is the fact that people take COVID extremely seriously in this country. Protecting the public and public health is a winning issue.

It shouldn't be a political issue. But it's a winning issue. Wearing masks, getting vaccines, mandates of such. That maybe the only thing that you can take out of tonight's election.

LEMON: Let's drill down on the whole idea of the recall. What he needs, right. And you heard the former secretary of state, she didn't say it on the air but according to reports and to our producers on the ground. She thinks that needs to be reformed when it comes to that -- to the recall process in California.

But also how it plays into this whole idea of minority role in this country. You have a, you know, a minority of people saying don't vaccinate, don't wear masks, don't tell me what to do, liberty, freedom. Also trying to take elections, steal elections and so on and so forth.

Talk to me Laura about the process in California and whether -- because a lot of people think it should be recalled. I mean it should be reformed.


LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, a lot -- and I think it's safe to assume that Democrats are going to tackle that Newsom has won this recall that they're going to start looking at that -- about how to reform it because recall -- you know, I'm a native Californian. I came from California and it is very strange.

So like even if Newsom had won 49 percent of the vote, it still wouldn't have been enough. He would not have won. He would not have been able to keep his office. Someone like Elder could've won 22 percent of the vote if Newsom hadn't reached that threshold and still been able to win.

Also Newsom even if voters decided to write his name in, he wouldn't have been able to win just based on the write-in. So there's a lot of questions, a lot of legal scholars in California started raising question about whether or not the recall is unconstitutional.

So, you're starting to see a lot more conversation about the need for reforming the recall.

LEMON: And what about this idea, minority role around this country, Mark Preston?

It seems to be the idea that, you know, it's either the loudest voices forces or, you know, I'm going to impose what I want on you even though we are not the majority in this country.

Look at what's happening with the election laws around the country and so on.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. When we take that and extrapolate a little bit more from it, you know, when we talk about winners and losers of the night and I'll throw a couple in at the end.

But I really do think that the political parties right now, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, both of them are losers in the sense that what we saw is a recall election take place against a governor that it really shouldn't have taken place.

You saw a Republican Party in the largest state with an incredible amount of you know, folks who are Republican-leaning at least in California and they can't seem to get their act together.

When we talk about Trump, is Trumpism still alive? And you know, what will his effect be? The political parties have totally changed right now. They're not going to be what we are used to.

If you look at the last 50 years, the Republican Party was really built in the likeliness of Ronald Reagan, right. Well, that is gone.

If you look at the Democratic Party, it was built in the likeness of the Clintons and I know people hate me to say, that but it's true. And then it really became the likeness of Obama, but Obama, you know, in many ways I respect him, he has stepped back and said it is now the party, you know, for the young.

And if you look at the new CNN poll, right -- I mean Harry could jump in on this -- but if he's not eating over there which he is -- but if you look at the CNN poll, there is a 20-point gap between older Democrats' support of Joe Biden and younger Democrats' support of Joe Biden which just goes to tell you that younger Democrats aren't necessarily beholden to the party.

So I think when you look at this recall and how ridiculous it is and how screwed up our politics are, it goes way beyond that.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think a little over an hour after really the dust has settled and we've heard from both of the candidates, I'll say this. I'm pleased after a bitter battle, that we saw the governor gracious in his victory and Larry Elder gracious in his defeat. I thought it was, you know, a pleasant takeaway from this.

That being said, what do we get out of this? Some people say all of these millions dollars wasted.


STEWART: What do the Republicans get out of this? I spoke to someone this evening, one of the organizers of the recall. He says yes, it did not come out as we wanted but we energized the Republican base. We had more volunteers out there than they've had in many years.

But having Larry Elder in there was an opening for the Democrats and that you gave them a foil to take it against him. And as you were talking with the mayor about what does this mean, I got a text also from the Faulkner (ph) campaign. And they're saying the overwhelming defeat here was the complete referendum on Larry Elder and what he stood for.

And the message moving forward for Republicans is to win in California, the conservative Republican Party needs to as soon as (INAUDIBLE) get behind someone who represents not just the base but the blue --


LEMON: How did we get here with Larry Elder? I mean because Larry Elder was -- he was the defeat. The Republicans defeated themselves with Larry Elder. How did they get to the point where Larry Elder is the leading candidate in California?

STEWART: Well, he obviously gets in there. He does have name ID and he is the leader of the Republicans in the state. And the problem is they were only focusing on the base of the party.

The victory there would have been --

LEMON: That's a good message. Good lesson.

STEWART: The victory here is there were Democrats and Independents that were signing on to this recall. And they were fine with having Newsom step down. But that idea of it being Larry Elder instead of Newsom turned them off. And Democrats --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Hold on. Hold on. Let Mark --


PRESTON: Let me add just how farcical this all is. You know, three months ago Caitlin Jenner was going to be the Republican nominee. And guess what? Caitlin Jenner was going to open the Republican Party so that folks would be more inclusive of transgender --

LEMON: Nobody ever thought that -- Mark. I don't believe -- nobody ever thought that.

PRESTON: I'm kidding but the fact of the --

LEMON: All right. Oh, I was like that was like --

PRESTON: If you look at where she ended up tonight though. But it just goes to show you where the destruction of these political parties. Caitlin Jenner as of, you know, a few minutes ago received 52,000 votes, only 1.2 percent of the vote.

There are a lot of people out there that we have no idea who they are, who just got about the same amount of votes.

LEMON: Talk about name recognition. I mean that didn't help Jenner.

SELLERS: You had me thinking when you name winners or losers. There is a winner tonight who needed a victory and that's Joe Biden.

I mean over the past few weeks and maybe this summer, it hasn't -- you know, the media has portrayed it not being a successful summer for Joe Biden.

So this trouncing of Larry Elder, this trouncing of Trumpism is something the White House can claim a victory for. This is also a victory for Kamala Harris because it shows that California is still her base. You know, her and her team are still very successful in California.

But one of the things that kind of that age dynamic that you talked about is so real on the Democratic Party. We had some very tense conversations about Dianne Feinstein and whether or not she should resign -- whether or not she should resign or how she should handle this because of the fact that we were -- well people thought they were a heartbeat away from having Larry Elder choose the next Democratic senator.

So this is a real conversation that Democrats are having. And it's more of an age thing than anybody else.


LEMON: Yes. Look, I just want to get to -- there are ballots still coming. A live picture of a helicopter that just flew in to what is it -- Downey, California. These are all ballots coming in from all over L.A. County. So, those are the ballots coming in. SELLERS: I thought that was take out from French Laundry.

LEMON: Bakari, that was a low blow. I hope you people at home did not hear that. I know it's late or early depending on where you are in the country.

We're going to take a quick break. So stand by everyone.

CNN projects that Governor Newsom defeats the recall -- much, much more of our continuing coverage in just a moment.

That was low.



LEMON: So here is the breaking news on CNN.

CNN projects a big victory for Governor Gavin Newsom, beating back the recall election and Republican Larry Elder acknowledging defeat tonight.

I want to bring in now CNN national political reporter, (INAUDIBLE) reporter Maeve Reston. Thank you very much for joining us, Maeve.

Republicans hoped for a resurgence with this recall. But it looks like they actually strengthened Governor Newsom. Am I wrong?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: No. You are absolutely right about that. Certainly, Republicans had hoped that this would help them bring about some kind of resurgence in California, particularly among the many women who were angry about school closures over the last year.

But in the end we obviously have seen this huge blow out by Governor Newsom. And also his campaign adviser tells me that he will wake up tomorrow morning with $24 million in the bank for his re-elect campaign, as well as an online army of volunteers that he had to marshal to help him defeat this effort not just volunteers here in California but also across the country who texted and called people.

The campaign also got tons of small dollar donations. So he will be able to tap into all of that as he heads into his reelection campaign next year.

And a lot of people here also believe that he harbors White House ambitions down the line. So he has potentially been able to build up that national network that could help him if he decides to go that route.

We still will be talking about French Laundry even if he is on the presidential debate stage, Don.

LEMON: Yes. That is something that's going to be with him for quite a long time. As you were speaking, Maeve, we are looking at these ballots being brought in by helicopter to Downey, coming from, I think they're all over L.A. County.


LEMON: But anyways -- there we go. Brought in by Sheriff's helicopter, by the way. Maeve Reston thank you very much.

RESTON: That's how we do it here.

LEMON: Yes, yes. Doing it in style. Thank you very much. And safety as well, it's a sheriff helicopter.

Thank you very much, Maeve.

I want to bring in now Barbara Boxer, the former Democratic U.S. Senator from California. Senator, hello to you, I see a big smile as well.

This was a lot more of a fight than you thought it would be for Governor Newsom, no?

BARBARA BOXER (D), FORMER CALIFORNIA SENATOR: No. Because this is a tough time, you know that. I watch you all the time and this hasn't been a happy time. And if you are leading a state as large as ours, with 40 million people -- so much pain, so much COVID, such a terrible economic downturn, all that on your shoulders. And yes, he made some mistakes and has stepped up and said, I was wrong -- that's always hard to do.

So no. I think this is a big victory tonight. People can analyze it anyway they want. But the bottom line is, it's huge.

And it's huge I think for a couple reasons. Because all the factions of the Democratic Party united. We proved that we could be a big tent. We united behind a pragmatic progressive like Governor Newsom.

And the Republicans have proven that they are attracted to far-right candidates like Larry Elder, who said the perfect minimum wage is zero, who said that women don't understand politics when our state was the first state to send two female senators to Washington and Nancy Pelosi was on her way to being speaker when he made that statement.

So I think it's a real warning to the Republicans. If you listen to your base, you are not going to make it. And I'm sad that, you know, we have lost the mainstream Republicans, but that is the way it is. And we have to stick together and make sure we are strong in the midterms.

It's going to be --


LEMON: As these ballots -- we're watching these ballots come in -- this recall election cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Senator. It was launched by a minority of California voters. Is something wrong with California's recall system? BOXER: Absolutely. It needs to be reformed. It's in our constitution.

So the people are never going to give up this notion that they can recall a governor.

But there's a couple of things that can be done really easily. For example, one simple one is vote on the recall and then, regardless of how you vote, vote for the candidate you want and allow the sitting governor to be on that list. Because literally, Governor Newsom could have had a vote of say, 49.8 percent not to recall and Larry Elder could have had 38, and Larry Elder would have been governor. So allow the governor to be on that list.

Also, we need to have -- make it a little tougher, so more signatures to get this on the ballot.

Last point I'd make is, we've got another election, just around the corner, just a few months away. There shouldn't be a recall when you are less than a year from the primary at the next gubernatorial election. That's crazy.

And so I think the Republicans recognize that they can't go in it, in a regular election time, because it is too big a turnout. And we surprised them and really turned out.

LEMON: Senator Barbara Boxer, always a pleasure. Thank you so much. You can get some rest now.

BOXER: Well, you too.

LEMON: I'll see you soon. You be well. Thank you.


LEMON: We'll be right back.



LEMON: Tonight, as we look at this beautiful shot of the skyline of Los Angeles, CNN is projecting that Governor Gavin Newsom defeats the recall the attempt to remove him from office.

Back with me now Harry Enten and Ron Brownstein.

Ok. So what are your final thoughts here, Harry? And don't say I told you so.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: No, I'm going to say told you so. Look, we tried to do a repeat. You know, all these days, you know, what we have are these repeats of movies and we tried to repeat 2003. But the fact of the matter was the circumstances were so different.

It started with the fact that the governor of California this time around had an approval rating north of 50 percent. Back in 2003, Gray Davis had an approval rating of only about 25 to 30 percent.


ENTEN: But it is more than that. Look at who the opponents were in those two different recalls.

Back in 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger had a favorable rating in the exit poll of 51 percent. Tonight, Larry Elder is just 34 percent. So everything was just really different.

California has really changed. And the fact of the matter is if you have an incumbent governor with an approval rating north of 50 percent that governor is going to survive recall. And that's what happened.

LEMON: All right. Save some room for Ron Brownstein, will you.



RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Final thought, you know, I go back to something you were discussing before. California has the lowest bar of any state in the country that allows a recall for getting on the ballot. You only need 12 percent of the voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

In today's highly polarized politics, it's simply an kind of an implausible standard. The recall never advanced as tonight's result show beyond the core, essentially of Trump voters. Ai mean that's what it got. It got, you know, roughly the same share of the vote that Trump got.

You saw a third of the state said that Newsom's policies on COVID were too strict. That was the share of the vote that Trump got. And I think in that sense, it was a signal for Democrats and a warning for Republicans. The Republican messaging is all about the rights of the unvaccinated, the choices of the unvaccinated.


BROWNSTEIN: What we saw, I think in California is that there is in fact a silent majority of the vaccinated who are exasperated with those who are not getting the shot and ready for tougher measures against them.

And I think for Democrats, while California is unique it is the most -- you know, one of the most Democratic states in the union what it showed was the drawing contrast on this core issue of public health. It was a way to motivate Democratic voters which is going to be job one for them in the midterm next year.

LEMON: That sound you heard was my pen falling on the floor here.


LEMON: Thank you Ron. Thank you Harry. Hey guys, thank you here.

PRESTON: Thank you.

LEMON: Aren't you glad we're not -- we're supposed to be on, by the way, a little secret until 5:00 a.m. but you know what happened.

SELLERS: Thank you California.

LEMON: But not tonight -- not tonight. Thank you California.

Thank you. I really appreciate it. You guys had a good time?

LOPEZ: Yes. Always.

PRESTON: I'm finally back in studio.

LOPEZ: Great to be back in studio.

SELLERS: Thank you guys for getting vaccinated so we can be together.

LEMON: The band is back together.

Ok, next recall we don't know when but we'll be back again. We'll see you.

Don't go anyone anywhere, anyone. CNN's coverage continues.