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Aired November 02, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is the final hour of voting in Virginia in a high-stakes election that could jolt American politics and shape the all important battle of Congress next year. Welcome to CNN's coverage of Election Night in America. I'm Jake Tapper. And we are counting down to the first results of the night less than 60 minutes from now. That's when voting ends in commonwealth of Virginia where the governor's race is the hottest showdown of the night. It pits former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe against first-time Republican Candidate Glenn Youngkin. And it could go either way.

McAuliffe has campaigned with big name Democrats from Biden and Harris to Obama as his faced an unexpectedly tough fight in blue-leaning Virginia, Youngkin has the support of Donald Trump, but he has sought some distance from the former President, as McAuliffe is aggressively tried to link it two Republicans.

In addition to Virginia, there is one other governor being decided. In New Jersey, Incumbent Phil Murphy is hoping to become the first Democrat re-elected governor in the Garden State in more than four decades. He faces former Republican State Lawmaker Jack Ciattarelli.

Also tonight, is a high profile contest in New York City. Democrat Eric Adams is highly favored to win the mayor's race against Republican Curtis Sliwa. Voters in slew a big cities all across the United States are choosing mayors, including Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis. There's a very controversial ballot measure in Minneapolis as well, voters deciding whether to replace the police department in Minneapolis with a Department of public safety in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.

Also, two special congressional elections in Ohio could change the very narrow balance of power in the House of Representatives. We're also watching a special congressional primary in South Florida.

Our correspondents are at key locations as we await the first results in what could be a bellwether election.

Let's start with the Virginia governor's race. Jeff Zeleny is at the campaign headquarters of Democrat Terry McAuliffe. Jeff, one thing is certain it is a tight race. What are they feeling down there, what are the campaign aides saying about the turnout and all-important for the Democrats in Northern Virginia?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, an absolute tight race, and the McAuliffe campaign is using the final hour. They're still knocking on door, I'm told, and texting voters that made door-knocks to 160,000 voters today, I'm told, by the campaign. And, Jake, they're focusing on one thing, those voters who supported Joe Biden a year ago, and this year have either decided to not voted all because of a lack of enthusiasm or simply they do not support Terry McAuliffe, that they are working into the evening to try and get those voters across Northern Virginia, the suburbs just outside of Washington to the polls. We are hearing reports of long lines in Fairfax, and, of course, a Democratic stronghold. Joe Biden won that almost two-tone over Donald Trump.

So, the McAuliffe campaign believes a high turnout is good for them. They certainly believe that they will exceed the 2.6 million in Virginia governor's race in 2017, and both side they are saying it could be about 3 million or so. So, the McAuliffe campaign but they know enthusiasm is not necessarily on their side. They are trying to overcome that by dragging all those voters to the polls in the final hour, Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. A Democrat told me earlier it's math versus momentum, momentum for Glenn Youngkin. Let's go to Republican Glenn Youngkin's headquarters right now. Eva McKend is there.

Eva, he definitely has closed strong. The question, of course, for Glenn Youngkin, did he close strongly enough?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, his campaign certainly seems to think so. You know, all afternoon, I have seen the campaign staff, Jake, and they have a little pep in their step. They are feeling really good, lots of momentum. They say that they have seen a lot of people turn out in Chesterfield and then also Republican areas of Loudoun as well as Fairfax.

So, that is making them feel really good about this race. When you are thinking of where Glenn Youngkin was just a year ago, nobody knew who he was, a former private equity co-CEO, and now statewide recognition. And so that is what they are talking about. The fact that this unknown figure could be running neck-and-neck with the former governor of Virginia, all of that having them feel pretty good.

TAPPER: All right, Eva McKend, thank you so much.

Let's go to Pamela Brown now at our voting desk. Pamela what are you going to be looking for in Virginia this evening?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, turnout is key, and Virginia has one of the longest early voting periods in the country after the state expanded voting options last year. Registered voters had six weeks to cast their ballots early in person starting September 17th, and then ending Saturday. And all registered voters have the option to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

So, here is what important. To be counted, mail-in ballots seem to be postmarked by today and received Friday by noon. Let's take a closer look at the numbers. Here you go, they're right here, nearly 1.2 million pre-election day votes have been cast either in person or by mail.


But look at this comparison. That is less than half the numbers of pre-election votes cast just before the 2020 presidential election.

So, how fast will results come in? The November 2020 election gives us one look, if you take a look at that, counting that 1:00 A.M. on election night, 85 percent of the Virginia votes were counted. By noon on Wednesday, 94 percent of votes were counted. But the election officials from across the commonwealth tell CNN they think reporting will be faster this year because they sort of process in those early votes sooner than last year's election in many parts of Virginia. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown at the election desk. Thank you so much.

With me, of course, as always, the magic man, John King, at the magic wall. And, John, what are you going to be looking for tonight and how is going to unfold, we know where votes are going to come from first?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You raised the key question right off of the bat especially following Pam Brown talking about that early voting, and let me just -- again, just bring up those numbers to show the pre-election voting, because this is what makes Virginia different. This is not the 2020 presidential election but in a Virginia governor's race, this is new. Last governor's race shy of 200,000 early votes, we know now more than 1.1 million early votes.

So, to keep that in mind as I go through what normally happens in Virginia, this is the 2021, we're going to fill that in soon. Let's go back here and look at the 2020 presidential election. We'll start here. Early on the night in Virginia ,like in many states in 2020, the person who jumped out to an early lead, remember, Joe Biden was winning Ohio and winning Texas. Donald Trump jumped out to big early lead in Virginia, and that is traditional. I'll show you the last governor's race right now. Why? Because these counties, the smaller rural counties, Trump country, Republican country tend to reports first. That could be very different tonight because of this early voting.

So this very conceivable, Democrats think they did very well in that early voting, not like 80/20, like we saw in Philadelphia or we saw outside of Atlanta in the presidential race, but the Democrats think they did very well in the early voting. So if that comes in first, quite conceivable the Democrat because a lot of that is up here jumps out to an early lead.

Let's start with the template of the last governor's race, 53 or 54 if you round up to 45. Ed Gillespie, for several hours, four years ago, Jake, because this did come in first down here, he thought he was going to be the next governor of Virginia. It was a very close race. But then the Washington suburbs came in, the Richmond suburbs came in and down here, Norfolk Virginia Beach. This used to be a more Republican and has become a very pro-Democratic suburban area. And that's what we're going to look at tonight.

Trump, if we go back to the 2020 map, Trump has been a curse on the Republican Party in the suburbs and Virginia is just your textbook example. Loudoun County, George W. Bush carried Loudoun County in 2004 on his way to carrying Virginia, the last Republican to do so. Look at that, 37 percent if you round up. That's simply not competitive. You move over a more populous Fairfax County, 28 percent. Donald Trump has been a curse on Republican in the suburbs. Glenn Youngkin believes he has cracked the code.

So we want to watch as the Northern Virginia suburbs come in tonight. And I would say this as well, watch down here, these are less liberal suburbs, more traditional Republicans in the suburbs, military communities down here, government communities lawyers and professionals down here. Yes, the most votes are here. The most votes are up in Northern Virginia. It settles close races. But Glenn Youngkin needs to get all of the Trump base, all of the Trump base.

Even if he gets it all, it's not enough though. The math is just against him. He needs to perform in the suburbs. This will be key, as it always is up here. This settles close races in Virginia. But the first test for Youngkin, as we start seeing the votes coming suburbs around Richmond and down here, Norfolk Virginia Beach area, is he competitive? That would be our first clue.

TAPPER: So, you're saying that the suburban voters that went for Biden in 2020 outside of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Richmond, they might be less inclined to go for Terry McAuliffe, theoretically?

KING: This is a more liberal, more diverse and more Democratic suburban area. This is much more -- you see much more evidence of the Trump revolt, more traditional Republican voters, Henrico County right here, north of Richmond here. We'll watch that tonight. Chesterfield County down here, just South of Richmond, watch that tonight.

And if you go back in time through some of these earlier races, again, and this is the governor's race, see how Ed Gillespie lost, but look how much more competitive he is. He is more competitive here, he's less here. But if you talk to the Youngkin campaign, they believe in the Central Richmond suburbs and in the Southeastern Richmond suburbs, they can crack the Trump curse in the suburbs. And then the question is, again, this is where the population growth has been, this is where the Democrats have gotten deep roots in what was once a red state. This is why it flipped to blue. But, for Youngkin, it starts here, building blocks here, that will decide it.

TAPPER: All right, interesting, we'll see what happens, of course.

Stay with us as we count down to the first results in the battle to be the next governor of the great commonwealth of Virginia. We're going to find out what the exit polls are revealing about the Biden and the Trump factors in this election. That is all ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are awaiting the first results out of Virginia in the red hot governor's race, the main event on this election night. Right now, an early read of what the voters are thinking about as they continue to cast their ballots.

David Chalian is tracking our exit polls. David, what are you learning? What are they saying?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, we should note these are preliminary exit polls. They are likely to change as the night goes on. But I also want to note they are a survey of voters, whether you voted on Election Day or whether you voted early in person or voted by mail. This exit poll encompasses all of the different methods of voting.

Take a look at the Biden factor in Virginia today. Look at the president's approval vote in the commonwealth of Virginia, 23 percent strongly approve of the performance of how Joe Biden is handling his job, 20 percent somewhat approve. That's a 43 percent approval rating. It is underwater. Look at this, only 9 percent somewhat disapprove and nearly half of the Virginia electorates, 47 percent say they strongly disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job.


Add those two up, it is a 56 percent disapproval rating. Again, the president underwater in Virginia and how that is impacts the night will be something that we're watching.

We asked the voters, actually, what is the Biden factor in your vote, and you see here 49 percent, the clear plurality say Biden is not a factor plain in their vote, plain and simple. But among those where he is a factor, he seems to be in these early numbers more of a net negative. 28 percent say that to oppose Biden is one of the reasons for their vote for governor, 20 percent say to support Biden is one of their reasons in their vote for governor.

We also asked voters in Virginia to tell us their assessment of each party, the Republican and Democratic Party. 53 percent of voters in this Virginia gubernatorial race say that the Democratic Party is too liberal, 30 percent say about right, 13 percent not say not liberal enough. Conversely, if you look at the Republican Party assessment here, fewer Virginians in this electorate, 43 percent say that the Republican Party is too conservative, 35 percent say it's about right and 17 percent say it's not conservative enough. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. David Chalian, thanks so much.

I'm here with Dana Bash and Nia-Malika Henderson. And so from this preliminary information -- again, it's preliminary, people are still voting in the commonwealth of Virginia right now. But from this preliminary info, which includes the 45 days of early voting, vote by mail, it's an electorate that disapproves of Joe Biden, a majority, and has a more negative view of the Democratic Party than they do of the Republican Party.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is such an indicator of why Terry McAuliffe sat right in the show on our show, State of the Union, and begged his fellow Democrats to get things done here. That seems like three weeks ago, Jake. Because he saw a train coming, and that train was and clearly, according to these exit polls, still is just a lot of distaste with the Democratic Party. And his rationale for, or the reason why he thought that that is true is because they weren't getting anything done, especially the most bipartisan and popular bills, which is the infrastructure bill, which you could say, look, Democrats are passing something that I can bring home and equals jobs in Virginia.

TAPPER: Yes. And meanwhile, Terry McAuliffe's strategy in a state that, again, Biden won by 10 percentage points a year ago, his strategy has generally been to try to tie the Republican Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump, even though Glenn Youngkin is not a Trump acolyte the way that, say, a Matt Gaetz is or even the way that a Ron DeSantis in Florida is.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. And it wasn't not to talk about Northam's record either, right? Northam's approval rating isn't great. It's about 48 percent. He's, of course, the incumbent governor, Democratic governor of Virginia. So it wasn't that. It wasn't to go to voters and even to remind him consistently of his own record, right, in Virginia.

So, there was this strategy that I think a lot of Democrats think work because Donald Trump hugely unpopular among some Republicans, obviously, independent voters as well. But because Glenn Youngkin is just sort of a different type of Republican, he's like a chamber of commerce Republican, and he has localized this race to such a large degree, issues like education being so important, that this hasn't quite worked in the way that Terry McAuliffe wanted it to work so far.

BASH: And he is the kind of the candidate that probably the McAuliffe campaign, I know from talking to people around them, did not really anticipate, because he is very skilled at dancing on the head of the pin, which is what he has had to do, which is everything that you just said, Nia, about making it local and making it about the issues that he knows that are animating for voters, but also just giving a little crumb to people who understand how to speak Trump speak.

TAPPER: Yes. He wasn't rude to Trump. He was kind, but he was not embracing.

And, David, one of the things that is very interesting about the information you just gave, you talked about it's almost 50 percent, I think you said, people who said that Biden was not a factor, 49 percent. They can say that, right?

CHALIAN: Yes. TAPPER: They can say that. But if they are discontent, if they don't feel like things are going well in this country, they still might subconsciously hold the president of the United States responsible.

CHALIAN: Well, and I don't even think you have to look too subconsciously if you look at the approval rating we showed in the electorate. There is strong disapproval -- 47 percent strongly disapprove. But it's funny that you pick up on that, because, of course, depending on how the race goes, let's say if McAuliffe were to lose the race tonight, you can imagine the Biden White House pointing to that, saying, no, no, we were not a factor, which, by the way, in that same result, people in 2017 said Donald Trump was not a factor in their vote.


Back in the Obama years, they said Obama was not a factor.

But the reality is the national political environment does play, especially in a Virginia race. The vast swath of the population in Virginia is in northern Virginia and that's right outside of Washington. And it clearly has an impact. There's no doubt about that. But I do think what you guys are talking about is what I am so excited to learn tonight as the votes come in, because it is both the Biden factor and the Trump factor, right? Is Donald Trump still such a motivating force for Democrats to come out to vote? Is Joe Biden's first year in office giving Democrats the energy to get out and vote? I mean, that, I think, is a question we will get answers to.

TAPPER: We will have the answers to those shortly. Voting winds down in Virginia soon.

And coming up next, we're going to go live to the most populous county in this commonwealth that will help decide the governor's race. We'll be back in a moment.



TAPPER: And we are back with CNN's coverage of Election Night in America. The clock is ticking toward our first results out of the critical battleground of Virginia. That's where Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin are duking it out to be the next governor of the commonwealth. The outcome could tell us a lot about the state of American politics right now.

Let's check in with our correspondents in a region we are going to be watching closely this evening, Northern Virginia. First, to Ryan Nobles in Fairfax County, the county with the most registered voters in the entire commonwealth. Ryan, tell us what is going on there.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. Fairfax County, the biggest county in the commonwealth, and also so important to Democratic hopes of winning here tonight. And Democrats have to be happy with what they've seen here in the last hour-and-a-half. At around 5:30, we saw traffic pick up at this polling location, where I'm at, exponentially. In fact, there's a big line that sneaks out behind me and outside right now, as more voters are heading to the polls.

Now, in the past, Fairfax County has always taken its time reporting its results because it has so many votes to count, and that's made the situation a little bit anxious for many voters because of the size of Fairfax, it could flip the results pretty quickly when those votes come do, in fact, come in. And sometimes they don't come in until late in the evening.

That's going to be a little bit different tonight because of the early voting numbers. In fact, Fairfax has already in house close 170,000 votes, both early votes and vote by mail. Jake, they will count those before 8:00, so we will get that first big tranche of votes here in Fairfax. It won't tell us the whole story but we'll at least have some idea of where the county is headed. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, very interesting. Let's go to Brian Todd now. He is at a polling location in Ashburn, Virginia. That's in critical Loudoun County, where, Brian, as you know, Republicans are hoping for a strong showing this evening.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They really are, Jake, because the Democrats have made real gains here in the last ten years. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican, thinks he can retake this county for Republicans this time around, and it is going to be very tight in this county, as we have been saying all along.

Here is a shot of the polling area back here, as the polls are getting ready to close in a little bit more than 30 minutes. We had a line out of the door just a short time ago for the first time since the polls opened. I want to go over the two voters here. They don't want to give their names but they just moved here from Southwestern Virginia, and switched the party affiliations. What are the issues that drove you here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the main issues that drove me here today are especially women's rights, or human rights, in general, but especially a woman's right to choose. As well as I want to ensure that the COVID pandemic is being treated appropriately, and that we are following science as we continue to strive for further guidelines in the future. A well as I fully trust our educators and the curriculum that they have imposed. And so I really feel like we need to place the power with the educators who have been trained as such.

TODD: All right. And you said the divisive politics in recent years kind of fueled your vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think that, really, in recent years, the focus has been too much on kind of like attack ads and us versus them mentality. So I really just wanted to take the approach of looking at the issues and picking the candidates that I believe had kind of the best interest in mind of the majority of Virginians.

TODD: All right. Guys, well, thank you very much for talking to us. Good luck.

The education issue, Jake, is crucial out here, the handling of school safety, student safety, teacher safety is controversial here. Glenn Youngkin has seized on those issues as well as the idea about teaching critical race theory, which is not even in the curriculum officially in Virginia. But there are some voters here in Loudoun County who believe it is kind of unofficially being taught, and they like Youngkin's message on that, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brian, thank you so much, I appreciate it.

I'm here at the magic wall with John King. Loudoun County, Republicans have a lot of hopes for Loudoun County this evening.

KING: They have a lot of history in Loudoun County. Recent history has not been good. Let's talk about why they are such important battlegrounds within the battleground, if you will. Now, let me take this one off and come back here to the population growth. The population changes in Virginia just in the last ten years, last 30 years they've been stymied. Just in the last ten years, where were they? Brian was in Fairfax County. It is growing modestly right now. It has grown a lot over the last 30 years, still growing modestly. You see the scale down there. If you are lighter green, you're growing.

Yellow, that's Loudoun County right there. It's the fastest growing county in Virginia right now. We talked about this earlier. See the darker green? That means losing population. This is Trump country. This is Republican country. They are losing population in those counties in the state, and the Washington suburbs especially are exploding.

So, why does that matter, Jake, when you come in to an election? Well, if you go back to the 2020 presidential race, we bring that up here, look what happened here. Fairfax County, again, the largest population center in the Virginia suburbs right up here, a blowout. Joe Biden won by ten points because he had a blowout in Fairfax. But also here, again, George W. Bush won Loudoun County back in 2004.


He also had a blowout here, Trump getting only 37 percent in what used to be a Republican county.

So, what is going to happen tonight? Glenn Youngkin does not have to win those suburbs but he has to be competitive. A lot of people think the last time Republicans won statewide was 2009, right, in the governor's race. The last time they were a very competitive state, let's go back to 2014 in the Senate race, Mark Warner just barely won over Republican Ed Gillespie. Look what happened, right? Mark Warner won here by 17 points, more than that in Fairfax. That is why he won the election. Ed Gillespie though did win Loudoun County but just barely, not by enough.

As we watch the results tonight, can Glenn Youngkin win in Loudoun, which you probably would have to do, and probably by more than that, and then can he break through, can he try to do better in Fairfax that happened to Ed Gillespie seven years ago? Because if he can't, the math gets overwhelming.

TAPPER: Fascinating. They are still voting in Virginia, but we're getting closer to the end. And when the moment, and the moment when the first results are revealed is, CNN's Election Night in America continues right after this. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We are nearing the first results in an off-year election that is on the radar of political figures all across the country and around the world. Voting ends soon in the high-stakes Virginia governor's race.

We are following another breaking story as well though. Children ages 5-11 in the United States are on the brink of being eligible to get the Pfizer's COVID vaccine. CDC advisers gave their he green light as short while ago, and we expect the final sign-off from the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, any moment.

Let's bring in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with this new.

Sanjay, now that the CDC advisers have voted to approve vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine, for children aged 5 to 11, what happens next? How quickly do you think those shots will be available? What might this mean in terms of ending the pandemic?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think this could all sort of unfold pretty quickly, because many of these shots have already gone to pediatricians offices, hospitals and clinics around the country in anticipation of this. As you mentioned, we still need to hear from the CDC director for a formal sign-off, but if that all happens, we're talking within the next couple of days you could start seeing these shots become available.

In terms of what it means, Jake, there are sort of two stories right now. One story is that the numbers are thankfully coming down in terms of the cases and hospitalizations and deaths. But if you look at a map of the country overall, about three-quarters of the country still are in high transmission. That's the red. 100,000 children were diagnosed with COVID this past week alone. So, the numbers are still quite high.

If you get the same rate of vaccination uptake among these 5 to 11- year-olds, as we have seen with the 12 to 17-year-olds, you could have a pretty significant impact overall on the pandemic. The modeling shows that it would bring it down -- accelerate the decline, I should say, by about 8 percent, which would potentially prevent 600,000 cases by next March.

And then, of course, as you can see on the screen there, Jake, there is obvious benefit to the children themselves. Thankfully, they are at lower risk, but these advisers, they basically said, is the reward greater than the risk? And their answer was yes, it prevents cases, prevents hospitalizations and prevents the ICU admissions. TAPPER: Yes, they are unequivocal about that. And, Sanjay, you and I are both dads and our kids all are over 12 and fully vaccinated. There are a lot of parents out there, according to surveys, who are hesitant about getting 5 to 11-year-old kids vaccinated. Tell them why they should not be.

GUPTA: I think, first of all, you want to be thoughtful but not hesitant about this. I think when you at these vaccines and look at the trial process it has gone through, you're really asking yourself, does the benefit outweigh the risk. I will tell you that you just saw some of the benefits there in terms of preventing some of these things. We often think about just of life or death, but people getting sick, people having long-term symptoms from COVID, people needing hospitalization, and, again, much less likely in kids, but it happens.

Jake, you know, we talk about other vaccines from time to time, the chicken pox vaccine, which was a big deal when it was made available in the country, a lot of people were clamoring for it. Before the vaccines, chicken pox claimed about 100 children's lives in a year. And that was a lot. It was so many that people really wanted the vaccine. We are talking about a disease that obviously 700-some children have died from this. So, just and contextually, it is important sometimes to keep that in mind. And also the side effects for the 5 to 11-year-olds seem even lower, smaller than kids who are older, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Sanjay, thank you so much, good to see you, as always.

Still ahead, the issues that voters care about most, as we stand by for the first results from the Virginia governor's race, and other races across the country, stay with us.



COOPER: Well, much of the country is watching as Virginia voters choose a governor tonight. We're closing in on the first results and we're getting a read of the issues voters care about most in Virginia. Let's go back to David Chalian with our exit polls. So, what are you seeing?

CHALIAN: Hey, Anderson, yes. Just a reminder, this exit poll encompasses all voters, whether they voted early, in person, voted absentee by mail or voted today on Election Day, and we asked folks of these five issues, which are your most important that you think is the most important issue facing Virginia. Economy and jobs runs away with it, 33 percent of Virginia voters today said that the economy and jobs was number one, education, 24 percent said that, 16 percent said taxes. This, I think, is really interesting. Just 13 percent of Virginia voters said coronavirus is the number one issue. Thinks about what a difference a year makes on that, and then 9 percent said abortion.

We also asked Virginia voters today, do you support requiring a vaccine at work that employers require employees to get vaccinated. This is a majority support position. 54 percent of Virginia voters do support an employer requirement, 43 percent oppose.

How about parent's involvement in their kid's education? This has been the issue in these last several weeks in this race. A majority of Virginia voters say a lot. That's how much parental say should occur in schools. 53 percent say a lot, 31 percent say some, only 10 percent say not much, 3 percent not at all. And this is the comment that has been haunting Terry McAuliffe from that debate at the end of September.

And then the economy, the basic which was always asked, what do you think the condition of the economy is, 8 percent say excellent, 47 percent say good.


So a majority of the Virginia voters have a positive outlook on the economy, 35 percent say not so good, and 8 percent say poor, Anderson.

COOPER: David Chalian, thanks. We'll have more exit poll information, coming up.

David Axelrod, when the majority of the commonwealth of Virginia cares about education, and wants -- and parents want involvement in their children's education, when you have the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe saying, quote, I don't think that the parents should be telling schools what they should teach, how's that going to go?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I recognize a rhetorical question when I hear them.

Look, that was a disaster for him. You know, I think the context was a little skewed, but the bite was there, and when he said it, it triggered. And Youngkin and the Republicans seized on it, and it has clearly galvanized voters.

You know, you said at the beginning that the nation is watching Virginia, it's not that the nation is concerned about the quality of leadership in Virginia, they're looking for augurings about the future. And one thing that people are going to be looking at is how -- if Youngkin wins, how did he price some of that suburban vote back?

COOPER: And also, what does that mean for the Republican Party out there, and can you be a Republican and not support the former president and still vote Republican?

AXELROD: I mean, there was a little -- there were many nods here to some of the cultural issues that Trump championed, soft core versions of it. So -- but yes, Youngkin kept Trump at an arm's length in the general election, used some of issues to the advantage, but he is like the Mr. Roger's version of that.

COOPER: Gloria, with the polls closing at 7:00 p.m. tonight, there's -- this could go either way, and this is one of those election nights where you do not know -- GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It could -- it could

really go either way, and the interesting thing about Youngkin as a candidate in Virginia is that people didn't know much about him. He did not have a decisive primary where he would take sides on Donald Trump, pro-Donald Trump, anti-Donald Trump. You know, he had a convention.

He's a businessman. He started to run as a businessman, kind of a establishment businessman. Terry McAuliffe handed him, as David is saying, an issue on a silver platter.

So, he looked like somebody who things were not going so well, and I'm disappointed in Joe Biden, they promised a lot of stuff. They didn't deliver. They're in Washington, forming circular firing squads, can't get anything done, and they look at Glenn Youngkin, a suburban dad, Terry McAuliffe looks like a suburban dad, too, but they looked at Glenn Youngkin, okay. So he could become, and he could become they wanted.

One of those things was I want to be involved in my kids' schools. And this is for suburban women could become a very big issue.

AXELROD: Before you move on, I just want one point to make, is how blue is Virginia really? It has been trending, but the history of Virginia has been that it has voted against the party of the incumbent president in almost every election. At 10 of the last 11. In fact, Terry McAuliffe is the only one who defied it in 2013.

So if Youngkin wins, it is going to be reverting back to type. But it's stunning because just a year ago, Joe Biden carried the state by ten points.

GLORIA: And I just had one other little thing so interesting to me about Youngkin, he didn't have surrogates on the campaign trail with him. So, if Donald Trump said I wanted to go on the campaign trial, well, he didn't have surrogates on the campaign trail, Mr. president. Very clever.

COOPER: Van, what you see tonight?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, first of all, it is not over, you do have the grassroots folks out there fighting for this on the Democratic Party side. The stakes are high. When this election is over in Virginia, we will know have we seen the emergence of the delta variant of Trumpism. The delta variant of Trumpism.

In other words, Youngkin, same disease, but spreads a lot faster and can get a lot more places. The suburbs if they fall to him --

COOPER: That's implying that Youngkin is more dangerous than the former president.

JONES: No, well, more easy to spread.

COOPER: OK. JONES: More easy to spread, because if you are looking at what he is doing, he is playing footsie with the worst of Trumpism. He is putting himself forward as a champion of parent, this is a referendum on parents rights, but he's not talking about -- but he is using all of the critical race theory head fakes and head nods which is a softer version of a very, virulent anti anti-black posture.

So, I think this is a very big deal, because if this is a pathway, if you can flirt with Trumpism, if you can flirt with Trump, and still win this the suburbs, that is a new development for us.

COOPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm sorry, I have to totally disagree with virtually everything that you said.


JONES: Tell me why?

JENNINGS: I will tell you why.

Because Democrats since January 6, really since Donald Trump got elected, but let's go back to January 6th, have demanded, asked for, begged for, pleaded for Republican candidates who would not do what you just said which is, you know, embrace Trumpism and sort of run the kind of races and style that he runs.

Youngkin has rejected it. He has said it was wrong, he wasn't part of it. Donald Trump hasn't been in Virginia campaigning for him. In fact, there is a pent-up demand, in my opinion, to make America boring again, with standard issue, run-of-the-mill conservative Republican candidates like Glenn Youngkin and like the candidates who did well down ballot in 2020.

So, a Republican comes along and does exactly what everybody says they want which is, hey, let's have Republicans who don't act like Donald Trump. And you still beat them about the head and neck and claim they are Donald Trump.

And then, Joe Biden takes it a step further and says hey, watch out, people wearing sweater vests are white supremacists. Have you been in Virginia in October? Everyone's wearing fleece vests.

This kind of beating up Republicans over Donald Trump is not going to work. That's why this race is so close. Youngkin is one the issues. Democrats --

COOPER: If he wins tonight, it certainly sends a message to a lot of Democrats out there tonight.

We got to take a quick break. We are nearing the top of the hour. Stay with us for the first results in the Virginia governor's race that could set the tone for the midterms and beyond.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We are just minutes away from the first results on this election night in America. Polls are about to close in the most closely watched race tonight, in the commonwealth of Virginia. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe is running to win back his old job and keep that office in Democratic control. He is in a very competitive matchup with first-time Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin.

This contest, of course, has significant national implications, and could offer a roadmap for the midterms next year and the 2024 presidential election, and beyond that.

Also, tonight, Virginia is about to get its first woman and its first woman of color as lieutenant governor, no matter who wins. We are awaiting results from the race between Democrat Hala Ayala and Republican Winsome Sears, as we count down the first votes.

Let's go to Sara Murray at the Virginia Department of Elections in Richmond.

Sarah, what are you hearing from election officials in terms of turnout?

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are waiting to get a briefing on that pretty soon now. Now, we are expecting to hear from them, you know, how they think turnout is going and, of course, if there have been any hiccups throughout the day. If they think impacted voting or they think could impact counting later.

As of earlier today, everything was running smoothly. There was a jammed machine in one place. There was a minor power outage in another. But they were expecting, hoping things will go smoothly today. If there is any change to that, we will know soon.

TAPPER: All right. Sara Murray in Richmond.

Let us go now to Boris Sanchez. He is in Manassas, Virginia, which is in Prince William County, one of the northern Virginia counties.

Boris, tell us what you are learning there.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, polls have yet to close here in Prince William County. But already, the 2021 gubernatorial race has exceeded expectations, surpassing the last gubernatorial race in Virginia by nearly 20,000 votes.

Officials here at headquarters in Prince William County are expecting results as early as 7:15 p.m. where a batch of mail-in ballots that they have been tabulating for the last few weeks are likely to be posted. We will keep you updated with the very latest information as we get it, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Boris Sanchez in Manassas, Virginia.

Let's go to Pamela Brown now, who's at our voting desk.

And, Pamela, you are taking a closer look at how the votes will be reported this evening. Tell us more.


As of this morning, more than 88,000 absentee by mail ballots still had not been returned. They have to be postmarked by today, arrive by Friday to be counted.

Let's look at Fairfax County. That is the state's most populous county. That county plans to count early votes first. In Fairfax, nearly 165,000 pre-election day ballots were cast. As of Monday, 55,000 by mail compared to roughly 110,000 in person.

Let's go to Chesterfield County. That is a swing county right near Richmond, the state's capital. It plans to start counting election-day ballots, first.

Also, in chesterfield, 67,000 pre-election day ballots were cast nearly 14,000 by mail and 53,000 in person. And then, let's take a look now at Richmond where it plans to count ballots as they are ready in Richmond, nearly 27,000 pre-election ballots were cast, 6,000 by mail and 20,000 in person.

We should note, typically, early votes largely favor Democrats. But there in Virginia, both candidates put an emphasis on early voting.

TAPPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's go to John King. He is at the magic wall right now.

John, tell us what you are looking are for right now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, pretty soon, we get to count the votes which is great. The speculation is over now. We got to count votes.

What are we looking for? This is the map of 2021. Obviously, it will start to fill in soon. If you go back to the 2020 presidential map, a big blowout for Joe Biden. That is Glenn Youngkin's challenge.

Democrats have been trending stronger and stronger in Virginia over the last 10 or 15 years. The last Republican win was in 2009. This was the last race for governor in 2017

So what does Glenn Youngkin have to do? He has to run it up out here, this rural red Trump Republican base, has to run it up. But here's the big challenge, Trump was toxic for Republicans in Virginia and everywhere in the suburbs. The population centers of Virginia the suburbs here, the suburbs here, and overwhelmingly in the suburbs here.

And that is the big Youngkin challenge. Can he, Jake, reverse what has been a dramatic decline, a route for Republicans in the suburbs?