Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Republican Youngkin Wins Virginia; Dead Heat In New Jersey Governor's Race. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired November 03, 2021 - 01:00   ET




DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You cannot be a nominee in the Republican Party without his imprimatur which is why Glenn Youngkin accepted his imprimatur when he was a candidate at the beginning of this campaign.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But he refused to let the race be defined around the frame you just put forward.


AXELROD: Because he did very well on the politics.

JENNINGS: He clearly and flatly stated that he rejected January the 6th. He rejected the rioters. He clearly said Joe Biden is the President of the United States. All of the things that Democrats say, he said Joe Biden won, I reject January 6th.

So I agree with you. I think Republicans should do exactly what he did, acknowledge reality and run your own race and not let Democrats force you to talk about it when you've answered the question --


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Right now, there's a 4,000-vote lead between the governor candidates in New Jersey.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Youngkin also talked about what he called election integrity. Yes, Joe Biden was duly elected. If that can work for other candidates in primaries, because the a priori question is do you believe that Joe Biden is the freely and fairly elected President of the United States?

And if a Republican candidate cannot answer that --

JENNINGS: You raise a great question.


JENNINGS: Glenn Youngkin answered that question clearly. Turn out massive, voted for him in huge numbers. I'm just saying, they turned out big. It didn't bother them one bit. So if I'm looking at running a race, I'm looking at how he handled it as a template. He made a clear answer, a fair answer and a legitimate answer.

AXELROD: And he didn't have to run in a primary.

BORGER: That's the thing.

AXELROD: That's the toll you have to pass through to be a Republican nominee. You have to acknowledge there's something wrong with the last election because that's what the vast majority of Republican voters now believe, because that's what they've been told again and again and again by the president -- by the former president and the amen chorus out there.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to say a couple things. Scott's right about a couple things. We can't just keep getting blown out in these rural areas. Losing by 70 percent in a bunch of those counties, versus 90 percent.


JONES: That's hard to overcome. You have to recognize in the Democratic Party it's a double-barrel threat. You're losing 80 percent, 90 percent, all of the rural counties in every state. You can't do that. At the same time, they are nibbling our cookie when it comes to urban voters and African Americans.

In Virginia, for the first time I've ever seen, the Republicans had bilingual literature, they went after Black and Latino voters. Then the numbers paid off. We're sitting here, in our circular firing squad, complaining all night, you do have a Republican Party that's got a double-barrel attack on our ability to put together a winning coalition.

At the end of the day, these guys are serious. We have to take these guys more seriously. It's over. The whole Anti-Trump resistance being the only rationale for us to be a party, that is dead tonight. Dead, over.

What is our rationale going forward?

What is our governing coalition going forward?

And what are the things we can use to put this thing together?

If we can't figure out the tough problems, we'll be sitting here in 12 minutes with our hands in heads.

AXELROD: The erosion of the Democratic Party in the rural areas can't be ignored. It goes to something we were talking about before. You have to approach voters with respect. You have to show up and listen and you have to respond. And that hasn't been done.

That is clearly part of it. And you have to recognize, the reason that Democrats have lost, even at the margins, voters in the African American community, voters in the Hispanic community, these are working-class voters, who look at the Democratic Party and see it as an effete party.

So we have to have a dialogue with the voters and make the case. You know.


COOPER: Glenn Youngkin is about to appear in Virginia. Let's watch.




YOUNGKIN: Wow. Wow. Wow. Thank you. Wow. Amazing.

All righty, Virginia. We won this thing.


YOUNGKIN: How much fun?

How much fun?

First of all, thank you for waiting. Waiting longer than we thought. Breakfast will be served shortly. Amazing. Well, first, let me thank Suzanne. Let me thank Suzanne. Just --


YOUNGKIN: I have said many, many times that the Lord knew what he was doing because I need her a lot more than she needs me. When I told you on that fateful Friday afternoon, that a conviction in my heart to serve Virginians, you did respond. You responded with grace and support and unconditional love. Thank you. Thank you.


YOUNGKIN: I have to thank my amazing kids. I'm not sure they were all onboard at the beginning. Guys, I want to thank you. Grant, Anna, John, Thomas. I love you guys. I love you guys. I want to thank my beloved Commonwealth of Virginia.


YOUNGKIN: My fellow Virginians --


YOUNGKIN: We stand here this morning. At this defining moment, defining moment that, yes, started with two people on a walk. And a defining moment that is now millions of Virginians walking together.


YOUNGKIN: Walking together, sharing dreams and hopes. Just like the ones that have always been planted on my own heart. Dreams and hopes for a Virginia that soars, a Virginia that never settles, a Virginia where the Virginia promise comes alive. For everyone that calls this Virginia home.


YOUNGKIN: Together. Together.


YOUNGKIN: We will change the trajectory of this commonwealth.


YOUNGKIN: Friends, we are going to start that transformation on day one that transformation on day one. There's no time to waste. Our kids can't wait. We work in real people time, not government time.


YOUNGKIN: So on day one, we're going to work. We're going to restore excellence in our schools.


YOUNGKIN: We will invest the largest education budget in the history of the commonwealth. We're going to invest in teachers, new facilities, special education. We're going to introduce choice within our public school system.


YOUNGKIN: How about that?

Choice within the public school system. We're going to start with 20 charter schools. And we're going to make a down payment and close the gap on giving parents an opportunity to select where their kids go to school. Friends, we're going to embrace our parents, not ignore them.


YOUNGKIN: We're going to press forward with a curriculum that includes listening to parents input. A correct curriculum that allow children to run as fast as they can, teaching them how to think, enabling their dreams, to soar. We're going to re-establish excellence in our schools.


YOUNGKIN: We are fighting for parents and students and teachers in our schools. We will reduce our cost of living on day one. We will declare the largest tax refund in the history of Virginia.

We're going to eliminate the grocery tax. Suspend the most recent hike in the gas tax. Double everybody's standard deduction. And we are going to cut taxes of the retirement income of our veterans. (APPLAUSE)

YOUNGKIN: We're going to save Virginia families $1,500 year one. We're going to keep our communities safe. We're going to comprehensively fund law enforcement because they stand up for us and we are going to stand up for them.

Higher salaries, better equipment, more training. Programs like unit and the community to work to build trust between law enforcement and those they protect and serve. We're going to invest in our behavioral health system. And finally, we will replace the entire parole board on day one.


YOUNGKIN: On day one, we're going to jump-start our jobs and lift up this economy. We're going to get this economy moving again, growing 400,000 new jobs, fostering 10,000 start-up businesses. Friends, Virginia will be open for business.


YOUNGKIN: It's time for Virginia to be the place where everywhere wants to live, not leave. A place where the relentless pursuit for a better life, for prosperity is not burdens or blocked by self- interested politicians, who are more focused on their futures than those they were elected to serve.



Over 100,000 miles on the campaign trail, I heard stories that were unique and powerful. But the reality is, the challenge of overcoming a culture where the state overwhelms self-empowerment is all-too common. For too long, we've been expected to shelve our dreams, to shelve our hope, to settle for low expectations. We will not be a commonwealth of low expectations. We'll be a commonwealth of high expectations.


YOUNGKIN: And, friends, all of that has changed tonight.


YOUNGKIN: A campaign that came from nowhere. But we were joined by neighbors and friends of all races, of all religions, of all ages, of all political ideologies. And it turned into a movement.


YOUNGKIN: This stopped being a campaign long ago. This is the spirit of Virginia coming together like never before. The spirit of Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Monroe. Standing up and taking our commonwealth back.


YOUNGKIN: My fellow Virginians, this is our moment. It's our moment for parents, grandparents, for aunts, uncles, neighbors, to change children's lives. It's our time to turn that vision into a reality.

A vision where Virginians have power, the power that resided in the marbled halls of Richmond, at the kitchen tables, held together with the bond of spirit, liberty and freedom.


YOUNGKIN: Especially kitchen tables where breakfast is eaten after a midnight shift. It will be to the people, for the people, it will be of the people.


YOUNGKIN: From the farms of the Shenandoah Valley, to the docks and shipyards of Hampton Roads, to the coal fields of West Virginia, to the banks of the St. James River, to the memorials in Arlington International Cemetery.


YOUNGKIN: This is our Virginia to build together. And we are going to go to work on day one. There are always those -- there's those that say that hill is too steep to climb. We are empowered. We're empowered by a conviction, a righteous conviction. We're strengthened by our collective belief in the Virginia promise.

Let's climb that hill together. Let's reinvigorate our future. Let's reinvigorate our amazing Commonwealth of Virginia. Together, together. Together. Together. We can build a new day, a new day for Virginians, where, yes, we soar and we never settle.

A new day where all Virginians, all of us, can deserve to look forward to grabbing, to aspiring, to dreaming and then achieving, that great Virginia promise. God bless you all. God bless the Commonwealth of Virginia.


YOUNGKIN: And let's go.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The next governor of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, accepting victory at 1:19 am on Wednesday. We saw the split-screen there, the Republican declaring victory, just as President Biden touched down in the United States, back from his trip.

The president had predicted they would be calling the race around 1:00 am. He just said that it would be the Democrat who would be declaring victory. He was a little bit wrong about that. We should also note, history was made this evening in the Commonwealth

in Virginia. Winsome Sears is the first woman elected lieutenant governor and I believe the first African American woman ever elected statewide in the history of Virginia.

You saw and you heard -- I saw some liberals and Democrats on Twitter saying that Glenn Youngkin didn't run on policies. That is inaccurate. There were issues; they were very local, getting rid of the grocery store tax, allowing public school choice, allowing parents to have more of a say in their kids' education.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. He campaigned on issues that mattered to Virginians. Some of those issues were national sensibilities, like education. That's an issue that is resonating across the country, because of the pandemic, really.

He saw that, his campaign saw that and he seized on it. It was relevant in Virginia because it was already there. He did that with such a contrast with Terry McAuliffe, who made it such a national campaign and made it all about not just Democratic abilities in Washington but most importantly he made it about Donald Trump.


BASH: And trying to use Glenn Youngkin as a foil to equate him with Donald Trump. It didn't work.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Listening to Youngkin there, he sounded like a garden variety Republican, the kind of Republicans we all used to cover prior to Donald Trump.

He is pro-business, he is pro-school choice. He threw in some references to unconditional love and grace, signaling his faith, in the way Republicans tend to do. There was a bit of the culture war there but it wasn't the dominant factor in the way we've seen with other Republicans running, in the Trump era, primarily Donald Trump.

So this is a template I think you will see Republicans follow, going back to their DNA.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Just remember American politics is a both/and proposition. We live in very polarized times. Obviously, he got the Republican base out. That's clear in the vote returns across the commonwealth.

But you got to win the middle. When you look at Youngkin tonight, he won independents by 9 points, one year after Joe Biden won independents by 19 points, against Donald Trump, a 28-point swing, of this 30 percent piece of the electorate that is the middle, the independents.

And that's what is going to scare Democrats more than anything else.

TAPPER: Absolutely. Meanwhile, I'm still curious what's going on up I- 95 in New Jersey.

John King, what's the latest there?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The big wow, you're talking about Virginia.

Will we get a double wow or a whoa out of New Jersey?

With 81 percent reporting, the Republican candidate in the lead by a narrow 21,000 votes. But Jack Ciattarelli, trying to do what would be an even bigger upset than Youngkin did in Virginia; 49 percent for the incumbent Democratic governor, Phil Murphy.

Was it possible for Terry McAuliffe to come back, once Youngkin pulled ahead in Virginia?

Is it possible for Phil Murphy to come back?

It is possible. But we're down, 81 percent of the estimated vote in.

Looking at the Republican lead, where can that come from?

The Republican was leading in Bergen County. That's flipped the last hour or so. This is the biggest county of the state.

Move to Essex County. This is Newark and the area around Newark. It's a huge Democratic area. You see 73 percent for the incumbent candidate, 30 percent of the vote, shy of that, still remaining in Essex County, a deep blue county.


KING: Phil Murphy can make up votes there. Over here, Hudson County, Jersey City, a strong Democratic area. He is pulling 74 percent. No guarantee, Phil Murphy would say 74 percent. If he stays anywhere close to that, you see the big margin there. There's a possibility, again, of making up where he is shy right now.

A few other places you walk through, looking, 79 percent in Middlesex County, 54 percent to 45 percent. Another place that is blue, has been blue all night, where Murphy can make up votes.

Move down here to Mercer County. Only 61 percent of the vote counted here. Trenton, a big suburban area. A little more competitive up to the north. But still, a blue county, where a lot of votes are coming in, if the margins stay there.

There's room for Phil Murphy to make that up. There's room. It's not guaranteed. We know the votes that are counted have the Republican ahead. We know as this goes deeper and deeper in the morning, you look at the red Virginia and the shakiness of the Democrats here in New Jersey, this off-year Election Night is sending a giant message to the Democrats.

The question is whether this is overwhelming or whether they can eke this out in New Jersey. Looks like we will be counting after breakfast to solve that one.

TAPPER: Plausible paths for both Ciattarelli and Murphy in New Jersey. Thank you, John King.

Election Night coverage continues with Don Lemon right now.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go, everyone. Our very late but very important coverage. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you so much for joining us. CNN coverage continues on a very big night for Republicans and a major wake-up call for Democrats.

This is what CNN is projecting. Glenn Youngkin has defeated Terry McAuliffe in Virginia's governor's race, a state that Joe Biden won easily just a year ago. Youngkin is giving Republicans a new playbook for how to run in 2022 and 2024.

We have a lot to cover, including New Jersey, as well. The governor's race there is one that no one saw coming. Republican Jack Ciattarelli and Governor Phil Murphy neck and neck in a tight race. Still watching votes come in tonight. There's a lot more to get to.

In New York, that's happening, as CNN projects Eric Adams has won the New York City mayoral race, after defeating more progressive candidates in the Democratic primary and running on a public safety message amid worries over a rise of violent crime.

In Boston, the mayoral candidate there and city council's Michelle Wu declaring victory. She's the first woman, first Asian American to be elected mayor of Boston.

To Buffalo, New York. The moderate Democrat and four-time mayor, Byron Brown has a wide lead over his opponent, self-described Democratic socialist India Walton. Brown ran as a write-in candidate. Assuming the write-in votes are for him, he is looking strong.

In Minneapolis, voters clearly rejecting a policing overhaul after protests against George Floyd's killing spread across this country and the world last year. Evan McMorris-Santoro is at Jack Ciattarelli headquarters.

What are you hearing from the team?

This is a tight race right now.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, that's right. It is really tight. You can see, at Ciattarelli headquarters in Bridgewater, New Jersey, the party is over. They're taking stuff down.

But the election is not. About an hour or so ago, Jack Ciattarelli came out and told his supporters to hang on, that votes are still coming in.


JACK CIATTARELLI (R-NJ), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Every single time it's gone too far off track, the people of this state have pushed, pulled and prodded it right back to where it needs to be. (APPLAUSE)

CIATTARELLI: So listen, sometime real soon, we'll do this again and we will declare victory.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So the Ciattarelli campaign wants to count every vote. But the fact they were here having that conversation is an absolutely huge blow to incumbent Phil Murphy. The Republicans here at this event, they felt good about their guy.


They felt good about this campaign.

But nobody thought it was going to be a night as good as it looks like it might be here in Bridgewater, New Jersey -- Don.

LEMON: Both Ciattarelli and Murphy, both saying, let's count every single vote.

Thank you very much, Evan. Appreciate that.

I want to get now to CNN's M.J. Lee. She is at Governor Phil Murphy's headquarters in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

M.J., hello to you. This is not how Governor Murphy's team really quite frankly expected tonight to go down. They still think they can prevail, right?

M.J. LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Don. I mean, the Murphy team is not trying to sugarcoat the fact that this is not the evening that they had hoped for or that they had expected. This was a much tougher night than what they were hoping to see. But yes, at the end of the night, this is what advisers are telling me. They say that they do expect still that the governor is going to pull it out, that the numbers will ultimately flip.

And here's the thinking behind that, Don. The thinking is that the campaign right now feels like they have a good grasp of where the outstanding votes are. They know where the votes that still haven't been counted are going to be coming from. And that at the end of the day that those votes will end up breaking for them. And that is why they still have confidence, they say, at least right now that this race is going to break for the governor.

Now the big question that they actually don't know the answer to, that they don't have a great sense of, is when that race might flip, when those numbers might flip. Behind me, the election night party, what was -- what they were hoping would be a victory party, has broken down. That's why we're now set up outside. And we heard the governor come into the evening and speak to his supporters who had come to show their support, hoping to see a victory speech.

And he actually apologized that this was not a celebration this evening. Take a listen.


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


LEE: Murphy, also in his speech, talked about being the campaign that was following the science and facts. Clearly this was a jab at his opponent, Jack Ciattarelli. But yes, again, this is not the evening that Murphy was hoping for. But the headline is that at least for the time being, they still do believe that in the end they are going to pull this one out -- Don.

LEMON: All right, M.J., thank you very much.

From New Jersey, a very closely watched race. One happening now in Virginia -- well, at least it's over. CNN's Eva McKend is in -- at Glenn Youngkin's headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia.

Hello to you, Eva. Listen, Glenn Youngkin just finished speaking and talked about his plans for day one. A very rousing speech, as a matter of fact.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was. You know, Republicans who have long felt as though the governor's mansion was out of reach, just elated tonight, Don. And, you know, Youngkin, he ran a campaign that really reached out to a broad cross section of Republicans. He appealed to moderates, he appealed to Trump voters, he even appealed to some disaffected Democrats.

He was able to peel away some folks who have said, listen, there has been more than a decade of Democrats in the governor's mansion. And I still do not believe they are delivering for the state. So he was just palatable to enough voters to pull out a victory here.

I do think that it's worth noting, though, that in the last several weeks, this issue of critical race theory, even though it is not being taught in Virginia public schools it became so core in this race. And Youngkin mentioned it in every stump speech. It was his loudest applause line, that he was going to ban it even though it was not being taught in Virginia public schools. But he didn't mention it tonight.

He didn't mention CRT or Dr. King, only a mention of charter schools. Surprising because it was an issue that he used in recent weeks to really rally people and turn out voters, but it wasn't mentioned this evening in his victory speech -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Eva. Appreciate that.

We want to get now to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Jeff is at Terry McAuliffe headquarters in McQueen, Virginia. So, Jeff, we heard earlier from Terry McAuliffe. He did not concede,

he said he wants to count every vote, but they know what's happening.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Don, they do know what's happening. And take a look at the empty ballroom behind me. That is a pretty good metaphor there when we just saw Eva McKend, our colleague, in Chantilly right after the Glenn Youngkin speech. That is what Democrats are processing now.

I am told by an aide to Terry McAuliffe just a few moments ago that he has not yet called Glenn Youngkin. They have not conceded. But they are not arguing that they're winning this race. The reality is the defeat is setting in to the Democratic Party.


And what a split-screen moment it was, with President Biden landing on Air Force One from a week abroad, at the exact time that Glenn Youngkin was walking on to the stage. This is a major defeat for the Democratic Party. Yes, it's a referendum on President Biden, and so much more. The finger pointing already is beginning. A lot of fodders to this blame here. The dysfunction in Washington certainly is part of that. Underestimating Glenn Youngkin also a part of that.

So these things will certainly be discussed in the hours and days to come. But for now, Terry McAuliffe was trying to make a bid to become -- win a second term as governor of Virginia. Of course Virginia, the only state of the country that allows its governors to serve only one term at a time. He was trying to run for his old job back. And simply had that handed to him. It's a close race.

Yes, there are still votes coming in here in Northern Virginia, the suburbs of Washington. But the reality is, those independent voters swung dramatically, from President Biden only a year ago to Glenn Youngkin. So certainly seen as a rejection of the Biden policies, the Democratic policies. So the questions now looking forward, what does this mean for both parties going into 2022 and in those midterm races?

It's always, you know, easy to over sort of judge what these off-year races mean. But no question, there are big lessons here for both parties.

But, Don, one question, Donald Trump's role in all of this. He of course was on the sidelines of this race. Will he stay on the sidelines in 2022 or be a central part of the action? So of course many conversations to come here. But tonight, a very dispiriting defeat for Democrats.

LEMON: Yes. That's going to be really hard for the former guy, as they say. Thank you, Jeff Zeleny. I appreciate that.

We'll get straight to the magic wall now. CNN's John Avlon. John Avlon with the magic.

So, listen, that was something that with the momentum, right? We saw the momentum happening with Youngkin. But what is happening in New Jersey right now, was -- I mean, this is a very, very tight race. No one expected it to be this close.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Well, let's take the two states in order because I think they tell a story.


AVLON: Right? Virginia, Democrats had won every statewide race since 2009. Glenn Youngkin pulling off a big win for Republicans. But let's look at how it happened for a second. Let's take a look at where Youngkin is overperforming Donald Trump. OK?

Everywhere. Every county. Red, blue. Glenn Youngkin doing better than Donald Trump. What does that mean? It means that he kept the Trump base but he also brought back independents, big time. Moderates, suburban voters, people who'd stayed away for Donald Trump in his reelection.

Now let's return the favor for Terry McAuliffe. Where does he overperform Joe Biden? Nowhere. Nowhere. Not a single county. That's the fundamental problem. Now you can say that there's a different turnout model for presidential versus off-year gubernatorial election. A million more people voted for president when Biden won the state.

So let's do apples to apples first.

LEMON: But it's also the campaign you're running, as well.

AVLON: It's the campaign you're running as well. But let's just do apples to apples with the governor, OK? Let's take a look at what -- the counties that Northam won, the current governor, four years ago. All right. These are all counties that Northam won just four years ago. You can see that Youngkin has pulled some of these back. Let's pay special attention to this area, the southeastern part of the state.

This is actually where Youngkin is originally from. Virginia Beach, Northam. This area is a huge population center. He's pulled this off. Let's take, just to look, 2017, what it looked like. Boom. All blue. This year, Glenn Youngkin making real inroads. And as John King says, the margins matter.

This is a big deal. This is the story of how Virginia went down. Youngkin winning back moderates and independents and pulling some of these counties that Democrats thought they had safely in their pocket. So that's the tale of the tape when it comes to Virginia.

LEMON: Yes. All right. To New Jersey now because New jersey is still too close to call. We know what's happening in Virginia. Right? Youngkin is the governor-elect. But in New Jersey, I mean, no one expected, especially Phil Murphy, they said, Phil Murphy got a big lead, he's going to be OK. But the Republican is winning now.

AVLON: Yes. He's winning. Now this is still tight.

LEMON: At this point. AVLON: 0.8 percent, this is less than 20,000 votes. But this is a real

shocker because Murphy's people in the polling seemed to show him well ahead, in a state that Biden again walked away with. That is not the case. Now 82 percent of the vote reporting. A lot of the votes are still out in these blue areas which are among the most populous counties in the state. That's key. A lot of mail-in votes waiting to come in. But just take a look for a second at the dynamic. Want to show you a tale of two Murphys, because it really shows what's changed in the last four years.

In 2017, Murphy gets elected. Easily, 15 points. And take a look at where his strong points are. Top of the state, bottom of the state. Pretty easy. Now see where things are tonight. Boom. A lot of those blue counties flipped red. This is tight. It is still too close to call. A lot of votes is out in places that are Democratic and populous strongholds.


But Phil Murphy, his position has eroded in the Garden State big time. And that's a tale of where we are, as Republicans versus Democrats in states that Democrats thought they could take for granted. It turns out they can't.

LEMON: All right, John Avlon. Thank you very much.

We're still watching New Jersey. We'll get back to John Avlon at the magic wall in just a moment. We're here until the foreseeable future. We don't know when they're going to let us go home. So we got our caffein, we're highly caffeinated, we're ready to go.

I want to bring in now Bakari Sellers, Alice Stewart, Mark Preston, and Laura Baron-Lopez.

Hello, good evening, good morning to all of you. What a night.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: What a night. I mean, just talk about a wake-up call for Democrats.

LEMON: Is that the message? What's the message?

PRESTON: Well, the message tonight is that the liberal policies that are being pushed right now through Washington are not necessarily very successful. They're not successful because they haven't been able to get through anything at this point. We see Joe Biden's agenda really stalled. And then you're seeing what these voters in New Jersey and Virginia are looking at Washington right now.

I think you can see that these races are greatly influenced by what is happening in Washington or what is not happening in Washington. And you're also seeing candidates right now that are running with the blessing of Trump but they're not Trump candidates. And I think that's exactly what we saw happening in Virginia.

And I could have told you two weeks ago, I live in Virginia, the momentum for Youngkin, and I'm talking about Republicans who have left the party or who were no longer Trump folks anymore, were putting yard signs out in their yards. We hadn't seen that in a couple of years.

LEMON: We could see it in the reporting. And listen, you live there because you see it on the ground. We could see it in the reporting. We could see in the polling, as well.


LEMON: That Glenn Youngkin had the wind at his back. He clearly had the momentum. And Terry McAuliffe is struggling. I don't think it's -- listen, I'm sure it's a shocker and a surprise for inside the beltway, the Democrats there. But for most of us, this was not a shocker. For most around the country, if you're watching the news, saw that Glenn Youngkin was pulling ahead and was probably going to win this.

Bakari, I mean, listen, 10 percentage points that Joe Biden won this state just a year ago and now CNN is projecting that Youngkin is the winner tonight. You know, gave his victory speech. What is happening here?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It may be a wake-up call but there are a lot of us who have been warning and Democratic leadership is just -- kept pressing the snooze button. Like they get caught up in their bubble and they don't want to listen. This is not a referendum on liberal versus progressive versus moderate in the Democratic Party. This is a referendum on the fact that they haven't gotten anything done.

This is -- my problem is, that this lies in the lap of Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn, Steny Hoyer, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and the list goes on and on and on.

LEMON: How can you say this is about between progressives and --

SELLERS: Because the fact is that we elected you not to have chaos. Donald Trump was a president of chaos. People wanted stability. And what happens is you have Manchin and Sinema. You have Jayapal, you have your House leadership, your Senate leadership. We put Democrats in power to deliver and do something, and what we're seeing is nothing is being done. And sure, no question. The COVID relief packages are great. There's no doubt about that.

However, the transportation package, the reconciliation package. It looks like -- and I hate this term. It looks like Dems are in disarray. And the fact is, they got up there and -- and your momma says this all the time, and my momma says it all the time, too. Democrats feel like their -- it's late but I still won't say it but their stuff don't stink.

LEMON: Right.

SELLERS: Right? And yesterday was the perfect example of it, or a day before yesterday when Joe Manchin goes out there and gives this self- serving press conference where he says absolutely nothing. But he reinforces the narrative that Dems are in disarray. And so yes, my problem is not with the progressive wing. My problem is not with the moderate wing. My problem is with them all. And one more just point that I can't mention, that I can't forget to

mention. Lee Atwater, tonight, wherever he is, is smiling. Because his southern strategy, the race-based political ideology and politics of identity, that the Republicans ran in Virginia, was a master class. And I think the combination of the master class of identity politics, plus the ineptitude of congressional Democrats, led to Glenn Youngkin being able to pull this off tonight so my hat is off to Jeff Roe and everybody else.

LEMON: That is also a messaging problem for Democrats because if Democrats messaged it properly, they could have gotten it across.

SELLERS: We haven't done anything right.

LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, Alice.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's what was the success for the Youngkin campaign. He started out in this race making sure that the people of Virginia understood who he was. He demonstrated that he showed them that he cared. And people don't care -- aren't concerned with what you know until they know that you care.


And once he conveyed that to them, that was a key emphasis. He wasn't focused on the racial issues. He was focused on jobs, he was focused on pocketbook issues, he was focused on education.

SELLERS: I got -- I got to chime in. Anytime that you say you're going to ban critical race theory is something that Glenn Youngkin doesn't even know what it is and it's not taught in K through 12. I appreciated the way that he attempted to thread the needle. I saw a speech recently on the stump where he quoted King and then said he was going to ban critical race theory. He played the race card, there's no doubt about it.

However, you're right. He talked about the grocery tax. He talked about the sales tax. He talked about those hyper local issues. He did all of those things. And when it's a nationalized race, and I'll use another colloquialism because I've been waiting in the back for a long time to get these things off my chest, and we have the platform to do it, to talk about those local issues and then Democrats fumbled the bag every single day, I mean, they aren't producing.


LEMON: Bakari, this is -- hang on. This is the thing. It may not be taught. But Democrats, including the former president Barack Obama, went to the state and said, well, these things don't matter. Basically saying that these things aren't real. Maybe they're not real to them and maybe the critical race theory is not being taught. But for the people of Virginia, they felt that those issues were important.


LEMON: They were in -- SELLERS: No, no, no. For a particular section --

LEMON: And I'm saying that they were.


LEMON: Critical race theory is not being taught there.

SELLERS: A particular section of white voter who feels as if they're being replaced, the anxiety and the angst was driven up by talking about critical race theory. That's not a question. When you're talking about banning "Beloved," Toni Morrison's book, I mean, it's patently absurd. The issue -- I mean, he didn't even mention critical race theory in his acceptance speech tonight.


LEMON: I need to get to a break, Alice. You will be the first one I come to after this breaking news. All right, let's get it. There's a key race alert we need to tell you about.

All right, we're looking at the great state of New Jersey. And there you go, it is tied, neck and neck now, 1974 votes between them. 49.6 percent to 49.6 percent. Jack Ciattarelli and Phil Murphy, the incumbent.

Let's get to John Avlon. John Avlon over at the magic wall. John, tell us what's happening here.

AVLON: Yes. It does not get tighter than this. As you can see, tied 49.6, 49.6. Ciattarelli dropped just under 2,000 votes. How has it changed? Well, take a look where the outstanding votes are because that's going to tell you the way the night is going to go. You'll see the votes were less than 77 percent reporting. Just still a quarter of the vote coming in, is particularly in these populous urban areas. Jersey City, Newark, Essex County, Trent.

And that means there's a lot of room for Murphy to grow and continue to close this gap and maybe even pull away. This is a long way from being done. Don't make any mistake. But you see the closing over the course of the night. Literally a tied race. Look at where the votes are still out. And you can see why Democrats are staying awake and not even coming close to giving up in New Jersey even as Virginia slips away.

LEMON: Well, let's hope they're staying awake and they're watching us. All right. John, we'll check back in with you.

I want to get back to you, Alice. And I promised you'd be the first one. So listen, regardless of what happens here, what's the message? What is the wake-up call for Democrats but what's the takeaway for Republicans?

STEWART: To do exactly what Glenn Youngkin did. You have to read the room. You have to run your race. And you also have to do the math. Read the room, and what are the people in Virginia concerned with? They are concerned with pocketbook issues. They are concerned with education. They are concerned with public safety. And he focused on those issues day after day after day.

You have to do the math. You have to realize that politics is a game of addition. You have to keep the Trump base on board. You have to do so and you also have to engage in addition. Go out to the independent voters. Go out to the voting bloc that typically would not come to you. but you also --

LEMON: Because the Republican Party didn't do under Trump. They didn't expand the base. They didn't -- it wasn't a game of addition, it was a subtraction and I'll put firing up.

STEWART: Yes. They were very deep but they were not broad. And Youngkin understood that. And he also ran the race in terms of -- he was his best surrogate. He was the one that came out and spoke for him. And he did so in a way where he did not alienate Trump to get the wrath of Trump but he also did it in a way where he focused on the policies and not personalities.

The problem with Democrats is they made this about Trump and Trump was not on the ballot. And McAuliffe is the canary in the coal mine. The fact he went in there and died today is a signal that there's danger ahead for Democrats.

LEMON: Listen, I think that both Republicans, quite honestly, this is the gut that have both Republicans and Democrats are tired of talking about very much. They're sick of talking about Trump. They're sick of the news media talking about Trump and they're sick of everyone else, the pundits, the news media, the candidates, all talking about Trump.

I think we have a very interesting conversation, by the way, Alice.


LEMON: What this means for the former president, whether this is good or bad for him. He may be trying to take credit for it but that may not necessarily be so.


Laura Baron-Lopez has been standing by or sitting by very patiently here, watching everybody go back and forth.


LEMON: What did you think? Because Bakari is saying this isn't about the, you know, the progressive or the moderate ring of the Democratic Party -- moderate wings of the Democratic Party. What do you think of this tonight?

BARON-LOPEZ: Well, what I think this race ultimately comes down to is that the president has low approval ratings right now and there's no question that that impacted McAuliffe. It did.

LEMON: Is he the albatross? BARON-LOPEZ: I don't know if he's an albatross. I mean, look, Biden

has time to rebound his numbers before 2022. If these numbers are still as low as they are when they head into the midterms and of course that's going to impact Democrats down ballot. But right now, Biden's approval ratings are really low. Voters in Virginia and in other states are clearly very focused on the economy, on the fact that prices are up, on COVID, how COVID has impacted their schools.

Look, does what is happening in Washington and the squabbling between Democrats, does that potentially also hurt? Yes, but I think that ultimately the race was not about those things. The race was about the economy and COVID.

LEMON: Laura, look at that wall over there, it's just over your left shoulder. I mean, you don't get any closer than that. I mean, that is pretty close. No one thought that Jack Ciattarelli would do this. Everyone thought that Phil Murphy was just going to sail into, you know, re-election. The incumbent was just going to sail into re- election. New Jersey is blue, right?


LEMON: But it shows that maybe not so much. What do you think that means for --

BARON-LOPEZ: Again, it's that Democrats are in power right now, and this is historically what happens when the majority party is faced, the incumbent goes forward and then the opposing party ends up getting an edge. Also we have the pandemic.

LEMON: But this? When you're in charge of the Senate, the House, and the White House?

BARON-LOPEZ: It's a 50-50 Senate, which is also to Bakari's point and to Mark's point, which is why not much is getting through. And a lot of the things that Biden promised that he wanted to get done have yet to be pushed through because of the fact that it's a 50 Senate. It's a three-vote majority in the House. So this isn't a supermajority where, you know, in the time of LBJ or even FDR that they had.

Biden is dealing with a very different makeup in Congress, which is complicating factors as he's trying to get all of these provisions through. Now Democrats are telling me tonight that look, do they think that passing infrastructure and the big social spending package, is it going to save them in 2022? They don't know if it will. They say we could still very well not do well, because the math is kind of stacked against them in the House.

But if they don't pass anything, then they're not going to have much to run on. And so they want a lot of those popular provisions that are in the packages to be able to run on them.

LEMON: Mark Preston, we're in the New Jersey media market here in New York City. And I get to watch the news and they talk about the folks in New Jersey, you know, we're tired of these liberal policies. We want, you know, we want the -- our state to go back to the way it was. New Jersey is -- listen, there are more of those people out there than I think the pollsters took in and the pundits took in. And even the political campaigns, especially Phil Murphy's campaign, that they considered.

PRESTON: So a couple things. One is I was talking to a Republican consultant.

LEMON: By the way, he's looking at the wall right there.

PRESTON: The wall, I just looking -- I was looking up at the numbers but I was talking to a Republican consultant tonight who's involved in all these races and said that Ciattarelli didn't run a good campaign. In fact Ciattarelli like ran a bad campaign, not to take any wind out of his sails tonight. You know, great for him if he wins. It would be amazing. But --

LEMON: Didn't even really know his name here.

PRESTON: Didn't run a great campaign but still thought it was going to be close. This is hours and hours ago.

LEMON: Right.

PRESTON: You know, that I heard that. But it's not surprising, Don. Think about it. The New Jersey suburbs are right outside of liberal New York City. You walk out in these streets tonight, after what we've seen in COVID, the New York City that we knew a couple of years ago is a little bit different than the New York City that we know right now. So as Laura was saying the party in power is going to take the brunt of the anger of the voters, because they're not seeing anything done when it comes to crime.

All they're seeing is big government checks being written. They're seeing people not go back to work, choosing to continue, you know, to get the dole, so to speak, you know, the welfare checks, and you're getting people that are angry. You are getting people that are angry.

SELLERS: To your point, I mean, as much as -- and this is I think, this is a point that Alice would make, as much as we want to talk about the identity politics that Republicans played in Virginia, you look at what's happening in New Jersey, and it pushes back on that narrative just slightly. But what it does do is bolster my earlier point which Laura brought up, is that Democrats have to do something.

The fact is, you can't tell me what Phil Murphy and Terry McAuliffe ran on. I mean, that is one of the larger problems that the Democratic Party has. It's an identity problem. And the question that we have, as much as Republicans have to ask themselves what do they do in the era of Trump, what do Democrats do when Trump ain't on the ballot? That is the question.


LEMON: Alice, we had this conversation. I don't think anyone, Democrats or Republicans, have figured out how to run in a post-Trump era because I don't think -- honestly, I don't think this is good for Donald Trump because basically, I've been using thing analogy for weeks now, basically what Glenn Youngkin did was handled Donald Trump as my grandmother would say, with a long-handled spoon. Right?

You keep them -- the way you stir your gumbo, with a long spoon so that you could get -- you don't have to get close to it. But you still need to get down to the ingredients that are in there. That's exactly what he did. Because he didn't want to embrace Donald Trump. Not at all.

STEWART: Well, and I think it's a very simple lesson. Look, Democrats kept him at the center of their campaign, and they lost. Republicans kept him at arm's length and they won. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the message moving forward is for Republicans to keep the policies of the party front and center and keep Donald Trump and his base on board. But the key is, you have to -- for Democrats, they have to give their voters something to run for, not just something against.

SELLERS: Amen. I mean, Amen.

STEWART: And to Laura's point, when you have a Washington -- when you have a president with a 42 percent approval rating, and independents in this country believe -- 70 percent believe we're headed in the wrong direction, that's a tough difficult road to get out of. And you have to focus on getting independents on board. Because that is the -- that's the key electorate to go after is those independents, and that's what he did.

LEMON: Youngkin won independents by nine points. Here's what people -- here's what I hear people saying they know that is true. Where is Joe Biden? Where is Kamala Harris? Where are the Democrats? As you said, I don't know what their message is.

I don't know what they stand for. Today, as a matter of fact. Perfect messaging as we're talking about this. Today was the first day the Dow closed above 36,000. Like the Dow is soaring today. Did you hear anything? Did anyone say hey -- but it doesn't matter. It's messaging.

SELLERS: That's the frustration. And my frustration is, I've been saying this for a long period of time, and no, I won't be invited to the White House Christmas party this year, and that's fine with me. But my point is like, we can't run on lowering prescription drug costs because we ain't there yet. Right? We can't run on many of the things that are in the Build Back Better plan because we just have been fumbling the bag.

We can't run on infrastructure because we're not there yet. We look like we're a hot mess. We look like we're in disarray. Jayapal and Ro Khanna who's been doing a fabulous job of fighting against the White House or fighting against Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. You have the House, you have the Senate and you have the White House and you have not been able to produce for people.


LEMON: The question is maybe -- but maybe those people, I don't know. I'm just asking, maybe their messaging isn't right. Maybe there's something in what Manchin and Sinema are saying.

SELLERS: My last point, my last point to this, is then you tell black voters who are the base of your party, who are in that southeast Virginia area, that wait a minute, we're going to pass these two bills and then we'll get to voting rights and criminal justice, so you put issues of black voters on the back burner, and you get burned. And so this is just not conducive.

LEMON: We are just getting started. We've got a lot more to come with this nail biter of a night. A big win for Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey now a dead heat. Look at that. 49.6, 49.6. 84 percent of the vote in. 2,000, less than 2,000, fewer I should say than 2,000 votes between them, between Republican Jack Ciattarelli and the Democratic Governor Phil Murphy. Votes are still coming in.

Our special coverage of this continues. That's next.