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Midterm Election Finally Happens; Election Rule Violated by Officials; Republicans Can Feel Their Victory; Republicans Listen More to Voters. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 03:00   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Erica Hill in New York, 3 a.m. here on the U.S. East Coast on election day in America.

Republicans this morning confident they can win control of both Houses of Congress. On the defensive, even in traditionally blue states, thanks in part are growing inflation, rising crime, and Joe Biden's low approval rating.

Republicans have the best chance in the House of Representatives a GOP victory there would bring an end of course to Nancy Pelosi's term as speaker, a role that would most likely go to Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Things in the Senate a bit more competitive. Republicans need to flip just one seat there to have the majority. Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, all considered toss ups at this point, Arizona and New Hampshire tilting Democratic, while North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin are leading or tilting Republican.

President Biden and former President Trump spent election eve out of the campaign trail.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Folks, you got one day until one of the most important elections you heard this time and again, I almost feel guilty repeating it. Our lifetimes are going to be shaped by what happens the next year to three years. It's going to shape what the next couple decades look like.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have poll numbers that are through the roof and so do Republicans. This is going to be a wave. I think there's going to be a very big wave.


HILL: Two of the closest Senate races are in Georgia and Pennsylvania. In the peach state, incumbent Democrat Rafael Warnock hoping to get a majority of the votes to avoid a runoff with his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker. And he says the key here is turnout.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): Everybody is asking me what's going to happen tomorrow. Listen, I am making the case. It's really in your hands. If the people show up, I win. If the people at Georgia show up, I win. If the people at Georgia show up, we win. Are you ready to win this election?

HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: And they're talking about a runoff. And I'm like, runoff? Runoff. Are you talking about runoff? No. We're winning this. We are not talking about no runoff. We're winning this. When we leave, when we leave tomorrow night, we're leaving as winners.


HILL: Another tight contest also shaping up in Arizona where that race is tilting toward Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Kelly. His Republican opponent, Blake Masters has pushed a number of false conspiracies about the 2020 election.


SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): The difference between me and my opponent could not be greater on so many different issues. I feel that Blake Masters and his extreme beliefs are dangerous and wrong for Arizona and the country.

BLAKE MASTERS (R), ARIZONA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: We can't take much more of Biden/Harris. We can't take much more of Mark Kelly just rubber stamping their demented agenda. I really feel like this is a save the country election. Do you agree?


HILL: In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman locked in a tossup with a Republican candidate. Dr. Mehmet Oz. Fetterman is suing also to have several hundred mail-in ballots counted. These are ballots that have missing or incorrect dates on them. In Pittsburgh on Monday, he talked about his progress as well in recovering from that stroke six months ago.


JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: And every day I feel better and better. By January I'll be even better. But, but he'll -- Dr. Oz will still be a fraud.

MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I will bring balance to Washington, but John Fetterman, he'll bring more extreme. And there is no greater example, no greater example of two people that different running for the Senate. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Joining us now live from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, CNN's Athena Jones. So Athenas -- Athena, talk to us a little bit more. John Fetterman going to court over these mail-in ballots. This has been a hot topic, to put it mildly there in Pennsylvania because is what -- because of what is required to be on those ballots. What is happening with that now?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erica. That's right. The fight over mail-in ballots has been going on in this state, certainly for the last couple of years, and there's several issues involved.


A Pennsylvania law requires folks who are voting, sending in an early ballot, a mail-in ballot to date the outside of that envelope and to sign it as well. And the Fetterman campaign is suing election officials because, just last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that election officials cannot open and count these undated or incorrectly dated ballots.

Now, this lawsuit argues that the Federal Civil Rights Act prohibits this sort of thing. They prohibit election officials from denying someone their right to vote over an error or omission that is not material to whether they're qualified to vote.

And so, he has joined in, his campaign has joined with the Democratic senatorial and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees to challenge this law in court. And I should note this is not the only court case dealing with this issue. This is an issue that has been in lit -- a subject to litigation for several months just this year as well.

On Friday, several Pennsylvania groups, including the local chapters of the NAACP and the League of Women voters also filing suit against state election officials in federal court. Saying that these rules, this idea that you have to have the exact correct date on the -- on the outside of this ballot sign the ballot that there are a meaningless technicality that ends up violating people's civil rights.

And so there -- there -- the Fetterman campaign is saying to their voters, try to check your voter -- your ballot status and make sure that there are, if there are any issues, it's called curing, we can go and correct those issues to make sure you do it before the deadline.

And this is not just something may -- he may be talking about a few hundred votes, but we are already seeing this happening in, in Philadelphia. Several, a few thousand votes are having this issue. And we know here in Northampton County, we spoke with an election official earlier. They're also having errors coming back on some of the ballots and giving folks a chance to correct it.

But the Fetterman campaign and these other groups saying, look, having this rule at all is a violation of people's federal civil rights. HILL: So, so as they're on the record for that and we see what is

happening in that aspect. I know you were also talking to local election officials. There's been a lot of talk about how high the turnout has been in early voting in a number of states, whether that's mail-in ballots or actual in-person, early voting. Election officials also working really hard to make sure that on election day things go smoothly.

What were they telling you? What kind of provisions have been made?

JONES: That's exactly right. Well, we're here in Northampton County. This is a swing county in this swing state. We know that President Biden flipped Pennsylvania in 2020. He also flipped this county. This is one of only two counties that he did so.

And we spoke with the county executive here who told us that they are expecting higher than normal turnout. They're seeing a lot of enthusiasm. They're seeing a lot of, I think it was about 41,000, mail-in ballots requested, but about three times as many Democrats requesting and returning those ballots in this county.

As in also that's the case in neighboring Lehigh County. And so that is one reason you're seeing Fetterman and other groups that may you -- may think are align with Democrats really pushing this issue about mail-in balloting. They know it's extremely popular and are concerned about people making minor errors and end up being disenfranchised. Erica?

HILL: Athena, Athena Jones, I appreciate it. Thank you.

And joining me here in New York this hour, two of our finest political commentators here on CNN. Democratic strategist, Hilary Rosen, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Nice to see you both. I'm going to start off with our friend from the commonwealth here since we just left Athena there in Pennsylvania.

Charlie, when we look at this race, there is so much focus on this Senate race in Pennsylvania, but it does break down obviously, into certain counties. Athena was there in Northampton County. I think I heard you say earlier tonight that this is the county you're really focused in on. Tell us why.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first I represented that area, the Lehigh Valley, Northampton, and Lehigh Counties. I live in Lehigh County, and Northampton County is probably one of the best bellwether counties, not only in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but throughout the country.

It's a -- it's a county that had voted for Barack Obama. It had voted for Donald Trump and then for Joe Biden, there aren't too many counties like that in the country. And so, it's a great bellwether and I don't want to be so bold as to say that whoever wins Northampton County will probably win the Senate race.

And I should also note, too, that that's my old seat, and that is among the most competitive House seats in the country. It is the swingiest of swing districts in the -- in the swingiest state in the nation right now. So, so it's a, it's really a very good bellwether.

the Bethlehem Steel Corporation have been the major employer there. It is obviously no longer there. But this is an area that had a very strong industrial tradition. A lot of traditional labor Democrats that lived there, but the area has transitioned over the years. And it's a pretty dynamic region actually. And but it's a great county to watch. It's really increasingly diverse in so many ways, all kinds of voters there. And so, watch that one.


And by the way, they will have their votes counted fairly early on election like they did in 2020. They were -- they were done. And Joe Biden had won that county by a handful of votes. And I said at that moment, Biden was going to win Pennsylvania because of that. And it took us four days to find that out. But that was, they were -- they were pretty quick counting the mail-in votes.

HILL: All right, so we'll be watching for that. You know, Hilary, as we look at what's playing out around the country it's interesting to see some of these historically solid blue areas and district. Things have changed. Part of that is because of redistricting. Part of it is because of the candidates and also because of the issues.

Focusing on the state of New York, there are some of those seats that are more of a contest now. Is this, what do you attribute that to? Is it issues? Is it redistricting? Is it challenges from Governor Hochul at the top. She's facing a much tougher race than anticipated. Is that dragging some of these other races?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, redistricting was a mess here in New York and these congressional candidates in particular didn't have very much time to get to know their new districts. The people most vulnerable right now are actually running in districts where it's, you know, 50 percent completely new voters.

So that is a big piece of this. But these governor races are important, and because they really tend to focus more on local issues, I think the national message for Democrats has been somewhat muddled. But when you try and do the local message, just like in Pennsylvania, the top of the ticket does matter.

So, with Governor Hochul evening up with Congressman Lee Zeldin some of these races are going to be a little more precarious. Just like in Pennsylvania. I think Charlie would agree that the Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro who is running strong is actually going to help John Fetterman a little bit.

You have the opposite in states like Arizona where the Republican candidate is really strong, that's going to hurt the Senate candidate. So, the top of the ticket does matter in these states because it matters whether who your vote is, you know, how you're getting your vote out. HILL: I do want to pick up, you said the Democratic message was

slightly muddled. I think you were a little bit more direct over the weekend. You were talking to Dana Bash and you said, listen, the Democratic Party, very simply I'm paraphrasing you here, but just didn't listen to voters who were very clear that the economy was the number one issue.


HILL: How much do you think that's going to cost Democrats ultimately?

ROSEN: Well, I think it will cost us. I, look, in midterms, you're always at a disadvantage. The president's party always loses seats, so I think we were going to lose seats regardless. I think the Senate being in play as much as it is with candidates, as strong as it is, is in part due to our lack of focus at the national level on an economic message to meet voters where they are.

I think we spent way too much time sort of demonizing voters who care about the economy by telling them, no, no. If you're aligning with Republicans, you are, you know, aligning with fascists or you know, you're -- you don't care about your country. You have no patriotism.

I think we want these voters back in 2024. You know, we need to have these independent voters and these minor Republicans, and it -- we're not going to get them back by demonizing their vote just because they're concerned about the economy.

HILL: This morning I was speaking with David Gergen who told me when he looks at other areas, where he looks at areas where there could potentially be some surprises today, he said North Carolina and Ohio, Charlie, that's where he's focusing.

Another person say to me, North Carolina tonight. Has there been enough attention paid to some of those other races?

DENT: Look, I -- look, I've heard what they said. I still think that Ohio and North Carolina are going to be trending Republican in these races. I think the focus should be as it is on Pennsylvania and Arizona, Nevada. I mean, I really, Wisconsin, I think that's really where the game is played. I hear what they're saying, but I would tend to disagree with that.

You know, look, the Democrats are in a very defensive position around the country and you can see things are kind of trending in the Republican direction. You know, a lot has changed. You know, if you asked me six weeks ago, I thought the Democrats had a lot of optimism to hold the Senate.

Now I'm starting to think, you know, I think Republicans have reason to be optimistic to gain control of the Senate. So, things are moving quickly. It seems that in the North Carolina and Ohio seats, Senate seats seem to be slipping from the Democrats, as are some of these other seats. I'm not here to make any bold predictions, but I'd rather be on offense and defense because nobody plays good defense in politics. It's all about offense.

ROSEN: Look, and it's really important to remember particularly for international audience, that this is a very politically divided country right now.


I mean, the Senate is currently, you know, 50-50. So, the, you know, the control goes back and forth just with a state or two. That's where we are. These races are all neck and neck, so almost anything could happen. But I think that, you know, the winds right now are favoring Republicans. We have one big advantage as Democrats because in so many states we have been early voting for weeks. Democrats are doing a better job getting out our voters early.

Republicans are really depending that all their voters are going to come out on election day. That's a big bet.

DENT: Yes. Can I just follow up on that?

HILL: Yes.

DENT: Yes. Look, what happened too, in 2020 Republicans did actually quite well, who were not named Donald Trump. You know, even, and I thought that Republicans have spent way too much time, especially Donald Trump, spent way too much time complaining about mail-in voting.

You know, Republicans came out and voted in 2020 and elected a whole bunch of Republicans down ballot. A lot of people didn't vote for Trump, but it was a good night, and I think Republicans ought to stop complaining about the method of voting and just get their people out. It doesn't matter how they vote, whether it's by mail or in person, you just want to get them out.

HILL: Yes. well, we will see what those final numbers are. We do know that there is definitely enthusiasm when it comes to early voting. What those votes actually tally at best. We'll have to wait and see. Great to see you both. I appreciate it. Thank you.

DENT: Thank you.

ROSEN: Take care, Erica.

HILL: Be sure to stay with us throughout the day for in-depth special coverage of the crucial U.S. midterm elections that will determine control of Congress. That special coverage begins right here on CNN at 4 p.m. Eastern, 9 o'clock London.

Still to come here, Democrats going to great lengths to keep Latino voters amid a shifting trend. What one former U.S. president had to say.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We got about a 50 percent chance of losing our democracy if we don't stand up in this election.




HILL: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton in southern Texas on Monday, doing his best to encourage Latino voters to get to the ballot box on the eve of today's election, stressing to voters the importance of their ballot.


CLINTON: You can celebrate on Tuesday night if you show America that you can't be overlooked, you can't be forgotten, and you know how to build a future together.


HILL: Latino voters account for one fifth of registered voters in more than a dozen key House and Senate races. And while Democrats have historically won the Latino vote, those margins appear to be shrinking.

In Texas, three Latino Republicans are running for congressional seats. Monica dela Cruz, a former Democrat has her ideologies changed as she felt Democrats hadn't done anything for Latino voters in her district. The Senate minority leader says that's a testament to the parties evolving nature.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It also shows Republicans can compete anywhere in the country. Not only is the party expanding and moving forward, these candidates, I think will inspire so many young women across the country. They're going to look up and say, that can be me.


HILL: Joining us now for more, Luis Alvarado, a Republican strategist and Latino politics and media consultant joining me from Los Angeles.

Nice to see you.

So, when we look at where things stand, you hear Kevin McCarthy say, look, our party is expanding, we're evolving, we're moving. You hear Bill Clinton saying you are the key. Who really understands Latino voters best?

LUIS ALVARADO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, actually it seems that neither party, I think, Latinos are finding that Republicans actually have a better message to address their everyday needs. And Republicans have actually evolved in the last few cycles and actually have invested in key districts and have retained competent, political strategists to actually address and build relationships with those communities.

And I think it's an overall strategy that is starting to render fruits that they had envisioned for a few years ago.

HILL: As we talk about this shift, it's interesting because I think oftentimes what happens, and listen, it happens with women's -- it happen with women, Latinos, young voters, black voters.

If you're putting an entire demographic into one bucket, you're often ignoring as you're starting to see a shift. The reasons for that shift, especially when we talk about the Latino community, this is not one monolithic group. And issues that may matter in a Mexican American community versus a Venezuelan American community versus a Cuban American community. Those are all different. Is there enough understanding there?

ALVARADO: No, not at all. I mean, I'm a member of the National Association of Political Strategists where all the parties get together and talk about strategies and tools. And one thing we do agree in is that none of us actually have a complete grasp or see professionals in our field that actually understand how to communicate.

So those issues that are important to anybody in Nebraska are just as important to anybody in Texas. The question is how do you package the information and what platform do you use to deliver it?


And so far, I think both parties have failed. I think Democrats got lazy and I think Democrats have admittedly find themselves playing catch up where Republicans actually may it be by surprise or by happenstance are finding themselves that they have the right message and are attracting Latinos, and somehow they're investing the right amount of resources to start bringing enough Latinos to actually start winning races.

HILL: And you're talking about the issues that matter to Americans all across the board, which is another important point. So, if you are sitting down in those next meetings when you're talking with political strategist, fellow political strategist, what is your message to them about how you are relaying those concerns? Right?

Your concern, Luis Alvarado in Los Angeles versus Erica Hill's concern in New York. We may have some of the same concerns. So, should that message be about how I identify or should it be about this issue?

ALVARADO: It should be all of them, right? Because there's no such thing as a silver bullet with any constituency or any ethnic group. You actually have to work hard at it. You have to build, you have to sit with them and try to understand where they're coming from and then, then you can start building a strategy that revolves around their needs, that community, that specific constituency, and most importantly, their future.

Because if you can't talk about how you have aspirational products for them or government for them, then they're not going to feel that you're looking out for their interest. You -- they are going to clearly see that you're just looking for your own immediate interest and they're not going to side with you.

And most of the problems we see with Latinos is that they stay home and don't participate because sometimes they just throw their hands in the air. And if you can find a way to talk to enough of them, you're going to get their attention. And hopefully you get their trust and then you get their votes.

HILL: Throw their hands in the air because they feel forgotten or ignored?

ALVARADO: That's exactly what we see in poll after poll. That's mostly what you see with the young people. When you look at the surrogates out there speaking on behalf of the Democrat Party. Those surrogates are probably from 30 years ago in governance.

You just showed a clip of Clinton and what does Bill Clinton have to offer the young Latinos who are just getting out of college? They don't even know who he is, and those are the people that you're putting forth to speak on behalf of the ideals of the Democratic Party.

In Texas, you see young Latino Republican elected officials going out and meeting with the community. I know many of them that have been working for years, and they work year-round and now they get to sow those efforts that they have been doing for the last few decades.

HILL: Luis Alvarado, I really appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

ALVARADO: Always a pleasure.

HILL: Still to come here, Republicans feeling confident that they will be picking up seats. Will it be an actual red wave? What could that look like and how could it impact President Biden's agenda? We'll discuss.



HILL: President Biden and former President Trump making their final pitches to voters on the eve of the midterm elections here in the U.S. In Maryland, Biden warning voters, American democracy is at risk, urging people to vote for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore.

Meantime in Ohio, Trump campaigned alongside Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance, teasing a possible presidential run as early as next Tuesday. The battle for the Senate will likely come down to key races in these

swing states. The ones you see highlighted there on your map, at least three of them are considered tossups. While election forecasters predict Republicans will likely win more than enough seats to control the House of Representatives.

Larry Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia and joins me now from Charlottesville.

So, your final crystal ball, ratings are out showing what could be a pretty good night for Republicans. Let's start in the Senate, if we could. Give me a sense, which are the races specifically that you're looking at that could give Republicans that edge.

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Certainly, Pennsylvania, which everybody is looking at, and Georgia, which by the way does not have to go to a runoff. Most people think it will say a 30, 35 percent chance that one of the candidates will get over 50. But there are a lot of others.

Nevada has always been very, very close, and people are very divided about whether or not the incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, can hang on or whether her Republican opponent, Mr. Laxalt will be able to displace her.

But there are a lot of really close races. Arizona would be another example. Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly is hard pressed. New Hampshire where Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan is also very hard pressed. And, and others, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, which all have Republicans in the lead, and yet Democrats are in competition.

HILL: So, when we look at all of those, that's where you come up with likely a net Republican gain of one seat in the Senate. When we look at the House, obviously a lot more up for grabs there, but the margin that you're seeing there likely a gain of 24 seats.

SABATO: These are estimates and, and clearly you can end up having five fewer or five more, but what is difficult, if not almost impossible to come up with is a way for Democrats to actually hold the House.

HILL: Why is that? Is it simply a messaging problem? Was it a messaging fail?

SABATO: Well, you know, people say the messaging should have been better, but it really is the fundamentals. It's a midterm of a Democratic president who has approval ratings in the low 40s.


That's nothing to write home about, and it doesn't help your party in a midterm election. Also, Democrats only have a majority of five. It was really the fact that Democrats lost 13 seats even while Joe Biden was winning by seven million votes in 2020 that set up this race and made it very likely Republicans would take control. HILL: It's not just Congress that we're looking at closely here. There are 36 states who will also be voting for governor, and even there you're seeing a net Republican gain overall of one governorship.

SABATO: Yes. And of course, that isn't much. It would mean Republicans would have 29 governorships and Democrats would have 21 governorships. That's only a gain of one for Republicans. And there are some governorships going both ways. The Democrats are going to pick up Massachusetts and Maryland, and the Republicans probably are going to pick up governorships out west, Arizona, Nevada, possibly Oregon. That's a very close competitive three-way contest.

HILL: Yes. That, that one definitely has lots of eyes on it, including mine as I watch to see what happens there.


HILL: There was certainly some pushback on a tactic that we saw from Democrats in some races in the primaries to really shore up some of these fringe extremist candidates on the other side, thinking that that could be an easier win for Democrats come November.

Well, now it's looking like that some of those people could actually win those seat. What does that longer term fallout here, especially if you end up with one of these extremists, perhaps an election denier as an incumbent two years from now.

SABATO: Be careful what you wish for and be careful what you spend money to try to win for. Because I think Democrats, while I understand the logic of it, and there is some logic to it, if you put into place a nominee in the fall and the wins of politics are moving in the direction of that candidate's party, there is a decent to good chance that the candidate is going to be elected.

HILL: This is a different crystal ball than I'm asking you to take out here, but when we look at a country that is so divided in this moment, let alone what it could look like on Wednesday and further out come January 3rd when a new Congress is sworn in, if Republicans do take that the House and the Senate, there's a little legitimate question of what that does to President Biden's agenda. But what do you think it means for actual governance, especially based on what we have seen in the last few years?

SABATO: I wouldn't be optimistic that we're going to have a whole lot of bipartisanship or unified government. I think we'll see Biden do what previous presidents have done when the opposition party took over one or both Houses. They simply have to rely on vetoes on executive orders, on temporary appointments, say acting secretaries in the cabinet, which by the way is what Trump did during the two years that Democrats controlled Congress in his term.

So, you know, these are tried and true methods. They're not ideal. It's not the way government should work. But we get through, we muddle through the British used to do the muddling, and now it's the Americans.

HILL: Well, muddle away. It's always good to do it though, with you to chat about it all.

SABATO: Thank you.

HILL: Larry, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

SABATO: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Stay tuned. We'll have more election coverage this hour. First though, let's go back to John Vause in Atlanta for some more of

the days other headlines. John?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Erica, thank you. We'll take you short break, but when we come back, they've done it before. They're doing it now. They'll do it again. A close Putin ally has admitted that yes, there was Russian interference in U.S. elections just as Americans go to the polls today in a pivotal midterm race.

Back in a moment.



VAUSE: Hello. I'm John Vause, live at the CNN center here in Atlanta. Erica Hill will be back in just a moment with more U.S. midterm election coverage.

But first, here's some other stories we're following.

Well, with the war in Ukraine looking likely to continue well into next year, U.S. officials are urging their Ukrainian counterparts to soften their declared position on no negotiations with Vladimir Putin.

A source close to the discussions says the White House is not trying to pressure Kyiv into peace talks, but rather is worried that a war without the possibility of a negotiated and would lose public support. The White House wants Ukraine to hold the high moral ground and make their desire for resolution known publicly.


NED PRICE, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: No one has suffered more than the Ukrainian people. No one wants to see this war end more than the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government. So, it is neither our place for us to pressure the Ukrainians, nor would we need to do such a thing. They have every incentive. It is the Russians that are sending a very different signal.


VAUSE: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russia must be forced into genuine peace talks. Quote, "the kind of negotiations that we have repeatedly suggested, and to which we have always received crazy Russian responses with new terrorist attacks, shelling or blackmail." And so, yes, the Russians did it according to one of Vladimir Putin's most trusted confidants, the 2016 election was targeted by Russian. Not only that Russia has interfered in other U.S. elections, he says, they're doing it now and they'll do it again.


The admission made in a telegram post on Monday comes just as voters prepare for today's midterms across the U.S. and an election officials have warned, will be targeted by Russia.

CNN's Clare Sebastian live for us to our in London. Yevgeny Prigozhin if he made this admission, he's denied in the past of being the head of the Wagner Group, the mercenaries only later say, yes, he is. So, this guy carries some wight.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, he had another sign that Prigozhin, who was once this shadowy oligarch, is now well and truly coming out of the shadows big time. Not only do we have this now research center in St. Petersburg for the Wagner group, but you know, and for those of us who spent sort of 2016 and 2017 trying to understand his connection to the internet research agency, that troll factory which was sort of interfering in U.S. elections.

He was later sanctioned by the U.S. for this. To hear him say these things is really sort of mind blowing. This is what he said in his Telegram post. He said, I will allow a certain ambiguity, gentlemen, we interfere -- we interfered, we interfere, and we will interfere. The joke being of course, that he said he would allow ambiguity and then didn't.

So, it is sort of unclear whether he's joking or not, but still very interesting to hear him openly admit this, and of course coming just ahead of the midterms in the U.S. This is what the White House response to that was.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We also know that part of Russia's efforts includes promoting narratives aimed at undermining democracy and sewing division and discord. It's not surprising that Russia would be highlighting their attempted efforts and fabric -- fabricating a story about their successes on the eve of an election.


SEBASTIAN: So, the White House says that they're fabricating this, that they are not successfully interfering being the implication. But I think this is interesting in the sense of Prigozhin. We know that he is a man who likes to curate his own image. It seems like he might want to now take credit for some past, and apparently current action when it comes to the sort of manipulation of information as well as of course, the actions of the Wagner group raises questions, of course, John, about his future plans should there an opportunity to jockey for power somehow in Russia. VAUSE: Is there an understanding here why? Because nothing happens in

Russia without Putin knowing or proving of it. So, this comes from the Kremlin, so the via Prigozhin.

SEBASTIAN: You know, I don't think that's clear at this stage. We know that he has in the past had a close relationship with Vladimir Putin. He was known as Putin's chef. He ran this catering company that got a lot of sort of, government contracts and some prominent events involving world leaders.

You're right that nothing happens without the go ahead from President Putin, but the way that Prigozhin is doing this is interesting as well. The leaked videos that we've seen emerge on social media of him, you know, acting on behalf of the Wagner group, recruiting prisoners in Russian prisons.

All of these smacks are something that while deliberate is perhaps not necessarily officially sanctioned, John.

VAUSE: Interesting times. Clare, thank you. Clare Sebastian live for us in London. I appreciate that.

Still to come, after reporting U.S. politics for four decades, you get to know a thing or two about midterm elections, and one guy says, this year midterms are unlike any other. Here he is.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: My first midterm election was 1984, so I go back nearly 40 years covering midterm elections, and this one in my memory has been the most complicated.


VAUSE: I recognize that guy. It's John King. He explains why this election is so hard to predict. That's next.



HILL: Counting down here to the first polls opening on election day in the U.S. is CNN's John King, who's been covering midterm elections for some four decades now, says these midterms are the most complicated of his career.


KING: My first midterm election was 1984, so I go back nearly 40 years covering midterm elections, and this one in my memory has been the most complicated.

We live in an age of volatility, so I'd be very cautious about saying it has settled at the end. But it does seem the data tell us it has settled at the end into what looks like a more traditional midterm. History tells us any president's first midterm is usually a bad year.

It looked like it started out that way for Joe Biden. But 10 million new jobs have been created in the Biden administration. Employment is back above now pre-pandemic levels, so there is a good economic story to tell.

Then boom, Biden gets hit with a two by four with inflation. So, you have good news and you have bad news. And then we have the Supreme Court decision. The Dobbs decision wiping Roe V. Wade off the books.

How do you defy history in a midterm election? With new history and even Republicans would tell you, whoa, whoa, this could change the midterm trajectory. We saw voter registration, especially among women, especially in the suburbs go way up.

As we moved into October, though the Fed keeps raising interest rates. Inflation keeps going up and certainly not going down. That hurt the Democrats and then just follow the rise and the drop in gas prices with the president's approval disapproval we have seen that things maybe beyond the president's control have shaped the president's fate.

In many midterm election years, the president and the party in power don't have much to work with. Democrats did have things to work with here. Abortion helps Democrats in the suburbs. Inflation hurts.

The return of Trump helps Democrats in the suburbs. The crime issue hurts. Inflation, grocery bills, gas bills damaging, in some places devastating to the Democratic Party.


So, you had this tug of war throughout the summer and into the early fall that made it really complicated. In the end, it looks like people's day to day lives, the price of eggs, the price of milk, the price of gas is helping Republicans.

Traditionally, midterm elections are a referendum on the president and the party in power. In the end, it seems to have gone back that way. But again, in the age of volatility, let's count votes. See what happens.


HILL: John King, thanks for that. OK. Here in the U.S., if you have a Powerball ticket, hold onto it. The drawing for that 1.9 billion jackpot has been delayed. The Multi-State Lottery Association says results will likely not be available until Tuesday morning. If you do win, should you choose the lump sum cash payout, a reminder to share, and just a note, you'll have a little over $929 million with that lumpsum. Still not too shabby.

Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Erica Hill. For our viewers here in the U.S., election day in America continues with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow, and Kaitlan Collins. CNN Newsroom with Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo is next for our international viewers. Have a great day.