Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Voting Underway In Nevada, Senate & Governor Races Are Tight; Republicans Eye Increasingly Competitive Senate Race In New Hampshire; Wisconsin Voters Head To Polls, Tensions High In Senate Race. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 14:30   ET



GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Of, I know Governor Sisolak, who is the incumbent Democrat, and he followed California's model in terms of the COVID response that was heavier-handed mandates.

So this plays into the challenger's opportunity, Sheriff Lombardo. He can talk about crime, but also contrast what he wants to do versus the heavy restrictions.

And the economy, Nevada has been a lot hit harder on the economy than other states, partly because of those shutdowns. So I think this plays into the hands of the Republican candidates there in Nevada.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Of course, the resurgence there economically is better than they've ever been, better than they were before.

But your point about it being heavy-handed on COVID -- or more restrictive is obviously completely fair.

Senator Franken, my Manu Raju asked Senator Cortez Masto, in the race against Adam Laxalt, about having Biden campaign. Why are you having Biden come to your state?

Here's how the exchange went.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you want the president, President Biden here?

SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D-NV): Anybody is welcome here, but my focus will be Nevada.

RAJU: And the run for reelection?

CORTEZ MASTO: I'm focused right now on this election.


BURNETT: We all know history. The incumbent president is not popular during the midterms. Obama was not popular, now he's the one that everyone wants to have. You know it? AL FRANKEN, (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR FOR MINNESOTA: Yes.

BURNETT: I understand the historical relevance. But Biden was supposed to be the moderate. He was supposed to be the guy in purple states that spoke to that moderate. What happened?

FRANKEN: He's the president in a midterm. In '14, when I ran for reelection, it was after we passed the ACA, which was unpopular.

BURNETT: The Affordable Care Act.

FRANKEN: By the way, the ACA became -- yes, the Affordable Care Act -- became very popular after Republicans tried to repeal it and Americans saw what it was. That's why we picked up 41 seats in '18.

So I didn't have Barack Obama come in for me in '14 for this very reason. And so --

BURNETT: So you've been the guy that was, like, thanks but no thanks?

FRANKEN: He'll come in if it's helpful. Maybe they didn't think it was particularly helpful.

But I know Nevada pretty well. They have -- the culinary workers, the hospitality workers, who actually lost a lot of jobs during COVID, are on the doors for Democrats. They have an incredible ground operation.

Harry Reid was supposed to lose, remember, in 2010, and he won. I predict that Cortez Masto will win by 312 votes. That's what I won my first one by.

BURNETT: Wow. So history -- it would be incredible if it was that close.

Governor, do you think it will be that close in a place like Nevada?


HUTCHINSON: I think Adam will win by a larger margin than that. It is a state that's very competitive.

Al's point is well taken about the union reparation there, the "get out the vote" efforts. But I like where Adam is. I think he's identified on the hot-button issues.

You heard him talk about the economy, the crime and the border. That plays into the hands of the Republican national message.

BURNETT: Right. And we are hearing it again and again.

Please stay with me. Both of you are going to be coming back. Al Franken and Asa Hutchenson.

And we will check in with a close Senate race in New Hampshire, where a challenger, backed by the former president, is looking to pull off what would be a stunning upset there. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Now to New Hampshire, where a Trump-backed challenger is giving the incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan quite a race.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Manchester, New Hampshire, for us at a polling place there.

Dianne, this Senate race, apparently, has really tightened over the past few weeks. What's the latest?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has, Wolf. When we talk about swing states, New Hampshire isn't often mentioned. This is a pretty swingy state.

In fact, the incumbent Senator, Democrat Maggie Hassan, only won her race in 2016 by roughly 1,000 votes. Her team says they expect this to be a tight race.

But Democrats obviously didn't expect it to be this tight. They put millions of dollars into the Republican challenger, Don Bolduc, when he was up in that Republican primary.

Both candidates are getting out their last-minute effort, talking to voters, telling voters they'll need other people from the other side to vote for their candidacy, to make sure they can win.


GEN. DON BOLDUC (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE: Go to the polls, vote, get your friends to vote, get prickly Independent friends, who may not get along with the votes, and tell them to vote for people that are going to change the direction of this country and restore this country back to its economy prosperity.

SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): We always knew this race would be really, really tight. I'm just talking with people again. My record of lowering costs and moving the country forward, building an economy that works for everybody, making sure we protect a woman's fundamental freedom, protect Social Security and Medicare, among other things.


GALLAGHER: You notice, both of them there talking about prosperity, financial independence and the economy here. Voters we have spoken with, Wolf, both Democrats and Republicans, have talked about how port inflation and the economy is to them.

But again, the Dobbs decision, a woman's right to choose, abortion access also weighing heavily on voters here in New Hampshire -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Dianne Gallagher, on the scene for us. Dianne, thank you very much. Let's bring back Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent, Audie

Cornish, CNN anchor and correspondent, and Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst.

Mark, as you know, the former President Trump is praising the candidates he backed, predicting a very great night for Republicans, I'm quoting him now, "a very great night for Republicans."

How much credit does Trump deserve if, if the Republicans really do well tonight?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is the discussion right now that is really starting to percolate up. Specifically, as we've seen Republicans appear to be doing much better than they have in the last couple of weeks. Who's going to take credit for it?

As we all do, we call around to our friends, you know, the consulting class. They believe, for the most part, they assume he's going to take it. No matter what, he will assume this whole election was about him.

In some cases it was. In some cases he will be helpful, in other cases he won't.

But one consultant I was talking to happened to be cigar shopping literally a half hour again. I posed this question to the consultant. The consultant then poses it to everybody inside the cigar shot, which then starts an argument.


PRESTON: A can of worms opens up. That tells you where we are now about who should get credit for the election.


I just heard from a consultant who said, he'll claim a lot, but he won't deserve much. There's going to be this -- as Mark said.

Look, all day long we've been talking about the economy. That's clearly playing a role here.

But to Mark's point, there are the endorsements, Herschel Walker, J.D. Vance, Oz. Those were critical endorsements in those areas.

There's one thing that I'm not sure Donald Trump would understand or appreciate, that he should take credit for. In an uncharacteristic show of self-restraint, he did not announce before the midterms.

That may truly have helped a lot of these candidates.

BLITZER: Most of the Republican consultants didn't want him to do it.

GANGEL: Exactly.

BLITZER: They thought it could hurt. Audie, let's talk about what else is going on. So many of the Trump-

backed candidates are what they call election deniers. Democrat keep pointing to that. They're bracing themselves for serious --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT, Well, for the last, what, 18 months, we've been hearing people say, if we don't win it, so to speak, something must be wrong. So people are sort of primed for that language.

To come back to your point earlier, I think it's interesting to watch a candidate like Bolduc in New Hampshire, who has kind of done the post-primary pivot, who made more of an effort to say let's not talk about 2020 so much, it's really about the economy.

I think that speaks to the fact that Democrats were not able to change this into a race that was a referendum on Trump. And it was not a referendum on democracy in the way they thought after the House Select Committee.

It did come down to these other issues. And the Republicans I think who pivoted to those issues are benefiting from it.

BLITZER: If the results keep changing, as they do, as more and more votes are counted, potentially they have an issue that they could claim there's been some sort of fraud.

PRESTON: Oh, it's going to be an issue. It will be a seesaw, back and forth and back and forth in many of these states. And we'll see both parties, though the Republican Party more so, because they've already been so aggressive in lawsuits right now.

Regarding lawsuits, there's already 100 lawsuits already filed right now.

CORNISH: But it's worth noting that secretaries of state are very much focused on this. We heard Benson in Michigan, others planning to have a lot of press conferences. They've already rolled out like an old worker text chain or something like that in Georgia.

There's this idea that they are concern about the doubts people have about the tabulation process, and I think we'll hear them speaking up in the next few days.

PRESTON: No, again, I do, too. But it goes into the arena of the public opinion. And public opinions is starting look against --

CORNISH: They're trying to say it's not a matter of opinion, a vote is a vote.



CORNISH: No matter how long it takes.

PRESTON: I agree. CORNISH: Whether it's fast enough. The speed of it does not by default mean there's something wrong with it.


CORNISH: And I think that's what they're trying.

GANGEL: But at the end of the day, if too many people in our country still believe that there was widespread election fraud when there was that any, we're in trouble.

BLITZER: It's an important point.

Jamie, Audie, Mark, guys, thank you very much. Don't go too far away. We have more to access.


We'll look at the competitive races in Wisconsin, where both Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Democratic Governor Tony Evers face tough reelection bids.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: When polls close in Wisconsin, it could mark the beginning of a very long night. Both the Senate and the governor's races there are both tight and both consequential.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in Milwaukee for us.

Update our viewers on the latest, Lucy.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just how divided Wisconsin voters are, some say they're motivated by the economy, others by democracy and social issues, others have not made up their mind even as they were walking into the polling center behind me.


Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Things have gone so far left that I'm starting to move a little more right a little bit. So I don't know. Yes.

KAFANOV: You're going to decide last minute in there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm going to decide last minute.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Abortion rights, this is real battleground state. That was a concern for me what candidates are going to be giving ground on that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can't pay your rent, if you can't pay your

mortgage, if you can't put food on the table, if you can't even go and buy groceries, what does matter what your sexuality is? What does any of that stuff matter?


KAFANOV: The one thing they all agree on is this election is too important to sit out. The outcome of this particular election could determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate -- Wolf?

BURNETT: Lucy, thank you very much.

So let's bring our panel back.

So, Ashley, interesting some of those voters that Lucy was talking to those were pretty telling -- look this is the anecdotal, two voters but this is pretty contested race, Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes.

What do you make of that?

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR FOR BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: I think it's going to be a tight race. I think have Tony Evers on the top of the ticket helps Mandela Barnes. He's a known name. He's a pretty favorable governor. Wisconsin is a union state.

And I think Tony -- Governor Evers pulled it off. And that helps Mandela Barnes.

I'm looking at Milwaukee and Racine. I think we'll see lines later this evening. If you remember, in 2020, Wisconsin had very high turnout.

The black population there is key. There's also large Asian-American population, native population. So if they can put this coalition together, Wisconsin looks good for them.

BURNETT: This is interesting, Ana, because she just raised something in terms of African-American voters in Wisconsin.

You know, you have been focused very much on what we're seeing with minority groups.

But polling shows black voters support for Republican congressional candidates has doubled from four years ago. You also point out a poll of support from Latinos for Democrats is declining. That's from a "Wall Street Journal" poll.

How much should we read into that?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Democrats should have been reading into it for the last two years and not, you know, too much months before this election.

And they're going to have -- and I think you know I remember when Republicans lost in 2012, there was a postmortem and an autopsy report. I think Democrats should do absolutely the same thing, particularly focused on the minority vote.

And it's -- you know, it's about misinformation. It's about not accurately and not vigorously responding to the charge that they're Communists and Socialists and just letting it go.

It's about taking people for granted or people feeling taken for granted. It's about pitting -- the Democrats aren't doing this but it's happening. Pitting blacks and browns against each other. We've seen it bubble up in the L.A. County's leaked tapes.

That's happening. All of those things need to be addressed.

No one wants to be taken for granted. Nobody wants to be told they have to think one way because of the color of their skin, or race or gender or sexuality.

People need, want to be individual voters.

BURNETT: In the Wisconsin race, race has taken a front-burner issue. Ron Johnson has called Mandela Barnes, saying he has disdain and contempt for America.

And he also told a story the other day about a truck driver. And then he said, I know it's not relevant to anything but the truck driver happened to be black and I'm mentioning that because the guy I'm running against is black. Basically, this kind of odd thing.

But he's put that on the table.

BAKARI SELLERS, (D), FORMER MEMBER OF SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Yes. I don't know what the hell Senator Johnson was talking about. Many people probably don't.

But what he was doing was playing the race card. Used by many Republicans, used against people of color. What you're seeing is, Ron Johnson use that racism as currency. And you see that around.

But I want to piggyback on what these two young ladies said because it's so accurate. This election was won in 2020. Joe Biden owes the White House to Detroit, Milwaukee, to Philadelphia, to Atlanta, to Las Vegas.

And you know what? We're going to keep the Senate in Las Vegas, Milwaukee, in Detroit and Atlanta.

And if those black people come out -- and we have known that black women have saved democracy for a very long time.

Democrats have begun to take advantage of and not listen to the second-largest group, which are loyal Democrats, which are black men.

And that is what we're seeing. That is what where we're seeing the fracture.

But if anybody out there is standing in line or waiting on the sideline, look, you've got to save democracy again. And so I expect people to turn out in those big cities that I just mentioned.


BURNETT: Lieutenant Governor, I want to ask about one other point. When we hear those voters Lucy was talking to, and we've heard them across the country, they raised a variety of issues.

But by far, at least the voters we talked to today, the number-one issue they talk about is the economy. That's why they're voting. And Republicans have tried to say, vote for us because of the economy.

But when it comes to the Republicans in power say they're going to do, first and foremost, the list has been a lot of investigations in Congress, Hunter Biden and other things.

Back to Wisconsin, Senator Ron Johnson talked about what it would be like if the GOP takes over the Senate and what's going to happen.

I want to play it for you.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): If we get the majority, OK, when we get it, I got it. I'll be chair of the investigations. I'll be like a mosquito in a nudist colony.


JOHNSON: It will be a target-rich environment.


BURNETT: OK, he's trying make a joke there, obviously


BURNETT: -- a nudist colony is that --

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): -- to describe that.



BURNETT: But do you think -- is that -- that's what Republicans are projecting that's what they're going to do with Senate. It isn't, we're going to do this for inflation. It's a mosquito in a nudist colony on investigations.

DUNCAN: Yes. The economy is on the ballot all over the country, but especially on the ballot in a state like Wisconsin that's blue-collar manufacturing based.

And those folks feel the economy before the rest of us do. They're the ones worried about getting laid off tomorrow morning when they walk into the office or the factor. Look, Republicans have a sweet spot. We have a window of opportunity to not only get elected but now we got to do something. We have to start to tackle big issues like health care, immigration, tax reform. All of those areas that our base is expecting us to tackle.

If we don't, then we're going to waste the opportunity, the pendulum is going to swing, and we're going to continue this back and forth, back and forth.

NAVARRO: How are Republicans going to tackle any of that when you have Joe Biden in the White House with a veto pen?


DUNCAN: Yes. I think it's ideas and we've got better ideas.

BURNETT: All right, pause on that.

And still ahead, more Election Day in America. The first polls are closing in just a few hours, getting up to that first point. We're going to take a look at some of the most decisive races right after this.