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Election Night In America; First Polls Closing In Crucial Midterm Elections; 435 House Seats, 35 Senate Seats, 36 Governor Races At Stake Today; Minutes Away: Polls Close In Six States In Crucial Midterms. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And votes from those areas, they start coming in at any moment.

This is what it would take for Republicans to take back the House. They need to win 218 seats to win the majority. That's five more seats than they have now. The battle will take place in 82 key House races, competitive contests that really could go either way.

In the closely divided Senate, Republicans need 51 seats to take back control. That's only one more seat than they already have. We're watching 13 key races that will be crucial to the fight for control of the U.S. Senate.

We're also following the 36 governors' contests across the country, including key races in a number of critical battlegrounds.

Our election team is in position for a very busy night, including Dana Bash, Abby Phillip and Chris Wallace. Over at the magic wall, John King is standing by. He'll track the results and give us perspective on the votes that have not yet been reported. Kasie Hunt is following all 35 Senate contests, including the crucial key races, as we get closer to the first results. And Boris Sanchez is watching those 36 governors' contests across the United States. David Chalian will soon share more exit poll information as polling places close. And Brianna Keilar is at our voting desk, keeping us up-to-date on how and when the ballots are counted in each state.

Our election team is fanned out across the United States, including at the headquarters of the top candidates. Right now, let's go to two of the top battlegrounds in the fight for the Senate.

Kate Bolduan is in Pennsylvania at the headquarters of Republican Senate Candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz. And, Kate, what are you hearing there in Newtown from Oz's campaign headquarters about their expectations for the night?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you, Jake, Mehmet Oz's campaign, they are describing it as a feeling a continued sense of confidence, if you will. That's how they're describing it to me as they wait for votes to be counted here in Pennsylvania. And from another source, a Republican close to the campaign, describing the feeling as cautiously optimistic but still nervous, saying that they feel good that they really left it all in the field.

Now, the campaign believes that they closed out this race on a high note, pointing to the big crowd that they saw in the Philadelphia suburbs last night with a final rally that Mehmet Oz held. We were there. We saw it. They also believe that the end, the campaign is pointing to at this point, Jake, that they believe that they have gotten into the good position that they believe that they are in because of one factor specifically, the contrast that they drew in their message, the contrast of balance, bringing balance to Washington and contrasting that, as Mehmet Oz describes it over and over again, as extremism on both sides. That is what the campaign says they feel good about. And a source telling CNN they believe the message really resonated with voters and that they've defined Fetterman in a way that stuck with voters. We'll see tonight, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kate Bolduan at Oz headquarters in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

Let's go to another important race in Georgia. Eva McKend is at the headquarters of Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. He is running for re-election in a very, very tough fight. What's the mood there among the Warnock campaign folks?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Jake, Georgia Democrats will tell you they always knew that this race was going to be incredibly close. What we have seen, though, is Republican newcomer, former NFL Star Herschel Walker really mount an aggressive challenge and Warnock is trying to stave off that challenge.

Notably, he has been confident in the last several weeks but Warnock has been telling his supporters, look, we do not want this to go into overtime. He has two ads up in the state saying just that, the Democrats need to come out and vote to avoid a December runoff. If neither Walker or Warnock get above 50 percent, then this goes for another several weeks. That is something they are trying to avoid.

You don't hear Walker talking about a potential runoff as much but Warnock is. I asked him about this, why is this a concern? He says, listen, and he reiterated this again today, that he is prepared to win tonight, but that this -- he's also prepared for this possibility as well.

You know, his potential success in this state really, I think, underscores the challenge or that Georgia Democrats face. Really, it is a test, his potential success is a test to see if Georgia Democrats can pull out a victory even though that this is a difficult midterm now for Democrats across the country. If Warnock wins here, it will illustrate that the way that he has run his campaign really focusing on his bipartisan credentials can work in a state that is so competitive like this one, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Eva in Atlanta at the headquarters of Senator Raphael Warnock.

We have another snapshot for you now on what is on the minds of voters. Let's go back to David Chalian, who has exit polls. David?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, we are looking at these preliminary exit polls.


I just want to make sure everyone understands some of these numbers will change throughout the evening. Also, this exit poll does represent voters who voted before Election Day in absentee by mail-in vote or early in-person vote as well as Election Day voters. We wanted to take a look at how confident people feel about their votes being fairly and accurately counted in this election, obviously, a big conversation.

Very confident, 50 percent of voters nationwide in this midterm election very confident that their state elections are fair and accurate, 30 percent somewhat confident, so eight in ten have a level of confidence, 13 percent not very confident, 6 percent not at all confident.

We also wanted to ask the straight up question, do you believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president back in 2020? You see the results here, 63 percent of voters across the country, yes, believe Joe Biden was indeed legitimately elected but a third of voters in this election do not believe that Joe Biden was the legitimately elected president in 2020, which brings in this concern about democracy.

Do you think that democracy in the United States is secure or threatened? 9 percent say it's very secure, 19 percent, voters nationwide, somewhat secure, 33 percent somewhat threatened, and the plurality, 37 percent of voters today believe that U.S. democracy is very threatened, Jake.

TAPPER: David Chalian, thanks so much. That is a shocking number, Dana Bash, one-third of the American people think that Joe Biden did not legitimately win the presidency in 2022. He did, of course, win legitimately the presidency in 2020. I mean, it's almost as if one- third of the country believes that the moon landing was fake.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's soul crushing. It is. Not because of who we're talking about but because of what we're talking about. We're talking about truth and facts and reality and this is just the latest piece of evidence that the former president has been able to convince most of his supporters that it's not true, that he did not lose the election.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I mean, I think the other part of this to me is that I hear all the time from Republicans, oh, this is just a fringe view. This is not a dominant view. 34 percent of the country, that's a lot of people. That is millions and millions of people.

And I don't see really a lot of people owning up to that and doing anything about it. I think it's deeply problematic for the country. But in spite of that, it's somewhat surprising that 80 percent or so of the country also thinks the elections are being run well or fairly. I mean, I think both things are happening at the same time, which is just bizarre.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: My first election, I go back a ways, as a kid was Kennedy/Nixon in 1960. Very close election. Real questions as to whether Kennedy stole Illinois, whether he and Johnson stole Texas. But after the election was over, there was never any doubt, John Kennedy was the president. And from then until now, 62 years, that -- well, I'd say 60 years, but from 2020 on, suddenly this new issue has come up to my knowledge where there is a real doubt as to whether the president is really the president and whether the election was fair or was stolen. It's a paradigm shift in my lifetime.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: One thing that I would just underscore here, though, is that we should remember this is just people who voted today that we're surveying in these exit polls, which is not, of course, representative of the entire country. But I do think it underscores the importance of leadership or lack thereof, right? I mean, there have been so many questions and there's a reason why many people will ask, I mean, I've spent years on Capitol Hill in hallways asking Republicans why are you not condemning this, standing up to it? Why are you going along with this? I think it really shows the impact of the silence of so many Republican candidates who have gone along with the way Donald Trump has presented this.

TAPPER: Yes, no, that's exactly right. I mean, if a majority of Republicans in Washington and governor's offices throughout the country were able to say, you know, of course, Joe Biden was legitimately elected, that would maybe make a difference, but they're not. They're pretty quiet about it, most of them.

David Chalian, you have more for us now on the exit polls.

CHALIAN: Jake, just a little while ago, we were looking at the Republican Party and whether voters thought the party was too extreme or not. We learned that a majority of voters in this election did think, 54 percent thought the Republican Party was too extreme.

We asked that about the Democratic Party as well and, guess what, a slim majority of voters in this election, 51 percent, roughly equal here think that the Democratic Party is too extreme. 47 percent say, no, it is not.

We also wanted to test some issues and ask which party do you trust to handle some of these top issues. So, which party do you trust to handle inflation? 54 percent of voters in this election, a majority, trust the Republican Party on inflation, 42 percent, the Democrats.


Which party do you trust to handle abortion? It's sort of the reverse here, 52 percent, Democrats are trusted to handle the issue of abortion, 43 percent Republican. And which party do you trust to handle crime? This is back to a Republican advantage among voters in this election, according to these exit polls, 52 percent trust the Republicans on crime, 42 percent, Jake, trust the Democrats on the issue.

TAPPER: All right. David Chalian with the exit polls.

So, do I have that right, majorities of the voters think that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are too extreme.

PHILLIP: I don't think that should be a huge surprise. Look, most Americans think these parties --

BASH: Exactly, welcome to America in 2022.

PHILLIP: Yes. They just think these parties are too in the pocket of their extreme camps. And even when they cast their ballot for one party or the other, it doesn't necessarily signal a wholesale approval.

TAPPER: But just do the math for me on this. So, 40 percent think that the other party is too extreme and then there's like 10 percent to 15 percent that just think that both parties are too extreme.

BASH: Because people who think that the other party is extreme -- look, I think it's that people are well aware of the times that they're living in, that these are very, very polarized times. So even if they are part of that polarization, they can see it, which, there's no question, adds to the despair that people are feeling about how this country is going.

WALLACE: The other interesting finding here, I think, is the one on crime. You know, you figure that people are going to think Republicans, inflation, Democrats, abortion, but the Republicans were really effective in the last couple of months of this campaign in hammering Democrats as soft on crime. It made a big difference in Pennsylvania, Oz did it to Fetterman, big difference in Wisconsin, where Johnson has done it to Mandela Barnes, and it's really done a big -- made a big difference in New York State in the governor's race where Lee Zeldin, in a state that there hasn't been a Democratic -- a Republican governor since 2006 with George Pataki, Zeldin might beat Kathy Hochul tonight.

HUNT: But to go back quickly, and they did it at the right time, too, Chris, right at the end of the campaign, to go back to your point about the extremism here, I think it also underscores that the people engaged in our political system are the people that are on the most extremes. There are a lot of people who don't vote who don't show up and they are the people that are just turned off by the entire thing and what you're left with is the most extreme on each sides.

TAPPER: Very interesting. So, this election night really gets going soon with the first big round of poll closings and results. That includes battleground Georgia. We're going to go there live next. Stay with us.


[18:15:00] TAPPER: This is the night when voters are deciding whether or not to reshape the political landscape here in Washington, D.C. We are back with our live coverage of this very important midterm election. Let's check in on voting in the key battleground state of Arizona. Sara Sidner is at a voting location in Tempe, Arizona.

And, Sara, it's a few more hours before the polls close there. What are you seeing?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The lines have gotten really long here on the Arizona State University campus. They have now quadrupled from when we initially started here this morning. Lots of folks out here, a lot of students out here, but we're also starting to see some folks who aren't students who are voting at this location. And here in Maricopa County, you can vote anywhere because they're able to print out the ballot that marks exactly who you are and has all the issues and people that you need to vote for in your specific area.

Now, I do want to give you an update because there were some voting issues in Maricopa County this morning that somebody basically put out to the public. Now, they've investigated it. And what they found is that some of the printers at about a fifth of the locations, the 223 vote centers, were not having ink that was dark enough to mark the ballots. They have fixed that in 41 vote centers so far, according to Maricopa County Spokesperson Fields Moseley.

Now, we are learning that there are less than 30 that still need to be fixed. But what the county wants everyone to know is that no matter what happens, even if there's a problem with the tabulation machine that isn't printing properly, that doesn't have the proper ink, that they are going to count your vote. You can either take your ballot and put it into that machine, which has a lockbox and they will pick it up and they will take it to the tabulation center or they will take your ballot to the tabulation center and make sure that your vote is counted.

They have been saying that over and over and over again. They do understand that people are concerned about this, that this has blown up on social media, but they are being very clear that no one, not a single voter will be disenfranchised, that your vote will be counted. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Well, transparency is always the key to clearing up situations like that. Sara Sidner, thanks so much.

Let's go to our voting desk now with Brianna Keilar. Brianna, you're looking at two other key battlegrounds, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, because there are two states, Jake, that could keep us on the edge of our seats tonight. In Cobb County, Georgia, officials have extended the deadline for more than 1,000 absentee ballots. They weren't sent out due to procedure errors and those ballots will now accepted until November 14th.

Also, there are six precincts statewide that have been ordered to stay open past the 7:00 P.M. deadline, two in Cobb County, two in DeKalb County, in the Atlanta area, and two other precincts in smaller counties all because those polling locations opened late this morning.

Something to watch in Georgia, candidates in nearly every race must get more than 50 percent of the vote to win. Any race that doesn't meet that threshold will go to a runoff election between the top two candidates. That will be held this year on December 6th.

And then, in Pennsylvania, Luzerne County polls will stay open until 10:00 P.M. tonight after a county judge said voters there were disenfranchised and denied the fundamental right to vote through no fault of their own. This was the result of a paper shortage, which resulted in the inability to print paper ballots there.

In Philadelphia, an election official said nearly 3,600 mail ballots are at risk of being rejected because of incorrect information, missing dates or secrecy envelopes.


People who were not able to cure their ballots at city hall, that means go there to fix the mistakes they made, can still vote in-person today. And the Philadelphia City commissioner tells CNN that more than 100,000 mail ballots have been received throughout the county and are being processed, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brianna, thanks so much.

I'm here with John King at the magic wall to take a look at some of the Senate races we're going to be keeping an eye on and also the governor's races. John, what do you got for us?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, I want to follow up on what Brianna said in just a minute. But, first, if I could just ask you guys to turn this side for one second. I just want to show it. Those are your very first votes, 2022 midterms coming in.

TAPPER: You saw it pop in.

KING: They're coming in now in these four congressional districts in Indiana. They're very early votes. We'll get back to them a little bit later. They're not in competitive districts. They're in --

TAPPER: Competitive district is right there.

KING: Right there, you're right, the district that has Gary, Indiana.

TAPPER: We're keeping an eye on that one.

KING: But you see that's our first votes, and that's the wonder of democracy, whether you're Democratic or Republican. And I wanted to point that out to be a little bit of the crank in the room following Brianna there. Stay off social media, people. If you're trying to figure out are there really issues with voting, trust your local officials, trust us here, trust a news source that you know and trust to be honest about this. They're doing their jobs and they're doing it right.

So, what was Brianna just talking about? She was talking about Cobb County, Georgia. That is right up here just outside of Atlanta. It matters, right? It's 7 percent of the state population. Joe Biden carried it by 14 points in. So, in the race for Senate and the race for governor, in any race in this area, Cobb County matters.

You heard Brianna talking about polling places staying open. Georgia did a very good job counting its votes in 2020. It will do a very good job counting its votes tonight, whether we're talking at the county level or the statewide level. If polls are being left open or if they're doing some things, it's because something little happened. Somebody had a problem with their password, like it happens to us every day at the office, right, or --

TAPPER: Or running out of ink in Maricopa County.

KING: Running out of ink in Maricopa County. Life happens even in elections. But you have to trust people. She also talked about Luzerne County. This is critical. Again, you have a big governor's race. You have a big Senate race. You have competitive house races. This is a county Donald Trump won by 14 points.

Absolutely critical to Mehmet Oz tonight, a place where if Doug Mastriano is going to be competitive in the race for governor, it happens to be here tonight. You see Wilkes-Barre here, the more rural areas as you get out here. Let's just use the 2020 map to show this and come into the presidential area. This is Trump country right here.

And so they're going to leave the polls open until 10:00 because there were issues some this morning. That's what a good judge does. That's what a good count election official does.

TAPPER: And, look, it's a Republican county, and the fact of the matter is the judge did the right thing. There was a paper shortage. He wants to make sure no one is disenfranchised. He's holding the polls open in that one county, Luzerne County, until 10:00. Great, God bless. It's not a conspiracy.

KING: Right. And that's why which is -- look, we're going to take our time tonight going through the results, but when you see there are -- in the case of Arizona, there are Republicans, including the former president's son, you know, tweeting up this conspiracy storm already about the vote count.

TAPPER: Oh, and the former president himself as well.

KING: In Arizona, trust the people who do this, if there are -- again, both parties have observers in the room whenever anything like this is coming up. And so they can go to court. They can raise their hand. They can protest. This is being done fairly and as it goes.

And I just wanted to come back here, let's just take a peek, let's just show votes.

TAPPER: You can't resist. KING: Right. This is what we like to do, right? So, you have a vote here, the incumbent is up 68 percent. It's only 3 percent of the vote. It's a Republican district. The incumbent here is likely to win. Let's just move up to Indiana's fifth district. Victoria Spartz is the incumbent --

TAPPER: The first Ukrainian-born member of Congress.

KING: Right. She is leading in her district. We're doing this for a reason. These are not competitive districts but this is how it works.

Jim Banks, a key member of the House Republican leadership, if Republicans do take the House, Jim Banks will be a name, if you don't live in Indiana, you haven't heard it before, you will be hearing a lot in the weeks and months ahead, a conservative rising star. We'll see if there are competitive elections whether he wins or loses. But in the Republican leadership here and again --

TAPPER: These are all red seats. The one battleground that we're looking for is this one and there's nothing in here yet.

KING: Right, nothing yet. And what we're still waiting here -- polls have not closed here yet. In this part of the state, they have -- the polls are still open at least in parts of this district, so you won't get any results in Gary, Indiana. I've been doing this for awhile. It tends to be slow counting the votes. There are corks and stuff, but they count them, they come in.

TAPPER: Can we go to Philly for a second?

KING: Yes, we can.

TAPPER: So, we had an inaccurate graphic about some ballots in Philly that were not going to be counted because they've been filled out incorrectly. The graphic said 36,000. It's actually 3,600. It's actually 3,600 ballots that were filled out incorrectly. And if you're concerned that yours is one of them, the voting is still open in Philadelphia. You can go figure it out and vote.

KING: And, again, most of this is a minor issue. He says he's retired now because he doesn't like what his party does anymore about election. But Ben Ginsberg, the Republican attorney who represented George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, was here earlier. He says most of them are people forgot to put the date on the outside envelope, right?


So, you open it up, if the signature is right, the address is right, the date right is on the inside, then that's a legal ballot. If there's no date on the outside, then you get inside and the address is wrong or the signature seems wrong, then you set it aside and the Democrat and the Republican and the independent person in the room sort it out over time. So, many of these can be cured. That's the ballot term for fixed, just so you come down and verify it. You come down and verify. You show your I.D., that's me, I'm sorry, I forgot to fill out the date and fill it in, and it's done. TAPPER: And we're going to be doing this all night. We're nearing the first big round of poll closings. We're also getting our first snapshot of what voters are thinking in a make-or-break battleground, the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, home to that key Fetterman/Oz Senate race. We have a new round of exit polls, that's next. Stay with us.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The direction of Congress and the future of the Biden agenda is are in the hands of voters right now. I'm Anderson Cooper. We're heading into the first big round of poll closings on this election night, tracking all the key contests and battlegrounds. I want to go to one of the top battleground, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Jason Carroll outside a ballot processing center in Philadelphia.

Jason, you're learning about frustration among officials there.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right. This is the processing center where all the votes coming out of Philadelphia will be counted, as you know. And, already, city officials are telling us that this is a process that was going to take a long period of time, now it's going to take even longer.


And that's because of something called voter reconciliation. Basically, the results of a GOP lawsuit, the city decided just in terms of full transparency to reinstate this policy of how they count votes, which is going to make things take even longer.

Basically, what this means is what they're doing is this process is meant to catch people who accidentally voted twice, once by mail-in and once in-person. So, in order to make sure that that doesn't happen, they reinstituted this policy. So, that means it's going to take even longer to count all of these votes.

And when I spoke to a city official, I said, well, how long are we talking here and how many votes are we talking about? She said it could be thousands. It could be hundreds of thousands, again, thousands to hundreds of thousands of votes that are coming in to Philadelphia.

So, we knew this process was going to take a long period of time. Now, we're hearing, Anderson, it could take even longer. But city officials say that they feel confident about how they're doing things here. They say they're going to be here around the clock until every single vote is counted. But, again, they wanted the public to know that even though this was something that was going to take a long time, now you know why it may take even longer. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll, I appreciate it.

We're getting our first glimpse into what Pennsylvania voters are thinking in our exit polls. Let's go back David Chalian for that. What are you seeing, David?

CHALIAN: Anderson, I just want to remind folks again both with the national exit poll and now that we're going to look at some state exit polls, this is representative of the overall electorate, whether people voted before Election Day or absentee by mail or early in- person or they voted today on Election Day. This is a survey that represents the whole of the electorate.

In Pennsylvania, specifically, we're looking at the Trump and Biden factors because both the president and the former president were in Pennsylvania for the final weekend of campaigning. They both saw it as a critical battleground for their party. So, Joe Biden's approval rating in Pennsylvania, according to Pennsylvania voters in this election, he's got a 46 percent approval rating, 54 percent disapprove. This is a tick better than we see him nationally, which maybe why it's the only battleground ground state Joe Biden was really campaigning in.

Donald Trump's favorability numbers here, interesting, 40 percent of the Pennsylvania electorate today views him favorably, 58 percent unfavorable. That is a significant downtick from the 47 percent who viewed him favorably just two years ago when he narrowly lost the state to Joe Biden.

And then how much of a factor was Joe Biden in the vote for Pennsylvanians today? Well, 52 percent, a slim majority, say not a factor, but if he was a factor, it was more negative. 32 percent voted to oppose Biden, 14 percent to support Biden. We also looked at that same question with Donald Trump among Pennsylvania voters. A significant majority, 57 percent, not a factor, but where he was a factor, it was more negative than positive, 24 percent oppose Trump, 18 percent, Anderson, of Pennsylvania voters today said they voted to support Donald Trump.

COOPER: David Chalian, thanks. We'll come back to you shortly.

David Urban, you know Pennsylvania well.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Statistically, I think you look at the Biden/Trump not a factor, they're pretty similar. I think David Axelrod noted earlier and David Chalian just mentioned that drop, that 7 percent drop in Trump's favorability numbers over the past two years, I think, is telling and about this race in particular, right?

Remember, the president -- the former president weighed in on in the primary here and both the governor's race and the Senate race and created a great amount of discord amongst all these different candidates. And so there were a lot of people going to the polls tonight voting for a Republican that's not their candidate and they may be doing so thinking that Trump, you know, precluded them from voting for their person, whether it's Lou Barletta or Dave McCormick or whomever. And that may be weighing in on this number.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. One of those candidates is Doug Mastriano, who is really emblematic of the most extreme elements of the Republican Party. Trump dropped from minus 5 to minus 18 in terms of differential between positive favorable and unfavorable.

But you can see here why Oz -- Dr. Oz was so cross cross-pressured at the end when Trump decided he would rally in Western Pennsylvania. For most of the last few weeks, you know, Dr. Oz has been trying to erase Trump from the whole discussion and pitch himself as a moderate because, as you know, the Philadelphia suburbs are pivotal in these races.

URBAN: Philadelphia suburbs. And that poll earlier, we saw those exit number, a third are independents, or the third of folks showing are independents, those independents probably, you know, they're not so aligned with Donald Trump, needless to say.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITIICAL ANALYST: Can I just say, usually, when a politician is out of office for a bit, your favorables go up.

COOPER: That's right.

BORGER: Because people aren't hearing from you all the time and they're not as sick as they were before you left office or got defeated. This is just the opposite. Donald Trump has been out of office and people like him less in the state of Pennsylvania.


And to, you know, David's point that is why the Oz people were not thrilled to have him --

URBAN: But don't underestimate. I'm telling, I was there on the ground. This interparty scrum in the primary really bruised up -- you go back and look on social media. People said, I'm done with Trump. I've had it with him. These are Republican county leaders in the party. So --

COOPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This was why this race looked so far apart over the summer, I mean, coming out of the primary. Oz had horrific image issues and they were really persistent throughout. I'm not sure he ever got right side up where his faves were higher than his unfaves. And you throw Donald Trump being at 40 versus Biden at 46 on top of that. And so if I'm in the Democratic position looking at this, it gives me some belief that maybe things look better.

Again, we don't know yet. The votes haven't been cast and certainly haven't been counted yet but I have always thought of the big three, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada. Pennsylvania was the one I was most unsure about in terms of would the macropolitical wins be enough, and we'll see what happens.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And on that point, I think Pennsylvania is going to be a race that's hyper local in a state-driven race. And I think of on any of the contests, it's the one we're probably most likely to see a split ticket. I think we all are pretty confident Shapiro is going to win the governor's race, but this is something where you could see an Oz, a Republican win on the Senate race, because I'm not sure it's totally referendum on Biden nor Trump. I think it's frankly the issues of voters care about.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And, honestly, I was concerned that the Biden numbers would be worse than they are for the people who went to vote. This is actually -- Biden is not more of a disaster for us than Trump and a lot of people, frankly, are going, they're voting for their pocketbooks, they're voting for their concern about democracy, they're voting for abortion, they're voting for other issues. And so the idea that -- and that may be one reason why we weren't afraid to have Biden come to Pennsylvania.

URBAN: I would say that three other races that will drive this that we talked about, and John King has, PA 7, PA 8, PA 17, right? Those are very competitive House races. And those are localized so people are going to -- and they're voting there, they're voting for their person there. That's going to kind of trickle up on the ballot as well. So --

BORGER: I don't think we can underestimate the Josh Shapiro factor here, very, very popular Democrat. And that's why, you know, you see folks saying, well, you know, Trump really wasn't a factor here. Biden wasn't a factor here. I mean, you're voting for your governor, don't forget. You're voting for somebody you're talking about your local taxes, everything else that has to do with your family, schools, whatever. And I think Josh Shapiro is -- you're right, I mean, by all accounts he's going to win and win handily and, you know, this is why Oz needed to walk this really fine line.

GRIFFIN: And I think part of why Fetterman -- sorry, I had to make that drastic 180 on fracking. It's Pennsylvania, the second largest energy-producing state, because it is a hyper state-driven race. And he's not running on a national platform, he is running for the state of Pennsylvania.

JENNINGS: Several races where governors have maybe an outsized impact on the race, Arizona, obviously, Kari Lake may drag Masters a little. Brian Kemp in Georgia may drag up Herschel Walker a little bit and in Pennsylvania, Shapiro, if he does quite well, you could see him dragging up --

URBAN: But remember, in Pennsylvania, you don't go in and pull the straight lever anymore, right? You've got to vote line by line. They changed that with Act 77. And so -- and Biden wins, you elect two statewide Republicans in the same year. So --

AXELROD: I would say on the approval rating, you know, it is -- every candidate has to try and deal with the president's approval rating. 46 is pretty good.


AXELROD: There's not much of a gap there. You don't have to make up too much of a gap there. There are some states where candidates are dealing with Biden's approval rating, at 40 or below. That's a lot of distance to make up.

COOPER: Well, he's from there.

JENNINGS: The number, to me, has always been 45. If you've got the incumbent president at 45 -- you can see somebody outrunning about four or five but get down below into 44, 43, 42, it's a long jump.

COOPER: You think the race -- I mean, in Pennsylvania for Senate, it could go either way.

URBAN: Yes. Look, you know, even when I was Arlen Specter's chief of staff, who was an incumbent senator for years and years and years, every night on election night, you bite your nails, right, because as a Republican, you're pushing a big rock up a hill in Pennsylvania every election cycle.

COOPER: We're nearing the top of the hour. Our first chance to make projections when voting ends in six states, that means the first votes, from the critical Georgia Senate race are coming soon all after the break.



TAPPER: We are just minutes away now from the first major round of poll closings on this election night in America with huge consequences for the nation. At 7:00 P.M. Eastern, polling places close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia. And we will get our first hints at how the battle for control of Congress may unfold in the hours ahead. Both parties battling for the 218 seats needed to win the majority in the House of Representatives.

A total of 65 House seats are on the line in states where polls are closing at the top of the hour. Nine of them are considered competitive, including four in Florida where voting is about to end in most districts across the state, though not all.

And the fight for the Senate, the Georgia race could be a decider. Incumbent Democrat and Pastor Raphael Warnock faces Republican former football star Herschel Walker. Walker has held on to the support of top Republicans despite multiple controversies. Warnock is aiming to repeat his special election win two years ago that was key to flipping the Senate to Democratic control.

To the governor's now, we're watching an epic rematch in Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams challenging Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who narrowly beat her four years ago. We're very close to our first chance to make projections.

Right now, let's check in with our correspondents in Georgia, first to Eva McKend at the headquarters of Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. And, Eva, as we wait the first results from Georgia, what are you hearing from the Warnock campaign headquarters?

MCKEND: Well, Jake, they're feeling confident. They are saying that, really, they did all that they could. They campaigned everywhere. Senator Warnock, they say, has spent his two years thinking about all of Georgians in suburban and rural areas and metro centers.


And they say it is because he has run this type of campaign as a bridge builder, he thinks he can win here. Still, though, Senator Warnock dealing with a really aggressive challenge from the former NFL star, Herschel Walker. The Warnock campaign says that is something that they always anticipated in a state like this one that the race would always be close.

But still you can tell in the last few weeks, the momentum sort of shifts on the ground with conservatives consolidating around Herschel Walker. Still, a lot of confidence here from Senator Warnock's team thinking that they can potential potentially avoid a runoff but that is a real possibility. If neither Warnock or Walker get above 50 percent, that is going to extend this race into overtime and lead to a potential runoff on December the 6th, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Eva. Let's go to Herschel Walker's campaign headquarters where Jeff Zeleny is standing by, and, Jeff, how does the Walker campaign headquarters, how do they think the many controversies about Herschel Walker, especially about his personal life, how do they think that that played a role especially in the closing days of that campaign if at all?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, it definitely did. You'll think back just to several weeks and even months ago when Republicans here in Georgia and in Washington were just in a state of panic about the allegations that were, indeed, coming out about Herschel Walker.

But then, Republicans did one thing, they circled the wagons around him and dispatched many senators who are campaigning at his side and took a page from the Trump playbook and did not apologize and pushed forward. It was a page from the Trump playbook without the former president himself.

In the final days of this race as Donald Trump campaigned across the country traveling from state to state to state, he did not come to Georgia and that was by design, I am told. I'm told that the former president was in frequent conversation with Herschel Walker, of course, he's the one who recruited him to run in this Georgia Senate race in the first place. Over the objection of many Washington Republicans including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell but it was former president Donald Trump who urged Herschel walker to run and I am told they have spoken all the time on the telephone. Last evening they spoke a few times, I'm told. Today they also spoke.

So, very interesting, taking a page out that have playbook but leaving him out of this so that allowed the Walker campaign to do one thing, to make this race about President Biden and to tie Senator Raphael Warnock to President Biden.

Jake, I'm just struck here, either driving down the freeways, watching television, looking at mailers that voters received, there was a side- by-side picture of Senator Warnock and President Biden everywhere you went, effectively trying to tie the two together. What that allowed them not to do was to link Herschel Walker with Donald Trump.

So, as the votes are counted here at the top of the hour the polls will close across the state of Georgia with the exception of a few polls that are staying open a bit longer because of some minor complications. It'll be fascinating to see which strategy actually worked but one thing that's clear, Herschel Walker was not disqualified as this campaign came to a close -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny at Herschel Walker's campaign headquarters in Atlanta.

David Chalian has early exit poll data from Georgia.

David, what are you looking at gentleman?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, along these lines, Jake, we're taking a look about what was on Georgia voters' minds in the election. When it comes to the calls they were looking for in their candidates and I think it's pretty clear it's sort of a character election that is taking place there, 36 percent of Georgia voters are looking for a candidate who shares their values, 32 percent looking for a candidate that has honesty and integrity.

Less so about empathy and experience, 19 percent say I'm looking for someone who cares about people like me and only 8 percent are look for the candidate with the right experience which may be good news for Herschel Walker since he is new to politics.

Who shows good judgment? We asked that of Georgia voters. Forty-six percent say only Warnock shows good judgment. Far fewer say only Herschel Walker, 28 percent shows good judgment, both 5 percent, 18 percent of voters in this Georgia election say neither candidate shows good judgment.

Are Warnock's views too extreme? And this has been something that Walker has been hammering away at on the campaign trail. Look at this, the state -- the voters in Georgia are evenly split on this, 48 percent of Georgia voters say, yes, Warnock's views are too extreme. 47 percent say, no. Herschel Walker scores a built better on this.

Are Herschel Walker's views too extreme? Well, 43 percent of Georgia voters say, yes, but a slim majority, 52 percent, Dana, say Herschel Walker's views are not too extreme for them.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So interesting. David, thank you so much.

Let's talk about the Georgia Senate race and some of the exit polls that David was just talking about, specifically one of the things that really stuck out to me was which candidate shows good judgment.

Only 28 percent say Walker, Warnock, 46 percent. Maybe given everything that we've seen about the allegations about Herschel Walker, not that surprising. But even given this, it's not expected to be the determining factor as to whether or not Herschel Walker will win or lose.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. Herschel walker's unfavorables and the image that voters have of him are pretty negative, especially after all of this. But this is just an environment in which Republicans are more likely to do well, the environment favors Republicans. But as we were saying earlier in the show, when you have a state like Georgia that is already purple to begin with, and then on top of that, you have an environment that is favorable, and on top of that you have a top of the ticket race that where the Republican might be doing way better than Herschel Walker no matter the outcome, that I think is a recipe for Walker to get a little bit of a pass surviving, perhaps, in this --

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it is amazing that he's getting any kind of a pass at all. These allegations that a pro-life candidate paid for an abortion, that he didn't father a number of children of that he didn't support, that he threatened his wife, that he had mental illness, I mean, this would sink any other candidate.

Herschel Walker got two things going for him. One, he's an idol in the state of Georgia. He is a Heisman trophy winner from the University of Georgia. And, by the way, Georgia is the number one team in the nation. They just crushed Tennessee on Saturday.

And, two, to a certain degree, it's all about teams and the fact is that I think a lot of people may hold their nose about Herschel Walker, but they'd rather see Mitch McConnell --

BASH: Chris, I agree --

WALLACE: Let me just finish. McConnell as a Senate majority leader than Chuck Schumer.

BASH: I didn't mean to interrupt you, but I read about your second point about teams. Maybe not so much about the first that only somebody like Herschel Walker could survive this because Herschel Walker, yes, I agree, he's a very famous person, and that's part of it. But he is following the Donald Trump playbook on how to deal with the scandal to a T, trying to use it to his -- in his favor, to say look what they're doing to me.

PHILLIP: Yeah, and, look, I think that says a lot about where we are as a country. I do think, not to bring Trump into this, but he has a lot to do with this. He changed the way voters interpret scandals, and whether or not they should matter to them. I mean, you may not like it, but that is the reality you're seeing.

WALLACE: But Herschel Walker wouldn't even have been the nominee, wouldn't have gotten the Trump endorsement if he weren't a celebrity. His whole campaign is about celebrity. And he is an icon in the state of Georgia.

BASH: Speaking of actually pretty new icons, the governor, Governor Kemp, this has been one of the most fascinating dynamics to watch. Because the last time he won, it was a very, very tight race.

WALLACE: Fifty thousand votes.

BASH: Right. Between he and Stacey Abrams. It is a rematch, and he is just seen in such a different light because of Donald Trump, because he positioned himself sort of as a barricade between Donald Trump and the actual votes that happened. Plus, people are kind of okay with his stewardship as governor.

WALLACE: I think that people generally feel that he opened up the state, he didn't stay in lockdown as long, and that Georgia didn't have a big spike in COVID. And, in fact, the economy wasn't as hit as hard as a lot of other states were.

PHILLIP: I think the question a lot of people had been coming into tonight asking is what are we going to see in terms of splitting tickets, are we going to see people skipping one race and voting in another? That's a huge question tonight.

But it's particularly important for Herschel Walker, and whether or not he can actually get to a 50 percent mark to avoid a runoff. If he can't, then we're just doing it all over again. Then the dynamics totally change.

So I think both campaigns at this moment, they believe this race is just as tight as can be. And both sides are just trying to keep it alive a little bit longer.

WALLACE: We should just introduce America to the name Chase Oliver. He is a libertarian, a former Democrat. And he could be the person who keeps either of these guys from getting to 50 percent. And then you can blame him when we keep following the Warnock race against Walker until December 6th.

BASH: Jake and John, let's go over to you at the wall.

TAPPER: Thanks so much, Dana. And right now, we have votes coming in. It's exciting. Votes are actually coming. What are we seeing, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're seeing a lesson early in the night, if you're Democrat or Republican, cheer your party on. But be careful as you look. I say that because of this, these are the two Senate races on the map that we have votes so far. Kentucky, the Democratic candidate at the moment Charles Booker is 4,881 votes ahead of the Republican incumbent Rand Paul.

We will watch this throughout the night. Sometimes we do get surprise, but Mr. Booker is not expected to beat the Republican incumbent. The reason he's ahead is that the early votes are coming in from Jefferson County, which is Louisville, which is the number one county, the biggest populous -- the most populous county in the state, those results are coming in.


TAPPER: He is expected to win that country, right? KING: Yes, that is a Democratic county. That is the most Democratic county in the state. So, you get the early votes and we're going to see this throughout the night and other states as well. Some places it'll be mail votes first or election day votes first.

Let's just watch it. Let's just watch it. And then you have up here, just the Indiana Republican Senator Todd Young out to a very early lead. He is heavily favored in this race. It's not that these races don't matter because one of the things you're looking for if you're in the Democrat or the Republican headquarters is, are there any surprises? Are you going to get any disruptions, if you will?

So, if you're in a 50/50 Senate, you're just trying to make sure you keep your own as a Republican. We'll keep an eye when you see votes come in like this, you always watch and see.

So what happens at the top of the hour is when things get interesting. If you're a partisan watching at home, this is when it starts to get more tense.

TAPPER: The actual competitive race.

KING: Right, we start to get actual votes. Number one, we'll watch how the votes come in and how they're counted. Georgia, their votes come in very quickly, they do a really good job, as we learned in 2020. Fulton County, the biggest county out of 159 counties in the state of Georgia, it's one of the most complicated, fun for me, states. I know it's not fun for partisans at home, as we go through it.

And then the issue, as we'll go back in time here. I just want to go back to when Brian Kemp won in 2018. This is the governor's race. We're talking about the Senate race but it's the same math here. It's the suburbs around Atlanta. It's not so much we expect those to be blue like they were in the Kemp race. We expect them to be blue in the Senate race.

The question is the margins.

TAPPER: Margins, exactly.

KING: So we're going to be talking about margins for days.

So, let's come back to the Senate map. Come back to 2022. What else are you looking for? Dana and Chris and Abby were talking about Herschel Walker. How do Republicans view Herschel Walker? If you go back to the 2020 presidential race, Donald Trump lost. Donald Trump lost Georgia by 11,000 votes.

But look at all this red. This is a test for Herschel Walker in Georgia tonight, the polls close in a few minutes. It's a test for Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. Can they run it up to Trump voters who like that particular style of Republican? Do they turn out? Do they turn out in decent high numbers?

You know, they're small counties. You go into some of these counties and they're tiny in terms of the population, 2,400 votes, but 73 percent. That matters, right? Margins, again.

TAPPER: Just to remind people, Joe Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes. So if that's our template, all night we're going to be looking at, is Raphael Warnock matching what Biden did? Is Herschel Walker exceeding what Trump did? That's what we're going to be looking at.

KING: Yes, and most of that will be around the Atlanta suburbs. So if Herschel Walker can overperform Trump in the Atlanta suburbs, and then break even with Trump in the rural areas. Do Trump voters view him as legitimate and they turn out, and the suburban voters who were frankly repulsed by Donald Trump and much of the country say we think Herschel Walker is good enough for us. It'll be a key in the governor's race and key in the Senate race as well.

That's where it starts to get real. Let's come back to 2022 when we start to fill in the votes here. We also then at the bottom of the hour, 7:30, you get North Carolina, if Democrats are going to have a surprise tonight and an extra piece, if you will, in the chess game, the Cheri Beasley race in North Carolina, you have to come to the visit for that, it's one of our competitive races.

You know, they're hoping -- oops, one up there, come on down, here we go. Former state supreme court justice running against a member of the House Republican conference, she's running a remarkably competitive race.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: If it ends up being 52-48, or 51-49 in favor of the Republican, Democrats are going to be saying we should've spent more money.

TAPPER: I've already heard Democrats say they should've spent more money for Cheri.

KING: Incredibly tough climate, the national democrat. They have a Democratic governor. Obama won it in 2008, historic African American turnout. That'll be critical for Cheri Beasley tonight. Can he do that in a midterm election year?

We'll start learning that 7:30. At the top of the hour, Georgia is the big one for us. Because what happens here is this in the house race, these are the ones that are in so far. Eleven races coming in so far. Ten Republicans leading, one Democrat leading. These are not viewed as competitive races.

But, again, if you're in the party headquarters, you've got to keep what you expect to keep. The challenge is as we get into the next hour, we bring up these competitive races. Virginia closes at the top of the hour.

Just in the commonwealth of Virginia, you have these Democratic incumbents in the northern Virginia suburbs it's Jennifer Wexton. Central part of the state, still suburban, Abigail Spanberger. Considered the most vulnerable of these three, Elaine Luria. She's on the January 6 committee. What happens in Virginia as we start to count those House races? Can

Democrats keep all three? Do they lose one? Do they lose two? That's going to tell us a lot, Jake, about Republicans need a net gain of five. Polls close in Virginia. That is a big early clue.

TAPPER: All right, John. Thanks so much.