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CNN Live Event/Special

Democrats Pick up Pennsylvania Senate Seat; People's Motivation Behind Voting; DeSantis Scores Big Re-Election Win; Biden Advisers Describe Mood as Vindicated; Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 09, 2022 - 09:30   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: There are key races that are still too close to call, but Democrats have managed to avoid the crushing red wave that many had feared. For Democrats no stakes were higher than the Senate race in Pennsylvania. The Democrat, John Fetterman, defeated Mehmet Oz and flipped the seat from Republican hands.

CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now in Pittsburgh.

What are you hearing from the Fetterman camp?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, this morning the Fetterman campaign is obviously quite delighted with this outcome. They told me last night that they were very confident in what they had done in the last five days. They really felt like they had closed out the last five days in the strongest way possible. They actually pointed to that endorsement from Oprah Winfrey as helping them with suburban women. That's a target demographic. I'll come right back to that because it played in last night. And then also the rallies with former President Obama and President Biden.

They also really believed that Mehmet Oz undercut his own message of being a moderate by appearing at that rally with President Trump and standing on the same stage as him. So they felt confident, but they said to me, we think it's a jump ball.

That all changed once the numbers started coming in last night. And they were specifically watching some bellwether counties to see if they could outperform what President Biden did in 2020 when he won the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and then also too if they could keep Oz's margins down in what's known as the t, essentially draw a t over Pennsylvania. That's what started to happen.

And so once they saw like Erie County coming in, I'm told, and then Montgomery County, which is suburban women, it's those Philly suburbs, that's when they knew they had it. They were really excited about it.

As for the gubernatorial race, also worth noting, Josh Shapiro beating election denier Doug Mastriano by a very sizable margin here.

[09:35:05] Anderson.

COOPER: We'll check back with you shortly.

Across the nation there was high turnout in both early voting and in- person voting.

CNN's Harry Enten is at the battleground wall with me here.

What were the big drivers?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, so, you know, I think one of the big questions coming into this election, you know, you spoke about on your panel, it was abortion versus inflation. The idea was essentially that inflation would run away and be the most important issue to voters. But take a look here, they were about equal as the most important issue. Inflation at 31 percent, abortion at 27 percent.

And I think there was also this idea, OK, maybe Democrats won't turn out, but take a look at the turnout by the 2020 presidential vote and I think this gives you an understanding that, in fact, Democrats were turning out to vote because it turns out that amongst those who voted in this election, what you saw was it was 48 percent of those who turned out in this election and voted for Joe Biden, versus 44 percent who voted for Donald Trump. That four point margin looks very similar to what we saw two years ago. So, Democrats were, in fact, motivated to turn out to vote.

Now, I think there's also this question of Joe Biden. How much was Joe Biden a drag on Democrats? So, if we look at the exit poll, what you see is Joe Biden was not a popular guy. His unfavorable rating was at 56 percent. Just 41 percent of voters who voted yesterday said they had a favorable opinion of Joe Biden nationally.

And let's look at those who said they had an unfavorable rating. How did they vote? Well, they voted overwhelmingly Republican. Look at that, that margin, 85 percent to 14 percent. And I want you to keep that in mind when we think about the former president, Donald Trump, how much of a motivator was he? Well, he was actually more unpopular than Joe Biden. Look at that, a 39 percent favorable rating to just a 58 percent unfavorable. Fifty-eight percent unfavorable. That is huge.

And look at those who had an unfavorable view of Donald Trump, how did they vote? They voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates, 77 percent to 20 percent. So, it was basically this canceling out, right, where both Joe Biden and Donald Trump were disliked and they were pretty much equal in the minds of voters and that's why I think Democrats held their own yesterday, Anderson.

COOPER: Harry Enten, appreciate it.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is mulling a 2024 run. Did his big win last night just give him the perfect launch pad? Our panel tackles this one, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We have embraced freedom and we reject woke ideology. We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.


COOPER: Florida's Republican Ron DeSantis with a decisive re-election victory over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. The GOP's rising star is now on a potential collision course with former President Donald Trump in a 2024 presidential primary. As "The New York Post" covered this morning, the headline says, "DeFuture."

My colleague, Alisyn Camerota, is with our panel of political experts.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thank you very much.

So, let's bring in our panel of CNN political commentators. We have Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, Alice Stewart, former Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent and Karen Finney.

Great to be with all of you this morning.

Before we get to your biggest takeaways from the night, which I really want to hear, let's just talk about this, I guess, presidential proxy war between DeSantis and Donald Trump. Your thoughts, Charlie.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if Donald Trump could take one back right now, he would take back his endorsement of Ron DeSantis over Adam Putnam in the 2018 Florida gubernatorial primary where Putnam was going to win, and he was very popular, ag commissioner, former congressman, and then Trump went in and endorsed DeSantis. Well, guess what, you reap what you sow. And now DeSantis is ascended with his overpowering victory last night and Trump is in bad shape.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I will put money on one thing that Donald Trump will not take back, and that is desanctimonious. I think we're going to hear that over and over, the new nickname he has for DeSantis.

Look, DeSantis is doing well in terms of his prospects for 2024 for several reason. One, he has been a proven leader in Florida, financially, as well as when it comes to --

CAMEROTA: And does that translate nationally, Alice, because -- or is Florida its own biosphere?

STEWART: It does translate because he's -- this gives him something to tout as he's traveling around the country. But he is a proven leader on financial matters, as well as when the hurricane came through, he was an extremely effective leader. He's a great fundraiser and he has risen to the status of receiving a nickname from Donald Trump. And that right there shows you're a threat.

And we showed a static poll last night, a head-to-head of him and Trump, and he is right up there with Trump, just ahead of voters in Florida. But if you look at the bigger picture, Real Clear Politics has been tracking this for several months. Donald Trump, in the last three months, his poll numbers in terms of head-to-head with DeSantis have gone down five points and DeSantis has gone up. So, you look at the trend. That's not the trend that Trump wants.


CAMEROTA: And before I get to you, Karen, let me just show you exit polls from last night. These are Florida voters. Want Trump to run for president in 2024, no, 65 percent versus, yes, 33 percent. Want DeSantis to run for president in 2024, no, 53 percent and, yes, 45 percent. That may be because Floridians want him to stay as their governor.

OK, your thoughts.

KAREN KINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think if you look, though, across the country what happened last night in terms of Americans pushing back on extremism, pushing back on a lot of the kind of rhetoric, frankly, that we've heard from DeSantis and candidates like him, he is probably a fantastic primary Republican presidential candidate.


I do not think that woke message is going to work across the country. And I think Americans are saying, we don't want extremism.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I also just want to pick up on the fact that, you know, DeSantis may have won in Florida, but Donald Trump lost around the country. This is a resounding loss for him. And, obviously, he's going to try and spin it. He's going to argue that Trump never loses despite the fact that he clearly lost in 2020.

But you have to look, across different ballots, whether you're talking about Oz in Pennsylvania, or Mastriano, or Bolduc, there are so many Trump-endorsed candidates that are -- either have lost or are looking to be - to be a loser.

CAMEROTA: Did you hear what Donald Trump said last night about his endorsed candidates? Let's just play that very quickly about whether or not he won or he lost.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think if they win, I should get all the credit. And if they lose, I should not be blamed at all.


CAMEROTA: In vintage - in vintage Donald Trump. I --

STEWART: At least he's consistent.

DENT: Oh, my. Look, if you learned anything about last night, yes, it was a terrible night for Trump, but the party really must moderate in tone and in substance. You know, if I --

CAMEROTA: Is that your biggest takeaway from last night?

DENT: It is - it is a takeaway. But -- but on the abortion issue, clearly a big issue, the party needs to moderate on that issue. It just does. They're on the wrong side by a big margin, especially with those most extreme laws. That's a problem for them.

In tone, you know, in this election denial, which Republicans did all right last night? Oh, people like Tom Kaine Jr. in New Jersey, very mainstream, very moderate. He's certainly not crazy. He's a sensible guy. He did well. People like that. But the deniers, the people who were out on the edge, you know, Lauren Boebert's on the cusp right now, these are the ones who struggled.

So, you need to get back to more mainstream, acceptable candidates who do not offend the public.

CAMEROTA: Karen, you have - quickly, your biggest surprise or take away?

Ah, she's doing the happy dance.

FINNEY: I told you I was going to give you my little happy dance.

Look, reproductive freedom. And I'm on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice America. We have been tracking this for two years. Eight in ten Americans support Roe v. Wade. And I think we saw, what did the Dobbs decision do? It mobilized people to get out and vote. To register, frankly. We saw women turning out in very high numbers.

Look at what happened in that ballot initiative in Kentucky where, you know, that went down, where we saw Michigan following in suit of Kansas. So, I think it's very -- it's about freedom. That's the other thing I think Republicans don't understand. It's not just about the medical procedure, but you're telling women, you have less rights. And we just won't stand for that anymore ever again.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead, Alice.

STEWART: I was thrilled to see the huge gen z turnout. Working with the Harvard youth poll, they've been tracking this. And in the last election, gen z got involved because they were really big on climate change and other issues. With abortion, they got more involved. They appreciated seeing that their involvement makes a difference and they were up d plus 23 with the gen z generation. And it's fascinating to see them get engaged. They were voting for climate change, on abortion. And even President Biden's repaying college debt was a big factor in getting them out. So, I'm just thrilled to see the younger generation get out.

CAMEROTA: Abdul, your biggest takeaway.

EL-SAYED: I want to pick up on that and just say, democracy was on the ballot, and democracy won. And it turns out that the best way to save democracy is more democracy, and that, I think, should be really heartening to a lot of us. You saw a lot of split ticket voting, where folks were saying, you know, I like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. And it reminds us that we are not as polarized as a lot of the narratives say we are.

And I also want to say that, you know, a lot of the preconceived notions of what the middle looks like, I think got busted. You look at John Fetterman, who's not supposed to win statewide in a state like Pennsylvania, who's clearly a progressive, who clearly believes in Medicare for all. And he won. And so it says a lot about the way that the narrative might just not be right. And I think we've got to spend a lot more time in the communities with folks who have very nuanced, diverse opinions that don't always fit our narratives.

CAMEROTA: I really appreciate you saying that because I, too, think that people are not as extreme as they're often depicted and people are cobbling together their own platform. There's no party that matches that. And so they cobble it together.

All right, we have so much more to talk about, including how the election deniers did.

Meanwhile, President Biden is expected to address the midterm election results in some form today after he seemed to avoid the Democratic purge that many in his party had feared. We are live at the White House, next.



COOPER: And welcome back to our special election coverage. We have a key race alert. This just in, Republican Mehmet Oz has called Democrat John Fetterman to concede the Pennsylvania Senate race. That's according to a Fetterman spokesperson. Fetterman defeated Oz, flipped the seat from Republican hands. CNN has reached out to the Oz campaign for comment.

The White House waking up this morning with a more optimistic picture of what the next two years in Washington could look like. We're expecting to hear from President Biden at some point today.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now from the White House.

So, control of Congress still up in the air right now. What's the latest?

MJ, it's Anderson Cooper.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, sorry about - yes, we just got -- just got you back.

You know, I will tell you, when we were going to bed last night, we sensed cautious optimism from the White House. This is before they knew everything that we know now. And waking up this morning, there is a happy buzz in the building behind me. And one adviser telling us that the mood in the building right now is that people feel vindicated. You know, they feel like Democrats ended up running on the president's message and that's why they ended up having more successes than a lot of people expected.


And then just on the messaging front, they feel vindicated that they did talk about issues like the economy, abortion, protecting democracy, and that last night showed that those issues did end up being an animating force for a lot of voters. One man that they are feeling particularly good about, of course, is John Fetterman. He has now handed Democrats an important pickup. And this is a candidate that they will highlight because the president did physically campaign with him in Pennsylvania. So this is -- was a very important sort of validation for them as well.

I do want to leave you with sort of a reality check of point - of sorts, though, Anderson, because Biden is going to confront a very different Washington, even if Democrats were to keep the Senate. If they're losing the House to Republicans, that means that governing is going to become so much more challenging for this president. And I think it's also just important to keep in mind that some of these Democrats that did end up winning in these tough races, they did so by outperforming the president.

So, if we do end up hearing from the president later today, taking this victory lap, he is also going to have a challenge and a burden to convince people that Democrats did this with the help of Biden and not in spite of him.


COOPER: MJ Lee, appreciate it.

Coming up at the top of the hour, several key races in critical states still too close to call. We'll bring you the latest numbers, next.