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Bill Gates, Chairman, Maricopa County Board Of Supervisors, Discusses Arizona Races Too Close To Call; Democrats Flip PA Senate Seat In Major Victory Toward Holding Senate; House Still Undecided As McCarthy Moves To Lock Down Speakership. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 09, 2022 - 14:30   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're back with a key race alert. Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, the incumbent, obviously, right now locked in a very tight race with the Republican challenger, Blake Masters.

Here's where it stands right now, 51.4 percent for Kelly, 46.4 percent for Blake Masters. But still plenty of votes out there left to be counted.

In the Arizona governor's race, take a look at these numbers right now. This is the gubernatorial contest in Arizona.

Let's get that up on the screen.

There it is. You see Katie Hobbs with 50.3 percent. Kari Lake -- Katie Hobbs. Kari Lake with 49.7 percent. So it is very close in the gubernatorial contest in Arizona right now.

This important note to our viewers. About 400,000 ballots are left to be counted in Maricopa County itself. That's the state's largest county.

I'm joined by the chairman of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, Bill Gates.

Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.

What is the latest on the status of these remaining votes that have to be counted?


That's right. We have a little over 400,000 votes that are left to be counted. And so most of those votes are early ballot votes. OK. So in Arizona, people can vote early. They can go on our early voter list and they have an early ballot.

And these that are left, the majority of them, are ballots that came into us via mail or drop off this weekend or later. In particular, just on Election Day, just yesterday, we had over 275,000 people drop off an early ballot for us. So, that's the large majority of it.

We also have about 17,000 ballots left to count from Election Day. And these are ballots that did not go through the tabulator. They were not read by the tabulator for some reason.

But they were brought down by bipartisan boards, Republicans and Democrats, down to our central count facility. And those will also be counted later on this week.

BLITZER: I want to bring in my colleague, John King, who is following your updates closely, Chairman. He has a question for you.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Gates, grateful for your time. I know you're really busy.

You mentioned about 400,000. You mentioned they are predominantly mail-in ballots. We know in 2020, mail-in ballots broke disproportionately in favor of Democrats.

Do you have numbers? Is that happening in this cycle or is it different?

GATES: Well, what we have seen in the mail-in ballots was that they did -- that was our first vote dump at 8:00 p.m. last night. Those were all mail-in ballots that we received before last Friday. Those did break Democrat.

But you have to keep in mind, again, we have no idea how these are going to break. But these are what we call late earlies. These are early ballots that came in at the end, including on Election Day.

So, again, in the last couple of cycles, we have tended to see more Republicans showing up on Election Day. Of course, to vote a ballot and run it through the tabulator, but also with the early ballots.

So I think it is just too hard at this point to try and estimate exactly how those early ballots are going to break.

BLITZER: Your state's Republican candidate for governor, Mr. Chairman, talking about Kari Lake, is stoking concerns over this election, suggesting that what she calls incompetency is at play. And even comparing this to the 2020 presidential election, which she falsely claims, obviously, was stolen.

How do you respond to that?

GATES: Well, first of all, yes, I would agree, 2020 was not stolen, was not rigged here in Maricopa County. Our election in that year was, as I have said, one of the most scrutinized in the history of the world.

Now let's move forward to 2022. First of all, I do not believe that what happened yesterday can fairly be called incompetence or corruption in any way.

Did we have some issues? Yes. We did have issues with people trying to put ballots into the tabulators yesterday in about 20 percent at the high point about 20 percent of our vote centers. We were able to address that issue by the early afternoon.

And here's the key point for everyone to keep in mind. People who showed up yesterday, at the polling places, with a valid I.D. -- we require I.D. to vote in this state.


If they showed up with that, and they voted yesterday, that vote has already been counted or it is going to be counted. So that is the key issue.

The really -- the question is where those votes are going to be tabulated, either were they tabulated out at the vote center yesterday or will they be in our central count facility? So I want to underline that.

And, again, if people have instances or proof of fraud, we want to hear that. But up to this point, we have not.

And right now, we are laser focused on getting through this count and doing it in an accurate way.

By the way, we anticipate 95 to 99 percent of the votes will be counted in Maricopa County by the end of the day this Friday.

BLITZER: That's very encouraging indeed, Mr. Chairman.

You earlier confirmed there are about 400,000 votes that still are left to be counted. Are there any more that will be coming in from Election Day or after, do you believe, if so, how many?

GATES: Yes, no. I think that is our -- we don't have the exact figure, but somewhere above 400,000.

Again, in Arizona, you have to get your early ballot to us by Election Day. So some states, you know, as long as you post mark it by Election Day, it will be counted. But in Arizona, under our law, we have to have it in hand at the elections department by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.

BLITZER: You guys are going to be busy, but it is critically important to do a good job.

We're grateful to you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for joining us.

GATES: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, President Biden celebrating the Senate win in Pennsylvania, where he personally campaigned. We'll have a live report from the scene. That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: President Biden is expected to take questions. He's going to have a news conference. We're taking it live, so you'll be part of it. It is in just over an hour.

Officials tell CNN that he is obviously celebrating after the Senate win in Pennsylvania where the president campaigned with the Democrat John Fetterman, who won that race.

I'm joined now by CNN's Brian Todd in Pittsburgh.

Brian, it appears that John Fetterman, obviously the winner in Pennsylvania, his stroke was not the liability that many of his supporters feared it would be.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: it turned out not to be that liability, Erin. In fact, John Fetterman, throughout the campaign, took all of the criticism and all of the questions surrounding his health on that devastating stroke that he had back in May.

And he turned those things into a positive. Repeatedly on the campaign trail, he kept saying this campaign is about people who get knocked down and get back up.

He hit on that again last night, even in victory, when he doesn't necessarily have to address the issue of his health. He hit on that this morning in his victory speech.

Take a listen.


SEN.-ELECT JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): I'm just so proud of the race that we ran. And, you know, this campaign has always been about fighting for everyone who anyone who has been knocked down, that ever got back up.



TODD: But even in victory, those questions still linger. People wondering whether he's going to have the strength and the mental fortitude and everything to take office and serve as a U.S. Senator.

John Fetterman has said he believes that by the time he takes office in January, he will be back to full strength or at least very close to it -- Erin?

BURNETT: Brian Todd, thank you very much.

Let's dig into the data more with our political director, David Chalian. David, what do you see in what happened there?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, Pennsylvania's one of a couple of states that we saw, Erin, where abortion was the most important issue, not inflation.

So want to take a look at how those voters that said abortion was the most important issue to their vote split between Fetterman and Oz.

Overall, they make up 36 percent of the electorate, people who said abortion was issue number one. And overwhelmingly, you see here, Fetterman wins those voters 78 percent to 21 percent. He put that issue front and center in his campaign.

We also asked folks who are their feelings about Roe v. Wade being overturned. And among the Pennsylvania electorate here, those that said they were downright angry about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that was 39 percent of the electorate, Erin. Fetterman wins 90 percent of those voters. It is a pretty sizable chunk.

Then we asked about how each candidate was sort of viewed in terms of being too extreme or not. So are Oz's views too extreme? Pennsylvania voters split roughly evenly here, but 50 percent say yes, just edging out the 47 percent who say no.

That's different from what we asked about if Fetterman is seen as -- if his views are seen as too extreme or not. Only 45 percent of Pennsylvania voters in this Senate race said yes. And 53 percent, a slim majority, in this race, said no.

And then you were talking to Brian Todd about Fetterman's health, and that was a question that we had in the exit poll. And we asked, is Fetterman's health good enough to represent the state effectively?

You see here, it is an even split, but 50 percent just edges out there, yes, can serve effectively, 47 percent no.

Compare that to Dr. Oz's sort of residency issue that Fetterman put into this campaign as an attack line, you know, he lives in New Jersey.


And the question was, has he lived in the state long enough to represent the state effectively? And 42 percent said yes. But a clear majority of Pennsylvania voters, 56 percent, said Oz had not lived in the state long enough to effectively represent it.

BURNETT: Funny. You know, funny how it is. You learn that living some place is relevant. You wouldn't think we'd necessarily find out this way. But indeed, we have.

David Chalian, thank you so much.

CHALIAN: Thanks. BURNETT: And we're still awaiting results from several key races. And as we are waiting, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is already looking to secure a potential speakership. We have the details on those machinations next.


BLITZER: Republicans still, right now, 15 seats shy of achieving their goal of retaking the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

And as you can see, Republicans currently lead in 16 of the outstanding competitive races. But any Republican majority will be much narrower than the party had, of course, hoped for.


This, as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is moving too quickly try to lock down support to become the next speaker of the House as a group of hard-right Republicans are actually right now discussing whether to challenge McCarthy's bid to try to extract concessions from him.

Let's bring back Jamie Gangel, CNN special correspondent, Audie Cornish, CNN anchor and correspondent, and Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst.

Jamie, Republicans they appear to be on track potentially to take the majority in the House, but this wasn't the clear-cut majority they certainly were expecting.

Normally, in a midterm election, the party out of power in the White House can score 50, 60 seats and that certainly is not happening.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. And it's certainly not the way that Kevin McCarthy was hoping to finally fulfill his dream and become speaker of the House. This is a very narrow margin. And it could cause some real problems for him.

So as our colleagues, Manu Raju and Melanie Zanona, are reporting, as source familiar with the House Freedom Caucus told them today that there are currently around two dozen current and incoming members of the Freedom Caucus who are willing to vote against Kevin McCarthy if he doesn't offer them concessions.

Kevin McCarthy has everyone on speed dial. We know some of the current Freedom Caucus members. Let's see what some of these incoming folks are like. This is not going to be easy for him.

BLITZER: It's going to be hard, there's no doubt about that.

Audie, if Kevin McCarthy has the support to become the next speaker of the House, it will be a relatively narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Certainly smaller than he had been hoping for.

How much more difficult does that make his job if, in fact, he becomes speaker? AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: His job would be hard no

matter what. He's also seen this movie before, right? He watched Newt Gingrich go down. He watched John Boehner go down. He watch Paul Ryan go down.

If anything, I'm interested in what he does different to appease this group that feels emboldened and strengthened in the caucus.

To be honest, I don't know how this changes anything legislatively. I think the plan was always to do a lot of oversight, which meant more hearings for everyone.

And I don't know in terms of agenda if they were really all that specific.

GANGEL: Investigations.



GANGEL: Let's not forget a lot of people are going to be investigating.


CORNISH: Would that be different if they had 30 more guys or two more guys? I'm not so sure. It really depends on the Senate whether there's anything in terms of policy that we'll see that will make the difference.

BLITZER: Mark, we're looking at a possible scenario where Republicans take the House majority, but Democrats hold onto the majority in the Senate. Albeit it, narrowly. What would that mean for governing here in Washington?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as the great Dean Wormer once said, "The likelihood that anything would get done is 0.0."


PRESTON: Now for the viewers out there, if you don't know what I'm talking about, then you're very young.

But, look, as Audie --


CORNISH: I think they understand the "zero" part.

PRESTON: Yes, they get the "zero" part. Just type it into the Google. It will tell you.

But it's true. Kevin McCarthy is going in extremely wounded right now. The reporting from Manu and Melanie, and what Jamie is hearing and what I have just heard as well, is that he will be handing out his concessions across the board. He's going to be like a poker dealer flipping out cards.

And I've heard, in fact, it's going to be the real conservatives that make sure that he becomes speaker, but on their terms.


CORNISH: But who is that? I would love to know. Who are the people in that, to your mind, really conservatives at this point?

PRESTON: Well, I mean, you're talking about the Freedom Caucus. You're talking about any of the folks who are not -- aren't necessarily considered centrists. It's the real rabble rousers.

GANGEL: He also has a large leadership team, his directing committee. That's 20, 22 people. He is trying to make promises to that inner circle.

And then as Mark said, there are going to be promises and promises and concessions and committee positions being given out.


PRESTON: Marjorie Taylor Greene.

CORNISH Marjorie Taylor Greene already --


CORNISH: Well, she has already said very publicly, I think I'm going to have some power now.

I think that puts him in a weakened position if you already had people telecasting, guess what we're going to be able to do and, guess what, they're going to need to do to appease us. I don't see how that strengthens --


BLITZER: He already said Marjorie Taylor Greene will have a committee assignment.

PRESTON: He has. He certainly has. And to be fair, I don't know who is out there that can challenge him that has the operation together to take him out. It's going to be, oh, Katie's got someone.

GANGEL: I don't have a person in the House. I would like to raise one name.



GANGEL: Donald Trump. If Donald Trump is still angry with Kevin McCarthy and he wants to cause a little trouble, he can pick someone else. Elise Stefanik, who Donald Trump loves from New York, went to Harvard.

I just -- I wouldn't take Donald Trump out of the equation quite yet.

PRESTON: Great one. I agree.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very, very much. We'll continue this conversation.

But coming up, the latest on the key races that will decide who controls the House and the Senate.

Plus, we're awaiting remarks from the president of the United States over at the White House. He's expected to speak and answer reporters' questions in about an hour.