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Biden Heads To Summit Emboldened As Dems Defy "Red Wave"; Dems Positive About Holding Senate As More Results Come In; GOP Optimistic About Seizing House But Dems Still Have A Path; Several Election Deniers Still Within Reach Of Winning Races; Inside Look At A Trusted DeSantis Adviser As 2024 Talk Grows; Putin Suffers Biggest Loss After Russians Retreat From Kherson. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 11, 2022 - 17:00   ET




ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of Election Night in America continued yet again. I'm Erin Burnett. And tonight, a nation on edge as we stand by for new vote totals. We do expect them to come anytime at this point and we'll see if it makes it possible to call one of these crucial races. It has been almost 72 hours since the first polls close.

Control of Congress, President Biden's agenda, still unknown. In the House, Democrats and Republicans are still in a tight race, right, 218 is what you need to control to have control of the House. Democrats are down right now, not out, can't say that, but we have 25 seats left to project.

One race that is incredibly close, that Democrats are hoping to snatch from Republicans is the third congressional district in Colorado. Will you say, what is that one? Well, I will tell you, Lauren, Boebert, you know that named, the incumbent, she is ahead right now by 1,122 votes. It is a narrow lead over the Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch. So, you know, what we're going to see where this one goes, 99 percent of the vote in, but when your vote margin is that slim, this is still too close to call. Boebert, of course, with a history of false and dangerous claims about America's election like this.


REP. LAUREN BOEOERT (R-CO): Millions of ballots were mailed out illegally right in front of all of our faces. That right there is what rigged this election.


BURNETT: And we're watching these two key western states when it comes to the Senate, Arizona and Nevada. So, here's where the stands right now. We expect in the next hour that we will hear from election officials in America County in Arizona where Phoenix is and have an update there on the crucial vote count. We have a team of reporters meantime standing by from Washington to Colorado.

And I want to begin there in Colorado, Lucy Kafanov is in Denver.

Lucy, this is not something many people expected, certainly not to be this close at this point, and yet here we are at one point the margin between the two was, what, 64 votes, one point I saw 35 out there. What's going to happen in the third district of Colorado?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we could indeed be looking at the possibility of a recount. Now we're not going to have a better idea until next week, in part because government offices are closed for the Veterans Day holiday and also we are still waiting for outstanding military and cured ballots to be returned and counted. That deadline is November 16. But Boebert was trailing behind her opponent until yesterday morning. She's now ahead, as you mentioned, by roughly 1,100 votes, a mandatory week count is triggered here in Colorado if the margin is point 5 percent or less.

Here's the Secretary of State weighing in on this to CNN earlier today. Take a listen.


JENA GRISWOLD, COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: It's too early to tell. We need to be able to process the rest of the ballots. And then after that we will do a bipartisan risk limiting audit which confirms the results followed by a bipartisan canvass and then only then do I certify the election and it's determined whether we go into recount.

There's two ways to do a recount in the state of Colorado. One is mandatory, which you just mentioned. But then candidates can also pay for a recount if they so choose.


KAFANOV: But look, the fact that we are talking about this race, the fact that the margins have been so thin took everyone by surprise. Boebert entered this race in a very strong position. The third congressional district was made more safe as a Republican, red leading district when its borders were redrawn last year.

Unlike most of the Colorado delegation, Boebert entered the race with a sizable campaign war chest and national name recognition. You played that sound about election conspiracies earlier, she, you know, was a big proponent of guns rights when she was voted in and sworn into office. Two years ago she filmed herself parading around Capitol Hill with a gun. She is facing --


KAFANOV: -- a challenge by her Democratic opponent at Adam Frisch, he served on the Aspen city council. He did make a pitch to voters that he is something different to her, what he described as angertainment brand.

And I have to say, while Boebert expressed optimism about her chances, she did tweet today, essentially raising money for a potential weekend. So it sounds like we might be back on the air next week talking about this, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Lucy, from Colorado.

And tonight we're also, you know, partly because of situations like that, right, we don't know which party will control the House and certainly the Senate either. So Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.


Manu, everyone there is waiting, right? And now, there's the crucial the behind the scenes sort of wheeling dealing machinations going on over who will be the next Speaker of the House.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. A lot of questions because of the fact that we do expect if the Republicans do take the House that it would be a narrow majority, meaning that Kevin McCarthy, if he wants to become speaker in January can only afford to lose probably a handful of votes in order to get ascend to the speakership. But there are a number of conservative members of that hardline House Freedom Caucus who are threatening to vote against him unless he agrees to certain concessions, including giving them more power over the speakership, something that McCarthy has resisted. And McCarthy has been behind closed doors. He had meetings, including with the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus today, Scott Perry, who came out and did not commit to supporting McCarthy, saying that there are negotiations ongoing.

And then on the Democratic side, Erin, it is still uncertain whether Nancy Pelosi will try to continue in the majority or minority as a top Democrat in her caucus. There is a waiting game going on, a shadow campaign of sorts going on behind the scenes about potentially replacing her but she's returning from Egypt for an official conference she was at, and then next week, they returned to session. The expectations she will make her decision when we know which party will control the chamber, and that will set off a scramble potentially to replace her, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, so you've got new reporting also about Trump mounting a fight against Mitch McConnell. So, this episode could be seismic if it continues. What more do you know?

RAJU: Yes, behind the scenes, Donald Trump is calling up his allies on Capitol Hill in the Senate side, urging them to take aim at Mitch McConnell, trying to divert blame for himself. A lot of people blaming the former president for his showing on the campaign trail, undercutting their candidates at a critical moment. But instead, he's trying to direct the anger towards McConnell himself.

Now, McConnell has been also getting some pressure from within the ranks. There are calls from within his caucus to delay next week's leadership elections because they say they need more time to debate these issues going forward. It is unlikely they will go that route, but I should say, Erin, McConnell has made clear to me multiple times he has the votes to become speaker -- to become -- continue as leader in what should be the longest serving Senate Leader in history of either party.


RAJU: Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And let's go to John King at the magic wall.

John, Republicans still have a wider path to the House Majority than Democrats. If Democrats do defy probability, though, and get the 218 seats that they would need to keep the House. OK, this is the mathematically improbable route, but not impossible. So, how would they do it?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: How would they do it? Well, Erin, just look at the map, I mean, this is not the map, this is why Manu is talking about all that drama. More drama among Republicans than Democrats, drama everywhere but more among Republicans, because this is not the map they expected out of this midterm election. So how could the Democrats get there? Well, let's take a look at that. Let's take a look at that.

It is mathematically possible. It is also, you know, again, the Republicans have a clear path. But if you look at the seats right here, they have 199 right now that we've projected. There are two races that we now describe as likely, right?

These are likely Democrats that are leading in these races, we're just not ready to call them yet, right? So if they win those two races, that gets you to 201, right? That's 201. So then we move on from those races here.

So what do you do next? What do you look at the map next? You look at some more -- a couple other uncalled races. These are 11 here, right? There are 11 where Democrats are ahead. In some of the ones in California, it's Democrat running against Democrat because of the jungle primary. So these are 11 races that you could say, OK, it's a reasonable possibility, even more, in some cases, for Democrats to win.

So let's erase that, 201 plus 11 get you to 212, right, 212. That means 218 is within sight at that point. So then what comes next? This is where it gets a little bit more difficult, but two races with rank choice voting, the Democrats are ahead in both Alaska and in Maine. Right now, rank choice voting, if they don't get above 50 percent it takes a couple of weeks. They look at the ballots of the candidates who get dropped out at the bottom, top to stay, and it's who's your second choice, who's your third choice?

So we have -- the expectation is that Jared Golden, the newly elected Alaska Democratic congressman run again. So where's that get you, Erin? That gets you to 214? Wow, right, 214. We didn't think we'd be having this conversation, did we?

BURNETT: No. KING: So now, where do you go from here? This is where it is a stretch. This is where it is a stretch for the Democrats, and we need to be honest about that. It is mathematically possible. Politically, it's a bit of a stretch, that includes the Boebert district, it includes the David Valadao district. He's one of the two Republicans impeachment 10. Let me bring up his district, as we do it, make sure I have that turned off out here in California.

You know, this district here where he's 3,800 votes ahead, but it's only a third of the vote counted, and a lot of the mail-in ballots in California take time. So, is it mathematically possible? You bet it is? Is it more probable Republicans get a tiny majority? Yes, but this is why we keep counting.

And again, I said to you in the last hour, I don't know. We don't know. We don't know. We live in volatile times, let's count votes.


BURNETT: Yes, it is amazing to say we don't know. And as you say, you know, improbable is not impossible. We -- and we live in a time where things that have looked impossible have, you know, have indeed turned out to be reality.

KING: Yes, it is.

BURNETT: And just one other point here, John, what about the Lauren Boebert, Adam Frisch close race? I know there's others that you just highlighted that you're talking about. That one, though, would obviously at this point would seem would have to go to a recount.

KING: So it's gray on the map because it's uncalled, right?


KING: So let's bring it up. Let's bring it up here. Fifty point two to 49.8. So 50 to 50 essentially, if you round that up, 11 122 votes in a close race. You'd rather have those 11 122 votes, but you just made the key point.

Number one, we have to count the rest of the ballots. Number two, you have the sound, Lucy used it from the Secretary of State saying, you know, there are a couple of steps they take, right, they have a bipartisan, they check a couple of the machines just to make sure, OK, that looks good, then they have a canvas. And then the question is, is it close enough to have an automatic recount? You know, does the losing candidate request to recount? So we could be at this a bit as we go forward. That's just the nature of the beast.

We're talking about this in the key Senate races. We're talking about in these House races. And I just want to remind people, you know, remember in 2018, right, Trump's first midterm, we knew Democrat -- we knew at this point Democrats were having a big year when it came to House races, but we didn't know Nancy Pelosi's margin, she came back as Speaker until they counted out on the west coast, a lot of mail-in ballots there. Takes time. BURNETT: All right, John, thank you. And coming up, while we wait for ballot updates and all those races and specifically these upcoming data dumps we do anticipate coming in anytime from Arizona and Nevada, we're going to take you to Cambodia. Why? Well that's where President Biden is. He's back on the road. He's expected to land there tonight for a summit.

The latest on where his mind is, politically, at least with votes in the House and Senate races still coming in.



BURNETT: And welcome back to Election Night in America.

President Biden tonight back on the world stage after a better than expected showing for Democrats in the midterms. No matter what the outcome is, it was better than expected, significantly so. In fact, attending the U.N. Climate Change Summit in Egypt, that's where he just was, he was telling Republicans they need to face reality on that issue, feeling emboldened because of the results of the midterms. Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly is traveling with the President who went from Egypt, now to Cambodia where he's going to be for the G20.

Phil, you are obviously already there. So how emboldened does President Biden feel right now after the midterm?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Erin, and talking with White House advisors, they made clear that the message the President plans to deliver across three summits in eight days has not changed dramatically. The weight behind that message most certainly has. I think that's the biggest point that you've heard from White House officials heading into this long trip.

They knew this trip was obviously on the schedule and they were very, very cognizant of the fact that President may be entering several high stakes meetings, including the first sit down in person with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the wake of a rather poor showing in the midterms. That has not happened. And that changes the dynamics dramatically, primarily because of this, when the President took office, when he started meeting with foreign leaders, the message that he repeatedly heard was, sure you might think America is back now but for how long?

Now, the President has evidence in his view and the view of White House advisors, that what he's put into place, the commitments he's made in both on the domestic and international front aren't just his theory of the case anymore, it's actually happening in practice. And I'll tell you this, when you talk to White House officials who are keeping a very, very close eye on both the Senate races and the House races at the moment, they feel even better than they did two or three days ago. Obviously they don't know how everything's going to land. But the reality remains this, as the President moves into these high stakes meetings, takes center stage on the international stage, what he has preached to some degree over the course of the last two years, he now believes is coming to fruition. And that perhaps more than anything else as he moves into these high stakes sit downs, these high stakes moments, and at a time internationally where there's just a lot of fragility and instability that the U.S. is better positioned and the President, in his view, is better positioned to make the argument he's been trying to make for the better part of the last two years than he has been at any point before now.

That certainly wasn't expected going into this trip. It certainly the reality as the President gets set to land here in Cambodia, and then off to Bali for the G20 and that critical sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Erin.

BURNETT: Right. Which as you said, is just 72 hours or so away. Thank you so much.

All right, everyone back with me. So, Audie, obviously, he's got to seize his moment, right? It's better than expected. How much does this change? You know, for example, when you talk about Xi Jinping, coming into a meeting like that where you thought you were going to be a big loser, and instead you lost, but you did way better than anybody thought? How much does that empower Biden?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if internationally leaders think of it the same way, I mean, we're so focused on the domestic politics.


CORNISH: But you know, Biden had a good moment. He put his chips on the right things, so to speak. Meaning, people thought, why are you doing this democracy speech?


CORNISH: Shouldn't you be talking about X, Y and Z? Turns out that that was a good way to underscore an issue and raise stakes. When he was focusing on student loans and that issue, turns out, you know, looking at the youth vote, maybe there was some real value there to putting focus on that. And I think that that switch for the rest of us, not for him, is --


CORNISH: -- to his benefit.

BURNETT: So, John, this comes amidst the speculation about whether he's going to run again.


BURNETT: Right. And who knows, in his mind, whether Trump announces plays, how this all plays, right? But he has a big decision to make, right? The other day, it was sort of watch me. Here is the answer he keeps giving.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, my intention, as I said to begin with, is that I would run again, but it's just an intention. I have not made that formal decision, but it's my intention. My intention to run again.

My intention is that I've run again, but I'm a great respecter of fate.


BURNETT: OK. So, intention and then the but, right? It's like if and it's the then but.


BURNETT: OK? And -- but here's the thing, then the other day, right, post midterms as the numbers start to roll in, it was sort of, you watch me, right? There was a little bit of like an attitude.


AVLON: You got some swagger back, yes.

BURNETT: You got some swagger back. So how much longer can he keep this intention but?

AVLON: At least a few months and he should. Look, first of all Democrats and Joe Biden deserve credit for what they did these midterms. We have a lot of focus on how it was a result of Republican overreach, and it was. But the center held and it's held, in part because Biden and Democrats have done a better job than I think the typical narrative suggests.


AVLON: And I think that's just, you know -- you can make that case across the board with what's going on with NATO and strengthening Ukraine to better than expected. The economic numbers just the other day to really just the results of this election that showed that Republicans are the one who are more out of touch or as Tim Alberta said, voters prefer out of touch to out of their minds.

But what they really should be doing going forward is coming up with a positive agenda with which they can work with a possibly narrow Republican Congress. I would lean into immigration, I would lean into crime and police reform, I would look for areas for common grounds without giving an inch on the core issues that matter to Democratic constituency and continue to press those particularly Dobbs, the post Dobbs environment in the state legislatures. That's one of the places Democrats made real gains, places they haven't in over a decade. And they should be organizing leaning into that, and not just fixating on the top of the ticket and 2024.

BURNETT: Right. I mean, you saw things in Michigan, Pennsylvania, a real shift -- AVLON: That's right.

BURNETT: -- to those state Houses.

Congressman, though, when you come into a possibility, if the Republicans do get the House of just a few seats, that's going to give a whole lot of power to maybe extreme people, right? Is this a group of Republicans that's going to work with Biden?

CHARLIE DENT, (R) FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Well, look, the far right flank of the House Republican Conference feels emboldened, even though far right flank took a beating in the election, but --


DENT: -- that won't stop them, it won't deter them. They have leverage, they know it, they will use it. This is a group that will put -- figuratively speaking, will take a hostage --


DENT: -- and will shoot that hostage every single time. They are not afraid. They are not afraid to use that leverage, they will make demands of whoever the leader is, Kevin McCarthy, and they will say, you know, we want these things. If you don't get this, you know, we're going to undermine -- we're not going to vote for the rule. They will hold their breath and they will wait for everybody else to turn blue. That's what they're good at.

KAREN FINNEY, FMR. SR. SPOKESPERSON, HILLARY CLINTON'S 2016 CAMPAIGN: And to that I say bring it on, because that is the best thing for Democrats. It gives us an opportunity to just step out of the way and let them do it because one of the clearest messages from this election was that people rejected extremism.

They said -- and you know, again, when we talk about election denialism, elections are about the future, not the past. And people have said very clearly, I care about my future, my kids future, I don't care about Donald Trump and 2020.

I think one of the most important things, though, that President Biden is going to have to do and Republicans are going to have to figure out how to get on board, we've got to pass the Women's Health Act, which will codify reproductive freedom into law. Overwhelmingly, it was critically important in this election, it is in the bones of our younger voters, it is everybody underestimated how powerful that was, because it's not just about abortion, it's about freedom. The Vice President played a key role actually keeping that issue at the forefront. But Biden is also going to have to deliver because all of the groups that work very hard to deliver the voters, we saw women actually voted by eight points more for Democrats. You got -- you can't just be moderate, you got to give something back to the people who deliver.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I just got to say, though, there's a bill in the Senate that Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins put forward, Prochoice Republicans.


HOOVER: It would have codify, but hold on, it would have codified Roe v. Wade.


HOOVER: And I know it doesn't go as far as you would like --


HOOVER: -- but it does the basics of codifying Roe v. Wade. And if the House had pass that and the Senate had passed that, we wouldn't have this problem.

FINNEY: But it didn't pass it.

HOOVER: But he didn't want it because --

FINNEY: It is in that (INAUDIBLE). No, it didn't pass because we want freedom, because we said -- because what --

CORNISH: It also --

HOOVER: I want freedom too.

CORNISH: Lindsey Graham put forth the idea of a federal ban, right?


CORNISH: I mean, we can't talk out of both sides here. And I do --

HOOVER: Nobody's talking about both sides, which I know pragmatism.

CORNISH: No, no, but I just want to say -- yes, but I --

HOOVER: If you want pragmatism, if you want real problem you got to take the baby steps.

CORNISH: -- to be honest about what the most attention from the base.

FINNEY: No, we don't have to take.

HOOVER: Well, then you're not going to get anything.

CORNISH: It was not the prochoice version of the bill.

DENT: Prochoice Democrats have voted for the Hyde Amendment for years. Why? Because it was the price of peace so that we could fund the government. They did that. It was -- they didn't like it, but I understand why they supported it.

FINNEY: But fundamentally, what, you're missing and all the exit data is showing us the country has moved on. We actually don't even say prochoice, we say profreedom. We don't mean -- because young people are like, it's not a choice, it's a decision.

CORNISH: Karen, I think just to put it out there, though, I mean, taking it out of the language, I think from your position, right?


CORNISH: As a journalist, I think what I see though, is there were a lot of voters who looked at this as a subtraction of a right.





CORNISH: So they very specifically said someone has taken something from me, that is very different from just a vague sense of like, oh, this doesn't seem right. And maybe it should be this many weeks and that many weeks. It was, I feel personally taken from in this situation. I think that Republicans did not acknowledge the power of that.


And every time someone said, how about a federal ban now? You know --


CORNISH: -- there was a college campus that started sending it around.


CORNISH: And I think we have to keep that in mind.

FINNEY: But then also it was to say to people, we don't trust you to make your own decision, little girl. And I think folks thought that women would just be upset and go away and give it up --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tiffany (ph) said that.


FINNEY: -- and we didn't. We didn't sit down and shut up.

BURNETT: But the reason I thought that -- and here is what I want to say is that -- the reason they thought that they had reason to think that, right, because 51 percent of people and polling ahead of the election, so they cared about the economy. Thirty points behind was abortion, behind other things. That's what people said.

Now, when they came out of the exit polls, Margaret, right, for -- John has been waiting --

AVLON: Data right here. Yes. It was just we're not modeling the right electorate. Yes.

HOOVER: Voters were not modeling the right electorate.


BURNETT: So politicians were programming their message to saying people don't care about abortion. But it turns out, they did.

HOOVER: They did.

BURNETT: So the polls missed it.

HOOVER: They do care about it, but they sweep in a majority in the House of Representatives to pass the building you're talking about. And so, if we're going to have, you know, a bill that is actually going to represent majority of Americans on this issue, it's got to represent the majority of the Republicans who are elected.

FINNEY: What was missing in the polling, again, was not just, how do you rank? What's the level of intensity that you feel about given issues? People can hold more than one issue intensely, then I think the poll showed. And that's exactly what we're seeing in the electorate.

BURNETT: All right, thank you all and of course, for staying with us.

And coming up, the election deniers who could swing control of the Senate to Republicans. CNN's David Chalian is going to break down this specific angle for us. Plus, we have new votes coming in. We've got a key race alert on the other side of this break.



BURNETT: We are back with a key race alert, and this is the race for the Washington House seat that was held by the Republican, Jamie Herrera Beutler. Now, you remember that name, right? She was one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Trump. The Democrat here, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, is leading Joe Kent, who primaried Herrera Beutler and won.

Let's just be very clear here that the change here is that the lead has narrowed. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez's lead over Joe Kent has narrowed by about 764 votes on this latest count. So, as you can see, she is still 5,117 votes ahead but that lead has narrowed by 764 with this latest key race alert.

And I want to draw your attention to the bottom of your screen. You see 84 percent of the estimated vote is in. So, this is obviously mathematically, statistically too close to call. The latest numbers that came in did favor Joe Kent by a net 764 votes. It is an important race as Democrats and Republicans are in this tight race to 218, which is the magic number needed for full control of the House. And in just moments from now, we are expected to hear from top officials in Arizona's two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima, on the outstanding vote counts there. We anticipate that really any moment. Of course, that's Phoenix and Tucson. If the Republican nominee wins a Senate in Arizona as well as either Nevada or Georgia, election deniers will have given the party control of the Senate. That's a big if. It's not how the numbers look right now, but it is still possible.

I'm joined now by our Political Director David Chalian. So, David, how did election denier candidates for the Senate fare?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, when we talk about election deniers, there's sort of a spectrum, right? There's like gradations of election denialism, not all election deniers equal some of these folks they voted back in January of 2021 to challenge the certification of the vote. That sometimes gets called an election denier. Some are just outright, like Ron Johnson or others, that have been much more vocal. So, we should be clear about that.

But when you look at the board, you can see all those that are in the winner column there, and that includes newcomers, like J.D. Vance from Ohio or Eric Schmitt from Missouri. You noted, Erin, the critical three in the middle there, these three races that are still outstanding, one we know going to a December 6th runoff in Georgia. But the Arizona and Nevada races do feature, again, gradations of election denialism. We saw that tape, that documentary that Blake Masters was in a conversation with Donald Trump, where he said don't go soft on election denialism because you'll lose the race. And he said, don't worry, sir, I'm not going to go soft, after his debate. So, we see that middle column there that is critical.

And then you see some folks who lost. As we know, sort of the MAGA wing of the party did not have the best night and some high-profile losses there, like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania or Don Bolduc in New Hampshire. You remember, he was a total election denier and then flip flopped on it as soon as he became the nominee, but to no great success, obviously.

Also in secretary of state races, Erin, and these are people running who in many of these states would, if they were to win, be the top elections official in their state, and you see the sort of scorecard there. You have four winners so far, two, these two races we're watching closely, Mark Finchem, Jim Marchant, in Arizona and Nevada respectively, they're both behind their Democratic opponents right now. So, that also speaks to if they end up losing those races, and this was a central theme in their races, maybe democracy was also one of those issues that the Democrats were closing on that didn't necessarily materialize in polls but may have had an impact here. And then you see those that lost their races all the way over there on the right.

BURNETT: Yes, getting interesting, you see this is not yet decided, really determine your win/loss ratio. But in the Senate, right, ten wins and six losses for the election deniers right now.


And those three we still have not called are going to be so important. All right, thank you so much, David Chalian.

So, I want to bring in Al Schmidt, because he is a former city commissioner in Philadelphia, a Republican, who was in charge of going through this stuff. He and his fellow commissioners rejected the stolen election claims of former President Trump back in 2020. In June, Al, I know you testified before the January 6th committee and you talked about how after Trump targeted you, you received all sorts of threats, and the threats then became more specific and more graphic. They were targeted at your family. You took a great personal risk to stand up for the facts and reality. So, Al, thanks so much for being with me.

David goes through this. There are some crucial races outstanding where election deniers are on the ballot that are still too close to call. Colorado's secretary of state says it could be weeks before we know whether Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who is one of the most vocal election deniers, there's no ambiguity about her position on this, we may not know for weeks if she'll keep her seat. What's your reaction to that, Al?

AL SCHMIDT (R), FORMER PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: Well, you mentioned bringing up the threats and everything that derives from all of these election denial propaganda that spread, and it's timely because it was two years ago today that the president targeted me by name, resulting in all of these threats that came in the direction of my family, causing us to move children out of our home and have police protection for many, many months. So, today is a great day to have this conversation.

So, on some level, I have to admit it's somewhat gratifying to see these election deniers, especially ones seeking to run elections, come up short in so many races. But there're still some significant ones that aren't yet called. Arizona will be a very big one because of how prominent both the candidate for governor and secretary of state have been.

BURNETT: That's right. I mean, absolutely. I mean, that Kari Lake race is razor, razor thin and there's a lot of conspiracy theories, of course, which have been clearly debunked but already have been floated out there before we even know who won. What message do you have for the candidates who rejected outright or who questioned or who literally tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, who actually still have won their races?

SCHMIDT: You know, really having been through this, when we have so many races so close across the country, I would ask candidates and campaigns to be responsible with their accusations and responsible with their rhetoric. Everybody wants to win and everybody wants their candidate to win. But the language has consequences and the people who run elections, they're not your enemy. They are dedicated public servants at the state level and at the county level doing nothing more than counting votes to make sure our democracy functions. So, I'm hopeful, as close as some of these races are, and there are many that are close and that are critical and will probably determine control of the United States Senate, that candidates and campaigns be responsible with the language they use.

BURNETT: All right. Well, let's hope they are. And I should highlight an election denier in Michigan, right, Tudor Dixon, she conceded her race to Gretchen Whitmer. There have been several very important concessions on both sides of the aisle at important moments in this election, right, something we take for granted. But I think this time, it's worthy of calling out as a good thing. Thank you so much. I appreciate you, Al.

SCHMIDT: I agree. Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, Casey DeSantis, she is married to the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. The former newscaster is also a power in Florida politics now in her own right and we're going to have more on the person who is, by all accounts, the governor's most important adviser.



BURNETT: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Election Night in America, yet again. Right now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the new darling of the Republican Party, winning re-election by almost 20 points, which is the best performance for a Republican nominee for governor in Florida history. Supporters making it clear that they see his win as a springboard for the presidency.

Well, there's someone you always see next to him, his wife Casey. And her importance could skyrocket if DeSantis did push ahead with a 2024 run.

So, who is she? Randi Kaye has her story.


CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF FLORID GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS: Hello, everyone, and welcome to First Coast Living. I'm Casey DeSantis.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Long before she became the first lady of Florida, Casey DeSantis was a fixture in Floridians' homes. She was an anchor and reporter for two Jacksonville, Florida T.V. stations but she left it all behind to raise her children and support her husband's run for governor for Florida.

C. DESANTIS: I was going to take a break from the show. I was going to be able to spend time with my family.

KAYE: Casey DeSantis was born in Ohio as Jill Casey Black. She's a golf enthusiast and equestrian who graduated with an economics degree from the College of Charleston in South Carolina. She first met Ron DeSantis on the golf range at the University of North Florida. C. DESANTIS: So, I kept looking over my shoulder because I wanted the bucket of balls that somebody had left. Ron is over there. And so he thinks I'm looking at him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there an attraction at all to him?

C. DESANTIS: Yes, of course, he was cute.

KAYE: The couple married in September of 2009 at the Walt Disney World Resort. In 2010, Casey worked as a host for PGA Tour, appearing on the golf channel. A couple years later, Ron DeSantis was elected to the Florida's sixth congressional district, the start of his political career. Ever since, Casey has reportedly been part of a very tight inner circle, relying on her T.V. experience to advise her husband on media strategy and appear in campaign ads, including this memorable one from 2018.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Build the wall.

C. DESANTIS: He's teaching Madison to talk.

R. DESANTIS: Make America great again.

C. DESANTIS: You want to know who Ron DeSantis really is?

KAYE: More recently, Casey recorded this campaign ad for her husband, focusing on how he helped her after her 2021 diagnosis with breast cancer. She's now cancer-free.

C. DESANTIS: He was there to pick me off of the ground when I literally could not stand. He was there to fight for me when I didn't have the strength to fight for myself. That is who Ron DeSantis is.

KAYE: When she isn't busy with their three young children, Casey DeSantis can be found at her husband's side, on the campaign trail.

C. DESANTIS: Ron, again, I want you to know is running for the right reasons, not because he wants to be somebody, it's because he wants to do great things.

KAYE: In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, where the disaster relief fund she oversees, brought in upwards of $50 million.

C. DESANTIS: All I can say is, you know, our hearts and our prayers are with so many people who are suffering, which is why about 24 hours ago, we launched the disaster relief fund.

KAYE: And, of course, on election night this week, as he basked in the glow of his reelection victory, the governor shining a spotlight on his wife.

R. DESANTIS: And most important of all, thank you to the greatest first lady in all 50 states for being a great wife, giving unwavering support, being a tremendous mother to our three young children. She is remarkable.


KAYE (on camera): And Florida voters really seem to like the idea that Casey DeSantis appears to be no nonsense. She's focused, she's driven, she's a devoted wife and mother, and that really plays well with a lot of Florida voters, certainly those in the DeSantis camp. She's also started this initiative, Mamas For DeSantis, where she has signed up for than a million parents, in her words, to keep the state of Florida free.

And, of course, she's had this very public battle with breast cancer. She's now a champion for cancer research in the state of Florida. She's helped secure more than $100 million in funding for research in that state. And she goes around the state talking to patients. She's getting the message out about early detection. And that is playing really well with voters, especially women, working to her advantage and certainly the governor's as well. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Randi, thank you very much, fascinating profile.

And just ahead, we're going to pause the election coverage for just a moment to tell you about a crucial, crucial huge day in the war in Ukraine. We're going to tell you about a major victory and a major embarrassment for Vladimir Putin.



BURNETT: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of Election Night in America. Our other top story tonight, a major development in Ukraine, Kherson City, in the southern part of the country, liberated. This was a crucial gain originally for Putin, and now he's left the city empty- handed in retreat.

Nic Robertson has the story.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNTIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice over): Their long-awaited liberation, sweet, savored with the soldiers who gave it to them, moments for all those who survived Russia's repressive rule in Kherson to celebrate a day like no other, Putin's forces vanquished across the river, freedom like this coming in cities and towns all around.

Arriving at Snihurivka on the road to Kherson, remnants of Russia's rapid reverse underfire two days ago.

Lots of unexploded ammunition here, deadly mortar rounds indications they could have fought longer if they hadn't been told to retreat.

Driving in, everyone waving, so many feelings all at once, celebration, relief and traumas relived. It was terrible, she tells us. The Russians threatened to kill me, to smash out my brain. Raw emotions everywhere, tearful relatives embracing knowing each other survived.

And the stories of survival, bone chilling. A few days ago, the Russians kidnapped me, this 15-year-old girl tells us. They put a hood on me, took me to a house, asked me about the Ukrainian troops, told me they would cut my fingers off. I thought I was going to be raped.

They behave like animals in the last few weeks, she says. They took people away for interrogation and beat them, accusing them of being Ukrainian spies. They stole cars and looted, too.

At the town's bank, the security doors ripped off, the cash, too.

You can see inside the bank is completely trashed, looted. There are money boxes there forced open.

At the town square, people gathered part in jubilation, part in uncertainty, the city without water and electricity for months. The newly arrived Ukrainian administrator telling them, humanitarian supplies are on their way.\


On the outskirts of town, residents benefitting from Russia's rapid retreat, abandoned ammo cases collected for winter firewood. Nearby, the bridges to the south destroyed.

The Russians blew these bridges up just two days ago, trying to slow down the Ukrainians' advance south towards Kherson.

The tactic doesn't seem to be working. Ukraine's advance has been cautious, pauses to regroup and reenergize, but still relentless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is happening according to the plan. Russians are leaving so fast, they are losing their boots on the run. We'll take Kherson in two or three days.

ROBERTSON: It may be sooner. Seconds after we talked, they get the call to move forward, on their way, it appears, to join the liberation and celebrations in Kherson.


ROBERTSON (on camera): And I think we can expect those celebrations and that sense of euphoria to continue for some time, but the government is also urging caution, telling former Kherson residents, don't go back yet. It's not safe. There could be mines, unexploded weapons. It's just too dangerous. And, of course, the government has got other priorities. It needs to look at that dam and make sure it's safe, that there isn't going to be some big flooding. Erin?

BURNETT: Yes, absolutely. Nic, thank you very much.

And just ahead, we are moments away for these news conferences out of Maricopa and Pima Counties in Arizona. We are going to be taking those live as we try to figure out control of the Senate. I will be back along with Anderson Cooper after this.