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CNN Live Event/Special
Final Georgia Voters Head To Polls In Crucial Runoff; Sources: Jan. 6 Criminal Referrals Could Include Trump, Allies; Trump Companies Convicted On All Felony Counts; Soon: Georgia Polls Close In High- Stakes Senate Runoff. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 06, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: We are counting down to the polls closing and what is the last battle of the 2022 midterms, George's high stakes Senate runoff election. Good afternoon to all. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And I'm Wolf Blitzer. This is CNN special coverage of Election Night in America Continued. The stakes could not be higher today. The results will determine if Democrats win an outright majority in the U.S. Senate.
BURNETT: That's right, Wolf. And as we speak, Georgians are still lining up to cast their vote for either Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock or Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Look, this is a race that has already shattered records. Georgia's elections chief, Gabe Sterling, who I'm going to be speaking with in just a moment, has told us that more than 1.8 million Georgians voted earlier by mail, almost 1.9 million. You'd see the numbers here. That's incredible numbers, record breaking numbers for a midterm runoff.
And both parties have poured an incredible amount of money and resources into this race because while Democrats will still control the Senate next year, regardless of today's outcome, what a Warnock win does is give Democrats more leverage. Right all of a sudden, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, that whole rubric changes. And it includes then that they can get nominees confirmed faster. It would also give the party a one seat advantage in the congressional committees that are now evenly split, right? So there are real tangible things that would happen here for Democrats. And Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema can't single handedly control their party's agenda anymore if Warnock prevails.
We are watching breaking news also out of New York this hour, Trump's companies found guilty on all counts by a Manhattan jury, including tax fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy. The attorney for Trump Org just responding. And we're going to have more on that in a moment. First, though, teams covering both the campaign's in Georgia tonight. Eva McKend is with Warnock. Jeff Zeleny is with Walker.
I want to start with you, Eva. So what has the mood been like here as we're in these final minutes here before the polls close?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Erin, I will have to say it seems to me from my reporting on the ground that Senator Warnock we actually just saw him walk through here in the ballroom area just a few minutes ago. And the campaign just seems to have a lot more swagger and enthusiasm going into this run off than I witnessed four years -- four weeks ago, rather. That was also evident among student organizers this week working with the campaign, they indicated to me that they were more confident now.
Still, Senator Warnock expressing cautious optimism again this morning to his supporters, cautioning them saying listen, Herschel Walker still has a real path to victory here and that Republican voters tend to come out on Election Day. So, Erin, that is still wide at this late hour with just two hours until the polls close. Democratic aligned organizers are still knocking doors tonight.
BURNETT: Every vote counts, and it is incredible shattering so many records.
I want to go now to Gabe Sterling. He is the chief operating officer in the Georgia Secretary of State's office. So, Gabe here we are, it shattered the record for the early vote. What are you seeing today on Election Day?
GABRIEL STERLING, (R) CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, G.A. SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: Well, feels like deja vu all over again. We're seeing essentially no lines in the state, our average wait time has gone down to about one minute. The lines we are seeing are few and far between but in some of the areas that didn't take as much advantage of the early voting opportunities that were out there.
So, interestingly, the turnout was like it's sort of eking up a little above what some people on the outside thought was going to happen. We were thinking 1.1 maybe at the end of the day, it's getting closer to a 1.3, 1.35 million votes, which is, again, another historic turnout for a runoff election and midterm.
BURNETT: So, what can you put 1.3, 1.35 million in context on Election Day four weeks ago, it was 1.5, right? So you're close there? Do you think you could match that?
STERLING: There's actually one point -- it was 1.4 million and --
STERLING: -- it's up to the voters. There's a couple hours left to vote. We have some data directly from counties. We don't have from all the counties, so I'm making some educated guesses here. But it's a little higher, I think most people kind of dissipated.
We had some rain here in the early part of the day that we thought was going to be here all day which kind of cleared out was mainly in the eastern part of the state through most of the day. But again, we're seeing record turnout in the counties. I just can't say enough about what a great job they're doing processing these people through. And like I said, we're at an average wait time of one minute.
So, the one thing I will say, well, I've got -- these folks is, if you're in Georgia and you hadn't voted yet, you still have time and there's no line, likely where you live. So please get out and vote and make your voice heard. You don't want to be one of those people on the sidelines, what could really be a close race?
BURNETT: So, are you surprised by the fact that it sounds like what you're saying is you could have more enthusiasm, more turnout today, between today and the early vote of the past week than you did for the actual midterm itself when you had Secretary of State, governor, Congress and Senate on the line?
STERLING: I doubt we'll break that number. But we're looking at something close to if we get to the high end, we're talking about today, getting to a 3.4 million when we had just under 4 million before, which is a gigantic turnout for a runoff election. You got to understand, usually you fall down to like 40 percent, maybe 50 percent of what you had in the first round.
STERLING: We are going to be well above that by the end -- when all said and done.
BURNETT: And so, Ralph Reed was on, as you know he's obviously been a supporter of Warnock's and the Georgia Republican Party. He was saying he thinks that this could go into tomorrow morning before a call is being able to be made. Do you see -- can you sort of -- you look like he smiled a bit there. But Gabe, do you think you'll be able to call this race tonight?
STERLING: Erin, it is 100 percent for the voters. I have not a freaking clue what they're doing that booth. So, we don't have any idea. And we -- that's why we count the votes. That's why we run the races.
We don't just pick these things based on polls. And every vote I think is going to matter. And the higher the turnout goes, the more unknown is going to become.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Gabe Sterling, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
And I'm sorry, there, Wolf, I misspoke. Of course, Ralph Reed supports Walker, and not Warnock. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, good point. John King is with me over here, over at the magic wall. What jumps out to you, John, from what we just heard? JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the interesting part from what Mr. Sterling just said is that he believes turnout is going to be a little higher than even he anticipated, right? The runoff election tends to drop quite a bit. He says it's going to drop but not as much. So then, here's the big question, who most learned the lesson of four weeks ago and then of early voting. We're going to fill this in starting at 7:00, and Georgia does a great job, we'll get some votes early on, then we'll see how late and how long the count goes.
Let's go back four weeks ago, Wolf, just to show the point I'm trying to make. You see the vote, you see the turnout. You know, this is the general election, this is a month ago, so it's not going to match those numbers. The question is, how far down?
And so, if it's higher than anticipated, what is happening? Is the Walker campaign with Brian Kemp's help? Remember, the popular Republican governor. Herschel Walker gets 49 percent four weeks ago, Governor Kemp gets 54 -- 53 percent and change. He has given his turnout operation over to the Walker campaign, which was not the case four weeks ago.
Is that why? Is Brian Kemp helping Herschel Walker turnout votes? If so, that could make a difference. Or, or is the Warner campaign realizing you had a shorter early voting window? They thought they were very successful in that early voting window, but it closed on Friday.
So are they doing a good job running through their list? Who didn't show up by Friday and getting their voters to turn out today on Election Day? That's the mystery of the election or both campaigns. It could be both campaigns are doing a good job and then we're counting. It's a very competitive state. We're going to watch --
BLITZER: Let's just remind our viewers, the reason there's a runoff election is because neither of these two candidates got 50 -- more than 50 percent of the vote.
KING: And it shows you, look, Georgia now -- what do we want to call Georgia? Is it still a red state that's open to being blue? Is it a purple state that's competitive? That's the big question. And that's the question that's going to be -- this election will help settle, it will fully settle.
But here's why, if you look at this. So, just four weeks ago, Warnock's in the runoff, he's the leading candidate. But just by 37,675 votes, on that very same day, on that very same day, the Republican governor wins in a landslide by nearly 300,000 votes. So a Republican governor and incumbent who you see all this blue around Atlanta suburbs, yes, Brian Kemp lost the Atlanta suburbs, but look at the difference, right? He's getting in Cobb County, he's getting 47 percent Brian Kemp, compared to Herschel Walker, who's getting only 40 percent, margins matter where the people live in the popular suburbs.
So, is this a race? What is Georgia? It is clearly a state that a mainstream Republican can win and win quite comfortably. But Wolf, it is also, go back in time to 2020 in the presidential race, it's also a race that a Democrat can win Joe Biden by only 11,000 votes, almost 12,000 votes. Remember 12,000 votes call that in 2020.
Go back to 2016, Donald Trump wins it in 2016. Let me get it in here by 211,000 votes and change. So what happened between 2016 and 2020? Well, Donald Trump became toxic in the suburbs, toxic in the suburb.
So, a Donald Trump Republican has trouble in the suburbs, not just in Georgia, but everywhere. A Brian Kemp Republican can cut the margins in the suburbs and win comfortably. Who is Herschel Walker? How does Warnock perform? That's what we find out just a couple hours.
BLITZER: We're going to continue our analysis here. John, thank you very, very much.
We'll have much more of our special coverage of the Georgia runoff election. But first there's breaking news we're following, CNN learning president -- former President Trump and his allies could be the subject of what are called criminal referrals from the January 6 select committee.
Also breaking right now Trump Organization found guilty on multiple counts of criminal tax fraud. The attorney for the Trump Organization now responding.
Plus, new reporting tonight about the conversations that are now taking place inside the Walker campaign. How they're feeling about their chances tonight. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special coverage, Election Night in America Continued. Polls closing in less than two hours in Georgia in a truly historic Senate runoff election. But first, there's more on the breaking news. We're following this time from a Manhattan jury, the company's bearing Donald Trump's name committed tax fraud as part of a 15-year criminal scheme. That's -- so there's that.
And now there's word of an appeal that's going on as well. CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us right now with details.
Kara, what was Trump companies -- what were they found guilty of and what kind of penalties are they facing?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. So after two days of deliberations this jury of eight men and four women delivered this verdict of guilty on all counts. This is two Trump entities and they were charged with multiple counts for this 15-year scheme to avoid paying taxes. This was an off the books compensation scheme where employees receive corporate apartments, a car leases, and the case of one top executive private school tuition for his grandchildren. These counts included scheme to defraud, conspiracy, three counts of tax fraud and multiple counts of falsifying business records. Now, the district attorney for Manhattan, Alvin Bragg, said that this verdict shows that there is one standard of justice in Manhattan is saying that this was everyone should be treated equally under the law. Now the Trump Organization said that they will appeal this verdict. And the judge said that sentencing for next month, now that for January when they will be back in court.
The company faces under the statute a maximum of $1.6 million in fines. And while there's no mechanism under New York law for a company indicted and found guilty of a felony to face any sort of dissolution or unwinding, the -- guilty verdict against the company can make it very difficult for them to do business. It can make it tougher for them to get financing, to make it tougher for them to get contracts. So, the full impact of this is still unknown. But the former president himself was not charged in this case, although prosecutors did say in court that they believe that he's sanctions, some of this tax fraud, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very important developments, indeed. All right, Kara, thank you very much.
There's more breaking news we're following. And let's discuss right now with Mark Preston, the CNN Senior Political Analyst, Audie Cornish, CNN Anchor and Correspondent. Also with us Nia-Malika Henderson, our Senior Political Analyst, and Jamie Gangel, CNN Special Correspondent.
And Jamie, I understand you have some new reporting on the January 6 select committee and these criminal referrals that are about to go forward, presumably including criminal referrals against former President Trump and some of his closest allies.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct, Wolf. What the committee announced today, the chairman of the Committee announced that they will make criminal referrals. We are told that Donald Trump is likely front and center and that there will be people around him. We don't know how many, we don't have names, but we were told, quote, "it will be focused on the main organizers and leaders of the attacks."
Let's just be clear for a minute. It is symbolic that Congress is doing it. They are not the prosecutors, Department of Justice will then decide whether to indict and go forward. But the committee believes this is critical as a way of completing its work for the record, for history.
And here's something we really haven't discussed about what they're going to be able to say to DOJ, we know the committee has really been ahead of the Justice Department. They have evidence, they have testimony that justice does not have yet. So, I think what we're likely to see is when they do these criminal referrals, I believe it will come in tandem with the final report. And those referrals, there'll be letters that the committee sends to Justice Department may include very specific evidence and testimony that we don't know yet.
BLITZER: Does the committee will make public the transcripts of all the interviews that they conducted.
GANGEL: Correct. The transcripts, the notes, the evidence. So, it's important as simple that they're doing it. But it's also important what they're going to be handing over to the Justice Department.
BLITZER: Between these potential criminal referrals, Nia, and the verdict, the guilty verdict in --
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
BLITZER: -- New York against the Trump Organization right now. It's really a bad time for Trump.
HENDERSON: That's right. It's a bad time for him. And obviously, a lot of this was self-inflicted. Not only did we have these decisions, this referral, as well, he met with some anti-Semites recently after he announced that he was going to run again for president, he has really proven to be a drag on the Republican Party. We saw what happened in the midterms so far. We'll see what happens tonight whether his chosen candidate is able to pull it out.
But this is also why you see Republicans saying that somehow they think that he won't be able to make it to become the GOP nominee in 2024. Many of them aren't saying whether or not they would back him, but they're saying that somehow the weight of these investigations, the weight of the scrutiny, the weight of his poor decisions are going to somehow lead to his implosion. That is their hope, that is their prayer. It isn't necessarily that they're going to do anything to stand in his way, but they're certainly going to stand back and watch all of this happen and hope that it weighs them down.
GANGEL: It didn't help that he also posted that he might like the Constitution --
HENDERSON: Right, terminate.
GANGEL: -- or parts of the Constitution terminated.
BLITZER: His word, terminated.
BLITZER: Very important.
Mark, do you think all these controversies that the former president is going through right now actually matter to voters who are showing up, for example, in Georgia today?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think the controversy that follows Donald Trump around had he gone into Georgia, it would have put Herschel Walker more on the defensive than he already has been. I mean, this is a campaign right now that has been shelled, like regularly every day, and has been able to keep coming back. Had Donald Trump come in? I think that would have been a problem.
Now, what he did do is he did do a tele town hall that was directed strictly at MAGA voters, strictly at the Make America Great Again voters, the folks who think that Donald Trump should be president again. So, I think the Walker campaign is very happy that Donald Trump stayed in Florida.
BLITZER: That's really -- I suspect you're absolutely right.
Audie, Georgia's Republican Lieutenant Governor Jeff Duncan, he said that Herschel Walker, and I'm quoting him now, will, quote, "probably go down as one of the worst candidates in our party's history." That's a direct quote. What does that say that some of the GOP have already turned on Herschel Walker, even before the polls in Georgia have closed?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there's always been sort of never Trumper kind of constituency, but this person in particular says he's the proverbial skunk in the garden, and has always been speaking out against Trump. The reason why it's significant is because this isn't -- this is a state where Kemp got all of those votes, right, that Walker didn't. So there is a gap there.
So in a way, this voice represents a particular kind of voter, especially in the suburbs, that's what we're going to be talking about a lot tonight. And those suburbs are not just white, they've seen big demographic changes. You've heard a lot from Ralph Reed earlier in the night, he is someone who has tried to diversify his coalition. This is going to be an issue for Republicans going forward in this state in particular.
PRESTON: And it's worth noting, too, that you know, going into Election Day, Democrats clearly had the advantage with the early vote. I will tell you when I've heard the same thing, Jamie has heard the same thing just in the past couple of hours from the Walker campaign that once that the day of voting eclipsed 1 million, upwards 1.4 1.5 million, the odds of them winning are getting greater.
Now, it's still longer odds but it is because they're in a much better position as we sit here right now than yesterday as they were predicting in that already (ph) a million people.
HENDERSON: It's a coin toss. It is. Yes.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens in the next few hours. Guys, thank you very much. Don't go too far away.
Up next, Martin Luther King III standing by live to join us. Also, we're getting new reporting tonight from inside the Walker campaign and how they see the closing hours of this race. Stay with us.
[17:27:08] BURNETT: And we are back with our special coverage of Election Night in America. Especially heavy runoff voting tonight as Georgians decide between Democratic senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at Walker's headquarters for us right now.
So you know, Jeff, in the closing days of the campaign, Herschel Walker really made an effort to tie Warnock to President Biden. From the voters you've been speaking to, was that message effective at all?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it absolutely was, at least among Republican voters. That was really a central message that Herschel Walker was trying to deliver. Even though the control of the Senate was not at play as Republicans certainly had hoped it would be at the time of this runoff, it certainly still provides an opportunity for Republicans to effectively control half of the committees in the Senate to slow down nominations for the White House and to make things more difficult for the President. So that certainly has been a big motivating factor for Republicans.
And as I'm speaking to advisors to the Warnock campaign, they are heartened by these high turnout numbers. As the Secretary of State's office was just telling you a few moments ago, this turnout might hit 1.3 or 1.4 million Election Day turnout alone. And the Walker campaign certainly likes to hear that, you know, and certainly that was a message because Republicans are here in Georgia trying to send a message to the White House and the President. Of course, now, there are many Democratic votes in this Election Day turnout as well. So we'll have to see how this shakes out in the final 90 minutes or so a voting.
But certainly, Joe Biden was front and center in this race, even though he never traveled to Georgia during this campaign because the Warnock campaign asked him not to. They said he was simply too toxic and could turn off some of those voters in the middle. So certainly, the former President Donald Trump and the current President Joe Biden have been weighing heavy on this race, even though neither of them have been here for weeks and months, Erin.
BURNETT: Amazing. Neither of them welcome, but it looks like a much stronger turnout than anyone even anticipated. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much.
BURNETT: Wolf, and isn't it really amazing to watch his turnout here 90 minutes left and we're still seeing these numbers go up, obviously?
BLITZER: Yes, we'll see what happens when the actual votes start being counted. Erin, thank you very much.
Raphael Warnock is pastor of the church that my next guest certainly has a lifelong connection to, Dr. King's Ebenezer Baptist Church. Martin Luther King III is joining us right now. He's a Warnock supporter. Martin, thank you, as usual, for joining us. With less than two hours to go until the polls close, what are you seeing in terms of turnout and voter enthusiasm today?
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, SON OF MARTING LUTHER KING JR.: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, what I've seen throughout the whole process is voters are engaged, voters are excited voters are voting. My dad used to say a voteless people is a powerless people. And one of the most important steps that we must take is that step through the ballot box. And I hope that we will see after this evening based on numbers of the Secretary of State's office, that this has been one of the highest turnouts ever for an election of this type.
BLITZER: Yes, very significant indeed. This race was incredibly tight in November's general election as you know. This time around Herschel Walker has the full backing of the popular Governor Brian Kemp. How close do you expect this runoff will actually turn out to be?
LUTHER KING III: Well, I don't know that any of us can predict what that may be. The hope is that the people of Georgia want to elect a person who looks forward. I'm not saying that Herschel Walker looks backward. I'm just saying that, you know, Herschel Walker has demonstrated that he is not a -- the kind of candidate that should represent the state of Georgia.
And so, I think the voters were resoundingly say that. I think there's a potential for a decent victory, if not a significant victory, that would be the hope, a significant victory, because that would send a message to our state and to our nation.
BLITZER: We will find out sooner rather than later. Was it the right call, Martin, for President Biden not to appear in Georgia for Senator Warnock?
LUTHER KING III: Well, I think that it was the decision of the President and Senator Warnock's campaign. And I think that Senator Warnock certainly brought in President Obama, President Obama came in and did an outstanding job as always. Many people came from around the country. Pastors have come from around the nation, as well as people in every county organizing, to make sure that the voters come out.
And I expect and hope for a great victory this evening for Senator Warnock and for the state of Georgia, and for our nation.
BLITZER: Yes, we shall see you soon enough. Martin Luther King III, it's always good to speak with you. Thank you so much for joining us.
LUTHER KING III: Thank you, Wolf.
And our special coverage of Election Night in America Continued in just a moment. Coming up, we're going to examine a huge factor in a lot of these midterm races. One that could benefit Senator Raphael Warnock tonight.
Our Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten is standing by. He'll join us next to explain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our CNN special election coverage. Election Night in America Continued. Well, we are just about 90 minutes just under when polls will close in the state of Georgia, where the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock is in this historic runoff race against the former NFL and University of Georgia star player Herschel Walker.
And there's one trend that our Harry Enten has been watching during this midterm election, which actually comes into focus tonight, and that is one, the Warnock campaign hopes will continue this evening. And Harry Enten, our Senior Data Reporter is here to explain. So Harry, we're talking about incumbents.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes.
BURNETT: Tell me about it.
ENTEN: So, so far, this election cycle, the number of incumbents who have lost has been zero, zero incumbents have lost. I think there's almost --
BURNETT: In the Senate.
ENTEN: In the Senate. Zero incumbents in the Senate have lost, that has never happened in the last century. And all this talk about how people don't like voting for incumbents, people hate what's going on in Washington, D.C. But the fact is zero incumbents have lost.
BURNETT: They want, they want, they want new blood. They want people who aren't on the -- in the inside. I don't want to use the word swamp because it's loaded. But you hear that from both political parties and yet, OK. So in the Senate, all the incumbents win, but it's not just the Senate.
ENTEN: Correct. It's not just the Senate. So look at the gubernatorial races this year, we had a lot -- somewhere near 30 incumbents running. How many of them lost? Just one, just one and I went back and looked at all the gubernatorial years since 1948, in which at least 10 incumbents were running.
One is the fewest number of gubernatorial incumbents who lost since 1948. So you're looking at both the Senate where you've had no incumbents lost so far, and the gubernatorial races just one out in Nevada that lost.
BURNETT: OK, right. Nevada, obviously. And that one was as close as it can get.
BURNETT: OK, so, but why? Why in this environment, right, where people do, where the narrative is, let's switch it up. Do you think that incumbents are doing so much better than any historical precedent?
ENTEN: Yes, I mean, if you look at the Senate races, right, you look at those Senate challengers, pretty much all of them had net negative favorability ratings and all the key states, so I think was poor candidate selection. You'll also look at the -- if you look at the Senate, right, and you say, OK, you know, where were all the races.
And it turns out that there was just one incumbent that represented a state that voted the opposite way in the 2020 presidential election. So it was a small playing field. And third, it ended up being a pretty neutral year, right? If you look at -- if you tally up all the gubernatorial votes and all the Senate votes nationwide, it was basically an even split between Democrats and Republicans. So there really wasn't much of a ground for basically challengers to pick up seats, especially given how tiny the playing field really was.
BURNETT: It is amazing, though, to actually look at the data and see that it's not what you'd expect, and then it was loud and clear.
BURNETT: All right, Harry, thank you very much.
ENTEN: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, Democratic Senator Cory Booker will join us to discuss what it would mean for his party to have an outright majority of Senate seats. 51, that's what will happen if Senator Raphael Warnock wins tonight.
BURNETT: Welcome back to CNN special coverage Election Night in America Continued. The polls are closing. You're getting here. It's a 5:44 Eastern so an hour and 15 minutes. The last Senate race will soon be decided and we will finally know how many seats each party control.
So our team of experts with me these final thoughts in these final minutes Bakari, David, Karen and Jonah. Karen, you know Georgia well.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BURNETT: I mean, you were Senior Adviser for Stacey Abrams in 2018. You were part of the polling team for the special election in 2021. So what are you focused on tonight as we see these turnout numbers come in way stronger than people thought.
KAREN: They're really important. Look there's a couple of things. Number one, Warnock is counting on the fact that among his voters, he's very popular. So the level of intensity matters. Those are folks you can go back to and get them to turn out. On the other side, he doesn't -- Walker doesn't have the same level of intensity, right? Additionally, a couple of things. You know, Reverend Warnock story is also something that we found in 2021. And continues, really motivates and is mobilizing to vote, or someone who looks like me, someone who understands, you know, what it is to work your way up to be at the table, making those critical decisions about that will affect our lives.
And the other thing, I think for the Warnock campaign that's critical that I'm looking for, you know, tonight, is, are we going to hit our numbers in some of those key places where, you know, Warnock and Walker were close with regard to Republican independence, where we can hopefully turn -- increased turnout, particularly in areas where we may have African American voters who didn't turn out the first time who would say, you know what, I do want to have a say, and who's going to represent me in Congress?
BURNETT: So you're going to turn out of people who didn't turn out before it didn't turn out a few weeks ago?
FINNEY: Correct, correct. Correct.
BURNETT: How do you see it Jonah?
JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, sort of a similar vein. I know the cliched always talking about it comes down to turnout. But it's --
BURNETT: But it does.
GOLDBERG: But of course, it does, because it's motive. Well we have to understand like people in Hollywood say it all comes down to who buys movie tickets? Of course, it does, right? That said, I'm kind of more interested in who doesn't turn out in the sense that in 2020, Republicans lost two utterly winnable seats, because Donald Trump largely told a bunch of MAGA voters, it's not worth the effort. The system's rigged.
In 2022, we're in the situation because a bunch -- or in 2020 -- and then also in 2020, moderate voters wouldn't turn out for Trump. The question now is who voted for Kemp that left Walker blank, or didn't vote for Walker but voted for Warnock but now that it's a tighter issue? Who's just sort of like, I don't want to do this, because I think the Republicans are in a very much a, maybe not on camera, but behind the scenes, on a lessons learn how we got ourselves into this mess mode. So it'd be interesting to see who's turned off from voting and this time around.
BURNETT: I mean, that is when it comes down to, David. How many people -- I mean, they come down to a lot of things, but how many people could walk or get, right, who voted went and voted for Kemp on election day, right, and did not vote for a Walker? I don't know what they did --
DAVID: Sort of 1,000 plus, we know right about that.
BURNETT: They just could not do it. DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, interesting, we were talking about this in the break. There are, you know, Trump won Georgia by 211,000 votes in '16. He actually won 200,000 votes. And now we're in a situation where we're eking out trying to win by 10,000 votes, right? So where did those 200,000 people go?
Where -- they voted for Kemp. They voted for Trump at 16. And what happened to those Republicans? What did we do as a party to push them away, right? I mean, I think I have an idea what we did, but, you know, a lot of tweeting, but -- and how do we get it back? How do we get those folks back in this election in '24 and moving forward? What are we have to do to convince those suburban voters and voters in the experts to come back to our party?
BURNETT: Right. Even if you do eke it out and we'll see. But, I mean, OK, so that point, Bakari, is what were Gabe Sterling was just saying. I mean, you're looking at 1.3 million, 1.4 million people coming out, say that's more than people thought, is that going to be check to enthusiasm for Warnock, or is that going to be what enables Walker to eke it out?
BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that makes Democrats nervous because of the fact that, I mean, that everyone knows that usually, Democrats vote early. Republicans vote the day of. And so when you see that wave of enthusiasm, usually that bodes well for Republicans.
We would be remiss if we didn't say if you're still in line to vote, stay in line to vote, make sure you turn out and vote --
BURNETT: Right, if you're in line, you get to vote.
SELLER: Yes, stay in line, please. Everybody who's watching this, do so. But there are a couple other things. When I ran in 2014 and when people run statewide throughout the south, and it's somewhat like what Fetterman did, one of the things you want to do is not get demolished in those small rural counties, is not how will you do in Chatham County or Savannah, is not how well you do in Richmond, which is Augusta or DeKalb and Fulton.
Other people look at those big numbers and want to see how much you win by, its how well you do in those other areas, those majority white rural areas, because what you can't come out of there and you lose, you know, 90 to 10, 80 to 80 to 20. It's whether or not you can shrink that gap.
BURNETT: That's right.
SELLERS: And last but not least, something that hasn't been spoken about a lot in mainstream media is that there is a complete and utter disdain by black voters for Herschel Walker.
SELLERS: And a lot of that has to do with the fact that we feel -- and I can't -- I don't speak for all black folk -- but many black folk do. Many black folk feel that Herschel Walker represents the worst elements of every prejudice and trope that individuals have.
SELLERS: Just from the inarticulate, the anti-intellectualism, the inability to be able to speak for himself --
GOLDBERG: Or werewolf.
SELLERS: I know that whole thing. But it's no, it's -- and so it's a visceral type of anger and I anticipate that will translate to the polls as well.
FINNEY: This is -- but this is a really important, sorry, this is a really important point with the African American, which black man do you want representing you on the national stage?
URBAN: I'll just going to say --
SELLERS: You can follow-up here, David.
URBAN: No, no, but what Bakari was saying about the small counties, right, of Fetterman. You don't want to lose it, you're going to get blown out in the small counties. And so if you notice that's where Herschel was, Herschel has been spent a lot of time --
SELLERS: You're correct.
URBAN: -- in North Georgia, a lot of these small counties trying to pump up. So if his numbers instead of winning by, you know, if we went by 70, that somebody wins by 90, that could get him across the finish line. And that's what he's been doing. If he wins, that's why he's going to win tonight.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all.
And more ahead as Election Night in America continues. And the latest on the House January 6 committee's big decision to refer criminal charges now potentially against the former president of the United States.
BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN special coverage on Election Night in America Continued. Senate Democrats could have an outright majority if, if Senator Raphael Warnock wins. The Senate had been split 50-50 for President Biden's first two years. The current count is 54 to 49. A Warnock victory would give Democrats 51 seats and a clear majority.
I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Senator Booker, thanks so much for joining us. We're just a little bit more than an hour away from the polls closing in Georgia. You've been there to campaign with Warnock. Is he going to win?
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW YORK: You know, I feel confident the numbers we're seeing are really, really strong. Obviously, nothing certain, but I have a lot of faith that the people of Georgia, looking at these two candidates will see that there's one clear person who will best represent Georgia, and frankly, the best interests of the United States of America.
BLITZER: If Democrats have 51 seats in the next Senate in the next term, does that mean that individual senators, for example, people like Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Senator Joe Manchin, will have a lot less power. How much more would you be able to get done considering the Republicans will control the House of Representatives?
BOOKER: Well, remember, one of the biggest things we've been able to do is to work to balance the courts out. Donald Trump was the first person ever to outsource his court selections to right-wing groups. And what we've been able to do is get a record number of judges on in the first two years of Joe Biden, but even that was slowed down by Republicans because we were split Congress, excuse me, split Senate.
And that meant that every judge that was in any way an equal vote had to get a special something called a discharge petition. So everything was slowed down by being a 50-50 Senate. And so, having him there is going to make us be able to push balanced judges onto the court. And even more than that, frankly, under a 50-50 Senate, Raphael Warnock was able to get extraordinary things done as a freshman senator from capping insulin prices to $35, to expanding access to support for disadvantaged farmers in his state and around the country.
So I think in 51 seats Senate, he'll be all the more effective in getting good things done and across the line.
BLITZER: What does it say to you, Senator, that in the final stretch for Senator Warnock, President Biden stayed away from Georgia did not come to the state and actually campaign there physically?
BOOKER: I'm not sure what it says. The President's making his own choices as to his travels. The reality is I think the Warnock team knows that this is going to be an election. That's one from the grassroots up. Even when I was there, what they had me doing was speaking to volunteers going to grassroots rallies.
They've told me that this is a field operation person to person pulling folks to the polls, getting people out to vote. That's really what this is about for them. And I think that's their secret, ultimately, to what their victory is going to be about.
BLITZER: You said in the past, Senator, that you would support that 2024 run for President Biden. Given where things stand now, do you still feel that way?
BOOKER: Oh, very strongly. I mean, if the President makes his decision to run, I don't think we can point to any president, maybe going back to LBJ that has had as much of a successful two years. I mean, even today, if you look at the jobs reports, we added another quarter million jobs in the United States, the unemployment rate down to 3.7 percent.
He's created more than 10 million jobs since he's been in and this is during a major pandemic, and a lot of other economic headwinds that are causing inflation all around the globe and countries all around the globe. His bipartisan pieces of legislation from gun safety bill to infrastructure to chips and science have been extraordinary.
And in the depth of the pandemic, he kept food on a lot of family's tables with everything from stimulus checks, to efforts to keep our small businesses and our venues open. He has been a successful president dealt some of the worst hands of cards imaginable, including trying to clean up a lot of the mess that we saw from President Donald Trump that led all the way into hit the start of his time, right after January 6.
BLITZER: So what are your biggest concerns right now for Democrats looking forward, Senator?
BOOKER: Well, you know, I think my biggest concern is we've had a constructive, bipartisan Congress. A lot of the things we've gotten done, we've gotten done together. And so, I'm really worried about the House of Representatives. And I'm listening to very closely what they say. But what they're talking about is not their ideas to deal with inflation or to help working families.
I'm worried that their focus is much more attacking President Biden going after his son and doing crazy hearings that are not going to be productive and constructive to what Americans really need right now.
BLITZER: Senator Cory Booker, thanks as usual for joining us. We really appreciate it.
BOOKER: Thank you very much. Great to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And to our viewers, thanks very much for joining us as well. Election Night in America continues right now with Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper. We'll be continuing our special coverage.