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Police Escort Election Day Ballots To Be Counted In Fulton County; Too Early To Call Winner In Tight Georgia Race; Warnock Holds Slight Lead Over Walker In Tight Georgia Race. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 21:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, CNN HOST: Let's go back to Eva McKend, at Warnock headquarters, with the reaction, with the race, swinging back to a Warnock lead.

And Eva McKend, I see myself giving the voters there, good news. So, this is going to be -- perhaps it's going to seesaw, all night. We don't know. But at least now, for the time being, it has seesawed back to Warnock.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, Jake. You can hear loud cheers, in this room. Democrats telling me that, they were looking at places, like DeKalb County, but important to keep in mind that much of Metro Atlanta area is still outstanding.

But listen, this is an area where the campaign really invested, in terms of time. Senator Warnock spent a great deal of time, in the Metro Atlanta region, really speaking to base voters.

On his last day, on the campaign trail, that's where he was, speaking to Black voters, speaking to college students, speaking to union workers, in Metro Atlanta. So, it seems to be paying off for now that that energized the base, and they are coming out, in a big way.

But he also campaigned in heavily red areas as well. So, if he can run up the numbers, in those areas, as well as a solidify support, in these blue areas, I think is what the campaign is looking for, tonight.

TAPPER: All right, Eva McKend, thank you so much.

And I'm here with John King, at the Magic Wall. 73 percent of the vote in, estimated.


TAPPER: And Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Democratic senator, up one full percentage point, 23,427 votes, as of right now, John King.

KING: Yes. Keep an eye on it, because it'll change, as we speak. That's the magic of Election Night votes coming in. But we mentioned the seesaw, last time you were here. Herschel Walker had a modest lead. Now, Senator Warnock has a modest lead. But again, you make a key point. Keep an eye on that.

Still a long way to go. Estimated around 73 percent, so, we got a quarter a little more of that votes still to count. But as you watch the rest of the map fill in, this is what they're doing in the campaign war rooms. They're saying, "OK, why did Senator Warnock pull ahead?" He pulled in because Cobb County made a large report, mostly early voting. But you see now the numbers there. But that's still at 56 percent.

Why does Cobb County matter? 100,000 votes, right now, right now, as we're still counting in the runoff. Let's just go back one month ago, 176,000 votes. This is a place where Senator Warnock, had a big advantage, a month ago. And you watch it play out.

So, then you come across here, we're still waiting on Fulton County, in the runoff here. We're at about 55 percent, right now. He's at 82 percent. So, if you stay around 80 percent, and you've got 40-plus percent of the vote to come in, a lot more votes for the Democrat to be had here.

The other big change that happened, Jake, was DeKalb County, which was at about 5 percent, estimated vote, when you were here, last time. As you see, they reported a large installment. That's them counting their early votes, their early mail-in ballots, and you see Senator Warnock is 92 percent, when you round that up now. 92 percent, now. A month ago, 84 percent. This is a big predominantly Democratic county. So, they're only at 45 percent, and that he made a huge jump.

So, if you're in the Walker campaign headquarters, you say, number one, still a ton of votes to come in, in this Metropolitan Atlanta area, and the suburbs around it, and it is blue. And you know, you're likely, even if you narrow the gap, with Election Day votes, you know, it's likely they're going to be more Democrats here.

The other problem is you just pick them, as you go through here. Coffee County, 95 percent of the vote in, in these rural areas, where there's not a ton of votes, but Walker just needs to run it up, like that, but 95 percent in, 99 percent in, 85 percent in, 99 percent in. So, you'll find some that are still in the 60s.

But if you're looking at where the live outstanding votes are, in a lot of rural Georgia, where the Republicans run it up, you'll see when you look at it this perspective, on the live outstanding votes, much tinier circles, right? That means a smaller piece of votes out there. Most of your votes are out here.

And again, there are some Republican exurbs up here, north of Atlanta, a little southwest of Atlanta here. But predominantly, the votes are out in traditionally-blue areas. Now, Republicans said they would surprise us today, in the Election Day votes. That's what's still being counted, in these areas.

So, the math is there. The color tells you, if you're in the -- if you're in the Warnock campaign, the color tells you, yes, you might have a bit of a seesaw still, 18,500 votes, when you round that.

But the map is filling in, in a way, swing county here, swing county, here, that are still blue. In the Warnock campaign, you're saying "OK, looks better now than it did 15 minutes ago. Let's hope it stays this way." But we got a lot of counting to do.

TAPPER: And when we get more vote in, we're going to have to go back, John, and take a look at whether Herschel Walker is matching what he did--

KING: Right.

TAPPER: --a month ago, or exceeding what he did. But let's wait for a little bit more of that vote to come in.

KING: Yes.

TAPPER: Because I want to go to Pamela Brown now, who's at the Voting Desk, who has some new reporting.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: All right. So, I'm learning from officials, I've been speaking with, on the phone today. And Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, there in the Atlanta area, all advanced in-person voting has been reported, in both of those counties, according to the officials, I've been speaking with.

Now, in Gwinnett, in particular, 24 out of 156 precincts have been reported. So, what happens is, the poll managers, they bring the card, to the main area, and then they're pushed through, the numbers are pushed through. So still, a lot of votes are waiting on, for those, who came out, and voted today, on Election Day.


And when you look at Cobb County, as I said, all in-person early votes, they have been pushed through. Now what is left are the day-of votes, so those who came to the polls, today, and mail-in ballots, as well. I'm told, it's a smaller number of mail-in ballots because, of course, the shorter window for the runoff voting.

But that is the situation there, in Cobb County. And of course, as we know, as we've been talking about, in Cobb County, they have until December 9, to count any ballots that came in by 7 PM, today.

TAPPER: All right. So Pamela, so just to underline, the point, that you're making here, the two counties that you talked about, Cobb, and was it DeKalb?

KING: Gwinnett.

TAPPER: Gwinnett. Cobb and--

BROWN: Gwinnett.

TAPPER: Cobb and Gwinnett counties?

KING: Gwinnett.

TAPPER: All of the early vote has been counted. Now, that's what's outstanding are some of the mail-in ballots, but also primarily the day-of voting, which will be less disproportionately Democrat, I would think, even though these are counties that are very disproportionately Democrat, no?

KING: Yes. No -- yes. The Election Day vote will be less Democratic. The question is, how much so, in the case?

TAPPER: Right.

KING: The question being, is Herschel Walker running as Herschel Walker a month ago? Or is he running closer to Brian Kemp, a month ago? And let me explain. This is Gwinnett. This is where we are right now. If you look out here, I just pull out to show you that lead has now shrunk to 3,900 votes. I just want to pull that out, again.

TAPPER: Oh, my goodness!

KING: Welcome to the seesaw. We're going to go through this, right?

TAPPER: 0.2 percent.

KING: So, right. So that means more votes are coming in. And again, just to Pam's point, and to your question, more Election Day votes are being counted everywhere. And as that happens, the Republicans do better, in the Election Day vote. And in these red counties, they do much better. The question is, are there enough of them?

But just to use Gwinnett, as an example, Herschel Walker is getting 33 percent or 34 percent, if you want to round that up, right now. But, a month ago, he had 39 percent, which tells you we're still waiting to count Election Day votes.

To your point, Republicans do better in the Election Day vote. But if he gets 39 percent, again, tonight, that may not be enough. Because if you look in the governor's race, Brian Kemp gets 44 percent, you know? So, he loses the county, but he's much more competitive.

And you see that all around Metro Atlanta. You see it in Fulton County. You see it in DeKalb. You see it, everywhere you go. You see it in Cobb over here. You see it in Fayette. You see it in Douglas. You see it in Clayton. On all those counties, Brian Kemp lost, but ran competitively, and then, Brian Kemp wins all this.

So, that's Herschel Walker's problem, right now, is, is he, as we get more, as we move away? This is early vote, right? Can Herschel Walker move in Cobb County, up from 35 percent, closer, as we get through it, right here?

Because, look at that, 1,600 votes, right now, 50-50, as you look at the races, more votes come in. So again, disproportionately, the votes are still out here. But, if you look at the raw math, at the moment? Doesn't get much closer than that.

TAPPER: Pick a Republican county, for me, just any Republican county.


TAPPER: I want to try and experiment. So this is this is Cherokee County, one of the biggest Republican counties.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: All right. So, Herschel Walker has 68.8 percent of the vote, with 80 percent in. Compare this to how he did a month ago, and then tell me how Brian Kemp did a month ago.

KING: All right. So, one month ago, Herschel Walker got the same, 68 percent, right?

TAPPER: OK, 68 percent.

KING: He's a little above today, right? So, if you round that up, he's at 69 percent. Again, we have a ways to go still. So we'll see. But it's 69 percent, now. He was at 68 percent, a month ago, and Governor Kemp was at 74 percent. I mean, that's the difference.

So, we were just talking about how Brian Kemp was competitive, in the suburban Democratic counties. Brian Kemp also was stronger, in the Republican counties.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: And so, that is the defining question, with Kemp's involvement, in the runoff, when we get to the final numbers here, in these Republican exurbs, right?

So, you have -- you come over here, you have Bartow County, it's much smaller. But then you come over here, at Cherokee County, this is some serious math, 2.5 percent, the state population. Then you come here to Forsyth County, the eighth largest county.

So, you have two large Republican, exurban counties here, where Brian Kemp ran fantastically well. And Herschel Walker ran well, but not as strong. And in the race--

TAPPER: Oh, look, Herschel Walker's now taken the lead again.

KING: Yes. In the race for the margins, welcome to the seesaw, as it comes in. And so, as you go up now, and we say we're at 76 percent? And again, I'm going to keep checking this to ask where are we still looking? And yes, Herschel Walker has taken the lead. If you're in the Democratic campaign headquarters, you say--

TAPPER: "Calm down," right.

KING: --" Let's be calm. Let's be calm. Let's wait. Let's check in an hour, when we get more of these votes."

TAPPER: But this is--

KING: That is happening.

TAPPER: The story of this race, 50-50.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: Only 2,288 votes ahead. But the Republican, Herschel Walker, taking the lead again, in the seesaw. Started off with Warnock on top, then we had Walker on top. Then we had Warnock on top, then we have Walker on top.

KING: Right.

TAPPER: Again, it's going back and forth.

David Chalian, you have some information for us at the Battleground Desk.

DAVID CHALIAN, VICE PRESIDENT AND CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Jake, we're going to try to break down the vote here, by voting method, OK?

So, what we've done here, if you look, what you see is that if you look at just mail vote, that is an overwhelmingly favorable category, for Raphael Warnock. He's winning it by 30 percentage points. And there're still, look here, 23.6 percent uncounted mail votes.


Now, we think mail is the smallest portion of the vote, overall. But let me add in now, this early in-person vote. Here is a critical vote, for Warnock. He's leading the early in-person vote, much of what we see, in the vote boards that you're looking at, with John, by 9.4 percent. How much of that is left to count? Well, most of it is counted. Only about 9.5 percent of that early in-person vote is left to be counted. But that is a good category, for Warnock, here.

And again, I just want to say, if you add up both the early in-person and the mail, we think that's a majority of the vote. We expect that pre-election vote to be about 55 percent, of the overall vote, when the votes are counted. Those are strong Warnock categories.

But here's the thing. The Election Day vote, Herschel Walker is currently winning by 32.8 percentage points. How much is left to be counted? We are still waiting on roughly 64 percent of the Election Day vote, statewide.

Now, I just want to say, if you -- let me highlight Walker, here. If you look at that lead, 32.8 percent that Walker currently has, in the Election Day vote? If you look back in November, Walker won the Election Day vote by about 15 points. So, right now, that is a much bigger margin of victory, meaning it's mostly rural, deep Republican areas that is giving him that big margin.

This is why, as you guys are saying, we have to wait to see what that Election Day vote looks like, from those big, populous Democratic counties, in the Atlanta area, to see if that margin of victory, for Walker, narrows, or if he can keep this big Election Day vote victory that may help him keep this 0.2 percent current lead that he has in the race, guys.

TAPPER: And, right now, 76 percent in, Herschel Walker up 50.1 percent, to Raphael Warnock's 49.9 percent. That's a difference of 0.2 percent, Herschel Walker just 3,093 votes ahead.

KING: Right. Yes, and so, it's about as close as you get, in a state.

Remember, the Republican governor had a blowout victory, just a month ago. Herschel Walker came in second, in that race, which is why we're in this runoff. But this is an incredibly competitive state, one of the most tug-of-war states, if you will, in American politics, right now.

And so, as you wait, David just made the key point. Herschel Walker, in the Election Day vote counted so far, most of it, in these red rural counties, he's running it up. And that's what he needed to do. He's running it up. He's running -- if he keeps that percentage, he's the next senator from Georgia.

The question is does he keep that percentage as we get in the Election Day vote counts here? Because, what we're getting in Atlanta and the suburbs around it so far, is just the early vote.

And again, we're going to come back to this, because it's a helpful tool, for us, in the live outstanding vote. In the votes still to be counted, that's why I have that circled, right?

Again, we don't know how Herschel Walker did, in predominantly Democratic areas, Atlanta, and the suburbs, around it, Cobb County, Gwinnett County, DeKalb County, Douglas County, Fayette County, and all around in here. There's more as you go through, Clayton County. We don't know how he did today.

But he has to keep a big lead, in the Election Day turnout. And that's the challenge, for the next couple of hours, as we get those votes. The early votes were counted. Now we're going to get the Election Day votes. 922 votes. 922 votes. It's a competitive state. It's a wild race. We'll keep counting.

TAPPER: All right. The Senate runoff is keeping everyone on the edge of their seats. With about three quarters of the votes in, right now, we're going to get an update on where the ballots are still being counted, from a key Georgia election official.

Gabe Sterling is after this quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: A key race alert, now. Look at the vote, right now, 78 percent of the estimated vote in. And Republican Herschel Walker has taken the lead, once again, with 50.2 percent of the vote, over Democratic incumbent, Senator Raphael Warnock, who has 49.8 percent of the vote. Herschel Walker with a 0.4 percent of the vote lead, leading by roughly 8,200 votes, right now.

Let's go to pivotal Fulton County, Georgia, the home of Atlanta, and the suburbs. Dianne Gallagher is there.

Dianne, tell us more. More ballots just arrived there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. I don't know how much you can see behind me, because there's a lot of observers, also, looking in that area. We can't go there.

But we just had at least two election workers, who came in, escorted by Police officers, carrying these two blue canvas bags that include the ballot information. So, we're talking about memory cards, other information, they have to include, with those ballots, for them to then be able to process, and upload it, into the system, here.

Now look, here in Fulton County, I was told by an election official that a conservative estimate for the number of ballots that are still outstanding is roughly more than 75,000. Now, that includes these Election Day in-person votes, but also many of those absentee ballots.

Remember, they had 14,000 that came in before Election Day. And then, look, our cameras caught them bringing in Election Day absentee ballots that were dropped off at one of those three different locations that they could do that today. All of those absentee ballots in Fulton County have to be delivered already by now, is by 7 PM, today.

And so, what they're doing, at this point, behind me, is they check in, they go through a whole bunch of paperwork that they have to sign. We've talked about the security measures that go into this. After they leave the precinct, they need security. They go to a regional office there. And then, security escorts them up into here, watching the Police officer, sometimes the Police officer actually carrying those ballot bags up here.

TAPPER: All right, Dianne Gallagher, thanks so much. Fascinating stuff, from Fulton County, Georgia, the most populous county, in the entire state.

They want us to bring back Gabe Sterling, right now. He's the Chief Operating Officer, at the Georgia Secretary of State's Office.

Gabe, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

We're at nearly 80 percent of the vote count in. It's seesawed back and forth.

KING: Yes.


TAPPER: Raphael Warnock, just in the last 10 seconds, has taken the lead, once again, with 79 percent of the vote in, because of-- KING: Right, because of DeKalb.

TAPPER: Because of what, John? Because, DeKalb.

KING: DeKalb.

TAPPER: More votes came in from DeKalb.

KING: Big report from DeKalb County.

TAPPER: What can you tell us about the votes that have yet to be counted, Gabe?

GABRIEL STERLING, (R) CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: That we don't know what they say! We have a lot of rural counties have uploaded nothing yet. So, we don't really know.

The DeKalb County, what I'm really happy about is our large urban counties got their act together, this time, and really uploaded a lot of stuff, early. DeKalb is one of our slower ones. And they've been uploading a lot of stuff in the last half hour or so.

But most of the Fulton's in. We got a chunk of Cobb that's still out. That Metro, the giant donut hole, for the Metro -- of the entire state is right there. The four largest most populous counties, which kind of can swing the vote, one way or the other, by themselves, are really coming in pretty quick.

But it's so close. Those counties that have 10,000 votes, 4,000 votes, and they're going to go 80 percent for Walker? They're going to keep on coming in.

Now, one of the interesting things about this is, if you like the geography of Fulton County, which is the largest county, they had to bring in their vote cards. It's 90 miles long, and people have to drive, from the top, and the bottom, all the way to that central location, at English street warehouse, to get those things uploaded. So, there's going to be time involved, in those things.

We had a car accident with one car carrying one of the cards. They had been the Jaws of Life out that both of the poll workers are OK. They turned down medical attention, to the hospital, but they were able to retrieve that vote card and get into the Lowndes County, Valdosta headquarters. I mean, this is the kind of stuff that happens on Elections Day, because you have thousands of people out there doing their jobs.

TAPPER: Holy smokes! I'm so glad that they're OK.

KING: Yes.

TAPPER: That must have been awful to hear about. That's good news, though, I suppose, with the whole story in.

Have you encountered any other hiccups, with vote counting, in any of the counties you're watching, right now, other than that car accident? STERLING: Not hiccups per se. I mean, it's just normal processing. You'd have some people, in some of our -- some of our older elections directors, in their counties, they want to get all their ducks in a row, before they upload anything. We're like, "We don't care. We have all your ducks in a row. Just give us what you know is correct so far," and a lot of them are doing that.

DeKalb County was one of those. And thankfully, they've loaded a few 100,000 ballots now. It's just going to be a long night. And, earlier today, I said, at 1.3 million is going to go one way, for turnout, today. At 1.5 million, it's going to go the other way. My nightmare was 1.4 million of turnout, today. And guess what, guys? We had 1.4 million! So, it's going to be a tight race. So, it's going to be a while.

KING: So, it's John King, Gabe. Again, appreciate your time. So just to the point, you were just making then? So, we're at 1.4 million and 1.4 million. So we're just shy of 2.8 million. What do you think the final universe is? We're about 2.8 million, little shy of that right now. What do you think the final universe is?

STERLING: I think 3.3 million-ish, somewhere in that range, is what we're looking at, for all this stuff. Well, the only thing we don't have any strong clarity into was the absentee ballots that came into today. And some of the counties, with their turnout, today, we're making some estimations, based on some data points that we had.

But again, we're looking at probably a 3.3 million, which again, these are record numbers guys, especially, for a runoff, in a midterm election. So, I'm just excited that so many voters got to express their voice.

But the mechanics of it now, I guess, they will probably get that 2.5 million, and then it's going to start to slow down, some, just because of the nature of how this goes. So, we could be here. I just tweeted out, "It's going to be a long night." And guess what? It's going to be a long night.

KING: Well, one more quick follow-up. You said you're waiting on some small rural counties to report votes. In our count, we only have one rural county, Dodge County, where we have absolutely nothing. In most of these other counties, in most of the rural counties, we have a significant number of the vote.

I'm just wondering, is this a question, you mean, they haven't reported them on a statewide website yet? I'm just going through. We have Coffee County at 99 percent of the estimated vote, Jeff Davis County at 99 percent of the estimated vote. I could go on and through them. You know them better than I do.

It's just that they're not reported on a statewide site yet, but the county is releasing and reporting its numbers? Is that what you're talking about?

STERLING: In some cases, yes. But one of the things you need to be careful of when we talk about this 67 percent or 80 percent? That's not 80 percent of the vote. That's 80 percent of what the system is viewing as a type of vote within a precinct. This gets really deep into the weeds.

But like you, we have two tabulators, in a single precinct, and they upload one tabulator. The system says that is 100 percent of the votes in that one-third of that precinct, because they're broken into absentee by-mail, early vote in-person, and Election Day. So, you really are 33, 33 and 33, when they report these things.

So, there could be additional ballots, inside those buckets. So, we got to be careful. Now, there's always going to be a few more votes out there than we think, just by going by those.

TAPPER: Gabe, just one last question for you. Obviously, in December 2020, you were sadly ahead of the curve, warning that the election lies would lead to violence.

And since then, obviously there were people that were threatened, and election workers, in your state, who have been threatened, from the Governor, and the Secretary of State, all the way down to precinct workers.

How are things now for people, who work on elections, in Georgia? Has the fever subsided at all?


STERLING: The fever's broken. There's always a possibility. And our big concern has always been the lone wolf, who's still angry, about what happened in 2020, being stirred up by conspiracy theorists. And I won't name any names, don't need to give them any more attention than they've gotten.

That's why Secretary Raffensperger, in our State, we launched something called the "Poll Worker First Response," which is a text tool that the majority of our counties had that poll managers could use, to notify us, at the state, their elections director, and local law enforcement, if any actual threat made itself known, on Election Day, at the polling location.

Thankfully, we didn't have to -- have not had to use that anywhere. There's always sort of the underlying thing, especially on the internet. But we haven't seen nearly the level of vitriol, we saw, at the 2021 run off, or the threats, or intimidation, or anger that's out there. I think we're hopefully getting closer and closer to regular order.

TAPPER: I hope so! I hope so! And I'm glad that the election workers are OK. Thank you so much for checking in with us. Again, we know that you're pretty busy tonight.

Stay with us. If you blink, you might miss another change, in the lead, of the Georgia Senate runoff. Ballot counters are working into the night, more results, more suspense, more votes, ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: And I have a key race alert, for you, right now. With 82 percent of the estimated vote in, Democratic incumbent, Senator Raphael Warnock maintains a lead over Republican, Herschel Walker. Warnock with 50.4 percent of the vote, Walker with 49.6 percent of the vote, that is a lead of roughly 0.8 percent or 19,000 votes.

Let's go to Nick Valencia, in Cobb County, Georgia, another key location, where votes are being processed, in county, a populous county, in Georgia.

Nick, tell us what you're seeing.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you're wondering where some of those day-of votes are? Here they are here for the county. You're seeing them come in now, being loaded off, from these cars that have been lined up, a very well-oiled machine that they have here.

And what you're looking at here are not only some of the election supplies, the actual physical ballots, also poll pads and the memory cards that hold the results from those individual precincts. So, we really saw this activity pick up as soon as polls closed at 7 PM. This has been really just a steady flow of traffic, throughout.

Cobb County has about 147 or actually 147 exactly precincts. We don't know exactly how many precincts have reported so far. That's a question that we asked the Chairwoman here, for the Board of Elections.

But this is just really cool stuff here, Jake. You can see, democracy in action, as I mentioned, a very well-oiled machine. Those precincts are, they're verified here, at the front door, and then they're taken into the center, where we were showing you, a short time ago, where those votes are tabulated. And then, they are eventually reflected, in the overall election result.

We did ask here, Tori Silas, the Chairwoman of Cobb County, exactly when they would be done vote counting. She couldn't give us an answer on that, or how many precincts, again, had reported. But you're seeing here, as I'm reporting, more and more votes coming in. So, a lot of work here, left to be done, in Cobb County.


TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia, in Marietta, Georgia, Cobb County.




BASH: Because, I know you've been talking to your sources, you've got some new reporting.

RAJU: Yes, I mean, several Republican sources that I speak to you, they're happy that this race is close. But they believe that the path is still going to be pretty complicated, here, given just where the outstanding vote lies.

And if it does not turn out, in their favor, you're going to start to hear a lot of finger-pointing, and blame game. And some of that is already starting to play out. One of that is over the turnout operation, the get-out-the-vote operation. This is such an essential part of campaigns, finding your voters, getting them to the polls.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader's super PAC put about $2 million, into Brian Kemp, the Governor of Georgia, his get-out-the- vote operation. One of the sources that I spoke to credits that as helping keeping this race close, and also, criticizing, on the other side, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican National Committee, for not having as strong of a get-out-the-vote operation.

You've also heard some of this happen, play out, over the last several months.

BASH: Absolutely.

RAJU: Mitch McConnell, and Rick Scott, who leads that Republican Senatorial Committee, they're differed over tactics and strategy. Scott, of course, challenged McConnell to be the next Republican leader.

So, this is only going to start to play out more fully and more publicly, if it does not turn out the way the Republicans hoped. But there's still a lot of vote left, to count.

BASH: It's just been astonishing, to see the way that these top Republicans who, historically, at least in recent times, have put on such a sort of facade of unity, have just -- it's totally broken down. And that even happened before they lost a lot of the races that they hoped that they would win.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN ANCHOR, "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY": Yes. I mean, I think the Republican Party very much is in a finding-themselves mode, especially after the results of these midterms, which were much more disappointing than they expected.

I think, in Georgia, though, there is a lot of blame to go around. I mean, as you both know, Mitch McConnell held his nose, and ultimately did back Herschel Walker, even though he wasn't fully comfortable, with him, to begin with.

And I think there will be some questions about whether that was actually a wise decision, or if he should have held his own, and said, "No, this is not going to work for the State of Georgia." I think it would be easier now to make the case that he was on the right side of this argument. It's just hard to do that.

BASH: Right.

PHILLIP: But Manu was right -- absolutely right. Republicans that I've talked to, in recent days, everyone is pretty much on the same page that, I think, without Brian Kemp's on-the-ground operation, in this runoff period, it would have been much more difficult, to get this race, to a point, where it is very close, right now. So, they have that. But it's still, I think, what we're all hearing is that it still may not be enough.


BASH: And that's -- you talk about Governor Kemp, and his operation, and it sort of speaks to something that is important, to underscore, tonight, which is that he is the Republican governor, who won by big, big numbers, in November, last month.


BASH: And other Republicans won, did very well, in Georgia. Yes, it is a purple state, right now. But what -- if you look at the lesson, just, I mean, even if Herschel Walker comes through, and ends up winning, tonight, the fact that it is so close, when other Republicans did so well, relatively easily, is a reminder of a lot of things.

One of them is that Herschel Walker has -- doesn't just have the Donald Trump albatross, around his neck. He is almost in the embodiment, of Donald Trump, and a lot of -- I'm not even talking about Democratic voters, a lot of Republican voters--

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: -- minds, who were really angry, about what Donald Trump did, in 2020.

RAJU: Yes. In a lot of ways, that's one reason why Mitch McConnell almost had no choice, but to endorse Herschel Walker, in the Republican primary, because Herschel Walker was running away, with it, because he had the support of Donald Trump, and the field essentially cleared out. There were some nominal candidates. But essentially, McConnell had no choice, decided he was going to get on board.

But don't forget that Mitch McConnell tried to get David Perdue, the former Republican senator, into the race, tried to see if he's interested, Kelly Loeffler, the former Republican senator, into this race. He was unsuccessful on both, ultimately deciding to get behind where the party, where the base was, where Trump was. And that, at the end of the day, could have been a fateful mistake (ph).

BASH: And David Perdue, that former senator was enticed into a race. But he was enticed by Donald Trump, to run on a primary, against Governor Kemp. And it was like 50 points!

PHILLIP: Right, yes.

BASH: I mean, it was a complete blowout. PHILLIP: Yes. And I think, in some ways, we might look back on this, and say "Maybe this was a miscalculation by some Georgia Republicans, about who had a lot of fear, about what crossing Trump would mean." If you're Kemp, or you're Raffensperger, it just wasn't all it was cracked up.

BASH: OK. As we're talking, look at that.

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: 50.0 percent, 50.0 percent.


BASH: I mean, look at that, how many votes, like 200?

PHILLIP: We have now (ph) 200 votes, I'm sorry.

BASH: 200 votes? Not even 200 votes. Unbelievably close!

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, but even that, I just have to say--

BASH: Did this flip, as we're talking? OK.

PHILLIP: Yes, with Walker taking out the lead.

BASH: Now, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent.

PHILLIP: One thing that I mean, you do also hear a lot about, we talked earlier, in the night, is Georgia a blue -- a purple state or not?

BASH: Right.

PHILLIP: A lot of people are looking at this race, and saying the fact that this race is very close? Herschel Walker is a very flawed candidate. Let's be honest about it. He is not someone, who has even been on the campaign trail, much, in the last few weeks. He is not the best surrogate, for him -- spokesperson for himself. He has accusations of domestic abuse, accusations of infidelity against him. And yet?

BASH: Look at--

PHILLIP: Because of partisanship?

BASH: Look at those numbers.

PHILLIP: You're looking at basically a tied race--

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: --at this point, in the night, and a very close -- when all the votes are counted, it's still probably going to be a very close race.

BASH: Yes.

PHILLIP: Because of the just sheer partisanship of the state, right now.

BASH: And, at this hour, you see on your screen, 51 point -- 50.1 percent, for Herschel Walker, Raphael Warnock, 49.9 percent. I mean, the seesaw, the back-and-forth, we've seen it all night. We'll probably continue to see it, as those votes are counted.

We're getting deeper, deeper into this tense election night, with more and more votes counting, being counted. You see on your screen there, where that's actually happening. We're going to talk more about this, on the other side of a break.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: And welcome back. Key race alert, take a look, right now. It is almost dead-even. Herschel Walker, 2,360 votes ahead, with 85 percent of the votes counted, in the State of Georgia.

I want to check in with our Jeff Zeleny, who is reporting, tonight.

Jeff, what are you hearing from the campaign?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, there's no doubt that optimism has been rising here, really steadily, throughout the evening, at the Herschel Walker campaign, which is at the College Football Hall of Fame, which of course is where he got his name, and has started his fame, here in Georgia.

But as this race has really seesawed, with votes trickling in, back- and-forth, with Walker often having a narrow lead, his supporters that you can see behind me, are watching all of this, in some stride. Some, in a sense of disbelief, but others, we've talked to, said, "Look, they always expected this would be fairly close."

You'll remember, a month ago, in November, Raphael Warnock only defeated Herschel Walker by some 37,000 votes. So, this was a very close race. But the strategists that I'm speaking with, inside the Warnock operation, are perhaps not as optimistic, as some of the supporters, watching these numbers come in, because they are looking ahead, at other numbers that have not yet come in.

And a lot of those numbers that have not yet come in, as John King has been reporting, all evening, are in the Metro Atlanta area, where there is good reason to believe that Raphael Warnock has a good base of support. So, there is a sense, at least among some advisers that Herschel Walker perhaps has hit his high watermark. One adviser tells me the next few hours could be tough.

But the reality is this is still a very, very close race. So, we're going to have to be patient. Many supporters here are having a few drinks, watching these results come in, and frankly, enjoying this very tough race, because a lot of Democrats believed that Senator Warnock would have simply walked away with this. That has not been the case here, tonight.

So, there's no doubt, the Walker advisers say, they still see a path to victory, but their optimism does not exactly spell out what that is, or go beyond that, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Jeff, thanks very much.

I want to go to Eva McKend, who's at Raphael Warnock's headquarters.

What's the reaction there?

MCKEND: Well, Anderson, Ludacris is playing behind me. So, I'm going to have to shout over you.


But listen, as this, the vote totals, valley back in -- volley back and forth all night, a Democratic operative, telling me that they always knew that this race was going to be a nail-biter. But they're still confident, because so much of Metro Atlanta, those votes still need to be counted.

But here's where Democrats are seeing some hope. Clark County, Georgia. That is, of course, is the home to the University of Georgia, where Senator Warnock spent a lot of time, campaigning. Senator Warnock received 47.5 percent, of the vote, which is more than three points higher than the general election. But ultimately, a Democratic operative, telling me, the counties we need the strongest showing in are going to take a long time, to tally.


COOPER: Eva, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Here with our team, in New York. Want to start with Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan.

What do you make of where the race is, right now, the counties that have reported?

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN, (R) GEORGIA: Well, one, I want to compliment Brad Raffensperger, Gabe Sterling, and all the county officials. It seems like we have another legal, fair, and a well-run election, in Georgia. And so, we don't ever want to take that for granted.

But certainly, it does look like the Metro areas is still got to count, the largest number of votes, it seems, history points us in a different direction, away from Republicans, in that case. But certainly, it was a nail-biter. And it's going to play out that way.

I sit here as a Republican, as a conservative, as a lifelong conservative, just thinking "What could have been? What could have been, if the quality of the candidate, like Mitch McConnell pointed to, several months ago, was better?" We wouldn't even be in a runoff, right now. We would be an eight-point winner, in the general election, just like Brian Kemp.

COOPER: Ashley, what are you hearing from folks?

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I'm not going to say that Warnock would get beat by eight points. We probably would have still been in a runoff. Warnock is a strong senator. He is like part of historical context of the State of Georgia. He's done a lot of bipartisan legislation.

But your candidate, Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate is a disaster.


ALLISON: My concern actually is, "Why is it so close?"


ALLISON: I'm like, "Who is still voting for Herschel Walker, after the last three weeks?" I do think Warnock closed strong. I still think he's going to -- I always thought it was going to go into a runoff. I think he's going to pull it out tonight, because we still have a strong base of voters, in the Metro Atlanta area that just haven't been counted yet.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's why it's close. Because, for all the talk we've had, about Herschel Walker, and Donald Trump, tonight, what we haven't discussed yet is Joe Biden is not popular. He's not popular in Georgia. There's a reason he's been in Boston, and Arizona, and everywhere else. His policies aren't popular. People aren't happy with the economy.

There are flashing red lights, here, for Republicans, and I've been on that since Election Night, back in November. But if you're a Democrat, looking at how you won this race, and barely beating Herschel Walker, and having to draw some of these Republican candidates, you did in this midterm?


JENNINGS: There has to be some introspection here, because Biden is not the answer.

COOPER: We're getting a lot of more votes in. I want to go to John King, at the Magic Wall.


KING: Anderson, as you guys were having the conversation, Senator Warnock has now pulled ahead, welcome back to the seesaw, by 18,516 votes. Still remarkably close, 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.

So, what just happened? You hear everyone talking about. We're waiting on the Metro Atlanta area. Well, the closest piece, the most central piece of the Metro Atlanta area, is Fulton County, which is Atlanta, and the suburbs, to the north, and the south. Again, runs about 90 miles total.

We just got a large installment of votes here. And that's what you see, Senator Warnock, right now, running -- still staying above 80 percent, a nearly 82 percent, in Fulton County. This is the challenge, is, as the rest of the votes play out.

We know that right now, we're at about 87 percent count statewide. We know that the bulk of the outstanding votes are in this, I think, the Georgians call it the donut hole, right there, Atlanta, around the -- Atlanta and the suburbs, around it. And we're waiting to see.

Herschel Walker's challenge was can he run it up on the Election Day vote? He did that in some of these rural areas, not by the big math, I think he needed to do it by. The challenge now is as they count the votes, in these remaining, the most populous counties, in the state? Most of them are right up here, Anderson. So, we're looking.

Again, we just got Fulton County. But we still have a third of the vote out, right? Raphael Warnock, right now, is getting nearly 82 percent, in Fulton County. If he stays above 75 percent, well he's going to be reelected, because so many votes are still outstanding here. You move over to Cobb County, there. We're still at 68 percent.

So, you have Scott with you. You got Lieutenant Governor Duncan with you. The Lieutenant Governor knows the math here very well.

Gwinnett County, about 75 percent, Raphael Warnock running at 64 percent. Again, here's how he's doing so far tonight. You go back a month ago, he was at 58 percent. So, at the moment, Senator Warnock is over-performing his performance, a month ago, in Atlanta, and the suburbs, around it.

We're not done counting the Election Day votes yet. That is Herschel Walker's comeback plan. But you see all that deep blue up there, right now. You see an 18,491 vote lead. The seesaw has swung back, to the Democrats, as the votes, in Metro Atlanta, begin to get counted, more of the Election Day votes.

COOPER: Lieutenant Governor, I want to go to you.

When you see the counties that we're still getting votes from, what does it tell you, about what lies ahead, in the next couple hours?


DUNCAN: Yes, I think, it's all going to be determined on the intensity. I always call it the eyebrow across the top of Atlanta, right? It's those suburbs, from north -- or from west to east, across the north-end. And it looks like the intensity, if we're using Gwinnett County, as a metric, the Democratic intensity looks to be a little bit more outpaced, than it was, in the general.

COOPER: And the vote, from that -- from Fulton County, I mean, I think, John said?

John, what was it? A third still haven't come in? KING: (inaudible) estimate. You always wait for the final turnout numbers, as they count the -- it's possible that number swings a little bit, as you find out what the final turnout is.

But our team's very smart at this. So, we have it at about 67 percent. That could be, maybe it's 66 percent. Maybe it's 68 percent. But again, right now, right now, Senator Warnock is getting 82 percent, in Atlanta, Fulton County, in the suburbs. Again, Atlanta is here, right? It stretches up to the suburbs, beginning at the exurbs here, when you get to the top of Fulton County.

But let's just go back, 82 percent, now, if you round that up, 73 percent, 74 percent, if you round that up. This is the -- Lieutenant Governor Duncan is making this point, and I think Scott is making the same point.

Scott's right. Joe Biden is not terribly popular, in Georgia, right now, however, nor is Donald Trump, in the sense, if you go back to the governor's race, Governor Kemp lost Fulton County. But he got 31 percent, right? You say "Oh, 31 percent? He got shellacked!" He did get shellacked. But the question is what are the margins?

Look what happened to Herschel Walker, was only 25 percent. That matters. The margins in a big populous county like that matter. And so, you can fast forward to where we are, right now. Herschel Walker, at the moment, is getting 19 percent of the vote, in Fulton County.

A Republican is not going to win Fulton County. But a Republican cannot be below 20 percent, in Fulton County, and expect to win a statewide election, because so many people live there. That's just simple math. And we'll see if it holds up, as we get the final installment of the vote. But if you look at Herschel Walker, right now, at 19 percent, in Fulton County?


KING: That's a wow!

COOPER: Yes. Gloria Borger?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I keep thinking about independent voters, because that's what it's going to come down to, in this race.

And, initially, Warnock won independent voters by 11 points. But they're only 24 percent of the electorate. So, polling that, we and others have done show Warnock winning them by about two to one.

Now, the question is what's going to get these independent voters to turn out? And we don't really know the answer to that because it's not as if, and this is to Van's point earlier, it's not as if they're motivated by Democrats, right?

They're not saying, "You know, I'd rather support Democrats, right now, because I love their policies. And I think they're great. And I'm going to side with Democrats more than Republicans." Biden isn't popular, as you say.


BORGER: Georgia is a red state. We know that.

JONES: Yes. I think--

BORGER: But the Democrats can't jump--

JONES: But there's -- excuse me?

BORGER: --for joy, is what I'm saying here.

JONES: Yes. Though the Democrats, I think, have a lot to be proud of because of--


JONES: Listen, Winston Churchill said, "Deserve victory," "Deserve victory," "Do everything that you can to win."

And I got to say, Herschel Walker went from being like the werewolf to being like the Invisible Man, like I don't know where he's been the past three or four days.

But Warnock put it all on the table. Barack Obama put it on the table.


JONES: Millions of dollars spent. There's a hunger--


JONES: -- to win that you see when a true public servant, like Warnock, wants to get in and do a good job, you see that hunger. I don't know where Walker has even been.

JENNINGS: Let me tell you what I'm hearing, from Republicans, in Georgia, about the end of this campaign. It's going to be close. I think there's a lot of pessimism, in the Walker Republican camp that Warnock's got it. We haven't called it. I know we're still counting the votes.

But credit where credit's due. They're saying to me, the reason this race is close is because Brian Kemp--


JENNINGS: --and Brian Kemp's organization--

JONES: Sure.

JENNINGS: --which went to work for the Senate Leadership Fund, in this race? That's one of the key reasons why Walker, who's been a little invisible, on this thing, and has obviously had an uneven ride here, the last four weeks, has been able to keep it close. So, why are people turning out? Why is Walker able to pull in some votes? I think the people who are really in the know, at the strategy level, on these campaigns, would say one man, Brian Kemp.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's absolutely right. And while I do think that what I'm hearing from folks on the ground is they anticipate it's not going to be a good night for Walker. But this is a very bad candidate, but he's had the full weight of the Republican Party behind him in this runoff.

So, when you're seeing this margin get closer, it's because of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund. It's Brian Kemp's operation on the ground. There was no closing message there. This was what was -- I mean, Republicans were pulling our hair out, like "What is your closing message, Herschel Walker?"


FARAH GRIFFIN: But at least the money was there in the operation.


BORGER: Well, the message was, "He's going to be a rubber stamp for Biden."



BORGER: "And I'm not." And that was about it. It's not that "I'm more competent." It's not that "I'm more fit to be a United States Senator." It's not that "I have the experience." It's not that "You should trust me." It's that, "I'm not going to vote with Biden."

COOPER: Ashley?

ALLISON: I do think, to your point, Scott that Kemp's ground game accelerated? There was a ground game for Warnock that went full--


ALLISON: --went from 100 to 150.

JONES: Talk about that.

ALLISON: All of that effort that was split between Stacey Abrams, and Warnock, went to Warnock. And people knocked doors, and called. Everybody that I know went to Georgia to help pull this out.


It was not -- Democrats didn't say, "You know what? We got the Senate, and we're OK, and we're going to relax." They want this seat. They were going to fight for it, and I think they'll get it.

COOPER: Both campaigns are on edge, as this razor-close runoff appears to be going down in the wire. Will we know the winner, tonight? Well stay with us, to find out.


TAPPER: And we have a key race alert for you right now, the latest from the Senate runoff, in Georgia.

With 88 percent, of the estimated vote in, incumbent Democratic senator, Raphael Warnock, is up with 50.1 percent of the vote. Trailing, just barely behind him, with 49.9 percent, just 0.2 percentage points, behind him, Republican Herschel Walker. That is a lead, right now, of Warnock of 9,026 votes.

Now, why does this race matter? Let's talk about the overall balance of power. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats currently hold 50 Senate seats, including one they picked up, in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Republicans have 49. They are hoping to get this one last remaining Senate seat, so as to have the balance of power be 50- 50.

Let's go to Pamela Brown, right now, who is at the Voting Desk.