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Now: Key Contests In Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio; Ohio Voters Deciding On Abortion Measure; Virginia Legislature Races Could Be 2024 Preview; Kentucky Governor Race Bellwether For Abortion Rights; Democrats Seek Big Turnout To Unseat Mississippi GOP Governor; Israel Marks One Month Since October 7th Attacks. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 07, 2023 - 16:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, along with Kaitlan Collins, and this is AMERICA'S CHOICE, ELECTION DAY IN AMERICA -- your headquarters for all of the crucial races and issues driving voters to the polls today.

The key contests are being decided right now in Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: The first polls close and just hours from now in these races could help us get a sense of where the voters are ahead of next year's presidential election. We're going to see if abortion rights will continue to be the driving force that is so clearly was in last year's elections after the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. Abortion access is directly on the ballot in Ohio tonight where voters are deciding whether to enshrine the right to one into the state's constitution.

BLITZER: We are also certainly closely monitoring competitive governors contests in Kentucky and Mississippi, both deeply red, Republican states. Along with a high stakes struggle for control of the government of Virginia, where all 140 seats in both the House and the Senate there are up for grabs.

COLLINS: We have live team coverage of it all. Jessica Dean is in Richmond, Virginia. But we start tonight with Kyung Lah in Columbus Ohio.

Kyung, obviously, you are in the most populated county in the state. That's Franklin County, Ohio. What have voters been saying as we've been casting their ballots today?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you are hearing and what you are seeing here, at least in this one polling place, and you're right, Kaitlan, this is a populated county. There are a lot of people coming through this particular polling case. So, this is just one snapshot of one place.

But I want you to take a look at what we're not just hearing, but seeing. You can see the number of people. This is an off year election at a polling place. This is known as a busier place. They didn't expect it to be this busy. And this is the sort of traffic that they've seen throughout the day, people checking in, getting the ballots here at this table, and they're heading over to the voting booths to cast their ballot.

What is motivating people here? What they are telling us is that it is issue one, it is deeply personal, that they have decided to make the time, because they are fueled by it. And they want to make their voices heard. But when you also ask them what is motivating them to come out they also understand that Ohio is poised to make a real statement leading into 2024.

I want you to listen to a couple of voters that we spoke with.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a big thing that directly affects people's lives, and they want to come out and give their opinion on how it should -- how the law should be in Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election in Ohio is going to really set the tone for the rest of the country. I'm hopeful. I'm really hopeful.


LAH: Now, both of those voters decided to vote in support of Issue 1, in enshrining those rights into the state constitution. That's not the case across the state. What we are hearing from both sides of Issue 1 is that they believe that this will be a battle up until the very end when polls close at 7:30. They still have people knocking on doors, Kaitlan and Wolf, they think it is going to be very close -- Wolf, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yeah, we'll be watching closely. Kyung Lah, thank you.

BLITZER: Let's head over to Richmond, Virginia, right now. That's where the Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin is hoping to gain full control of the state legislature.

Jessica Dean is on the scene for us, so we are following, what, 140 races. What are you looking for, Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just to remind everybody out there watching, the Republican governor here, Glenn Youngkin, is not on the ballot himself. He's in the middle of his term.

But it's a bit of a proxy battle, because he is asking Virginians to give him full Republican control of the state legislature. Up until now, Democrats have been in control of the Senate here and Republicans have been in control of the House. And so, he is going around, he's been all over the state, and in the closing days, really making the case, asking Virginians to give him that full control so that he could enact his agenda further.

One key issue, abortion. Governor Youngkin had pushed for and offered up a 15-week abortion ban worth noting, Virginia is the only southern state that has not seen further restrictions on abortion since Roe versus Wade was overturned.

That's because the Democrats and the Senate stopped that from happening, so you can see how this is a key issue that is being played out in all of these races all across the state. And Youngkin is saying that he believes that this is really a 15-week ban is a bit of a compromise. It's not as far as a six-week ban that we've seen in places like Florida and Iowa.


And, of course, Democrats have leaned heavily into the messaging saying that those rights should not be curbed at all. So, we are seeing that certainly play out.

And it also speaks to Youngkin as an individual, as a governor. What will this mean for him if he's able to really push forward his brand of Republican politics? He certainly a conservative, but he's not necessarily a MAGA Republican. And so, there are some things we are looking for in that regard as well, to see just how well he can do.

And one more thing to keep in mind here in Virginia, the reason we watch in politics what happens in Virginia and he's off your elections is because often, what happens in these off year elections correlates with what we see the following year in these federal elections.

So, in 2019, the Democrats flip the House, they flip the Senate, then we saw Biden win the state by 10 points. In 2021, Republicans took back the House and then, of course, in 2022, we saw Republicans on Capitol Hill take back the House as well.

So that's, again, why we like to keep our eye on what happens here in Virginia.

BLITZER: Very important. Jessica Dean in Richmond, Virginia, for us, we'll be getting back to you early and often. Thank you very, very much.


COLLINS: And, Gloria Borger, I mean, as we look at this, Virginia is the only Southern state without an abortion ban in place. And if Glenn Youngkin is successful and Republicans keeping the House and taking control of the Senate, it's the first time the governor would have control of everything, and I think a decade.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And it also even more of a national figure than he already is. If he's able to do that, it would be quite a feat. The interesting thing to me about watching this Virginia race is the way the language has changed on abortion. And now, Karen, we are shaking our head, yes, because now Republicans are no longer talking about a ban on abortion because that's a bad word, the word now is limiting abortion.

And what Youngkin is saying around the state is, look, the people who say that we want to ban abortion are lying to you. We don't want to ban abortion. We want to limit abortion in a sensible way and he meant -- we'll see if he's making any headway with that.


BLITZER: All right, let's listen to the governor right now. The Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin, has used abortion to try to motivate voters to turn out for Republicans in the general assembly in Virginia. Listen and watch this.


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: We've been completely straightforward and clear. I will back a bill to protect life 15 weeks. This is a choice between no limits and reasonable limits.


BLITZER: So, what do you think? How is that argument going to go?

FINNEY: You know, most voters still see 15 weeks as a ban. That's what the polling is showing because the conversation has really shifted particularly post the fall of Roe v. Wade where people say, a woman and her doctor should make the decision. Every woman has a different health care situation.

So when you put a sort of blanket ban, whether it's 15 weeks or six weeks or however many weeks, that starts to make people nervous. It also makes people nervous in Virginia because with a Republican governor and a full Republican legislature, what else would they do? Is this a slippery slope?

But exactly right, the language matters. Next in Ohio, there were a lot of back and forth battles about the actual language that is on the ballot which is different than the actual language of what the amendment to the state constitution would say.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But, I mean, I think the flow through Ohio and Virginia as we are seeing Republicans try to adjust their strategy, they realize that they have lost every single time since the overturning of Roe when an anti-abortion bill has been put forward, even in deep red states.

So, now, they are trying to say that the Democrats position as what is extreme and they are trying to put it as maximalist. Look, I think that Youngkin is trying to clear out this middle lane. But it is disingenuous to say that a ban is a ban. Words have meaning.


AVLON: Maybe 15 weeks, that's reasonable to a lot of people, but it is still setting a ban with exceptions importantly in the case --

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, look, I actually think that if Republicans had credibility on the 15-week ban thing, there's room here, nationally, according to a lot of polls that I have seen, for the last 10 or 20 years, out says not that is sort of a happy compromise in the middle for a lot of Americans who don't like extremes on other end.

AVLON: Sure.

GOLDBERG: The problem I think that they got is that, you know, Tip O'Neill, may he rest in peace, was, you know, the shelf life on the phrase "all politics is local" is over.

AVLON: Yeah.

GOLDBERG: So when you see Republicans and other states calling for a complete and total ban and even sometimes talking about prosecuting women and all of that, people are thinking about the national brands of these parties and races. So, even though I think that Youngkin is making a plausible and defensible pitch here, I don't think that a lot of voters are hearing, oh, well, he's being a reasonable person. I can trust all of the Republicans.


MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's also, by the way, I mean, Youngkin is still framing this as a ban and the backdrop of this issue is not a right was taken away from women. And so, it's women who are charged up to solidify, to codify that right in the states when they can.

That's why they came out in Kansas and in Ohio earlier.

FINNEY: Right, and Kentucky, by the way.

HOOVER: And in Kentucky. So to your point, it's a national issue but it's, again, the backdrop is something that was taken away and it is also worth reminding people, 80 percent of Americans favor some kind of abortion. Yes, with restrictions, or in some cases, 38 percent of Republicans do.

So this is just -- while you see Youngkin trying to make this little dance, it doesn't represent --

COLLINS: Given how radioactive this issue has been for Republicans and maybe we're going to learn tonight if it still is or if Republicans have learned how to push back on the messaging on this, why is Youngkin pushing this?

HOOVER: Well, Youngkin -- first of all, Youngkin does not speak for all Republicans. Youngkin is actually --

COLLINS: In Virginia, why is he pushing it?

HOOVER: Well, I what is a really interesting statement is we will see whether it actually motivates people, because I don't think that the ban on abortion is going to motivate people to the polls in favor of Youngkin's platform. I think if anything --

GOLDBERG: That's part of the reason why he's not talking about it very much.


FINNEY: But here is the problem it is the candid. The other candidate in the legislative races, they were talking about it, Democrats have been on offense on this issue so I think Youngkin realized he better get ahead of it because his candidates were saying ban. They were saying horrible things. And so, he's trying to reclaim the narrative. I don't know that it's going to work.

BORGER: Right, it was never part of his narrative when he was trying to run for governor, he was talking about schools and education. And so, what he's trying to do is sort of find some middle ground here --

AVLON: Yeah.

BORGER: -- you know, 15 weeks, which polls show that a lot of folks would say was okay, but he's got a problem because it is definitional, right? Is it a ban? Is it a limit? Is it, what is it?

COLLINS: Well, I guess we'll see what the voters decide.

BORGER: Is it a restriction?

COLLINS: I mean, they are going to the polls. It will be very interesting and revealing to see if it is something that drives them to the polls.

We'll actually be joined, speaking of another state where abortion is going to be a key issue tonight, that's Ohio. We're going to speak to a former Ohio congressman, Tim Ryan. He'll be with us in just a moment with his predictions on the vote in his state, and why the Democrat is calling for President Biden to drop out of the 2024 race. That's next.



BLITZER: We're back with our special coverage of Election Day in America. Ohio is the seventh state where voters are weighing in right directly on the issue of abortion since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Joining us now is the former Democratic Congressman for Ohio, Tim Ryan, he also ran for president back in 2020.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's begin with your state of Ohio. As you, know in all six states before Ohio, voters overwhelmingly upheld abortion rights for women. Do you expect that to happen once again tonight in your state of Ohio? And how will the results in Ohio impact the national conversation about abortion rights?

TIM RYAN (D), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I think that we will win this in Ohio. I think that the latest poll had it at about 57 percent for the amendment, for Issue 1, and I think that's probably going to hold. We have obviously almost all of the Democrats, I think half of independents, even four in 10 Republicans who are pro-choice, moderate Republicans are voting for the Amendment.

So I think that it should pass. And I think that it will send a signal that really, America, nobody wants to get into a whole big conversation about abortion every single day of their lives. But they know it's an essential right that should be left to the woman and thought that this is a country that respects freedom, and that women are citizens of this country and they deserve that freedom to make those very difficult decisions.

BLITZER: As you know, Congressman, Ohio has seen millions of dollars and ad money spent on this very controversial issue of abortion. Many of these ads are full of misinformation about this particular initiative.

How concerned are you that voters may not necessarily know exactly what they are voting for?

RYAN: Well, there's always a concern, but there have been ads on both sides. I think that there has been a really good ground game on the supportive of Issue 1, a lot of door-knocks, and a lot of people out on the ground throughout the state. I think that will win the day.

But you do worry that people catch snippets of things about, you know, parents and those kinds of things, which has all been debunked clearly over the last few weeks and months. And so, I think -- I think it's going to pass. I think we'll be good. And, you know, kudos to all of the men and women in Ohio who've been running a very aggressive campaign on behalf of Issue 1.

BLITZER: While I have you, Congressman, I will get to another very sensitive issue. Yesterday, you told CNN's Kasie Hunt that you don't think President Biden should run for reelection. Who do you think should be running on the Democratic side in his place?

RYAN: Well, I don't have an answer for that one. And let me be very clear, Wolf, if it is Joe Biden against Donald Trump, I will be 1,000 percent with Joe Biden. I think that Trump is a threat to our democracy, and a threat to our country.

And you're seeing that every single day on the news just yesterday in court. The guy would be vindictive. He would go after people. He would use the attorney general's office that would go after people, U.S. attorneys across the country.

And that's a very dangerous proposition. So I would be with President Biden 100 percent in that regard. I just believe that we need generational change in this country. People are so frustrated and I think that the presidents message on the economy of telling people that they're doing better than they're doing is not going to work.

And I wish -- I wish that would stop because I'm on the ground in Ohio and I hear what people are saying. Bacon is more expensive, gas is more expensive, groceries are more expensive. Rent is more expensive. So, lower growth is not helping matters. We need to focus on their

concerns and when you don't meet -- and, Wolf, you know this, when you don't meet people where they are emotionally, they stop thinking you're understanding the challenges that they're going through every single day. And that is a very high risk.


And that's why Donald Trump, no matter the circumstances that he's in, if you're struggling out there, you're going to say that I was doing better in 2020 than I'm doing now. At least it really feels that way to me. And so, the pitch needs to be that we understand you are struggling and we are reindustrializing the country. We're bringing chips back. We're bringing manufacturing back. If it's not happening soon enough, and I'm going to bust my rear end to make sure that we get your families where they need to be.

Not telling them they're doing better, not quoting macroeconomic statistics. Stop with that. It's not going to work.

BLITZER: Let me repeat the question. Is there a specific --

RYAN: It puts us at risk to put Trump back in the White House.

BLITZER: Is there a specific younger Democrat you're looking at right now to potentially challenge Biden for the nomination?

RYAN: I wouldn't give you any names that anybody else has talked about over the past months. We've got have a number of really talented governors. We've got, you know, talented senators. You look at the number and I'm not sure it matters all that much because if you look at the number against Trump, if a generic Democrat, they went 55-45.

And so, I hope -- and again, I love Joe Biden. I will support Joe Biden 100 percent if he's running against Donald Trump. No question about that. But what I am saying is, I hope we can get a new generation of leadership, I think that the country is ready to move on, we have to start healing. And that's the direction that we need to move in, and there's plenty of confident people.

I hope that the Republicans elect someone who has the guts to take on Trump. The country has got to heal. We've got to move on from this. And I think I represent the frustrations of millions of people in the country.

BLITZER: Former Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, thank you very much for joining us.

RYAN: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Karen Finney, I mean, what do you make?

FINNEY: I knew that was coming --


COLLINS: How did you know?


COLLINS: I've been listening to him say, you know, what the White House is doing when they -- in the Biden campaign, when they hear these concerns, they see them, we will be watching if they potentially have any drag on races tonight. You know, obviously, Biden is not on the ballot.

What did you make about what they said how they're not doing enough to address that?

FINNEY: I think that to take polls seriously. But again, we have a year. So, I don't think that we have to have our hair on fire.

That being said, clearly, because we've had a number of polls note that have said the same thing, the "what" in terms of the data, the numbers, we need to understand why people feel that way. And that's where the campaign is.

You heard me say this. That is where the messaging comes in. Why are people feeling that way? And why is the message not actually moving voters towards President Biden? Because clearly, what they've been doing isn't working. I agree with the congressman on that.

So, there needs to be some type of change up in terms of the messaging, and also proably how we're reaching people.

ALVON: Do you mind just explain how to do it, though, right? I mean, he just showed why he remains one of the best communicators in the Democratic Party. And really, he should be messaging the White House.

He said stop talking about macroeconomics. Stop -- there are a lot of good statistics. The Biden team can point to about how the economy has improved. But if people aren't feeling it in their own lives, you need to meet them where they live.

And a lot of this is about inflation that's still -- it's still hurting people, but he is making it from the perspective of northeast Ohio, you know, saying talk about manufacturing, meet people where they are, talk like a human being. And that kind of common sense Democratic perspective from a red state is what the Democrats need more of right now.

BORGER: I think the fear is among Democrats that I talk to is that they are losing Democratic constituents and they have to figure out a way to get them back. They are not doing as well with minority voters.

COLLINS: And Biden's really don't.

BORGER: Young voters are bleeding. They're going away.

HOOVER: When the polls are like Gloria is talking about, my experience working in politics is that it doesn't change of the messaging. It's a changeup from the top, okay? This is coming from the top. You can't communicate differently about Biden. You couldn't do it about George W. Bush after Katrina and the Iraq war. The messaging isn't going to change the formed opinions people have.


HOOVER: And --

FINNEY: So, here's why I disagree having worked in campaigns over 30 years. There is something that you called the informed vote. So you poll, you ask the direct question and you say did you know that ABC? Then you ask again.

That information comes to what you see. What is going to move people either towards or against. I'm not saying, again, I think that they clearly need --


FINNEY: But we're not going to have -- Joe Biden is not going to drop out. That's not reality.

BORGER: It's the way they feel. It's the way they feel.

COLLINS: But he should.

BORGER: You know, you talk about younger voters which I have been looking at and it's astonishing to me that they're just --

FINNEY: Agreed.

BORGER: -- disappearing.


And the reason is, they say that the main reason is the economy. They trust Donald Trump on the economy, more than Joe Biden by 28 points.

FINNEY: But that's one poll. Let's be clear, they also care about reproductive rights, they care about climate change.


FINNEY: And, by the way, when we talk about the economy, it means very different things.

For Black voters, racism is the economy, because if I'm dealing with racism, I'm not getting a raise. I'm not getting the job opportunities that I think that I deserve. And for Black voters, they are concerned more hasn't been done.

Similarly with women and reproductive rights. So, understanding how they feel means not just one issue, how they feel about that issue.

GOLDBERG: I can just tell you that all of the Democrats, none of the Democrats running are talking about supporting Joe Biden. They're not talking about how they are linked with Joe Biden. They realize that Joe Biden is a deadweight on them, and in these races, that should tell you something about how -- what sets up for the 2024.

BLITZER: All right. We're just going to continue this conversation down the road. But right now, there is more news we're following.

Will the deep red state of Kentucky oust its Democratic governor? Will Elvis Presley's second cousin turn the governor's mansion in Mississippi blue? The state of both of those key races, we have details, that's coming up.



COLLINS: This election day, we are following two key governor's races with high stakes.

In Kentucky, incumbent Democratic Governor Andy Beshear fighting to turn his race into a referendum on abortion rights against the Republican attorney general in the state, Daniel Cameron.

In Mississippi, incumbent Republican Governor, Tate Reeves, deeply unpopular amid questions of his involvement in one of the biggest public fraud scandals to ever happen in the state's history. His Democratic challenger, Brendan Presley, of course, is related to Elvis. Much more to know about him.

Dianne Gallagher is standing by in Jackson. But first, we are going to go to Eva McKend who is live on the ground in Louisville.

Eva, this is a race where we have seen the Republican try to kind of nationalize this race while Governor Beshear has tried to keep it more tied to local issues happening in Kentucky.


We have seen abortion really become a potent issue, even in this state. Governor Beshear has really elevated this conversation. We were at the polls this morning and we spoke to one woman, and she said that was a key issue that she was voting on. She was concerned about the future of reproductive rights in this country.

Beshear also has a searing ad that has played time and time again, of a woman by the name of Hadley who was a victim of sexual assault. Hadley also joined him on the campaign trail. And he uses her story as a way to basically call out Republicans who do not support exceptions for rape or incest.

So, this is something that has been heavily elevated here of Governor Beshear's victorious tonight, we could see Democrats also try to use this same playbook. But still, Daniel Cameron, the attorney general, is a serious competitor here. He's worked overtime to try to tie Governor Beshear to President Biden.

Biden, of course, not popular here in Kentucky, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yeah, the Democratic governor in a very red state. Eva McKend, we'll continue to check in with you. Thank you for that.

BLITZER: Right now, we want to go to Mississippi where the governor's race has not been this competitive in over 20 years.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is joining us right now from a canvas event for Brandon Presley.

The Democratic challenger, Dianne, why is this race all of a sudden so close?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that the question right now for people in Mississippi is can this state elected Democrat as governor, actually I have Brandon Presley with me right now. Hi, how are you, sir?

This is a Democratic candidate. This is your final event. You've crisscrossed the entire state. Everyone wants to know, can Mississippi actually elected a Democrat as governor?

BRANDON PRESLEY (D), MISSISSIPPI GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I think that we are going to win tonight. I've been in all 82 counties. The energy in this race has been amazing. The fact that we have knocked on over 260,000 doors in the state, we have folks ready behind me to talk more doors this afternoon.

GALLAGHER: How do you convince Republicans, though, to vote for you? I know you've run on a populist message but how do you convince them to go? I've been out of the polls and a lot of people tell me that even if they don't like Tate Reeves they have a hard time voting for someone who isn't a Republican.

PRESLEY: Yeah, we've been proud to get Republican support throughout this campaign. I think that this election is as much a referendum on saving our hospitals, ethics reform, and the fact that Tate Reeves is one of the most unpopular governors in America, and Mississippians know he's out of touch with them. And that I would be a governor that would be in touch with Mississippians and the issues in Mississippi.

This campaign has never been about national politics. He's trying to make it that way. It's been about the issues in our state, and how we can have a governor that would go to work to fix those.

GALLAGHER: Has it been difficult being attached to national politics and being attached to national governments running in the state for you?

PRESLEY: Well, I think more than anything else, we've kept this centric to the state of Mississippi. This is about whether or not our hospitals are going to be open for the next four years. It's about whether or not we end the corruption of Tate Reeves or we have had the largest public corruption scandal in state history under his leadership. And so, it's not -- this has not been about national politics. I

disagreed with the national party plenty throughout this campaign. And it has been more about Mississippi than anything else. And I think that's why we're going to win tonight.

GALLAGHER: You talked quite a bit about expanding Medicaid in Mississippi. One of the few remaining states that has failed to do so.


Again, this populist message that you are running on, I've talked to people who have said it is the idea of cutting taxes.

Is that is what's going to, you believe, push you over the finish line in a very unexpected -- I mean, this would be an upset here if you want.

PRESLEY: Yeah, I think we are going to win. I think, look, I'm a populist, I've said clearly that I am a populist from the beginning. The issues in Mississippi are not right and left. It is about those of us who have been pushed on the outside, versus a hand select little few led by Tate Reeves on the inside.

That's why we are attracting support from traditional Republicans and independents, of course, from Democrats throughout the state because this is a campaign for the people. I've said that I wanted to build a coalition of black Mississippians, and white Mississippians, and Republicans, and Democrats to take back the governor's office for the people of the state. Whether it'd be cutting the grocery tax, which we have the highest tax on food in America, Tate Reeves has done nothing about getting that tax taken off of our work.

People have had 12 years to do it. I think that that is a message that has resonated. And they realize I'm a fighter. Tate Reeves has been a very low energy governor and he doesn't have any guts and backbone. I'm willing to stand up and fight.

GALLAGHER: All right. Thank you so much, Brendan Presley. I appreciate your time.

You know, Wolf, sometimes you get the candidate right as they come in. I will point out that he's tried to tie Tate Reeves to that welfare scandal, where $77 -- $77 million worth of welfare funds were misspent, and instead funneled to the politically connected and celebrities. Many people watching may know that Brett Favre is counted as one of those defendants in that, while Tate Reeves was lieutenant governor at that time, not the governor at that time.

He's never been accused of anything involving that, though his name has come up. Reeves said he believes he could get himself across the finish line, that Mississippi is reliably a Republican state.

BLITZER: We shall see. All right. Dianne Gallagher in Jackson, Mississippi, for us, thank you.

COLLINS: Karen Finney, even if you are Elvis's second cousin -- KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.

COLLINS: -- can you become the next Democratic governor of a state like Mississippi?

FINNEY: We'll see. I will tell you one thing that is interesting, a Jim Crow era law was repealed and that law has the impact. It was diluting the impact of the Black vote. So, actually, Black voters will have a much bigger say this time. It will be interesting to see if that will make up the difference.

BORGER: To the point that we were discussing before, what we did in here, Brendan Presley say a lot, is Joe Biden. And, you know, I'm with Joe Biden all the way, and look at what he did on that infrastructure bill for all of us. And look at what he did for all of us during the pandemic. He --

GOLDBERG: Also to the point we were talking about earlier, he's pro- life. He's not talking about abortion --

BORGER: Yeah, he's not talking abortion.

GOLDBERG: He is running as a very conservative Democrat.

BORGER: Right.

JOHN ALVON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, by the way, that is all good and healthy for the country in terms of wanting to kill our divides. Democrats, any big state parties, again, and Democrats need -- we need the rural Democrats and red state Democrats, and what you heard from Brandon Presley right now was kind of a master class in how to communicate from that perspective.

And we'll see if it works. Eighty percent of the state legislator seats in Mississippi are uncontested. That's separate kind of scandal. That may have an impact on turnout and ground game. But that kind of messaging, that -- you know, just Democrats need to find a way, you don't need an ideological litmus test and cultural war issues to define every candidate and every region in the country. That's a loser, not a winner.

HOOVER: This is -- this is -- this is why I married my husband. The Aaron Sorkin "West Wing" version of a political sort of good boy.

Sixty-two percent of Mississippi is a registered Republicans. Not even 30 percent are Democrats. So while you can aspire the sort of the change you can believe in, the likelihood that Mississippi votes for a Republican, returns Republicans, it's just --


AVLON: Keep hope alive. First competitive race in 20 years.

BORGER: Well, there is the Presley factor.

AVLON: That's right. COLLINS: We'll keep an eye on it.

And also, of course, Kentucky is a much more competitive race. We will check back there in a moment.

Also next, we are going to go to the ground in Israel. How the country is now marking a month. It is hard to believe that it has already been that long, since the October 7th attacks.

A live update, next.



BLITZER: In Israel today, a nation pausing to mark exactly one month since the horrific Hamas terror attack on October 7th. The scale of the assault is still almost hard to imagine. More than 1,400 Israelis killed, men, women, and children, and 240 -- more than 240 taken hostage into Gaza. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us live. He's in Jerusalem today.

Ed, it has to be an incredibly emotional day, today.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was, Wolf. To mark the one month anniversary of the October 7th attack, hundreds gather here at the Western Wall, one of the most holy sites in the world. They came to mourn the hostages, and to plead for their release.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Israelis gathered at the Western Wall Tuesday night to mark the one month passing of the October 7th attack, holding a mass prayer for the return of the hostages held in Gaza. One mother was surrounded by the families of other hostages as she pleaded for her son's return.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was kidnapped, marched by gunpoint onto a Hamas pick up truck and lead into Gaza. And that was 32 days ago. The hostages have been underground in Gaza for 32 days!

LAVANDERA: It's a sign of unity in the country still coming to terms with a terrorist attack that has once again plunged the Middle East into war.

ORLY BARKIMA, VOLUNTEER: I think the country is in trauma. I think that we still don't get it, you know? It's beyond grasping. It is something that is non-human.

LAVANDERA: Every night, a group of volunteers gathers in Tel Aviv and in cities around the country, handing out ribbons to show solidarity with the families of hostages.


BARKIMA: They want the families to feel as if all the people are with them. They are not alone in their struggle and we won't stop and we won't take off the ribbons until they are back here in Israel.

LAVANDERA: While the yellow ribbons are prominently waving in many places, there is an undercurrent of anger and political division simmering across the country. Much of it directed at senior Israeli government officials, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet was shouted away from a hospital a few weeks ago, as she tried to visit attack victims.

To cope with the tension and anger and aftermath of the October 7th attacks, Scialom Zarrugh turned his anger into a volunteer mission out of his Tel Aviv restaurant with a group called (INAUDIBLE) which means giving to help others.

For weeks, they cooked and packaged meals for Israeli soldiers and the victims of the attacks who have been displaced from their homes.

As you do all of this work, you think about the day that there will be peace, is peace even possible?

SCIALOM ZARRUGH, RESTAURANT OWNER: We definitely are looking forward, we pray every morning, afternoon, evening for the piece to come over us, and the world.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Wolf, the prayers tonight at the Western Wall here in Jerusalem where about national unity, focusing on the soldiers, and the hostages. But this country also knows that in the months ahead, they will have to come to terms with the political division that divided them so intensely before October 7th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, and certainly a lot of depression in Israel right now as I can testify, I was with you just a few days ago, Ed. Thank you very much, Ed Lavandera, joining us from Jerusalem.

With Israel now signaling its postwar plans for Gaza, the White House is warning against a reoccupation. We'll have details when we come back.



BLITZER: Israel's defense minister says that Israeli troops are now fighting Hamas right in the heart of Gaza City, and declaring today that after the war ends, Israel will, quote, retain complete freedom of action of the Gaza Strip.

COLLINS: And those comments come after we heard from the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, talking about what the situation in Gaza could look like last night.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think that Israel will for an indefinite period will have the overall security responsibility because we've seen what happens when we don't have it.


COLLINS: And joining us now is Barak Ravid. He's the Middle East expert, political reporter for "Axios".

Barak, thanks very much for coming in.

Does Israel actually have a plan for what happens if, it is a big if, if it destroys Hamas and takes control over all of the Gaza Strip? Does Israel have a plan for what it is going to do?

BARAK RAVID, FOREIGN POLICY REPORTER, AXIOS: Wolf, the short answer is no, okay? There's no plan. But the longer answers that I think that there's a sort of principles that you can start to see. First principle is obviously that Hamas is not going to be control of Gaza and not going to rule Gaza.

And the second principle is what we've heard from Netanyahu and from the minister of defense that the Israel will retain overall security responsibility for Gaza Strip. I don't think that means reoccupying Gaza forever, obviously not. But I do think it is more what do you see in the West Bank in recent years, and especially after the second intifada. Meaning the IDF will keep some forces inside Gaza, not the numbers you will see right now, and we will go on almost daily raids into Gaza to rule out whatever is left of Hamas the day after.

BLITZER: Because remember, what is about a month or so ago, shortly after the Hamas attack on Israel, President Biden said that it would be a big mistake for Israel to reoccupy Gaza.

RAVID: Yes, I don't -- again, I don't think that it is going to be, you know, Netanyahu was meeting a few people several days ago. It was a closed meeting. One of them asked them, are you going to -- are we going to reoccupy Gaza in the sense of, you know, rebuilding settlements? And Netanyahu didn't -- he didn't answer but he did something like that. You know?

And I think that that's the state of mind right now. He is not interested in, you know, reoccupying Gaza. He is not interested in rebuilding the settlements there. That's not the plan. But the question is, whether he's really in control of his government because inside his government are -- you know, several people that have very strong views about retaking the clock back to before Israel pulled out with Gaza in 2005 and rebuilding settlements there. And that would be a whole different story.

BLITZER: Yeah, even though he claimed to me once that he is the ultimate decision maker in his cabinet clearly, that has shifted since what has happened a month ago.

I think that the more pressing question for the White Houses are going to be a cease-fire or tactical pause, or humanitarian pause, whatever they are calling it, each day of the week, the reporting is that President Biden wants to see a three-day pause? But that doesn't seem to be something that Netanyahu publicly is prepared to accept. RAVID: Yes. So, yesterday, President Biden called Netanyahu again, I

think that it was their 10th or 11th phone call. And he told him very clearly, listen, there is a proposal on the table, it includes a three-day pause and the fighting.

It includes Hamas releasing between 10 to 15 hostages, and it includes that doing those three days, the reason that Aiden claimed those three days are needed it's because Hamas claims that it doesn't know exactly where all the hostages are. So it will use those three days in order to gather this information, and give a full list of the names of the hostages that are right now in Gaza.


The problem is, the Israeli side, and Netanyahu told this to Biden yesterday. He told them, listen -- you know, it's a trick. They're only interested in Israel helping them.

They don't trust Hamas. And they think that after a three-day cease- fire, nobody around the world will really support Israel if it resumes the fighting in Gaza.

COLLINS: Barak Ravid, great reporting as always. Thank you for sharing that with us.

RAVID: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

COLLINS: We have much more to come tonight. John King is here at the magic wall right after this. He is going to lay out the key stakes and the key races that we are watching this election day.

Plus, our very first CNN exit polls are ahead.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, along with Kaitlan Collins.