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The Situation Room
Biden: "I Believe" Manchin Will Vote For My Spending Plan; Sen. Chris Coons, (D-DE), Is Interviewed About Spending Bill, Climate Summit, Virginia Gubernatorial Race; Biden: "Big Mistake" For China & Russia To Skip Global Climate Summit; Biden Expresses Optimism Dem McAuliffe Win V.A. Gov. Race; CDC Advisers Vote To Recommend COVID Vaccines For Children Age 5-11; Final Authorization For COVID Shots For Kids 5-11 Possible Tonight; Wolf One-On-One With Former Vice President Al Gore; Gore Praises Biden For "Extremely Successful" Climate Summit; McAuliffe, Youngkin In Dead Heat In Virginia Governor's Race; Pence Says He Looked To James Madison As He Certified Election. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 02, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, President Biden makes a major prediction about his domestic agenda in his final remarks at the COP26 leaders' climate summit, saying he believes hold out Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will vote for a sweeping spending plan. The former Vice President Al Gore joins me this hour, we'll talk about the summit.
Also, we're standing by for the first exit polls on this election night in America and watching the extremely close and consequential governor's race in Virginia.
And we're also expecting a vote at any moment now that could move 28 million American children just one step away from being eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine possibly as soon as tomorrow.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're live in Scotland tonight where world leaders have wrapped up their portion of the United Nation's Climate Summit. And President Biden in his final remarks just a little while ago, making breaking news, saying, for the first time he believes hold out Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will back his massive spending plan.
Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is with me here in Scotland.
Kaitlan, the President said and I'm quoting him now, "I believe Joe will be there." You heard it. I heard it. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And this is notable because this is the first time we have heard from President Biden weighing in since Senator Manchin came out and announced yesterday that he was not ready yet to throw his support behind this bill. Saying that he has a lot of questions about how the package is going to be paid for and, of course, the timeline of how quickly they are moving. But President Biden telling reporters today that in the end, he is confident about what Senator Manchin will do and how he will vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not going to talk about the specifics of my conversations. He will vote for this if we have in this proposal what he has anticipated. And that is looking at the fine print and the detail of what comes out of the House in terms of the actual legislative initiatives. I believe that Joe will be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And Wolf, of course, that is notable given what the President had said just a few days ago, he thinks that these votes could potentially be passed as soon as this week. Senator Manchin seem to throw some cold water on the idea of the timing on that, especially when it comes to that social sweeping spending bill, of course, the one that also has the hundreds of billions of dollars when it comes to climate change, something that the President was pushing here at this climate summit.
We should note that we were told earlier today the President had not yet spoken directly with Manchin since he made those comments yesterday, those senior White House staff had so. We'll see if the President speaks to him on his way back to Washington tonight.
BLITZER: On the climate summit, the President clearly was taking a leadership role here. But there are a lot of serious problems. A lot of people are worried about some of the no shows (ph).
COLLINS: Yes, of course, China, one of the world's biggest polluters, the world's biggest polluter, did not show up to this conference. And so, you were hearing from these world leaders, the U.S. president, the British Prime Minister coming out, making these pledges about what their nations are going to do when it comes to climate change and how to fight that.
Yet during that, as President Biden was noting today, and incredibly critical that China was not here saying that it was a big mistake you believe for them not to show up and telling our colleague Phil Mattingly that he thinks that their presence (ph) reveal something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What is your general assessment of where things stand? And are you concerned that the potential for armed conflict has grown over the course of your first 10 months in office? BIDEN: We showed up. And by showing up we've had a profound impact on the way, I think, the rest of the world was looking at the United States and its leadership role. I think it's been a big mistake, quite frankly, for China, respect to China not showing up. The rest of the world will look to China and say what value added have they provided.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So you heard, Wolf, what he told Phil there, talking about China trying to say that they do want to be a leader in the world but not actually showing up. And I think that is something the White House said that he -- they were hoping to take advantage of with China not being here.
But it does factor into the end game, which is what you've heard from so many of the climate activist who have been here on the ground in Scotland as this conference is getting kicked off is saying that you're hearing from the leaders of these wealthy nations talk a lot, have a lot of rhetoric around climate change. But when it comes to the actual delivery and results, they want to know who's going to hold him accountable. And the President saying there, you know, China does want to assert this leadership role on the world stage, they need to be able to show up and make commitments when it comes to climate change. That's what he was telling Phil there.
And now -- so we should note that the President is expected to meet with the Chinese leader in November or in December before the end of the year. Though, he did note there, they do not have a date set yet.
BLITZER: Virtually. They're going to be --
COLLINS: A virtual meeting.
BLITZER: Not in face-to-face.
COLLINS: And we should remind people the reason we are not seeing the Chinese leader here as he has not left China in 21 months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. And White House aides believe that is largely the reason he is not here in Glasgow at that summit.
BLITZER: The President is getting ready to board Air Force One for the flight back to Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C. Once he gets there, climate is certainly going to be important, and it's related to the so called reconciliation bill. But he's got a lot of issues he's going to have to deal with.
COLLINS: He does. And it's interesting how you're seeing that he is pretty much in the same situation that he was when he left Washington to come to the G20 in Rome, then come to Glasgow for this climate summit when it comes to his domestic agenda and getting that passed. And while you are seeing Democrats say they are confident that they are going to move on that hard infrastructure bill this week, potentially, there are also questions about what this social spending bill is actually going to look like in its final form. They are trying to push ahead with that, despite this comments from Senator Manchin.
And of course, immediately, the President noting what he'll likely be dealing with when he does get on the ground, which is this Virginia governor's race. And the President was telling reporters, he is confident that Terry McAuliffe is going to be able to pull it off. And of course, a lot of people have said this what race could potentially be a bellwether for the midterms, whether or not in Democrats are going to be successful or Republicans are going to retake their majorities. But it remains to be seen, of course, Wolf.
BLITZER: It looks like there will be a major win for the President and for Congress for that matter in the coming days maybe as early as tomorrow or later this week, on the traditional infrastructure, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Congress hasn't passed major infrastructure legislation about 30 years. This is a huge, huge package, could have passed a couple months ago. But the progressives, the Democratic progressives wanted to link it to the broader reconciliation bill.
It looks like that infrastructure bill is going to pass the House. It's already passed the Senate with 69 votes, and will immediately go to the President for his signature.
COLLINS: And it's notable that that would happen before the other bill, because of course, that has been a demand from progressives all along as they have said that we want to see this bill passed in tandem with the other one. And now you heard after Manchin came out yesterday, and throw some cold water on ideas, seem to waver behind -- getting behind this $1.75 trillion spending plan just yet.
You saw progressives say, well, we're not going to change our demands because of that. We are still moving ahead. They have said they will put the support behind that hard infrastructure bill. Of course, that would be a win for the President.
Some moderate Democrats had said that they wish that had gotten passed before the President came here to the summit. Certainly before the voters went to the polls in Virginia, they believed it would have boosted the Democratic candidate in that race. The President said he disagreed with that, though. And he did say the other day that he is hopeful they're going to get this passed, potentially as soon as this week. And of course, as he noted tonight, Wolf, he does think in the end, Senator Manchin will be there and will be a yes vote for his agenda.
BLITZER: You're getting ready to fly back to Washington. I'm getting ready to fly back to Washington.
Just want to thank you for all the terrific work in Italy and here. Excellent work. Thanks so much.
COLLINS: Thank you, Wolf. It's always great to work with you.
BLITZER: See you back in Washington. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.
The breaking news continues next here in the Situation Room. We're getting, get this, the first exit poll results from the closely watched Virginia governor's race, which could have huge implications for both Democrats and Republicans.
Plus, my one-on-one interview with one of the first leaders to sound the alarm on climate change. We're talking about the former vice president in the United States Al Gore, he joins me to talk about the U.N. Climate Summit, and more. Our coverage continues from Scotland right after this
BLITZER: We're back live here in Scotland, where President Biden has just wrapped up his participation in the U.N. Climate Summit. And in his final remarks, he said for the first time that he believes that the hold out Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will support his spending plan.
Let's get some more in all of this with Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.
Senator, thank you so much for joining us.
We're going to get to the climate summit in a moment. But first, you heard the President saying Senator Joe Manchin, in the President's words will be there on his economic plan. But how do you get there, because Manchin is raising serious issues with Medicare expansion, he's waiting for the Congressional Budget Office score, as they call it. It doesn't sound like he's backing this plan anytime soon.
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well, Wolf, the good news from this week was that the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House has decided to move forward, both with the infrastructure bill and with the Build Back Better bill saying that they trust President Biden will be able to deliver 50 votes here in the Senate, and I share that confidence.
I have heard, as have all of us, from Senator Manchin that he wants to see final text. He wants to know the details of the deal. But that's not unusual, Wolf, for Senators say before I'm finally going to vote for something where I agree with the overall plan. I need to see the final details.
There was, I think, a breakthrough agreement this afternoon on adding a prescription drug negotiation provision, a provision that would lower out of pocket costs for prescription drugs for American seniors which I frankly think in terms of getting 50 votes in the Senate strengthens the bill moving forward.
BLITZER: Frustration, though, is clearly mounting over Senator Manchin. So, what his critics are calling, stalling. One Democratic senator told CNN, and I'm quoting now, "There's a ton of loose ends, and no clear way out." Is the feeling that one senator, Senator Manchin, specifically is dictating President Biden's success or failure on this critically important issue?
COONS: Wolf, we've got 50 senators. Any one of us, because we only have a 50 vote majority, could throw up a red flag and disagree and slow the progress of the Build Back Better bill. It is not an infinite number of concerns.
It's a very defined and narrow number of concerns that Senator Manchin has raised in recent days. And the White House is working through resolving all of them with him. And I am optimistic that we will get there when the House takes up and passes this bill. There will be a week that it goes through a review of scrub here in the Senate to make sure that it follows with this arcane process called reconciliation that we're following, and then we'll be ready to vote for it.
Once President Biden returns and has a chance to be directly engaged constructively as he has been, I'm confident that we will, in the end, get 50 Democrats to vote for this bill.
BLITZER: Yes, this is going to be his major priority once he lands outside of Washington, at Joint Base Andrews.
Turning to the COP26 climate summit here in Scotland, President Biden blasted China and Russia for that matter, for not engaging, not sending their leaders here, calling it a "big mistake." How does he put pressure on some of the world's biggest polluters to act? And I know you'll be leading a congressional delegation to Glasgow coming up.
COONS: That's right, Wolf. President Biden had very strong words for some of the world's largest polluters, China and Russia, but also engaged in positive bilateral meetings with heads of state from other countries that are also significant contributors, not at the scale of China.
And I think he made two big announcements today, a number of leaders of COP26 made two big announcements today about a global methane pledge. Methane is a far more significant polluter contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide, it stays in the atmosphere shorter period of time, but it's a much heavier molecule in terms of its impact. And the United States is making a significant commitment and catalyzing a global commitment to combat methane emissions.
There's also a new commitment to end deforestation. I chair the subcommittee that funds all of our foreign assistance, as you know, Wolf. And I'm committed to working closely with President Biden to make sure that we meet the bold commitments that he's made at COP26 for climate finance, particularly to help developing countries that want to work with us to reduce their emissions.
BLITZER: Before I let you go, Senator, you heard President Biden say he thinks Democrats are going to win the Virginia governor's race. What will it say though, if he's wrong? COONS: Well, look, there's a lot of elections across the country tonight. There's governors who are up for election in both Virginia and New Jersey. I'll be looking at the exit polls for lessons that we might learn going forward. But the 2024 elections a long way off, the '22 election is a year off.
I don't think we should read too much into these polls. Youngkin and McAuliffe are both running hard right up to the end, it's going to be a close election. And what I think it will mean is that there's a lot of folks around the country who are looking for a path forward out of this pandemic.
I like Terry McAuliffe chances as the former governor who had a strong record when he was governor of Virginia. And I'll be looking forward to seeing the results on CNN later tonight.
BLITZER: We all will be anxious to see what goes on there.
Senator Chris Coons, thank you so much for joining us.
COONS: Thank you.
BLITZER: And there's breaking news coming into the Situation Room right now, that closely watched extremely tight Virginia governor's race. I want to bring in our CNN Political Director, David Chalian.
David, I understand you're getting a look at the first exit polls out of Virginia. What are you learning?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's right, Wolf. And remember, these are early numbers. These numbers will change throughout the night as more and more respondents to the exit polls come in. But these preliminary numbers do give us a sense of what the electorate in Virginia looks like tonight.
Take a look at the gender split here. Fifty-three percent of Virginia voters in this gubernatorial race are female. That's a slight uptick from 51 percent that we saw on the presidential election last year. Forty-seven percent male.
Take a look at race. This is a wider electorate in Virginia than we saw in the presidential race last year or in the 2017 gubernatorial race. And again, these are early preliminary numbers and they can change throughout the night.
But right now what we're seeing in these initial numbers, 73 percent of Virginia voters in this gubernatorial race are white. That was 67 percent of the electorate just last year when Joe Biden won the state by 10 points. Seventeen percent of this electorate is black, just to tick down from where it was last year. Five percent, Latino, 3 percent other racial and ethnic groups, 2 percent Asian. That's the racial demographic split.
Take a look at the breakdown by age, we're also finding that the voters today in the Virginia governor's race, according to these early numbers, it's an older electorate. Take a look here, 27 percent of voters are 65 or older, senior citizens. If you compare that to just a year ago, that number was 18 percent. OK?
And then of course, young voters there you see are 9 percent of the electorate, and that's about where they were last year or actually, sorry, significantly down from where they were last year in terms of the youth vote. So it's an older, wider electorate. That probably is giving some hope to the Youngkin campaign in these early numbers.
And then look at the Education divide, Wolf, this is one of the big dividing lines in American politics. Fifty-three percent of Virginia voters are college graduates, 47 percent do not have a college degree.
I just want to note, this is a more educated electorate. It was about 43 percent college graduates just last year in the presidential race. So this is just the first look, and we'll see as more numbers come in, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you, David Chalian. Thank you very much.
And once again, we're less than an hour away from CNN's special coverage of Election Night in America. Tune in to see who wins the high stakes Virginia governor's race. Plus, the battles to lead New Jersey and New York City and other races across the country. Our special live coverage starts right at the top of the hour at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
There's more breaking news coming up next, a key decision on COVID vaccines for 28 million American children. They could be eligible for shots as soon as tomorrow.
Plus, my one on one interview with the former Vice President Al Gore. He joins me to talk about the U.N. climate summit continuing here in Scotland
BLITZER: We're live in Scotland tonight where President Biden made his final remarks to the U.N. climate summit just a short time ago.
We're also following breaking pandemic news right now, a panel of CDC advisors has just voted unanimously to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for American children aged five to 11.
Let's get some more on the breaking news right now. The Former Acting Director of the CDC, Dr. Richard Besser, is joining us.
Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.
If the CDC director joins vaccine advisors and signs off on this as she's expected to do very, very soon, 28 million children could become eligible to get vaccinated as soon as tomorrow. This is a huge development, isn't it?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, PRESIDENT & CEO, ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON FOUNDATION: Yes, I mean, Wolf, this -- I'm really excited about this. As a pediatrician, as a parent, as someone who's worked in public health their whole life, this is really big. I think that having safe and effective vaccines for children is an important piece of the puzzle to get us to the end of pandemic.
And the idea that parents will have the ability to protect their children against COVID is a big deal. Even though the infection is less severe in children, we have lost nearly 100 children in this age group. We've had 1000s of children who've been hospitalized and 1000s more who have developed long term inflammatory syndrome. So this is really big news for children's health.
BLITZER: It certainly is.
You're a pediatrician as you say, you're also a parent. So what's your message to other parents out there who still have concerns about the vaccine's safety?
BESSER: Yes, you know, a couple things. I watched the hearings very closely, the hearings at the Food and Drug Administration, and then the one today at the CDC. And you know, these were the leading experts in terms of vaccines and children's health and they reached the unanimous conclusion that these vaccines are safe. They're effective, that they could save lives. And they could help protect those children and those people around children.
And so, I feel very comfortable in recommending this vaccine to my patients. But it's very important that parents get their questions answered. And I recognize there's a big group of parents who want their kids to be right in the front of the line to get vaccinated, there's another group who want to wait and see, and there's a group right now who say, no way they don't want this.
I expect that over time, the group of parents who are in the no way will come around and see, wow, the children who've been vaccinated they don't have to worry about this anymore. They can get back to their regular activities, their families have that peace of mind. And I think that we're going to see as parents get their questions answered, more will want to get the vaccine.
BLITZER: Are there groups of children, Dr. Besser, who should get vaccinated, let's say, first, perhaps those with specific underlying health conditions or children who live with adults who are at higher risk, for example, of coronavirus complications?
BESSER: Yes, you know, the good news this time around, Wolf, there's 28 million children who will become eligible. There's enough vaccine for every one of those children. So, you know, at the beginning of the vaccine distribution early this year, we really wanted to put a priority on those who are at the greatest risk of severe disease.
This time, any parent who wants to get their child vaccinated should have the opportunity to do so. It's very important that the government ensures access especially in communities that have been hit the hardest. Many parents don't have time off work to get their kids vaccinated. So you want to have vaccines available in the evening on weekends and schools and pharmacies and the efforts of the administration are all directed at doing that, which gives me a lot of hope.
BLITZER: Major news coming in. All right, thanks very much, Dr. Richard Besser joining us. Appreciate it as usual.
Just ahead, a special interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The former Vice President of the United States and climate leader, Al Gore, joins me to discuss what countries need to do right now to address the worsening climate crisis. We're live from Scotland.
BLITZER: We're live here in Scotland where the leaders' portion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference has just wrapped up. Now it's up to these world leaders, including President Biden to deliver on the massive promises they've made to address the devastating effects of climate change.
Today, I caught up with the former Vice President Al Gore, the founder and chair of the Climate Reality Project, about just how much is at stake right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for joining us. You famously raised the alarm about climate change with your documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth," and you were awarded the Nobel Prize for that effort. Since then, global temperatures have risen on a steep curve. How critical is it for world leaders to deliver results at this COP26 summit before it's too late?
AL GORE (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on, Wolf. It's very critical. I think most everybody understands that by this time, we're using the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it's an open sewer, putting all of this heat trapping pollution there. And we've seen the consequences that the scientists predicted would occur all these heavy downpours and floods and droughts and hurricanes and sea-level rise and all the rest. And so, there is a widespread consensus now in the U.S. and throughout the world that these leaders really have to come to agreements that lead to much more substantive action more quickly.
President Biden says the goals of the Paris Climate Accord are still within reach. But a U.N. report issued just last week estimates that emissions would need to be cut seven times faster than current commitments to meet that goal. Is that still possible?
GORE: Yes, the goal of limiting the temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, that's 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, that goal is still within reach. Countries have to move faster. But let me say this, I think President Biden had an extremely successful visit here, two days that -- well, really three, really crammed packed with speeches and meetings and actions that really did make a difference.
He gave a terrific speech in the big meeting of leaders, he followed that up today with a terrific initiative on forests and then on methane, which needs more attention. I think he made a huge difference with his time here.
BLITZER: Mr. Vice President, how do you reach that goal when leaders as some of the world's biggest polluters, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, aren't even attending the summit and aren't really stepping up with commitments?
GORE: Well, it's regrettable that President Xi Jinping did not come to this event, I will agree with that point of view. But remember this that this meeting is more than just what takes place in the meeting rooms. In advance of this meeting, in preparation for this meeting, the President of China made a very significant commitment to end all of China's financing of overseas coal plants, and they were building 72 percent of them. So that's a major commitment.
And then, in advance of this summit, he also made a commitment almost a year ago to reach net zero, a little bit longer timeframe that I would like, but still the direction of travel is clear. And he made a commitment to peak their emissions before the end of this decade. And with a country that big, that's not nothing. So they are moving. They're building more windmills and solar panels and the rest of the world put together, so huge country in a growth phase. So they need to do more, our country needs to do more as well, every country needs to do more.
BLITZER: The Biden administration, as you know, just announced these comprehensive new rules aimed at cutting methane emissions across the oil and gas industry. How far will this go when addressing the problem?
GORE: Well, that's a very significant, very important initiative that President Biden announced. The climate scientists will tell you that methane is almost 60 percent of the causation factor that is represented by CO2. It has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere, but it's very important because each molecule of methane is 84 times as powerful as the molecule of CO2, again, over a shorter timeframe.
But the best way we can get quick results is by cutting methane and we can do it because it has economic value, they should close up these leaks, stop the flaring of it. And really, we ought to stop building any new gas or oil pipelines. That's where a lot of these leaks come from.
BLITZER: President Biden, as you know, he's still pushing to get his own climate legislation passed through Congress, but it no longer includes a key program that would have rewarded utilities for moving to clean energy and and penalize those who didn't make the transition. Can President Biden still get the U.S. on track for net zero emissions by 2050 with this scale back plan?
GORE: Yes, I think he can. And not only that, I think he can still have a 50 percent reduction by 2030, which most people think is the more important goal. It's a waystation toward net zero in 2050. He's -- when he could not get that clean electricity standard, he regrouped. Gina McCarthy and John Kerry were here, I've talked with them about it.
The new provisions, of course, they haven't passed in the Congress yet, but I still have some hope that they will pass. Senator Manchin, who held it up has said he needs more time to study it. I hope that we'll end up getting most of that package and that the U.S. will be able to continue on the pathway to meeting those commitments.
BLITZER: President Biden actually apologized at this summit for former President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. But can world leaders really count on the United States knowing another president could undo President Biden's efforts?
GORE: Well, you hear some talk of that sort, for sure, but it's important to realize that a majority of Republicans now along with an even bigger majority of Democrats, are in favor of taking bold actions to solve the climate crisis. So I'm hopeful that public opinion will make a difference, whichever party is in power. Of course, I'm a Democrat, and I hope Democrats keep the Congress next year. But I'm even more hopeful that this surge of public support for actions to solve the climate crisis will have an impact on both political parties.
BLITZER: Well, we'll see what happens because the stakes clearly, Mr. Vice President, are critical. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all your important work.
GORE: Thank you, Wolf.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Coming up, it's down to the wire and the race for Virginia governor and CNN is live at both campaign headquarters. That's next here in The Situation Room. We're live from Scotland.
BLITZER: We're reporting live from Scotland where President Biden just wrapped up his international trip with a news conference at the United Nations Climate Conference. We're also following the neck-and-neck governor's race in Virginia. Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin are battling it out in what is seen as a bellwether for the midterm elections.
Let's get the latest update right now. Jeff Zeleny is on the scene for us in Virginia. Jeff, you're over at McAuliffe headquarters. What's the campaign telling you? What are you seeing? JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in McAuliffe campaign, they're still trying to get their voters to the polls. There's a little over an hour left of voting across the Commonwealth of Virginia. We know that more than 1.1 million people voted before Election Day, but the vast majority of the voters will take place today. So both sides are expecting a record setting turnout, perhaps going around 3 million votes or so that would be compared to 2.6 million in the 2017 governor's race.
And Wolf, you said this is a referendum, there's no question that Virginia and New Jersey's governor's race always come the year after a presidential race. So it's the first time voters have a chance to weigh in on how they think things in Washington are going but many other issues are driving this race as well.
But Glenn Youngkin, the Republican businessman is closing this campaign very strongly in a much stronger position than Terry McAuliffe ever thought he would. And that is making Democrats in Washington, outside Washington and across the Commonwealth incredibly nervous tonight at the prospect of Republicans winning this governor's seat for the first time in 12 years. But, again, still votes to be cast, votes to be counted throughout the evening here. But there is a sense of nervousness and a sense of weariness among Democrats we've been talking to all day long, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, a year ago as all of us remember, President Biden carried Virginia by 10 points, 10 points, and now it's neck-and- neck. What is going on over there? Why is Glenn Youngkin doing as well against Terry McAuliffe as he apparently is?
ZELENY: Well, for a variety of reasons. I mean, Glenn Youngkin has particularly caught on in the really final month of this campaign. He's an outsider, he's never run for public office before. He spent his life in private equity. He was born in Virginia, worked in Washington, but really came across as someone, you know, who was simply not beholden to either party.
But, Wolf, the key voters here are those voters in the middle. Virginia does not register voters by party affiliation, so that adds a bit of mystery going into this evening. There's no real registered Republicans or registered Democrats. But Glenn Youngkin is going after some of those voters in the middle here who are simply fed up with the direction of their local governments, their state governments, and perhaps even their federal governments.
So, and of course, Terry McAuliffe has been governor before. He has a record. He has served for four years from 2014 to 2018 and it simply has been an uphill climb for Democrats. Democrats have really showed a lack of enthusiasm throughout the final stages of this campaign. And we've seen the democratic divide in Washington. There's been no action on infrastructure, there's been no action on the broader Build Back Better agenda yet.
So this is -- all of these things are really leading into what could be a difficult night for Democrats. But again, more than an hour left votes to be counted. High turnout we're seeing across Northern Virginia and other parts of the state as well. So Democrats certainly on edge, Republicans feeling hopeful. But, Wolf, this is too close to call. Both sides know that this may go down for quite a while this evening.
BLITZER: And very quickly before I let you go, Jeff, how has Youngkin handled the backing he has received --
BLITZER: -- from Trump?
ZELENY: Wolf, that's been so interesting. Of course, Terry McAuliffe and all Democrats trying to tie Glenn Youngkin to Donald Trump. He's walked that Trump tightrope skillfully up until now trying to fire up the Trump base, which he absolutely needs without alienating some of those other suburban voters who simply did not vote for Donald Trump last year. So he's been trying to navigate that very carefully.
How he does will certainly be a roadmap potentially for other Republican candidates going into the midterm election year next year. So that is one of the many things we have our eye on as well, what his voters say about how they really viewed Terry McAuliffe trying to tie him to Trump. Did they buy it or did they not? Wolf?
BLITZER: We will find out fairly soon. All right, Jeff Zeleny in Virginia for us, thank you very much.
And once again, it's election night in America. Tune in to see who wins the high stakes Virginia governor's race, plus the battles to lead New Jersey and New York City and the result of that ballot question in Minneapolis that's going on. Our special live coverage begins in just a few minutes, 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, any minute now, Donald Trump is expected to respond to investigators who are looking to get their hands on call logs, speech drafts and other records around January 6th. What's the former president going to say now, that's next. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room and we're live from Scotland.
BLITZER: We're live here in Scotland where President Biden just wrapped up a foreign trip about at least partially has been overshadowed by domestic issues back home. Any minute now, Donald Trump will face the deadline to file a response, after officials argued that former president's records should be handed over to lawmakers investigating the January 6th insurrection.
Let's bring in our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. So Paula, what do we expect Trump will say in his official response?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, his legal team has three minutes left to make the deadline to file their latest arguments in their effort to block the National Archives from turning over hundreds of pages of Trump White House Records to the House committee investigating January 6th. Now this case, this lawsuit goes before a judge on Thursday and it really does raise a lot of interesting questions about executive privilege.
Now, the House Committee had asked the archives to turn over these documents. The archives, let the former President know and he tried to assert privilege. But President Biden, he's the one with the power to defend privilege and protect documents from previous administrations. And he declined to do that here. He said it wouldn't be in the best interest of the United States.
So former President Trump sued. It's unclear exactly what his lawyers will argue in this filing. But we know just a few days ago, the National Archives filed its arguments and, Wolf, that was explosive. They laid out in very specific detail exactly what it is that Trump does not want investigators to see.
BLITZER: You know, the former Vice President Mike Pence, Paula, he's given some new insight into why he decided to defy Trump on January 6th, and go ahead and certify the 2020 presidential election. Tell our viewers what he said.
REID: Such an interesting moment, Wolf. He was asked who prompted him to defy Trump's efforts to undermine Biden's victory and he had such an interesting answer. Let's take a listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the name of the person who told you to buck the President Trump's plan and certify the votes?
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE United States: James Madison. Psalm 15 says, "He who keeps his oath even when it hurts." The only role of the federal government was to open and count the electoral votes that were sent by the states. You've got to be willing to do your duty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REDID: And he was facing such pressure from Trump's legal team to undermine Biden's victory. In fact, he was in the Capitol during January 6 where some rioters were chanting, "Hang Mike Pence." Now he is, of course, expected to be a potential GOP candidate in 2024. But he says he stands by his decision on the 2020 election.
BLITZER: Yes, he made the right decision and he's defending it very, very strongly in strong words. I wonder what the reaction is going to be. So we only have -- he has less than a minute now, Trump, to deliver his arguments. We'll see if he does that. And you'll update us when we know more.
Paula, as usual, thank you very, very much. Paula Reid, reporting for us from Washington.
And I'm Wolf Blitzer, thanks very much for watching. I'm here in Scotland. Election Night in America starts right now.