Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Closing Arguments From Candidates In Pennsylvania Senate Race; Possible Runoff In Georgia In A Tight Senate Race; All Eyes On The Nevada Senate Race Between Masto And Laxalt; The Future Of Nancy Pelosi In Politics; Candidates Hit The Trail For Final Full Day Of Campaigning; Texas County Put To The Test After Election Workers Quit; McCarthy Previews Plan For Potential GOP Majority; New Western Air Defense Systems Arrive In Ukraine; CNN On The Ground As Ukrainians Near Kyiv Rebuild After Russian Retreat & Hunker Down For Winter. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 07, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Be sure to tune in for CNN tonight. Jake speaks with Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania governor. Also on the show, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That is tonight at 9:00 p.m. eastern. And then join us tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. eastern for the start of CNN special live coverage of "Election Night in America." Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, we're just one day away from tomorrow's pivotal midterm elections. In a little over 24 hours, results will begin pouring in with huge implications for the direction of the country and the future of the Biden agenda.
Also tonight, two election exclusives. CNN sits down with Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to preview his plans if -- if the GOP wins the House. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi opens up to Anderson Cooper in her first interview since the brutal hammer attack on her husband Paul.
CNN reporters and correspondents are on the campaign trail covering the key races in the major battleground states -- the House and Senate and governor's mansions across the country as well. All are at stake. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
First let's go to CNN's Kate Bolduan. She's standing by for us in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. That's just outside Philadelphia. Kate, control of the senate could come down to Pennsylvania. Both Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman are spending these final hours getting out their closing messages. What's the latest?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Three hours from now Mehmet Oz will be here with supporters for his final rally of campaigning, his final moment to campaign, his final rally with supporters before election day. For both candidates in what has now become the most expensive Senate race in the country, their closing arguments, they have been consistent in their messaging really for weeks now.
For John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, he says to voters that he has been and is here to fight for Pennsylvania voters as he has been for years, accusing Mehmet Oz of essentially being a snake oil salesman saying that Mehmet Oz is only here in order to use Pennsylvanians for his personal gain.
Mehmet Oz, though, his closing message is he is the candidate of change in this race, speaking to the frustration that voters have with regard to inflation, as well as crime, and he has been accusing John Fetterman of being too radical and too extreme, words he uses over and over again, for Pennsylvania. Oz saying that he rejects extremism on both sides. And we'll be seeing that more tonight. Wolf?
BLITZER: Kate, Pennsylvania election officials are raising flags about some 3,400 mail-in ballots that could potentially be rejected. What's going on here?
BOLDUAN: Yes, so it's 3,400 ballots in Philadelphia County alone. It's more than 1,000 ballots in Allegheny County, which of course where Pittsburgh is, and a couple hundred ballots in Monroe County. What this comes down to are kind of technical errors if you will, things like missing the required handwritten dates on these mail-in ballots when they are sent in.
The long and short of it is, if these are not corrected by voters by the end of voting before polls close tomorrow, these ballots, these votes will not be counted because of the decision by the state Supreme Court over the weekend. And when you think of 3,400, 4,400 votes in a race this close, Wolf, you can see how quickly a few thousand votes can become very important. Wolf?
BLITZER: You're absolutely right. Kate, thank you very, very much.
Let's get an update right now on the razor thin Senate race in Georgia. CNN's Eva McKend is joining us right now from Georgia. Eva, so what are Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock focusing in during these final hours?
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, Wolf, as you could imagine, both Walker and Warnock projecting a lot of confidence as we get down to the wire here. Walker playing up that he is not a traditional politician. Senator Warnock arguing that this contest is really about who is ready to lead and serve in the United States Senate.
Notably though, Warnock seems to be talking a lot to his supporters about avoiding a potential runoff. That is something unique that could happen in this state if neither candidate gets above 50 percent. He's up with a new ad basically with competing scores imploring his voters to get out and vote on election day to avoid that potential runoff.
Also of note, Herschel Walker, Governor Kemp both on the campaign trail today. Governor Kemp, of course, competing against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Kemp holding a big unity event with Republicans. But Walker will not appear at that. They'll both be in Kennesaw, but they will not be together. Senator Warnock, meanwhile, will be here this evening in Columbus addressing his supporters. Wolf?
BLITZER: Eva McKend joining us from Georgia right now. Eva, thank you very much.
I want to bring in CNN's Omar Jimenez. He's in Wisconsin for us. Omar, you're following the very, very close contest between the incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson and his Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes. Give us the latest there.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. While Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and Senator Ron Johnson are making their final stops today. We started our day with Barnes who told us they feel like they've done everything they could do to this point in building a grassroots campaign bit by bit. And he told us their strategy here has been to meet people where they are, especially on the biggest issues, not to assume anyone's vote. Take a listen to a little more of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANDELA BARNES, DEMOCRATIC WISCONSIN SENATE CANDIDATE: We have been outside. It was the most expensive race, Senate race in the history of Wisconsin, but I can guarantee you we have not been outworked. We're leaving no stones unturned, all gas, no brakes for the next 35 hours or so.
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): This is a fight for freedom. It's not somebody else's fight. This is our fight. It is a fight that we absolutely must win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: And those comments coming in the last hour with Johnson campaigning with former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley before he makes his way here to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for his final campaign stop before election day. Johnson has really tried to paint Barnes as someone who is too extreme for the state and we will know soon enough in, you know, just a few days here, whether that strategy will pay off or if Barnes will have done enough to get him out of office.
BLITZER: We'll find out fairly soon. Alright, thanks very much for that. Omar Jimenez is in Wisconsin for us.
Let's go out west to Nevada right now. Democrats are desperately trying right now to hold a hotly-contested U.S. Senate seat. CNN's Gary Tuchman is joining us live from Las Vegas. Gary, the incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is fighting to hang on against a very tough Republican challenge from Adam Laxalt. What's the latest there?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. We can tell you Nevada is a state known for its glitz and its glamour and its natural beauty, and now increasingly it's known for its politics. Case in point, this very close U.S. Senate race, and it is a matchup between the incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and the Republican Adam Laxalt. And she is vulnerable.
She's a first term U.S. senator. She's the first Latina ever in the history of the U.S. Senate. She had Bill Clinton campaigning for her here yesterday in Nevada. Barack Obama was here four days earlier. As far as Laxalt goes, he is the former attorney general here in the state. His late grandfather was a U.S. senator, Paul Laxalt, here in Nevada. And Adam Laxalt joined a lawsuit in 2020 to challenge the 2020 election results. That lawsuit failed.
Barack Obama, candidate to Joe Biden who is now the president of the United States, got 33,000 more votes than Donald Trump. And that's the situation here in Nevada. It's expected to be very close and everyone will be keeping a close eye here on the Silver State. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: We certainly will. Alright, Gary, thank you very much.
President Biden meanwhile, is also making one final midterm push. Let's bring in our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly. Phil, what are you learning about President Biden's closing message tonight?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, the president's political team certainly has all eyes on the four states we just discussed, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin. But the president will be in Maryland. Maryland is not a state that's considered a swing state. Reliably blue territory.
It's kind of a path we've seen the president follow over the course of the last several weeks, going to places that he and his aides feel like he can help most boost enthusiasm, but also places where he can deliver a very clear message about the stakes of the moment, the stakes from an agenda perspective, the stakes as he's framed it over the course of the last week, from a democracy perspective.
Now, advisers say expect him to loop all of those issues into one, really kind of knit it together as part of his closing message. In fact, just a few hours ago he was speaking to donors at a finance event and he made clear of the stakes not just about those bigger picture issues, but for their agenda as it moves forward, saying that there's so much more we can do if only they can hang on to the House and the Senate. The president says he's still optimistic. We'll see how that goes in less than 24 hours, Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Mattingly at the White House for us. Thank you very much.
Let's bring in our political experts for some serious analysis right now. David Chalian, what does it say that President Biden is spending these final few days in these blue states like New York and Maryland, for example?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. It pretty much says everything you need to know to understand the current political environment. He's not all that welcome in the real critical battleground states, say Pennsylvania. He has campaigned in that one a bunch. He originated his life there. But the reality is Joe Biden is more unpopular than popular, and he is hovering, you know, significantly below that 50 percent mark in approval rating.
That history provides as a guide that when a president is there it spells not good news for their party in a midterm election.
And so, if you are Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada or you're Mark Kelly in Arizona or Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire, you're not pounding the White House to get the president to stand next to you.
So, he's going to deep blue places where he can be of more service to the party, help rally the base in contests where his appearance may not be so polarizing.
BLITZER: You know, Abby, it's interesting because in Georgia the controversial Republican candidate, Herschel Walker, he is hammering and hammering and hammering the president of the United States, hammering away. In some of these races, will voters look past some flawed candidates let's say like Herschel Walker and prioritize party?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You know, I think there are two big sources of political gravity in the United States. One of them is just political party. I think people just go home to their political homes. And I think the other is what David was just talking about, the sheer history of it all.
The fact that generally Americans like to throw people out every couple of years, especially if they're not particularly happy with how they've been leading. And generally speaking, they are not very happy with incumbent leadership, especially when one party has full control over government.
So, Herschel Walker, as flawed as he may be as a candidate in a competitive purple state like Georgia, he is going to do about as well as any generic Republican will do in that state, which puts him in a very competitive race with the Democrat. And I don't think we should expect anything less. That is going to be tight all the way up until the final votes are counted tomorrow.
BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. You know, Kasie -- Kasie Hunt is with us as well. All this is now in the hands of the voters and we expect a huge turnout.
KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It is.
BLITZER: There's already been a huge turnout. But some Democrats are already playing the blame game. They're worried about what's about to happen. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I think we're going to have a bad night. When voters tell you over and over and over again that they care mostly about the economy, listen to them. Stop talking about democracy being at stake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Hillary Rosen is a well-known Democrat, as we all know.
HUNT: She is.
BLITZER: So, is that what you're hearing also as you're out there listening to folks?
HUNT: Well, one of the things that I've sort of had my ear to the ground with is these congressional candidates for the House seats, in tough places like Virginia, like and Michigan, for example. And you've started to hear them articulate a version of what Hillary said there, which was that they don't feel like the party got its economic message together. It really should have been built in the summer or a little bit before that and then hammered throughout.
But instead, they were focused on abortion. They saw that as a real opening. And you know, they read the data like everyone else, right? We have to keep in mind part of the reason we pay such close attention to polls is because we know that the campaigns make decisions based on the polling data that they're seeing and Democrats, you know, try to take what advantage they could on the issues that play to their strengths.
But I think you're going to be hearing a lot of that on Wednesday if, in fact, the trend that we have been seeing in these final weeks toward Republicans is one that has continued overwhelmingly through this weekend and into Monday and Tuesday. We just won't know until the votes are counted.
PHILLIP: I would also say, Wolf, I mean, the one thing that Hillary said that I think might be overstating it a bit, which is putting a lot of focus on just this idea of had they only messaged well, this would all have gone away. The reality of the situation is that Americans are upset because when they go to the store things are expensive.
And, frankly, there's really not a whole lot that Democrats could have messaged their way out of that very real problem for Americans. That's why this has been so hard. Not because they haven't been trying to find a message, but because just the sheer reality of the situation, the magnitude of the scale of the problem of inflation and costs, it's too difficult to have a problem to simply just have a slogan and it gets you out of it.
BLITZER: How challenging is all of this for President Biden right now to get the right message out there?
EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, it is a reflection of the party over which he presides. We saw it just in poll numbers last week from CNN. You see that Democrats are actually broadly divided on the issues that they care about. For a lot of people, it's abortion, number one. For other people, it's immigration or it might be voting rights. These are -- it's a sign of a party that is not simply coalescing
around one obvious message. So, you hear Democrats saying this should be called the cost-of-living election which is how Pete Buttigieg has been talking about it. But this is also an issue of real consequence for Joe Biden. He cares about democracy not only as a political leader but as the person who history will be looking to, to say how did you handle a moment when United States was on a brink of serious challenges. And he doesn't want to be the one who didn't talk about it enough.
BLITZER: For good reason. Alright, guys. Everybody, stand by. We've got a lot more to discuss. Coming up, as both sides make a final push for midterm votes, we have a CNN exclusive. Will the brutal attack on her husband influence the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision on whether to retire. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking to our own Anderson Cooper on this election eve in her first interview since the brutal hammer attack on her husband Paul, which left him with a fractured skull. Anderson asks her about what the possible Republican takeover of the House would mean for her future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: There's obviously been a lot of discussion about whether you would retire if Democrats lose the House. I know you're not going to answer that question, so I'm not even going to ask that question.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I'm perfect. I'm glad.
COOPER: But I will ask, can you confirm that you've made a decision about what you would do?
PELOSI: Well, that's like asking the question, isn't it?
COOPER: No. I'm not asking what the decision is. I'm just asking, have you looked ahead and, I mean, have you made the decision in your mind, whatever that decision might be?
PELOSI: Well, I have to say my decision would be affected about what happened the last week or two.
COOPER: Will your decision be impacted by the attack in any way?
COOPER: It will?
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: You can see all of Anderson's exclusive interview with the
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later tonight on "Anderson Cooper 360." That's at 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.
Back with us to discuss Anderson's exclusive interview with the Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more. CNN political director David Chalian, CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillip, CNN chief national affairs analyst Kasie Hunt and CNN contributor Evan Osnos.
So, David, the attack has clearly shaken understandably so the House Speaker. What do you think?
CHALIAN: Yeah. How could it not impact here thinking about what she is going to consider? You know, Nancy Pelosi has been the leader of the Democrats in the house for 20 years now and obviously she's into her 80s. So, her thoughts about her future, I'm sure, were formulated long before her husband was so violently attacked in their home in San Francisco, but when you have an experience like that, I just don't know how that can't be part of the thinking process about what you want for your family and your life in, you know, these later years.
HUNT: And, Wolf, can I just say I've covered Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, as Democratic leader of the minority, the majority since she was -- first took the Speaker's gavel around 2006-2007. She prides herself and one of the defining characteristics of her as a politician is her refusal to back down from a fight.
This is something that she carried through the Trump administration with her and, honestly, one of the first things that sources that I talk to all the time on the hill started talking about after this attack became public was that this means there is no way that Nancy Pelosi is stepping away from this because it's going to be seen as though she stepped back from what is perhaps the greatest fight of her personal and political life.
Now, we will see what she ultimately decides to do. The Democrats in Congress are certainly preparing for a post-Pelosi world. There's jockeying going on between Hakeem Jeffries and Adam Schiff, but again, when I think about the character of Nancy Pelosi, I think what she just said to Anderson is absolutely fascinating and very telling.
PHILLIP: I do think, though, Wolf, it's so interesting to me. I mean, Pelosi as David was alluding to has been dealing with this push for a major demographic change in the leadership in the House. And that has not gone away, even given that, you know, the fights of the Trump era are probably not in the past, given that he's not a figure of our political past.
And I think that, you know, what Evan was alluding -- was talking about earlier about the Democratic Party being this kind of fractured group of constituencies that all want different things, the question for Pelosi is, if she were to hand that over to someone else, would they be able to wrangle all of those different factions. We haven't really been talking about that very much because she as leader has been such a strong leader that it hasn't been a major source of headlines.
But if she were to take a step back, I think that suddenly all of those challenges would go out into the surface and it would make I think a very different kind of environment for Democrats than it's been in the time that she has been in leadership.
HUNT: It's been one of the major criticisms of Pelosi's leadership, that she's failed to adequately groom a successor.
OSNOS: I think there's a degree to which she also knows that she is a part of this. Look, she's been through 18 months that began with January 6th in which people rampaged through the House saying where's Nancy, and it ends 18 months later, God knows what this terrible attack on her family --
HUNT: With the guy yelling, "Where's Nancy?"
OSNOS: I think there's a way in which she feels, obviously, unfairly, sort of grotesquely at the center of this. But that's a piece of this and will be part of her calculus, I think, going forward.
BLITZER: You know, I think it's important, David. President Biden warned over the weekend that if Democrats don't win, and I'm quoting him now, "they're going to wipe out everything we've done." How much is at stake here for the president of the United States and his presidency?
CHALIAN: Well, there's no doubt. If, indeed, the Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress, quite frankly, it will change the course of the Biden presidency. He had his party in control of both chambers, unified control. He was able -- we've talked about actually how much they pushed through Congress, if you look at what they got through in these two years. Nothing like that would happen in a divided government. So, it will undoubtedly change the course of the Biden presidency this term (inaudible).
PHILLIP: And I spoke with one of Pelosi's deputies, Whip Clyburn -- Jim Clyburn last night. He talked about just the -- he described it as an unprecedentedly productive Congress, and that was only possible because Pelosi basically was able to paper over some real differences among Democrats to get a pretty robust agenda passed, even in very divided times.
But, also, Biden knows this really well, he was the vice president during a time when President Obama basically realized he couldn't do a lot of things through Congress, so they had to do it through executive order. That's what -- in our politics now, so many things that are done either in Congress or in the executive branch can just get undone the next time the other guys get into power. That is the reality of the world we live in now.
OSNOS: Yeah. You have to remember, too, Joe Biden ran on the promise of making government function again, making it normal again, you know.
And he's been contending with the reality ever since. And yet they've managed to get things done, like the bipartisan infrastructure bill, things that actually will ultimately have concrete dividends for people but they don't show up right now in November when you need them. And so, I think it's going to be a completely different governing environment for him (inaudible).
BLITZER: Good point. Everybody, standby. Much more coming up, including Arizona. We'll go live there. There's a critical race for governor and a Senate seat that Democrats are desperately, desperately trying to keep right now.
And in Texas, an election denier who says he believes the 2020 presidential vote was stolen is now, get this, a county precinct judge responsible for policing the upcoming midterm ballots. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Arizona is home to one of the most watched governor's races in the country and a key Senate race also that Democrats must hold on to. CNN's Kyung Lah is on the trail for us in Phoenix tonight. Kyung, in the final hours, the incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly has been emphasizing the economy. What's going on over there?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the key word there, Wolf, emphasis. It's not that Senator Kelly hasn't talked about the economy. It's that he's truly leaning in with just hours left in this race. He said his number one issue is inflation. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK KELLY (D), ARIZONA: That's why I've been very focused on addressing this issue while I'm in D.C., in the United States Senate, bringing down the cost of gas and groceries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAH: Now Kelly says he focused in that speech more on what Democrats have delivered on the Inflation Reduction Act and what Democrats could continue to deliver if they hold on to control of Congress. He's also been campaigning with Republicans who back and really focusing on moderates, and that's also the target of Democrat Katie Hobbs who's running for governor here in Arizona. We are in the Phoenix suburbs. She is hosting a number of events in the Phoenix suburbs targeting those suburban women, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Kyung, the Republican Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is also out there on the campaign trail today. Tell us about that.
LAH: She's been on the campaign trail with the entire top of the ticket here in Arizona, the Republican ticket. They have made a multi- stop, multi-day bus tour part of their final messaging to Republicans and we saw Kari Lake taking a different tact. Instead of talking to Mark -- moderates, she and the rest of the Republican slate have been really driving that bus through the heart of MAGA territory, leaning in on those Republican issues, border security and the economy trying to hammer away at Democrats, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. All right, Kyung Lah on the scene for us. Thank you very much.
Meanwhile, a county in Texas, get this, is being put to the test after all the employees of the elections department quit just three months before the midterm elections. CNN's Ed Lavandera takes a closer look at the election conspiracies that ultimately push them out.
DAVID TREIBS, ELECTION PRECINCT JUDGE: This is the auction barn most of the time.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Election Day, David Treibs will be here, serving the voters of Precinct 13 in Gillespie County, Texas.
(on-camera): And you have an official title.
TREIBS: Yes, sir.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): What is that title.
TREIBS: I'm an election judge.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Tribes' role as an election precinct judge usually wouldn't raise any eyebrows in this Texas hill country town until you hear this.
(on-camera): So you believe the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump?
TREIBS: Yes, I believe.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Why should someone like you serve in this kind of official capacity for an election?
TREIBS: Well, I would think I would probably be a good candidate because I'm going to be really keen looking for anything that looks wrong and my objective is integrity. Not that my guys win, but integrity.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): The story of how Gillespie County reached this point is a cautionary tale of how the 2020 election denying conspiracy theories virus, keep spreading.
There's nothing glamorous about the Gillespie County election administrator's office. Inside this small election team did their work, but by mid-August, all three employees had quit three months before the midterm election. (on-camera): The election trouble here dates back to 2019 when a ballot measure asked voters whether or not fluoride should be used in the city's drinking water. The anti-fluoride activists who lost question the integrity of that election, and then the 2020 presidential election came along pouring gasoline on the flames of election conspiracy theories.
(voice-over): Even though Donald Trump won this county with 79 percent of the vote, some Republicans were convinced something wasn't right. In August of this year, the elections administrator Anissa Herrera was done. She wrote in her resignation letter that threats against election officials, dangerous misinformation, poor working conditions, and absurd legislation have completely changed her job.
LINDSEY BROWN, ACTING ELECTION'S ADMINISTRATOR: I've had to learn a lot of information really quickly.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): With no election team in place, it fell to the county clerk Lindsey Brown to serve as the election's administrator.
BROWN: People that have been in elections before, people that have worked at before have tapped into their knowledge and wisdom.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): I understand the Texas Secretary of State's office has sent in election trainers or sending in inspectors, how valuable or how needed have those people been?
BROWN: Very reliable.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Jerry Vaclav is a Gillespie County Democrat who will work as an alternate precinct judge. He attended those polling location training sessions and says what he heard from the election conspiracy theorists troubles him.
JERRY VACLAV, GILLESPIE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: One of the major questions in our training session is, well, what are we supposed to do with the fake IDs that the Biden administration is issuing to illegals when they crossed the border. And the Secretary of State just said -- representative just said, that's not happening, and we went on.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): For now, officials are hoping for the best.
(on-camera): Do you feel confident that this election will go off smoothly?
BROWN: Yes, sir.
LAVANDERA: And Wolf, that election precinct judge that you heard from at the beginning of the story, he believes that in 2020, 2,000 votes were switched from Trump to Biden in Gillespie County. There's no proof of that. It's a lie that has been peddled by the "My Pillow" CEO Mike Lindell. But he believes that nonetheless, and because of that Democrats in Gillespie County, for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, say they're sending out poll watchers to monitor people like him. Wolf?
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for that report.
Just ahead, a last-minute scramble for votes just ahead of tomorrow's midterm elections. And a CNN exclusive, the Minority Leader in the House Kevin McCarthy, talks about his ambitious to do list if Republicans win back the House of Representatives.
BLITZER: The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy giving an exclusive and wide-ranging interview to CNN's Melanie Zanona just ahead of tomorrow's midterm elections. He talks about his potential speakership, if Republicans take the House of Representatives, the possibility of impeaching President Biden and what could be a sweeping GOP agenda. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Will there be an immigration bill on the floor for (INAUDIBLE)?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), MINORITY LEADER: I think the first thing you'll see is a bill to control the border first. You've got to get control over the book that almost 2 million people just this year alone coming across.
ZANONA: So many members already calling for impeachment. What do you say to those members?
MCCARTHY: I say the one thing I've always known about the land of America, it's a rule of law. And we will hold the rule of law and we won't play politics with this. We'll never use impeachment for political purposes. That doesn't mean if something rises to the occasion, we would not be used at any other time. It wouldn't matter if it's a Republican or Democrat.
ZANONA: Speaking oversight, Marjorie Taylor Greene says she wants to see on the Oversight Committee. Are you OK with that? Will you support that despite her history of inflammatory remarks, denying the election?
MCCARTHY: Marjorie Greene, is -- if she going to get reelected, she's going to have committees to serve on.
ZANONA: On oversight, though, would you be --
MCCARTHY: She's going to have committees to serve on just like every other member, and every other member goes through a steering committee, looking at the best --
MCCARTHY: -- places to serve, members request different committees. And as we go through the steering committee we'll look.
ZANONA: But you have no red lines in terms of which committee assignments she can get?
MCCARTHY: No. She can put through the committee she wants, just like any other member in our conference that gets elected.
ZANONA: The attack on Pelosi's husband, we've seen some in the party who have mocked that attack or spread conspiracy theories about it. What do you say to those Republicans?
MCCARTHY: I think what happened to Paul Pelosi is wrong. And I think we -- people should not get into this rhetoric about it or anywhere else.
ZANONA: On the speakership, how confident are you that you have (INAUDIBLE) speaker?
MCCARTHY: Well, we've got an election Tuesday, two days away. I know all the pollsters said last time, we'd lose 15 seats, and we ended up beating 13 Democrats. So we're going to work and we're going to run hard. And if we win the majority, I'll run for speaker.
ZANONA: But do you think you will have the votes for speaker?
MCCARTHY: I believe I'll have the votes for speaker, yes.
ZANONA: Do you think Trump will support you become speaker?
MCCARTHY: I think Trump would be very supportive, yes.
ZANONA: Do you feel like you need his support?
MCCARTHY: I think the people who vote for it are all in the conference. So I think that's the most important vote. Nobody on the outside can vote for you.
ZANONA: But he does have influence in the Republican Party. No?
MCCARTHY: The people have the most influence of the constituents back home to side who represents themselves. That is always the people with the most influence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's discuss that with CNN Anchor Chris Wallace, the host of "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace." Chris, thanks for coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. So he's very clear, McCarthy, on his top priorities, but are other Republicans on board with him?
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, yes, and no. I mean, he's very much talking about a programmatic agenda, a policy agenda, immigration reform, or securing the border, trying to fight inflation by cutting back on some of the government spending in the first two years of the Biden administration. But there are other and these were the things that Melanie was asking about.
There are other members of what would be the Republican majority with another agenda, things like impeachment, investigations, Hunter Biden, you know, you -- and the interesting thing about the Speaker is yes, he is the top person who or she is the top person, but they don't call all the shots. I mean, they are trying to control a divided caucus, which has a lot of different agendas. And you kind of got to stay on the back of that tiger and ride it.
BLITZER: Because the margin -- if there is a Republican victory of majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the margin of victory is very significant depends on how far he can go if it's a very narrow majority that the Republicans have as opposed to a much bigger majority.
WALLACE: Absolutely. I mean that, you know, one, he wants to win, he wants 218 votes. How far he gets beyond that is going to make a big difference and how easy Kevin McCarthy's life is going to be if he has a very slim majority and the hard Trump Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz.
If they're the difference between being in the majority or not, they have a lot of say, and they'll have a lot of influence in terms of what Kevin McCarthy's able to do. If he has a bigger majority in the 230s, 240s, then, you know, he can placate them, but he can pursue what he wants to do as Speaker.
BLITZER: Very quickly. What's your sense, if Trump goes ahead, and maybe as early as tonight, announces, he's definitely -- he's hinting broadly he's going to run for the presidency again. But if he does that before tomorrow's election, what's going to be the impact?
WALLACE: Well, I don't think Republicans want to -- they look at tomorrow, and they think things look pretty good, very good in the House, fairly good in terms of being able to take the Senate. It seems to me that what's most likely if Trump announces tonight, and you know, it's so amazing that we're even discussing this possibility, is it could energize Democrats and suddenly the Republican plans for a sweeping victory tomorrow night could be upset by a democratic wave on election day.
We know they have voted in heavy numbers in absentee ballots in early voting, but if they turn out on election day, that could upset some Republican plan.
BLITZER: Yes, good point, indeed. Chris Wallace, thank you very, very much.
An important note to our viewers, you can see "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace" Sunday nights, 7: p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Coming up, in key battleground states -- push for votes just ahead of tomorrow's critical midterm elections. And they survived the horrors of a brutal Russian invasion. Now residents of the Ukrainian city are starting to rebuild. We'll go live to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Ukraine.
BLITZER: We'll have much more on tomorrow's crucial midterm elections. That's coming up in just a few moments. We're also following in the meantime, very important developments in Ukraine tonight, where there is new hope that sophisticated Western air defense systems could play a significant role in repelling Russian missiles. For many civilians, any relief from the barrage from Russia would be welcome as they hunker down for what could be a brutal winter.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour has our report from the warzone.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR (voice-over): On the outskirts of Kyiv, the bridge into Irpin in the Bucha district was a lifesaver for those who managed to flee the early Russian advance. In the seven months since these scenes, the horrors of what those troops left behind have been fully exposed.
Mykhailyna, the Deputy Mayor of the Bucha region is taking us to meet residents who are rebuilding. But throughout this heavily destroyed residential area, it's a race against winter. As temperatures start to plunge and blackouts continue, money is tight, but spirits are high. At the very least they need to replace glass in the windows and patch up holes the size of tank and artillery rounds.
Tetyana shows us pictures of her apartment small bedroom destroyed in March, rebuild now. Her story is hair raising and miraculous, hunkering down in the basement for 10 days under Russian occupation. This is the picture of the Russian tanks arriving just 15 minutes after she fled.
When we left, they were shooting at us from behind, she tells me. Now I realized what kind of a second birthday I got. What kind of a gift because those people who left right after us were shot. As this city tries to put the pieces back together again, there's another more sensitive, perhaps even more difficult kind of rebuilding underway.
The U.N. Children's Fund UNICEF has placed pop up tents full of warmth, light and care. All these children have been traumatized, and some have been forced to witness unspeakable horrors. This is Bucha district after all ground zero for Russia's war crimes. Eugene Lopatin is the regional manager for this program.
EUGENE LOPATIN, UNICEF REGIONAL MANAGER: They started to tell some really cool things. I cannot even describe how cruel they were. Some children saw invaders raping their mother, or beaten their father.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Kseniya volunteers as a psychologist here seeing parents whose children have had to hide with them in silence, or spend long periods with no bathroom breaks.
And the body remembers this, and even after reaching safety, the child cannot go to the toilet, she says. It's the same speech. The parents have told them to keep quiet so the child closes its mouth and does not know when they can talk again.
And so they turn to these kinds of games and Katarina (ph), the volunteer art therapist says, she sees them gradually come out of their shells and start to smile and connect again. They seem to forget about their inner stress when they're making something like this, says Katarina.
Back in the construction zone, Mykhailyna has her own harrowing story of loss and recovery. She says her first husband was killed in Donbas during the first Russian invasion in 2014.
MYKHAILYNA SKORYK, DEPUTY MAYOR, BUCHA CITY COUNCIL: Like one you lost your beloved, you have to find a new motivation how to leave, how to go on -- how to feel alive again.
So when I thought what would motivate me to live, I decided that, look, I'd like to have a boy. A boy called Flip (ph) as my first husband wanted and I met another man and realized that plan, you know.
AMANPOUR (on-camera): That's fantastic.
AMANPOUR: So really something to bring a smile to everybody's face, really the will to live exemplified in that woman's mission. And we've seen that so many times here, which means that despite the attacks on these civilian structures, despite the blackouts, despite the real sacrifices that are happening in the trenches, here, they are nowhere near surrendering. They will keep up this fight. Wolf?
BLITZER: Excellent report. Christiane Amanpour in Ukraine for us, thank you very much.
Coming up, a last-minute flurry of campaigning just ahead of tomorrow's critical midterm elections. The stakes couldn't be higher. We'll take your live to the key battlegrounds. That's next.