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State of the Union

Interview With Former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff Marc Short; Interview With Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel; Interview With Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 06, 2022 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Republican takeover? Two days until the midterms, Republicans aim to regain the House and Senate.


BASH: Will the GOP ride a red wave back to power, and will it propel Donald Trump into 2024? I will speak to the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, next.

And a pair of presidents. Democrats out on the trail trying to defend their record on the economy.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This ain't your father's Republican Party.


BASH: Have they made their case? I will speak to a senator traveling the country to try to keep her party in power, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, ahead.

Plus: on their mind. As Democrats and Republicans try to appeal to the undecided, I caught up with voters in five states to see what's driving them to the polls this Tuesday.

GREG STEYER, OHIO VOTER: why is the price of gasoline where it is today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's abortion rights, I think, for me.

BASH: Some of it might surprise you.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is hours away from counting the votes.

We are two days from finishing a marathon of a campaign that's twisted and turned and is now coming to a close. Saturday, we saw three presidents in Pennsylvania, Biden, Trump and Obama, trying to give a final boost to their party, and, for Biden and Trump, flex their own political muscle ahead of a possible 2024 rematch.

But in the closing days of this midterm race, outrunning history appears extremely difficult for Biden and his party. Democrats are playing defense in bright blue states, New York, California, Oregon, and Washington, while Republicans are on offense, feeling confident that a House takeover seems likely and that a Senate flip is very possible.

The polls, all of them show Americans are thinking about inflation and the economy, and that Republicans win the trust battle on kitchen table issues.

So let's bring in a Republican who has been all across the country preparing for Tuesday night. Here with me now is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel.

Thank you for coming on. And thank you for being here. It's nice to see you in person.

So, what are you seeing right now? Do you think that the Republicans, your party, are going to take the House, going to take the Senate? And how many seats do you expect?

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, what you just said in your opening. Voters are very concerned about inflation. And I think it's broader than inflation.

It's rent. It's groceries. It's, can I buy a new car, because interest rates are so high? People are really, really struggling right now. That is, by far, the number one issue I hear, along with crime is a big issue and, for me personally, and I think a lot of moms and parents out there, the deficits that our kids are still dealing with the pandemic are the big issue. I feel good.

BASH: So, what are you seeing in terms of numbers?

MCDANIEL: I feel good momentum. We're going to take back the House.

I focus on two numbers, five and one, five to take back the House, one to take back the Senate.

BASH: Will you do both?

MCDANIEL: I think -- yes, I do think we will win both.

BASH: Take back the House and the Senate?

MCDANIEL: I think we will take back the House and the Senate.

BASH: So, you have mentioned the economy and inflation. If you win, Republicans will actually have an opportunity to do something about those problems.


BASH: Inflation isn't just an American problem. It is a global problem. So, how specifically will Republicans lower inflation?

MCDANIEL: So, Kevin McCarthy has put out a plan. And I think the first thing is energy independence.

We have those resources here. We have been energy-independent before. Joe Biden cut the Keystone pipeline day one, stopped drilling on federal federally leased lands. If we can pump our energy independence, every good, everything you do takes gas and money or diesel to get to where it needs to get, which is inflating the costs.

BASH: Will that have an immediate effect on people's pocketbooks?

MCDANIEL: We hope so.

But I think the other thing is, we need a president that's going to work across the aisle. None of this happens unless both parties are working together. So, if we win back the House and the Senate, it's the American people saying to Joe Biden, we want you to work on behalf of us and we want you to work across the aisle and solve the problems that we are dealing with.

Bill Clinton did that, right? After '94, when he lost those midterms, he came across and said, let's work together. It will be interesting to see if President Biden does that.

BASH: Absolutely. And that requires a two-way street.


BASH: Will Republicans be willing to do the same, and not just be a roadblock for him?

MCDANIEL: We have to. We have to work on behalf of the American people.

Dana, I don't live in Washington, D.C. I live in Michigan. I talk to people every day. I talk to restaurant owners who are desperate to find labor. I talk to families who are dealing, including mine, with these education deficits with our kids being locked down.

They really want to see government start functioning.

BASH: And Republicans will be a partner?



Let's talk about what's going on now. You're the party chair.


BASH: So, let's talk about voting, which is already under way across the country, as we know.


MCDANIEL: Thirty million people have voted, 30 million.

BASH: Exactly.

Here's some of the things, though, that is going on. In Arizona, we have seen right-wing activists with guns and video cameras at drop boxes. In North Carolina, Reuters is reporting officials are tracking more than a dozen instances of potential intimidation or interference. And, in Michigan, your home state, one group is encouraging people to set up cameras to capture license plate numbers.

What's your message to people intimidating voters?

MCDANIEL: Well, nobody should be intimidating or breaking the law. Nobody should.

But poll watching is not intimidating. If you're following the law -- we have sent out guidance. This isn't happening from the RNC. We send out guidance to our poll watchers.

I think what a lot of people don't know is, the RNC couldn't do this for 40 years. We were under a legal order that we couldn't have poll watchers. And now we can. The Democrats have always had that. I think that's really imbalanced.

But if you have been at a poll place, you see they're just simply observing. And it helps us at the end to give assurance to the voters to say, listen, we were there. We watched it. It went well.

I think there's other things we should do, like voter I.D., get rid of ballot harvesting; 80 percent of the Americans -- the American people think we should have voter I.D. Why shouldn't we show our I.D.?

BASH: Let's talk what you're doing right now, because you mentioned that the RNC, you have a very big organization of poll watchers out there right now.

But I just want to go back just to sort of underscore. What I just described could continue in an aggressive way. As the top Republican in this country right now, your message is?

MCDANIEL: Do not break the law. Do not attack or intimidate people who are trying to vote.

BASH: In any way, shape or form?

MCDANIEL: I don't think that should be done at all.

Also, don't intimidate our poll watchers, because we're having that right now too, where our poll watchers are not being allowed to meaningfully observe. That's an important part of our democracy that both sides, Democrat and Republican, should be able to meaningfully observe, so that we can go out and say, listen, we saw it and it went well.

BASH: And you're trying to recruit poll watchers.

MCDANIEL: We have.

BASH: You have been on Steve Bannon's podcast multiple times. And you are asking him to help recruit and his listeners to help recruit the poll watchers.

Is there any concern about using that outlet on this issue when it comes to potential for harassment?

MCDANIEL: No, I'm never telling people to harass.

BASH: No, of course, you're not.

MCDANIEL: We're -- no, I'm not. I would never do that.

I'm saying, please go sign up. It's the number one thing I hear across the country from my voters: I'm very concerned about the election. I want to make sure it's fair and transparent.

So, the best way that people can get engaged is go -- go to And we teach you. You -- train you. Every state has a different law, so we put them through the training so that they can meaningfully observe, but we absolutely want them to abide by the law. And if they don't, then they shouldn't be allowed to do that.

BASH: And that's your message...

MCDANIEL: That's my message.

BASH: ... on that podcast, to that audience and this audience, everybody?



MCDANIEL: And anybody who signs up with us, we tell them to do that.

BASH: I want you to listen to what Republican Senator Ron Johnson said on whether he will accept his own election results.



SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I sure hope I can. But I can't predict what the Democrats might have planned.

We're not trying to do anything to gain partisan advantage. We're just doing whatever we can to restore confidence.


BASH: So, simple yes or no, should Republican candidates, Ron Johnson, all of them, accept election results?

MCDANIEL: Well, I would say the same to Stacey Abrams, right, or Hillary Clinton, who's already saying, in 2024, we are going to rig the election. That's not helpful.

Listen, you should have a recount. You should have a canvass. And it'll go to the courts, and then everybody should accept the results. That's what it should be.

But I'm also not going to say, if there's problems, that we shouldn't be able to address that. If there's real problems, everyone should be able to address that. And I think Ron Johnson and Stacey Abrams, in the end, once all their avenues are exhausted, right, they will -- they will accept the results.

BASH: But -- so -- but you're saying, because this is very important -- for example, I will just tell you what Joe O'Dea, one of your -- I think what Republicans consider a star candidate in Colorado.

MCDANIEL: Colorado.

BASH: He's running for Senate.

He said: "After the process is done and the votes are counted, I will absolutely accept the outcome. It's time for American leaders to start acting like adults again."

Is that what you want to hear? And is that your message?

MCDANIEL: Yes. And I think that's what Ron said too.

BASH: No, he didn't. No, he didn't.

MCDANIEL: I think that they're saying...

BASH: He said that -- he's predicting the Democrats are going to be involved in things, which is not fair.

MCDANIEL: Well, if there's not -- but we're going to pursue problems.

If you have a problem -- like, I will give you an example. In Virginia last year, they wouldn't let people vote who weren't wearing a mask. That's not the state statute. So, there were people actually being denied voting because they didn't have a mask on. That wasn't the law.

So, because of our lawyers that we had on the ground, we quickly called the election officials in the state of Virginia, and we got that fixed. But we need to have that ability to fix it. And every election is run differently at the county level, at the precinct level.

BASH: Right.

MCDANIEL: So we want to make sure it's run fair and transparently.

And then we will let the process play out, and then we will accept the results.

BASH: That's exactly what I was just going to put a button on.


When the process is played out and the votes are canvassed and certified, every one of your Republican candidates will accept their results, even if they lose?

MCDANIEL: They will.

And here's what I'm going to say too. Everybody's talking about this election denier. This is the language. I just heard it on the segment before. Democrats, I have 150 examples. I have got a 10-minute video of Democrats denying elections from 2000 to 2020.

This is not what the American people are caring about right now. And let me tell you what they are worried about.

BASH: Well...

MCDANIEL: Our commander in chief, Joe Biden, going in front of the American people and talking about this and saying, oh, look at this -- these issues with election deniers.

Well, here's what the Democrats are. They're inflation deniers. They are crime deniers. They're education deniers, literally.


BASH: OK, but this is...

MCDANIEL: But this is not what the American people are talking about. They're not talking about...


BASH: I don't want to -- I don't want to -- I don't want to have...


MCDANIEL: But they are not voting on that.

BASH: OK, we have been having -- and I just did this -- and we're doing so many reports about the issues, which is important.

But I'm talking to you...

MCDANIEL: But to have -- Dana, five days out from an election...

BASH: But I'm talking to you as the Republican National -- yes?

MCDANIEL: ... for the president of the United States to give a speech, and not talk about inflation, to actually say it's good to not talk about gas prices, to say that crime doesn't exist...

BASH: Listen, I'm not here...


MCDANIEL: So, they have become crime deniers, inflation deniers and education deniers.

BASH: Ronna, I'm not a...


MCDANIEL: But that's the big issue.


BASH: I am not a spokesperson for anybody and for them.

MCDANIEL: I know, but...

BASH: But I will just say that that was a speech, and they're out giving other speeches.

I want to talk about...

MCDANIEL: But that's the president's speech.


MCDANIEL: That's his closing message.

BASH: He's out giving other speeches.


BASH: I don't want you to put me in a position of having to defend them, but I'm explaining, and I'm giving you the facts.


MCDANIEL: Yes, I understand. And I'm saying that we're going to accept the results.

BASH: That is one speech. And he's giving other speeches.

I want to ask you about Donald Trump.


BASH: Good.

MCDANIEL: Yes. I'm saying we're going to accept...


BASH: That's good. That's the headline here.

MCDANIEL: But here's what I say to Joe Biden. Can you please accept that inflation has risen on your watch, that kids have deficits on your watch, that our border is open, that fentanyl is coming across?

BASH: I want to ask about looking forward...

MCDANIEL: Will you accept that crime is rising?

BASH: ... as your position is so important, as the chair of the RNC...

MCDANIEL: Sure, yes.

BASH: ... Donald Trump, he is already saying that he is going to run again.

The RNC has paid more than $2.3 million to law firms representing him and his legal battles. If and when he does announce -- announce, will you stop paying his legal fees?

MCDANIEL: We cannot pay legal bills for any candidate that's announced.

So these are bills that came from the Letitia James lawsuit that started while he was president. It was voted on by our executive committee for our former president that this was a politically motivated investigation. And that's what it's been for.

BASH: So, no more?

MCDANIEL: But we cannot. We cannot do in-kind contributions to any candidate.

Right now, he's the former president who's being attacked from every which way with lawsuits. And he's certainly raised more into the RNC than we have spent on these bills.

BASH: Will he announce soon?

MCDANIEL: I don't know.


BASH: Do you want him to announce soon?

MCDANIEL: I'm only focused on 2022.


MCDANIEL: I -- my mind can't even go there. I don't even know what I'm doing for Thanksgiving right now, let alone thinking about 2024.

BASH: Ronna McDaniel, thank you so much. Thanks for coming on.

MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.

BASH: I really appreciate it.

MCDANIEL: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And can Democrats keep the Senate?

My next guest is on the campaign trail trying to save her colleagues from getting pink slips on Tuesday. Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar joins me next.

And, ahead, we're going to go to John King at the Magic Wall to tell us what he's looking for in the biggest races.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

On the final weekend before Election Day, my next guest, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, is sprinting across the country trying to help her party keep control of the Senate.

Today, it's New Hampshire and an event with incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan.

Here with me now from Portsmouth is Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.


BASH: So, President Biden is rallying later tonight for Governor Kathy Hochul. That is in the state of New York, a state he won by 20 points.

And he's also traveled to Illinois, a state he won by 17 points. Why are Democrats, your party, in defense in reliably blue states?

KLOBUCHAR: You know, I don't think we're on defense, because I also saw President Biden in Pennsylvania, along with President Obama, a state where we are ahead and we're going to pick up a Senate seat.

I have seen him in Colorado. I have seen him in Florida. I think the point is, is that it is all hands on deck right now, turning out the vote. Everyone can make a plan to vote at

And what matters to me, Dana, is what the stakes are here. The stakes are about economics. Every country in the world has been through a hard time coming out of this pandemic. But the question that voters have to ask is, who do you trust to have people's back? Who sees them? Who's going to stand up for them?

Social Security and Medicare, yes, I'm in New Hampshire, where Maggie House is going to win this race. And her opponent has said, actually, back in 1935, that's when they started Social Security. Maybe we should change it. He's talked about changing Medicare. We have seen that all over the country. Democrats stand up for Social Security Medicare, pharma prices.

BASH: Well, Senator...

KLOBUCHAR: Go ahead, Dana.

BASH: Well, I want you to listen to something that the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, said. And, in it, he was talking about really acknowledging that he thinks that this will be a wave election for Republicans.

He had pretty sharp words for his party, your party. Take a listen.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I can be the cheerleader. I'm also a pragmatist. You feel it.

And it goes to my fundamental grievance with my damn party. We're getting crushed on narrative. We're going to have to do better in terms of getting on the offense and stop being on the damn defense.


BASH: Is he right?

KLOBUCHAR: You know what? He's out there in California right now. And I'm out here and been all over Ohio, and with Tim Ryan, and Pennsylvania with John Fetterman, with Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin, and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina.

I think either we are ahead in these races or we are in striking distance. Look at Mark Kelly. Look how well he's doing. We are going to win these races. So he can talk about all the ones out there. I'm in the middle of it.

And I have seen in these Senate candidates -- and that's where I'm focused, of course, in the strength of our country. They're not just talking about infrastructure. They're building infrastructure, finally. With a Democratic president, it's no longer just talking the talk. We're building roads. We're building bridges. We're getting broadband out. We're finally doing something about semiconductor chips, so we make things in America.


And then don't forget the pharmaceutical prices.

BASH: So, do you think that you're going to hold the Senate?


Yes, I do, because I look at the races. Our incumbents are either ahead or they're tied. BASH: But let's ask...

KLOBUCHAR: And I look at the get-out-the-vote efforts we have that are extraordinary.

And then I look at these pickup seats and what we can do. I think we will win the Senate.

BASH: OK, let's talk about one of the incumbents. You are with, as you mentioned, one of your incumbent colleagues in New Hampshire, campaigning with Maggie Hassan there.

She's running against somebody who has been an election denier, Don Bolduc. And Democratic groups spent millions of dollars boosting him in the Republican primary because they thought he'd be easier to beat in the general election. But now the race is really tight. That's why you're there.

Bolduc has a shot of winning if he is in the Senate with you in January, will Democrats deserve some of the blame.

KLOBUCHAR: I'm not going to at one moment concede this race, because Maggie has been ahead every step of the way. They know her. They love. She's the second woman in the country...

BASH: Can you concede that it was a mistake or do you believe it was a mistake to boost him?

KLOBUCHAR: I have made -- first of all, I'm not going back over past strategy right now, two days before the election.

I am one that -- I'm not a big fan of spending money on other candidates and messing around. I will admit that, and I have said that.

But what I think here is, you have got a clear choice. I was there at 4:00 in the morning, Dana, with Roy Blunt, Mike Pence walking over that broken glass on January 6, spray-painted columns. And when we got to the House of Representatives, with the pages, holding the boxes of the electoral ballots in those mahogany boxes, I thought, that's it. Democracy prevail.

What I didn't know is that Donald Trump's shadow is looming over New Hampshire, looming over these states. There are 50 percent of Americans who have election deniers on the ballot. We -- literally, these candidates are throwing truth out the window. They're shattering the rule of law, and they're laughing at or dismissing political violence.

I don't care if you're a Democrat, independent, or moderate Republican. Democracy is on the ballot. And it is time to vote for democracy.

BASH: I want to ask you about something before I let you go that's very much in your wheelhouse. And that's social media. You know that there's a new Twitter owner,

Elon Musk. He laid off thousands of employees this week, including some workers who combat election misinformation, the kind of thing you're talking about.

How concerned are you that the upheaval at Twitter will result in a flood of misinformation, disinformation right before the election?

KLOBUCHAR: I have been very clear in expressing my concerns about this.

And it actually goes beyond Twitter. Today, there are reports that, in fact, Russian bots, news reports have come back, outside interference coming back. To me, the solutions are these. And it is, again, for all of these platforms.

Number one, do something about misinformation. We have got to -- they can't shield themselves when they're actually making money off of spreading misinformation about elections. I have a bill to change that. Other countries are ahead of us when it comes to this. We have got to actually do something.

Secondly, this is beyond Twitter, monopolies self-preferencing their own products at the top of these platforms. We have to do something.

BASH: Senator...

KLOBUCHAR: And, finally, it is crying out for a federal privacy law. We need that.

BASH: And, Senator...

KLOBUCHAR: But, again, we have to get through this election.

Yes, go ahead.

BASH: Right. And on -- I know you have to get through this election.

But I have to ask you, right after this election, we are reporting that Donald Trump is likely to jump into the race. If he is the Republican nominee, do you still think President Biden is the only one who can beat him?

KLOBUCHAR: President Biden has made clear he is running, and I support him.


KLOBUCHAR: And what I will say about this is, Donald Trump cannot be president again. The American people know it. You see it in his numbers.

And in part because he has continued to push candidates, this election is, again, about democracy, and it's about moving our country forward, and not back to the chaos of Donald Trump.

BASH: Senator Amy Klobuchar from the campaign trail, with her colleague in New Hampshire, appreciate it.

KLOBUCHAR: Great to be on. Thanks, Dana.

BASH: And up next: a look at the midterm map. How will the big races break?

John King gives us some clues at the Magic Wall.



BASH: We could be in for a very long night on Tuesday.

So we are here with CNN chief national correspondent John King in the Election Center to show us the early signs that he is looking for.

So, let's start in the House.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Forty hundred and thirty-five races in all under new lines because of the census two years ago, the redistricting process.

As you know better than anybody, they're not all competitive. So what we have done is, we have identified, working with our partners Inside Elections, 82 competitive seats heading into Election Day. And, as you can see, they are coast to coast.

Another way to look at it, look at this, just to understand, Democrats are on defense. It's a Democratic president's first midterm. It's a tough climate. Just look down here at the key.

BASH: Yes.

KING: Of these seats, 57 of the competitive seats have Democratic incumbents, almost three times as many, almost three times as many Republicans.

BASH: Three times.

KING: There are three new seats here too, as you look at the map.

So Democrats are on their heels defending much more territory in a tough year. That's one way to look at it. Now let's bring it up. The big question is, who can get to 218, right? And in our rankings right now, we already have Republicans favored in 216 seats.


Now, some of those are just barely favored. You see the lighter red on the map. But Republicans have a huge advantage going into Election Day. And if you look, Dana -- you know the races very well. These toss-up races go close to close -- coast to coast.

And one of them you focused on in the show -- if you bring it up here, I will show it to you here -- Virginia 2.

BASH: And I will say that Elaine Luria, who's, as you see, the incumbent Democrat, she told me when we traveled there and did sort of a look at this race, that she considers herself and this race 218. It will be the clincher, the decider as to who gets the majority.

KING: Well, if that's the case, given that you're in the Eastern time zone...

BASH: That's exactly right.

KING: So, this is one of the races we will look at on election night for a key clue.

Are Democrats -- there are three competitive Democratic districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Can she hold on? If she's losing, that gives you a big sign. She's right about how important and how competitive that district is. But, again, they go coast to coast.

You go from Virginia 2 right on the East Coast all the way across the country. And you have tilting Democrat still -- Elaine Luria's district is tilting Republican. Tilting Democrat still, a very well- known progressive...

BASH: Very well-known.

KING: ... Katie Porter.

So the challenge is for the Democrats, they go from Maine to Southern California and everywhere in between when it comes to the House, and they're back on defense.

BASH: And it's going to take a while before we learn, obviously, what these races look like, because it's California. Three hours earlier...

KING: Remember 2018. It was days. It was literally days, a week, more than a week in some cases, before we knew the final number.

We will have a good sense on election night, are Republicans taking the House? Is it a red ripple? Is it a red wave? But the final details will take days.

BASH: Let's look at the Senate, because this is obviously right now 50/50.

KING: Right.

BASH: It could go so many different ways.

KING: The chess game here you can game it out, reasonably, Democrats winning here, Republicans waiting there, but 35 elections in all.

Again, your work with -- we have worked with our partners here to identify the competitive seats. Eight elections of the Senate, we view as competitive. It could be more. Republicans think they could surprise us in some places. Of these eight, they're evenly divided now between held by Democrats or held by Republicans. Best way to look at this is to come into the balance of power as you come into the control right now. Again, Democrats enter the election 50/50. The vice president of the United States breaks the ties, so Democrats can't afford to lose, essentially.

And so you have the states on the map. If you come in now to how we rank them, the gold are the toss-up states. One is a Republican-held state right now, no incumbent, Pennsylvania, Democratic incumbent in Georgia, probably the most vulnerable Democratic comment -- you were just out there -- in Nevada.

BASH: Yes, Catherine Cortez Masto, yes.

KING: This is where the chess gets fascinating.

BASH: Yes.

And so many -- I mean, you're saying that these yellow are maybe the tightest, but that might belie what we're actually seeing on the ground, which is a wider swathe of really, really tight races.

KING: Right. It is possible.

Again, we know these races are competitive, right. But we still tilt New Hampshire Democratic. Republicans think they can pick up that seat. We still tilt Arizona Democratic. Republicans think that one is within their reach.

They say, watch. We still have this as likely Dem up in Washington state, in Colorado. Republicans say keep an eye on everything. So you could -- you conceivably could get Republicans to 52 or 53. You can also get the Democrats to 51 or stay status quo at 50.

Again, this race could decide the Senate in the end. Does anybody get above 50? Or are we going another month?

BASH: Or are we going to be standing here in December?

KING: On December 6.

But you were just out here. This is what Democrats worry about most. They view Catherine Cortez Masto as the most vulnerable Democrat. And, again, think about the math, right? We won't know that one because it's out West, right? The Democrats would love to pick up Pennsylvania as a safety valve, an insurance policy against maybe losing out in Nevada.

BASH: It is going to be a long and very exciting night.

KING: Week.

BASH: Maybe week.

(LAUGHTER) BASH: John King, thank you.

KING: Thank you.

BASH: Make sure to tune in to CNN's "Election Night in America" for the best reporting and analysis. Our special coverage kicks off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

And, last night, we got a preview of a potential 2024 GOP primary matchup, and the attacks, they have already begun. We're going to tell you what happened next.




GOV. TONY EVERS (D-WI): I will never stop searching for good ideas from both parties to improve Wisconsin.

GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R-IA): Here in Iowa, we may get up early, but we're not woke.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Ohio needs an ass-kicker, not an ass-kisser.

JOHNSON: I promise I will do everything I can to help make things better, and I will always tell you the truth.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): If you believe the 2020 election was stolen, I'm definitely not your candidate.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION, the final push until Election Day just a couple of days away.

Thank you so much. Our panel is here.

Michael Smerconish, you just came down from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. What are your thoughts on what you're seeing there and then just more broadly?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Broadly, there's a consensus that has formed. It's based on the polling data, the betting markets, which I pay attention to, maybe most importantly, the travel schedules of the principals.

Like, where are people being deployed and where's the money being spent? It would all have to be wrong for there to be something other than a huge victory for Republicans on Tuesday night, which I anticipate.

The only saving grace, I think, for Democrats could be that the Republican vote has been undervalued in the last few cycles, and maybe pollsters have this time overcompensated for that. But I think that's a stretch.

BASH: You came from the real world also, South Carolina.


BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I actually think that you're seeing Republican posters kind of flood the market with some polling that may not be the best in the world.

But I do think Democrats are going to have a better night than people expect. And the reason being is, I think Democrats will -- we probably won't know who wins the Senate until after Georgia, which will probably be December.

But, on Tuesday night, you're going to see Democrats maintain or win governor's mansion and states that really matter. You're going to have a Wisconsin. You're going to have Michigan. You're going to have Pennsylvania. Those states matter. And why do those states matter? Because of 2024. And you're also going to have Wes Moore, who's going to flip Maryland.


And so you're going to have some victories. While -- although we probably won't take back the House -- or keep the House, we're going to maintain the Senate. And those governor's mansions really matter.

MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Well, I'm looking forward to getting Michael's advice on the betting markets, because I need help there.


SHORT: But I think that -- look, I think it's going to be a great night for Republicans.

I think that Kevin McCarthy has been underappreciated, the fact that, in 2020, he didn't give up an incumbent. And now he's on the cusp of winning 20 to 25 additional seats. I think we pick up the Senate, and I actually think we're going to win a couple governor's mansions, and so I think it's going to be a very big night for Republicans.

BASH: Hilary, you have a different take maybe than Bakari on Democrats.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, I -- I think Marc is right.

BASH: Speaking as a Democrat.

ROSEN: I'm a loyal Democrat, but I am not happy. I just think that we are -- we did not listen to voters in this election. And I think we're going to have a bad night.

And this conversation is not going to have much impact on Tuesday, but I hope it has an impact going forward, because 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.

Democracy is at stake because people are fighting so much about what elections mean. I mean, voters have told us what they wanted to hear. And I don't think Democrats have really delivered in this cycle.

SELLERS: I think that's actually very true about the national messaging that's going on, but you actually have some good candidates who are following your advice.

You have people like Mark Kelly, who is running a great race. You have people like Raphael Warnock, who's running a great race, and Josh Shapiro and Fetterman and Tim Ryan.

ROSEN: Yes. And I would say, in those places, what we have are the unfortunate combination of strong gubernatorial candidates.

Like, Mark Kelly is popular. I was just in Arizona and spent some time there talked to a bunch of voters. Mark Kelly's popular, but Kari Lake is more popular. And the combination of Kari Lake's popularity and Joe Biden's unpopularity is going to hurt Mark Kelly. And so I think we're going to work -- we're in trouble because of the top of the ticket.


BASH: Are you going to interrupt her and disagree with that?

SHORT: No, I don't want to break up Dem-on-Dem violence.

BASH: Exactly.


SHORT: But I feel like -- I feel like Blake Masters is going to win Arizona, because the reality is that the border is a serious issue down there.

And to Hilary's point, they're not -- the Democrats have not talked about, how -- what are we going to do to fix inflation at a 40-year high? What are we going to do to control the border? What are we going to do to handle crime? Instead...

ROSEN: No, it's not -- it's not because of facts, Marc. I don't think we're in trouble because of facts.

I think we're in trouble because of messaging.

SHORT: Oh, I do. I think you're in huge trouble because of the facts.


ROSEN: Donald Trump -- you guys were in office for a long time and did nothing about...

SHORT: The reality is, inflation is at a 40-year-high because of specifically the spending policies of the Democrats.

ROSEN: You were in office for a long time and did nothing to fix immigration. You never passed a bill. You never got anything done.

SHORT: The border crisis, we -- we fixed the border. The border is out of control because of what you have guys have done.

BASH: OK, let's...


ROSEN: We have an economic story to tell.

BASH: Yes.

ROSEN: People actually like our policies better on the economy.

SHORT: You're kidding yourself if you believe that.

ROSEN: And we have not been doing it.

BASH: Michael.

SMERCONISH: One footnote to file away for Tuesday night as those Pennsylvania returns come in.

Josh Shapiro, I think, is going to win handily against Doug Mastriano. But it'll be capped in terms of the impact on the rest of the ticket, because no longer can Pennsylvanians, as we say, pull the big ticket.

You have got to vote each race individually. We have a history of ticket-splitting. It might be to the benefit of Dr. Oz.

BASH: That's fascinating.

OK, let's -- I know, obviously, we are two days away from 2022 and the midterms, but 2024, the whole question of, will Donald Trump run seems to be answered. He hasn't, of course, announced, but he's made pretty clear that he's close.

And one of the big tells is, he's already going after potential GOP rivals. Listen to what he said about Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida last night.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody's ever seen before. Let's see. There it is, Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10 percent, Mike Pence at 7. Oh, Mike's doing better than I thought.



BASH: Marc?

SHORT: Well, I think... (CROSSTALK)

SELLERS: We're not laughing at you, Marc. I'm just saying.

SHORT: I know that, Bakari.

I think that was a pretty lame attack on DeSantis. But I think the more telling sign...

BASH: Mike Pence was in there too.

SHORT: I think the more telling sign, frankly, was the notion -- last week, you saw news that the DOJ was going to give an independent counsel for indictments coming against President Trump.

And I think he feels like he wanted to actually be announced sooner, because he wanted credit for the midterm success. And he wants to get ahead of those impending indictments, because then he can say, see, look, Biden's DOJ is only going after me because I'm an announced candidate.

So I think that was really the more telling sign about a week ago.

BASH: I want to put up something that another person who's thinking about running for the Republican nomination, Mike Pompeo, who was in the Trump Cabinet, said.

He tweeted "Not tired of winning" at Governor Ron DeSantis. "You have proven conservative policies work. Florida is better for it. Vote for Ron DeSantis."

SMERCONISH: Trump is better than any kid I have ever met at the playground at ranking -- I think that's what this is called -- in terms of assigning nicknames that stick.

And I think, frankly, he may have a winner with regard to DeSantis. Time will tell. For me, the big takeaway is, it is the clearest sign he really is getting in and is about to announce.


SELLERS: That's the best news Democrats are going to have.

I mean, listen, there's no -- there's no better foil for Democrats than Donald Trump, somebody who is facing indictments.

SMERCONISH: Be careful what you wish for.

SELLERS: Well, I mean, we wished for it in 2016. And we failed. And that's for a number of reasons. And then we actually were able to beat him soundly in 2020.

And so what I do believe, though, is, Democrats actually rally around messaging that is opposed to everything Donald Trump stands for. It's extremely clear. And the closing message we have now, although it's not listening to voters, may actually work against somebody like Donald Trump.

ROSEN: Well, and you have the situation where a nasty Republican primary is probably good for Democrats, because the nastier Donald Trump is -- and, by the way, Ron DeSantis is sanctimonious. He just released an...

SELLERS: I was about to say, it perfectly fits.

ROSEN: He just released an ad this week comparing himself to God, so -- as a creation.

So, that the fact that you will be reminding voters of what they actually rejected about Donald Trump will actually be helpful.

BASH: Marc, I wanted to ask you, if you think that Donald Trump's timing here has anything to do also not just with the midterms, but with trying to get ahead of your former boss and close confidant, Mike Pence.

He's going on a book tour, and Donald Trump is going to maybe try to step on that as well. Is that accurate?

SHORT: Well, that wouldn't be out of character for the former president.

But I also think that, in some ways, it will help elevate the book tour and draw more attention. And I think, as the former vice president travels the country, he's more and more encouraged by what people tell him about wanting a different style of leadership and a level of competent leadership in this country that we have been missing.

So I think it could actually just elevate it.

BASH: I think we just saw the beginning of the Mike Pence -- the Mike Pence pitch.

SELLERS: It's not real until he gets a nickname.

BASH: All right. All right, guys.

SMERCONISH: Maybe this will draw Pence out to say things about January 6 that he really hasn't said publicly.


BASH: All right, guys, thank you so much.

ROSEN: Mike Pence has to grow...

BASH: We got to leave it there.


ROSEN: ... to run against Donald Trump.

BASH: Thank you very much, one and all. Appreciate it.

And up next: We traveled to five states since Labor Day to show you what's happening in key races. A closer look at what voters told us along the way, and some of it might surprise you.

Stay with us.



BASH: Inflation, abortion, crime just some of the issues people are thinking about as they approach Election Day.

I went to five pivotal swing states and had some enlightening conversations with voters.


BASH (voice-over): Michigan's State Fair Labor Day weekend, the start of the sprint toward Election Day and our travels to five pivotal midterm states this fall.

The common thread we heard from voters across the country, frustration and fears about rising prices.

AMANDA CLEAVER, MICHIGAN VOTER: I drive a truck, and it does not get very good gas mileage. And I actually had to quit my last job because I couldn't afford to drive all the way out there.

STEYER: Why is the price of gasoline where it is today? You can't just overlook that issue.

JOSEPH SAN CLEMENTE, VIRGINIA VOTER: Vegetables have gone up 20 to 30 percent. Growers locally in the farms are not carrying things they did last year because people don't have the money.

DAVE DENT, ARIZONA VOTER: And inflation, they say it's 8 percent. But if you're in the construction industry, it's like 30 percent.

MARIA MELGOZA, ARIZONA VOTER (through translator): Food is high. Gas is high. Rent is high.

BASH: We heard from many discontented voters, especially among the working class and in rural areas, those who feel forgotten by politicians in Washington.

JASON FEKETE, VIRGINIA VOTER: I came up in a union household. My dad was a Teamster for 30 years, voted Democrat. But they're completely out of touch with what everyday Americans want.

JOE STALLBAUM, OHIO VOTER: I think there should be a lot more focus on working-class people. It seems like we always get left behind for either the high or the low.

BASH: Then there's the issue of abortion, maybe not the main driver for all voters we talked to, but it is one motivating factor.

KRISTINA LODOVISI, MICHIGAN VOTER: We need to elect legislators all across the country who are going to protect women's health rights.

BASH (on camera): What's most important to you with this election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really, it's abortion rights, I think, for me, and just making sure that women have the choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there is a high possibility we may see something like Kansas. I think a lot of women aren't ready to go way out in public and wave signs and do the whole bit. But they're going to come to the voting booth, and they're going to vote their conscience.

DICK ROSSELL, MICHIGAN VOTER: Want to stay in front of the judge.

BASH (voice-over): Dick Rossell, a Republican-leaning voter in Michigan, told us in early September that he was reluctant to vote for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon because of her staunch opposition to abortion.

ROSSELL: I think there are times when women's lives are in danger and when there's extenuating circumstances that it has to happen.

BASH (on camera): Are you ready?

(voice-over): We checked back with him and learned he already voted for Republican Tudor Dixon, but also voted for a ballot initiative allowing abortions in Michigan.

(on camera): When we talked Labor Day weekend, you were undecided.


BASH: What made you decide?

ROSSELL: The abortion initiative that they put on the ballot.

BASH: Did you vote for that ballot initiative?


BASH: And would you have felt comfortable voting for Tudor Dixon if that didn't exist?

ROSSELL: No. I was having a problem with that.

BASH: Because Democrats think that, by putting that on the ballot, it's going to help Democratic candidates. It did the opposite with you.

ROSSELL: Yes. I think it did with a lot of people.

BASH (voice-over): In our travels, we did speak with voters who do not blame Democrats for tough times. (on camera): How do you think Joe Biden is doing?


CRYSTAL RODRIGUEZ, VIRGINIA VOTER: I think he's doing the best he can with the tools he has.

BASH: You have already voted?


BASH: Who did you vote for?

WILSON: Democrat.

BASH: How come?

WILSON: Because I just -- well, I thought -- think that they're going to do a good job.

BASH (voice-over): School crossing guards in Nevada, Agnes Wilson and James Kieffer, differ on that. He's disgusted with both parties.

(on camera): Are you going to vote this year?


BASH: Why not?

KIEFFER: Because they're not talking about what they're going to do. All they're talking about is slandering each other about how much money they're making.

BASH (voice-over): A missed opportunity for Democrats and Republicans in a state like Nevada, where every vote will likely matter in a neck- and-neck Senate race that could determine who controls Washington.

Agnes Wilson says she gets that.

(on camera): Do you think your vote matters?


BASH: That's a good thing.

WILSON: Mm-hmm.



BASH: Thanks so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.

And tune in tonight 10:00 p.m. Eastern. I will be hosting an election special with my colleague Abby Phillip. We're going to talk to top party leaders about what they're expecting. That's 10:00 p.m. tonight. Fareed Zakaria picks up right now.