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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Polls Open in Just Hours; Exclusive Interview with Nurse Kaci Hickox; Preview of Midterm Elections; Hoop Dreams Come True for Terminally Ill Player
Aired November 3, 2014 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening from the CNN Election Center in Washington D.C. And welcome to special edition of "360" America's choice 2014.
Polls open in just a few hours. The stakes include the control of Senate, shape of President Obama's plan on two years in office, potentially, who gets on the Supreme Court and a whole lot more.
The ultimate outcome might not be known for days and even weeks. So many races so close at this hour tonight. So many surprises potentially in store. The possibility of a Republican defeat in res state Kansas or GOP victory in Massachusetts, a former bay state senator could become the next senator from another state New Hampshire. The senate's most powerful Republican in the fight of his career, red state Democrats running for their lives and away from President Obama.
A big night. Let's start things off with our chief national correspondent John King.
So walk us through some of these races.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let's go through some of the key races in just for watching at homes. I've already assigned Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia to Republicans. Most people think that is going to happen tomorrow night. Those will be Democratic pickups. If that happens, Anderson, and everything else in the states we know will happen, here is we will be, 45-45.
There is your tie, right? Ten states left on the board. So what matters most? We will get some early clues. The polls close in Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, a Republican leaders and in Georgia at 7:00. Two Republican-held States, the Republicans want to keep very much.
Georgia is a big question mark tonight. Democrats say they will make a late rush in Kentucky, we'll see. But we will get early clues there. More importantly, 7:30 the polls close in North Carolina. Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan trying to hold on. You just mentioned the New Hampshire, right? Jeanne Shaheen, the Democrat versus Republican Scott Brown.
If these states go red, and let me take this off and take his, this tells you right off the bad, if Jeanne Shaheen loses, a close race for Scott Brown and Kay Hagan loses, a close race to Thom Tillis, a Republican opponent, if we're saying early in the night, those states are going Republican, forget about it. That's if not a wave a rug ripple for the Republican party.
But let's assume for the sake of argument, the Democrats hold the blues since I say, New Hampshire, President Obama won it twice. North Carolina he won it once. Iowa and Colorado both states were the Republicans are ahead right now. But let's assume the Democrats by ground gate can hold on to that. That's when the night gets interesting as we go later and later because that would put us at 49- 45. And then here, with these states left, all of them red states, all of them President Obama lost twice. So the Democrats would not be out of it. They only need one more but they have to get it from unfavorable territory.
COOPER: Let's look a little closer. The whole idea who is going to control Congress.
KING: That's the question. That is the big question. You mentioned this case. Let's say this is where we're are. Republicans at home are saying, no, we are going to win Colorado. We are going to win Iowa.
Let's just say for the sake of argument, this is where we are or let's even say they split them and Republicans get Iowa and Colorado but not New Hampshire and North Carolina. Then you're at 47-47. This race we could be counting this race to Thursday and Friday because of remote areas of Alaska. But the Republicans think they are going to get it. Democrats say they are going to surprise us. For the sake of argument, we will do that.
Republicans are very confident about winning in the state of Arkansas. So they were in this scenario here and they are very confident right here in winning in Kentucky. Again, watch out for the African- American turnout. See if democrats could pull it off.
You could have a scenario, let's say for the sake of argument as well, the independent wins here. He hasn't told us which party he will caucus with, so it doesn't change the math if Greg Orman wins. You can have a December runoff here in Louisiana and a runoff here Georgia not until January.
COOPER: We may not know until next year.
KING: Let's say Republicans -- if Democrats won in both, they would be in 49. Greg Orman at 50. Democrats only need 50 because of Joe Biden, Republicans need 51. We could be waiting, at least conceivable, we could be waiting until in this race is settled on January 6th to find out who controls the United States Senate.
COOPER: It will be a very long night indeed tomorrow night. John King, thanks very much.
More on now on President Obama's role in tomorrow's outcome or lack of a roll. You know, he has only campaigned for a few candidates, many others have distanced themselves from him. Few Democrats even shied away to saying with it. They even voted for the president He's a midterm, second-term president with a net-negative job approval rating, not exactly a winning package.
That said, the question is this president any more politically toxic than any others under similar condition? We'll talk to the panel ahead but first, some background from Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From Kentucky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new phase to vote for Barack Obama.
BASH: To Kansas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A vote for Greg Orman is a vote for President Obama.
BASH: To Colorado.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has voted 99 percent of the time with President Obama.
BASH: Across the country, Republicans are trying to take control of the Senate by time Democrats to an unpopular president. New Hampshire's GOP candidate barely speaks a sentence without saying incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen votes with the president 99 percent of the time.
SCOTT BROWN (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: The president said a couple weeks ago, he's not running but all of his policies are on the ballot. I agree with him. He also said --
BASH: I bet you do.
BROWN: I absolutely do.
BASH: Shaheen gives the quintessential 2014 democratic response. Is the president a drive on you here?
JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: This race is not between the president and Scott Brown. This race is between me and Scott Brown.
BASH: Still even democratic strategists admit Obama's negatives help make New Hampshire Senate race neck and neck. Now more than nearly a dozen dramatic too close to call contests from coast to coast.
North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Alaska. And this year's battle grounds are in swing states or red states where the president is not or never was popular like Kentucky.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitch McConnell wants you to think I'm Barack Obama.
BASH: Kentucky's Democratic candidate went so far to refuse to even admit she voted for him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Do you vote for president Obama in 2008 and 2012?
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: You know, this election isn't about the president. It's about --
BASH: I know but did you vote for him?
GRIMES: We want to put Kentuckians back to work.
BASH: Still, there are pockets, blue states where the president has gone to help like trips this weekend to Connecticut and Michigan.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got to let them know their vote matters.
BASH: And he's doing targeted interviews in red states like black radio to reach African-American who Democrats to get out of vote.
In Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu Is counting on black votes to win and says the president is having a hard time because of his race.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: The south is not the friendliest place for African-Americans. It's been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.
BASH: It's a fine line for Democrats nationwide when turnout is everything. Distance yourself from the president but don't go so far voters that like the president stay home.
COOPER: And Dana Bash joins us.
Now, I mean, are some Democrats going to rethink the idea that the fact that President Obama wasn't out there, they weren't asking president Obama to get out there?
BASH: No, you're already hearing some Democrats, some Obama Democrats, some loyalist maybe who are 1600 Pennsylvania avenue saying that maybe it was a mistake to be at such arm's length with the president even in these at red states and purple states because even on those states, you need the African-American base to turn out. Your need other loyal Democrats who still really like the president to do it.
I was just talking to a democratic strategists who is defending the idea of not campaigning with the president really is -- it hurts remarkably. He actually sent me a little bit of a statistic, 300,000 broadcast TV spots across 28 Senate races this cycle have used President Obama and criticized him. I think that's pretty telling.
COOPER: Yes. A lot of Republican saying it's a referendum on President Obama's. We will talk to panel about that.
Dana Bash, thanks very much.
I want to bring in our panel, we're bringing back the band together, really. Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator Paul Begala, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, chief political consultant Alex Castellanos, Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategists and both are CNN political commentator.
Gloria, I know you've spoken to sources in the administration, how worried are they tonight?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: They are worried. I mean, they are realistic. They understand, as Dana was saying, that this is a tight rope that these candidates had to rock -- walk. But they go out of their way to say this is not a referendum on the president. This is administration, people. What they are saying is that this is a really bad map for them, and they do have a point there.
COOPER: They are blaming the map.
BORGER: They are blaming the map. They are saying these people are up in red states, 80 percent of the states Mitt Romney. One, this will be a good year for Republicans. Yes, we have some problems, but you know what? This is going to turn against us, perhaps, but in two years by the way, the map will look a lot better.
COOPER: Alex, is this a referendum?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I think it is obviously Ron McNelly's (ph) fault, not Barack Obama. That's clearly the problem here.
Barack Obama has been out there. He make sure of that. He nationalizes this election. He's the one who said my policies are on the ballot. So as a Republican, I think you should have been out there more, but it's about him. It's a rejection, I think, of President Obama. But let's not absolve the Democrats in Congress who embrace Obama's policies.
One senator, imagine what happened if one democratic senator had voted against Obamacare, just one. Democrats wouldn't be facing I think the thumping they may get tomorrow night.
COOPER: Cornell, I was just --
CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, look. I think this narrative is way over played. I think it's a lazy narrative. I think it's a narrative that's not very helpful.
Look, of course, you want the president out there because you want to nationalize the election. You know what, when Bush was running, (INAUDIBLE), we wanted to nationalize election. You don't want -- it would (INAUDIBLE) for us to drop President Obama in these red states where no national Democrat ever does well. Then we play right into Republicans hands because you know what, that would be nationalizing election.
COOPER: So you think the problem is the map?
BELCHER: Absolutely, the problem is the map. We have three Senate classes here. This is the only one where I would get the president has not won most of the states. This is a horrible map for Democratic. But given that, given the map, given the history, you know, president's second term is supposed to lose seats and given sort of the demographics. Look, midterms are suppose to be older, less diverse. This is a map set for Republicans to run up the score.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No question.
BELCHER: They aren't running up the store.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: If they can't win in this map, they have to find another country to run it.
BEGALA: OK? Imagine if it were the other way and Democrats needed a hand full of other seats and it came down to Delaware, Rhode Island and California, we couldn't close a deal, right? I mean, this is a lay down deal for the Republicans because of both the map and the president. It is a referendum on him. That's referendum in places where they hate him.
BORGER: But one of the reasons you're not talking about the so-called wave is because Republicans are just as unpopular as Democrats. So this is anti incumbent.
COOPER: But you know Mitch McConnell saying this is the beginning of rolling back the things the president that has been able to achieve thus far. Is that just talk? I mean, --
CASTELLANOS: I hope that the just talk as a Republican. Because Republicans here -- this is the old may west line when faced with the lesser picking between two evils, I'll take the one I haven't tried recently. Republicans are the evil we haven't country hasn't tried recently. Republicans are only being given a chance here. They are not being given a mandate. So if we start off being the pessimistic cranky, (INAUDIBLE) Obamacare party, as opposed, hey, we can give him a shot to renew the economy to get this country back on track.
COOPER: But isn't Ted Cruz?
BELCHER: But Ted Cruz is already out in front saying that this is going to be about investigation after investigation, which is absolutely a nightmare for Republicans across the board. Look. But here is the thing. Here is the thing. What are you going
to rollback? You are going to rollback 3.5 percent growth? You know, which growth is -- they would love to have it. You are going to rollback unemployment rate back to prerecession levels? Are you going to roll that back -- going to rollback a stock market,
CASTELLANOS: We'll rollback stagnant wages -- We are going to rollback unemployment --
BELCHER: You are going to raise the minimum wage --
BORGER: Republican haves to agree on things on repealing, Obamacare. They are not going to do that. Mitch McConnell was asked about repealing Obamacare in a debate. He said yes, but how about living --
BORGER: Right, exactly.
COOPER: By the way, the Republicans don't have a great record on tamping down the fire in the Middle East, do they? I mean, is that something they can really promise to rollback?
CASTELLANOS: One of the problems we've had is very weak (INAUDIBLE) leadership. Americans lost a lot of respect in the world, and it turns out that American strength is the glue that holds it together.
BORGER: There is an interventionist wing and there is the isolationist wing.
CASTELLANOS: You're going to see two Republican agendas for the next two years. One is hold Barack Obama and Democrats accountable for, I think, some of their failures.
The other agenda I hope you will see is Republicans saying health care, we can do better than Obamacare. Let's have an open health care system instead of the closed health care. Let's have a health care system where doctors and patients make choices as opposed to politicians and bureaucrats in Washington. If Republicans offer alternatives like that in the next two years, they will be sending themselves --
COOPER: So you really believe that Obamacare is still on the table for something that can be rolled back?
CASTELLANOS: I believe, yes, a lot of it can be rolled back. Look, President Obama is not going to sign anything that decimates --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is the problem --
CASTELLANOS: If Republicans, if Republicans --
You asked a question. President Obama, if he gets -- if the Republicans Senate in the Republican house actually puts some concrete legislation on the table, Barack Obama would be, I think, willing to sign something, I think. Tax cuts --
BORGER: Here is some senior administration official, and I quote, "we're not going to sign a bunch of their bills."
COOPER: OK. Paul, (INAUDIBLE).
BEGALA: They are not going to appeal Obamacare. They are not running to repeal Obamacare anymore. They are not.
COOPER: Ted Cruz is talking about it.
BEGALA: Ted Cruz is talking about something else which is the real; agenda. We are going to investigate. Joni Ernst who has been in a tight race, a dead heat race in Iowa for United State Senate has already said she's for impeaching the president. She called him a dictator. This is (INAUDIBLE) for me. I remember how to win an impeachment fight.
COOPER: We are going to be back to everyone as our special coverage continues tonight.
As always, make sure you set your DVR to watch "360" whenever you want.
Ahead tonight, breaking news, a Navy SEAL reportedly steps forward saying he's the one that killed Osama bin Laden. Tonight the blow back that his plane caused it.
And next, my conversation with Kaci Hickox, the nurse who tested negative for Ebola then took on the governor of two states who wanted to put her in quarantine. She got a new deal with the state of Maine today. Hear from her next.
COOPER: -- home state of Maine. It permits her to travel freely in public but prior to her to monitor her health closely and run through the 10th of this month. It's quite an improvement over the tent she was confined to after she landed at Newark airport on the way back from volunteering in West Africa. Since then, she's been sharply critical of New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, and Paul LaPage, the governor of Maine. I spoke you Kaci just a short time ago.
COOPER: So, Kaci, you have now reached an agreement with the state even though you're allowed to go where ever you want, you say you won't go into town, you won't go in to crowded public places. Explain why that is. Why did you make that decision?
KACI HICKOX, NURSE WHO FOUGHT QUARANTINE: You know, the truth is I completely understand that this town has been through a lot and there is still a lot of fears and misinformation out there. I think we need to started addressing those issues. But it's also true that I only moved here to Fort Kent Maine in August. So, you know, there are a lot of people who don't know me. I'm still an outsider and I want to respect their wishes. But I really hope that one day in the near future, I could come back from an Ebola assignment and walk into the grocery store and people would smile and say hi.
COOPER: Can you explain why you fought the way you did? Because there are a lot of people and, you know, I got tweets from a lot of people saying, well, for an abundance of caution, people are afraid. You should just stay in your house. You should just agreed to be quarantined. Why did you fight, not just one governor, but two?
HICKOX: You know, I mean, I think coming back to the Newark airport and seeing complete chaos and disorganization that no leadership was a really frustrating sight to see. And when policies are put in place and sort of the policies aren't organized well and staff aren't trained well, it's just a scary situation.
But of course, the biggest reason that I fought is because I, you know, felt so much fear and confusion. And I imagined what my fellow aid workers were going to feel if they came back to this same situation. And the more I thought about the fact these policies are being made by politicians, not really the experts in the field, the more I felt like I had no choice but to fight back.
COOPER: When governor Christie says that it was an abundance of caution that was motivating him, you don't buy that?
HICKOX: I don't buy that at all. You know, again, whenever we're making policies, especially something as extreme as quarantine in the history of using quarantine and public health, you know, this is something that has to be really considered. It is an extreme policy. And there is no science behind it with this disease. We know that Ebola has not transmitted as easily as many other diseases, and that self-monitoring and even an enhanced version, which is what most states in the U.S. are going to now, this direct active monitoring where the health department is more involved, this will work.
COOPER: The thing I don't understand, your partner, your boyfriend is a nursing student at the University of Maine, and I understand he's still staying away from his school's campus. The university is saying it's voluntary. Is that, in fact, the case? Because I think all the places that would understand that, I mean, first of all, you're not sick, you're not contagious, so he's certainly not sick and he's certainly not contagious so why does he have to stay away from a nursing school? I would think of all the people that would understand that, the people on the nursing school would understand that.
HICKOX: Yes. I mean, I think this is, you know, an even deeper of this issue that this quarantine policies are not only going to affect the aid worker returning but it is going to end up affecting their entire family. What if I had children and my, you know, child's elementary school decided to say well, we don't want your kid coming back because they are going to have contact with you? You know, again, it's not based on any science or evidence, but it's
scary. I can't comment too much directly about my partner specifically, but the Dean of academic affairs of the school, you know, went on national TV and said that Ted wasn't going to be allowed to go to school. And this is the exact example of how when we flame the fear instead of really facing it, then we all lose. And again, you know, I think we have to be very careful about allowing our rights to be taken away, really based on hysteria instead of science.
COOPER: What effect do you hope your fight will have for other aid workers when they come back, either through how they are treated at the airport or by politicians or how they decide to react to demands for quarantine?
HICKOX: Yes, I mean, I think the fight is not over, even in the state of Maine, you know, my court's ruling is just for my case. The state of Maine policy that was written on the 28th of this month -- of last month, sorry, still says that anyone who has had contact with a patient in West Africa will be put under in home quarantine.
So the battle is not over. And I think all of the states, and I would like to see more leadership at the national level, as well. You know, we really need evidence-based policies and these knee jerk reactions, you know, there are just not being well thought out.
COOPER: Kaci, I really appreciate all you've done for many, many years for people overseas and all around the world. Thank you so much for talking to us.
HICKOX: Thank you.
COOPER: Kaci Hickox.
As always, you can find out more on the story and others in CNN.com.
Coming up next tonight, the question of who on SEAL team six killed Osama bin Laden and why a new SEAL reported claim of responsibility has touched off such a fire storm tonight.
COOPER: Welcome back.
We have breaking news tonight in a question that was supposed to remain unanswered forever, which member of SEAL team six killed Osama bin Laden in the raid three and a half years ago in Pakistan. Word tonight that a new member is stepping forward to claim credit thereby standing out in a community where taking individual credit for anything is deeply frowned upon.
Barbara Starr joins us with more from the Pentagon. What do we know about this?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, as you say, who shot bin Laden, we may never know. We have a new claim. This is a Navy seal who the Navy believes is the man that is about to go on FOX News and claim credit for having killed Osama bin Laden. There is also an "Esquire" magazine story out there from several months ago, also from a guy who says he's the shooter. Do we know if that's one and the same? We don't at this point.
There is also the book by a man named (INAUDIBLE), depending on which Navy us it where he claims he killed bin Laden. All right, of these guys by all accounts are members of Navy SEAL team six. But remember, that night, they crept if a dark staircase, no light, knowing bin Laden was at the top of the stairs, very dangerous, they moved very quickly and very quietly and when they burst through the door, the bullets started flying. Several men shot, several SEALs shot the rifles and aimed at bin Laden. Now, the SEALs say, the Navy says they may never know who fired the actual kill shot and who really need to know because bin Laden is dead and that's what they were going after. Anderson.
COOPER: And it really was a team effort. Reaction has been swift in top of the Pentagon.
STARR: You're absolutely right and because it's a team effort, the head of the Navy special war fair command, essentially the top Navy SEAL wrote a scathing letter, and I just want to read you very quickly, Juan, quote from it. To his force saying, Rear Admiral Brian Losey, quote, "Any real credit to be rendered is about the incredible focus, commitment and teamwork of this diverse network and the years of hard work undertaken with little individual public credit. It is the nature of our profession. Admiral Losey basically saying, put a zipper on it and stop talking about what you're doing. And look, let's be clear. The vast majority of Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force commandos, these are men who operate right on the edge risking their lives, the overwhelming majority of them never talk about what they do. This is a true code of silence and I will tell you, I've talked to some in the Navy community tonight behind the scenes, there is a good deal of anger about these other SEALs coming forward and claiming credit. You get to your target and you get home, because they is a team. Anderson.
COOPER: Barbara Starr, I appreciate the update. I want to bring in CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen who's written probably the definitive book on all of this "Manhunt, the Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9-11 to Abbottabad." Peter, thanks very much for being with us. I mean this really does go against the whole ethos of the SEALs, not to discuss, not to go into the details of an operation like this.
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Sure, but I guess the counter argument is that quite a lot of senior officials have talked about this or have written books about it, and we just had a book from CIA director Leon Panetta who, of course, was critical to the planning of this, in which he gets into some of this. So, I think that I'm not trying to defend what has happened here, but I think if a defense was to be made, it would be hey, other people have talked about this.
Now, of course, as you say, Anderson, in the community, particularly in the SEAL Team Six group, you know, there is great unhappiness about anybody coming forward and talking about it in any detail.
COOPER: And you talked to people, I understand, in the SEAL community who cast doubt about what this guy is saying.
BERGEN: Yeah, I mean, there is, you know, as Barbara said, you know, we're never going to know what happened that night. The compound is now demolished. It was a very, very difficult night to know what was going on. There was no moon, there was no electricity. People were wearing night vision goggles. There was a firefight. The whole thing took about at most 15 minutes. There was a helicopter crash. I mean it was a deeply confusing situation. Certainly, I think the kind of consensus is, is that there a point man who shot the kill shot for bin Laden. That person is by all accounts not going to identify himself. There have been two now people who have identified themselves, one with a pseudonym, another who's supposedly going to come on Fox and out himself with his real name. And I think that there is quite a lot of unhappiness, particularly about this new person. His account is very heroic. It doesn't really match with what we do know about what happened that night, which is that there was a shot and that it wasn't one person taking bin Laden down as he reached for his weapons as that - this new person seems to be suggesting.
COOPER: I also understand that some of your sources inside the SEALs told you that this person has sort of been bragging about this in local bars.
BERGEN: Yeah, and apparently, he was demoted from the red squadron, which was a squadron that - that did the raid. He was sort of, you know, because he was being too public rather early on. So, you know, there is quite a lot of unhappiness. I think that as this story develops, I think you're going to see a lot of pushback on this guy's account of what happened that night.
COOPER: Do we know why he's coming forward? I mean ...
BERGEN: I really don't, Anderson, because I think he's putting himself in a great deal of legal jeopardy. To think of what happened to (INAUDIBLE) Mark Owen who is ...
COOPER: But this guy doesn't have a book he's selling.
BERGEN: No, that's right. But I mean, you know, he's - It's puzzling. I - and I don't want to impute motive here. It's puzzling because he is putting himself in I think a fair amount of legal jeopardy to go and be part of a documentary on Fox, in which he takes credit for the kill of bin Laden.
COOPER: Right. They've all signed confidentiality agreements?
BERGEN: Yeah. They signed on disclosure agreements, and I mean it's blinding the obvious, if you join these communities. I mean the mere naming this guy, I mean his actual identity is supposed to be covert. Forget about any details of the raid that he night produce. So, you know, this is - there is supposed to be a code of silence and, you know, he seems to have decided to go outside it.
COOPER: All right, Peter Bergen, I appreciate and we'll see what happens.
Just ahead, with President Obama's low approval rating, some Democratic candidates distance themselves from him, we talked about this a little bit at the top of broadcast, still trying to court the African American support that the president has long held. Without a president, that will (ph) to be a delicate dance for some of the candidates. What that effort is looking like in this campaign.
COOPER: Well, for a president with low approval ratings, election time is obviously, tricky time, and in races around the country, Democrats have been distancing themselves from President Obama. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, 45 percent said they approve of how the president is handling his job, 53 percent said they disapprove. Now when the president himself was running for office, he got massive support from African Americans and he still has it. An ABC Washington post poll from September showed an 87 percent approval rating among African Americans. Well, now some Democratic candidates' attempts to hold on to that support are under fire. Joe Johns for us.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With their biggest weapon in President Obama mostly sidelined, some Democrats went for the hard strings in a desperate bid to get blacks in Southern states to the polls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made it harder for communities of color to vote.
JOHNS: Invoking the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida as a reason to vote in North Carolina. A radio ad generated by Majority Leader Harry Reid's super-PAC dedicated to maintain in Democratic control of the Senate hit the Republican candidate for supporting the kind of controversial state statute made infamous in the Martin case, putting race at the center of the Senate race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He'll even led the effort to pass the type of stand your ground laws and caused the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
JOHNS: North Carolina Republicans responded with a tough radio ad of their own, calling out the Democrats.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard this race-hustling Kay Hagan ad paying for my Harry Reid super-PAC.
JOHNS: There's more. In Georgia, flyers encouraging African Americans to vote invoke images from Ferguson, Missouri where another young black man, Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer. Republican Tara Wall sees it as an attempt to inflame voters.
TARA WALL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Race is a very real issue for us as black people. We should be able to talk about it, but I think it's disappointing when you have Democrats that number one just take the issue of race and use it to insight without any fact or basis.
JOHNS: Democrats deny these tactics are about inciting racial anger. They say it's about localizing the election, making voters think less about the federal races and more about the judges, prosecutors and others who actually allocate justice.
Though the tactics are not embraced by all African American politicians, but Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall says, it's valid to talk about in the midterms.
KWANZA HALL, ATLANTA CITY COUNCIL: I would not use these in a campaign, if it were my personal campaign, but I would want to make sure that we have dialogue and that we bring all parties to the table.
JOHNS: Still, dialogue over race is tricky. Louisiana incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu got tough criticism after she said this in an interview with NBC about the South and the president.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D ) LOUISIANA: The South has not always been the friendliest place for African Americans. It's been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.
JOHNS: The question is whether racial appeals, especially advertising could backfire revving up black voters who polls show still overwhelmingly support the president while turning off light voters, the same polls show do not.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Generally, these appeals are very targeted. They are, you know, flyers or mail in predominantly African American neighborhoods or radio ads on predominantly African American radio, and so it's sort of slicing and dicing the electorate.
JOHNS: Tough choices for Democrats and only hours before we'll know whether they pulled the right strings to get one of the most critical voting blocks to the polls in a tough election cycle. Joe Johns, CNN, Lexington, Kentucky.
COOPER: And back with our political commentators, Democratic strategist Donna Brazil, Republican consultant Alex Castellanos and Democratic strategist and Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher. Cornell, what do you make of this - this ad by this super PAC for Harry Reid about invoking Trayvon Martin?
CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm going in a different direction here, because I've got to call out, I've got to do some truth telling. Look, one of the top issues among African American women is gun violence in our communities, and one issue that it's not being talked enough about is, in fact, rolling back this stand your ground laws that the African American community overwhelmingly disapprove of. So why is it that in this country we can talk about women's equity, we can talk about gay and lesbian issues, we can talk about immigration and sort of to talk to Hispanic groups? But the moment you have a conversation that specifically targets African Americans, always a controversy. Oh my god, can you believe they are doing that? It's fundamentally a double standard and we should talk about it, why in fact it's a double standard.
COOPER: But it's invoking a particular case in one state involving a young ...
BELCHER: It is about - : It is about gun violence and stand your ground laws. We all understand what the Trayvon Martin case meant. It was about these outrageous gun laws that African Americans and just parents in urban areas overall are paying a high price for. And by the way, Democrats should be talking more about it. (INAUDIBLE) Republicans.
COOPER: Donna Brazile showing photographs from Ferguson. Is there a double standard here or is this crossing a line?
BRAZILE: No, I don't think it's crossing a line. Remember, Anderson, we've had to endure years of what I call bigoted ads, I mean everything from Willie Horton, the so-called, you know, black man that was let out of prison by Michael Dukakis personally, only to go out and rape a woman. We've had to deal in a Jesse Helm's case, with a white individual worker tearing up a piece of paper saying I can't apply for a job because I'm white. We've had to endure with these ads. So, race has been a part of the American political culture since the beginning of our country. But here is to I think Cornell's point. This is a concern of African Americans. Yes. Over the last year, we've talked about everything from Trayvon Martin until Michael Brown, we've talked about the situation in Ferguson. We've talked about the situation here in New York with Sean Bell. So, there is no reason while we should lead this conversation off the table. I think Democrats are smart to not only focus about violence in our communities, but we also talk about jobs in our communities, we talk about education, we talk about the same issues that I think not just African Americans, but all voters care about. We want a strong economy and that's why we're talking about that issue, as well.
COOPER: I guess the question is in a campaign commercial is that the appropriate place to talk about it? I mean isn't the objective there getting out the vote?
BRAZILE: Anderson, if you're in Ferguson, Missouri right now and you want to, you know, of course, bring Officer Wilson to justice, if you want justice for Mike Brown, if you want to serve on the jury, you've got to get out there and participate and be engaged in electoral process. I mean the jurors are selected from the voter pull.
BRAZILE: So we have to make the connection. We've got to make sure - that these voters - but this is not the only issue. There are many other commercials, I know, because I've cut a few. I've cut a couple of robo calls, thank you Cornell. But the truth is, is that we're trying to motivate voters that tend to drop off in non-presidential years, to get to the polls and we'd need to let them know what is at stake and what is at stake, we're voting for governors across this country, not just for the United States Congress. COOPER: Alex, does it cross the line?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: The Republican ads that these campaigns are targeting, the Republican candidates, they aren't running in Ferguson, Missouri. They are running in Georgia and Iowa and North Carolina.
COOPER: But for the Harry Reid ad, this was a guy, who, you know, allegedly ...
CASTELLANOS: Yeah, and they - I don't think they actually had anything to do with that particular case, but we all know what is going on. Politicians targeting high-turnout groups to get a vote and voters are smart whether you're brown, white, black, it doesn't matter. What they see are politicians appealing to their worst instincts, not their best to get out of - to intensify. Voters see through a lot of that, which is why at this point in the race ads like that really almost have zero impact.
COOPER: You don't think they work.
CASTELLANOS: You know what would work a lot better? It would work a lot better and I've made some ads now and then over the years - if it wasn't ...
COOPER: Come on.
CASTELLANOS: Singling out a little group, if it wasn't singling out one group, this group against that group, at the end of a race like this, you got to remind folks that there is something bigger and the country in trouble. The country ...
COOPER: But don't Republicans do that all the time, seeing ...
COOPER: ... wage issues?
BRAZILE: Welfare, queen egg, we can name the Republican ads, but that the point is that Alex, we're trying to get people motivated to let them know what is at stake in this election, and too often, we're talking about what is going on in Washington D.C. This is ...
CASTELLANOS: Usually the side that is losing, Donna, usually the side that's losing is the side that reaches, I think, the lowest ...
BRAZILE: Alex, you know, many of these - many of these candidates have a narrow path to victory. Not just in Georgia but in Iowa and my home state of Louisiana and North Carolina, no, these ads are being run, I think in places to galvanize people, to understand what is at stake, what's on the ballot and of course, we're not just talking about this issue. We're talking about race and the wage. We're talking about job creation. We're talking about education, things that all voters care about.
CASTELLANOS: No, these ads are not talking about that at all. COOPER: And what - that's one of these ...
BRAZILE: This is one of - Alex, we spend $4 billion in this election season. Let's not target the ads that we spent $150,000 or less. This is not the kind of ad you would be involved with because we're not spending millions of dollars. This is just a very targeted ad.
COOPER: All right. We're going to obviously, spend a lot of time on this tomorrow. We'll watch very closely a voter turnout in a lot of different communities.
Just ahead, the 29-year-old woman who spoke openly about her plan to end her life on her terms after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she has now died. Brittany Maynard's final message, next.
Also ahead, the NCAA moves up the Mount St. Joseph woman basketball season opener. So, a freshman with a rare form of terminal brain cancer was able to play. Lauren Hill's inspiring story coming up.
COOPER: Welcome back. A 29-year-old who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and became an advocate for end of life choice, made the choice herself on Saturday. Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon where doctor-assisted suicide is legal after doctors gave her a prognosis of six months to live. After months of research, she and her family decided the treatment would destroy the time that she had left and she got the doctor-prescribed medication that would end her life on her terms. Here's what she said in an interview with CBS back in October.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRITTANY MAYNARD: I don't want to die. If anyone wants to hand me like a magical cure and save my life so that I can have children with my husband, you know, I will take them up on it.
Cancer is ending my life. I'm choosing to end it a little sooner and in a lot less pain and suffering.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In her final message that was part of her obituary, Maynard wrote, and I quote, "if we change our thoughts, we change our world. Love and peace to you all." Maynard's death came on a weekend when another young woman with terminal brain cancer got her wish to play the season opener for a college basketball team. There were nine other players when Lauren Hill took the court on Sunday and 10,000 people in the stands there to cheer her on. Rachel Nichols reports.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 5'11" freshman forward from Greendale, Indiana, number 22, Lauren Hill!
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was the moment that should have been just the beginning for 19-year-old Lauren Hill, the start of her college basketball career. But instead, Sunday's game at Cincinnati's Mt. St. Joseph University marked the end of a mission that Lauren had been on for more than a year, getting to step on to this court before she died. It was while playing during her senior year in high school that Lauren started to experience headaches, dizziness. An MRI revealed an inoperable brain tumor. But even through radiation and chemotherapy, Lauren remained strong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never give up. Motto's never give up. Not that she ever did before. So I don't imagine that it would change now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't change much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she's still never giving up.
LAUREN HILL: I never gave up for a second even when they told me that I have a terminal diagnosis, and I never for a second thought about sitting down and like just not living life anymore.
NICHOLS: To Lauren that meant keeping her commitment to the college team she'd signed with before her diagnosis. She still wanted to try to play, but this summer, crushing news. Her tumor was advancing quickly. Doctors didn't expect her to live past this December.
HILL: (inaudible) because I can't do anything.
NICHOLS: But while her cancer was incurable, basketball was a different story. The school petitioned the NCAA to move its first game up by two weeks so Lauren would still be in good enough health to play. Tickets were in such high demand, officials moved the game from a 2,000-seat arena to one that holds 10,000, and the game still sold out in less than an hour. Finally, Sunday, Lauren took the court. And as she scored the game's first basket, the entire building erupted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number 22. We will remember that layup forever.
NICHOLS: At half-time Lauren received an award for her courage from women's basketball legend Pat Summitt.
HILL: This is a very big surprise. I'm just happy that everyone's here and supporting this and funding research for cancer. We're going to fight this and we're going to find a cure.
NICHOLS: And after it was all over, gratitude and renewed strength for the fight ahead.
HILL: Today has been the best day I've ever had. Thank you.
NICHOLS: For CNN, I'm Rachel Nichols.
COOPER: Incredible young woman. Lauren Hill's going to speak to Rachel Nichols. For that interview, be sure to watch "Unguarded" this Friday at 10:30 p.m. right here on CNN. Incredibly inspiring. In the next hour of 360, election day just hours away, the balance of power on Capitol Hill is going to be up for grabs. We'll run through the key races, talk about what is at stake. Our live coverage from Washington continues in a moment. Stay with us.