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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Hits Three States; Voters Decide Control of Congress; Dead Heats in Florida Races. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 5, 2018 - 12:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:16] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing this busy day with us.

America votes tomorrow. A midterm referendum on President Trump, who is embracing his central role with election eve rallies in three critical states. Advantage Democrats when it comes to the House, while the Senate map tilts in favor of Republicans. Outside of Washington, Democrats predicting big gains in races for governor and state legislatures. The president's racially tinged appeals are aimed at his angry base. Whether Tuesday brings a big blue wave depends on three groups, women, millennials and minorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I need you to get your family, get your friends, get your neighbors, get your coworkers and go out and vote Republican.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You get to vote in what might be the most important election of our lifetimes, maybe more important than 2008, because -- because America is at a cross roads right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We begin there, the day when a lot of the politicians have hoarse voices. The final countdown, midterm election eve, if you will.

President Trump firing up Air Force One for one final campaign blitz, hitting Ohio, Indiana and Missouri trying to hopes of proving he still knows the path to a big election surprise. Team Trump out in full force this final day. Vice President Mike Pence hitting Montana and South Dakota. The president's son, Don Junior, in West Virginia, Kentucky, both Carolinas and New York. Lara Trump hitting the trail in Florida.

Despite the show of force, White House officials have been telling the president, brace for Republican losses, especially in the House. That's according to multiple sources telling CNN.

Now, there's tension in the Republican ranks about the president's closing argument. Sources telling CNN, President Trump choosing to ignore calls to focus mostly on the roaring economy. Those calls coming from advisers both inside and outside the White House, including a conversation with the House speaker, Paul Ryan. The president tells them he believes immigration is the issue he needs to energize his supporters and blunt any blue wave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Last week I called up the United States military. We're not playing games, folks. There's no (INAUDIBLE). Because you look at what's marching up, that's an invasion. That's not -- that's an invasion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With me this election eve to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Seung Min Kim with "The Washington Post," Julie Pace with the "Associated Press," "Politico's" Eliana Johnson and Ron Brownstein with "The Atlantic."

Let's just go through this in the hour ahead and let's start with the president hitting the road. He thinks he's right. There are a lot of Republicans saying, sir, you've gone too far. You're over the top. We'll find out tomorrow.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "ASSOCIATED PRESS": We'll find out tomorrow. And it could actually be a split decision, though.

Trump is right in that that message that he's been pushing in the closing days of this campaign does resonate with a certain segment of the Republican electorate, but then there's this whole other segment, particularly in these districts that are going to determine which party controls the House, where Republicans are really worried, where they feel like if you are an independent voter who comes to lean Republican, if you're a more moderate Republican voter, you might be swayed on the economic arguments, but you're not going to be particularly swayed by immigration and you may even be turned off by the way the president has taken this from a broad -- more broad look at a caravan to this really, frankly, racially tinged rhetoric that he's been using.

RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE ATLANTIC": You know, frankly, I mean, having covered this a long time, this is the most open appeal to racial resentment since George Wallace by any national figure in either party. And George Wallace was never president.

You know, people focus on the idea that this is aimed at helping Republicans in the Senate, where they're competing mostly in these predominantly white, heavily rural interior states, rather than the House. But it -- I believe it's a form of triage in the House. It - as Julie's saying, it increases the risk for Republicans in the inner circle of their vulnerability, in these white collar districts around the major metropolitan areas, many of which were won by Hillary Clinton. He may be trying to draw a fire wall and basically say, OK, you don't go beyond that. We protect these rural and ex-urban (ph) districts by emphasizing this. He may be reducing the odds of Democrats getting to 45 seats, but increasing the odds of them getting to 25 seats. And I think it's like a tacit emission that Republicans cannot say -- or at least he cannot save the House in the places where it is most endangered.

KING: It --

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was just going to say, to underscore kind of the uneasiness from people like Speaker Paul Ryan and why they wanted to focus on the economic message is the reality of how close about two dozen of these races actually are in the House in particular. And the reality that over the course of the last three weeks, when the president's approval rating has been ticking up during the Kavanaugh fight and a little bit after that, they thought, this is great. If races are within one or two points in some of these districts with traditional Republican DNA, this can tip our way toward the end so long as the president doesn't do anything to drive his approval ratings back down. One or two points in a presidential approval rating in a Trump plus five or plus six district can make all of the difference in the world.

[12:05:03] And the concern right now you hear from House Republicans, or folks that are working on those campaigns, is that while this might be effective, to Ron's point, in certain Trump plus 13 or 14 districts, it's in those medium term districts that they thought they were heading in the right direction on that things might actually turn back the other way.

KING: And it is striking. We've seen this, look, from the Republican primaries, Donald Trump essentially engineered a hostile takeover of the Republican Party. Again, 16, 17 politicians with 190 something years of political experience. So this is not new.

But to the degree that you have the outgoing House speaker saying, we think we have a narrow chance to save the House, please talk more about the economy, the president says, no, immigration, because --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they all say speak about the economy. Speak about the economy. Well, we have the greatest economy in the history of our country. But sometimes it's not as exciting to talk about the economy, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: He is the most transparent president in that, you know, you -- sources say in these phone calls, well, you know, the president says they're calling me and telling me to talk about the economy. Eh.

ELIANA JOHNSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "POLITICO": And, John, you know, it's not just the economy versus immigration. The president is reverting to the host of issues that won him the 2016 election, which are immigration, the Supreme Court, and the attacks on the media. And Donald Trump and Paul Ryan could not be more different politicians, but I think Trump's victory in 2016 really spooked Republicans and made them think maybe Donald Trump knows the Republican base better than we did and it's not entitlement reform and tax cuts that really jazz Republican base voters. Trump is putting that to the test in 2018. And if he loses, that's a

risk gambit for him because I think Republicans may regain some of their confidence and may start to think, Donald Trump doesn't know our base voters as well as he claims to. And he's really put himself out on a limb by campaigning as much as he has and maintaining his own message against the advice of the speaker of the House.

KING: Well, that is one of the -- we focus on so much on, will the Democrats get to the 23 net they need in the House? Will the Republicans actually not only keep the Senate majority, is it possibly they could actually gain a seat or three? Is there any path for the Democrats to take the Senate? That's what we focus on. But there are -- we always talk every 25 years or so, is there some realignment going on in American politics. That's what the former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, who worked on Capitol Hill before that, veteran Republican, says, what it means to be Republican is being rewritten as we speak. Donald Trump has the pen and his handwriting isn't always very good.

The last part there is the tension in the Republican Party. To your point --

MATTINGLY: Yes.

KING: He sounds like George Wallace. A lot of Republicans are incredibly uncomfortable with that.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, just think of how much President Trump has upended these traditionally philosophical -- or Republican philosophies on so many issues. We're talking about tariffs. Trade has been one of the biggest tension points between these sort of classic Republicans on Capitol Hill and the president himself. And that's where a lot of the fights have come from. You know, he's perhaps taken some foreign policy -- or many foreign policy actions where Republicans on Capitol Hill have vehemently disagreed. But all of that doesn't seem to matter for the president. He sees what's working. It's these tack to the hardline base issues that he sees animating the supporters at his rallies where -- where the -- his people are incredibly excited and that's what he's just going to go -- come back to come over.

BROWNSTEIN: To Ari's point, though, I mean, what Trump is doing, and what he did in 2016 and what I think 2018 is going to put an exclamation point on, is he -- is he -- he is accelerating the demographic and geographic divides that have already been occurring.

Just take one example. In 2014 and 2010, Democrats ran about seven points better among college educated whites than non-college whites in House elections. In 2016, the first election with Trump, that roughly doubled to 13 points. In this election, in the CNN poll out today, NBC/"Wall Street Journal" yesterday, and ABC/"Washington Post" yesterday, in all three of them, Democrats are running 20 points better among college educated white than they are among non-college whites. They're now in the mid-50s or higher among college whites and that is -- and especially women, but not exclusively women. There are majorities among college men, which is really unprecedented. And that is the root of the Republican risk in all of these suburban areas where they're -- the maximum danger.

So Donald Trump may be energizing what he defines as the Republican base, but he is narrowing the Republican base. I mean he is -- under Donald Trump they are trading suburbs for rural, blue collar for white collar, younger for older. And that is a trade that many in the party think that even if it can work in the near term, you are betting on shrinking parts of the population.

KING: That's a cliff. That's a demographic cliff if you're driving off into the (INAUDIBLE).

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

PACE: But Trump doesn't care, right?

KING: Right.

PACE: I mean Trump believes only in what works for him and for his own re-election prospect and for getting the House or/and the Senate to possibly stay in Republican hands. He doesn't care about the long-term prospects of the Republican Party.

BROWNSTEIN: It's like a GM trading over minor leaguers just to win this year, yes.

KING: Is he -- a lot of people -- and sometimes this is part of the president's charm, if you will, if that's the right word, and sometimes people think it's part of, you know, his inexperience. Does he get what's about to happen? Does he get what a midterm year is? Does he get that this is not 2016? He thinks it is and he thinks he's going to prove us wrong.

[12:09:08] But I say that in the context of all these headlines. Look at Axios, the GOP's bad barbed wire bet. AP, everything's at stake on the eve of first Trump-era elections. Midterms test whether Republicans not named Trump can win by stoking racial animosity. Trump has hijacked the election. House Republicans in panic mode.

Wednesday morning, we will know and we will see. And we've seen -- you know, I've covered a lot of these and Bill Clinton had to say he was relevant. Barack Obama said he was shellacked. This is what happens to a first-term president almost always. Does the president understand what might be coming?

KIM: Well, he clearly knows that the House is in real danger. I mean he said it out loud at one of his rallies on Friday when he says the House -- it could happen that Republicans lose the House. I found it interesting he'll says -- even if Democrats win the House, he'll somehow figure it out. We're kind of waiting to see what he means by that.

But I think we've seen from his actions that if there is a, you know, a, quote, shellacking of Republicans on Wednesday, he is not the type of president to take responsibility in any way for political losses. And I think we saw a preview of that earlier last week when he saw -- when the president went after Paul Ryan over the dispute about birthright citizenship. I think that's a pretty clear hint as to where he's going to places the blame on Wednesday.

KING: Not going to be on him.

A lot more in the hour ahead, including some of the numbers we're talking about here. Some new numbers.

But before we go to break, a snapshot from the campaign trail. Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn rallying her base as she tries to edge out the former governor, Phil Bredesen, for the Tennessee Senate seat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE SENATE CANDIDATE: Do you want to vote no on Hillary Clinton and her cronies one more time? Stand with me. Let's win this election on Tuesday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:15:42] KING: Welcome back.

This is the map getting most of the attention on this Monday before Tuesday's big midterm election. Why? Because Democrats are poised within striking range of retaking the House, seizing the House majority from Republicans. That would complicate the Trump presidency.

We have, right now, 207 Democrats, solid, likely and lean. It's 218 for control. See the yellow? Thirty-one toss ups races. Why are Democrats poised to re-take the House? Thirty of these 31 toss up races currently held by Republicans. Republicans are on defense. Now, some new numbers to consider as we get right up to Election Day. A brand-new CNN poll out this morning gives Democrats a whopping 13- point advantage on the so-called generic ballot. Which party are you going to vote for when you go out tomorrow and vote for Congress. Or maybe you've already early voted. Thirteen points. That is a blue wave bordering on a blue tsunami.

If this holds up tomorrow, Democrats will take the House without a doubt. Democrats may get well in excess of 35 seats if that's true tomorrow. That number tomorrow would actually put the Senate in play. If there's a 13-point swing nationally tomorrow, that would put the Senate in play.

If you look at the NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, they have a more modest Democratic advantage in their numbers, plus seven. Still more than enough to give the Democrats striking range, fighting range, of the 23 seats they need, but not the blowout.

One other interesting thing, midterm elections are always about the president. If you do a poll of polls, average the CNN poll with the ABC poll and the "Wall Street Journal" poll and a couple others, the president, by average, 43 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove. Go back and look at where Bill Clinton was in 1994, George W. Bush, 2006, Barack Obama, 2010. This is about the same range. In all three of those, you did have midterm blowouts for the party opposed to the president.

We shall see if that comes. But as we noted, the president's back on the road. If you look at this, it tells you the Democrats are well- positioned to retake the House. If you listen to the president, he says, maybe, maybe not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're doing great in the House. I think we're doing great in the Senate. But, who knows, right? Who knows? You've got to get out to vote.

But I will say, there is an electricity in the air the likes of which I and you have not seen since the '16 election. And you don't hear so much about that big blue wave anymore. They may do fine. They may do fine. Who knows? But they -- you don't hear about the wave, the wave is coming. The wave is coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll find out tomorrow. But when you look at the numbers, what is striking, in our poll, which has the much bigger Democratic advantage, the response is indicated to our pollster that the big question, younger voters, minority voters, women voters are coming out to play. We'll find that -- we'll know tomorrow night as we see that. But if you get a non-midterm electorate, the Democrats do great. If you get a traditional midterm electorate, then it's more, you know, chess games in each of these district.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and I --

PACE: I think there's no doubt that Democrats have significant enthusiasm on their side. I mean we have seen that through the whole year. There's no reason to think that has changed late in this campaign. I think the unknown, very similar to - in 2016 is whether there is this other cohort of voters that haven't either shown up in polls or don't -- don't look as enthusiastic on the surface as they actually are. And even if they're enthusiastic, if they're still willing to show up to the polls, which is what Trump is counting on.

But certainly whether there is a blue wave or not, Democrats are heading into this election with a lot of enthusiasm on his side.

JOHNSON: But I think that's what you see the president specifically trying to address. He's wanted to be on the campaign trail and today his campaign schedule, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana. Those were states that were once the typical sort of toss up states but are increasingly red territory. He want to get in front of voters who vote in presidential elections but may not get out for midterm elections. They are his base voters in 2016. He's worried they won't come out. And he is trying to gin up their enthusiasm.

BROWNSTEIN: But there is a price for that. But there is an obviously price for that, which is measured in the fact that Republicans are facing the greatest risk, precisely in the places that are doing the best in this thriving economy. Meaning the defining, as I said before, the defining kind of number in this poll is this unprecedented gap between college educated whites, who are now indicating a much stronger preference for Democrats than before, especially women, almost certainly going to see the highest Democratic number ever among college educated women. But Democrats, even or ahead in the CNN poll among college educated men, who usually vote under 40 percent Democratic in midterm elections. And that does create the possibility for a bifurcated result where Trump is locking in, I think, what could be an extended Republican erosion in these white collar suburbs around growing metro areas, not only along the coast, but potentially all -- you know, we're looking at Kansas City, potentially Atlanta, potentially Houston, potentially Dallas. And that is the price of what he is doing to kind of gin up both in the rural states and in the small town House districts, that blue collar -- that blue collar base of his.

[12:20:35] KING: So you look for clues at the end. Often wave elections or big midterm elections, sometimes they break late. Normally, if there's a wave, they break for one party. So you're looking for clues, right?

NBC/Marist polls in the Florida races. Both Florida races, for Senate and for governor, 50-46. The Democrat at 50, the Republican at 46. That's a little bit of movement towards the Democrats. Indiana and Missouri Senate races, we've seen a little bit of movements toward the Democrats. They're still very close races, but the late movement is going toward the Democrats, whether you're looking at Florida, whether you're looking at those mid-western states.

And so if you're a Democrat you're thinking, is it coming? And if you're the president, you're hoping now this -- keep it really close and DNA comes into play that Rick Scott can be down a little bit.

The question -- let -- go back to Rick Scott to dwell on this. Bill Nelson 50, Rick Scott, 46. Rick Scott twice just barely won election for governor in Republican years. This is a Democratic year. In Republican years he was down one both years in the last public polls, down one point. He's down four here. The question is, where's the win? Is he -- in a Republican year you win when you're down a little bit. In a Democratic year, you lose.

MATTINGLY: There's no question about it, the electorate make up is enormous and how do you match enthusiasm that we've all seen when we've been on the campaign trail with who actually comes out particularly in a midterm.

I think the other important point here too is, in elections like this, in midterms like this, traditionally you see people breaking late towards the opposition party. And I think that's perhaps what Democrats are seizing onto right now hoping that that's an explain for what you've seen maybe in the NBC poll today and what could happen.

But I also think it's important to -- maybe we haven't done a great job of explaining the context of what a wave would actually mean in this election. This is not 2010. You're not going to see 65 seats flip. It's just -- and that's because of the map. It's where the battles are being fought, particularly in the House. It's a very, very different election than 2010 where you had a bunch of Democrats sitting in seats that they won in 2008 in clear red districts, in clear Republican seats and they all got wiped out because everybody went back and reverted back. That's not this election.

I think the definition of a wave is very open to interpretation right now. But if you're seeing Democrats take the majority and maybe moving up to 30 or 35 seats, that's wave territory because of where they're winning, (INAUDIBLE) breaking --

KING: And especially if -- especially if they're flipping a lot of the governor's races as well as you go through this.

MATTINGLY: Exactly.

KING: I just want to, as we zoom onto this. I just want to -- just so you're -- again, you're looking for clues, right? This is from "The New York Times" polling. They've done a great job looking at some of these House races. Andy Barr versus Amy McGrath. This is Kentucky, 6th congressional district. This is one of the bellwethers. If you want to look at one or two races, watch this Kentucky race. Should be a Republican district. The president went there. It's a dead heat, right?

So, again, is it a Democratic year or a Republican year? Amy McGrath needs the wind at her back on election day to pull that one out.

Virginia 7th, a Republican district, 46 for the Republican, 44 for Abigail Spanberger, the Democrat. Again, if it's a Democratic day tomorrow, being down two is OK because the energy and the enthusiasm pulls you over the finish line. If it's not, you just lose.

BROWNSTEIN: This "New York Times"/CNN polling has been great. And it is a Rorschach test at the end because essentially it is the same poll over and over and over again. You have two dozen races where you have essentially a dead heat, one or two points, but a Republican incumbent at roughly 45 a few days before the election. John, we've been both doing this a while. We were brought up that if you're the incumbent and you're at 45 this close to the election, you are more likely to lose than win.

KING: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: And the private Democratic polling is the same thing. I'm told they have two dozen Republican incumbents under 47. How many of them get over the line in districts with, as Phil points out, Republican DNA versus the historical likelihood that most of the undecided this close break against the devil they know.

KING: Exactly, break against.

In the campaigns, this is the last day, everyone's out there. You're going to see a lot of speeches. Most of the campaigns have a pretty good sense. They have a list. They know who's voted early. They know there are other supporters out there. They're doing their math today. Watch the body language if you have somebody campaigning in your district, including in Virginia this hour. Former President Obama campaigning with Democratic House candidate Jennifer Wexton. Who gets top billing?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER WEXTON (D), VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to repeal and replace Barbara Comstock. You have to excuse me because I'm still a little bit odd right now to be standing next to Tim Kaine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:29:11] KING: President Trump, today, making good on a long-term promise, imposing what he calls the strongest sanctions ever imposed by the United States on Iran. The administration is not only reinstating all of the penalties lifted back when the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was signed, it says it will also add 700 additional targets. The full list includes individuals, banks, vessels, aircrafts and Iran's energy sector.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime to the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East and indeed around the world. Our ultimate goal is to convince the regime to abandon its current revolutionary course.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: If they try to evade our sanctions, we will take action to disrupt their activity time and time again. The maximum pressure exerted by the United States is only going to mount from here. Companies around the world need to know we will be strictly enforcing our sanctions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now there is an important loophole.