Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Emphasizes Obama's Name; Midterms Hinge on Independent Voters; Final Push in California and Arizona; Trump's Approval Slips. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 5, 2018 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Was in Indiana here. If it wasn't there, it was another one of these states, red states, that he's been campaigning in. So listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's no surprise that Joe Donnelly is holding a rally this weekend with Barack H. Obama. Barack Obama.


BERMAN: What do you hear there?

SEN. DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA: Well, I hear a lot of things. And I think there's a little dog whistle politics in there, too. But I think that that is just an effort to rouse up the president's base, the most far right of the base, the ones that -- all the anti-immigrant, anti- immigration, all of this stuff resonates with those folks. It's for that crowd.

But it doesn't resonate with the majority of the people in the state of Indiana. I think that we have moved beyond that. And I hate the dog whistle politics that the president keeps using. But the fact is, he's got that base that he's going to play to, to try to rev them up.

But I'm going to tell you something, Joe Donnelly's got his base, too. He's very strong. I was up there a few weeks ago and his base is out there and they know Joe is for them. That he's going to be there for them and continue to be there for them.

BERMAN: Let me ask you two Alabama based questions, if I can. We haven't covered (INAUDIBLE) issues all too much in this election because there's so much else to cover around the country.

JONES: Right.

BERMAN: But there's a measure in Alabama which would allow buildings to post the Ten Commandments. Is this a measure you support?

JONES: It's -- no, it's not. It's really a messaging measure that a Republican-controlled legislature tried to pass just to gin things up. If you read the language in that measure, it really doesn't do anything because it basically says, we've got to follow the law. Well, the law is pretty clear right now in how things go when it comes to religious monuments and things like that. So the state can't spend any money. It's just purely political messaging. And that's been part of the problem that we've got now.

We've gotten away from the real kitchen table issues, away from health care, away from jobs and we start talking about the issues that Republicans have tried to divide us on for so, so many years and have been successful. And so, no, I'm not going to support that. I think it's purely something that is going to play to the far right base.

BERMAN: And my last question having to do with Alabama -- yes, well I suppose it's Alabama if you consider "Talladega Nights" Alabama. Let me play a political ad that you have appeared in. Watch this.


JONES: I'm here with my friend, Rickie Bobby, right here, telling everybody, get out to vote November 6th.

Isn't that right, Rickie?

WILL FARRELL, ACTOR: That's right. Just remember, I piss excellence and I crap freedom. If you don't vote first, you're last.

JONES: You're last.

Vote November 6th.

FARRELL: Vote November 6th.

JONES: All right.

FARRELL: All right.


BERMAN: Now, that freedom message he was sending there, do you endorse that message, senator?

JONES: Let me tell -- let me tell you something, what I endorse is the fact that we've got to get out the vote. Everybody knows that that is a character of Will Ferrell. Will is one of the funniest guys I've ever met in my life. It was a character. It's was a parody. Everybody knows that. We were having some fun.

But the message is there. And the message is, you know, vote. Get out to vote. Everyone needs to get out to vote.

Right now we've got bad weather coming in, in parts of the south. We want everybody to get out to vote. We have still a problem in this country where we don't have enough participation, in part because people are keeping them from participating.

But that's the message. And that's what people have, the smile on their face, and they're going to get out to vote. BERMAN: Look, I know you say he does parody, but I've seen "Anchorman"

and I know that's not a parody.

Doug Jones, senator from Alabama, thanks for being with us. I appreciate it.

JONES: Thank you, John.

CAMEROTA: That's an autobiography to you.

All right, we are following some breaking news now because the Treasury Department has just announced that the U.S. is reinstating all sanctions on Iran. Those were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran's president is vowing to continue selling oil, breaking what he calls the, quote, unjust sanctions by the Trump administration.

In a new interview with "USA Today," Iran's top diplomat says Tehran would be open to new talks with the U.S. if the Trump administration has a different approach to diplomacy.

BERMAN: All right, Republicans and Democrats have at least one thing in common in tomorrow's midterms, they both need independent voters to win. A CNN "Reality Check," that's next.


[08:38:14] CAMEROTA: The first polls open in just hours. Independent voters, of course, will be the deciding factor in tomorrow's midterm election.

So CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon has an independent "Reality Check" for us.

Hi, John.


So, as independent go, so goes the election. And as evidence, let's look at the last two midterms that were widely considered waves. In 2006, Democrats won independent voters by 18 points, 57 to 39 percent. Fast forward to the Tea Party year in 2010, Republicans won independents by 19 points, 56 to 37.

So, it's clear that Americans who feel political homeless hold on to the balance of power in our politics. In the brand new CNN poll out this morning shows that independent voters breaking for Democrats in this year's midterms, 53 to 39 percent, a 14-point gap. That's significant, though slightly less than independent margin from wave elections in 2006 and 2010.

Now, the stakes are high. As GOP pollster Glen Bolger recent tweeted, it's not clear why the Republicans have, quote, solved our problem with independent voters, and that will be the difference between winning and losing in close races. Here's why. For all of Washington's obsession with play to the base politics, independent voters are the largest segment of the electorate. While Republicans and Democrats have around 30 percent, self-identified independent voters have averaged more than 40 percent in 2018. And according to the University of Virginia Center for Politics, there are ten states where registered independent voters outnumber registered Democrats or Republicans, including crucial swing state of Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire.

Now, in an election that Trump has described as a referendum on his presidency, his approval rating among independents is 39 percent, providing the balance between the 39 percent of Republicans who support him and the 4 percent of Democrats who do.

But take a look at the gender gap with independents. Trump's support among male independent is 48 percent. Among female independent voters, it's a dismal 26 percent. And as the two parties become more polarized, independents tend to rise.

[08:40:04] But Trump has come to symbolize bitter partisanship and instability in our politics. In addition, swings of past midterm wave elections have shown that independent voters like divided government. So we'll find out tomorrow night whether that trend continues for independent voters who are looking for more checks and balances in Washington.

And that's your "Reality Check."

BERMAN: That gender gap there is really interesting.

CAMEROTA: It is. I hadn't seen it broken down that way.

BERMAN: Just 28 percent of independent women. Says a lot.

CAMEROTA: Twenty-six, 28, 26.

BERMAN: Thank you. Thank you for that "Reality Check."

AVLON: You got it.

CAMEROTA: "Reality Check." A fact check on the "Reality Check."

Democratic and Republican candidates locked in tight races are pulling out all the stops in these final hours. They're getting help from some heavy hitters.

CNN's Kyung Lah live in Scottsdale, Arizona, with more.



At this point of the election cycle, they have made their arguments, the candidates, that is. They are done trying to convince voters. At this point, it's now just about getting them to the ballot box.


LAH (voice over): Only hours left in the battle for southern California's 45th District. KATIE PORTER (D), CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Are you ready

for a representative who fights for you?

LAH: Democratic Challenger Katie Porter is rallying her troops.

PORTER: Senator Kamala Harris.

LAH: With some senatorial star power in a U.S. House race too close to call.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (R), CALIFORNIA: We need our strongest soldiers on the field.

LAH: With just one last weekend, volunteers are grabbing clipboards, pounding the pavement, hitting houses, like Democratic volunteer Jennifer Koh and her seven-year-old son, Quincy.

LAH (on camera): Do you feel that this last push by you is going to make a difference?

JENNIFER KOH, VOLUNTEER: I mean, I'm going to do what I can, you know? I don't want to have any regrets. I don't want to see the election go the other way and see the other candidate win and think that I could have done a little bit of something this weekend to make that difference.

REP. MIMI WALTERS (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you. Tell all your friends. Thanks, a lot.

LAH (voice over): Republican Congresswoman Mimi Walters is not just on defense, but offense, to save her job and keep this district red.

LAH (on camera): Is it a fast and furious fight to try to convince those last holdouts?

WALTERS: You have to work really hard for every single vote. Every vote counts. And so what we're doing is we are making contact with every single voter and making sure that those people who support me turn out to the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name's Scott. I volunteer at the Congressional Leadership Fund. And we're just calling voters --

LAH (voice over): Republican volunteers arrive early.

LAH (on camera): The number of people we're looking at here is pretty surprising, given that it's 10:00 a.m. --


LAH: 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday.


LAH: And you have young people up. ALEXANDER: Yes. They're -- there's a lot of enthusiasm. And we've seen

that in our offices across the country. And that's what's leading to those 30 million voter contacts in an election cycle.

LAH (voice over): In this last weekend, get out the vote means get to the people, especially in toss-up races. Arizona Senate candidate Martha McSally --


LAH: Is serving her closing message with pancakes. She's locked in a tight race with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, one of the states in the battle for control of the Senate.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a very important election.

LAH: Both parties are sending out their heavy hitters, crisscrossing the country. The president hit Georgia for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There have got to be consequences when people don't tell the truth.

LAH: In Indiana, former President Obama campaigned with Democrat Joe Donnelly. A marathon midterm season finishing with one final sprint.

LAH (on camera): There's so many races that are too close to call. What is it going to take to push it over the finish line?

HARRIS: It's going to take people getting out to vote. This election cycle, what I'm experiencing is that people realize that they actually have to vote if they want to influence the outcome.


LAH: And I'm in the state of Arizona. And in this state one of the tightest races is the Senate race, the U.S. Senate race. It is still too close to call. In part because one-third of the registered voters in this state are independents. Alisyn, that's what we are seeing in this last 24 hours, the emphasis of the get out the vote effort.


CAMEROTA: Makes sense, Kyung. We just heard from John Avlon that they will be the deciding factor. And to quote John Berman, you must vote.

BERMAN: No, I said it all comes down to turnout.

CAMEROTA: It really does.

BERMAN: It all comes down to turnout.

CAMEROTA: After all of the political battles, it all comes down to turnout. BERMAN: It's so interesting, though, and she's in Arizona, there are a handful of Senate races, and governors races, really could go either way. Right at a knife's edge.

CAMEROTA: All right, that's why we will be here extra early tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, this new CNN poll shows something that we've not seen since the Eisenhower administration.

BERMAN: Poodle skirts?

CAMEROTA: We get the -- that's the '50s -- we get "The Bottom Line" with Doris Kearns Goodwin and David Axelrod, next.


[08:48:54] BERMAN: A new CNN poll has President Trump's approval rating slipping two points to 39 percent ahead of tomorrow's pivotal midterm elections. This is the worst pre-midterm approval rating for any president since Eisenhower.

So let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN's senior political commentator and host of "The Axe Files," David Axelrod, and presidential historian and author of "Leadership in Turbulent Times," Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Doris, I want to talk to you for historical perspective here. Thirty- nine percent, that's low.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: That is low. I mean midterm elections are usually about discontent, not even about the economy. And the approval rating of the president is a measure of that discontent.

I mean, think about it, in 1966, the economy was growing at 6.6 percent, but there was discontent with Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War and civil rights. In 1942, my favorite, the Great Depression is finally over. President Roosevelt is in office, but there's discontent with rationing and, in fact, they -- three days before the election they said you could only have one cup of coffee a day. Out go the Democrats. In 19 -- in 2010, the economy is coming back with President Obama, but there's discontent with health care and with big government. Same thing in 1994 when Clinton loses, even though he's thought to bring the economy back.

[08:50:05] So I think what President Trump is doing is trying to rouse discontent through the manufacturer of the caravan so that his people will be mad enough to come, even though they own the Congress, the House, you know, the Supreme Court, they've got the government, but he has to have discontent.

CAMEROTA: That is such a fascinating perspective, David, because then that belies the old James Carville, it's just the economy, stupid, because if it were just the economy --

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, remember, when James Carville said that, he was running an insurgent candidacy against an incumbent president. These midterm elections are a referendum on the incumbent. And that's why that number that you showed is important.

The difference in this election is, the president has some guardrails in that the Senate map is so hostile to Democrats that it prevents major losses there and the House is so redistricted and we're so partisanized now that there are limits to what Democrats can do. So he's insulated in that way.

But I agree with Doris completely. And the truth is, whatever you think of what the president has done, he has rallied his base. And the question is, those independent voters, who John Avlon was talking about a little earlier, how are they reacting to his closing act and will he drive some of them away?

BERMAN: The evidence so far is that they don't love it. That's what we're seeing in the polls.


BERMAN: We'll see what happens tomorrow night.

David and Doris, can I just read you, Dan Balz, -- a reporter whom I revere, wrote yesterday the framing of this election, he says it's about something elemental. What kind of country Americans see today and what they want to see in the future.

AXELROD: Yes. Well, I -- look, we are a deeply divided country. And, you know, that is very, very clear. The president is talking to half the country, hoping that that will be enough to carry the day. But the other half, as Doris said, that people voted against the rationing of coffee. I think there are a lot of people who wish -- who wish the president would drink a little less of it, down a little. And there's some exhaustion about him and discontent with the style of leadership, which has come to the fore in this campaign.

So, we are deeply divided country. And you could see it also in the campaigning that President Obama's been doing versus the campaigning that President Trump has been doing, vastly different messages, different visions of the country. It will be interesting to see what the verdict is tomorrow.

GOODWIN: You know, and I think that discontent with the style was escalated after the Jewish synagogue killings, after the bombing plot, after the Khashoggi thing. You really wanted somebody to unite us at that point and to talk about, let's ratchet down this terrible, toxic culture that we've got. And, instead, he escalated it. So I think that's when it began to be even more (INAUDIBLE.

But the thing is, he's only happy when he's fighting. I mean even the other day he said, you know, the economy, you know, that's not very interesting. You've got to be out there fighting. (INAUDIBLE).

CAMEROTA: Not very exciting. I mean that's his actual quote. People want me to talk about the economy but it's not very exciting. So, in other words, he thinks that stoking the toxicity is more exciting.

GOODWIN: And I think that's what gets him going. That's who he is. And the question I think on the independents part and women's part and a lot of other people's part, do we want to keep having a country where we wake up every day to some new breaking news that some new escalation of the division? I think people are so hungry right now to be brought together and to ratchet this down and begin to solve the problems of the country.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, your former boss, President Obama, has been out on the trail. How do you assess what he has been saying? Because it is sharply critical of the current president --


BERMAN: Which is something -- and we can talk to Doris about this too -- that you rarely see from a former president.

AXELROD: First of all, I think he's -- it's cathartic for him because he hasn't -- he's been trying to be restrained for the last couple of years. What I sense is he's getting a lot of things off his chest right now. But also remember what his role is out there. We're in a mobilization time in the campaign. He's not out there to persuade. He's out there to give a sense of urgency to people who respond to him, to get out and vote tomorrow. So, yes, there is -- there is an edge to what he's doing. And, you know, we'll see if it achieves his purpose.

CAMEROTA: But historically speaking, Doris, this is -- I mean you tell us it's unprecedented -- to have the most recent president campaigning against the current president and the current president campaigning so much for a midterm election.

GOODWIN: Well, in recent years there's been this sort of gentleman's club thinking about it, obviously. So Mr. Bush said, I'm not going to speak anything about my predecessor. But right from the beginning, President Trump called President Obama a bad, sick guy. So there's been a lot of going back and forth. He's been waiting, I think, for President Obama to come out.

But go back in history when Teddy Roosevelt was running against Taft, his former president, his great friend, he called him a puzzle whit (ph). You know, he did have the brains of a pinhead. All sorts of things were said at that time.

So, in our past, and even President Carter, at one point, said President Bush's foreign policy was the worst in history, and then he had to walk it back. But this is unusual to see. Everything's unprecedented. Everything's ratcheted up right now. So they're both out there, dueling presidents.

[08:55:01] BERMAN: It is odd, although, as you know, Teddy Roosevelt did run against Taft, the guy that he had sort of hand-picked there.

GOODWIN: Right. Right. BERMAN: Axe, Democrats, we have a poll out today, which shows them with a 13-point edge going into the election tomorrow. You know, the poll doesn't matter right now. What matters is what people are going to do to vote tomorrow. But as a guy who's spent your life trying to get Democrats elected, how do you think they read that?

AXELROD: Very positively. Look, I think there's -- you know, Democrats are a little bit timid about any projections after 2016, but what you sense on both sides is a feeling that this thing has tipped a little bit in the final weekend. And so you see Democrats sort of raising their expectations a little, Republicans dampening expectations a little.

These poll numbers are important. But what's most important is the feedback they're getting in the precincts and that feedback is that, you know, Democrats can have a pretty good day tomorrow, not just in the House races, but governorships, which are going to be essential on redistricting and on the presidential race in 2020.

CAMEROTA: We shall see.

BERMAN: David Axelrod, Doris Kearns Goodwin, great to have you here in the studio. Thank you very, very much.

CAMEROTA: Good to have you as well. And that's so much.

BERMAN: We are, what, 24 hours away.

CAMEROTA: Yes, and we're on extra early tomorrow morning, 5:00 a.m. Set your alarm clocks.

BERMAN: We've got a full day of electioneering ahead of us. Stay tuned.


[08:59:57] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, it is Monday morning and a busy one. We're coming to you from Washington. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A lot happening. Tomorrow's a big day. I'm Jim Sciutto in Washington.