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INSIDE POLITICS

Republicans Fight to Keep Control of Senate; Florida Senate Race Could Have Historic Finish; U.S. Economy Booming As Americans Vote in Midterms; Trump Hints At Cabinet Shake-up After Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 6, 2018 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We talked a bit earlier about Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly in the tough climate.

Look at the map this way. We currently at 49 Republicans, 45 Democrats. That means those not up for re-election this year plus this year's races. Republicans think they'll hang onto Texas, Republicans think they're going to flip North Dakota and defeat a Democrat incumbent there.

Democrats think they will see what the results are. Democrats think Jon Tester will hold onto Montana. If that plays out that way, six toss up states. Under that scenario, all the Republicans would have to do is hold Tennessee. If Marsha Blackburn holds Bob Corker seat, that would give the Republicans 50, the vice president could break a 50-50 tie.

Republicans thinks they can do business in these other states. Don't get me wrong but they have an easier way to block a Democratic majority. Democrats would have to run this board. They would have to run the board with the toss ups or defy us in history. Maybe Heidi Heitkamp holds on but it's a much harder task for the Democrats.

In the final days, we have seen though some trending in the public polls in Missouri and Indiana and New Jersey where Bob Menendez shouldn't have a race, but he had some ethics issues and had a race. One late poll though shows him breaking away.

Some trending towards the Democrats here. The problem for Democrats is the public polls show a Blackburn lead in Tennessee. But, we're about to count the votes, we'll see how this one plays out. McCaskill's opponent in Missouri kind of a predictable strategy here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSH HAWLEY (R), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: Senator McCaskill has spent a lifetime in politics just like Hillary. Senator McCaskill has made a boatload in federal money just like Hillary. Senator McCaskill voted for amnesty just like Hillary. Senator McCaskill is for open borders just like Hillary.

Senator McCaskill said that we all ought to call Hillary madam president. Well, tomorrow, tomorrow, we're going to call Senator McCaskill fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: These Trump state races are fascinating. When it comes to Claire McCaskill trying to hold on, she's been interesting in recent days saying she agrees with the president. Troops at the border is OK, stop the caravan, that's OK.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's the exact message I heard from Josh Hawley last night. But also Thursday night in Columbia, my question is why isn't working more in Missouri that is so deep red now. He has called Senator McCaskill Hillary repeatedly. It seemed to be a very tight race.

Talking -- I did not think that I would spend the final rally of the campaign in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where President Trump won by 74 percent of the vote in that county. (INAUDIBLE) blew it 76 percent of the votes. They need to turn out Trump voters.

So whenever you're going to the base, I mean, obviously this isn't a persuasion point at the campaign. I mean, it's a motivation. But I'm surprised he's not up more with that.

KING: Is it because of this? If you look at the -- our own CNN poll, Republicans have a six-point advantage on the economy, Democrats have an 18-point advantage when you talk about healthcare. And Josh Hawley has some ad saying, hey, I'm for protecting people with pre-existing conditions but he's one of the state's attorneys general who has sued to repeal ObamaCare and to take away the protection for pre-existing conditions?

Is that why?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a huge reason why. It's remarkable to see the shift in a politics of ObamaCare. When Claire McCaskill was running in 2012, she was not embracing the healthcare a lot of the way she is today. And that's not just her, but Democrats across the board and Republicans. If they do lose some key seats, it could be very well because of this issue.

But broadly speaking, when we talked to Democrats in the beginning of this cycle, they would have thought that McCaskill would be essentially gone by Election Day. The fact that she has a fighting chance to win shows that the Republican gains very well could be limited tonight, even though the map is disastrous when you look at just the sheer map for the Democrats. It's disastrous. They could -- at the beginning of the cycle, we thought they could pick up several seats and the Republicans, they could -- 55, 56 perhaps.

Now we're talking maybe one seat, maybe two seats which is still be a good night for the Republicans but probably not as good as we thought it would be.

KING: We'll see what happens in Nevada, Democrats think that could be a pick up. We'll see what happens in Arizona, that's a 50-50 race. Democrats think it could possibly be a pick up. Another one you mentioned, we talked about Indiana, we talked about Missouri. Republicans were thrilled to get Governor Rick Scott to run in Florida. And they thought this is our guy, he can sell fund, he's won two tough gubernatorial elections, I would note just barely in Republican years.

May not be as strong as they thought he was. Listen to Rick Scott who many Republicans thought would blow Bill Nelson out. Bill Nelson has the advantage in the end. Rick Scott says, no, no, don't do that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: There's a clear choice. If you want lower taxes, you should support me. If you want more money going to Washington, D.C., you support Bill Nelson. If you want somebody who wants to got show up and do work everyday, get results, I'll do it. My opponent is been around for 42 years, never got anything done.

I know how to get the jobs going. We've added 1.6 million jobs. I'm a business guy. The only job my opponent is focused on is one, his.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMY WALTER, NATIONAL EDITOR, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: It sort of funny to watch -- Rick Scott is one of the Republicans who wanted to actually localize the race, right? Make it not about Washington, don't make it about Trump, don't make it about Hillary Clinton. Make it about the fact that my opponent's been in Washington a whole long time, I've been a governor and actually have done as good job, a good approval ratings.

[12:35:10] Hurricanes come, I do a good job with the things that really people care about. And let's talk about that stuff.

Instead, the president comes down and makes it all about, right, do you like me, do you not like me? And it makes it really hard to then to pull back and make the race about the things that he does want to talk about which is, let's have more focus on Bill Nelson, less on President Trump.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST AND POLLSTER: And from a polling perspective, Florida is my home state. I talked to a lot of folks back there. I'm hearing that there's a difference between the public polling that shows this is a race that at this point sort of favors Bill Nelson by a couple of points where they're seeing much closer races and internal polls. So whether the polls are right, I'm watching Florida to find out where -- are we going to have surprises where Republicans over performed the public polling expectation.

KING: It'd be interesting to watch because again, Scott won gubernatorial elections twice in big Republican years just barely, against weak Democratic opponents. So I think at some point his powers -- his strength as a candidate I think might have been overrated by Republicans too.

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: You know, one other point. I mean, we're talking about Senate races, House races, gubernatorial races down the ballot, legislative races there, a lot of chambers that folks on the left are trying to flip in Florida and some other states. There are some places the chambers have gone back and forth. Some places, there's a real chance. Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin. So that is another thing to watch, that very much is dependent on what happens at the top of the ticket and the enthusiasm on each side.

KING: And it's a fascinating to that point. To me though, Wisconsin race in and of itself is fascinating. Scott Walker (INAUDIBLE) we'll see happens with this three percent unemployment. Three percent unemployment in the state of Wisconsin and he's got a race. That's not just Trump. Some of that (INAUDIBLE) a two-term governor, people want change, this is what we had when Republican governors (INAUDIBLE). We shall see, we had a great night.

Up next, we look at the economy as an issue and we visit some polling places. And please, please, if you're watching, listen here. If you haven't voted yet, think it doesn't matter, here's a little advice from a hero.

Army Major Brent Taylor of North Ogden, Utah was killed over the weekend in Afghanistan. The Utah National Guard member was the mayor of North Ogden away on his fourth tour of duty. His widow, you see the images, is at Dover air base overnight for the solemn ceremony and then taking time at her moment of grief to note the timing, Election Day, and to remind us of the major and the mayor's last Facebook post.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIE TAYLOR, WIDOW OF U.S. ARMY MAJOR BRENT TAYLOR: Brent himself put it best just days ago when he implored of us all, I hope everyone back home exercises their precious right to vote. And whether the Republicans or the Democrats win, I hope that we all remember that we have far more as Americans that unites us than divides us. May God forever bless America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:42:11] KING: Some live pictures here of ballot workers in Phoenix, Arizona. A big Senate race there, other races as well. Democracy at work.

Now the president on the campaign trail, he said the economy is boring he says that's why he resists advice from other Republicans to talk much more about the economy. Republicans wish he had closed on the economy. Our Christine Romans is here with numbers that if you were running for office, you'd want to talk about.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Hi John. The president may not think it's exciting to talk about the U.S. economy but the fact is, the economy is booming. Will that influence voters today?

Here are five charts to keep in mind as people head to the polls. First, the unemployment rate here, 3.7 percent, that is a 49-year low here. The jobless rate isn't below four percent for months. At the same time, the U.S. economy added a quarter million jobs in October alone. That means the labor market is strong and tight which should lead to wage increases, higher wages.

They've been sort of missing here during the recovery until now. We saw in October, wages grew 3.1 percent, that is now the strongest growth since the financial crisis. Good news for workers, but investors worry that higher cost will cut into company's record setting profits.

I wouldn't feel bad for stock investors though at the moment. Despite a rough October, stocks are up more than 25 percent since the election. Solid gains, but let me give you a little context. The S&P 500 since 2009 is up more than 300 percent. That's the whole rally but this is just the latest rise there. That's Trump bump right there, the tail end of a nine-year-old bull market.

Now, not all Americans, John own stocks but almost everyone drives a car. So this is that economic indication we always talk about heading into Election Day in the voting booth. Gas prices are near four-year highs.

You can blame bottle oil prices or higher price at the pump. They've been largely on the rise thanks to oil sanctions on Iran. Those went into effect yesterday and Iran is the world's fourth largest producer of oil.

Overall, a fairly rosy picture, right on the economy but take a look at this last chart. Something you don't hear people talking about in Washington right now. The federal deficit, $779 billion this year, the highest in six years. Typically, John, deficits shrink as you know during boom times, but those big tax cuts for companies, huge new defense spending have the U.S. spending way more than it takes in.

John?

KING: Christine Romans, appreciate the numbers. Republicans control everything in Washington, the deficit is going up. Not the world I grew up in, but things do change.

So how are the economic numbers playing out on the campaign trail? Our Brian Todd, live at a polling station in Sterling, Virginia, a Republican-held congressional district Democrats hope to pick up tonight.

Brian, I'm assuming Barbara Comstock would like the president to talk more about the economy. What do the voters say?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She would, John because she needs that to hold on to her seat. But the voters are saying that it's important to them as well.

[12:45:00] And in this county especially, one of the fastest growing and most affluent counties in the United States, the economy is always a big factor in the election. Part of the reason is because the influence of tech sector employees over the past 10 years, they've grown in voter roles here. About 76,000 registered voters over 10 years ago.

And the gentleman I'm about to talk to right now, Grant Gibbons is 34- years-old, he's lived in the county for about 10 years. Grant, you and I talked about this. You work in the tech sector here in Loudoun County. What part of the economy is especially important to you? You mentioned wages.

GRANT GIBBONS, 34-YEAR-OLD VOTER IN VIRGINIA: Yes. One of the things I think is important is the right to be able to choose your wage. I have a cousin right now who's trying to find a job and he's unable to. Even though we have a strong economy, there's still people out there that can't find jobs. And he's just coming out of high school and especially for some of the younger people, it's hard to get that first job to gain your experience. So that leads me to be against a mandatory minimum wage.

TODD: And do you feel that the candidates haven't spoken enough about issues like that?

GIBBONS: It's not in Virginia hasn't been something that has been a big issue. It's a little bit you have to project a little bit on what you think that they would go with because it is definitely a large national issue. And as we're voting for our Congress person, a federal minimum wage would be on a national level.

TODD: All right, Grant, thank you very much for talking to us. Good luck to you and your friends trying to get those jobs out of high school and out of college. It's a big factor here, John, a lot of young people moving into this county over the past 10 years.

You know, it's interesting, in 2011 they had 70 voting precincts in this county, right now, they have 98. It is an incredibly fast growing county and that's one of the reasons that makes this suburban sector of the voting populists in Northern Virginia just so crucial especially in this 10th voting district in Virginia where Barbara Comstock is really fighting to hold onto her set against Jennifer Wexton.

KING: It is going to be one of the big stories tonight, not just in Northern Virginia but across the country. What do America's growing suburbs say to the president?

Brian Todd, appreciate you out there talking to voters. We'll count the votes later tonight.

Up next for us, the morning after. There will be no post election lull. The special counsel will be back in business.

A big administration shake-up is in the works.

And both parties have to settle fights over their leaders in the House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [12:51:28] KING: We're always happy on election days but we won't be sure of the big election winners and losers for several more hours. We do know this, the morning after will bring more than the inevitable post-election blame game and finger-pointing. There's a cabinet shake-up, staff shake-op brewing at the White House. Possibly including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Administrations may changes usually after midterms and probably will be right in that category, too. I think it's very customary. And for the most part, I love my cabinet. We have some really talented people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, once the last polls close, Special Counsel Robert Mueller free of election time restrictions. There's a looming year-end government spending fight including, will the president get his border wall money and of course, both parties will have to work out their leadership battles in the House of Representatives.

I'll start with this. I covered the Clinton White House in 1994, for those of you who covered the White House today is your slow day.

ZELENY: No doubt about it. And that cabinet shake-up is something that has been looming out there for a long time so -- we have a story that today on cnn.com kind of talking about all this. The key people to watch, Jeff Sessions of course but also Defense Secretary Mattis. He says he is staying, but a top White House official told me this, no one leaves very quickly around here. Even people the president wishes were gone.

So even though there is a sense of urgency, you know, it takes a while to sort of shift the furniture. But there is going to be a shift at the White House without a doubt. The president is much more in command of the job at least as he sees it. So look for a cabinet shake-up. And the Mueller stuff, that's a whole -- I mean, a whole different kind of effect.

KING: All right, is that -- do we think he understands, he's been quiet about this because Mueller and the southern district of New York, (INAUDIBLE) have investigations. Just some of the headlines in recent days. A New York magazine on Sunday, "Mueller's Gone Quiet, But Expect Some Post-Midterms Surprises". The Vanity Fair, "I'm Very Worried About Don Jr.: West Wing Insiders Brace". "Buckle Up" in the Washington Post.

Do we think the president gets this that he's had this nice little break from the stuff that annoys him most? Tick tock, tick tock.

WALTER: You know, the other group of people though who I wonder if they get it is what it means to have the Democrats in-charge if they do in the House of this investigation. And so it's one thing to be a cabinet official and, you know, you're maybe are going to be shown the door and you're ready to find the door. But if you're a mid-level staffer at an agency that's been under fire but has not been really thoroughly overseen, so to speak, you're going to be spinach like and you better -- and it's going to cost a lot of money if you want to stay.

RAJU: If you want stay in the administration knowing you're going to get subpoena (INAUDIBLE) to Capitol Hill answering tough questions.

KING: And there's a culmination effect also. Number one, these are hard jobs and if some people are away from their families, some people have families in other states and they can't do work at the White House so some people just leave because it's time to leave. And then you have Trump (INAUDIBLE) and some other factors that kick in.

ANDERSON: Sure. But let's think about some other sort of prominent post-midterm shake-ups. In 2006, you had then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld step down right after that election result that was bad for Republicans. But you could argue that the reason why Republicans had such a bad election in 2006 was the war in Iraq and the way that was going.

Here in this case, I don't think there's a single cabinet official you can point to and say, well, this is the reason why Republicans had a bad night so we'll just get rid of this person and it'll fixes things. It really -- I mean, the Republican Party's struggles in this midterm go all the way to the top.

ZELENY: It's the president's personal anger to some of these people which (INAUDIBLE) and he's been told so long, you cannot fire anyone until the midterms. So, we'll see if that's the (INAUDIBLE).

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. And I loved how he said, well, you know, it's customary, like Donald Trump really cares about anything being customary. But, it's clear that he had these people on his list and his mind for a long time. But as we know, even though he likes to talk about saying you're fired, he doesn't actually like to pull the trigger and fire people.

And it's -- I think, you know, you're right in terms of there's not going to be a cabinet number you can point to and say, this is the person or this is the area, the issue that cost the Republicans this election if in fact they do lose.

[12:55:08] But I do think that you have this dynamic in the cabinet where you have a lot of people who are not 100 percent in lock step with the president as much as he like them to be. Mattis I think is one of them.

KING: Some just decide, adios. We shall see. Election Day. Please vote if you can.

Thanks for joining us today in the INSIDE POLITICS. Come back this time tomorrow. Stay with us throughout the night as we count them. And Wolf picks up our special coverage right after a very quick break.

Have a good day.

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