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McAuliffe Wins Virginia Governor's Race; Christie Wins New Jersey Governor's Race

Aired November 5, 2013 - 23:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Jake Tapper. Two different governors races, two very different raises, two very different outcomes for Republicans in a pair of closely watched off- year elections.

Greetings once again from Asbury Park, New Jersey, campaign headquarters for Governor Chris Christie tonight where the victory party is just beginning. Though it was hardly unexpected. The governor took the stage here just moments ago for his victory speech and closed out by evoking the memory of someone very close to his heart.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Tonight I know that my mom is looking down on New Jersey and saying to me -- I can feel it -- she's saying to me, "Chris, the job's not done yet. Get back to work and finish the job for the people of New Jersey." That's exactly what I'll do. I love you, New Jersey. Thank you very much.


TAPPER: Much closer this evening was that other gubernatorial race in the commonwealth of Virginia, a contest that Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli the state attorney general led for much of the night as election returns kept trickling in. Though CNN did ultimately called it for Democrat Terry McAuliffe little more than an hour ago as more districts from Northern Virginia reported back. McAuliffe is giving his victory speech right now.

I want to go straight to Wolf Blitzer and John King back in Washington, D.C. with the latest election night results. Wolf? John?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks very much, Jake. Take a look at this. These are the winners in the biggest contests tonight. In Virginia, in the Virginia governor's race, the former Democratic Party chairman and Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe defeating the Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli in a race that was more suspenseful than a lot of us expected. In New Jersey a big win for Republican Governor Chris Christie, a possible launch pad for a 2016 presidential bid.

And in New York City, Democrat Bill De Blasio wins the mayor's race. He'll be the first Democrat to run the city in two decades, succeeding the independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We can also now report a winner in a battle between two republicans in Alabama that's considered a big test of the Tea Party's clout and the struggle for the heart and soul of the GOP. It's a Republican Congressional primary runoff. The establishment Republican candidate Bradley Byrne defeating the Tea Party-allied candidate Dean Young.

Let's take a look at the votes. Ninety two percent of the vote now in, we've projected Bradley Byrne will win. He's got 54 percent to 46 percent for Dean Young. The winner of this runoff is widely expected to defeat the democratic candidate in a special election next month. Now, some hot button issues on the ballot out west. Voters are deciding whether to approve new taxes on marijuana in Colorado where recreational use of the drug is legal. We have the votes coming in from Colorado right now. On a tax of marijuana. Sixty five percent say yes, 35 percent say no.

That's with 84 percent of the vote now in. Also in Colorado in Weld County and some other rural counties they're deciding whether to take steps to secede and create a 51st state. Seen as a measure of public anger at the state's democratic establishment. Take a look at the numbers right now. No ahead only 17 percent of the vote is in 58 percent to 42 percent. But so far no is the majority in Colorado to secede. John King is here with me.

All right. Let's talk about Virginia right now. It was closer than a lot of us thought it would be but Terry McAuliffe wins.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Terry McAuliffe ultimately wins despite all this red in the commonwealth of Virginia Wolf, because right up here in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. Sound a bit like a broken record. Because we've talked about this in the past two presidential campaigns and again tonight. The strength of the vote up here in the suburbs. That's where you find the growing Latino population, in Virginia, it's also where you find a lot of college- educated women and a lot of single unmarried women. Young professionals who work up here, they provided the narrow victory for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia tonight.

The competing forces, opposition to ObamaCare helped the Republican Ken Cuccinelli keep it close. Terry McAuliffe's used of the government shutdown painting his opponent as a Tea Party conservative and as a social conservative. The gender gap, a big factor in the state of Virginia. I want to show you the New Jersey map as well. Because folks, take a look at this. You've got to go back a long way in time before you'll see a map like this so filled in.

And Jake Tapper, I know you're in the state of New Jersey. President Obama carried it twice hugely. If you go back to the George H.W. Bush win in 1988 presidential race the last time Republicans carried, it looks a little something like this. Look at all that red. Only Newark is blue. I suspect Chris Christie is not only going to hang this on the wall in the governor's office but he's going to mail to it a lot of Republicans and say, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire saying, look at me.

TAPPER: Interesting, John. One of the things that's so striking about Governor Christie's victory this evening is the inroads he made with so many traditional Democratic groups, winning women voters even though he was running against the democratic woman opponent. Winning lower income voters, winning 20 percent of African-Americans, tying his democratic opponent with Hispanic voters. Can you think of any other Republican governor that has been able to succeed like that in recent times with these normally democratic constituencies?

KING: His numbers actually even beat those of George W. Bush who came out of the state of Texas as you know back in 1999 and 2000 saying just what Chris Christie will say now. I can broaden the base after two democratic presidential victories. It was Bill Clinton who had won twice when George W. Bush made that case. It is Barack Obama who has won twice now. I just show the exit polls Jake to back up what you're saying. Again, look at this, 46 percent of the electorate in New Jersey were men, 54 percent a majority of the electorate women, Chris Christie wins both groups to carry his landslide victory.

If you look here he overwhelmingly won the white vote. But as Jake just noted, 15 percent of the electorate African-American. Look at this. Democratic opponent, yes, get 78 percent. But Chris Christie 21 percent in this election. A huge gain from nine percent when he first won the governor's office. So, he will say not only Jake is he over performing most Republicans he grew from his last election. And I just want to bring up this last one, the Latino population nine percent in New Jersey but it's so important in presidential politics when you come to Nevada, New Mexico, Florida. Look at that.

At the moment, we have Chris Christie actually slightly ahead. But essentially a tie if you will. But this is something we have not seen in a competitive race in some time with immigration in the forefront, Jake, when you look at the map trying to get Republicans to 270 electoral votes, they have to do better among nonwhite voters, especially among Latino voters in the swing states, this is going to be part of Chris Christie's calling card as he now says to the Republican Party. Maybe you don't like me on every issue but I can win.

TAPPER: Thank you, John King and Wolf Blitzer. I suspect that Governor Chris Christie and his team will be sending out those exit polls throughout the country especially Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It's been a night of few surprises but enormous consequence especially for the Grand Ole Party.

Joining me now from McAuliffe headquarters in Tysons Corner, Virginia is CNN's chief Congressional correspondent Dana Bash and from New York, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Chris Christie's re-election in New Jersey governor Gloria was never in doubt. But of course the news that John and I was just talking about that he performs so well.


TAPPER: With groups that normally casting about with Democrats. Fifty five percent of female vote, one fifth of the African-American vote. More than half according to the most recent exit polls of the Latino vote. Gloria, how much do you think this will be resonant for those early state activists looking to put a Republican in the White House?

BORGER: Look, I think that it's going to have a lot of resonance with more establishment Republicans who are saying we can't go with the Tea Party. It's not going to help us. Business types who after the shutdown are looking for candidates, they can endorse now against other Republicans. So I think for those folks, this news is going to be telegraphed everywhere as you point out earlier. These exit polls are going to go everywhere. But if you look at the state of Virginia, the Tea Party folks might say, you know what, if Ken Cuccinelli had stuck with the base, if he'd had one more week to rail against ObamaCare and to continue on that, then maybe he could have eked out a victory there. So their answer will be, you know what? Cuccinelli should have stuck with his knitting, should have stuck with the base and he might have been able to beat Terry McAuliffe. So I don't think this argument gets settled tonight in the Republican Party. I think it's still going to continue to play out.

TAPPER: Well, let's go to Dana at McAuliffe headquarters. Dana, governor elect Terry McAuliffe, sounds strange on my tongue. How exactly did he do this tonight?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all I should point out, I think you can see behind me he's literally right here glad handing, shaking hands, in a way that we would always see him sort of stand behind the candidate that he was supporting, usually a Clinton, watching them do this. So to your point that it is a little bit odd for those of us who have covered politics for so long and Terry McAuliffe as the political operative staffer and not the actual principal is sort of bizarre. How did he do this tonight? He did this in a way that was very un-Terry McAuliffe like.

He was very disciplined. So the point where you talked extensively to Chris Christie. Just for example we tried very hard to get an interview with Terry McAuliffe. He was not giving any interviews to any national media. And actually very few to local Virginia media for awhile because they wanted to very much keep him on message. And this message has been, as Gloria was just talking about you were talking about that his republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli was simply too extreme. And other way he did it is, frankly he got lucky with the Republican strategy that ultimately led to a government shutdown.

Where we are right now is knee deep in federal workers, people who were personally affected by the shutdown. And they, even some probably who are registered Republicans, traditional Republican voters said that they're just sort of done with that wing of the Republican Party and came home to Terry McAuliffe. That probably at the end of the day what helped McAuliffe and the millions and millions of dollars that he was able to raise personally that the Clinton is very very good friends, were able to help him raise. And also the fact that he is somebody who does have that national ideal that he was trying to keep here in Virginia -- Jake. TAPPER: All right, Dana and Gloria stick around. I want to come back to you. Up next, perhaps the biggest winner of the night, Governor Chris Christie re-elected this evening. Earlier today he let me tag along with him as he did some last minute campaigning. We talked about the Tea Party, about the Democratic Party, President Obama, his weight loss. My exclusive interview with the governor coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Governor Chris Christie's re-election night headquarters in Asbury Park, New Jersey, just a few blocks from the stone pony where going into tonight staffers for Christie were pretty confident they'd be celebrating and they were right. The governor cruising to a landslide re-election victory over democratic state Senator Barbara Buono. The question for Christie, was it enough to make him the frontrunner for different race, one that might land him in the White House in 2016 if he has his brothers. Earlier I spend the day getting some exclusive behind the scenes access to the governor. I hopped aboard his campaign bus.


(voice-over): Governor Chris Christie celebrating his victory tonight in Asbury Park, New Jersey. A second term win that solidifies his place as one of the GOP's premiere politicians.

He adlibbed a great deal of his speech, highlighting the straight talking style that's helped make him a star.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I guess there is open bar tonight, huh?


Welcome to New Jersey.


TAPPER: The Republican spent the day doing some last-minute campaigning in the Garden State. And he invited us along for the ride. And he had some advice for his fellow Republicans.

CHRISTIE: The party has got to focus on winning again. You know, sometimes I feel like our party cares more about winning the argument than winning elections. And if you don't win elections, you can't govern. If you don't govern you can't change the direction of the state like we've done in New Jersey. And so, you know, I think we need to get our self refocused on that. Secondly, I think sometimes we forget that candidates matter. It's not just about a checklist of issue. It's also about how a person presents themselves as a candidate, how they articulate their view of things and how they react to situations. And people make judgments based on all those things.

TAPPER (on camera): It's interesting you say that. I heard a criticism from a Democrat about you. And actually more about the media and the public, which is that if Christie wins in their view and this Democrats view, it's a triumph of personality over policy. Meaning people in this state tend to disagree with you on a lot of issues, but they're going re-elect you because they like your style. Is that a fair criticism?

CHRISTIE: No. It is why they're losing. Because they think that's the way people make decisions. It's kind of what I was implying in the last answer. They think that people go down a checklist of issues and like a pro and con. They draw a line down the middle of the sheet. They go, OK, if there's more checks for this person than for that person, that's the person I vote for. That's not the way people vote in my experience. I think that voting is much visceral. People say can I trust this person? Do they lead? Do they tell me the truth? They look at the issues, too. But that analysis from that Democrat is just like, as if people are robot and they just check a list. I say to folks in town halls all the time, if you agree with the candidate 100 percent of the time go home and look in the mirror. Because you're in. You're the only one you agree with 100 percent of the time. And if we demand that to candidates, then what you're going to do, they just lie to you.

TAPPER: Are you a Tea Party Republican?

CHRISTIE: I think that there's elements of the Tea Party that are Republicans at their best. You know, limited government, in favor of individual liberty and freedom, tough on government spending, questioning taxes and whether you need to expand them or grow them. So I think there's the core of the Tea Party movement as I understand it. I think is very consistent with good conservative republicanism. Now what happens is when some folks use that movement, use that theory just to try to enhance themselves politically, sometimes that movement can then get perverted. And so listen, there's a lot of principles about the Tea Party that I agree with and have governed in New Jersey in a way that's consistent with a lot of that.

TAPPER: A lot of Tea Partiers I've heard from think that you're -- what they called rhino, Republican in name only.

CHRISTIE: Listen, that's some folks who will say if you ever say anything nice about a Democrat, you're a rhino. They can call me whatever they want. I don't really care. My view is let people judge me by my record. I'm a guy who's cut taxes $2.3 billion in the state. Our budget fiscal 2014 spends less than John Corzine's in fiscal 2008. We've reformed teacher tenure, we reformed pension and benefits, to make folks pay more on their pensions, so they don't lose their cost and living adjustments.

I mean, you know, if they did that stuff in Washington, then they'd have a parade for the Washington Republicans. So, they can call me whatever they want to call me. Look at my record, I think most people will objectively look at my record, as we've talking about before -- it's a solid conservative record. And for goodness sakes, almost everybody's been called a rhino now. You know, if you weren't in favor of the government shutdown you're a rhino. You know, don't pay any attention to that. TAPPER (voice-over): Even though he secured the job of governor for four more years, many suspect Christie's sights are already set on a 2016th presidential bid. And while Christies insists he's focused on his new term as a governor, he has taken steps to address some of the questions that might nag a presidential hopeful such as his health. He recently had lap band surgery to help control his weight.

(on camera): How do you feel? How is your health?

CHRISTIE: I feel really good. I mean, like we're a little bit more than halfway to my goal in the last eight months. So that's really good. And I sleep better. I mean, the biggest difference for me, I didn't feel badly at my previous weight. But I didn't realize how poorly I slept until how well I've been sleeping.

TAPPER: Woke up a lot.

CHRISTIE: Yes, I woke up a lot during the night. And I just didn't get a lot of continuous sleep. I was sleeping a lot better. So, it's really bad news for my staff because I have more energy. Which they didn't think was possible.

TAPPER: Halfway to your goal?

CHRISTIE: A little more than halfway to my goal in eight months.

TAPPER: Looking good.

CHRISTIE: So, I'm really happy about that. Yes. It's a great feeling. And you know, it's hard work. But I feel like for the first time in 25 years I feel like I've got a pathway which is really nice. Really nice. Not to be as frustrated as I was before.


TAPPER: When we come back, our own Dana Bash just caught up with Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe. He talked about his very narrow victory. That's coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back. I'm Jake Tapper coming to you live from Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie claimed his re- election victory a short time ago. But there was that other much closer gubernatorial race also happening tonight in the commonwealth of Virginia, which Democrat Terry McAuliffe narrowly won over Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the state attorney general. Our own Dana Bash caught up to McAuliffe right after his victory speech.


BASH: How do you feel?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, GOVERNOR-ELECT OF VIRGINIA: Great. Great night. It was a great campaign. BASH: Was it a little bit too close for comfort for you?

MCAULIFFE: I always said it was going to be close. I always said it was going to be a couple of points. And the day I got in, you know, it's been a 35-plus-year curse. Whoever wins the White House, the other party wins the governor's mansion. So, we always knew it was going to be tough. Great field team, great volunteers, spectacular. It's a great win. We're happy. And now we've got a lot of work to do.

BASH: Congratulations.


TAPPER: Joining me one last time, CNN's chief Congressional correspondent Dana Bash and of course chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Dana, a remarkable victory for McAuliffe. Demographically how did he do it? Did he just rack up the turnout in northern Virginia? Or what was the strategy?

BASH: That seems to be exactly what he did. And that's why it looked as though if you looked at the numbers as the night went on, it looked like Cuccinelli was winning because they were looking for the higher turn-out, higher democratically populated area where I am right now in Northern Virginia to come in, those results to come in. And once they did, that's when they were able to breathe a sigh of relief. But I have to tell you, Jake, you have spent lots of times in ballrooms like this like I have. And coming in, I was really amazed at how confident his campaign was and watching them sweat in the way as they didn't expect to sweat as the night went on. It was pretty fascinating to watch.

TAPPER: And Gloria, very quickly we heard Senator Rand Paul Republican of Kentucky who has also said to be harboring some presidential hopes himself. We heard him refer to Governor Chris Christie today as a moderate. Chris Christie told me he's not a moderate, he's a conservative. Already the elbows are being thrown.

BORGER: Well, right now calling him a moderate kind of kiss of death, wishful thinking on behalf of Paul who's going to run, clearly. He doesn't think that Chris Christie can do anything in Iowa or the state of South Carolina. And he might be right. But it's a fight that we'll have a lot of fun watching, I think.

TAPPER: All right. Stay tuned. Dana and Gloria, thank you so much. That is it for me. I am Jake Tapper in Asbury Park, New Jersey. You can catch me on "The Lead," weekdays at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific. CNN's special live coverage continues right now with "CROSSFIRE."