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CNN TONIGHT

A Sigh of Relief for Republicans; A Big Win for Republicans in Georgia. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired June 20, 2017 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Anderson Cooper. We've got some breaking news to tell you about right now. Results are coming in in the most expensive House race in history.

This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon.

CNN projects right now Karen Handel is the winner in the Georgia congressional race down in the 6th district in Georgia.

CNN's David Chalian joins us now with analysis. Right off the top at 10 o'clock, David Chalian, Karen Handel is the winner Georgia, the republican.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's a huge projection that we just made, Don. This is a big victory for republicans. I know it is in a republican district. This really in other years, this would not have been a competitive district, but democrats went all-in on this.

They raised a ton of money significantly outspent republicans. This was the best shot democrats had in these special elections to really try to make a victory in the Trump era. And they came up short, which now of course, is going to create a whole series of questions about how the Democratic Party should run in the era of Donald Trump because they came up short here.

LEMON: What's interesting is that breaking news, a republican wins in Georgia it shouldn't be breaking news. This is the way it should happen. But the fact, David, that it was so close at least it appeared in the polling and then the results, as well. The results are actually really close.

What does this say about the state of affairs especially the Trump, is there a mandate for Donald Trump? Will he keep his support? Will it stay the same? Are democrats looking at there as necessarily a loss or they got close and maybe there's hope for them in the midterms?

CHALIAN: Well, I don't think there are moral victories here. I mean, I think the democrats lost this race. That is a loss. They went all-in on it, and with all the energized base that they had, and the small dollar donations, yes, they were running in a district whose DNA is a republican district. So it was an uphill battle all along but they lost.

So I don't think we should gloss over that. What I hear you saying though, Don, you are right. It is important to note, Donald Trump is still a 36 percent approval nationwide.

LEMON: Yes.

CHALIAN: Obviously this one district in Georgia isn't going to change that. But what this does do, Don, all the republicans that have been nervous this spring about Trump's numbers and is he going to be a big drag on the Republican Party in November 2018, that still may come to be. We have no idea what the political landscape will look like here a year and a half from now.

But in the immediate term. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan just got vet good news with this victory. It will calm some of the GOP waters in Congress as they are trying to get health care and tax reform through. Had the results been the other way, you might have seen republicans really panicking sort of fleeing the party to look out for themselves.

Now, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have a case to make to republicans that though his numbers are low, it is not taking the party down yet electorally.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, David Chalian. David, I want you to stand by because we're going to need your help to get through the next couple of hours here on CNN. If you're just joining us, Karen Handel, there was a very close race down in Georgia in the 6th congressional district. Karen Handel, the republican seen this projecting Karen Handel the winner. Of course, going is Jon Ossoff, the democrat.

I want to get to the magic wall now, before we get to our reporters who are at both headquarters, magic wall, CNN's John King. John, take us through the numbers here. What happened?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, let's take a look. You mentioned this is Georgia's 6th congressional district, it's in the Atlanta suburbs, 52-48 is the vote count as we speak. But we've called this race for the republican Karen Handel. A major disappointment for the democrat.

This is the district when you look at the entirety of it, I want to show you now the district by counties. And as a stretch this out, I just want to draw a line. The district is in the northern part of these counties here. The northern part of Fulton County which contains Atlanta but Atlanta is south of the district.

Cobb County and DeKalb County, three counties make up this district.

Let's show you what happened tonight, Why Karen Handel is the winner. Number one, start with the blue. Jon Ossoff did about what he needed to do in DeKalb County which is the most democratic area of the district. He needed to run it up here, 58-42 at the current vote count. That's about what he needed to do.

Here is the giant problem for Jon Ossoff. Starting here -- starting here in Cobb County. This number, this is the number democrats will look at. Both parties in this race said for Jon Ossoff to win this race tonight, he needed to be around 43 percent in the most republican area of the district. That is Cobb County, he's below 40 percent. That right there is game over if you talk to the race. And then move

over here, the most populous part of the district is Fulton County. And again, Jon Ossoff, I'll take that yellow away from you here, but Jon Ossoff again, is below, not only 50 percent but to win the district Jon Ossoff had to be about 43 percent or so in Cobb County and he had to keep this close Fulton County. This is where most of the voters are in the district the biggest chunk anyway. He had to keep it closer.

Fifty-one, forty-nine, 52-48 maybe, 53-47. Again, Karen Handel wins this district. What does that tell you? Let's get back to what David Chalian was just talking about. Number one, republicans will celebrate. Number two, just like in the final days of 2016 when the fire alarm was sounded, republicans proved they could turn out their vote better on the mechanics than the democrats in a highly competitive race.

[22:05:05] Number three, back to David Chalian's point, one of the things that would have happened if Jon Ossoff won this race, if you were a republican, maybe getting tired of being in the House, maybe not in love with your republican President Donald Trump, a lot of republicans were thinking if the climate is going to be horrible, maybe we'll retire.

This republican victory tonight likely to stem at least some of the republican retirement talk in the House of Representatives. Number two, this is going to make it harder for democrats to recruit candidates in other republican districts. The democrats wanted this win tonight to go to mayors, state legislators, prominent democrats in other republican districts around the country and say, see, we can do this in 2018. We need you to run.

A lot of those democrats now, Don, a lot of people will say how can you take one district and give this national implications, it's the way politician do it. It's the way their consultants do it. It's the way their egos work.

A lot of democrats in other places in the country are going to see a loss here after all that money going in and say maybe not.

LEMON: I want to say something because some of the analysts, John, were saying it's going to be really tight. And as I was speaking to republicans who were down in Georgia, they were saying one of them said to me, as a matter of fact, who knows politics said Jon Ossoff is in a dream. We'll prove tonight that Karen Handel will win. Democrats should have taken the $40 million to fix their failing DNC party instead of throwing it all away on a 30-year-old man who doesn't live in the district.

How do you respond to that, John King?

KING: It's an interesting question. And look, both parties are going to spin this, both parties will overreact to one House district. But here's a couple of things we know to be true.

Donald Trump picked four republican House members to join his cabinet. At the close of business tonight, republicans will have held all four of those seats. Now only this one in Georgia was viewed as competitive. But democrats did plan in Montana, they tried in Kansas. They didn't really try into South Carolina district that was on the bely tonight. That was almost closer than people thought.

All of these races won by republicans all by margins democrats can say were closer than 2016, closer than 2012, closer than last time. But close doesn't count. Democrats can say, yes, the climate is better for us but they're still not winning, number one.

Back to your other point about this though, here's a very interesting thing. If you're thinking about 2016, Donald Trump won. He was the outsider. He ran against the republican establishment before he ran against Hillary Clinton and the democratic establishment. He was the fresh face, he was the non-politician.

Well, a lot of democrats thought that was Jon Ossoff, right? Thirty- years-old, not in politics. Be the Trump in the race beating outsider. Karen Handel said I have...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: John King, I hate to cut you off.

KING: I'm sorry, Don. Karen Handel said I have experience she won.

LEMON: Yes. She's coming up to the podium now. John, we'll get back to you. Let's go to Handel headquarters down in Atlanta.

REP. KAREN HANDEL, (R) GEORGIA: ... one more thing and...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You won!

(APPLAUSE)

HANDEL: Now, all of you know that I am a person who always loves to dot every I and cross every t. So let's just make sure we do that and I'll be back down in just a very short time. Thank you all for everything.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMON: So what is, John, I caught her there in the end, do we still have John with us?

KING: I'm here, Don.

LEMON: It sounds like, John, she didn't want to declare just yet, she said she wanted to dot the I's and cross the t's, which is smart of her, but we're projecting her the winner. Is that what you got from that.

KING: Yes, exactly that. She's come down a couple times to keep her supporters in the game with the very early vote saying everything looks good far. This is a, she's a conservative candidate and she's being conservative at the end of this election.

Look, here's what's going on. There are still some more votes to be counted. What the democrats are saying is that they don't want to concede until they know more about the mail ballots, mail and early votes that cast by mail, absentee ballots and the like. Can Jon Ossoff possibly come back?

I've been in on communication with both republicans and democrats on the ground who know this race a lot better than I do who have been on the ground in the last few days. They both, democrats and republicans say no way.

But if you're Karen Handel if you've been through this before, she's lost a couple primaries before in other races, so she's just being extra careful. But we're very confident in our projection. And she'll be back that ball room saying thank you, I win pretty soon, Don.

LEMON: All right. John King, I want you to standby. David Chalian is standing by. They're helping us out with the numbers and the analysis here. Why don't we get to Karen Handel's headquarters?

Our correspondent there is Kaylee Hartung and she joins us. Kaylee, they must be thrilled that they have pulled this out. But again, Karen Handel coming to the podium and said stand by. We just want to make sure. Take us behind the scenes there. What's happening?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don. Well, the two the television screens that are in this ballroom were both on Fox News. Fox News has not yet declared Karen Handel the winner here. So this crowd not reacting to the news that we've shared on our airwaves.

So Karen Handel and the state Republican Party not yet comfortable declaring her the winner, and this all goes back to a thought process they had coming into this night. They knew that DeKalb County would go heavy for Ossoff. They knew Cobb County would be where their strongest numbers would be. But they thought all along that this race race would come down to the numbers out of Fulton County.

[22:10:01] Fulton County being the largest of these three and known to be the last in this district to get their results in because they're dealing with such a high volume of voters in that area.

So Karen Handel being cautious, but the crowd here booing at this moment as they watch what's on the screen, but otherwise, the crowd here very upbeat and really anticipating a big celebration at the end of this night when all those I's are dotted and t's crossed.

LEMON: All right. Thank you, Kaylee Hartung. Kaylee Hartung at Karen Handel's headquarters. It's unusual because we just declared her -- projected her to be the winner and they're booing. They should be very happy.

I want to get to CNN's Brianna Keilar. She's live at Jon Ossoff's headquarters. I'm sure the mood is not quite the same where you are, Brianna. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and the part

of that is because the televisions have been here on CNN. So the folks here are aware of the call and they're disappointed.

But I will tell you, Don, having been to parties where you've seen people and their candidates have lost, they've been a lot more disappointed. And the music is still going here. They're waiting to hear from Jon Ossoff. But it was pretty clear from the beginning of the night when some of those early votes were coming in that the democrats close to this race were uncomfortable.

Republicans were feeling very good. Now the one thing I will say, though, Don, is talking to republicans who even certainly were very supportive of Karen Handel, they do warn, they look back, for instance, on 2009 and they say that they were feeling really discouraged by having lost special elections. And then they got into 2010 where they actually won the House back.

So they say this is a great night for them obviously, but they warn too much about extrapolating too much from the bigger picture especially when you have a race like this where tens of millions of dollars have come in and people on the right and the left argues that it really changes the landscape of the race.

But talking to democrats, they're saying this is a race where Jon Ossoff never should have had any business being competitive and they're hopeful that that's something that will encourage democrats especially in races that could be more competitive than this one.

LEMON: All right. Brianna Keilar, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in now Mark Preston, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, David Axelrod, and Kevin Madden.

Good evening to all of you. Here we go. So Dana, you first. It wasn't supposed to be a swing district, right. I mean, that's what Brianna just said. This seat in the northern Atlanta suburbs has been held by a republican for nearly 40 years.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. Newt Gingrich held it and most recently Tom Price who vacated the seat because is he now the secretary of health and human services. And with him, he was a popular guy in the district, well-known. He won by 20 plus points.

Just in November, 30 plus points two years before that.

So this has been a traditionally republican district. However, Don, it hasn't necessarily been a Trump kind of district, which is one of the reasons democrats put so much time, money and effort into this race.

And when I say not sort of a traditionally Trump district, what I mean by that is, it is highly, highly wealthy. A lot of college educated plus, plus voters there. The kind of voters that democrats were hoping would be turned off by a Donald Trump presidency. That weren't necessarily all-in for the kind of Trump republican nomination that they saw, never mind -- never mind winning the White House. And you know, we're going to analyze where the votes came from,

exactly how this went down, but the bottom line is, they were wrong. And so this is going to be a huge, huge morale buster for democrats who were hoping that all of the fervor that they have been seeing out there, the grassroots, the marching, you name it, that they have been trying to figure out how to harness and turn into actual votes at the polls whatever they did here for whatever reason, this wasn't the answer.

And they haven't figured out how to win against a republican in the Trump era. Even though this has been a republican district, he only won by about 1 percent in this district in 2016.

LEMON: Gloria, whatever it is, whatever the analysis is, we certainly do know that they spent a lot of money there.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

LEMON: The most expensive House race ever.

BORGER: Ever. Estimates are over $40 million for this single race. And most of the money came from out of the district. I mean, there was one estimate that for every penny that came from inside the district spent on this race, there were $10 that came from outside the district. So you can imagine that.

[22:14:56] Look, this was a race the democrats thought they could win. It was the kind of district affluent, some minority, higher educated that they thought they could take a candidate and run against Donald Trump.

But what the republicans did, and I've been communicating with a consultant who worked on this race tonight, what the republicans did was they had Karen Handel run against Jon Ossoff as a liberal and a Pelosi democrat. And not focus as much on Donald Trump. I mean, he was about 45 percent popularity in the district although we're not sure about that which is higher than the national level. But they...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: So she didn't focus on Donald Trump and neither did he, right?

BORGER: She -- right. Well, and neither, you know, neither did he. He focused on health care, he focused on the issues. And she wasn't hugging Donald Trump that hard. She was just saying, look, you know, this is just another liberal and they tried to get republicans, you know, to put their shirts back on.

There were 36,000 of them we're told who sort of didn't vote in the primary and they tried to get those, they targeted those people and said come back and vote in this election because we need you and they did.

LEMON: Interesting. What do you make of that, David Axelrod? She didn't hug Donald Trump. He didn't really mention him, as well. But yet, they thought this would, you know, at least nationally, that it would be some sort of referendum on the Trump administration depending on which way this race went.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's no doubt that if democrats had won this district, it would have been an earthquake on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House would have been reeling and been faced with questions whether Trump was mentioned a lot or not down there about whether this was a referendum on him, and on the Hill as John King mentioned people would be very, very nervous.

You'd see incumbents more serious about retiring. And you'd see less of an appetite for supporting some of the Trump priorities and standing up for Trump in the Congress. So they avoided that disaster, but it wasn't a stellar showing for republicans as was mentioned, the district they're held for nearly 40 years.

Look, but democrats, you know, this isn't horseshoes. You don't get anything for coming close. The question is, are there any auguring here. This was a district unlike some of the others where that we've seen so far where with you would expect democrats to do a little bit better because as Dana mentioned, twice as many voters here are college educated voters, anti-Trump voters.

But as you point out, this really wasn't a race about Trump. The republicans ran a very smart race, they kept it away from Trump, made it a classic kind of liberal versus conservative race. And they did motivate their voters.

I think one of the things democrats were hoping for was a slightly lower turnout today. And there were far more voters participated today than they anticipated. They were counting on this vote by mail program of theirs to overcome the election day margin of republicans and that just didn't happen.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, listen, I have a couple of responses here that I want to get. The president's son. But first, I think it's more important the house speaker, his son doesn't speak for him.

The House Speaker Paul Ryan, this is for you, Mark Preston. Paul Ryan says congratulations to Karen Handel on a hard earned and well- deserved victory. "Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race and Karen would not be defeated." Then he goes on to talk about how important this is and how important this fight is. What do you make of the response from the House speaker, Mark Preston?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICS EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Well, I mean, it's predictable. And Karen Handel should be lauded for running a very good campaign and he's right, the democrats did try to throw everything in this case including millions and millions of dollars, most if not all of it from out of the State of Georgia.

You know, just so people have an understanding about when we talk about this being not Trump country but conservative, Don, you would know this having lived in Atlanta, I lived there for three years. I was a newspaper reporter in that district. This is old south meets new south. These are social conservatives, you know, that in this whole area,

specifically up in Cobb County and northern Fulton County that saw an influx of northerners come in the 1990s during the Olympics. These are not necessarily liberals but they weren't necessarily hard-core social conservatives. They were fiscal conservatives.

So when you look at that time and the buildup of this district and we saw industry moving down there, as well, is that those aren't necessarily Trump voters and that's why democrats thought they had a shot at it, but the bottom line is that that is a republican area.

Democrats were hoping to pick one off and by picking one off, they would hope then to try to boost the morale to try to recruit candidates across the country. I don't think this is necessarily going to depress that, but it's not necessarily going to spark an outcry of people trying to run against republicans in the next, you know, 24 hours or so.

CHALIAN: Don?

[22:20:00] LEMON: Well, Kevin Madden, yes, go on, who is that? Is that Kevin?

AXELROD: That's David. I just want to make one point that needs to be made, which is that there are 23 suburban districts, somewhat like this one that Hillary Clinton carried and that's where democrats are going to be focusing in 2018.

This was not a pure test of their ability to make gains in those districts. As these districts tend to follow their presidential vote. And so democrats are still going to look at those districts and say we've got a fighting chance there, especially since we reduced the margin in many of these races in republican districts in this -- in this special election season.

LEMON: Well, that sets me up perfectly for Kevin Madden. Kevin, having been there and as you know, even with most elections, republicans and democrats, they usually -- republicans and democrats usually come home to how they've always voted.

And I didn't -- I thought and maybe I guess I'm proven right, but I thought that unless Jon Ossoff had a huge lead that republicans would eventually come home in this district and Karen Handel would pull it off.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, yes, I think but also I think the key to victory here was that republicans were not complacent. I think they're highly cognizant of the tough environment that they have. I think they do know that the president can be a challenge. And particular districts like this as Dana Bash pointed out. This was not necessarily a Trump district.

So understanding that they had some of these challenges what did they do. And I think first off, as David Axelrod pointed out, they were very aggressive in defining Jon Ossoff as out of step with the district. They made sure that every voter knew that he didn't actually live in the district and couldn't vote there.

LEMON: He couldn't vote there. Yes.

MADDEN: They went out and raised a ton of money to make sure that they defined him very early and often and then they also aligned him with Hillary - with Nancy Pelosi. And Nancy Pelosi is still a drag on some of these districts.

And one of the other things that the democrats have failed to do is they haven't really found a workable message that they can unify not only the democratic base around but some more moderate democrats and they haven't been able to get a lot of these grumpy republicans that may not be so thrilled with President Trump but don't see elections like this as a referendum on him. Instead they come home to support a traditional republican candidate...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: And they have history on their side, Kevin.

MADDEN: ... likes Karen Handel.

LEMON: They have history on their side.

MADDEN: That's right.

LEMON: Yes. It's been 40 years that they've carried this district.

MADDEN: Yes, but I think the question is, would they be complacent and think that the district's natural tendencies are going to help them win the day, no. Knowing that there's this tremendous amount of outside money coming in, they raised money and they fought.

And quite frankly to Mark's point, the MVP of this, of this campaign would have to be Paul Ryan and his congressional leadership fund, those outside groups that knew that this was going to be a battle of resources just as much as a battle of ideas came in and helped fill the void.

LEMON: That's why I wanted to read the house speaker's response.

BASH: Very true.

LEMON: Stand by, everyone We have a lot to talk about in our breaking news tonight. CNN projecting republican Karen Handel winning the special election in the sixth district down in Georgia.

We'll be right back.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Straight to Jon Ossoff headquarters down in Atlanta. Let's listen in.

JON OSSOFF (D), GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: For people here in Georgia... (APPLAUSE)

... for people across the country, and for people around the world, this small community in Georgia which has become the epicenter of politics, sometimes to my chagrin, for months now, and it's had nothing to do with me. It never has.

(CROWD CHEERING)

It's about you. It's about -- it's about an extraordinary community at an extraordinary moment in history. The first opportunity in this country to make a statement about values that can still unite people.

(CROWD CHEERING)

At a time when politics has been dominated by fear and hatred and scapegoating and division, this community stood up, women in this community stood up.

(CROWD CHEERING)

You did. You did. And you pick this campaign up and you picked me up, and you picked Alicia up and you carried us on your shoulders.

(CROWD CHEERING)

And we showed the world that in places where no one thought it was even possible to fight, we could fight.

(APPLAUSE)

We showed them what courage and kindness and humility are capable of.

(APPLAUSE)

We showed them that we can still build coalitions of people who may not see eye to eye on everything, but rather than demonizing each other, we find common ground to move forward. And that's the only way this country will move forward.

(APPLAUSE)

So this is not the outcome many of us were hoping for. But this is the beginning of something much bigger than us.

(CROWD CHEERING)

So thank you, thank you for the most extraordinary experience I've ever had the honor of being a part of. Thank you for knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors.

(CROWD CHEERING)

Thank you for making hundreds of thousands of phone calls. It's extraordinary what you have done here. The fight goes on. Hope is still alive. I thank you all so much. I thank you. I thank my family. [22:30:00] And most of all, I want to thank Alicia who has been on the

campaign trail for months after working long hours every day in the operating room, who has lifted me up every evening, after long days and shown what true partnership is.

So thank you, Alicia. Thank you, everybody.

(APPLAUSE)

LEMON: Jon Ossoff down in Atlanta giving his concession speech. Of course, CNN projecting him the winner. He's coming out conceding to Karen Handel his concessions so he lost. And so he conceded to Karen Handel who is the republican candidate.

I want to bring in now CNN's David Chalian. David, they thought they had a chance. But he fell short in the end.

CHALIAN: He did indeed. It's so interesting listening to his words there, Don, because as you know, in the closing days of the campaign, in the closing weeks of the campaign, he really didn't want to make this about Donald Trump. He was really trying to talk about the economy, getting jobs in the district, hi-tech jobs.

He was really trying to play to the district knowing that it is a republican district even one that is tricky for Donald Trump; he only won it by one point last year.

But in his concession speech as he's leaving the stage, he brought back the themes without mentioning Donald Trump by name but talking about our politics of hatred and division and clearly trying to say that this was the beginning of a response to that kind of politics, one would assume he means the politics that he believes Donald Trump exemplifies. It's interesting that now that the race is over, he was sort of getting back into that kind of messaging.

LEMON: And the groups that he did well, he specifically wanted to when you said he talked about the messages that were carried through the campaign, but he also wanted to speak specifically to women. I guess he carried a high number of women in suburban, especially suburban women.

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, it's a suburban district. We don't have exit polls to sort of look at the exact break down. But women were a huge part of his coalition talking to folks on both sides of the aisle about this race. Even though he was running against obviously a female candidate who won here.

Women are part of the democratic base overall and in this district, that was definitely one of his targets to get out. So he certainly wanted to give a shootout to that group of voters.

LEMON: David, I need you to standby, because I want to bring in John King, live for us now at the magic wall. John, you heard Jon Ossoff's speech there and you heard David and I talking about the groups that made up the folks who voted for him. He did pretty well. He didn't pull it off in the end though. What do you have, what's the latest? KING: Don, the conversation that's going to happen again, four

republican seats, four republican members of Congress join the Trump cabinet. The republicans have held now all four of these seats including Georgia's sixth which is viewed as the most competitive. Closed doesn't count.

Are there things democrats can find in every one of those races to say, hey, here's some hope for 2018, hey, here's some lessons we can learn, sure. But did they get any wins, no, and did get a win in the place they targeted the most spent all the money, absolutely not.

This is tough. This is district with the Atlanta suburbs, 52 to 48 at the count now. We're getting close to; we're counting now we're up to 160 plus of these precincts in this district. I want to pull it up for you this way and show you what happened here.

First, I want to - I'm sorry for one second, I want to go back and draw you a line just to give you a sense. The congressional district is actually north of this line. The counties report the vote. So you colored in areas that are not in the congressional districts because the counties report these votes.

But let's look at what happened here. Number one is, here's the painful thing for democrats to take back the house next year, democrats have to win 24 seats. So you have to take away 24 republican seats which means you have to go to places where republicans win and convince republicans to switch and vote for democrats.

Cobb County is the most conservative, the most republican part of this district. Jon Ossoff got only 39 percent of the vote. There's more votes that we counted, Don, but he's at roughly 39 percent. He needed to be around 43, 44 to have a chance in this part of the district to win the district.

Democrats have to ask themselves how do we get republicans to vote especially in a district where Donald Trump perform so poorly just barely won it, why is it that Jon Ossoff couldn't get cross over votes. They are going to have to ask that in the most democratic part of the district, and the reason we know this race is over, even though we haven't counted all the votes. DeKalb County is the most democratic part. All the votes in DeKalb are counted.

Jon Ossoff did quite well in that country, nearly 60-40, 58-42. But there are no more votes there for him to come back. That's why we know even as we count the final votes that Karen Handel will win this race.

In Fulton County, again, the northern part of Fulton County the Atlanta suburbs out to the exurbs, 53-47. Strong performance by the republican candidate, Karen Handel. Out of 2008, after 2012, a lot of talk the republicans didn't get the mechanics of the digital age of politics.

[22:35:01] Donald Trump's campaign proved late and republicans have proved it late in 2016 and republicans have now proven it again in a competitive with a lot of money. They can turn out their voters on Election Day and compete in early voting. That's a painful lesson for democrats, Don, as we move from this

special elections now into the 2018 climate. I just want to make the button up with what I said before. If you're republicans you are afraid if you lost tonight, a lot of incumbents would retire. I'm not saying incumbents won't retire, incumbents always retire but the number of republican incumbents retiring is likely to be impacted by this tonight. That's one of the reasons republicans are very, very happy with this win.

LEMON: John King for us at the magic wall. John, I want you to stand by, as well. Because I want to bring in now Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, welcome to the program. The bigger picture in Georgia, what is bigger picture in this race. What can you tell us about what the voters were looking for here?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR POLITICS: Well, the bigger picture to me is that the 2018 congressional elections are a year and a half away and a million things can happen that can change the picture.

But for democrats obviously, it's pretty depress. That's the word I've seen on Twitter more than any other from democrats about the result. I think if democrats learn a lesson from this election, it's that the euphoria that they felt for the last several months as Donald Trump has fallen in the polls and they began to believe that this would be not easy but doable to take over the House of Representatives and eventually replace Donald Trump, that euphoria is gone and it's replaced with reality.

And the reality is, it's going to be a long twilight struggle. Day in and day out if they're going to be able to retake the House and eventually defeat Donald Trump. It won't be easy. It may not be possible. But it certainly won't be easy.

LEMON: I want to ask you this because as you mentioned that, this is from Massachusetts sixth district. And you probably know him. He's democratic Congressman Seth Moulton. He says, hash tag Ossoff. "Race better be a wake-up call for democrats. Business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future."

He added, "We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans and a bigger tent not a smaller one. Focus on the future." What do you think of that, Larry?

SABATO: Well, clearly draws didn't do that in 2016. It's one of the reasons why they lost non-college blue collar workers and therefore, lost Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan. But that's one side of it.

The other side of it is to recognize the reality in this incredibly polarized era. Donald Trump has polarized things even further if that were possible. When that happens, in the end, the vast majority of voters return to their party. They do it sooner or later and for -- yes?

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Larry, I got to get to Karen Handel. She is down there and she is about to give her victory speech. Thank you, Larry.

HANDEL: I have to start first of all by saying thank you.

(CROWD CHEERING)

There are literally hundreds of people to thank, and scores of elected officials and GOP leaders who put their confidence in me right from the beginning and I'll probably miss a few, but there were several who stepped up write from day one. Including my very good friend, Bob Ott, Joann Burrell, Terry Knoll, Joe Gebbie, and Bates Madison, Joe Lockwood, my hometown Mayor, Jerry Wood.

(APPLAUSE)

And I need to thank, you know, on April 18th, I said to everyone that this was going to be a very, very tight race. It was going to be contentious and it was going to require all hands on deck. And that's exactly what we had. From...

(CROWD CHEERING)

... from all of the others who were the GOP competitors in the primary, including several who are here tonight, I see Bob Gray, thank you for your help.

(APPLAUSE)

Every single member of the republican Georgia congressional delegation, our constitutional officers, the legislators, Governor Nathan Deal and first lady Sandra Deal, Senator Perdue, Senator Isakson, and my very close friend, Senator Saxby Chambliss.

(APPLAUSE)

[22:40:05] I need to also thank Speaker Ryan and the House leadership and so many of the members across this country who also united to help us hold the sixth.

(APPLAUSE)

And a special thanks to the President of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROWD CHANTING)

But let's not forget our equally great Vice President Mike Pence. And I think it's appropriate to take a minute to acknowledge a new friend that I was able to make over the course of that campaign, this campaign. And that was majority whip Steve Scalise.

(APPLAUSE) Right up till that tragic day on ball field, Steve would drop me a text message every single week. Just to make sure I was doing OK and hanging tough. I think he even called me the terminator in one of them. Wasn't sure about that one, Steve, but hasta la vista. Let me just tell you.

But really and truly, what happened on that ball field was a terrible tragedy. And we need to all continue to lift up Steve and the others who were injured that day. And we need to also lift up this nation so that we can find a more civil way to deal with our disagreements.

(APPLAUSE)

Because in these United States of America, no one, no one should ever feel their life threatened over their political beliefs and position.

(APPLAUSE)

And I say that, ladies and gentlemen, in regards to both sides of the political aisle.

(APPLAUSE)

Through this campaign, I have had a really great joy of getting to know any number of our leaders in Washington. And let me tell you, even though within our own GOP family we sometimes have disagreements, these are fine men and women who are doing their level best for this country.

(APPLAUSE)

I really am honored to be able to stand before you tonight and so extraordinarily humbled. But as everyone knows, most big things are not accomplished by one person alone, and I had a tremendous amount of support in this campaign.

From each and every one of you to a great campaign team, they really are -- yes, give them a hand.

(APPLAUSE)

To individuals on the ground who put in countless hours knocking on doors and making phone calls in some of the hottest days ever, you all, whoo. But through it all, everyone persevered. And then there's this guy.

(APPLAUSE)

How about Steve Handel. This man is my heart. He tells you he's my number one supporter, and I can tell you that in everything I have ever attempted to do in my life, he has been my number one supporter. And there are no words to say how much I love you.

[22:45:00] (APPLAUSE)

A little while ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Jon Ossoff. He was more than gracious, and he thanked me for a spirited campaign. And I wish him and Alicia all the best in the new life that they are going to be starting.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, tonight, tonight, tonight I stand before you extraordinarily humbled and honored at the tremendous privilege and high responsibility that you and the people across the sixth district have given to me to represent you in the United States House of Representatives.

(APPLAUSE)

I will do -- we have had a legacy of tremendous leadership in the sixth district. Our very own Tom Price who is now secretary of HHS. Now Senator Johnny Isakson and former Speaker Newt Gingrich.

(CROWD BOOING)

These men, these statesmen have created very, very big shoes to fill. And I will do my level best to live up to the standards that they have set. To the Jon Ossoff supporters, know that my commitment they extend to every one of you, as well. We may have some different beliefs, but we are part of one community, the community of the sixth district.

(APPLAUSE)

And I will work just as hard to earn your confidence in the weeks and months ahead. And I give every Georgian this promise. My promise is to work every single day relentlessly to make our state and this country a better place.

(APPLAUSE)

My pledge is...

LEMON: All right, Karen Handel giving her victory speech down in Atlanta. Again, the sixth district down in Georgia and she is the winner. Jon Ossoff, the democrat lost that race. Very close for a district that's been republican, voted republican for the last 40 years.

I want to bring my panel back in. David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, Mark Preston, and Kevin Madden. Dana, I'm wondering what happens because, you know, health care on the menu right now. What happens in the short term for what the agenda is for the Trump administration right now?

BASH: I think this is one of the most potentially important implications. We talk a lot about the 2018 election. But the question is what about tomorrow, literally tomorrow and the next day as Senate republicans are trying to hammer out an agreement amongst themselves on a piece of legislation to repeal and relays Obamacare.

The fact that this republican didn't lose, not so much that she won but that she didn't lose is one of the main things that is allowing republican leaders to breathe a sigh of relief because if she would have lost and the democrat in this race really did pound away on health care as an issue, there's no question that is some skittish republicans and there are lots of them, would have taken that as a -- as an issue and said you know what? This is not something we should touch right now. And perhaps moved away from it.

Now we don't know if this is definitely going to seal the deal amongst republicans that they can't come up with a piece of legislation that they can pass the United States Senate next week. But it's certainly gives them a little bit more breathing room.

And the one other thing that I wanted to point out which is noteworthy is that Karen Handel, we just heard from her, she is going to be the first republican congresswoman from the State of Georgia. There have been democrats but first on the GOP side, excuse me, the republican woman I should say. Make sure it's on the female side.

[22:49:55] LEMON: David, I was looking through your Twitter feed. You tweeted something. I can't find it now. But I think what you believe is that Jon Ossoff had a better chance initially than he did this time, better chance of winning.

AXELROD: Well, I think there's no -- look, back in before the first race I think you just spoke to most democrats and republicans they would tell you his best chance was to win in that first race where she had gotten over 50 percent, he would have been elected because the republicans at that point were factualized, they were divided.

There were more than a dozen republican candidates. Democrats were relatively unified behind him. What happened since that time is republicans coalesced around Karen Handel and the republican district and they ran a very good race for her and you could see it in the turnout today.

They got those numbers way up in terms of republican turnout add the polls today. It over came the democratic vote by mail advantage that democrats were counting on.

So, yes, I think that he would have had a better shot. I mean, it may be in retrospect that his only shot was to win in that first election, he fell a point and half or something short and now we know what the result is.

I do want to say a couple of things. I think Larry Sabato is right. We are -- we are a very polarized country. We're more polarized than ever. Party really matters. People voted party today in a district that has a history of voting republicans.

This is sobering for democrats. Because there aren't that many swing districts in the country. So I mention before there were 23 republican reps in districts that Hillary Clinton won. They need 24 seats to win. So they'll need do very well among those 23 against some popular incumbents in order to win.

They're also going to have to do a better job of recruiting candidates. When the Democratic Party took over the House in 2006 after a period of republican leadership they did it in part because they had a very, very assiduous recruiting process to go and find competitive candidates district by district.

John Ossoff was not the perfect candidate for that district. Democrats are going to have to focus on how they get the strongest possible candidates in those districts that they think maybe competitive.

BORGER: And you know, their job may have got a little bit harder after tonight. I mean, you know, in talking to people around the campaign committee there's no shortage of people in a Democratic Party who want to run but you have to find the best candidates.

And I also think to add what David was saying, the Democratic Party right now is going to start going through the process of well, should Ossoff had run more with the left, was the message wrong? Why is Nancy Pelosi, for example, such a target, a lucrative target for republicans?

And I was looking at a tweet from Congressman Seth Moulton whose a junior member of the House, he said...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I read that earlier and I called him Seth Mutton (Ph) because that's where I'm from in Susiana and it's more like mutton.

BORGER: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Not in Connecticut.

LEMON: But he is saying -- but basically Gloria -- yes.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: It's a wake-up call.

LEMON: He says it's a wake-up call.

BORGER: He said it's a wake-up call.

LEMON: You need to look at the future. We need to have better jobs as democrats he says.

BORGER: Right. Well, and also I think what he is talking about and I don't want to put words in his mouth is take a look at our leadership. Let's stop talking about 2016. Let's take a look at our leadership. Let's see where we're going in the House.

And so you can be sure that there's going to be a vigorous debate inside the Democratic Party right now not only because they lost this race, which they hope they can win but as we've all said it's a republican district. But also because they want to have a message and they don't seem to coalesce around anything at this point and that's problematic for them. Being anti-Trump is one thing but maybe you need something else.

LEMON: I want to hear from republican here because republicans are saying -- right now the president is saying take a look at us, we won. He's saying, "Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia sixth. Fantastic job. We are very proud of you," Kevin Madden.

MADDEN: Yes. Well, look, the president ought to take a victory lap here. He deserves and he went all in on it. And they probably came at the right time she was at the end where republicans really needed to just fire up their base and turn out folks on Election Day.

But you know, there is something to be -- we have to be very aware of. There is democrat enthusiasm out there. They are, you know, coalescing around this resistance movement. The problem for them is it's just not enough and they cannot be happy with moral victories. What they need is actual victories.

And I think, you know, to Gloria's point, this is a party that's going through a transition and they have not found a message in a post-Obama world. They haven't found out how to win in a post-Obama world.

And so the thing that I'm encouraged about as a republican is that republicans do recognize that we do have, you know, maybe some head winds that we're facing but we're taking all the necessary steps to survive in this particular environment and to, you know, focus on how we have to message in suburban districts like this where maybe the president isn't this popular, but can be used to counterprogram that democrat enthusiasm right there -- out there...

(CROSSTALK)

[22:55:12] LEMON: Are you surprised at all these wins, Kevin? Because if you -- let's look at, so you look at Georgia won there. If you look at the South Carolina race so, it was supposed to be a landslide and GOP only won by 2,000 votes. There was no democratic money, no national attention. So what does that say about how voters in the Deep South active without the national party influence?

MADDEN: Yes, look, I'm not surprised. I think we are very polarized and I think in these special elections oftentimes why you have weak candidates like we have had in many of these special elections from both parties, usually the environment takes over and because the environment is so polarized, these races are all going to be closed.

The one thing that I found encouraging throughout all of these primaries is that every time I talk to republicans they're on the ground working in them, they're taking it seriously. They are not being complacent. They are racing the money. I mean, Karen Handel, for all the outside money that was out there, she raised 5 to $6 million by herself and all that money.

LEMON: Hold that thought. Thank you, Kevin Madden and the rest of the panel. Stick around. When we come back, much more on our breaking news. What tonight's big win for republicans in Georgia means for democrats. Their hopes in the midterms. We'll be right back.

[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)