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Election Night in Alabama. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired December 12, 2017 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Alabama voters deciding whether to elect a scandal-tainted Republican or the state's first Democratic senator in decades.

[20:00:05] Let's take a look. The polls are now closed.

All right. We have a key race alert. Obviously too early to call right now in Alabama. The Doug Jones campaign and the Roy Moore campaign, they will start getting the votes, all of us will start getting the votes very, very soon.

Right now, based on what we know, clearly too early to call -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, Wolf, thanks very much. You're watching a special edition of AC360.

Now that the polls have closed in Alabama, there is new information we can bring you.

I want to go right to our political director, David Chalian.

David, what are you seeing?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Anderson, the first thing we're looking at today is sort of how the partisans are breaking down. It won't surprise you overwhelmingly Democrats are with Jones. Take a look. Among Democratic voters in Alabama today, 98 percent of them go with Jones, 2 percent go with Moore.

But what is key here, that Jones number is higher than Barack Obama was getting among Democrats in the last two presidential elections that he was in in Alabama. Take a look at how Republicans are splitting. You again see obviously Moore wins the lion share of them, 91 percent, but that is slightly underperforming by a few points of what Romney did, of what McCain did in Alabama in presidential elections.

So, Jones over-performing Obama, Moore underperforming the Republicans. And then we dig in about these Republicans. So, which Republicans seem to be peeling away? No surprise, but significant, these moderate Republican voters that we've been talking about in the suburbs. Take a look about moderate Republicans, 80 percent of them are going for Moore, 19 percent of them are going for Jones.

In 2012, our last exit poll, Romney was winning 99 percent of moderate Republicans to Barack Obama's 1 percent. This is a significant moment for Jones that he's digging into some of the Republican coalition.

And then, of course, we've been talking about all night, race as a factor. The latest exit polls that have just been redistributed to us still show the African-American turnout at 30 percent -- 30 percent of the electorate. That is higher than we've seen in the previous two presidential elections that we have data for, '08 and '12 when there was an African-American running for president at the top of the ticket.

COOPER: Yes, fascinating to see those numbers. David Chalian, thanks very much.

Let's go now to our panel. Nia-Malika Henderson, David Axelrod, Gloria Borger to start.

African-American turnout critical.


COOPER: For Doug Jones.

BORGER: He would not be in this race if it were not for a high African-American turnout, and as David Chalian was saying, we're looking here, this is higher than Barack Obama got. That's a good sign for him.

You know, the problem he has is he doesn't get evangelicals. David is going to talk about some white collar graduates that he's not getting. And, you know, the issues that matter to people in this state, the issues of abortion, for example, he's on the wrong side. And you cannot underestimate that in a state like Alabama, when -- and also the interesting thing that I was looking at is Trump's approval and disapproval in Alabama, it's a tie, which is kind of stunning given the fact that he won the state by 2 to 1.

COOPER: Yes, David Axelrod?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, that is a big question. College-educated whites, they are an important component that Jones needs to win this race in these exit poll numbers, he is underperforming -- significantly underperforming what he would need. Not even getting 30 percent of the overall white vote under 40 percent of college educated whites. If that holds up, and these are exit polls, they're not votes, if that holds up it may be that even the 30 percent turnout among African-Americans won't be enough for him to win this race.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, we've seen that in previous races. I mean, if you look at 2014, for instance, the contest in Louisiana with Mary Landrieu, African-Americans, a big share of that vote. She got creamed among white voters and that's why she ended up losing. It's the same case in North Carolina. African- Americans a big share of that vote, but just not able to compete. The Democrat there Kay Hagan with white voters.

That is really the story of the South in general. And especially in a state like Alabama, which is so racially polarized, right? You've got 70 percent of voters that are white, about 30 percent or so that are black, 2.3 million are active white voters. About 850,000 are active black voters.

So, I mean, the numbers there I think it's just really hard for somebody like Doug Jones to compete.

AXELROD: One thing I just want to mention is that the late breakers, people who decided in the last ten days, they are going overwhelmingly for Moore in this exit poll, as are voters who decided in December. So, some of that is the impact of the story receding. Some of it may be the visit of the president in the last hours of the campaign.

COOPER: Let's turn over to this side, Bakari Sellers, Rick Santorum, Jen Psaki, Amanda Carpenter.

You were down there campaigning for Doug Jones?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I was down there on December 1st, which ironically enough was the 62nd anniversary of Rosa Parks lunching in the sit-in movement in the Montgomery bus boycott.

[20:05:08] And the impression that I got is a lot of the stories that people were saying about the black vote in the South, the black vote in Alabama particularly, being somewhat domicile or docile just wasn't the case.

And the reason being --

COOPER: You were seeing enthusiasm --

SELLERS: And to think that voters in Alabama, you're talking about voters, many of which are just one generation away from seeing Selma, one generation away from hearing and seeing about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott or the Tuskegee airmen were going to sit at home on such an important day when they knew the cost that was paid just to get the right to vote I thought was intellectually dishonest and lazy. We knew those people were coming out.

The question is whether or not he will get the number of college educated white voters he needs, whit needs, college educated white women like he needs. Particularly we need to look at Jefferson County, which is Birmingham and we also need to look at Huntsville. Those are the two most important areas.

I was in Tuskegee, I was in Montgomery, I was in Huntsville, I was in Birmingham, African-American voters are excited. If he's able to get the numbers he needs in those two counties, in Jefferson County the location where Huntsville is, it's going to be an extremely long day.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, Roy Moore was not on the campaign trail really I think since last Tuesday. Do you think that was wise? I mean, do you think it shows confident on Moore campaign part or the Moore campaign part, or they just want to keep him out of making any mistakes? RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I mean been

he's the flash point in the campaign and I'm not too sure there is anything he could have said or done or exposing himself to the media would be a positive thing for the campaign, so I think they probably did as good a job to make him not the issue in the campaign. I mean, he has been the issue in the campaign, but they're going to win this race if they win tonight because they're appealing to -- we need to hold the Senate, all of these issues that Moore really doesn't represent.

And so, I think that was a very smart move. And, you know, I'm concerned about the 30 percent African-American turnout, but I think that may be driven more by a lot of whites staying home because they just didn't feel like they wanted to vote as opposed to maybe amped up turnout on the other side. So I think what I was talking to folks in Alabama in the last 24 hours, I think there was a feeling that Moore was going to win and that that actually was hurting him a little bit.

Because you have a lot of voters there who weren't particularly excited about voting for him and thought, well, he's going to win, I can stay home and I don't have to be part of voting for someone who I don't feel good about voting for.


JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the African- American turnout numbers are very good signs, but I think people should remember that Barack Obama had 28 percent and he still lost the state by more than 10 points. So these numbers we're talking about like white working class voters, white voters, a lot of Doug Jones' ad money was targeted towards conservative women, Republican women. Did that work or didn't it work? We really don't know at this point but he needs to get a huge chunk of those voters to get across the finish line.

COOPER: We're getting more exit polls. But, Amanda, I just want to hear from you quickly.

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think what makes this race exciting we get a preview of what's going to happen in 2018 and 2020, because you see in the candidate Roy Moore, he is running the Trump playbook, straight from the idea that also bad news is fake news, he's running straight on the Trump agenda and also denying sexual allegations and the very exact same way that Donald Trump has in the past and continues to do so today.

But also in the Democratic side, you see the Democrats still struggle to gain their footing in the post-Obama world. They're trying their best to capitalize on anger and resentment by women and minorities. And so, that is a dynamic that is not going to change tonight, in 2018 or 2020. That will hold.

COOPER: Let's check in with David Chalian.

Again, you're getting some more numbers. CHALIAN: Yes, Anderson, you guys were just talk talking about with

David Axelrod, the college educated white voters in Alabama. Take a look at how they split today. This is really interesting.

Moore wins 59 percent of them. Jones is winning 37 percent. Overall, they make up 29 percent of the electorate. So, that is a 22-point advantage for Moore, but I just want to explain that Mitt Romney won this group in 2012 by 59 points. So, now that 59-point Republican advantage among white college educated voters in Alabama has gone to a 22 percent advantage.

And then when you look at white voters without a college degree, a bigger share, 36 percent of the electorate, you see that Moore wins 78 percent of them to Jones '20 percent of them. So, obviously, that is a 58 margin, a healthy margin there. Again, underperforming Romney with this group who won them against Obama by 75 points in 2012.

COOPER: Fascinating. David Chalian, thanks.

Bakari, I'm wondering when you were there, the controversial statements that Roy Moore has made about Muslims, about gay people, about, well --

SELLERS: Everybody.

COOPER: A lot of different groups. You know, the Tenth Amendment, amendments after the Tenth Amendment, getting rid of some of them. Did those motivate people or was it issues in particular? And I guess on the flip side, for Moore supporters, is it ignoring those controversial statements and it's the core issues of abortion and, you know, keeping the Republican majority and things like that?

[20:10:08] SELLERS: I think there were two things. The first is the fact if you take away -- this is hard to do, but if you take away the cases of sexual harassment, pedophilia, whatever you want to call it, sexual assault, if you take those away, there are many people, especially those in Alabama who know Roy Moore who still believe Roy Moore is a really bad candidate because of the things that he said, because of the xenophobia, because of the bigotry, because of the homophobia. I mean, that was exemplified today, earlier today when his spokesperson was on the air and said that homosexuality should be illegalized.

I mean, so, set that aside, but there is also a sense of individuals who just knew history. And there are a lot of us who put Roy Moore in the same category that we put a George Wallace, that you put a Bull Conner. There is this theory -- and many of us want to aspire to the belief that we've made progress in this country. And Roy Moore is so emblematic of a past that we don't want to go back to.

And so, that's why you're going to see tonight what I believe, you saw groups like the NAACP, you saw the black church, you saw AKAs and Deltas and different sororities and fraternities, historically black colleges, these normal traditions of the African-American community that are reenergized because we understand the value of this race. This race is more than just Doug Jones and Roy Moore. And, yes, we may lose this race tonight, that can happen, but the

reason that Democrats lose this race tonight would not be because of the African-American vote. We can guarantee you that.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, in the exit polls I think it was 49 percent say that Roy Moore shares their values.

SANTORUM: Which is remarkably low for Alabama. I mean, because Alabama is a very conservative state. And so, the idea that he -- obviously some of the points that Bakari made, people who are conservatives who would otherwise agree with a lot of the policy prescriptions he's laid out on abortion and other things don't agree with him.

So, there is no question that Roy Moore was a weak candidate when it came to this beyond issues of the sexual harassment charges. But for the sexual harassment charges, he would have still won Alabama in a very comfortable margin.

BORGER: Here's what's interesting to me, of those people who said the charges are probably true, 15 percent of them still voted for Roy Moore, according to these polls. And that means that there is a lot of other stuff either they didn't want to vote for Jones because they don't want to vote for a Democrat or there is a litmus test on abortion, or, you know, they're conservative and Trump made a difference, but that was remarkable to me.

COOPER: Getting a key race alert. Let's go to Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. Let's check out, very, very early. Only a few hundred votes are in, but you can see Doug Jones has a lead, 60 percent, almost 40 percent for Roy Moore, 149 votes ahead. But this is extremely, extremely early. There are going to be hundreds of thousands of votes before this night is over with.

John, very early. Extremely early. I don't want people to draw any wrong conclusions right now. We can't get anything out of this.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Almost everything we're getting so far is absentee ballots that are counted before the polls closed and they begin to release those numbers on a county by county basis, as they get them. So, we're going to be in for a long count.

When you see the pace picking up, we'll have a better sense. If you look at the map right now, it doesn't tell you much at all. We know Roy Moore is going to win down here in Coffey County, rural, evangelical voters.

But this is part of his base. This is where he in statewide elections where he has won, including close races when he's won, he runs it up here among rural Trump evangelical voters. So, we'll keep an eye on this. This tells us nothing, that's fewer than 200 votes. That's what he needs in terms of a margin, 71, 72. Up around 70 percent in counties like this, that would be proof in the number numbers hold up.

Two things we're going to look at, one the margins and then two, the raw numbers. Is the Republican base coming out? Are Trump voters coming out? Are evangelicals coming out? Are they staying home?

And the flip side, as we start to look at places where Doug Jones is winning, same thing. Unlikely he's going to end with 95 percent in this particular county. These very early votes, 375 votes so far. But that's the other thing we look at. Not just the margins, but the turnout, is Democratic intensity, more Democrats coming out higher than Republican intensity? We'll see that as we go through the night.

Just one last thing we'll look at, I do think this number if the African-American turnout is as high as we think and if Doug Jones can do moderately well, make inroads in the suburbs like David Chalian was just talking about, this number could, emphasis on could, could become significant. A lot of Democrats think it would be hard to get Doug Jones over 50 percent, but if you can win with 47 percent or 48 percent because there is a higher number of write-in candidates, that could -- again could -- become part of the factor.

As we start to watch the votes come in, we are incredibly early right now, this is going to be at least a couple of hours as we count them in. Don't just watch the margins here. See if this number, the percentage of it there starts to grow as a piece of the electorate to see if the finish line, Wolf, if victory could be 47 percent, 48 percent, 49 percent, instead of 50-plus-one, Wolf.

[20:15:02] KING: All right, John.

Let me give our viewers a little update, once again, very, very early. Only about 1,000 votes counted so far. Doug Jones, he's got a little advantage right now, 63 percent, 35 percent for the Republican Roy Moore. He's ahead by 263 votes.

But, remember, this is extremely, extremely early. It's way too early to call in Alabama. There is a lot of suspense is in the Senate election as we wait for more votes to come in. Stay with us.


BLITZER: All right. Welcome back.

We have another key race alert. Once again, very, very early. Doug Jones, the Democrat, maintaining a lead over Roy Moore, the Republican, 61 percent to 38 percent. But once again, extremely, extremely early in this contest.

It's going to be an exciting night, John, by all accounts. But once again, very early in this contest.

[20:20:00] KING: Right. The key is -- the most key number right now is down here, zero percent of the vote. We're just mostly getting absentee ballots as they come in from around the state.

But you have two campaign headquarters getting call from precincts, looking at these numbers as they come into us and reporting by the secretary of state. Understanding this appears to be a very close, competitive race. So, they will grasp every one of these numbers. For example, if you're in the Moore campaign, you know up in Winston

2County, 0.5 percent of the population, not a lot of people here, but he needs big margins. If that margin stays up, might not be good enough. These are your evangelical voters, conservative voters. Roy Moore has to win this big.

Let's just go back in time to the last time he won statewide in that county, he got 79 percent. So, you come back to where we are now, he's getting just shy of 60 percent, he has to get those numbers up. Again, we're only at 5 percent, so make no judgments based on that, but that's one of the things the campaigns are doing when these early numbers come in, matching them up to past races, running them through their own model.

If you're in the Jones campaign, the fact that Mobile County is early blue, that's encouraging. This if Roy Moore is going to win, he wants this to be red at the end of the night. If it stays blue, again, we're at 1 percent, so that margin -- if it stays like that, Doug Jones is in a very competitive place to be the next senator from the state of Alabama.

But at 1 percent, you're just encouraged down here because if you go again. Number one, it's a swing county -- for a Democrat to be competitive, they need to change the math here and be like that, number one. Number two, again, this is where the president targeted. He was down here in Pensacola, didn't cross into Alabama, but his message was delivered to Republicans in this area.

You see another blue filling in here, a much smaller county, Clark County here. Again, very early results. Just 3 percent of the vote in this one particular county.

But on what is going to be a tense night and a long count, people are sitting in these campaign offices saying, OK, Roy Moore needs this to be red, Doug Jones needs this to be blue, this is one of the contested places, if it stays blue, Jones is in play. And the tensions mount as the early numbers start to come in.

BLITZER: Compared to the last time he ran, Roy Moore, is the blue filling in where it's supposed to be blue and the red where it's supposed to be red? Are you seeing some significant changes so far very early in the contest?

KING: Right, it's a great point. And again, let's go back. David Chalian was making this point earlier. Let's go back to the history a little bit first. There's 2016, Donald Trump wins. Let's go back to 2012, Mitt Romney wins and wins comfortably.

Remember, 61 to 38 in the presidential race. This is the last time Roy Moore was on the ballot running for chief justice, 52 percent. Dramatically underperforming the Republican presidential candidate in his own state.

And so, what do you have here? You have the Democratic candidate winning across here. This is why I circled that earlier. The Democratic candidate beating -- losing the race by 3 1/2, 4 points but beating Roy Moore down here and up here.

See the red up here? I'm going to use a different color so you can tell the distinction. The yellow is where Roy Moore needs to run it up. And so, this is the 2012 race that was very competitive. Roy Moore eking out a victory here.

Now, let's come back here to where we are right now. And as you watch the map fill in, again, filling the way Roy Moore want it is here, filling in the way Doug Jones want it is here. The way Roy Moore wants it here.

The biggest question for Doug Jones, I'm going to take this away so it's not confusing. The biggest question for Doug Jones is when Jefferson County comes in, Birmingham needs to run it up. Not just win, but run it up.

That needs to be a route for Doug Jones. We'll look here add at Madison County in Huntsville, if it's red, Roy Moore wins, if it's blue at the end of the night, Doug Jones is in play.

BLITZER: If you go to Birmingham, that's a big -- is about 13 percent of the population right there.

KING: Yes, this is a giant piece. Number one, in urban Birmingham, in central Birmingham, that is your Democratic base. That is -- Bakari was talking about this earlier tonight. It is key that Doug Jones not only win the African-American vote, the Democratic base.

But, again, not just the percentages, the math. You need to see the Democratic intensity here. As we saw in Virginia, as we saw in New Jersey, blue state, leaning blue state, can Democrats come out with such intensity in a red state?

This will be absolutely critical here. And I will posit this, if Doug Jones gets what he wants, then Shelby County and counties like it come into play, the suburbs. These are where you find your moderate Republicans, and if you go back to the run-off here, not to get too technical, but Roy Moore won the run-off over Luther Strange, the interim senator.

But look where he didn't do well. The light orange is Luther strange. These are places where you do have more moderate. It's Alabama, they're conservatives, but more moderate suburban Republicans who aren't Donald Trump's best voters and historically in Alabama have not been Roy Moore's best voters.

So, as we get back into the official count for tonight up here, urban areas absolutely critical for Doug Jones first. Then we get into the suburbs, and then the other question is when you see these rural areas filling in red, is it not just the margins but is that -- you need that number to come up.

Are they coming out to vote or are some rural evangelicals, Trump more Republicans staying home?

BLITZER: Give us some reference. A little comparison to Birmingham. Let's go back to Birmingham, that county alone, 13, almost 14 percent of the electorate in Alabama.

[20:25:02] How did Hillary Clinton, for example, do in the last presidential contest there?

KING: Bring up the presidential election here obviously. You see the same dynamic. This is what's called the Black Belt and it's called that for the top soil, deep, black, rich agricultural top soil. It is also a Democratic area and a place where you have a significant African-American population.

This is the important -- it's the base, the stepping stone for any Democrat to be competitive has to be here. Fourteen percent of the population, again, Birmingham, the suburbs. Hillary Clinton, 52 percent. That's a good margin there, but it's not good enough. It's not good enough.

If you go back, you see this throughout. Let's go back to the 2012 presidential election. Obama 53 percent here. That is because don't think of it just as Birmingham central city, it's because of the suburbs.

The Democrats win in the city and the suburbs around is where the Republicans make their inroads and keep the numbers closer and then the Republicans get their margin of victory elsewhere in the state, especially when they sweep these smaller rural counties. And so, this will be the first place we watch tonight. Doug Jones essentially has to outperform Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to put this into play, the combination of young voters, African-American voters and then reaching into the suburbs.

BLITZER: So, in Jefferson County, which includes Birmingham, he's going to have to do a lot better than 52 percent in order to carry the rest of the state, right?

KING: Yes. And because there are so many more Republicans than Democrats in modern day Alabama, it's not just doing better than the 50 percent, it's -- we're going to look a lot more at the hard numbers tonight. The math, to see if the key to this is for the Democrats to over turnout, the Democrats to over-perform. You'd have to find examples for Doug Jones.

That gets him into play. Then to see if he can win, you have to see if there is evidence in the more rural areas of the state that some Republicans are staying home or these write-in numbers grow. And the early results, it's not very significant. We'll see how it plays out.

KING: One percent of the vote is in. Doug Jones has a lead, 79 percent to 29 percent, 30 percent. But still very, very early.

Coming up, what will President Trump do if Roy Moore wins? We're getting details on that, as we stand by for votes out of Alabama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:31:16] WOLF BLITZER, CNN LEAD POLITICAL ANCHOR: All right. We've got another key race alert. Let's take a look. Again, very early, one percent of the vote has now been counted. Doug Jones, the Democrat, he maintains his lead over Roy Moore, the Republican, 64 percent to 35.5 percent. He's up by almost 3,000 votes. Once again, though, very, very early in this contest.

Let's go over to Jeff Zeleny, he's at the White House. We know, Jeff, the president is watching the results come in.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We do indeed, Wolf, by the president. And I'm told he's in the residence of the White House watching the results come in, of course, watching this Alabama race very carefully.

And over the last three weeks or so he's gradually distanced himself from the Republican leaders up on Capitol Hill who have been sharply or critical of Roy Moore. Well, the question is what happens if he wins, if he'll, you know, what the president will do then? I am told that the president's support for Moore offers a window into this thinking. It's really been somewhat of a crescendo (ph) if you will. He initially was tepid in his support, but now in recent days, recent hours, a full throttled endorsement.

I am told by a Republican official close to this White House the president does not plan to support any kind of talk of censure if he comes or any type of resistance. His message will be the people of Alabama have spoken.

Now, the interesting question will be if Jones wins, will that still be the president's message, of course? Wolf, he has all on the line here. The president is all-in on this because he was told that he believes that Moore can win. And he can, of course, but this would be the biggest defeat for the president so far of any race that he's become involved in. Of course way too early for that, but if Moore comes, of course, the president, look for him to support him. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, way too early. Only 1 percent of the vote counted. Jeff Zeleny, thanks very much. Anderson over to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes, Wolf, thanks very much. I mean, Amanda, you know Capitol Hill well. If the president is not supporting any kind of investigation or censure or anything, is that a done deal?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, can we start with the back -- of course the president doesn't want an investigation into past sexual allegations against Roy Moore because if Republicans investigate that on behalf of Roy Moore, how can they also say we will never look into any accusations against Donald Trump? That is just a bind. So of course he wants it to go nowhere.

That said, Republicans are on record saying they would look into it but I felt like they were backing off of that in the last few days by saying, oh, well, maybe we won't give him a committee assignment. And then Lindsey Graham was on the air saying, well, you know, this kind of tricky when this didn't happen while he was a U.S. senator. So they've been trying to find way as round that but now that Donald Trump is drawing a line into the sand saying don't look into it, he's once again put the Republican Party into a box.

COOPER: Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I disagree. I mean, the Senate is not going to look into as an ethics matter what the president did because the president isn't a senator. They're going to look into what a senator did. I have no doubt that there would be -- if Roy Moore wins tonight that there will be an ethics investigation.

COOPER: Really?

SANTORUM: Absolutely.

COOPER: Even if the president doesn't support it?

SANTORUM: It doesn't matter whether the president support it is or not. The president is a member of the Senate.


COOPER: Let him finish.

SANTORUM: The president isn't up for election in 2018 and a bunch of senators are and a bunch of House members are and they're the ones who are nervous about having to wear Roy Moore as an anchor around their neck. And I can tell you, I mean, if I was a senator, I would want that investigation, I would want to see what the evidence is, I'd want to feel comfortable with it. And I've said it throughout the process, you're either going to get a vindicated Roy Moore or you're going to get a new senator from Alabama.

CARPENTER: But here's the question --

COOPER: But -- if there is an investigation and they do find wrongdoing, what happens then?

SANTORUM: I think there will be tremendous pressure for him to resign. If he doesn't do it, I think they will expel him.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And do you think the entire -- you see, because what I foresee is that the Republican caucus would be very split, particularly if the president of the United States was on the other side of it. And I would just point out that in this particular primary, among this electorate, Mitch McConnell had an approval rating of 14 --


[20:35:02] AXELROD: -- and the Republican Party was held in no higher esteem than the Democratic Party. This was an anti-establishment vote in Alabama and there are other places where there are as well, where your former colleagues feel that pressure. I think it is -- I mean, I appreciate what you're saying and I think that Senator McConnell's intent is probably to do what you suggest, but, boy, I'll tell you, I think it's going to be a Rocky Scholes to navigate.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And let me just raise this question because I was talking to somebody today who has done a lot of legal work with the Ethics Committee in the Senate, and the question that he asks is would the Ethics Committee be able to exercise its authority on a matter in which the allegations were known when people went to the polls? Not something that happened after they voted for their senator but something that happened and they knew about it and they voted for him anyway. I think that complicates things.

SANTORUM: Well, I think a lot of people in Alabama voted for Roy Moore with the expectation that the Senate would do its job. I mean I heard that over and over again from people in Alabama, that, yes, we're concerned about it, but we trust the Senate will look into this. And, now I'm not saying -- there were a lot of strong Roy Moore supporters. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the votes he need to win this election. A lot of those votes --

COOPER: So you actually heard that from people who said, look, I'm going to vote for him but I'm hoping the Senate --

SANTORUM: Either clean it up and, like I said, we will get a vindicated Roy Moore or we'll have a Roy Moore that will be replaced.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, first of all, the race is nowhere near over. And we do believe that Doug Jones has a legitimate chance to win this race.

SANTORUM: Yes, sure he does.

SELLERS: But my only point is that as a Democrat, do you know how good it feels right now to actually have the better person running for office? Like, this isn't even a competition.

AXELROD: -- I know what you're saying.

SELLERS: -- of having -- I mean, this is not even a question. You know, for me, it's -- the travesty is that you've had a lot of people who put the policy and the party over the moral fabric of this country, and as Democrats we're sitting back -- and we can -- I know you want to go down a rabbit hole with Bill Clinton and everybody else. But I'm going to talk about Roy Moore and Doug Jones.

The fact of the matter is, when you look at this race, there hasn't been a clearer dichotomy of any two candidates that we've seen in recent history. You have someone who has to be polite tonight, racist tendencies versus someone who prosecuted the bombers of the 16th Street Baptist Church. You have someone who gave justice to little girls versus someone who preyed on them. I mean there is no clearer contrast than what we have tonight so while we're talking about what may happen to Roy Moore in the United States Senate with all of his problems. Let's at least give Democrats the benefit tonight of being able to breathe -- if we win, we will just have joy on the heels. If we lose, we will lost with a great horse.

CARPENTER: But doesn't it concern you as a Democrat, the fact that you can face a candidate with all of these problems and you're still not going to win this race outright?

SELLERS: No, we're in --

CARPENTER: Will you be willing to --


CARPENTER: -- willing to moderate their positions on things like abortion. Because right now, the Democratic Party has gotten radical, extreme on this and it has made the idea of voting for a Democrat a complete nonstarter for all Republicans. That is why they will vote for someone like Roy Moore.


SELLERS: If he lose this race, there are a couple of things. We're in the fifth most conservative state in the union. We're in Alabama. That's first. And second, I love the high ground that Republicans are taking on the issue of abortion because the most amazing thing is all of a sudden Republicans care about babies when they're in the womb, but they don't care about teenagers because they vote for Roy Moore?

CARPENTER: Listen, I've been very vocal against Roy Moore. What I'm saying if you want to beat candidate like Roy Moore --

SELLERS: I'm just saying that the hypocrisy is really knee-deep right now.

CARPENTER: -- are you willing to give something to Republican voters?

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, I think this is not all Democrats or all of the Democratic Party. There is a division within the Democratic Party and there are litmus tests that shouldn't be there because we are never going to win if we do that.

SELLERS: I agree with that. Amen.

PSAKI: -- we should learn from this if Doug Jones wins, just like we learned from Virginia, is that we need candidates that fit the district. Yes, Doug Jones is on the wrong side of some issues that Republican voters would like him to be on, however, he is more conservative than what most progressive Democrats would like to see in the state.

I will say, you are taking the very high moral high ground, which I think is the right thing and I agree with everything you said, but this is still tomorrow morning when Democrats wake up, if Roy Moore wins, Democrats are still going to be happy.

COOPER: It's interesting, you know, it seems like Democratic groups from outside of Alabama did make an effort, a big effort kind of behind the scenes over the last couple of weeks in Alabama, pumping in money, sending in people on the ground, even though Doug Jones sort of was separating himself from the National Democrats.

AXELROD: Yes, and that's been a tricky line that Jones has had to walk because being the -- for all the reasons that you see, the worst thing for Doug Jones was to have this race nationalized. The reason the president was down there was to nationalize the race. And you saw the late breakers moving away from Jones because the truth of the matter is, if Jones wins tonight, that very tenuous margin in the Senate becomes more tenuous. And that is something Mitch McConnell doesn't want, which is why he's sort of tolerated Moore. He wants to keep that seat in Republican hands. Perhaps they expel Moore. But then you have a Republican governor appoint his replacement. The other alternative is to have Doug Jones, who is a Democrat, and you have to live with that until 2020. But, yes, Democrats have been trying to help Doug Jones but do it in such a way as not to draw attention to this --

[20:40:28] BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: --as a national race.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: But I would say they've been doing that long before the allegations came out. That was after the primary win. This is part of the argument that the Republican establishment was making before the allegations. Remember, Mitch McConnell stood in the Rose Garden with the president of the United States explaining why he thought it was a terrible thing that Moore was the nominee in this race because of the history of Todd Akin and other Republican nominees that were out of the mainstream for the general electorate.

And Democrats, again, a tricky situation, you're right, because they did not want to be seen -- he doesn't want to be seen as the Democrat national brand down in Alabama, but the moment Moore won that primary, they went in.

And remember, Anderson, there was a Fox News Poll, again, a month before the allegations that had this race tied. Moore is a particularly problematic candidate prior to the allegations and the Democrats seized that opportunity early.

BORGER: But they had to be so careful. I mean, you had Barack Obama doing a robocall at the last minute. Joe Biden went in, in October, I believe, and you had John Lewis and Cory Booker down there, but they were tip toeing because they didn't want to alienate those suburban Republican women who might cross over. They didn't want to, you know, alienate any potential moderate Republicans.

COOPER: When you went down there, were you wearing a disguise?

SELLERS: I just drove in the cover of darkness.


SELLERS: Can I tell you how it's done just briefly, real quick, I know we got to pay bills and others -- but briefly, the way it's done is you take a candidate like Doug Jones who knows the Black Community and knows the base, but then he's talking about issues that affect Alabamians. He's talking about rural hospitals, he's talking about schools.

COOPER: We've got to take a break. We're following every vote as this critical Senate rate is decided. Standing by for results. Key districts in Alabama. We'll be back in just a moment.


[20:46:19] BLITZER: All right. Work got another key race alert. More votes are coming in. Two percent of the vote is actually in and Doug Jones, the Democrat, maintaining an impressive lead over Roy Moore, once again, very, very early in the contest, 55.5 percent for Doug Jones, 43.5 percent for Roy Moore. He's up by 3500 votes right now just changed three percent of the vote now coming in.

Let's go over to John King over the magic wall. So, based on the votes that we're seeing, where they're coming in from, can we draw any significant conclusions yet or way too early?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I wouldn't say significant conclusions, but if you're a Democrat, especially sitting in Doug Jones headquarters, you're watching the early map fill in the map -- fill in and you're starting to get hopeful. Starting to get hopeful. Let me add the big important caveats right of the top, three percent of the vote in. Don't jump to conclusions. This is a ruby red state. Don't jump to conclusions. But, if you look the at results coming in so far, we talked earlier, most important place for Doug Jones, the first piece of a foundation to an improbable Democratic win in Alabama is Jefferson County. He's getting close to 90 percent of the vote so far, 88.6 percent to just 10 percent. Again, it's only one percent. These are largely absentee ballots. So let's be careful. Don't go anywhere.

But if you're just sitting around saying in the very early results are we doing what we need to do? The answer in Jefferson County is yes, plus a little. Let's come out a little bit, let's move up here to the Huntsville area. This is Madison County, again one percent. Strap in. We're going to be here for awhile. But if you're in, you're just looking for early clues, are we in play? If you're Doug Jones you're looking at those numbers you're saying, OK, that's the way we need to start the night to (ph) come down there.

One more I want to get to before I go is Tuscaloosa here, again, 73 percent to 25 percent. If it ends up that way at the end of the night, Doug Jones is in play. That's four percent. Be careful. That's one way to look at it. If you're in the Democratic headquarters, you're saying the places we need to run up, the very early results -- very early results are quite encouraging. Let me look at a different way for you, Wolf.

I want to go back in time, again, look at the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney gets 61 percent in Alabama. Roy Moore is running for chief justice of the Supreme Court on the same ballot, on the same day, he's a known figure statewide, he gets only 52 percent. He has a history of underperforming, even Republicans, other Republicans on the ballot in his own state. So remember this race. Let's look at it right now.

This is where it is interesting early on. I won't say significant because we've got a lot more votes to count, but this is interesting. For example, let's take a look. The Democratic candidate in the 2012 race got 63 percent in Jefferson County. It was a close race, right, 52-48, Roy Moore wins, Bob Vance loses but gets 63 percent in Jefferson County. Tonight in the early results, Doug Jones is up at 88 percent. He is over performing early on the Democrat. And I can show you other Counties where that is consistent. Doug Jones is over performing the Democrat that just lost to Roy Moore back in 2012.

Now let's take another way to look at it, if you're in Roy Moore headquarters, these Counties right across the northern part of the state right here, evangelical Christians, rural Republican voters, Roy Moore voters, Trump voters, absolutely critical to Roy Moore tonight to offset the urban areas, Morgan County, 2.5 percent. This is so far tonight, 3 percent, 51 percent to 47 percent.

Let's go back in time to 2012 and to that race. Sixty one percent in the race, before 51 percent. Now, so Roy Moore is underperforming Roy Moore in that very competitive 1992 race. So I want to, again, it's very early on as you watch this -- as you watch this fill in, but if you're in the two headquarters, you are now calling into these places. Most of this is absentee ballots and you are trying to get any intelligence you can about whether these numbers are going to stand up.

Another key area for Doug Jones, Montgomery County, Montgomery, Alabama, of course, African-American base, then you get out into the suburbs out here. That number holds up at the end of the night, Doug Jones is in play, but again, I want to caution you it's only two percent. But on the night when you know it is close, and you're sitting in the campaign headquarters, and this is the tense time, you're calling around the state trying to get all the intelligence that you can, and you're looking at these numbers, if you're Doug Jones, this tells you I'm in play, at least for now. We're going to have an interesting night. And if you're Roy Moore, you know --

[20:50:27] BLITZER: You see a 3 percent still in, but it's tightened up a bit, 51.2 percent to 47.6 percent. The difference, it's getting a littler tighter even as we speak.

KING: That's going to happen when you see these Counties still in this. Not a lot of people up here. You know, this is just over 100 votes, but as these come out, it's just 5 percent, the 60 percent in this county, 68 percent in this county. The key is going to be if, A, we'll do some raw math as we get later into this race. It's not just the fact that Doug Jones is winning Jefferson County by 78 points right there. Unlikely, that margin is going to hold up. But often we focus on the margins in these Counties. Tonight is a big test of turnout. We're going to see how these numbers compare to other statewide races for Democrats (INAUDIBLE). Are more Democrats turning out? Again, like we saw in Virginia, like we saw in New Jersey. Is the Democratic intensity advantage, are these numbers higher than normal in the blue places and are these numbers lower than normal in the red places? That's where we're going to be a couple hours from now in this race.

But early on, again, if you're in Doug Jones headquarters, got tighter. We're having this conversation.


KING: Get used to that. We're going to probably have a roller coaster a little bit as these results coming in from different place. Might flip a few times. If you're in Jones headquarters, you're in play, but you got a lot of waiting left.

BLITZER: Take a look --

KING: There you go.

BLITZER: -- four percent of the vote is in there. We just see Roy Moore takes the lead there. He's got 50.3 percent, Doug Jones, the Democrats, 48.1 percent. So it just flipped even as we were speaking.

KING: It just flip. But I just want to look to see where the votes coming in to see the margin (INAUDIBLE). Here's one place. We went up to five percent here. They got much closer in Madison County. This is a key swing County. This one could go back and forth throughout the tonight. For a Democrat to be in play you want to keep this blue. It is blue at the moment, this County, but because Roy Moore narrowed the margin there, because he's starting to run it up some of these small rural Counties as the votes come in, we're up to 12 percent in Blount County here. We're going to watch this play out. We got a lot of accounting to do.

Most of this area that's empty, this will be blue, should be blue across here. Most of it up here and down here should be in a normal Alabama race, be red. So, Judge Moore has growth to be had here. The question is, when we get in the urban areas and the close in suburbs we're still at four percent here. Can Doug Jones keep anything like those margins, because here in Tuscaloosa, more importantly here in Jefferson County, then you move down here to Montgomery County, then finally, I don't mean to make people dizzy, we go down here, the Mobile County and the southwestern part of the state where the people are. You get these areas where you have these -- the urban areas and then the suburbs. That will decide it. But if you're early on, look at that, 50 to 48.

BLITZER: There are a thousand votes difference, not even a thousand votes as we're watching. Let's go over to Jake and Dana. You know, I suspect we're going to see a back and forth for a while as the votes come in, only four percent of the vote is in so far.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. And one of the things that's been interesting about this race in and talking to voters down there and talking to Republicans in Alabama is that there's almost been an effort to convince these people to give them a reason to overlook the stuff that they don't like about Roy Moore, and you can break up this race into before the November 9th, I believe "Washington Post" story came out, then there was a period when it seemed as though he had been abandoned by everyone. President Trump wasn't talking about him. The RNC pulled out. And then, of course, there was a time when people started pushing in. And if you look, in the last few days, the people have made up their mind, have broken for Roy Moore as opposed to Jones. But if you go back to November, it's the opposite, 57 percent of the voters made up their mind before November, and 51 percent of them were for Jones and 47 percent for Roy Moore. So the bottom line is, that Roy Moore has closed strong with these voters who were undecided.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The momentum was against him and then very much for him. There could be a lot of reasons first and foremost, potentially the Trump effect. The fact that the president went down to the border near Alabama in Florida, did a rally, did a robocall, tweeted about him, good the momentum going.

I was texting with a prominent southern conservative asking what he thought, and the answer was potentially the other side, Former President Obama coming after Jones, and kind of igniting the Republican base. And maybe causing them to come home to Moore and wait that they might not have been. Just the inability for conservative person who has never voted Democrat in his or her life to full lever for a Democrat, or just -- this is something that's interesting. A lasting impact that sort of embedded in the culture of many southern areas that they don't like people coming from the outside and telling them what to do, and that all those things could be reasons for the -- I wouldn't necessarily say it's a Moore surge, but based on the exit polls the fact that he does seem to have them.

[20:55:27] TAPPER: We have a key race alert with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: All right, takes a look right now. We have a key race alert and look how tight it is right now, five percent of the vote now has been counted. Roy Moore, the Republican, he's slightly ahead, 51.2 percent to Doug Jones 47.4 percent, about 2,500 vote advantage for Roy Moore over Doug Jones. But once again, 5 percent of the vote is in. Roy Moore takes a slight advantage, Anderson over to you.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much. Back now with the panel. I mean it is obviously five percent of the vote. It's way too early to tell much.

AXELROD: It would be a mistake to leap to conclusions, these exit polls are wonderful tools but they're blunt tools sometimes and they're not awesome right. Again, I think the number to continue to watch is this number among college educated whites, among whom Jones hoped to build a larger lead. The Democrats usually -- a larger bet of support that Democrats usually get. Right now he's not getting the numbers that he needs in these exit polls.


AXELROD: But we'll see once these votes -- because we're still looking at a lot of absentee ballots. The same day voting is the vote that is going to be --

COOPER: David, can you just talk about these exit polls? I mean, we talk about them so much, you know, so much discussion about that. How are they actually taken, and what are their sort of inherent problems and biases?

CHALIAN: So, the way that it's done is that, you have sample precincts throughout the state. In the same way, that when you do with telephone poll, you call a thousand Americans to try to get the sense of the pulse of the whole country. You have sample precincts throughout the state. We have people who are standing outside those sample precincts representing the precincts of all kinds of demography and geography throughout the state, asking people, do you mind if I ask you a few questions about the vote you just cast inside? And then you have people take that survey.

We have seen over the years that Democrats are more inclined to take the survey than Republicans are. And therefore, there's -- you wait against that knowing that that inherent bias exists in some of the exit polls. So it is a blunt instrument, but it is a representative sample and we wait for things like what did the vote look like there historically over the last several statewide elections there. That gets fed into the models that you use. And you look all night long at different models, as this information comes in, and then most importantly, Anderson, it gets weighted against the real vote as the real vote is coming in. It gets weighted against the sample precincts to make sure that the exit poll starts reflecting what the actual voters did.

BORGER: So I just heard from a Republican pollster who e-mailed me and said, do you think Moore voters are going to actually --

COOPER: You mean Roy Moore voters.

BORGER: I mean, Roy Moore voters are going to stop and listen and take an exit poll from people they don't, you know, they don't trust?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, because that's been a theme of this campaign, outsiders coming in, the media coming in. And that played a factor, right, Donald Trump while some of those polls and maybe people --


HENDERSON: Yes, the people wouldn't admit or want to play ball with exit --

AXELROD: Yes, some might not want to admit they voted for a Democrat.


BORGER: Sure, too.

PSAKI: And it was a factor in the Trump race in 2016 where people didn't admit they voted for Trump and then clearly they went into their voting booth and pulled the lever for him. Another interesting number, I think, to look at here, David mentioned the approval or deed -- not impressive approval rating for the Republican Party. The Steve Bannon effect here and kind of what that will mean coming out of here is going to be a big issue for the Republicans tomorrow because if Moore wins then Steve Bannon is going to be empowered, that wing of the party is going to be empowered. This is potentially even more divisive within the party not just about what the ethics investigation and how that is going to go as well.

COOPER: Do you buy that, senator?

SANTORUM: Well, I don't think that Steve is going to come out of this in better shape given the trevails (ph) of what his candidate has put his party and is going to put this party through if he's successful. So I'm not too sure that this is a great night for Steve, and even if Roy Moore win.

So, look, I happen to believe that a lot of folks, particularly those white suburban voters, I would find it very difficult to believe that they're going to go up there and volunteer to go to a fake news group and say, I will voted for Roy Moore.

SELLERS: There are also --

SANTORUM: And so I think if this race is dead heat, according to the exit polls, I think Roy Moore is the winner. I don't see how he doesn't win.

SELLERS: There's one number also that I think the Jones campaign is watching out for, and that's the write-in voter number. And I think that -- I know the exit polls had it one to two percent, I think the number -- if that creeps up then that will go well for -- because Doug Jones needs a lower win number.