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Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Special Election; Roy Moore Yet to Concede Senate Race in Alabama; Interview with DNC Chairman Tom Perez. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired December 13, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:00:19] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have come so far and the people of Alabama have spoken.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The reckoning has continued. Any Republican should have won that seat by double digits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not over, and it's going to take some time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Work in the African-American communities very, very hard, and the turnout made the difference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president needs to be on notice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump tried to rescue a campaign that was doomed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Steve Bannon put himself in a position to be king maker. He lost.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States Senate is in play in 2018.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I see it as a sexist smear. It's not going to silence me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your mind is in the gutter. Would you have read it that way?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy is basically like a seventh grader, and you see that come out in his words and is tweets.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, December 13th, 8:00 in the east. And a stunning setback for President Trump and the GOP. Voters in Alabama electing the Democrat, Doug Jones becoming the new U.S. senator in a deeply red state. ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Jones defeating GOP candidate Roy Moore.
President Trump had campaigned for Moore but now claims he knew Moore would lose. But the president did post a rare conciliatory tweet congratulating Doug Jones. Still Roy Moore refuses to concede even though Jones is clearly the winner.
CUOMO: So how clear is it? Let's bring in Alabama secretary of state John Merrill. Thank you for joining us, sir. We know you had a very long night. Is it over?
JOHN MERRILL, ALABAMA SECRETARY OF STATE: Chris, I know a lot of people would say it's never over until it's over, but the margin of victory for Doug Jones at this particular time looks like a very difficult amount of votes to overcome as the remaining votes that are out there to be counted next week begin to be considered at the local level.
CUOMO: So what is the actual rule? I know that the state has standards for automatic recount verses an optional recount. What are the rules?
MERRILL: Yes, sir. Chris, the recount cannot occur until after the certification occurs. And certainly will occur sometime between the 26th of December but no later than the 3rd of January. But if the margin between the two candidates is less than half of one percent an automatic kick-in provision -- an automatic recount provision will kick in. But an on demand recount is also available by either campaign or anyone withstanding in the state of Alabama.
CUOMO: But then you'd have to pay for it, right? It becomes a financial obligation there, it's not on the state to do it. What is your sense --
MERRILL: Yes, sir. If it's automatic the state will pay for it. But the state --
CUOMO: The state will pay for it?
MERRILL: If it's automatic the state will pay for it. But the state will pay for it if it's automatic. But if it's not automatic and if it's on demand by either one of the candidates they have to pay for it.
CUOMO: OK, what is your guess in terms of a percentage chance this race winds up being automatically state recounted?
MERRILL: Well, Chris, the numbers that we saw last night had a margin of 1.5 percent, not less than half of one percent. So there's a significant difference in those numbers right now. But time will tell as the numbers continue to come in and are verified through provisional ballots, military and overseas ballots, and then the write-in margin that will begin being vetted today in each of the 67 counties throughout our state.
CUOMO: Roy Moore has not conceded. Is that relevant? MERRILL: Well, I am sure it's relevant to them and I'm sure it's
relevant to others, but I don't think it's relevant to Doug Jones today. I think that's something that will get additional attention as time continues to move forward.
CUOMO: What is your sense of why Doug Jones won?
MERRILL: Well, I think a lot of people in our state were very discouraged about information from the allegations that were introduced. I think there's a lot of things that are being considered throughout our state and our nation in regard to the administration and things that are going on in Washington and throughout the world. I think the people of Alabama wanted to make sure that their voice was heard and that their votes were counted and that's the reason they voted in a record number unprecedented in the special election that was really unprecedented in the history of our state. And Chris, as you know, this race received more media coverage than any race in the history of Alabama.
CUOMO: Did you support Roy Moore?
MERRILL: I voted for Judge Moore, and that has been well documented and recorded.
CUOMO: Yes, I know. But I am saying you supported him despite the allegations, so does that mean you don't believe the women?
[08:05:00] MERRILL: No, it means I voted for Judge Moore, and I stated the reasons that I voted for Judge Moore. But Judge Moore is not the victor in this campaign.
CUOMO: Right, but this, as you said, is a referendum. It was about more than just two choices. It was about decency. It was about what is the bottom of what we'll accept in terms of respect towards women. And I want to know what is your position today.
MERRILL: Chris, it's about a number of issues, absolutely. And I think one of the things that is very important to remember is that there were so many things that were introduced. I think that's one of the reasons that Judge Moore's support was as strong as it was considering everything that was introduced throughout the campaign, especially in the last month of the campaign, people made votes for Judge Moore as a Republican nominee because of issues related to the Supreme Court, because of issues related to tax reform, and so there are a number of things like that that had to be considered as were considered by me when I decided how to cast my ballot for the Republican nominee.
CUOMO: Right, I am just saying now this is a period of reflection. People are trying to figure out why it came out the way it did. How did you reconcile voting for Roy Moore with the information that came out from those women and the seriousness of the allegations?
MERRILL: Chris, like I said before, this campaign was not about me, this election was not about me was not about my vote. It was about the 1.3 million people in Alabama that decided that they wanted to participate in the electoral process in record numbers and set a new standard, and today a new day for Alabama as they move forward and send Doug Jones apparently to the U.S. Senate.
CUOMO: Well, it can be about them today, but if you decide to run for that seat in 2020, which some speculate you might, that you would be a strong candidate, you are going to have to answer for why you voted for Roy Moore and what does that mean about whether or not you believe the women who were the accusers. It will come back.
MERRILL: Yes, sir, I appreciate you having me as a guest on your show this morning.
CUOMO: Mr. Secretary of State, we look forward to the certification and I appreciate you being on NEW DAY.
MERRILL: Yes, sir.
CUOMO: Be well and merry Christmas.
MERRILL: Thank you so much, Chris.
CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, let's bring in our CNN political analysts to discuss this. We have John Avlon and reporter and editor at large for CNN politics Chris Cillizza.
CUOMO: Did you see the head action that was going on when I was asking that question?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: I now have a great way to get out of questions I don't want to answer. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
CUOMO: It's even better if you go like this a little bit.
CILLIZZA: I'm going through a tunnel.
CAMEROTA: OK, back to the story of the day. What is the big picture here of Roy Moore's loss and Doug Jones' win?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a roll tide from Virginia through Alabama last night. This is a revolution in terms of the conventional wisdom of politics. A lot of Washington analysts just thought even though Roy Moore was an extreme candidate, even though the allegations that the gravity would take hold with red state conservatism, what I think we saw was two things. First of all, there is such a thing as too extreme in American politics, still. That's the good news, folks, because that's been in real question.
And as Chris documented, as we've talked about, this isn't just about the allegations of women. It's about Roy Moore's overall profile. And he always had problems winning over suburban districts. And that was definitely true last night. If you look at the demographic break and the deeper divisions in American politics, they're between urban and rural, yes, that's true, but suburban is always the swing, and suburban swung hard against Roy Moore last night.
CILLIZZA: I think that's right. I also just one other thing to add, John's right, base excitement, and then this matters to 2018. The Democratic base, if you told me that the African-American percentage of the vote would be higher than it was in 2012 for Barack Obama in Alabama, and the percentage that both won by 91 or 92 points, for a guy, Doug Jones, who candidly nobody knew two months ago is stunning. That is a lot about Roy Moore, it's a lot about Donald Trump.
And I think credit to Doug Jones, and he had a civil rights background, so not out of the question. But the Democratic base, and we saw this in Virginia, is hugely passionate and hugely empowered. The Republican base, the Trump base that elected Donald Trump is much less so. You are seeing more erosion among suburban whites, you're seeing more erosion among people with college educations. These people are no longer in the hold your nose and vote for the Republican category, even in Alabama. And look, yes, Roy Moore -- what you will hear today is Roy Moore is a one-off. There are not Roy Moores in every state, this is not a broad scope problem. But Alabama is one of the five or six most conservative states in the country. Donald Trump won there 13 months ago by 28 points. You can argue that Virginia is more of a Democratic state, no one would think even after this election that Alabama is a swing state or a lean Democratic state. A Democrat getting elected there is remarkable.
[08:10:05] CAMEROTA: But isn't this election a little too weird and outrageous to be able to translate or apply to midterms?
AVLON: Insane is the new normal in America in 2017, and this was insane election, and what an exciting election night. This is not going to be replicatable in, say, Mississippi. This is not going to be other states in the deep south. But it does show that core of independents and American voters that will even under extreme, maybe only under extreme circumstances vote for the person and not the party. Ed Gillespie narrowly staved off a challenge from the far, far right, but he was not able to overcome that enthusiasm or the perhaps the opposite of enthusiasm, the anger among Democrats, the motivation they feel to send a message.
CUOMO: But how much of a one-off is Roy Moore if you look at it through the lens of what the proposition of Donald Trump is for a lot of voters in this country? Look at what happened with his Gillibrand tweet. The idea is, how low is too low? At what point will decency have to become a standard that people endorse either by not coming out to vote for their own party, which we saw last night, huge registration advantage for Republicans in Alabama. They didn't come out the way the Democrats did, and they will come out to vote against you because they find you indecent.
CILLIZZA: And you're right, Alisyn, absolutely about Alabama, and so is John. I don't think a Democrat is going to win in Mississippi, but the lesson, this is not going to be a facsimile in every state. The lesson you take is Donald Trump and Trumpism, that moral vacuum, who can say who is right, who can saw what facts are, that that is a massive motivator for Democrats. I think you see it more now -- the idea of Trump as a candidate, oh, he probably won't win. Now that he is president I think Democrats say now is the time we need to vote.
AVLON: Look, it shouldn't take sort of a crisis to wake people up, democracy is a responsibility we need to tend to every day. but it also shows the divisions in the Republican Party are fundamental. That Bannon wing of the party who basically backed Donald Trump and really drove this election hard, all the political capital against the quote-unquote, establishment, the governing group inside the Republican Party, a major repudiation for that effort because this is a seat Republicans never should have lost. And if you add Virginia and this you start to look at a fact pattern which could have real implications for 2018 and the Trump presidency.
CILLIZZA: If you think, to the Bannon point, if you think Steve Bannon will go away because Roy Moore lost, you do not know Steve Bannon. They will -- they have and will continue to blame this on Mitch McConnell, on insufficient support by Rich Shelby. They will not go away. Remember, Steve Bannon said he is going to try to beat every single Republican incumbent except for Ted Cruz. He beat Luther Strange, cutting off your nose to spite your face.
AVLON: He could end up beating the Republican Party into a minority status.
CUOMO: Yes, but he will not go away. That fight will not go away, and Donald Trump is not going to be the guy who says I was wrong. I need to reform. Look at his tweets this morning. He literally said I was right.
CAMEROTA: Right, but tell that to Congressman Peter King who said that his time, we'll pull up his tweet. He has said after Alabama, "Disaster, GOP must do the right thing and dump Steve Bannon. His act is tired, inane, and morally vacuous. If we are to make America great again for all Americans Bannon must go and go now." It's just unclear where he wants Bannon to go.
AVLON: He's not in government anymore.
CILLIZZA: It's not going to happen. Donald Trump sees a kindred spirit in Steve Bannon, a guy that charges the barricades, a guy who everyone rights off, says doesn't know what he's talking about but he's really right. Even with this Moore thing, Trump will say it's really all about I knew what was going on. Donald Trump will continue to listen to Steve Bannon and as long as that happens, as long as he takes his phone call, he's not going away no matter Pete King.
ANLON: If Bannonism can't win in Alabama, you have a fundamental problem. And the problem is, as Alisyn said, he's not in the White House. What are you going to kick him out of? There's a core constituency in the Republican Party that is a Trump-Bannon-Moore constituency. The problem is that seems to be incompatible with winning most majority elections. CUOMO: Right, but there are weeds here, and we will play with this with Congressman King when he's on the show. Debbie Dingell was on, Democrat, good interview Alisyn did with her. There is real discontent. There is real disconnect. There is real disaffection. Me Too matters, decency towards women and minorities matters, but my wallet matters a lot as well. Flint, Michigan, I was just out there, they are still hit hard. Take Bannon out of it, that's a raw populism that matters, that's something that has to addressed by this agenda and that's why this vote margin now that just got narrowed in the Senate is even more relevant.
AVLON: And Trump and Bannon had a core understand of that deep angst by folks in the upper industrial Midwest who have felt squeezed, left behind, marginalized by identity politics and receptive to culture wars. So Democrats are going to have to come up with a response to reconnect to the working class in the upper Midwest, those folks who felt squeezed, without moving too far to the left in a way that alienates them. And that Democratic civil war, don't underestimate that.
[08:15:03] And that Democratic civil war, don't underestimate that, it's just there's going to be unity in the face of trying to topple Trump, and you have seen in the case of Virginia and Alabama, those folks who are on the far left of the party who are saying these people aren't pure enough, their voices have been silenced or at least put in perspective.
CAMEROTA: Does this change anything? Does this change the tax code?
CILLIZZA: No, it will not change the tax vote at all. I mean, first of all, Doug Jones won't be a senator after we expect the tax code.
CAMEROTA: We think they will have cobbled it together by then.
CILLIZZA: Yes, I do, because I think they believe -- they believe it has to happen. They believe if they do not do this, they will lose sweepingly in 2018.
Candidly, if you look at Alabama and the disparity between base motivation, they may lose overwhelmingly no matter what they do. But they believe -- so that will happen. Will it change anything? I think you will see every Republican elected official wake up with a renewed sense of fear about this coming election, because John makes a point and I think you cannot underestimate it.
If a -- yes, Roy Moore is a unique character. But if a Democrat can win in a state that Donald Trump, a federal election, right, which are always. This is not a governor's race, it's not for attorney general in the state, if you can win a federal election a state Donald Trump won by 28 points 13 months later, it is any member of Congress who sits in any district has to pay attention.
It doesn't mean you will lose, but it means you are on watch much more so than you ever thought you could be.
CAMEROTA: Chris Cillizza -- John Avlon, thank you both very much. So, what will Democrats learn from Doug Jones' victory in the deep red
Alabama? What lessons do they glean going into the midterm elections? We will ask the chairman of the national Democratic committee, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:20:30] DOUG JONES (D), ALABAMA SENATOR-ELECT: I have this challenge to my future colleagues in Washington. Don't wait on me. Take this election where the people of Alabama said we want you to get something done. We want you to find common ground. We want you to talk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. That was Senator-elect Doug Jones encouraging Democrats to follow his lead. The Democrat edged out embattled Republican Roy Moore to win Alabama's open Senate seat. That's the first time a Democrat has won in the deep red state in decades.
Joining us is chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez.
Tom, great to see you this morning.
TOM PEREZ, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good morning. Good to be with you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: And what time did you learn about the election last night?
PEREZ: Oh, it was 10:15. I had spoken to Doug early on that evening. The returns weren't final yet, it was a jump ball and he had a lot of hope. I have known him for 20 years, and I couldn't be happier for the man because he is -- he is just -- he's the real deal. He's a person of faith who puts his faith in action every day.
He wants to help folks in Alabama get better jobs and get access to health care. It's all about the kitchen table issues. That's what it's about and I couldn't be happy for him.
CAMEROTA: And when you learned of his victory on a scale of 1 to 10 on the shock spectrum, 10 being the most shocked, where were you?
PEREZ: I was thrilled for him.
CAMEROTA: I mean, were you surprise? I mean, honestly, did you see this coming?
PEREZ: We looked at the polls. We know he had a fighting change. It was a jump ball. Doug was the underdog. Let's be honest. There's no doubt about it.
But the reason Doug won is because he organized -- he organized everywhere across the state. You look at Lee County Alabama, named after Robert E. Lee, Trump won that county by 24 points a year ago, and Doug won it by 17 points yesterday.
You look at African-Americans turnout. African-Americans have been the backbone of the Democratic Party, and when you lead with your values and you organize early and everywhere and the DNC got in early, we got in quietly but we got in unmistakably. That's how you win.
And it's not just Alabama. It's -- you know, you see New Jersey and a bunch of other mayors races and this is undeniably a trend.
CAMEROTA: It sounds as though you think you can glean some lessons for the Democrats from this Alabama race that you can apply to the mid-terms. But, you know, look, it's obviously been suggested that this was such a weird, outrageous. And Roy Moore is such a singular character, that it really won't apply to other states.
PEREZ: Well, I respectfully disagree. The reason I disagree we have other evidence. I mean, there were three special elections for state legislative seats in Oklahoma this summer. These were beat red Trump districts, one Senate seat and two state house seats and we won all three, because, again, we had great candidates who listened to the voters and they cared about and talked about the issues that mattered most to voters, and were able to win that election.
There were other elections in New Hampshire, Florida, Iowa and elsewhere. You look at Kansas. Donald Trump won Kansas last year by 14 points and the Democrats picked up 14 seats in the Kansas statehouse. Why? Because people like Sam Brownback and Chris Kobach are off the charts to the far right. And people are seeing that. It's affecting their lives.
And you see this everywhere. We can win Georgia, we can in Mississippi. We won yesterday in Alabama. We can win everywhere and we have a 57-state and territory strategy, and what Doug did yesterday was exactly what we are doing nationwide, going to every corner of the country and lead with your values, talk about the issues that people care about the most, and that's how you win elections.
That's what we have seen in 2017. That's what we are going to see, I think, in 2018 as well.
CAMEROTA: Your fellow Democrat, Congressman Debbie Dingell of Michigan feels differently this morning. We just interviewed her and she thinks that it's a little premature for the victory lap.
Let me play for you what she cautions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DEBBIE DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: I think we have to be careful not to overreact and the American people in general are still very angry, and we have the anger that we saw in last November's election. They are going to hold us accountable.
We can sometimes get very much -- too much into the Beltway.
[08:25:01] And I think we have got to remember what the issues are going to be next November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Tom, what about the amount of voters who were so angry and voted to elect Donald Trump and didn't feel the Democrats represented their issues? What is your message to them?
PEREZ: Absolutely. I agree with Congresswoman Dingell, there's no cause for a spike in footballs here and we're a long way from the mountain top, and we have to organize everywhere, not just simply in Wayne County and Flint, Michigan, we have to be across the state listening and learning from voters about what they think. That's exactly what we have been doing.
We understand. That's why Doug Jones was focused on access to health care, that's why he was focused on job training, good jobs, making sure people work a full time job can feed their family and lead a stress free life. That's what people are focused on. There are a lot of people across the country, we have to hear the voices.
That's why I have been all over the country listening to union members in Detroit, and listening to folks in rural Wisconsin, listening to African-American voters in Georgia and elsewhere and listening to Latinos in Arizona, and we can win everywhere but we have to do a better job of listening. And I think that's what we've been doing in 2017 -- we have been organizing and listening, and our message is all about making peoples' lives better.
CAMEROTA: What about the idea that Doug Jones is a centrist candidate? Did that tell you anything about how you should deal with or the effectiveness of the left wing of the Democratic Party?
PEREZ: I think Doug -- again, I have known Doug for 20 years, and Doug's North Star will always be what is best for Alabama and I think Doug won yesterday because it was not about left versus right but right versus wrong.
Doug has been fighting for things right for people, good jobs, fairness, justice for those young girls who were tragically and sensibly murdered at the 16th Street Baptist church. Doug wanted to fight the culture wars, and the culture of corruption that exist here in Washington. That's why Democrats are focused on those core issues that are all about making sure that everybody can realize their highest and best dreams.
CAMEROTA: All right. Chairman Tom Perez, thank you for being on NEW DAY.
PEREZ: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. Republicans slamming Steve Bannon in this round of reflection and blame for pushing the party towards someone like Roy Moore. Are Republicans going to turn their back on Steve Bannon? Does he matter that much? Congressman Peter King says he's got to go. He joins us next to make