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CNN TONIGHT

Democrat and Republican Neck and Neck in Ohio's Special Election. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00] (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: -- which is on the other side.

Now, that said, look at the numbers now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I mean--

CUOMO: Danny O'Connor back up on top 201 votes. He was just down by 1,000. That's how tight the margins are. My thanks to Chris Cillizza. Let's keep our coverage going. Let's bring in Don Lemon with CNN Tonight. Right now this race has changed five times on our watch. Don Lemon is going to see it through

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes. It is a very critical moment right now. Thank you very much, Chris. We'll see you tomorrow.

This is CNN Tonight. I'm Don Lemon.

Here's our breaking news, we are waiting for election results in key races in five states tonight. Five states tonight. But the major contest that everyone is watching that is at special election for Ohio's 12th congressional district.

Look at the votes there up on your screen now. President Trump's stump a Republican candidate in what should be a safe GOP zone, but the race as you could see, neck and neck, 49.8 for the Democrat, 49.7 for the Republican. Democrats leading by 201 votes right now. But that changes moment to moment. So make sure you stay tuned. It's going to be a wild ride for the next couple of hours.

CNN's political experts are here right with me. But let's get right away to CNN's chief national correspondent, Mr. John King. John, you have the very latest for us. The question is, where are the outstanding votes right now in this race?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Two counties in the two most populous counties in this district, what we're going to watch, Don.

And the number one is the most populous area of this state, it's the slice of Franklin County, closest to Columbus. These are the suburbs up here where Danny O'Connor, the Democrat, is leading by 21,000 votes from 65 to 35. This is exactly where his campaign says he needs to be around 64, 65

percent in Franklin County. They think if he stays there, he has the potential to squeak this out.

Ninety percent reporting in Franklin County that could become a problem for Danny O'Connor in the sense that we're waiting now for the final votes, is it enough. Is this margin enough to offset?

Look, the Franklin County part of the district is blue, everything else is red, is this enough to offset Troy Balderson's strength elsewhere. The problem for Troy Balderson 100 percent in here, here, here, here, and here which leaves us Delaware County. Only 66 percent of the vote in here. We're waiting for a third of the precincts to report to us. Fifty three to 46, this race got tight.

We had a seesaw in the past hour, because Troy Balderson has started to stretch a little bit bigger of a lead here in Republican Delaware County. Is 53 percent enough? Is the 2000, 2900 vote margin enough? That's what we're going to find out in the next hour or so as the rest of these results come in because this is when you come back to the full congressional district.

Now you look at the county, 201 vote difference in what should be, Don, let's be clear, a solid Republican race.

We should not be covering this race tonight, this Republican special election should be a Republican win, the fact that it's so close tells you this is a very steep hill for Republicans this year, but obviously if you're a Republican from Ohio, if you're a Republican keeping track, you want to win this one tonight and you worry about the rest later.

This is bad news for the Republicans when you look forward to November either way.

The question is, we got some more votes to count, we're at 91 percent. And what's going to happen tonight, we'll stay with the count.

LEMON: John, we got a question for you. You've been warning everyone, hey, listen, Democrats, don't get too excite because all the votes are not in, they could come in late. But I'm wondering, first, usually if there's a scenario or a case like this, what is the timing here, and is it moment by moment? Is it more moment by moment now because of the dynamics in this district?

KING: Now we're just waiting, and every state is different, every county is different. Within states there are different areas. It was Delaware County more affluent county. This was the delayed county tonight, Delaware County. Often you're waiting for the small rural counties to come in. They came in pretty quickly tonight.

So there's no magic rule here. There are some counties of presidential nights when I've been at this for 30 years, it's always the same counties. It's Gary, Indiana, for example and it's other places. In Ohio, they're pretty quick. They counted the most actually, they're pretty good at it. We're at 66 percent here, the early votes came in, this was blue at

first with the early votes. Now it is gone, back to its DNA.

The question is again, if you look at any map in America. Here's the city, out here is red, and look at the margins, 70 percent, 67 percent. You move away from the cities, you're in Republican country.

You come down here in the suburbs the Republican incumbent who had this seat won in Franklin County last time and his race didn't have a strong Democratic opponent. Danny O'Connor has done what he needs to do in the close in suburbs.

The question is, as you move a little more away, affluent Republicans here some of them like Trump, some of them like the tax cut. A lot of the suburban women don't like Trump. This is now your tug of war in today's Republican Party playing out in an affluent suburban county here where the question is going to be, is that enough, is winning that by 53 percent enough.

Just a quick point in history, again, it's not necessarily a fair comparison, because it's a presidential year, it's a huge turnout. But the Republican pat Tiberi, where you had this seat, he won Delaware County last time.

Don't look at the lookout. It's a presidential year, it's off the charts. But he won with 72 percent last time. Troy Balderson at 53 percent. This time. Is it enough? Let's hang in there a little bit.

[22:05:03] LEMON: Boy, here we go. John King, thank you very much. I appreciate that. It's all about the suburbs now, now it has change to Balderson now leaving -- Troy Balderson but I'm not sure what the exact count is.

But again, as we said, it's going to be moment to moment here. There you go. You see 49.9, for Balderson, the Republican 49.5. Just, you know, a minute or two ago, as John and I as we came on the air and John and I were talking, the Democrat Danny O'Connor was in the lead.

So again, we're going to be checking in all night until we get everything all the vote counts for you.

So why don't bring in my political dream team. you can see everybody here. You're familiar with them. They all know who you are. I'm going to start with our chief political correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, President Trump won this Ohio 12 by 11 points. Why is it so close now?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not only did he win by 11 points. But we should underscore that this is a district that has not had a Democratic representative in almost 40 years, before you were born, Don.

LEMON: I wish.

BASH: But it really is remarkable. And the answer to why it's so close is in large part because of the energy that we have seen on the Democratic side for a long time, but energy obviously only gets you so far when it's such a ruby red historically district.

And this is a candidate who has done things right, focused on the local issues, focus on the bread and butter issues, and on the flip side, have you a Republican candidate who in any other year would be just fine. But he was a little slow on the uptake on seeing this big challenge coming his way.

LEMON: Yes.

BASH: You know, he had the reinforcements come in, the vice president, the president and others. But Democrats have already -- had already kind of sown the seeds for their candidate who has been doing a pretty good job.

LEMON: Gloria Borger is our chief political analyst. Gloria, let me put the lady in the blue dress. I'm going to ask you about blue. That's not an indication of it but maybe. But I just want to ask you, because I think a good way of putting it, this district has been Republican since Reagan, right? Since the '80s.

So then is this an indication of a blue wave? That's why I said the blue dress.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think Democrats would like to think if they win, this is an indication of a blue wave because they shouldn't be competing here as Dana was saying. Yes, there shouldn't even be a race.

But there are a few things you need to think about, one is, obviously Donald Trump. And there are people in this district, very educated district.

LEMON: That makes a difference. That's a big difference there.

BORGER: Higher percentage of educated voters over 25 than any other district in the state.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: Very important.

LEMON: But you said 23. Twenty three they're not looking for 23 near wins, they're looking for 23 wins.

BORGER: They are looking for 23 wins. But what they've got is enthusiasm.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: I mean, the level of interest among Democrats in this district, the last poll I looked at was 66 percent. This is an election in August in a, you know, an off year. I mean, it's -- and they have to run again by the way in November.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: And 66 percent of Democrats say they want to come out and vote.

LEMON: Yes.

BORGER: So, you look at that and Republicans, and Mike and I are talking about this earlier, they're kind of thinking, all right, things are good, things are fine. I don't need to get out there. It's kind of like the Republican. The governor endorsed them even though Democrats like John Kasich that is a Republican and they're not as enthusiastic and that's going to make a difference for him, the Democrat.

LEMON: So, political commentator Mike Shields since she pointed you out, Gloria did. So what do you think? How are Republicans feeling right now? Are they scared?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, they're not scared. But look, I think that these elections should be wakeup calls to our base that shouldn't be complacent. I think what we've seen in a lot of these special elections is every election right now, whether it's for judge, dog catcher for Congress Democrats are bringing in an 11 on a 10 scale. They'll turnout. They are angry, they are fired up and they are showing up. Republicans they're off on their fishing boat in August.

LEMON: As we say they've gotten happy?

SHIELDS: Well, partly. And that's why I think the encouraging thing is, the specials are different. In the November election, that won't be the case. So this even a doubtful a little more, because everyone knows there's an election in November. In 2010--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Do you think there's more of a motivation in November for Republicans?

SHIELDS: Well, the ads are running. Everyone knows there's an election. August 7th election is not a normal thing and these specials happen at odd times.

In 2010, it's like when we won in a huge way we lost four specials. I was at the NRCC. And by the way, I should disclose I worked with the NRCC that also working on the other 12 race. I need to disclose that. I was working there in 2010. We lost four specials and we won 63 seats in November.

Specials are special for a reason. And the turnout is very different. Democrats are going to show up at every election right now. Republicans won't as much, until you get to November, and then they will be there. And so I think that's the test for Republicans is--

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: But are you still comfortable right now as a Republican that November is going to go your way, there's not going to be this blue wave?

[22:09:58] SHIELDS: Well, the historic average is that the president's party loses 26 seats.

LEMON: Yes.

SHIELDS: We need to be -- we need to be history by four seats. And our base needs to watch tonight and say, you know what, other networks are telling them everything is fine, it's not. Nancy Pelosi could be the speaker of the House.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Say that again.

SHIELDS: Other networks are telling some Republicans things are fine and they need to quit that. And Republicans need to understand Nancy Pelosi could be the speaker, the tax cuts could go away and out taxes could go up.

And once they understand that, they will show up in November. And even now the intensity of the Democrats have in special when people aren't paying attention.

LEMON: Political analyst Ryan Lizza. The president visited here, he's watching now I'm sure. What do you think he's feeling about this?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's probably -- you know, he takes these things very personally, right? When he weighs in on a race, he likes to take credit if his candidate wins. If his candidate doesn't win usually he'll find some excuse to tweet about why he had nothing to do with it.

I think, look, by the end of the night, we're going do have a really good indication that's going to tell us a lot about the national environment in November. And look, it's basically a tie. This is going to be -- this race is going to end up essentially tie, right?

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: It's going to be what, a few hundred votes, it's going to be that close.

LEMON: But if you want to think objectively, though, I mean, you have to say, Republicans have held this since Reagan.

LIZZA: Absolutely.

LEMON: This is a win for, I would think Democrats, at this point.

LIZZA: The most important indicator is how much do the Democrats improve compared to the last election?

LEMON: Interesting.

LIZZA: This is a plus seven -- plus seven Republican district which means the partisanship is seven points on the Republican side, right? So the swing is the most important indicator at the end of the night. Maybe the Democrats will come up a little bit short and not win. But you want to look at how much did they swing. How many new percentage points did the Democrats improve in this district.

We have enough special elections now to see what the average is across all of those special elections.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: It's in the double-digits.

LEMON: Yes.

LIZZA: So that means the Democrats are going to look at that playing field at the end of the night and say, we can -- we have a chance in every sort of say, plus five Republican district in the country.

LEMON: Right. Tara Setmayer--

(CROSSTALK)

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Every time the--

LEMON: Go on.

ROSEN: Every time Republicans have won one of the specials they've said how important specials are.

So, look, congressional Republicans are scared tonight. There is no question about that.

LEMON: Yes.

ROSEN: Put this in context.

LEMON: Yes.

ROSEN: Democrats have to win 24 seats to retake the House. Twenty five of those seats were won by Hillary Clinton, those districts were won by Hillary Clinton in the election.

There are 17 districts across the country where she had a better percentage than in this district. So this seat was like 17th down on the priority list. Those after the 24, so this is -- this seat was so far out of what we need to get to take back the House, Republicans are scared.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're saying the regular rules don't apply? You don't believe what this -- what you can see the seat.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: No, I think that -- and Gloria mentioned this, this actually is indicative of a wave.

LEMON: Yes.

ROSEN: Because if we take this seat tonight. And there's no question that the momentum is moving, and Republicans are scared, they're going to have to decide, do I run with Donald Trump or do I run away from him.

LEMON: Tara has been waiting to get but since Mike has been--

(CROSSTALK)

TARA SETMAYER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Mike brought up that, you know, if you work at the NRCC and I was thinking about back on the days when I was on campaigns and things. You never want to spend this kind of money on a special election.

LEMON: A lot of money.

SETMAYER: And I'm sure the NRCC is going, my God, there's been millions of dollars spent for a special election in August in a plus seven Republican district. That's never a good sign. Because if you have to spend that kind of money and it's either this close or we lose.

That's not a good sign going into November. Because that means you have to spend that kind of money in many districts in order to keep the House. And to get out the vote effort is what matters at this time. Enthusiasm is who gets to go, who actually gets up and goes to the polls. And Democrats are the ones that are more fired up right now.

LEMON: Can I ask you something?

SETMAYER: Yes.

LEMON: Because Mike says well, Democrats are motivated, Republicans are not motivated right now.

SETMAYER: Right.

LEMON: But what is the bottom line here, is it, is this an anti-trump sentiment happening?

BASH: Yes.

SETMAYER: Yes. There's no other explanation for why a district that looks like this demographically that's been Republican for 30 years would be in play other than Donald Trump is stepping all over his own message for a positive economy and all the positive things he's supposed to be doing that's not getting through because of the tweets.

Because of his, you know controversial attacks on people, you know, the more educated suburbs and districts are saying, we don't like this. And women, suburban women are not comfortable with what's going on with Donald Trump either, and they are a large voting bloc. LEMON: Gloria, can we talk about women -- and I want something that

you brought up. No, but I meant can we do it after the break.

BORGER: Yes.

LEMON: Because I need to get to the break and we'll continue our discussion. But again, we're following the special election coverage across the country. But really paying close attention to Ohio 12. It is neck and neck there.

Everyone, stay with me. Much of our election night coverage, straight ahead.

SETMAYER: My gosh.

[22:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now with our breaking news. A special election in Ohio which should be a safe congressional district for Republicans, neck and neck now. Come over here to see our chief national correspondent, John King, who's at the magic wall for us. So John, the question, what's outstanding now?

KING: During your break, Troy Balderson's lead increased from 700 votes up to 1685 votes. So, stretching out the lead a little tiny bit there. What's outstanding is Delaware County, we're up to 96 now and that's where the lead has come by. He's moved ahead here. He's got up to 54 percent. And if you're the O'Connor campaign you've been leading most of the night, you're starting to get a little nervous here because this is where all your -- the bulk of your votes have come from down here in this piece Franklin County.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You've been saying that needs to turn red.

KING: Now but if this stays blue Danny O'Connor is in play. This is the most important part for the Democrat. His campaign thought all along, if they could get 65 percent out of the Franklin County piece of this district, they're in contention.

The question is, and they did what they wanted to do here. There's a little bit left. How much? One percent of the precincts. How many votes is that, we don't know yet. Is it enough to offset what we're still waiting for here?

Delaware County as the vote has come in has made the difference. Because everywhere else in the district, 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent, 100 percent.

LEMON: Wow.

KING: So we are down to the tiny percentage here and here. Delaware County, this is where the president's rally was has helped Troy Balderson, is that enough? And what's left down here. And we have ways to go yet. [22:20:05] I just want to make this point as we go back to the full congressional district. We are dancing now in the -- we're dancing in the ballpark, it's in a district wide race, 0.5 percent is the automatic recount.

LEMON: Got it.

KING: So we're dancing near that, but guess what. Even if we're just outside of that, we got the local TV stations and radio stations that have been happy up to today because of all the ad spending, the lawyers will be involved tomorrow. When it's this close, we're not going to have a definitive winner tonight I can tell you even if we get --

LEMON: What's the trigger for the recount?

KING: I believe in a district wide race, it is 0.5 percent, within 0.5 percent. So we're in the area of that now, it's a little -- as of the moment right now, I think that's just outside of it, again, we still have some votes to count. And I want to keep the counting level up because it's the most significant part of this, and we need it for the count.

LEMON: It's amazing to be here, when you -- we've been saying all night, a district that's been red since Reagan, since he '80s, since you and I were in diapers, right? And now all of a sudden, they're in this neck and neck, a Democrat has a strong chance of winning.

KING: Appreciate it. The fact, I wasn't in diapers quite, but I appreciate that.

LEMON: I was being kind to both of us.

KING: I appreciate it. Well look, this is a moral victory for the Democrats. The fact that they're this close, it's a moral victory for the Democrats. You want a real victory.

LEMON: Right.

KING: You don't get a participation trophy, but to that point, let me go through a couple things here for you. Number one, we saw the money spent. If the Republicans eke this out tonight, it's going to be because their outside groups spent more than $5.2 million just from May to August. The Democrats only (inaudible).

So, I had to send in the multimillion dollar cavalry here to save a seat that should have been a cake walk for them, if they pull it off tonight. Essentially, if they win, they're going to be winning in a tie. That's one thing to look at.

Number two, as you look ahead to November, if Democrats are competitive in districts that are 88 percent white, well then the Democrats are going to retake the House. If the Democrats -- is this an anomaly or is this across America? If this is across America and Democrats are running even in districts, that's supposed to be a Republican district. If you paid any attention to the presidential race, if you paid any

attention to American politics for years, that's supposed to be a ruby red Republican district and it's teetering at 50/50 tonight. That's another way to look at it.

So then we're going to pop out to this. This is the November (inaudible). This tonight is the last special election. Now we go through the primary season, then we go on to November. We have these 95 key House race. This will determine which party controls the House. Already the Republicans are on defense, 82 of these (inaudible) are held by Republicans. They're already on their heels defending.

Ohio, 12 is right in here. As Ryan Lizza was just making the point, it's a plus 7 Republican district. As Hillary Rosen was just saying, a lot of these red up here, these are the Hillary Clinton districts. These are the Hillary Clinton districts. This is a Hillary Clinton district. Those ones, tonight, if Ohio 12 is 50/50 and you're one of these Republicans in a Hillary Clinton district, you are already nervous. Tonight you're panicked.

If you're one of these other Republicans, this is an R plus 7. So what if you're in an R plus 5 or an R plus three or an R plus two? You better raise a lot more money. You better check in the quality of your campaign team. You better hope the president between now and November -- we're talking about wall money, government shutdown, turmoil in Washington, you don't want any of that.

LEMON: You did some corrections.

KING: You want to go home and campaign.

LEMON: Yes, but are you really saying if you're one of these Republicans and you see that he came to, you know, campaign for Balderson, do you want him to come campaign for you?

KING: In most of America, in a House race, in a House race, let me bring that back up -- in most up here. Sure. Up here, no way. Down here on the border -- if you live in the close-in suburbs, if you have a district that has any percentage of Latino voters, no way. If you're in a district that Hillary Clinton won, no way, because you don't want the president.

In the Senate races, West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, they want the president. They think it's a statewide turnout, statewide race, Senate race. Then those big Senate races, the president is for most, not all, there are exceptions.

But in most of those big Senate races, especially the ones in the prairie, Montana, North Dakota, you come in the Midwest, Indiana, West Virginia. The president had asset to the Republican candidates there. And if these -- look at these House races more closely. The ones that touch the suburbs, they don't want the president of the United States, no. They don't.

LEMON: Yes, you mentioned demographics there and whether you want the president to come (inaudible). Also, women are going to make a big difference. Education level as well.

When we come back, much more. Thank you very much John King. We'll get back to you throughout the evening. Much more on our breaking news and incredibly close race in Ohio. What could all of this mean for November's midterms? We'll be right back.

[22:25:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We're back now without breaking news. CNN special election coverage in Ohio, which could be a safe -- should be a safe congressional district for Republicans. Too close to call tonight if you look at your screen. Troy Balderson, who is Republican, 50.1 percent. Danny O'Connor, who is a Democrat, 49.3 percent. I'm back now with Dana, Ryan, Gloria, Tara, Mike, and Hilary. Did I leave anybody on? I got it, OK. And Don and (inaudible) as well.

Gloria, when last we saw each other we were talking about the demographics in this particular race. I know educational level is important. Women are important and it's important -- the suburbs are important --

BORGER: The suburbs are really important. We were talking about this. This is where John Kasich, who endorsed Balderson. We all believed reluctantly and late. This is where he can help Republicans because he is popular with suburban Republican woman. I also think independent voters are really important in this. They favor O'Connor by --

LEMON: Before you go into independents, you said that women were turned off by -- do you agree with that --

BORGER: By Trump.

LEMON: By Trump.

BORGER: Yes. Yes. Women were turned off by Trump but, you know, they're not single issue. I mean, they're saying OK, the economy is good. I'm making a good living, My husband is making a good living and I don't want to -- I voted for him last time. I don't think I made a mistake. So there is, you know, all of this -- all of these factors into this, but yes. There, I just spoke with the Republican operative who said we're afraid of getting hammered by women until we're counting.

LEMON: Oh, wow.

BORGER: That's what we're afraid of.

BASH: And that's, I mean, we're going to be talking a lot about this in November on election night because this is something that even people who are working on, you know, a president's political team acknowledge is a big issue, but when the president tweets, when the president -- if it's in the news about his alleged hush money for people he had affairs with, all of those things they see a real dip among women particularly suburban women.

[22:30:02] And those 23 seats, they are going to determine whether or not Republicans or Democrats hold -- have control of the house, are going to be fought largely in suburbs where the women voters are going to determine who wins or loses.

GLORIA BORGER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: And a lot of the retirements of course, were in these Republican suburban districts, so now they're open seats.

MIKE SHIELDS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Can I speak to that real quick.

BORGER: Yes.

SHIELDS: A special election is an open seat, OK. And that's another reason to look at this and not look at it as a bellwether. I know the talking point for everybody oh, my gosh this is a bellwether. This is a ruby red district. Open seats are different than incumbent seats. Incumbents by and large in our country get re-elected. They can raise money. They have name I.D.

I worked on Karen (Inaudible) for a special election. She started off that campaign with high name I.D. because she had been the county commissioner in Fulton County. She was almost like an incumbent. It was a different type of race than a normal special. And a special election, people don't know who the candidates are.

And again, so you have low information voters on our side. They don't understand who the candidates are. You have to spend more money and you have to turn out your vote about. The Democrats start off with.

(CROSSTALK)

TARA SETMAYER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: That would be true if the district wasn't Republican for 30, 40 years.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: Most people just go Republican.

(CROSSTALK)

RYAN LIZZA, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: How many seats do you have in the fall?

SHIELDS: In the target list was about eight. We have to hold on to eight -- look, historically, open seats in an election like this are much harder. I concede that point. That's why this is harder.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: If we can eke out elections like this and half of those eight seats, we only need to beat history by four districts for us to keep the House.

(CROSSTALK)

HILLARY ROSEN, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: But here's another point you have to concede, which is in that special election in Georgia, where Republican Karen (Inaudible) won. She did not let Donald Trump come and campaign for her in that suburban district.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's an absolutely incorrect fact.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: He didn't show up.

SHIELDS: Immediately after the primary, we had Donald Trump fly to the district. We had him record a robo call. We Vice President Pence into the district, that's just factually incorrect.

ROSEN: But he was not out there. Again, she did not talk about him. There was no conversation about Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Also not true.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: I am sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: Republicans have a coalition that includes Trump voters and independents.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: This is why today matters, because Donald Trump decided when he was going to a rally in Ohio, that this election was a referendum on him. He's the one who made it...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: And they juiced up those rural counties that weren't paying attention.

(CROSSTALK)

SETMAYER: We'll see the final results. We'll see what happens in those rural counties versus what happened in Delaware County. And I think if he, if Balderson wins Delaware County -- the numbers is boosted in Delaware County. You may have Kasich to thank for that versus Donald Trump.

(CROSSTALK)

LIZZA: Open seats or no open seats. If Democrats perform as well as they have performed in all the special elections so far, they're going to take back the House.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: That's a huge if though, Ryan, because special elections are different. People don't know when those elections are.

(CROSSTALK)

DON LEMON, CNN TONIGHT, ANCHOR: I need everybody to stand by. Stand by.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: I want to get in the field now. We'll come back to this group in just a moment. Let's go to headquarters of Republican candidate Troy Balderson. He's Ohio's 12th Congressional district. Jason Carroll is there for us, Jason, good evening to you. What's the mood like there?

JASON CARROLL, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, we just heard some huge cheers erupting here in the room as some of the most recent (Inaudible) reporting just came in. Look, the campaign has said to us that they feel as though Donald Trump gave them the necessary boost to push them ahead. They know that they were as a lot of momentum on the other side from the O'Connor camp.

They feel as though Donald Trump coming in helped Balderson. Helped him with some of those folks who were sort of sitting on the sidelines, you know. As we've been talking to people out here for the past few days, speaking to them about this particular campaign, and asking them about Trump's influence. It was really interesting because when we heard from independents, many of them saying it really didn't make that much of a difference, whether or not the President came.

But the campaign said all along, it was very important for the President to be here. And so a win for Balderson, at least here in this room is also a win for Donald Trump. All night long, we should also point out they've been watching very closely in two areas, Delaware County and also part of Franklin County. And in terms of performance there, they really wanted to make sure that the campaign and that Balderson performed in and around 38, 39 percent in Franklin and around 58 to 50 percent in Delaware.

If they can get close to that, they really feel like that they can come out with a win, the room at this point feeling very good, waiting for Balderson to make his appearance, Don.

LEMON: All right. Jason Carroll, we will get back to you. I want to get to the headquarters now the Democratic candidate, Danny O'Connor. And none other than Rebecca Berg is there for us. Hello to you, Rebecca, what are you hearing from people out there?

[22:34:59] REBECCA BERG, POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Good evening. Well, we knew this race would be close. And, of course, it is. Democrats you know not giving up on this race, certainly. But they would like to see Danny O'Connor right now leading. They're defying expectations as it is. This is his district. They're cheering. We have CNN on in the room, as you can see. But this is a Republican district.

I wanted to make sure Danny O'Connor wasn't coming on stage. This is a Republican district, though. It's been a Republican district for many years. And so they're trying to defy the odds here essentially. There's some Democratic enthusiasm because of President Trump, because of the frustration with his administration.

But that just gives Democrats here essentially a running start. And they have to finish the race. They knew it was going to be an uphill battle. But they're still within reach. But we'll see if those votes from Delaware County that will be the deciding factor here. They're still very pumped. They're still very pumped here at Danny O'Connor's election night event.

LEMON: Rebecca Berg, thank you very much. I appreciate that. You guys know how it is when you're up there. And there is a delay, right, and so you why are people cheering. You turn around and you realize.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Hello to everyone, when we say hello to everyone and all.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Thank you so much for watching CNN's coverage. As a matter of fact, our special coverage will continue in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:40:00] LEMON: Breaking news, special election in Ohio's 12th Congressional district too close to call right now. I want to bring in now CNN Political Commentator Charlie Dent. He's a former a Republican Congressman in Pennsylvania, and Jason Kander, a Democratic candidate for Mayor in Kansas City, and the author of the brand new book, fresh out of the oven.

That's not the name of the book. The book is fresh out of the oven, Outside The Wire, Outside The Wire, which is just out today, gentlemen, good evening to you. Congressman, than I am going to start with you because there's a lot of spin going on tonight, gives me the lowdown. This is a tough environment. What kind of results tonight are getting do you think, and is this why you didn't seek re-election?

CHARLIE DENT, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: No. I didn't seek re- election because I have run for office 13 times, and I didn't want to spoil a perfect record of 13-0. But the main reason that I -- look, this election tonight, Balderson appears to be wing and he'll likely win. But this race should not have even been a contest.

We've seen six special elections now, where safe Republican seats, where Republican candidates have significantly underperformed with the possible exception of Georgia. But significant underperformance, so if I am a Republican in a swinger marginal district right now, I am very concerned. Just like Conor Lamb won, and he won by 1,000 votes, but had he lost by 1,000 votes, I'd still be concerned. It's clear that the energy and intensity is on the Democratic side.

This election was a referendum on President Trump and his conduct in office. And that is continuing to snowball as we move forward. I just had dinner with Governor Kasich. This is a good night for him. He endorsed Balderson. Both candidates were using him you know in their ads.

The bottom line is he even said this should not even have been contested. This is a very safe seat. He held this seat. Pat Tiberi held it before him. This shouldn't even be a contest.

LEMON: Jason, our John King says this is a moral victory for Democrats, no matter how you slice it. Do you agree with that?

JASON KANDER, (D) KANSAS CITY, CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: Look, this seat's been Republican since 1982. And I was born in 1981. So I mean -- and I am here talking about this.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: You're just showing off.

(CROSSTALK)

KANDER: But I am -- my point is that we got some mojo, all right. So I don't know if it's a moral victory or whatever. But we have a lot of momentum and it comes from us going out there. I mean passion is persuasive. And we're out there, whether it's me running for mayor in Kansas City, whether it is you know folks running in Ohio or anywhere else. We're out there saying, look, this is what we believe in.

We're making our argument. And you know if you can get outside your comfort zone, you can make a lot of change. And that's exactly what our party is finally doing.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: The question Democrats has a lot on the line tonight really, Jason. How much of this is a test to see if Democratic candidates can win over voters in more moderate red Congressional districts.

KANDER: See. It's not a matter of moderate or conservative or liberal or anything like that. The blue wave is not a weather event. It's not like your meteorologist comes on TV and says, you know, moderate this, and progressive this. It's going to mix together. It ain't how it works. It is getting out like we've been doing in Missouri for instance, getting out, bringing -- getting out, knocking on doors.

You make a wave happen. It's not just voters getting so angry that they come out to vote. Its people go out and they ask their neighbors to show up and vote. That's how you actually make a wave happen, and that's what you're seeing happen right now.

LEMON: So Congressman, Republican candidates are all in when it comes to the President. They're all in on Trump. I mean they have to be if they want to win. But Democrats, they really fielded people from different wings of the Democratic Party. Does that give them more latitude to talk about local issues that are so important in these elections?

DENT: Well, I guess, Don, I have to take issue with the premise of the question. If you're a Republican in a swing district and a very suburban district, suburban Philadelphia, New Jersey, you know, suburban Chicago, Minneapolis, you really can't be all in with the President in the general election. Look, his numbers aren't very good in those areas.

So you have to define yourself. Develop your own brand. And sell it. It has to be a separate and distinct brand from the President in those types of districts. Hey, sure. In some of these ruby red districts, you know, in the south and maybe some rural areas, yeah, you can you attach yourself to the President and you'll be fine.

[22:45:10] But the seat's not competitive. It's the competitive areas that we have to watch, and you know I can look...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: This goes to my initial question to you, that (Inaudible) a lot of those Republicans aren't running like you in those districts.

(CROSSTALK)

DENT: I was never worried about re-election in my own case. You know I had to -- my numbers are very strong, very favorable. I wasn't worried about my own race. I really wasn't. It really wasn't an issue. I was very competitive. I have my own brand. And I could easily sell it. But the issue right now is that you look at what's happening. I mean I can see 13 Republican seats right now that are probably gone to the Democrats.

They only need to pick up 10 more. And there are so many competitive seats. I mean as I look at it right now, I think your estimates are about 95 competitive seats. Nearly all of them are either Republican seats currently, and so it doesn't take a lot to get that next 11 or 12 seats to get you to the magic number of 23 to take a majority.

So again, I talked to a lot of these Republican members. I know that they're concerned. I know that they are defining themselves as best they can. They're going to localize these races to the greatest extent that they can. But we know that running -- but these elections are more nationalized. So it's really tough. Even these guys run good campaigns, they can still get wiped out.

LEMON: Jason, you have got a brand new book out today. It's titled Outside The Wire. It's about how you adapted lessons learned during your military experience to public service in the Missouri State House. What is the biggest lesson you've learned about how Democrats can run and win in the Trump era?

KANDER: Well, I appreciate you asking. I think the biggest lesson that I have learned both in the military and in public service has been this. It's that don't go out and try to act, you know. Don't try to be an actor. You're not an actor. Go out and tell people what you really believe, because you might convince somebody.

I mean voters do not experience issues one at a time. Sometimes we go on TV. We talk about issues one at a time. But I have yet to meet a single voter who experiences them one at a time. And they don't have like an excel spreadsheet where they're going to and trying to figure out if you're with them on this issue or that issue.

It's more like a job interview. They're getting a feel for you. I tell a story in the book about one of the very first doors I ever knocked on when I was running for the state legislature. This fellow comes to the door. We have a conversation. He completely disagrees with me on an issue. And I had never really done this before.

So I started doing what I had seen politicians on TV do. I started trying to convincing him that we actually agreed. It became clear really quick that we didn't. So we were in an argument. It wasn't going well. And so I thought to myself I have got to do something. I have got to bail out of this. So I just hey, look. Now you know where I stand. Thanks for your time.

That's what I believe. And I go off to the next door, and he says, to my surprise, well, that's fair. I'll vote for you. You can put a sign in my yard if you want to.

(CROSSTALK)

KANDER: That's what politics is. He wasn't going to look at every singly policy I held. He didn't know if he believed him or not. He didn't know whether he agreed with them. What he knew was I had the courage to tell him what I thought and stand up for it. So that made him feel rightfully that I was going to do what was best for him. And that's what voters care about. And that's what we need to do right now.

LEMON: You've got a chuckle from everybody here in the studio. Thank you, gentlemen, I appreciate it. Thank you very much, 1981. I literally had...

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Let's not talk about it.

LEMON: They were probably Tom McCann, if anybody remembers Tom McCann.

BORGER: Tom McCann.

BASH: I do.

BORGER: I never wore them.

LEMON: When we come back, more on our breaking news, the Ohio special election too close to call. What happened to the safe Republican district? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[22:50:00] LEMON: Here's our breaking news tonight. The special election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District, which should be safely Republican too close to call at the moment, 50.2 percent to 49.3 percent in favor of the Republican Troy Balderson. My political experts are back with me. Dana, the Republican candidate I just mentioned, Balderson in the lead, now you had a really unusual way of closing this race by dismissing the County that's home to a third of the districts voters. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My opponent is from Franklin County, and Franklin County has been challenging. We don't want somebody from Franklin County representing us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: What do you think, Dana, gap or an attempted?

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I thought that was genius.

LEMON: Yeah.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I mean, what was he thinking? There are so many things that you could criticize any opponent on. But effectively, what he did was criticize the biggest, the most populous county, and the most important county. Now, we'll see what happens. It looks, at this point, it is still very close. But he is ahead.

LEMON: Right.

BASH: And, you know, it's not clear if that's really going to matter. But what does matter is that this is probably a good example of why this was a race in the first place. Because he -- again, was and is an OK candidate, but you can't have any unforced errors at the end of a campaign. And that was a really bad...

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Dana, I need you to stand by. We need to get to Danny O'Connor headquarters in Ohio right now. Let's take a listen in and see. He's speaking out. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could use that spirit in Washington these days. We have to work. We have to work to find common ground. We have to not only listen to, but respect one another. And that's why I will work with anyone that wants to deliver solutions for central Ohio, because too often, folks retreat to their partisan corners and aren't focused on getting things done for working family's right here in our community.

[22:55:06] In our fight, we've rejected, we've rejected corporate pack money, because big money, because we know, we know that big money from big corporations is just one part of the problem with our elections. This is a grassroots campaign powered by small donations, powered by people who just want to have a chance at winning the future for their community.

We had seniors on fixed incomes, writing us $10 and $20 dollar checks. We had young people saddled with college debt chipping in because they want to be able to afford healthcare someday. There was a woman who had severe arthritis, who could only write two postcards a day. But every day she wrote those postcards. She kept fighting.

She kept fighting because she and all of us are fighting for our country. We are fighting for a better America. We went door to door. We went house to house. We made our case for change. We're going to make that case tomorrow. We're not stopping now. Tomorrow, we rest, and then we keep fighting through to November. Let's go out there. Let's get it done. Let's change this country. Thank you, all. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right. You can see that is Danny O'Connor's headquarters, Ohio's 12th Congressional district, a very close race there tonight. He's trying to rally the troops, pick up the morale there. Starting out by saying we're in it a tied ballgame right here. Is it tie? Who is going to win? Too close to call? A couple more votes to count, we'll be right back with our special coverage.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)