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Ohio Republican Leads, Race Too Close To Call; Firefighters Continue To Battle Mendocino Complex Fire. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 8, 2018 - 06:00   ET

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


[06:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And then there's another race that is too close to call, the battle for the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas. There's controversial Secretary of State Kris Kobach who got a tweet of support from the president. And he leads the incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer by a fraction of a percentage point.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, very, very small there. There's some of the outstanding vote. There might, might favor Colyer. Now, in Michigan, Republican Iraq War Veteran John James who was backed by the president will face the incumbent Democratic senator -- Democratic senator, Debbie Stabenow in November.

And that state gubernatorial race, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer prevailed over more progressive candidate. This is seen as bit of an establishment victory. She will face Republican Bill Schuette in the fall.

CAMEROTA: And in Missouri, State Attorney General Josh Hawley secured the GOP nomination for the Senate. He will face incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill for a seat. The Republicans believed they can flip.

So we have all of the big races covered for you. But let's start with CNN Ryan Nobles. He's live on Ohio's 12th District where the race is still too close to call. It's been long night there Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about that, Alisyn. Good morning from Ohio. We're -- if we were hoping for clarity from last night's result in Ohio's 12th District. We are getting anything but.

Right now, the Republican Troy Balderson leading the Democratic Danny O' Connor via scanned 1,800 votes. And there are still some 8,000 provisional and absentee ballot left to count.

Now, despite the fact that this is still a very tight race and very much in doubt, the Republicans are claiming victory. But Democrats are saying not so fast. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TROY BALDERSON (R), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: America is on the right path. And we're going to keep it going that way.

CROWD: Yes.

BALDERSON: It's time to get to work. Over the three next months, I'm going to do everything I can to America great again.

DANNY O'CONNOR (D), OHIO CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOBLES: And make no doubt, President Trump went all in on this race in Ohio. He held a rally here over the weekend. He tweeted a support of Troy Balderson yesterday morning. And he is now already starting to spin. His influence on this race claiming in a series of tweets overnight that if he hadn't come in to help out Troy Balderson, he would likely would not have been victorious.

And make no mistake, the president is claiming victory already. But takes a look at the reality of the situation here in Ohio, make no mistake, these was a very safe Republican seat for more than three decades. In fact, President Trump won comfortably just two years ago.

And then, there's also this, national Republicans poured more than $5 million into this race while national Democrats poured in about a million. And this perpetual campaign far from over, both of these candidates will be on the ballot in November. So these campaign ads here in Ohio's 12th District will continue. John?

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Nobles for us inside Ohio's 12th Congressional District.

Joining us now to discuss these results and what they mean for Democrats, DNC Chair Tom Perez. Mr. Chairman Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Glad to be with you.

BERMAN: So close, close in Ohio 12th but no cigar, at least not yet for you and your party.

TOM PEREZ, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, listen, I mean in 2016, the Republican who ran for the seat won by over 30 points. In here, we are -- we have a dead heat today, a rematch in 90 days. And Healthcare will be squarely on the ballot because the candidate for governor in Ohio wants to undo Medicaid expansion.

He wants to take away coverage for people of preexisting conditions so does Mr. Balderson. You're going to have higher turn out there. And you've got incredible energy on the ground there among Democrats.

Balderson said, "Hey, why would you want to vote for someone from Franklin County," referring to his opponent. Franklin County is where the most votes are in this district. So, it'll be interesting to watch him explain that. But more broadly, there's 60 seats for the House, 60 seats or so that are more competitive than this race yesterday. And so, as I look at this race and again, we don't know who's going to win yet but, you know, close to a dead heat.

And I look at the landscape not only in that district but across America. People want candidates who are going to be fighting for Healthcare. People want candidates who are going to protect social security and Medicare.

People want candidates who are trying to bring people together. And so, this gives me optimism not only about the seat but about other House seats, the U.S. Senate and governor's races, you saw there in Michigan yesterday, again, Gretchen Whitmer --

BERMAN: Yes. I'm going to talk about that in a second. Mr. Secretary, you correctly point out. There are many seats that are less Republican in Ohio 12th. In fact, there are some 68 seats less Republican than this.

[06:05:00] And yes there was a major swing from the presidential vote in 2016, the congressional vote there. But come November, you need more than moral victories. You're going to need to get better than close in some of these races, correct?

PEREZ: Well, absolutely. You need to win 50 percent plus 100 depending on whether there's three candidates. You might not win that match. But listen, this is going to much bigger turn out November because you've got state wide election there in Ohio.

And what won yesterday was gerrymandering because this seat has been heavily gerrymandered in favor of Balderson. That was done by John Boehner back in 2011. And so, what we see here, again, when you've got 60, 68 seats whatever the precise number is that are more competitive than this seat.

And then you're going to benefit of additional turnout, and the energy on the ground, the enthusiasm for Democrats across the country, whether it was in Ohio or elsewhere. It has been spectacular. And then most importantly, we're fighting for the issues that people care about. We want people to make sure that they can keep their Healthcare.

BERMAN: Sir --

PEREZ: We want people, you know --

BERMAN: The President -- the President says that it was his trip, essentially, that was decisive there. He says when I decided to go to Ohio for Troy Balderson, he was down in early voting. That was not good. After my speech, there was a big turn for the better. What effect do you think the president had there?

PEREZ: I apologize for laughing. That's a laughable proposition. But nothing new coming from this president. I'll tell you, the election in 2018 not only in this district but across America is about the need for guardrails because we have House, a Republican House and a Republican Senate that are not at all putting any guardrails on this president. There's no accountability for this president. The culture of corruption in Washington is over the top.

BERMAN: Do you hope -- would you like to see him campaign in more competitive districts?

PEREZ: Well, we saw the fact that a race that we had no business winning required $5 million of Republican money, a visit from the president. I mean go to Washington State where one of the leaders of the Republican Party in the House, she had a -- she's a got Danny Brook (ph) on her hands.

BERMAN: Cathy McMorris Rodgers under 50 percent. She --

PEREZ: -- used to hold him.

BERMAN: Yes.

PEREZ: And her opponent Lisa Brown, she is running a spectacular campaign. So our playing field both in the House and in the Senate continues to get wider.

BERMAN: Let me ask you --

PEREZ: You look at the governor's races, and we've got real opportunity there.

BERMAN: If I can, let me ask you about something we did see in Ohio 12th. And we see it around the country which is this rural urban split, and yes Danny O'Connor did well there. You note the make up of the district but difference between the urban and the close to urban county is in the more rural county.

It's just huge, just huge. Democrats doing well closer the cities, Republicans continue to do very well out in those rural areas. Is that good for your party? And more importantly, is that good for the country?

PEREZ: Well, listen, we've been organizing everywhere across this country. You look back last year in Virginia and Alabama to take two examples where Ralph Northam became the governor of Virginia not simply by winning the areas close to Washington D.C. but he won in Roanoke and coal country places where the Democrats didn't so high. You look John Jones --

BERMAN: But this will (ph) exist, right. I mean you look around the country right now. And I'm not telling you something you don't know. It's there. It's real. And it's getting bigger not smaller.

PEREZ: Well, I'll tell you, in part of what we're doing to address the fact that we have to do better in rural America is we're organizing in rural America. And the thing about it is, when you talk about issues that people care about, that's how you win.

In Tennessee, just by way of example, eight rural hospitals have closed in the last two years because of the ideological refusal of Tennessee Republicans to expand Medicaid.

So people in rural parts of that state have lost their access to healthcare and have lost their jobs. And that is why you have someone like Phil Bredesen who is ahead in the polls down there for the Senate race because he's speaking to every county in that state.

BERMAN: You're talking about Tennessee. Today, we're still talking about Ohio and the races that were taking place today. And Danny O'Connor is one of about 25 Democratic Congressional candidates who says, he will not support Nancy Pelosi if he is elected ultimately in November for speaker or even if the party leader going forward.

What does that tell you that you have so many particular younger candidates from around the country again perhaps from this less urban district that want to see a change at the top of leadership?

PEREZ: Well, you know, interesting as you look at the Conor Lamb race, you look at this race here. And Democrats are talking about making sure we save your healthcare, making sure that if you have a preexisting condition that you can continue to get healthcare coverage.

[06:10:00] And also, Republicans, they can do is talk about Nancy Pelosi or talk about, you know, trying to tout that reckless tax cut.

BERMAN: And I understand -- I understand that they're running on Pelosi. But again, Danny O'Connor made his position clear. Do you think she is a bit of burden to some Democratic candidates?

PEREZ: Listen, every Democrat running for office is going to do what they think is in the best interest of their district. Nancy Pelosi is responsible for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. We wouldn't have coverage for people with preexisting conditions without the leadership of Nancy Pelosi.

And so, millions of Americans are in better shape because of that. And again, as I said every person who's running in a particular district is going to make their judgment. And what we're seeing across the country is people want to know how are you going to help improve my life?

How are you going improve public education? How are you going to make sure that prescription drug prices don't keeps skyrocketing? How are you going to save my mother who has breast cancer and kick a coverage if you repeal the Affordable Care Act.

These are the things that Democrats are focused on. And frankly, the abscess of any message on the Republican side is really remarkable. And that's why we keep winning in places where we have no business winning. And we're competitive in a place where the congressmen in 2016 won by over 30 points. That's remarkable.

BERMAN: All right. Mr. Chairman, former Secretary Tom Perez, thanks so much for being with us today. Obviously, you are energized this morning for the numbers you see. But again it doesn't look like Danny O'Connor has the votes yet to prevail in Ohio 12th. We do appreciate you being with us.

The next hour here on NEW DAY, we are going to speak for the Democratic candidate from Ohio 12th, Danny O'Connor, again, trailing by about 1,700 votes right now. Whatever happens today, he will continue to be a candidate because he has to run again.

CAMEROTA: I know that, they're doing this all over again in three months.

BERMAN: It's like dry run.

CAMEROTA: Right. Well, I'm glad we get a dry run for this. There were other key primary races to tell you about all also. President Trump played a factor in this. So, we will break it all down and what it means for the midterms.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:15:44] CAMEROTA: OK. Wake up everyone because while you were sleeping the political sand shifted were some people are still stocking quick sand. So we're breaking down all of the primary and special election result for you.

We just spoke with DNC Chair, Tom Perez. And he had own interpretation of what happened in that special election in Ohio. But all of this at this hour is still too close to call. So let's discuss with CNN Senior Political Analysts Ron Brownstein and John Avlon and CNN Political Commentator Errol Louis.

Ron Brownstein, you are a professional Tea Leaf reader.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: You have been looking at Ohio 12th for weeks. How do you interpret a too close to call result at this hour?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, first of all, isn't quite Christmas in July but election results in August are close. That's great.

BERMAN: You got issues Ron Brownstein.

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I feel as the Ohio 12th took a big sharpie and underlined the most traumatic trends that we've seen in all of the major elections as Trump was elected, even in Trump's election itself. We saw the continued movement as John was talking about of these white collar suburbs toward the Democrats.

Franklin County which is affluent, well education diverse, Barrack Obama won it by three points in 2012. Hillary Clinton won it by 18 in 2016. And then Danny O'Connor won it by 30 last night, Delaware County.

Again, it won from 23 points of Republican in 2012 to 16 in 2016 and only eight last night, although that turned out to be enough to make the difference. And that is what we have seen really everywhere, Virginia, Alabama, the suburbs of Pittsburgh with Conor Lamb. On the other hand, we saw that Republicans maintain the elevated margins that Donald Trump achieved in the rural and small town part of district. And that's important because Trump run much better in those rural and small town parts than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

And we saw Balderson able to maintain that, just as we saw Ed Gillespie able to maintain those kind of advantages. In Virginia, if you added it all up, I think still leaves Democrats on tract to be the favorite to win the House by maximizing their games in the suburban white collar areas around the major metros.

But it shows they have relatively margin -- relatively tight margin for error if they can't put into play a little more of the kind of rural terrain that although it didn't turn out in great numbers still lean very heavily towards the Republicans last time.

BERMAN: -- the DNC Chair, Tom Perez on. He was clearly energized this morning toward getting a lot of flock for pressing in. But he's right that there is 68 races that are --

CAMEROTA: Right. You listen to the statement.

BERMAN: Because I think it's interesting. People are watching. People care about the--

CAMEROTA: I agree. I like that. I like the people watching.

BERMAN: I think Democrats want to grasp on to hope. And this morning they have a reason to be hopeful. However, they didn't get the clear win there. But the fact is Errol that there is 68 districts up for grabs, 68 and that's David Letterman of Cooker port (ph) looking at this that are less Republican than Ohio to have 119 less Republican than Pennsylvania 18 which did flip a couple months ago.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right. Look, these are good signs for Democrats. It's a road map. It's not a guarantee. But it shows you what you can do. You personally, you got a raise a bunch of money. You got a really get out there and get organizing, get all of your factions in line and get out there.

You know, one thing we're keeping in mind, there was a green candidate out there that it helped take away some of the votes that presumably might have gone to the Democrats. Green, you know, there are people who are really green party. They really don't like the Democrats at all.

There are others though where they just kind of Liberal Democrat who are so disaffected. They don't want to be part of the party organization. So in district after district, they're going to have to sort of analyze and see is this the kind of roadmap we can follow because if you want to get within one point of a victory in half of those 60 districts, the Democrats would be well on their way to take --

BERMAN: That's right. JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the Green Party candidate got around 1,100 votes outstanding. Keep in mind, we've got 8,500 ballots still outstanding in this district. It's one of the reasons that it's not being officially called. But look, I think that, you know, Democrats are trying to look at the silver lining here.

They can point to the fact that the former Republican rep won the district by 37 points when Trump won it by 11 just in 2016. So this may be a moral victory. The problem is in politics second place gets you oblivion not second a -- silver medal.

But there are trends they can look to. As Ron Brownstein pointed out, Republicans are in retreat in key suburban swing districts. That is a good trend for Democrats. But still a win is a win and Republicans nominated a candidate who was not crazy far right who is a better fit for the district almost in the Kasich mold. And that prove to be a compelling formulation for keys special election.

[06:20:15] CAMEROTA: Go ahead Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: Although, John, I was going to say, even he, and I think this is revealing, we talked about this before. Even he moved sharply toward Trump on immigration. And he talked about building the wall. He talked about working with Trump on deporting illegals.

You know, that Kris Kobach, you know, basically get heat in Kansas is another reminder that Trump is having a magnetic pull on the party toward his kind of racially infused nationalist themes. And that is imposing a very clear electoral trade on the party that was apparent in Ohio last night which is this, you know, enhanced Republican hold on small town rural blue collar areas at the cost of retreat.

In suburban areas, the other part of the price for Trump, Trumpism electoral price was not apparent last time because this is an 86 percent white district. So you didn't get the increase in minority turnout particularly among African-American women that was so important in Virginia and Alabama. But which will also come in to play in other districts around the around the country.

One of the reasons why there is 68, you know, districts that are more less Republican in this one that Republicans hold was because there's more diversity in many of those other districts.

And so I think this game -- this game is a pretty clear roadmap. It underscored the dynamics that we have been seeing. And it points toward in election that it is likely going to leave us with Democrats in a much stronger position in metropolitan areas all over the country and Republicans still pretty strong beyond that and a huge trench between.

AVLON: The question is whether it's strong enough. And another factor we need to highlight is the outside money that float into this race. Republicans overwhelmingly getting the advantage to that almost 6 million in outside, Democrats only 1 million in outside money, so that differential may have had an impact as well. BERMAN: Yes. But Danny O'Connor did out race Troy Balderson himself. You know, they both had ads up on the air. The Republic seat have a little bit of advantage. Some of the other races that we're looking at Kris Kobach, the Trump-backed candidate for governor in Kansas is right now is leading by a hair like 500 votes over the incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer right there, Errol.

CAMEROTA: So that's the Trump effects, right?

BERMAN: It could be the Trump effect because the president went out and endorsed Kris Kobach, you know, 24-hours before the election there, may be enough to push him over the top. That's one thing I talked about. And another thing I know you're watching in Missouri where there was a major labor vote and union scored a victory.

LOUIS: Absolutely, they sort of stole a march on an otherwise Republican dominated state where they have both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion where there was a right to work law that was passed. It was going to make Missouri one more state in the Midwest that was turning its back on its union tradition.

The union has got to organize. They out raced the other side by multiples. They went out and sort of built a coalition that went beyond labor. It knocked on a lot of doors and got the people convinced, accurately in my opinion that this was not going to work for working people. And so they protected Union Rights, really, really important.

The legislature may come back and undo that yet again. But it's another sort of indication that there are national issues that are out there. And there are parts of the Democratic establishment that are really on the march. And they're going to be on the march for the next 90 odd days. It's really important by the way for Claire McCaskill who's fighting a very, very tough reelection day in the same state.

CAMEROTA: Go ahead Ron.

BROWNSTEIN: And to that point, just the other thing we should mention is just again how many women Democrats nominated last night. I mean the pattern of Democrats picking women over men in races in urban seat house race is where, you know, there is that choice just continues to be tremendous as well as the gubernatorial nominees in Michigan and Kansas.

I mean this is, you know, the gender gap is often overrated as a political force. But this year I think given the uniquely polarizing nature of Trump, it could just an enormous factor.

AVLON: One other factor in Kobach in Kansas is that Republicans really nervous about him getting that nomination. Trump came out strong for him. He was the ahead of that so called, voter commission. But he is deeply polarizing following in the method of Sam Brownback, the former governor who had to high tail it out of the state. So the X factor there is you've got an independent Greg Worman will that split the opposition. But Kobach is actually not as good a fit for the state. Have conservative as Kansas says as one might think on the surface.

CAMEROTA: Fascinating stuff guys. Thank you very much for all of the analyses.

[06:24:29] BERMAN: All right, we have some progress to report this morning the fight against what is now California's largest fire ever. We have a live report from the ground, coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: We are following some breaking news now from Northern California where crews continue to battle that Mendocino Complex Fire which is now the largest in California's history. The blaze has grown to the size of Los Angeles.

But there is good news. This morning firefighters are beginning to gain some ground. That's where we find CNN's Dan Simon he's live in Lake Port, California with the latest. What's the status, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, hi Alisyn. This fire has slowed down considerably. But the numbers are staggering, 450 square miles. It continues to be fueled by drive vegetation and high temperatures. In the meantime, this is one of 75 homes that has been destroyed.

The home owners tell me, they did everything they could to mitigate a fire disaster. They constantly cleared the area from brush. They had a wide defensible space with gravel and rocks. Everything they you to do but there was, this fire had another agenda, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: I can't imagine what is like to go through this. What's the hardest thing?

EMILY SCHEIDEMANN, LOST HOME IN MENDOCINO COMPLEX FIRE: I just want to go home. Yesterday when I arrive although the stockout was just standing, everything else had burned with it. It was the stockout at. And it was real unstable.

[06:30:01] And that was really hard to see because you could tell where like the staircase and where everything was. And I'm, you know, miss -- like trying to picture what our home was like.

(END VIDEO CLIP)