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America's Choice 2020; First Statewide Polls Close At 7 P.M.; MI Officials: Votes Will Be Counted Sooner Than Expected. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're live here in Washington. Look at these pictures of the white house right now. This is a truly historic contest to win the White House and lead this nation.

This is CNN's coverage of Election Night in America.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Right now Americans are making their choice between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. We're about to get our first look at what those voters care about most, the first exit poll information will be revealed just minutes from now.

And we're only about an hour away from getting the first votes of this night. Standby for that, as well as our first chance to make projections in this presidential race. That could happen in the 7 p.m. Eastern hour when voting ends in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia, those states have a total of 60 electoral votes, that's a little less than a fourth of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The first key race we'll be watching is Georgia to see if that traditionally red state turns blue.

Lots going on. Let's go back to Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Wolf, we're keeping tabs on the final hours of voting in key battleground states across the country, including Nevada, Michigan, Florida.

We're also of course staying on top of what's going on behind the scenes of the campaign. So let's go to Jeff Zeleny covering team Biden.

Jeff, what are we learning about the former vice president's plans for this evening?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well Jake, we do know that Joe Biden is now heading home to his home in Wilmington after making a couple stops here after really a day long stretch of campaigning. And there has been some question about what he plans to do this evening.

He told reporters just a few moments ago that he will address the country tonight, if the numbers are indicating something that he should. So if there is some type of a result he will. But his campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said earlier today that he definitively would address the country tonight regardless of the outcome, regardless of where they are in the process. So you can see behind me here, they are setting up a stage here at the chase center in Wilmington. It's the exact place where Joe Biden accepted the Democratic nomination and walked out to that drive-in rally. So we could see him here this evening if he decides to address the crowd.

But they're also keeping a close eye on what's happening in all of the states. They have a war room setup here in Wilmington. And they do believe that turnout was high today in several battleground states. But they also know, I'm told, that cuts both ways.

Republicans, of course, we're planning on voting in person.

But Florida, of course, is one of the first battleground states we're going to see there's pessimism on detecting, at least early pessimism from key Biden advisors about the uphill lift there in the state of Florida. But votes are still being cast in Florida, so let's keep an eye on that.

But of course, we'll see if we hear from Joe Biden tonight or perhaps in the wee hours of the morning. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

Now to Kaitlan Collins who's covering the Trump campaign.

Kaitlan, President Trump is breaking norms, again, by spending election night at the White House.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he is. We haven't seen an incumbent president spend the night at the White House on election night in some time. But of course, with COVID restrictions happening here in Washington D.C. that thwarted plans to have an event at the Trump hotel nearby the White House, of course.

And there are other questions being raised about the political activity, Jake, that's happening here at the White House. And of course, there's always political activity that surrounds a one term president who is trying to become a two term president, but the White House and the Trump campaign are now kind of converging forces.

And there is a war room set up in the Executive Office Building, of course, just a short walk from the Oval Office here at the White House. At a war room is political aides, campaign staffers who are watching television, monitoring social media, and of course, watching those returns as they are coming in and filling in their bosses who are then filling in President Trump.

But the idea that it's happening here at the White House instead of at the campaign headquarters in Virginia is raising questions about whether or not it's blurring those lines between political activity and official government business. The Trump campaign is defending this by saying it is fully paid for by the campaign, not by taxpayers, even to the WiFi and the computers. And they say no White House staff is involved in that, Jake.

But it goes to show you how they've been blowing these lines for several years of the Trump administration, things like the press secretary appearing on television as a campaign advisor. But of course, starting with this war room that we are seeing happening here on the grounds tonight.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

Now we have the first exit poll results now. Let's go to David Chalian.

With that, David, what do you have?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, we're learning what sort of the top issue driving voter's choices today, Jake. This is nationally. And again, these are early numbers, they're likely to change as we get more and more information throughout the day from voters.

But what was most important, the most important issue for your vote, 34 percent of voters in this election say the economy followed by racial inequality, 21 percent said that, followed by coronavirus at 18 percent of voters who said that. Crime and safety and health care policy a little further down.

[17:05:03]

Take a look when we asked what's more important to you to do right now, contain the coronavirus or rebuild the economy? Look at this, 15 -- 52 percent say contain the coronavirus, that beats out the importance of the 42 percent that say rebuild the economy.

And how about a measurement about how efforts are going in the U.S. to contain the coronavirus? Look at this, a split electorate on this today. Forty-eight percent said U.S. efforts to contain the coronavirus are going well. Fifty-one percent, a slim majority say efforts to contain the virus are going badly.

And finally on this note, we asked, what do you think about wearing a mask in public? Is that more of a personal choice or a public health responsibility? Nearly seven and 10 voters in this election tell us it is more of a public health responsibility. Only 30 percent of voters in this election say it is a personal choice. Jake.

All right, David Chalian thanks so much for that fascinating results.

Also 48 percent of the country, Dana, saying that the handling of the pandemic is going well. That's a very high number considering that, empirically, it is not going well. I mean, there is no health official who says it's going well at all. DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And it is a different number than what we've been seeing in the polls up until now. But this is a poll, the exit poll is of those who have voted.

And you know, if I am in the Trump campaign, I'm looking at that and saying, well, that's better than we thought it would be.

TAPPER: Yes.

BASH: Because despite -- right.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

BASH: Well, that's exactly right. That is a little bit higher.

TAPPER: It's better. It's better than --

BASH: Yes. And because, look, as bullish as the president and his aides have been in public about the coronavirus. That's not how they feel in private. They understand that this is a referendum on the President and in large part because of the coronavirus.

So, in that sense, maybe -- it is surprising, and I'm guessing if I'm going to contact people in the Trump campaign, they're probably going to say the same thing.

PHILLIP: Yes, but I mean, some of these other numbers were not that great for the President in terms of -- he's at 42 percent in terms of people who think that the economy is the number one issue. And that's what he's been trying to convince people that they should believe that they should put the economy before managing or controlling the coronavirus.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: So, that's 42 percent. That's the President and his base. Is that enough to win a presidential election to be reelected? We don't know. But that is where the President's problems start. It is with this virus and the fact that Americans, even his supporters, 68 percent of American say, wearing a mask is a public health --

TAPPER: Right --

PHILLIP: -- priority. So that's the President supporters and then some. So people who support the President want to be -- want him to be a little bit more responsible on some of --

TAPPER: But the question was in the question in the exit poll. And again, this is not complete, there are still people voting, et cetera, which is a higher priority containing the virus or rebuilding the economy. Fifty-two percent said containing the virus, 48 percent said rebuilding the economy.

Again, if I'm at the Trump campaign, or if I'm at the White House, I think that's a lot of people saying rebuild the economy is more important than containing the virus, especially when every credible health expert says you need to contain the virus before you do --

BASH: And that's what --

TAPPER: -- rebuild the economy.

BASH: Exactly. And that's what Joe Biden's campaign has been all about. I mean, you know, you could probably start a drinking game to how many times he has said, you can't do one without the other. They are completely intertwined. That is a very different message that you've heard from the President.

So, I know we'll see what this means. And you know if this is kind of mimicking what one or the other is saying.

The other thing I thought was really interesting in the priorities was racial inequality. And how high that was --

TAPPER: Right.

BASH: -- in with the economy and with coronavirus. I mean, that has not -- I don't remember seeing that. I mean, obviously, is because we it's 2020. And we've seen the horrors this year, and the way that people have protested because of it. But that was pretty amazing.

TAPPER: Yes. And again, we're trying to divine any sort of significance as to what these numbers mean, when it's still incomplete. And it's just preliminary data. But I mean, if I am with the Trump campaign, and I'm looking at these numbers, I'm thinking this is an electorate that's a lot more susceptible to what we've been saying than what Joe Biden's been saying in general than we thought they would be.

PHILLIP: Perhaps.

TAPPER: Not more so than Biden, but supporters, but more so than we thought they would be.

PHILLIP: These numbers to me reflect the hyper partisanship of the American electorate, which has only increased in the last four years. A lot of these issues are really determined by what shirt, what team these voters are putting the shirt on for. And so we're going to see that reflected in the numbers.

So, the President being at 40, you know, the President's view of the economy being a priority, being a little bit higher than his approval rating is fine. But I don't know that that tells you anything. It just continues to tell us that we have a really tightly split electorate this year.

[17:10:04]

TAPPER: All right. Food for thought. Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of food for thought indeed. John King is here at the magic well. Let's get some more on the political impact of the coronavirus pandemic that's still so powerful and so ugly here in the United States.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So the early exit polls is the panel just discuss. You know, we've all watched this political divide play out, should you wear a mask, should you not wear a mask? Is it OK to have big rallies on the campaign trail? Should you social distance on the campaign trail?

We'll watch the votes and we'll see how it impacts. But we just, Wolf, we just know without a doubt, we know without a doubt, no matter where you live and no matter how you voted today, coronavirus is in your community.

This is a map showing confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. The deeper the red is the deeper the pain, really.

And just look up here. Now there's no, you know, there's no expectation that Joe Biden is going to carry North Dakota or South Dakota. Look how deep the red is up in those states up there, that is the fall surge right now. The fall surge, the average case count above 80,000 new infections a day. The fall surge now way in excess of the summer surge.

But let's just walk through some of the battleground states. And remember battleground Wisconsin, right, the state the President won four years ago.

Look at all this deep red right here. And not only is the President been saying we've rounded the corner, the vaccines will be here soon, saying things that just frankly sorry are not true about the state of the current fight against the coronavirus to the point that Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx, his own people have been critical of him in recent days.

With the President trying to sell this in states that, Wisconsin especially a hospitalization spike, a death record in the final week of the campaign. You just see this going up. And this is one of the questions of the campaign. The President has been open about this, criticizing the Democratic governor here, criticizing in another state he wants to win.

Michigan, where you see not as deep red as Wisconsin, but still a lot of pain here. Early, Michigan was hit especially early in the first wave. Criticizing the Democratic governor there.

Pull the map back, criticizing the Democratic governor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The President has made this a rallying cry, and many say, why, because all of those governors, whether it's, you know, Governor Wolf, Governor Whitmer, Governor Evers, they're popular if you look at the polls. However, what the President's people tell you is that this motivates his supporters. And that's what today is about.

Will the Trump voters come out in massive numbers? Let's just look through some other battleground states. Again, one of the things we have seen in this campaign, Wolf, is that senior citizens, Donald Trump won voters 65 and over four years ago, all the polls show us late in the campaign, Joe Biden actually leading with that constituency, which is critical everywhere, very reliable voters, but absolutely essential in battleground Florida, out in Arizona, makes a difference in Pennsylvania. That's one of the older states as well.

Just look at the pain. Look at the pain, especially up here. This is Trump country. This is Trump country. This is Georgia and Alabama, across the Florida Panhandle.

These voters vote like the South. That is Trump country. That's where he needs to run it up and look at the pain of the coronavirus there. What is the President up in here, very supportive of the republican governor, a Trump like Governor Ron de Santos, who opened up early. There was a big controversy in his state. The governor here at war with some of the mayors in his state about it.

And you just see this play out. And other state will watch tonight is Texas. Texas has been a fabulous case study throughout the coronavirus. And that, Governor Abbott, a Republican, among those early to reopen, among those resisting mass mandates fights with the mayor of Houston. Wolf, you've spoken to him many times I know. With the mayor of Austin, with the mayor of Dallas about restrictions.

Then Governor Abbott at one point during the summer spike pulling back and saying we need to do more things like masks. You just see all this pain.

Where is it down here? This is really fascinating to watch the vote down here. This part of the state down here, Harris County, Huston, incredibly hard hit. Fastest growing county in the state. Essentially it's the landmass, the size of Rhode Island, if it broke out it would be the 25th largest state in the country, Harris County.

Look at the pain, they're in deep red, lot of Latino voters, lot of suburban voters. And down here, absolutely key to the Democrats today. The Latino vote down in South Texas. This is where Beto O'Rourke has urged the Democrats to turn off the vote.

We'll see how it happens. But just without a doubt, a place that has been punished in recent months and right now by the coronavirus.

And again, Arizona has been another case study and that this is another Republican governor who took the cues from the President and reopened early. You see all the red, all the deep red here.

How does it play out politically, Wolf, we don't know. And sometimes it seems even awful to have a conversation about this in the context of politics, but that has been just unavoidable throughout this year because the collision between the coronavirus and the campaign.

Presidential elections are about leadership. The President's leadership of the pandemic is on the ballot today. Joe Biden has a completely different approach.

No matter where you live, you have lived this for eight plus months now. And the question is, how important is it when people vote? And again, I don't mean to minimize it, the coronavirus is everywhere, but in several of the big battleground states whether we're talking Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona. It's painful throughout the last eight months and in some of them with the summer -- the fall surge, excuse me, especially, Wisconsin, for example, Iowa right now very painful.

BLITZER: And we've gotten two very different perspectives from the two candidates as far as the coronavirus pandemic is concerned what to do if you're a president of the United States, it's been a big issue.

KING: It has been a big issue.

And again, that's why these swing states will be so important.

[17:15:02]

Let's just pull up the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for example. You have Governor Wolf who has had restrictions in place, President Trump has campaigned against him. This is a key state that, you know, both campaigns then could switch the presidency.

What is Joe Biden say? Not a national mask mandate, but national mask leadership. I will push governors to put mask mandates in place. I will be ready not to lock down the country.

The President says Joe Biden wants to lock down the country, that's a lie. Joe Biden doesn't say that. But he does say we will surge in.

Just in recent days, the President responding to a rally crowd, saying that he would consider firing Dr. Fauci. Joe Biden says he would keep Dr. Fauci, asking voters to fire Donald Trump.

That has been fascinating about this because you have, especially in these battleground states, where you have had remember the kidnapping plot against the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, in part because of her coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns.

In Wisconsin as well, the government governor has been at war with the state Supreme Court and the legislature on these issues. So this has been a political divide. It is a pandemic and a public health crisis. That has been very political. And the votes today will reflect, it's a choice.

BLITZER: And a huge issue in this campaign.

KING: Absolutely.

BLITZER: And will continue to be so.

We're counting down to the first results of the night. In the next hour, we'll have more exit poll results soon, including a read on the candidate's qualities that mattered most to voters. It's all different.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back to our election coverage. More exit poll results right now. David Chalian has that for us. David.

CHALIAN: Anderson, we're taking a look at how much of the electorate are new voters, first time voters. We asked that a vote 13 percent of this year's electorate says that they are first time voters. That was 10 percent four years ago. So that's a slight increase of first time voters make sense, I guess, with this explosive turnout we've been seeing.

Take a look also we asked folks, how is the voting process going in your state? So many people are voting differently than before. Look at this. 68 percent say it's very easy to vote, 25 percent somewhat easy, only 6 percent say it's somewhat or very difficult not to vote in their state.

[17:20:06]

We also asked about people's confidence in the counting of the vote. And it's a supremely confident electorate. Voters in this election, 86 percent of them, if you add up the top two lines, are very or somewhat competent that their votes will be counted accurately, only 8 percent said not very competent, and only 4 percent said not confident at all.

We also asked voters, when did you make up your mind in this election? This is fascinating. Only 4 percent said in the last week, three times the size that group was four years ago. It was like 13 percent of the electorate that made up their mind last week. So few late deciders, 93 percent said they made up their mind before the last weekend.

COOPER: We're going to get some more from David Chalian in a minute.

David Axelrod, Gloria Borger, would you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting to me that 93 percent of these people said, yes, I knew who was going to vote for. That's why we've seen these sort of stable polls for the last month, it seems to me. Not only nationally where Biden's been ahead by eight to 10 points, but also in state polls, we see that maybe the margins have closed a bit whether they're accurate or not is another question.

But it seems to me that people haven't changed their minds. So you had the first presidential debate, which was when we saw the greatest movement away from Donald Trump. But after that, not much.

DAVID AXELROD, FORMER OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: You know, I'm interested in these in these new voters. And in voters who didn't participate in 2016.

One of the theories of the Trump campaign is that they're going to energize a whole bunch of people who didn't participate in 2016. In polling, that hasn't been the case in the early vote, the data that's been accumulated that hasn't been the case, that has leaned toward a Biden, but that's a big thing where these voters who didn't vote in 2016 or who voted for third party candidates break in this election.

COOPER: So that number for early voters, it could be just young people who are entering the race for the first time who are now of legal age, or it could be people who just didn't vote the last time?

AXELROD: Yes. It's kind of interesting. I'm not sure.

Look, everybody's sitting there, like, in a few hours, we're going to know the answer, right? Everybody's trying to read the tea leaves like, well, what does that mean? If they're confident in the voting process, does that make them more Biden people or does it make it more Trump people? I don't think we know.

BORGER: Or American people.

COOPER: Earlier we also saw a number on coronavirus and its impact on the electorate.

AXELROD: Yes. That was an interesting number. I saw Rick smile across the table there. Because, obviously, you know, the more people feel that the job is being well done, the better. I would think that Trump people would feel it. They might be predisposed them because we know that this has been a major issue for him, at least in polling.

So, that was an interesting number.

COOPER: I just want to go back to David Chalian then we'll come back.

David, you have more at poll.

CHALIAN: I do, Anderson.

We're taking a look at candidate qualities. What were voters looking for in these candidates today when they cast their ballot in this election?

Thirty-two percent of voters in this election say they were looking for a strong leader, 24 percent good judgment. And down here sort of the empathy factor cares about people like me, 21 percent, 19 percent unite the country, those bottom two are key Joe Biden issues. But it's the strong leader that seems to be the top candidate quality that people are looking for.

And then this, I think, is fascinating, sort of how Trump voters in this election. Were they out there voting for their candidate or against Joe Biden? Eighty-one percent of Trump voters in this election tell us their vote was a vote that was affirmative. It was for Donald Trump. Only 14 percent were out there voting against Joe Biden.

And this may be the most surprising number I've seen so far tonight about Biden voters. Sixty-four percent of Biden voters in this early exit poll say they're out there voting for Joe Biden, only 31 percent say their vote is motivated in opposition to Donald Trump. I thought that last number would have been much higher, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Did you think it would be higher?

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's hard to know. Listen, I know a lot of --

COOPER: Because it's actually a big number.

JONES: Yes.

COOPER: I mean, 31 percent is a big percentage.

JONES: Yes, yes. Like I think a lot of people are in the Democratic Party are just tired of Donald Trump. The level of anxiety, the level just kind of emotional fatigue from people. I mean, look, if you're a Muslim family, if you're from an immigrant community, if you're -- you feel vulnerable in anyway, this has been a horrific four years. And so people I think would vote for, you know, Kermit the Frog over Donald Trump at this point. So that's going to be a big part of it.

But I think what you've seen is that Biden has actually won people over who were skeptical of him. I was one feels, I don't think Biden's going to be able to make it.

A lot of people, they've seen the consistency. What did he do? The first thing that he did this morning, he went to mass.

[17:25:00]

People forget he's a Catholic. He's a man of deep faith. His message today was the same as it was when he started the campaign. And he is -- his message that we need to come together I think is really broken through. So I think that number has gotten less now an anti-Trump party and more at a pro Biden unity message party. I think you're going to see that tonight.

RICK SANTORUM, (R) FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would make the argument that most decent Americans, which I think the vast majority Americans are, don't like to say they're voting against somebody.

BORGER: That's right. And so I think that number is generally, like, Republicans only 14 percent say they're voted against Biden. That's because they don't want to go in there and think, well, I'm voting against somebody.

So, the fact that 30, 31 percent were willing to admit that they were voting against Donald Trump, that's a big number.

JONES: It says a lot about Trump.

SANTORUM: It just says a lot about Trump --

(Crosstalk)

JONES: -- rub this country raw. People have been rubbed raw, by the disrespect, by the consistent, you know, outlandish behavior, by the line. So yes, I think it says a lot about Donald Trump. SANTORUM: I think this election is about two emotions, one in common with the parties and one different. Both are playing to the Americas fears of what the other is going to do, is doing or will do. So fear is a common.

The difference is loving Donald Trump or hating Donald Trump, and which is the -- fear is an equal motivator. But which one is the more powerful motivator, being for someone or being passionate for them, or being passionate against them?

BORGER: Or change. What about change --

JONES: As people loving the communities that have been disrespected by Donald Trump. I see a lot of love.

In fact, one thing is really interesting about this campaign, this politics of joy that's coming. As you see people standing in long lines, the young people have bringing a different spirit. It's not an angry spirit from young people. They were angry this summer.

You're seeing this politics of joy. You're seeing groups, you know, the vote mob group and the student power network and all these people, they're bringing music, they're bringing joy. Why? Because they are tired of being tired and they want something better that shows in their politics.

COOPER: The first votes of the night are coming up at the top of the hour. We'll have more exit poll results soon. Much more ahead on this election night in America.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:46]

BLITZER: We're getting closer and closer to the first votes on this election night in America. Folks are still voting out there right now. Let me go over to David Chalian. He has more insight on what's going on with our exit polls. We're getting some more information.

CHALIAN: Yes, about the economy specifically, remember, in these early exit polls, which are polls of the entire electorate, whether you voted early before Election Day or on Election Day. Take a look here. The economy is the number one issue, 34 percent of voters in this election told us the economy is their most important issue.

And I want to show you now a condition of the nation's economy. How does the country, how did these voters rate the economy? We're pretty divided country on this, 13 percent excellent. But look at this. 35 percent say the economy is good, 32 percent say not so good, 19 percent poor. But it's that middle chunk there, the good and not so good, that's where the bulk of the voters are and they're pretty evenly divided.

We also asked about whether or not the pandemic has caused you financial hardship. 55 percent of voters in the election say, yes, the coronavirus pandemic has caused them financial hardship. 44 percent say no. And then the classic question, especially in a real election year for a president. You know, are you better off than you were four years ago financially? Is your family situation better off? 41 percent of voters say yes, better off than four years ago. 38 percent roughly even group says about the same. Only 20 percent, 2 in 10 say they are worse off than they were four years ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting numbers indeed. John King, what do you make of these exit poll numbers?

KING: Well, number one, it just shows you the pretty even divide in the country when you have 51-48 numbers like that throughout. It also is a reflection of how are you voting. Are you voting on how you feel right now and how -- whether you're optimistic about the future? Or are you voting about how you felt a couple months back when the coronavirus, you know, pandemic really hit.

Let's just walk through some of the last month as we go through this. I just want to bring this up when we go back. If you go back to February, this was President Trump's calling cards, the lighter the map, the lower the unemployment rate. And this is what the President thought he would be running for re-election on, a strong economy. Maybe you don't like me, maybe you don't like my tweets. Country's doing well. We have single-digit 5 percent or less unemployment. That's what the President thought.

And then then the pandemic came along. And you come in here and you bring this up. And then you see March starts to get a little bit darker, then look at April, you start to see the pain. Just look at this. Just the darker the colors here, the higher the unemployment rate. You see -- look at it in Nevada, that's 20 percent plus unemployment. Look at Michigan, Michigan, a key state to the President of the United States.

Nevada, a Clinton state but one of the President hopes to flip tonight. You see all across here, not quite 20 percent plus, but in the teens, right? So, that's when it started to hit. And the President's calculation about re-election changed dramatically, that's April. Then you look at May, it starts to get a little bit better, right? Remember in May is the reopening, some businesses reopen.

And so, as you follow it through, this is what the President hopes that you forget April and May and you start to come through here. And you see June, it gets even lighter. July, a little bit lighter still, August and September. And so, the President's hope is that, you know, you still say Nevada, tourism industry still hurt very hard. Can the President make his case?

In most of the rest of the country, the rate has come down. So the President is hoping, you know, the stock market had a rough last week. But the President's hoping you look at the stock market, you look at this, what is even talking about the last several weeks on the campaign trail, what he calls the V, it's not a V. The economic recovery is uneven. But growth in the last quarter was quite significant.

The President is hoping you look at the statistics now and say, OK, the spring was horrible, but things are getting better. And I trust this President, I don't want my taxes raised by Joe Biden. That is what the Trump campaign is hoping.

What Biden tells you is, if you look at the economic impact that's lingering, where is it? Small businesses, disproportionately African American and Latino owned businesses. So that is the choice, the exit polls show and even divide as we count the votes. It'll be fascinating to look at certain states with certain industries and see how it breaks down.

BLITZER: And let's switch gears for a moment, John, will I have you in what, about 25 minutes, we're going to start getting results, actual poll results, not exit poll results, from the eastern part of Kentucky, from Indiana right now. What are we going to be looking for?

KING: Turnout, number one. And then how does President Trump doing. Let's just bring up the 2016 map and go through that. And we had a conversation very early when the results started to come in 2016, about these counties first in Kentucky. That is when we just, not only with Donald Trump doing well in Republican red areas here, but you come up here and you look up along the border, again, significant.

[17:35:11]

We knew Donald Trump was going to carry Kentucky four years ago. But this is Ohio. Pennsylvania is just to the east. I just want to go through some of the things we saw here, as this vote started to come out. 77 percent for Donald Trump, right? So, you know, come back to 2012, 62 percent. So, we saw early evidence that Donald Trump was overperforming previous Republican nominees in these small counties, not a lot of people.

But in Kentucky, maybe it doesn't matter because you're going to win Kentucky anyway. But then you come out here, and you go and you find the same places in southern Ohio. You come up along the bar here, Mitt Romney gets 62 percent. President Trump is getting 77 percent. So that's the first evidence we saw not only were Republicans coming out of the woodwork to vote for Donald Trump, but that he was over performing in counties.

If you want to go back 25, 30 years, these were Democratic counties. These were blue collar Democratic counties down in southern Ohio. They have switched to Republicans before Trump, but he put it on steroids, if you will, and you watch it. And so that you look, you see it in Kentucky, it's a red state, you think no big deal, but then the same people live in southern Ohio.

And then you come right along the river. And you come over here, and the same people live here in Southern Pennsylvania. And so, you start seeing things like Donald Trump getting 68 percent, 69 percent if you round up there, versus 10 points better than Mitt Romney in places that matter.

So that's what we're going to look for. The other thing we look for in Kentucky, we talked a little bit about this earlier, but let me come back. As we first get the results out of Kentucky right now, let me clear this illustration here and come in. Again, we fully expect Donald Trump is going to carry Kentucky, but we want to look at the suburbs. We want to look at Lexington, we want to look at Louisville. This is where we saw in 2018.

The revolt against the President of United States by suburban voters, particularly suburban women. So this is 2012 here, you come through 2016. Here, Hillary Clinton carries this area. Look at 2020, this is where we're going to look. In Louisville return the vote out here, and then if you come back and look at it, 54 to 40, right, 54 to 40. Hillary Clinton's going to win Louisville. The question is the suburbs here affluent suburbs around Louisville. These voters have turned against the President.

So, again, we don't expect Kentucky to be in play tonight. But is Joe Biden doing better in places like Jefferson County, one of the early states to close when the votes come in. Is Donald Trump doing worse? Is he -- is Biden over performing her or is Trump underperforming himself if you will, that will be one of the key tests as we move through demographic areas. Again, Kentucky, we don't expect to be much of a conversation tonight. But we do expect, Wolf, whether it's African American turnout, the suburbs, or Trump performance in the rural areas up here or early clues.

BLITZER: And we know the suburbs going Democratic two years ago in 2018. Help the Democrats get the majority in the House of Representatives. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: All right, Wolf, thanks so much. And while John is going to be looking at Kentucky and Indiana, those congressional districts at 6:00 Eastern at 7:00 eastern, Abby, we have some big states, Georgia, which is a hot competition right now. And they also have two different center races and some of the congressional districts in Florida as well.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, what is so important about those two states and several others that we'll get later in the night, North Carolina and Arizona. These are the states that President Trump has to hold on to. He has got to meet -- his equivalent of the blue wall tonight is the Sunbelt states, he's got to figure out how to hold on to those states that have a long history in the red column. But they are really, really up for grabs tonight.

BASH: You know, that's exactly right. And one of the issues that Donald Trump is having in those states, in particular, Florida, less so but North Carolina and Georgia, for sure, is the dynamic but John was just explaining about the suburbs and voters fleeing from Donald Trump in the suburbs is a problem for him in those two states because the suburbs have been expanding. They were already expanding four years ago, but they've been expanding even more.

The demographics are changing rapidly in those two states, which is why the President and his team have been trying to get as many votes as they can in rural areas, in areas where they have no doubt that there are lots of Trump voters. The question is whether there are enough of them. TAPPER: It's interesting you say that less so about Florida because I think you would agree that of all those Sunbelt states, we're talking about North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Arizona. I would say that it is most likely that President Trump is able to hold on to Florida. We don't know what's going to happen. It's been very competitive. But the Biden people seem least confident about that one and of the opinion most that one is a -- is really a coin toss.

PHILLIP: Yes. And you heard that reflected in Jeff Zeleny's reporting just a little while ago, he's hearing the same kind of pessimism. And I was talking to Democrats all weekend about what's going on in South Florida in particular, what's going on with their turnout operation, and they were honest, they were saying that they felt like they lost some time due to the virus and they may not have had enough time to make it up. So, it's a tough state for Joe Biden.

TAPPER: And we are closing in right now on the first actual results of the presidential race that will come at the top of the next hour. That's when voting ends in the eastern parts of Kentucky and Indiana. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:59]

TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's election night coverage. We're closing in on 6:00 p.m. Eastern and the first actual votes of the 2020 presidential election. Polling places close soon in parts of Kentucky and Indiana and we're standing by for that right now though.

Let us go to our battleground correspondents Miguel Marquez, who's in Detroit, Michigan. Miguel, what are you learning about how soon the state will count the vote and release some of the numbers?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It sounds like it's going to be a lot faster than they were predicting earlier. The Secretary of State earlier on was saying it takes about three days to do it. It looks like it's going to be sooner than that. We're in the TCF Center, the Convention Center here in Detroit.

This is where they're counting. I mean, it's just hundreds and hundreds of poll workers counting the absentee votes here. It's been a record number of absentee votes that have come in. They've just announced that they've tabulated and that bit in the center, that's all the tabulation machines, that's where the rubber meets the road here. That's where the votes are actually being counted. They have now tabulated 107,000 votes in this room alone.

[17:45:02]

That is significant because it places like Detroit, the largest city in Michigan. And we have spoken to clerks all around the state today and to the Secretary of State, everything here is going as smooth as possible. If towns and cities like Detroit can report early, the expectation is that this idea of a red mirage early on where the state looks much more conservative at midnight, say tonight, that that may not happen because once polls close, they're not only going to have day of votes, but these large sort of numbers of absentee votes that will start to come in very quickly from places like Detroit, and Kent County, Grand Rapids and Flint, up in Genesee County, all that will start to come in fairly quickly.

And you'll see sort of the vote come in across the state pretty equitably. And they expect it's not going to take three days. It's going to be much faster than that. Jake?

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez in Detroit, Michigan. Thank you so much, appreciate.

Let's go to Pennsylvania now and Sara Murray, who's in Harrisburg, the capital of the Commonwealth. Sara, you're learning about some election disinformation and other problems in Pennsylvania?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. Look, I think there was a lot of concern about how things were going to go today in Pennsylvania, but the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office is saying there were only 52 incidents that they heard of today, the vast majority of those were taken care of peacefully and were resolved.

They're saying most of it had to do with electioneering near the polling sites, some had to do with voters who were being recorded, and they felt uncomfortable, or were being harassed. And those situations are being investigated by the District Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, saying the vast majority of the calls they were getting to their hotline had to do with misinformation that was circulating online.

And that is what we are hearing generally in the state today. When you talk to these counties, they say that, you know, the voting has gone pretty smoothly, things have been going pretty well. They haven't had a number of incidents. But we have seen a lot of things floating around online that have just not panned out. You know, it's a good reminder to all of us to be sure to check in on the things that you may see on Twitter, not everything you're seeing is true.

TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, amen to that. Thanks so much. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Let's go over to Pamela Brown. Pamela, we just heard about Michigan, Pennsylvania, what are you hearing? You're taking a close look at the voting desk. How soon you think we could start getting some results?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Look, all eyes are on the battleground states, especially those three states you just mentioned. Let's take a closer look at these three states in red here. These are states that President Trump won in 2016, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan. These three important states could keep us in suspense, perhaps pass tonight, we're going to have to wait and see.

And if you look at Wisconsin, they just started opening those more than 1.8 million pre-election votes cast. That is a 139 percent increase from four years ago. This will be a big test due to the sheer number of early votes in the fact that Wisconsin isn't accustomed to all of this.

Now, let's show you Milwaukee County taking a closer look here. That's where the bulk of Democratic votes are in the state. The Milwaukee County Clerk tells CNN, they want to have the unofficial results ready between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. And then you go to Pennsylvania, what we just heard Sara Murray.

Let's look at the pre-election votes there. 2.4 million they just started working on those today. And the state's largest city and Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia has a history of counting relatively slowly, but officials there are expressing confidence they can get through 100,000 absentee ballots by 8:00 p.m. tonight. They think 50 percent of the total Philadelphia vote will be reported by 11:00 p.m. tonight. And all eyes were also on Michigan, more than 2.8 million pre-election votes have been cast there, that's up 161 percent from 2016.

And the state just started counting today. And Detroit where we just heard from Miguel Marquez, they're already tabulating 107,000 absentee ballots there. That is a large chunk of what they have received, and they should have more than two-thirds of the absentee vote tally by the time polls closed at 8:00 p.m. Michigan Secretary of State tells CNN she expects the state's vote will be counted sooner than previously expected. So we could have a partial picture of Michigan tonight if everything goes as planned.

BLITZER: Well, that's pretty encouraging news. Pamela, thank you very much.

Let's go over to David Chalian right now. You're getting some more exit poll results. What's on the mind of voters when they were actually voting?

CHALIAN: Yes, we asked voters, are you more casting your ballot because of the position on issues that your candidate takes or a candidates personal qualities? Take a look at this 73 percent, an overwhelming majority said it's the candidate's position on the issues that was most important to their presidential vote. So let's dig into some of those issues. On Obamacare, should the Supreme Court overturn Obamacare? 53 percent say keep it as is, that's a majority. Only 42 percent say overturn it.

On the issue of Supreme Court appointments. How important is Supreme Court appointments as a factor in your vote? 61 percent of the electorate says it's an important factor, 37 percent says it is not climate change. We asked voters in this election, is it a serious problem? Two-thirds of voters say, yes. 66 percent say climate change is a serious problem. 31 percent say no.

[17:50:09]

And then we ask the view in the federal government. And this gets you sort of at the mood of the country right now. Look at this, a majority here, if you add these up, that's 58 percent, are either dissatisfied or angry. That's their view of the federal government, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, David Chalian, fascinating. We'll come back to David with more. How are feeling about the exit polls (INAUDIBLE)?

SANTORUM: I think the extra polls are great.

BORGER: Yes.

COOPER: Yes, yes. You like what you see.

SANTORUM: I like -- I mean, just that last graphic. I mean, its' --

AXELROD: But the climate change thing that --

SANTORUM: Well, though, 60 percent of the public saying they're -- you know, the government is --

AXELROD: Yes. Yes, you know what?

BORGER: 53 percent like Obamacare.

AXELROD: If the President of the United States --

SANTORUM: Yes. But 42 percent still want to get rid of -- look --

AXELROD: Rick (ph), let me ask you a question. If you're the president of the United States, you're the head of everything, right? You're in charge, and 60 percent of the country or whatever it is, says they're dissatisfied with the federal government. You know, this is an interesting thing, because Donald Trump is right to be the leader of the resistance to the federal government at the same time that he is the President. And the question is, can you pull that off?

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is yes, because Donald Trump has experienced throughout the course of his presidency, the deep state Washington attacking him.

BORGER: But he is the President.

SANTORUM: I understand.

COOPER: He's attacking everybody at the same time, so it's like --

SANTORUM: Whether it's leaks or disinformation or other things are not willing to go along with his directives. There's been a battle in Washington, D.C. between the --

BORGER: Sure.

SANTORUM: -- President and the bureaucracy. And I think that's playing out here. Look, over all, these numbers on these exit polls is an electorate that in my mind does not says we're going to be here a long night.

AXELROD: It could be.

SANTORUM: That's my prediction. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

SANTORUM: Or maybe if --

AXELROD: I have to say two to one on climate change --

COOPER: Yes.

AXELROD: -- I mean, there are mixed results here.

BORGER: Supreme Court --

AXELROD: It's good parlor talk.

COOPER: So some of the questions can be interpreted.

BORGER: That's right.

COOPER: I mean, saying the Supreme Court --

AXELROD: Could go either way.

BORGER: Either way.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: They don't like the Supreme Court combinations and therefore it go ways into them or they --

SANTORUM: I guess -- maybe I just say this, maybe that's not the right things. I don't -- I'm looking at this. And I don't see it Democratic landslide in those exit polls. And I know there's a lot of people think that Joe Biden could get 400 electoral votes. I don't see that from this electric based on these exit polls.

BORGER: Well --

COOPER: At 5-52 well.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Exit polls do not tell us we've all had a lot of experience with this.

SANTORUM: Yes.

BORGER: Exit polls do not tell us what's going to happen in this election.

SANTORUM: Great.

BORGER: They've had to do exit polls differently this year, because of the pandemic.

COOPER: So what -- in this next hour, the first states starting to see votes, what should we look for?

BORGER: Florida?

SANTORUM: No, no, just --

BORGER: Georgia?

SANTORUM: No.

BORGER: Georgia, Kentucky.

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: I think john spoke about this. I think you look for areas that have sort of cultural kinship to states that like Ohio, for example.

SANTORUM: Covington, yes.

AXELROD: And so, you know, you want to do that.

COOPER: And also by comparing to enthusiasm about the President in some areas that he did very well in Kentucky --

AXELROD: If he's under running his totals from --

SANTORUM: He also want to look at how Mitch McConnell's doing versus Donald Trump. I mean, as for me, as a Republican, I'm equally concerned about holding United States Senate and making sure that if whatever happens at the top of the ticket, we at least have a check on Joe Biden, if Joe Biden is going to be the President. So, looking at how McConnell runs versus Trump and whether, you know, Sanders are running better than Trump --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

SANTORUM: -- would be a --

BORGER: So he can going to get Indiana.

SANTORUM: Indiana --

BORGER: Indiana too.

SANTORUM: Yes, Indiana doesn't have a center racist.

BORGER: No, no. We'll be seeing what's going on Indiana and what the margin --

SANTORUM: They have a governor's race.

BORGER: Yes.

AXELROD: I think one of the interesting things about the polling, and thank God, having consumed thousands of them, we're past that now. We can actually let people speak. But it's been interesting that, you know, Donald Trump may win the state of Ohio tonight. But he wanted fairly handily last time, he may win the state of Iowa tonight. But he wanted pretty handily last time. And that's been pretty uniform across the country. So, what implications are there for states that are closer? And I think that's, you know, one of the things that we need to watch.

JONES: Also, you know, I think the issue that is motivating people, at least on the Democratic side, is none of those issues. Is are we going to have a democracy. I mean, people feel an existential threat from the way that Donald Trump has conducted himself. He seems to be running against the election, Biden is running in the election. It seems that Trump is running against the election.

And so, I think there's an existential threat and dread that people might say, listen, I'm doing fine on the economy. You know, Supreme Court supporting me, and you still won't get the why they're going to stand for four hours to vote against Donald Trump. So I just think that, you know, it's, we're in a completely different situation psychologically and emotionally, especially for the country. Some of these questions, don't get them.

BORGER: Well, what was interesting to me is, of course, the numbers on the economy because when you ask people if they were better off 41 percent again in the exit poll, which we don't see as a predictor of anything said they're better off.

[17:55:11]

JONES: Yes, but that's --

BORGER: Now, 58 percent --

JONES: But that's half a Silicon Valley and most of those people are against Trump.

BORGER: Billionaires.

JONES: So, billionaires are better off and they want Trump out.

COOPER: We're going to get the first votes of the night very soon. Election Night in American continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center. We're just minutes away from the first results as voters decide whether to put Joe Biden in the White House or give President Trump a second term. The first big round of poll closings happened right at the top of the next hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That's when voting ends in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

Some polling places in the Eastern Time zone in Indiana and Kentucky. They are closing right now and we expect early results from those two states at any moment. A total of 60 electoral votes are on the line in the next hour. Remember, 270 are needed to win the White House. Georgia's 16 electoral votes could be pivotal as the ones reliably red state is now a competitive battleground.