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Nail-Biter Election Comes Down to Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 4, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Berman here. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is 10:00 A.M. on the east coast, 7:00 in the west, and this is CNN's special live coverage of a nail-biter of a presidential contest.

No clear winner at this hour, so much up in the air. It's all coming down to a few key battleground states. Right now, Joe Biden has 224 electoral votes to the president's 213. And as the former vice president calls for patience and for every last vote to be counted, President Trump is falsely claiming victory. He hasn't won, not at all, sowing doubt in legitimate vote-counting practices and he's lodged baseless claims of fraud.

Let's get straight to the numbers that tell the story of where we are. We will begin with a CNN key race alert.

These are the states that tell the story this morning, starting with Wisconsin. Overnight, Joe Biden took the lead there. He is now ahead by 20,000 votes with 97 percent in, ten electoral votes up for grabs, not much vote left to be counted there, really just the provisional ballots. 20,000 might not seem like a lot but it's what Donald Trump won by four years ago, it's more than Democrats won by in 2000 and 2004.

In Michigan, with 16 electoral votes up for grabs, about an hour ago, Joe Biden took the lead by about 9,000 votes. 90 percent of the vote in. 16 electoral votes up for grabs. The vote remaining, vote by mail, largely from urban population centers. Both of those factors have skewed Democratic. That's the story of the morning.

Pennsylvania, we are waiting there. 587,000 separates Donald Trump and Joe Biden, seemingly a comfortable lead, but with 76 percent of the vote in, the vote remaining from the key urban population centers, vote by mail, that could skew heavily Democratic. There's enough to make up the difference for Joe Biden. Can he pocket it all? We just don't know yet.

Georgia, watching that very closely, this hasn't moved in a while. We're waiting on votes to come in from Georgia. The president ahead by about 103,000 votes, 92 percent in, 16 electoral votes up for grabs. The vote we're waiting on, urban population centers, vote by mail that skew Democratic. That's why Joe Biden has a chances -- maybe a good chance -- still in Georgia.

Other states we're watching closely, Nevada, six electoral votes. This is razor thin. Joe Biden 7,000-vote lead. This is too close for comfort. All of the Election Day vote is in there though. The vote remaining, vote by mail, Clark County, both of which skew Democratic, but, again, much closer than the Biden campaign wants.

North Carolina, Donald Trump leads by 76,000 votes, 95 percent in, 15 electoral votes up for grabs. Both campaigns think this is tilting towards Donald Trump. We're watching that vote still.

And then, finally, Arizona. This would be such a crucial flip for Joe Biden from four years ago. He's ahead by 93,000 votes. That actually shrunk. It was more a few minutes ago. He's ahead with 93,000 votes with 86 percent in, 11 electoral votes. If Joe Biden hangs on there, it changes the Electoral College map in the entire country.

This is the overall picture, former Vice President Joe Biden with 224 electoral votes, Donald Trump with 213, but it's the states remaining that will tell the rest of the story.

Let's dig deeper now. Let's walk over to the magic wall. Our Phil Mattingly is there. Phil, what are you watching?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, there's no question, the story of the morning has been the inverse of what we saw last night, where states that reported vote-by-mail early looked good Democratically and then as the Election Day vote came in, it started revert pretty strongly Republican.

Now, we've seen the inverse of that, with states particularly in Pennsylvania into the Midwest, where vote by mail was counted after the Election Day vote have started out red and moved and shifted progressively over to the Democratic side.

Let's start with the state of Pennsylvania. Right now, as things currently stand, 76 percent reporting, and as John laid out, a pretty substantial lead for Donald Trump, 587,000 votes. But it's where that vote outstanding is and what it's comprised of that gives the Biden campaign some sense of optimism.

I want to be very clear. This is a lot of ground to make up. It's a lot of ground to make up. Why there's a possibility here, why there's a pathway here, there's somewhere over 1 million absentee ballots outstanding vote by mail.

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Why does that matter, where they come from and how they're brought about? Vote by mail has skewed heavily Democratic. We have seen it repeatedly over the course of the last several hours, as Wisconsin went is from red to blue as vote by mail came in, in big Democratic counties. Same thing with Michigan. Will Pennsylvania be the same? We will have to see. Where is there outstanding vote right now? Well, let's start with Philadelphia, largest county in the entire state, 12 percent of the population here. Look at this, right now, only 56 percent reporting. That means there's a lot of vote to come in here, John.

And I think you look at the margin as well. What was the margin back in 2016? Hillary Clinton did better. Democrats expect that margin to expand. They expect that turnout to go up. There is vote here and it will be significant. Will it be 500,000 significant? Probably not one county.

But you push out in Southeast Pennsylvania. Montgomery is starting to come in a little bit more, we saw the margin grow here. Move over to Bucks, a little bit of a swing county, only 55 percent reporting. Democrats may lose Bucks. They aren't going to lose it like that. I don't think anybody thinks they're going to lose it like that as it currently stands.

The point being the Democrats look in Southeast Pennsylvania, they look out Allegheny County, the home of Pittsburgh, and they see a lot of outstanding vote in strongholds.

The biggest question right now in the state of Pennsylvania is, there are a lot of counties that Donald Trump is winning handily that also have outstanding votes out.

And this was the question for me throughout the course of the night. So, take Westmoreland County. Back in 2016, he blew this county out of the water, and once again is putting a huge margin on the board. But what we saw in Wisconsin and what we saw in Michigan is, even in Republican counties and Republican strongholds, the outstanding vote was vote by mail, which even though it was in Republican strongholds, still skewed Democratic. It didn't flip the county by any means. But it did close margins and it did give votes to the bottom line of the Biden campaign.

I don't know if that happens in Pennsylvania. We do not know the answer to that. We do not know if Joe Biden can close this gap. What we do know, Democrats have a lot of vote outstanding in Southeast Pennsylvania, they have a lot of vote outstanding in Allegheny County, and based on what's happened in other states, perhaps they have some vote in some Republican counties as well. We'll see.

BERMAN: Let's talk about that. That's why Democrats haven't given up on Pennsylvania because of what has happened in Wisconsin and what is happening before our eyes in Michigan.

Let's take a look at Michigan, if we can, to get the latest update. It hasn't changed very much. Former Vice President Joe Biden ahead by about 10,000.

MATTINGLY: About 10,000 votes. And, look, they're up, they're up. Does this sound familiar? 2016, Donald Trump won this state by just shy of 11,000 votes.

Let me tell you why Democrats, over the course of the night and morning, I keep forgetting that, have become more confident in where this stands. Look, about three hours ago, Joe Biden was losing Michigan by about 220,000 votes. We have seen that progressively be eaten away at and flipped over the course of the last hour or so.

Why? Same thing we're reporting in Pennsylvania, major outstanding vote. That vote came from vote by mail. The major place it came from, huge Democratic counties where turnout is large and still outstanding at this moment, even with 90-plus percent in, Wayne County still has 30 percent outstanding.

Look at this margin, 67/31, but more importantly, look at the top line, 447,000 votes. That's with 37 percent outstanding. There is significant Democratic vote via absentee and vote by mail, which has continuously skewed Democratic, that will come in here. So that margin, that margin of 9,000, is almost certain to grow bigger.

The question for the Trump campaign is, okay, what are the outstanding counties? How can we try and match up with Wayne County, the kind of Beehemoth in the state? All right, look around here. We've got red counties here. We've got red counties.

Go to Kent County. Kent County, back in 2016, Donald Trump won this narrowly, western part of the state, a little bit more of conservative bet. 2020, bigger margin, bigger margin, which is kind of a surprise, because in the 2018 governor's race and some of the midterms, this was one of the counties that started to push towards Democrats.

However, what's the outstanding vote? 83 percent. Where is that outstanding vote coming from? According to secretary of state, it's coming mostly via absentee ballots, it's coming from Grand Rapids. Absentee ballots skew Democrat, Grand Rapids skews Democrats as well.

So even though it is in a Republican county, it looks like, based on pass precedent and based on what we have seen over the course of the night, a large portion of that vote would likely be Democratic as well.

So I think you're getting the dynamics of what we've watched play out in Wisconsin, we've watched it play out in the state of Michigan, we're watching it start to play out in Pennsylvania. Where it ends up, we certainly don't know yet but it has led Joe Biden to now lead in Wisconsin and Michigan.

BERMAN: Let's go way out west, if we can, and look at Arizona, because that totally changed over the last few minutes and I don't know why. It would have been 130,000-vote margin, now it's 93,000-vote margin. Why?

MATTINGLY: Well, we're getting vote coming. And I think the big question right now, if it's getting chopped into, it's either from Maricopa or perhaps it's coming from Yuma as well. It looks like it might be coming from Yuma.

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The biggest question for Arizona -- look, the Trump campaign made very clear, they were furious when other outlets -- we have not called Arizona yet -- when other outlets called Arizona because of the outstanding vote. Right now, 86 percent and Joe Biden up by just shy of 100,000 votes.

Biden campaign and Democrats point here, Maricopa County. It is the largest county in the state, it is 60 percent of the population, it is a county that has been shifting towards Democrats, finally kind of took the turn the 2018 senatorial race. Biden right now with a comfortable margin.

If you're winning Maricopa by five points, there's a pretty good chance you're going to win the state based on past precedent.

The big question right now is, one, can Trump narrow that margin with what is outstanding. What's outstanding in Maricopa right now? About 14 percent or so? Here is the problem with that. Maricopa, its outstanding vote, my understanding, is it's mail. It's mail. And mail has skewed Democratic. We'll see. Arizona has a lot of vote by mail. So it's a little bit different. It's a little different on how they do things.

But can you roll out any type of bigger vote here to cut into 100,000? Look, Yavapai is Republican county. Can you start picking up vote with what's remaining? Move over a little bit to the rural areas, Navajo County, 95 percent, not a whole lot to pick up there. Move over, maybe, maybe.

BERMAN: Right.

MATTINGLY: So I think the point is this hasn't been called, that means Donald Trump has pathways, the pathways though largely involve closing the gap in Maricopa and then starting to pick up in other red counties right there.

Can that happen? It's up in the air. We have not called the race yet so we will have to wait and see.

BERMAN: All right. Making all the way back across the country now, back to Georgia, which a lot of people are looking at right now, the president ahead by 103,000 votes. This has been frustratingly static, I would say, over the last several hours. We've seen changes in Wisconsin and Michigan, even Arizona and Pennsylvania. They really haven't loaded any more vote here yet. Where is it missing?

MATTINGLY: So, let's go to what's outstanding and it will look familiar to you. What's outstanding is largely blue and is largely they're strongholds. So we can come up to right here, Fulton is out a little bit.

But, look, the key for Democrats in this state, if it's for Democrats, Stacey Abrams, if she wanted to win, fell just short, there's blowout turnout in Atlanta and the metro areas.

What are they doing right now? What's outstanding right now? Well, let's start with Fulton here and bring it out. 95 percent reporting, Fulton coming in pretty handily as they have started to count, interested about a little bit. But you look at the margins, 71.8 percent to 27 percent, what's outstanding, doing better than Hillary Clinton.

Here is the big one that democrats want to pay attention to, Dekalb County, fourth largest county in the state. You look at the numbers right here, trailing by 100,000 and there's 20 percent outstanding and your expectations are this margin is going to hold or grow, that is a place of growth for you.

Also though, you look at these outstanding votes right now, Richmond County, home of Augusta, look at the margins, again, not huge. You're not going to count 100,000 votes right here. You pick up 10, you pick up 15 maybe. Go down here to Savannah, same story, again, not huge, maybe 4,000, 5,000 votes.

So, the bottom line is, is there a pathway? We don't know. We know there's enough vote outstanding. We know a lot of that vote comes from Democratic strongholds. Will that be enough to overcome 1303,000? We will have to wait and see.

Democrats feel like they have a very real chance here. Republicans feel like Georgia went better than maybe they thought it was going to at least originally.

BERMAN: They were actually worried. They were actually worried heading up until Election Day.

MATTINGLY: Yes, genuinely worried. We will see though how it turns out when those Democratic stronghold counties start to come in.

BERMAN: All right. I want to look at this now on the terms if it were to end like things stand now, who would win? Now, that's not the case. Let's stipulate. We know there are still many votes to be counted. But given where things stand now, who would be winning?

MATTINGLY: Now, as someone standing here the last eight hours, I can tell you, things will shift. Things will shift. But the shifting started to narrow. The opportunities for shifts, I guess, have started to narrow.

So, let's kind of work through the map. Everything you see filled in has been called. If it's blue, it's been called for Biden. If it's red, it's been called for President Trump. Right now, Biden is at 224 electoral votes, President Trump, 213.

We can go ahead and stipulate that, say, President Trump wins Alaska, right, we will give him that. We give him North Carolina as well. He's got a pretty solid lead there. Republicans feel very good about things. We will give Vice President Biden Maine. We will also give him Maine too. Here we go, good to go. So where does that leave us? Well, Vice President Biden is leading in Arizona. Give him Arizona.

Again, we're not calling these races. We are playing out scenarios and pathways. Right now, we talked about Nevada, very close, way too close for Democratic comfort right now. But you kind of laid out the dynamics of how that race is working. For the sake of doing this, we will give Vice President Biden Nevada. Look what's left, state of Georgia, state of Pennsylvania, state of Michigan, state of Wisconsin.

Where does Joe Biden lead right now? Joe Biden leads Wisconsin. Joe Biden leads in Michigan. Where does that put Joe Biden?

BERMAN: 271 electoral votes.

MATTINGLY: It puts Joe Biden on 271 electoral votes.

BERMAN: And in the White House.

MATTINGLY: And in the White House.

And, again, this is not done. This is a pathway. And if you're the Trump campaign, you are keeping a very close eye on Nevada. You flip Nevada, that changes the dynamics of everything.

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You are hoping that there's something there in Maricopa that you can pick up, and Arizona. And you're saying Michigan, we will see what happens with Wayne. 9,000 votes isn't a whole lot. Wisconsin, 22,000 votes, not a whole lot, although Craig Gilbert, the legendary Wisconsin reporter, was saying this would be the third closest race since --

BERMAN: Yes. It's not even that close in Wisconsin. It is not the closes race in Wisconsin.

MATTINGLY: And, obviously, and we haven't even factored in Pennsylvania, which a lot of people thought it was a must-win for both campaigns.

BERMAN: The important thing is here, for Biden team, is if you're looking for paths, they can get to 271 without Pennsylvania and without Georgia, which is why they're watching all this so close as the margins are so narrow. And Nevada and Arizona will be counting up through the day. I mean, it will be shocking to get a call today. We don't know. We just don't know. The votes are still coming in.

Nevada, I should note, and you can click on Nevada if you want, this margin is like 7,000 votes at this point. Nevada, all of the Election Day-vote has been counted, all of it. All that's outstanding is vote by mail, largely in Clark County, which has tended to skew Democratic, vote-by-mail itself tends to skew Democratic, so this is close.

By the way, Harry Reid once won of his races by less than 500 votes. So, Nevada can be close. It can be close. But this could grow for Joe Biden. The Biden team is certainly hoping it will grow, but it's much closer than they want.

MATTINGLY: Much closer than they want. And, look, the Trump team was telling everybody who would listen, Nevada is in play. Everybody in their analysis and in their maths kept giving it to Joe Biden, in large part because of Harry Reid's organization. Harry Reid changed Nevada into a place the Democrats thought they had unlocked based on their early vote turnout, and in large part because of Clark County. Clark County, you put up 10, 11-point margin here, ball game.

Biden had a 10, 11-point margin for much of the night. By this morning, Biden no longer had a 10 and 11-point margin. So, you lay the key dynamics and the fact that the outstanding vote, mostly from Clark, mostly vote by mail. We will see how that composition turns out when it comes that has skewed Democratic throughout the course of this morning. We will see if it does when it comes in. If you're the Trump campaign, you are hoping and praying that it does not. Because if it does not, and you have a shot at Nevada, you change everything in the map we just laid out.

But, as it currently stands, the Biden campaign probably in a better position based on everything we've been looking at over the course of the last 12 hours or so than the Trump campaign when it comes to Nevada. We'll have to wait and see.

BERMAN: Look, as I said, every state that's outstanding now changes everything for both candidates at this point. As I was saying, in 2000, we had Florida, in 2004, we had Ohio. We have six Floridas and Ohios at this moment that we're watching closely that could be decisive. We just don't know at this point.

I will let you go back to counting, Phil, because we want the very latest as these votes comes in.

In the meantime, I'll go to Jessica Dean, who is following the Biden campaign in Wilmington, Delaware. And I understand, Jessica, they're giving an update now?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are actually doing a briefing right now that they are streaming, with the campaign manager and one of their senior advisers, John. We are hearing a lot of optimism, a lot of confidence from the Biden campaign this morning as these votes continue to be counted. One top adviser telling CNN that they expect to win today.

We also were told by a Biden official that this race is moving to a conclusion and they believe it is moving to a conclusion in Biden's favor.

So let's break down why they are saying that, why they think that's where this race is going. They believe that they will win Wisconsin. They really like the vote-by-mail situation in Michigan. They're feeling confident there. They believe they will win Pennsylvania, Nevada. So they're putting all of these things together.

And on this briefing right now, they are going through much like what Phil and you, John, just did there, going through county by county, what's still outstanding. I talked to an aide this morning that told me, based on what is still out there and what has been reported, that they feel like they are on the right track, that this is going in the right direction for them.

They also have an eye, of course, on Georgia. They are looking and keeping a close eye on Fulton County down in Georgia, as those returns continue to come in. But the Biden campaign still urging patience as Joe Biden has all along and said last night, urging patience but they deeply believe that this is all going to come to an end and that when it does, that Joe Biden will have the 270 electoral votes needed to go to the White House, John.

BERMAN: Jessica, please keep us posted in Wilmington, Delaware.

Let's go right to the White House and get the Trump campaign side of things. Jeremy Diamond is there. What is the campaign or I suppose the White House, and, frankly, there's no difference right now, because they're running the campaign maybe in violation of the Hatch Act, out of the White House. But what are they saying, Jeremy?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The Trump campaign just had a hastily organized call with reporters. They did not take any questions from us. But what they did do, John, is they expressed confidence, confidence in their data, confidence in their math and projecting confidence in a path to victory.

Specifically, what the campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said was, we look at the numbers and we are confident in our pathway, we are confident in our math.

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And what they're confident in, John, is in some of the remaining states, states that CNN has yet to call. They believe that there are more votes that remain than have been estimated in the state of Arizona, and that that will ultimately help them narrowly edge out Joe Biden there. They also are expressing confidence in a victory in Nevada, which is much closer, of course, than what we were expecting.

And they're also projecting confidence in Pennsylvania. But as it relates to Pennsylvania, they were using some very specific wording. And that is, that if all legally cast ballots are counted, then they will win. If illegally cast ballots are counted, they are not so sure they will win.

And what that comes down to, John, is the president's complaints and campaign's complaints about the Supreme Court decision as it relates to Pennsylvania and a team as it relates to counting ballots that were postmarked before Election Day but that arrived after Election Day. Those are still, as of now, unless the Supreme Court reverses itself, those are legally cast ballots. And we do expect those to be counted in Pennsylvania, which suggests that perhaps the president will lose Pennsylvania if indeed those votes are allowed to be counted.

But, again, it is notable to see this campaign expressing this kind of confidence. Obviously, they are trying to counter what we are hearing from the Biden campaign and the fact that the momentum appears to be shifting in Joe Biden's direction. But that is what they are saying as of now, John, projecting confidence in the math and confidence in a pathway to victory.

BERMAN: Yes. We have no idea how many votes are going to come in in Pennsylvania legally today and tomorrow and the next day because they're not in yet. So we just don't know how much of a factor they will play, if at all, but the Trump campaign clearly already trying to game it out and besmirch the whole notion of it, even though they are legal, so says the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much.

So while these votes continue to come in, I want to bring in CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod and CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip.

I watched both of you on T.V. last night. You were phenomenal. A little bit of a different story as we wake up this morning then maybe when you went to bed, if you went to bed. David Axelrod, 30,000-foot view, what are you seeing?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, it is a different story but it shouldn't be a surprising story. It's the story that we anticipated because of the way people voted in this election. It was always going to be the case that these mail-in ballots, because of the refusal of legislatures in these states to let them be processed earlier, would be processed after the election and that they were going to skew heavily in favor of Biden because more Democrats voted by mail than Republicans.

The president of the United States knew that when he spoke last night. He knew that about Pennsylvania. He knew that about Michigan. He knew that about Wisconsin. And he knew that when these votes came in overnight that it would likely change the picture there, and it did. And what we've learned is that these battleground states are battleground states for a reason, they're close. And, ultimately, they may tip in Joe Biden's favor. It looks favorable for him in Wisconsin and Michigan now and Pennsylvania looks very much up in the air. But they are going to be close races and they will tell the story.

BERMAN: Abby Philip, it's interesting hearing from both the Trump and Biden campaigns this morning. I covered George W. Bush in 2000. I lived through the recount and I have the scars to show it. One of the things that was learned there is you've got to be aggressive out of the gate. You've got to come out, and not do what the president did, which is say, stop the count and declare victory, but you have got to project optimism and you've got to be aggressive, which is why I think we've heard formally now from both campaigns before 10:30 A.M. the next day.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's a reason the Trump campaign called their briefing literally for five minutes before the Democrats were holding their briefing. So, yes, everyone wants to control the narrative this morning.

But that being said, the reality is the votes need to be counted and we need to see what the votes say. It does not matter what narrative either campaign wants to draw this morning. We need to see what the votes actually say. I cannot emphasize that enough.

But what I will say this morning based on what the Trump campaign is already signaling they are going to two, they're talking about recounts in Wisconsin. They're saying these races are so tight that they might challenge it.

Look, Joe Biden right now, as we're speaking here, last I checked, he had a lead in Wisconsin of about 20,000 votes. Four years ago, Donald Trump won the state of Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes. I say all of that to say -- it's a very similar story in Michigan. I say all of that to say that the reality is that President Trump won the presidency on very, very narrow margins.

[10:25:02]

We could also see very, very narrow margins in this race as well. We could not see very narrow margins.

But my point is you can't be talking about recounts right now as we sit here, as we stand here because it is just too early, the votes have not been counted, and that's all about spin and we need to wait and see what the votes actually say.

AXELROD: Can I just say that Abby was all over this last night. This is also not a surprise because the president has been signaling this for months. He understood what his political situation was, and it was very clear that he was going to -- that he was going to challenge these results on this basis. He was setting up the predicate for it.

And I think there are two reasons. One is, yes, he thinks this is the only way he can win. But the second reason is, I think if he loses this election, ultimately, there are only two options for Donald Trump, either he wins or it was stolen. There's never a third option, which is that he lost. Being a loser is just an unacceptable outcome for this president. And so they're going to kick up as much dust as they possibly can regardless of where these numbers land.

BERMAN: And we don't know where they're landing. It's truly an extraordinary thing we are witnessing this morning. The swings over the last 12 hours have been remarkable. There may be more to come.

Abby Philip, David Axelrod, stand by. We're watching vote come in. We are waiting to hear from Pennsylvania election officials, including the governor there. We'll get an update from a state where they're still counting, still hasn't been decided.

Our special live coverage continues after this.

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