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Republicans Leading In Georgia Race; Republican Party Not Too Confident; All Eyes On Dekalb County. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired January 5, 2021 - 22:00   ET

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


[22:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (on camera): So that's why this is so important right now. We're all waiting, John King, for these blue counties, the Democratic counties around Atlanta to come in. There is plenty, plenty of outstanding votes.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are plenty of out outstanding voting. We don't know the exact number, Wolf. But we do know we still have a lot of votes to come in. And yes, we'll look at rural counties as well. But the bulk of them, the bulk of them we know are in Democratic areas or at least Democratic leaning areas right now.

In the Atlanta, the suburb areas, out here in Chatham County. Just let me start with this. A 70,000-vote lead for David Perdue right now. But if you add up the vote totals, 1.77, 1.69, you're looking at just shy of 3.5 million votes. Now depending on which turn-out estimate you believe, four million or more people voted.

So, what does that tell you? We're missing at least a half million votes. At least a half million votes. It could be 600,000, 700,000 votes, maybe even a little higher than that that we're still waiting to count, so a ways to go.

Now, earlier I was saying, you'd rather be leading than losing, the Republicans. You're up by almost 70,000 votes if you're David perdue, and you're up by 43,000 if you're Kelly Loeffler, you would rather be there. But you also study your state and you understand, what are we missing?

You also remember November. President Trump pulled out to a big early lead in Georgia. It went away as they kept counting the votes. The question is, what's still out and where is it out? So, this is where we're going to look the most. I'm going to start in the south, southeastern most part of the color around Atlanta.

Sixty-four percent Newton County. Twenty-four of 159, it's not one of the bigger suburban counties, but it's a place more narrowly contested there. Let's see what happens as the rest of that vote comes in.

Rockdale, most of that is in. Democrats have big numbers here. You can't count on many more, maybe a few. But then as you move in here, this is the big missing piece. The biggest missing piece, Dekalb County here, this could be 200,000 votes right here in Dekalb County, 37 percent of the vote in. You see the lopsided margins for the Democrats.

So, if you get a giant chunk of votes still to come in, this is where the Democrats must. If they are to make up the deficits right now, Dekalb County is absolutely critical again, with just shy of 40 percent of the estimated votes. More than enough votes right here to make it up.

Just check over here and the biggest basket of all is Fulton County been at 86 percent for a long time. So, you're waiting. And we've all been through this. Some of these election nights you get a lot of votes early specially in the big places. Then sometimes there is a long pause. So, we're waiting to see as it plays out.

If you are the Republicans and you are looking at this map, yes, these gray counties up here, these are solid Republican counties, smaller. They don't match the size of the Atlanta area, especially the suburbs around it. but there are some more votes to be had here.

But this is what happens. When you get around 80 percent, you start cooking through here, right? So, Coffee County only 33 percent. Again, not a giant basket of votes for the Republicans. But don't make up some votes here. There's still some votes here. That came in late. You start moving around, though, most of these smaller rural counties have come in. Ninety-five percent here, 99 percent here, 95 percent here, I'm just making my way back up.

Thirty percent here, Dodge County. Not a giant county, 87th of the 159 in terms of the voting registration. But some votes, modest number, probably a few hundred, maybe a thousand for the Republicans to pick up there. But the biggest outstanding are in your big population centers. Chatham County, it's fifth largest in the state, up to 69 percent.

Now that's a move. That's a move. I want to see if that didn't do anything to statewide totals. That's a move right there, 45,000 still. So those came a bit earlier. It's moved up a little bit. Let me just double check. Sixty-nine percent. So, if you are the Democrats, that helps you. But you are running out. You got 30 percent to go there.

So, then you are coming back up around here, again, 86, 89. That's 37, especially with Chatham County's percentage coming up. That 37 percent in Dekalb County it comes absolutely critical to the Democrats as you see 46,000. If you round up there for Senator Loeffler and 73,000.

So, the Republican leads have stretched a little bit as we have gone through this exercise. And we've seen that throughout the night. That seesaw. Are there enough votes out there for the Democrats? Yes. They have to execute as the rest of that comes in.

BLITZER: I want to go to Dekalb County right now in Decatur. Specifically, Nick Valencia is there. We're still waiting for it. This is going to be a huge number of votes that are still outstanding, Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: According to the secretary of state's office, this is the biggest bucket of votes that is outstanding still in the state. The secretary of state's, you know, Gabe Sterling is telling CNN that there are a lot of smaller pockets from Republican districts or primarily traditionally held Republican districts.

But here in Dekalb County, which if you remember was significant in handing a victory to Joe Biden in the presidential election in November, the largest bucket of outstanding votes is still right here and those are early in person votes for Dekalb.

This potentially could be good news for Democratic contenders Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. We just went inside to try to get comments from the Dekalb County spokesperson, they are very busy as you can imagine in there, Wolf, right now. As I just stepped out there was another bin of votes being loaded into the area where they are scanning, tabulating and uploading those votes to the secretary of state's office.

[22:05:01]

We're keeping an eye on that web site here. But big news coming out of the secretary of state's office here. All eyes it seems now on Dekalb County. Wolf?

BLITZER: Do we know, Nick, why some 60 percent of the vote in Dekalb County has not yet been counted?

VALENCIA: We don't. And looking at the web site, it seems it's been a very small number of those early in-person votes that have been tabulated. We know that they know they have been caught up with absentee ballots that have come in. But, you know, you have to emphasize, and what they have been telling us all night, Wolf, is they have been looking at Friday as the time line of when they will finish here. They still have those overseas ballots to get through, provisional ballots.

But if we start seeing these big numbers come through and again this is a Democratic stronghold, if we start seeing those numbers favor towards Warnock and Ossoff, it could be a shorter night than we expected just a little while ago. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Soon as you get us more, let us know. I want to go to Savannah right now.

VALENCIA: Yes.

BLITZER: Martin Savage is on the ground for us in Chatham County. We're still waiting for votes there. What are you hearing, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kind of waiting. This is a smaller county. It also means that they don't have as many people as they do in the big counties to do all the processing. They've got about roughly 600 poll workers that worked throughout the day and they have about 75 to 100 that are currently working now to process the votes, so they are not like the big machines that you have up say, Fulton and Dekalb County. That said, they expect within the 11 o'clock hour to have 91 of -- or,

yes, 91 out of 92 precincts reporting. So, they'll be almost there. By the time they finish tonight, and they're not going to go all night, they've already said that, by the time they finish they will have about 3,000 absentee ballots that will still be outstanding that will have to be tabulated tomorrow.

So that's what we know. Now, that doesn't take into account, of course, those ballots that could still come in. Those we're talking about the provisional ballots and we're talking about the military and overseas ballots. So, they don't know how many those are. But they really don't expect that number to be significant.

So essentially, when they finish, by around 11, and that was the quote, they will have 91 out of 92 precincts. Now one of the reasons that's moving a lot faster is of course the ballot was a lot simpler even with the absentee ballots.

For instance, in November, they had thousands of ballots that they had to basically go over and look at when there were questions. This time they processed some 30,000 absentee ballots. There were only 85 that really were in question in any way that had to be adjudicated and that's what took them some time before they could start pushing the numbers out tonight.

As far as turnout, they don't know what it is. They don't believe it's anywhere near what they have for the presidential election. In fact, they're estimating they had about 30,000 that showed up today to vote, that would probably be a pretty good number.

Now, remember, they were saying originally, they thought they would get about 40,000. So, the turnout is not as high as even they might have expected, but they're quickly getting those votes turned out.

BLITZER: Yes. As soon as they get those votes in Savannah where you are in Chatham County, we'll get back to you as well.

What, so right now, what, 83 percent of the vote is in the Republicans -- the two Republican candidates still maintaining their lead.

KING: And you have seen the Republican leads have stretched out a little bit in recent days -- in recent minutes, excuse me, in part because we got more votes from Cherokee County. Remember, a couple hours ago, we were waiting on Cherokee County, Forsyth county to the east, big Republican areas, that Republican few is absolutely critical, absolutely critical because of their size.

Seventh of the 159 counties is Cherokee County. And we have seen the leads go up here up to 95 percent now. So, the advantage for Republicans, the benefits for Republicans, their leads went up when more of these votes come in. The question now is, did it go up enough that you are almost done. Right? You're done here, that's 95 percent there.

You move over here to Forsyth County, we're at 90 percent. So, the Republicans can expect a little bit more here. You see the lopsided nature of it there. Sixteen -- 68 percent if you round up to Senator Perdue, 67 percent for Senator Loeffler. So, these are running pretty equal to each other.

Again, this was a big reason, when these two games in big for the Republicans, it pushed their numbers way up. The question is how much is left. You're at 90 percent here and 95 percent here. So, then you come back for the Democrats. You're looking at 53,000. When you're up above 80 percent, you have 50,000 vote lead, 53,000 there, 82,000 there. This is, it's beyond nail-biting time. It is a very, very tense time.

However, if you are the Democrats, you do know, you do know you have that giant pool of votes that we just talked about in Dekalb County. And you know, Nick Valencia says they're behind the scenes working. I'm sure the pressure has been relayed to them about what is happening that the Republicans have pulled out big leads and that they have been stuck at 37 percent for a long time.

We know these people are exhausted. They went through November. Now they're having a special election. We get that. But there is an accountability question here as to how you are stuck at 37 percent for so long. And what Martin Savidge just says, they did jump from 40 to 69 percent. The question is, how much higher can they get in an area that is absolutely critical to the Democrats.

And it's interesting when you look at this. Sixty percent for Jon Ossoff, 67 as well. Sixty-one percent if you round up for Raphael Warnock. If you go back to the presidential race, 59 percent. So, percentage-wise, percentage-wise they're running about the same.

[22:10:00]

One of the interesting questions will be as we get closer to the finish line is you see the number of votes here. Seventy-eight thousand votes for Joe Biden to win Chatham County back in November. We come back to where we are now, only at 70 percent. So, we don't know exactly where we are yet, but turn-out is down. We knew turn out would be down.

It's not a presidential election, but the question will be as we get closer to the finish line, is it down evenly, meaning down by about the same proportions of Democratic counties than Republican counties or did Republicans, you know, turn out a little bit more? Did Democrats turn out a little bit more? That's one of the questions we'll be asking as we get into tomorrow and beyond.

You count them right now, 82,000, Wolf, that's the number that's concerning to Democrats right now. Even though you know, you're absolutely right. There are votes here. But we're up to 95 percent in Fulton County now, 95 percent. So, you're going to get more votes here, but you are up to 95 percent of the estimated vote.

This is the giant wild card right now. Any hopes of a Democratic comeback, they need a giant report here. As you start to move around, 89 percent, some more, there is math, there is math to be had here. And so, I keep coming back to this. The estimate is what is the final vote total, right? So now you're at 1.8, 1.7. 3.5, add up, you're a little higher than that. Getting closer to 3.6 percent. The estimate is there's four million votes cast out there. So, we had more votes to count.

BLITZER: Dekalb County, let's take a look at what it is right now. We still have what, it's only 37 percent of the vote is in. Give us what the numbers were in 2020 so we can get a sense how many more votes are potentially outstanding there.

KING: Right. It's an excellent point. So, you back to the presidential race, Joe Biden went to 308,000. Now again, we don't -- we're not sure if the turnout will match today. Nick Valencia was saying the turnout today, the election day turnout exceeded the election day turnout back in November.

But what we have to add that in with what was the early voting and what was the mail-in voting, the early in-person voting, excuse me, and then your mail-in absentee vote. You have to add it up to see. So, will the numbers be 370,000 as you have right there in the end? Maybe not. But you do see 308,000 is what Joe Biden had there. About 308,000, I'm sorry, and then you have 200,000 now.

So, this, that reminds you that that 37 percent, the percentage is one thing, but the math, the number up there. So, yes, you're right. You don't have to get -- if you get to 200,000, that's 100,000 votes for Jon Ossoff. Joe Biden was at 300,000.

So, there is a significant pool of votes there. You're absolutely right that the math is possible. The question is if you are a Democrat and the same, absolutely the same question you are asking here. The Democrats need to run it up here. And the math is there. The question is, what's happening and when will we see it.

BLITZER: It is the fourth largest county, Dekalb County --

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- in the state. There is still plenty of outstanding votes there.

KING: There are plenty of outstanding votes here. This is in the rock 'n roll of election nights, the frustration now is among Democrats. They're saying why can't we see those votes? We want to see those votes because you are starting to see.

Again, 54,000 for Loeffler, 83,000 and change. But if you look, we have no more gray on the map, which means that doesn't mean all of the votes were in but we're not looking at any Republican counties where we had no votes. We were a couple of hours ago looking at places like Forsyth and Cherokee. Those votes are in.

It doesn't mean Republicans won't pick up more votes. We can pick counties and go around the state, 95 percent here. You know, you might get a couple hundred here and a couple hundred there. But the major missing votes, Dekalb County and some more of the suburbs here, Chatham County down here. BLITZER: Let me just go to David Chalian. You are looking closely at

Dekalb County, David. It all could come down potentially to Dekalb County.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, there's so much outstanding vote as John is showing you. And it's a big Democratic stronghold. John, if you go into Dekalb, you see in that race 83 percent to 17 percent back in November, Ossoff over Perdue. But if we look at just election day vote in November, I looked it up, Ossoff won the election day vote in Dekalb in November, 71 percent to 26 percent.

So, I know I've been saying all night long, obviously, election day vote statewide tends to be more Republican, obviously. And even in Democratic strongholds, it tends to be more Republican. But in such a Democratic county election day vote is going to help Jon Ossoff build his vote total there, too. He won it 71 percent to 26 percent.

So, while we're waiting for the rest of that Dekalb vote to come in it is still going to be so overwhelmingly Democratic with more than 200,000 votes potentially outstanding that he can really pad his total.

So, when you say it's tension time now, John, it's no longer just, we're waiting for election day vote to come in because we know here Republican headquarters that that's going to be a Republican friendly vote. Now it's like, well, wait a second. If all that's really outstanding are big pockets of election day vote in Democratic strongholds, we have to make sure every single vote from other corners of the state come out for us.

KING: Absolutely. And that's how close elections go. If you go into the war rooms so you are calling people on these war rooms. David is exactly right. Republicans are calling around. They understand this. They understand this. They understand and let's use 2020 November and this race as an example, as David just noted.

[22:14:57]

Jon Ossoff gets -- this is November. This is November. He gets 81 percent. Just shy of 300,000 votes, right, 298,000 votes. Where is he right now? He's at 82 percent, 83 percent if you round up but only 102,000 votes.

So, you know if you are the Democrats, there is a giant change to your advantage to come when they report these votes. The question is when will they report them? How big will that advantage be?

And so, if you are the Democrats you are thinking, OK, 86,000, that's horrible. That's horrible. It's horrible when you get up to 83 percent. But we think we can make it up there. If you are the Republicans, you're crunching the numbers and you're saying, if they make it up there, what's left out there for us. We need Dekalb. We need Dekalb desperately and we need the rest of Chatham to tell us, you know, what are our dynamics here.

And now we can wander around to these smaller places where you see 95 percent and you see 93, and you see 95, and you come down here. So, if you are the Republicans most of your math is done. But I just had an 80 percent you are pulling there. So, there's 100 here, a 1,000 there. The main question is what is the baseline. And when that 37 gets above 50 and gets above 60, we'll have a much better picture about where we are.

BLITZER: What about Gwinnett? I haven't seen that in a long.

KING: Gwinnett was up at 89 last time we looked. And there it is, and again, 89. You think they're mostly done, but this is the second largest county in the state. So, just as David was noting, when we get, we have a lot of votes left, a lot of votes. Two hundred thousand maybe left in Dekalb County.

When we get those, we will see the Democrats either narrow significantly or perhaps pass the Republicans. We'll have to see when the numbers come in, but the Democrats will make gains based on those.

And to Gwinnett, you say they are still 11 percent out. look at what's happening. Right? And let's go back again. Let's use the Senate race in November as instructive. Ossoff gets 233,000 votes with 57 percent if you round up back in 2020. He's at 193 right now. So, 40,000 votes below his November total. Now we don't -- turnout doesn't have to be exactly the same. Turnout could be down a little bit because it's not a presidential election, but there is a potential there for more math as well.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, you are getting some new information at Dekalb County?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I just got off the phone with Gabriel Sterling who is at the secretary of state's office. And here's what I'm told. You are talking about all the numbers, all the votes that are outstanding. Well, he says 171,000 votes early in-person votes have not been calculated yet, have not been tabulated yet.

So that is what we're still waiting on. I'm also told from an official that we're waiting on about half of the in-person votes today which could be about 30,000 because overall there were 60,000 in-person votes today according to the official there in Dekalb and also the absentees that came in today.

What's being reflected in the numbers that we're seeing right now in Dekalb are the early absentee, the vote by mail ballots that came in and half of the today votes that would skew Republican and of course the early votes mail-in ballots which skew Democratic. But what we're still waiting on a majority, 171,000 according to Gabriel Sterling are those early in-person votes in Dekalb.

BLITZER: You know, it's very interesting, John, because those early in-person votes over the past three weeks, let's say, heavily Democratic, we're told.

KING: Right. So, you think 170,000 just of those. Pam notes some other votes, too. Some other votes out there, too. If you focus on the 170,000 of those and you know the Democrats are getting 80 percent or higher, remember, go back to November, you know, you look at what are the Democrats getting in a county, then in the early votes they tend to be even higher than that, so there is your math.

BLITZER: Could swing the election what's happening in Dekalb County. But right now, only 37 percent of the estimated vote is now in, much more, much more of our special coverage. It's election night in America continues.

[22:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER (on camera): All right. We got a key race alert right now. Take a look at this. Republicans are still ahead in both of these Senate runoff races. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican, she is ahead by 64,000 votes over the Democrat Raphael Warnock. David Perdue, the Republican, he is ahead by more than 94,000 votes over the Democrat Jon Ossoff. Eighty-six percent of the vote is now in.

So, we're watching this very closely but nobody is watching it more closely than our own John King who is over at the magic wall. John?

KING: Well, Wolf, as we come through this, and we look, what are we waiting for? Number one, the biggest thing we're waiting for is Dekalb County. Let's just go through a little bit of math here, right? First, let me come back out and show me your statewide totals.

Ninety-seven thousand vote lead for David Perdue. If you are a Republican, you are thinking that's a very strong lead. And it is when you're up to 86 percent statewide. Let's look at the other race. If you are Senator Loeffler, you are up by 67,000, not as big but still a healthy lead when you're looking at 86 percent of the vote.

So, the question is what is missing? And we know the biggest pool missing is Dekalb County just to the east of Atlanta and Fulton County here. And so, we're looking at 42 percent right now. Right? Forty-two percent. Look at the percentages the Democrats are getting, 82 percent so far for Pastor Warnock, 81 percent for Jon Ossoff. So, let's leave it here for a minute.

Remember what Pam Brown just told us. About 200,000 votes still to be counted here, 171,000 of them, 171,000 of them were cast early, early votes. We know what happened in November, and we know what has happened so far in the votes we have today. Democrats are winning disproportionately among those early votes.

So, of the 171,000 if Jon Ossoff got 80 percent, the net would be more than 100,000 votes. Just among 171,000 if he gets 80 percent, Democrats have been over performing. But just there we'll give him 100, 101,000 votes, enough to narrow the gap. We'll see.

BLITZER: Let's go to Amara Walker. She's at Atlanta. She's very close to the secretary of state's operation over there. What are you learning, Amara? AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. So, I just spoke with

Gabriel Sterling and he gave me an update on the numbers coming out of Dekalb County. And he said any minute now Dekalb should be uploading the 171,000 early in-person votes, those are all the in-person votes that were cast early. He said that should happen any minute now.

Then he spoke to Dekalb County officials about 35, 40 minutes ago and said that should be happening at any time.

[22:24:57]

And he said that look, typically, the split is usually 80/20 for the Democrats, so we should definitely or expect this tranche of votes to benefit the Democrats when they are indeed uploaded.

Some other numbers he gave me were the in-person votes today that were uploaded, it stands at 31,000. I asked Gabriel Sterling if this is all the votes from today. He of course does not know exactly the turnout from today in Dekalb County. But it could be because he says if you compare the numbers to the presidential election on November 3rd, 47,000 people had cast their ballots in-person on election day.

So, this could well likely be most of the votes from today that have already been uploaded. Also, what's been accepted and uploaded are the 104,000-absentee mail-in ballots, not including today, but many from yesterday and from days before that. That's the latest from here. Back to you.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So momentarily we're expecting 170,000 votes to be counted and reported on in Dekalb County. Nick Valencia is there in Dekalb County for us. You are getting more information, Nick, as well.

VALENCIA: That's right. We've, you know, really expected this to be a lot slower of a process here in Dekalb County. That's exactly what officials had, you know, told us to expect. But here we are in closing, closing on the 11 o'clock hour. The pace and activity have picked up significantly inside.

We did try to get a spokesperson for the county. He would not go on camera, but did answer our questions off camera. We just want to go a little bit more specifics exactly when that time line that Amara is talking about if the large buckets of votes here in Dekalb County. When are they expected to be uploaded inside?

I mentioned that activity continues. There is also poll watchers from state parties as well as nonpartisan groups including others who are just really here for the excitement. Dekalb County knows that they are right in the middle of this and right in the thick of this. The Democratic Party here of course hoping that these next uploaded votes, this big bucket of votes that we've been waiting on, you know, end up being in their favor really right now we're just waiting and seeing, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are waiting and seeing. Absolutely. You know, John, it doesn't get more dramatic than this. We're taking a look at what's going to happen in Georgia right now.

KING: I'm tempted to pour you a cup of coffee which is sit here and stare, just sit here and wait, wait for the Dekalb County numbers to change because that's the game. It's the largest basket of votes still outstanding, there are some other votes out there.

But you know, if you are the Democrats, and again, let's just pull back if you are anybody involved in this race, Senator Perdue up by 97,000 votes right now. That's a big margin when you are at 86 percent. Senator Loeffler up 67,000 votes if you round up a little bit. That's a healthy margin in a big state like this when you are at 86 percent.

So, if you are the Democrats, yes, there are some votes around the metro Atlanta area, but the biggest basket of them as Nick just said is right here. You're at 42 percent in Dekalb County. We know 171,000 of the votes, about 200,000 or more still to come in just from this one county. But we know 171,000 of them, we're told they could come any second, which that's why I'm going to keep turning over my shoulder, are early votes, cast by early votes cast.

And we know Democrats have been winning 80 percent or more of those votes. So, if you just take the 171,000 and break it down, that could be a net gain of more than 100,000 votes right there for each of the Democratic candidates, right? And that gain, if it holds up and they get 80 percent of those 171,000, that would be a net gain of 100, more than that, but I'm rounding it down to be conservative of 100.

Well, that would be enough for Raphael Warnock to overtake just from those votes where Kelly Loeffler is right now and even though Perdue's lead is larger, that would be enough for Jon Ossoff to pass it.

So right now, the next report out of Dekalb County is going to tell us a lot as we're in the very tense time of this race. And you hear, and remember, we talked to Mr. Sterling earlier tonight. He was saying that, you know, we should remember how hard these local officials are working. But you could tell from Amara Walker's report that he was saying he expected it to come any minute.

There is no doubt the secretary of state's office is calling around the state to these places that have a lot of votes still outstanding and Dekalb is the biggest one, if you will, saying, let's get about our business. Let's try to get these reports in.

So, we're going to watch this. This is the game. There were some other places that could affect the margin. But the biggest still outstanding vote is right here. And again, you can walk around. You can go to Gwinnett, 95 percent.

Democrats will get few more votes here. It helps. Every vote helps. You come to Fulton County, Atlanta and the suburbs, this is the biggest pool of potential votes here, number one county in terms of population. Democrats may pull a little bit more.

Cobb County is now up to 75 percent here, more competitive. As you move away from Atlanta, even the suburbs get more competitive for the Republicans. There is new vote there. There is not much left down here in Douglas. You come back across Fulton. Clayton down below, up at 86 percent. Democrats will get some here. Some here could be a couple hundred, could be more depending on what the turnout is in the end, but that helps.

This is it right here. Again, we know there are roughly 200,000 votes roughly to be counted. The fact that we know 171,000 of them are votes that were cast early and we know what has happened throughout our reporting today, what happened in November, what happened throughout this pandemic election, that is just in a Democratic county early votes are just proportionally Democrat almost everywhere.

[22:30:07]

In a Democratic county, they tend to come in even higher than what you're seeing in the normal percentages. That's what we saw in November. That's the reason Joe Biden won Georgia by a narrow margin. So, we're waiting and we're going to keep staring when we get those votes.

If we get 171,000 reported in at once, it's going to tell us maybe not everything but just about everything.

BLITZER: So, that 170,000 vote, that early voting, that was in-person early voting, right?

KING: In-person early voting. And again, it doesn't mean every trend from November carried over. but disproportionately Democrats have been voting early. It's the Republican tradition to vote on election day. Again, it doesn't mean it carried over.

That's why we need to see them. But we do know everything we've seen so far tells us that is a, in a, especially in a lopsided Democratic county to begin with, that the early voting has tended to be a piece of the vote where Democrats overperform their other numbers.

No guarantee that's what happens tonight. No guarantee that's what happens in this county even if it's what happened in this county. But those votes which, again, we're getting -- we're reinventing the definition of any minute now because that's what happens on election night.

The secretary of state's office is pushing to get them in as soon as possible. The local officials behind Nick Valencia in those doors right there are saying, you know what, let's get it right. We have to understand and respect that. But they understand the stakes.

They now have the biggest basket of votes outstanding in an election that will determine so much. Not only who are Georgia's two United States senators but which party controls the United States Senate. What do the early days of the Biden presidency look like? It all rides right now on Dekalb County.

BLITZER: There are still some outstanding votes in Chatham County where Savannah is, right?

KING: Yes. And so, again --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: That's a Democratic county.

KING: Right. If you are the Democrats you are looking at David Perdue now stretching it, getting close. He's at 99,000. And what's happening? You see all this red? Most of Georgia, smaller counties, most are Republican. So, they're getting from 95 to 96 to 97 and the Republicans are adding to their total.

Every one of those votes counts. Every one of those votes counts, especially when we know there is a big dump, big basket of Democratic votes coming in there. Every one of those counts. And so, the Republicans are trying to run it up, 99 plus for Senator Perdue, 68,000, approaching 69,000 for Senator Loeffler.

But you mentioned Chatham County, I'll leave that race up and come down here, up to 82 percent now. We're long time stuck at 40. Now we move up to the 60s. Now we're at 82 percent. You see 58 percent to 42 percent in this race. They're tracking pretty much about the same, 58, 42 percent.

The interesting part here is, well, as we do the -- first thing now is who wins? But as we go through what has happened here. Look at the vote total change here. You come down at 78,000 for Joe Biden when he won this county in the presidential race, 75,000 for Jon Ossoff when he was on the ballot in November here. Then you come back to '21 here at 54,000.

So, overall turnout, again, we expect overall turnout to be down. It appears to be down by a decent margin here in Chatham County. But, again, 82 percent. We will see when the final numbers there won't matter. And I'm just going to keep tapping it repeatedly. We're still there at 42 percent in Chatham County.

Again, if you're watching anywhere in the United States around the world the clock might be getting a little -- so you might be stretching this. --

BLITZER: Dekalb County?

KING: Stretching this, I'm sorry, Dekalb County. If you are stretching this around the world right here, but we expect that any minute. And guess what? That's going to tell us almost everything.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting that Warnock is doing better as the Democratic candidate than Ossoff is and Perdue is doing better than Kelly Loeffler.

KING: Yes, it is fascinating. And again, it takes a day or two, sometimes a week or three after an election to crunch all that down, go through all the exit polls, talk to people on the ground. But it is fascinating to see that one of the things that, you know, a lot of Georgia Republicans were frankly -- I mean, a lot of Georgia Democrats were frankly worried about this is testing history. Can a black man win statewide in Georgia, right? This is huge for the

Democrats. It was huge that Joe Biden won the state. The fact that Pastor Warnock is just this competitive, number one, is going to encourage Democrats in the state of Georgia. The fact that when we get those votes in Dekalb County he may well pull ahead in this race.

This is fascinating to watch. Georgia is one of the states in America that is changing. It is a sun belt state. Is it blue? No. But it's nowhere near as red as it used to be. It is purple now, I would say it's purple. And I would have argued a week ago it's purple and it leans red and that Donald Trump's problems in the suburbs is why Joe Biden carried it narrowly.

But as we watch these races tonight you are watching one of the most competitive states in America in the most consequential Senate election, two Senate elections to determine the balance of power. This is fascinating.

So, you look at, you mentioned the performance. I was trying to go in. His home is Atlanta, right? So, he's getting 73.7 percent, 319,000 votes there. You look at the other race. Jon Ossoff about 4,000 votes trailing him there.

David Perdue, we do know, David Perdue are more familiar face to Georgia voters. Kelly Loeffler was picked by the governor because he thought she could do very well in the suburbs. What we're seeing she was a more moderate Republican when she was named and she became a very Trump Republican because she thought that was the best course to be in.

David Perdue more familiar to Georgia voters seems to be doing -- he is doing better. He doesn't seem to be doing, he is doing better in the suburbs than Jon Ossoff I would assume because of familiarity.

[22:35:01]

There are a lot of Republicans who live here, a lot of Republican- leaning independents who live here who traditionally have voted Republican. The state is shifting, but it is interesting to watch.

And let's just see if it continues as you move outside of Atlanta. One hundred twenty-nine thousand -- eight there, 131,000. So, Pastor Warnock in the Atlanta suburbs, which is his home base, it is getting a few more votes as we come through, getting a few more votes as we come through.

And the question is, does that matter? Now Democrats need them both. One win tonight, the Democrats will be happy to win a Senate seat in Georgia, but one win tonight will not give them what they want most which is 50-50. So, Vice President Harris in two weeks can break the tie.

But this is what we're waiting on, and it's fascinating. And yes, it is a fascinating dynamic, something we will be studying for a long time. So, a lot of skepticism by voice privately by Georgia Democrats. Could that happen statewide? We're about to find out. BLITZER: Yes, we're going to find out 170,000 vote dump coming in from

Dekalb County momentarily we're told. Our special coverage will continue. The Republicans still ahead right now. We'll see what happens when Dekalb County counts more ballots.

[22:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER (on camera): All right. Let's take another look at a key race alert right now. The Republicans still ahead. Kelly Loeffler, she's up over the Democrat Raphael Warnock by some 82,000 votes. Eighty-eight percent of the estimated votes is in. Twelve percent outstanding on the -- in the other Senate runoff contest.

The Republican David Perdue he has a bigger lead over Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, a lead of almost 113,000 votes over Jon Ossoff, the Democrat.

Again, 88 percent of the vote is in. But there is still plenty. There is still plenty of votes outstanding. Nick Valencia is in Dekalb County for us right now. Nick, you're getting some new information, what are you hearing from authorities there?

VALENCIA: That's right, Wolf. I just got off the phone with CEO Michael Thurmond of Dekalb County. And he tells us these are the most updated numbers. As it stands right now, there are only 130,000 votes left to be counted in Dekalb County. And according to Thurmond, that includes 117,000 advance in-person votes and 12,000 election day votes.

So again, he is saying 130,000 election votes to get through tonight and he's saying this direct quote, Wolf, "we're going to get it done tonight." They plan on staying as long as it takes. He would not give a time line and when we should expect that next big bucket of votes to be uploaded to the web site. But he is confident that they are going to get the job done tonight. Wolf?

BLITZER: Because earlier we had heard, I think from Gabriel Sterling that it could be momentarily we'll get that big bucket. But what you're hearing now, it may be a little bit delayed, is that right?

VALENCIA: Well, we -- you know, we believe that these are just the updated numbers, that Gabriel Sterling might be giving out numbers that he thought to be correct at the time. These are the latest coming directly from the CEO Michael Thurmond of Dekalb County saying 130,000 votes, and he's being very clear.

He's saying, Wolf, just 117,000 advance in-person and 12,000 election day votes to get through. He is saying they are going to wrap this thing up tonight. We still don't know when, but we'll be here to report it out. Wolf?

BLITZER: What about the early votes that arrived by mail? That arrived today by mail. VALENCIA: He was very clear that those are the only -- they arrived today by mail. But we know that they have until Friday, Wolf, to count those. He didn't get into that. He didn't get into the overseas or provisional ballots. But he said that all they have at this point is 130,000. He wants to make that very clear to our CNN viewers.

BLITZER: All right. Good to know. Thanks very much, Nick, for that, 130,000 votes. It's less than 170,000, which we had heard earlier.

KING: Right. So that is a giant change, that is a giant change, assuming Nick Valencia who is right there on the scene the numbers are right. That makes the hill for the Democrats, this Dekalb County at 42 percent. That makes it significantly steeper if you do the math because if Democrats got 80 percent of that 130, they would narrow the gap significantly but not enough to overtake Senator Perdue in that race.

And the question is, when you come in here, it would be much closer, much closer there. And so that's a significant change. Fifty thousand votes difference, right, or 40,000 votes difference. One hundred thousand Nick says Mr. Sterling was saying 171,000. Democrats expect to get about 80 percent of those votes if it tracks, continues to track what we have been seeing in Dekalb County.

So that could potentially be game changing. Now again, we want to see the votes come in. We'll see if there is a discrepancy between two officials on the ground. They'll be on the phone. They'll work it out and we'll see if it stays that way.

But if you're looking, if you are Raphael Warnock, you're up in 82 percent here. Jon Ossoff, you're getting 81 percent here. The question is, you know, if that 60 percent outstanding, 58 percent outstanding is only 130,000 votes, even if you get 80 percent of it, it's not -- now there is still some other votes out here. We're not done everywhere else, but that's the biggest basket of votes.

And if it was 171,000 and you get 80 percent, it's enough to overcome that. If it's 130,000 and you get 80 percent it gets you a whole lot closer but it's not enough to overcome it. So that's a big change in the math. And we'll continue to watch as it comes out.

The biggest way to know, to understand, is to report them -- is to report them. And Dekalb County is by far the slowest of Georgia's counties doing its work tonight. And so, then you are asking is there anything else out here still. Gwinnett is up to 95. Fulton is up to 99 percent.

This, if you're the Democrats, you know, it's great, you got 73 percent of the votes in Fulton County. But you're done, and this is where, you know, this is where you can count on votes. So that's a troubled spot for the Democrats.

Some more to come in in Cobb County, but it is more competitive. You can add a little bit, make up some ground but you're not going to make up a ton of ground there. Douglas County. Again, you're at 95 percent. You come back across Fulton. You look down at Clayton, back up to 95 percent.

So, if you are the Democrats now, especially that you are here, it's not 171,000 or 200,000 votes as we were hearing from officials a little while ago. It's 130,000 votes, you are getting a lot more nervous because that is a 113,000-vote lead right now. And even if you have a net 75 percent or 80 here from those new votes, it's not enough as it comes in for Jon Ossoff challenging Senator Perdue.

[22:45:05]

Raphael Warnock has a smaller hill, still a steep hill to climb against Kelly Loeffler. Nick says they are going to work through the night, 88 percent right now; 82,000 votes for Senator Loeffler, a 113,000 plus and change for Senator Perdue. Republicans are getting more confident but we still have some votes to count.

BLITZER: Once again in Chatham County, in Savannah what percentage is outstanding?

KING: Up to 18 --

BLITZER: Eighteen percent still outstanding.

KING: Eighteen percent still outstanding. But look at the numbers just in terms of it's a very important base of Democratic votes, but it is a smaller base of Democratic votes, and the turnout, we're seeing at least -- we'll see what the final numbers come in. That's an estimate, that 82 percent.

But again, you're looking at 54 percent for Jon Ossoff there with 82 percent in. If you go back, Joe Biden had 87 percent. So, this is a, we know turnout would drop. It's not a presidential election. But early voting broke records. This turnout for a runoff will break records. The question is how close do you get to the presidential number? And you're seeing here that it's well below. It's well below here.

And again, the question will be, and we have to get to the finish line and you'll have the postmortem about where was turnout up? Where was the turn out down? Where do we meet our metrics or not? Chatham County is a place I'm looking at right now. I'm thinking the Democrats probably aren't meeting where they thought they needed to be.

And so, you're just moving around of the Democratic areas. Richmond County at 95 percent. But if you are the Democrats and you are seeing that number above 100,000, above 113,000 you're saying where can we get it? The only place that has giant pools of votes, that size of votes are here in the Atlanta suburbs, especially the Fulton, Atlanta and the largest suburbs right around it is mostly in.

If that's at 95 -- 99 percent and you're Democrats, you start thinking, 100,000 votes, can we make that up? That's a steep hill, Wolf. And again, we'll wait. We need these votes to come in. But with that being the only big basket of Democratic votes still outstanding, you're looking at 113,004 there. You're looking at 82,000 there. Raphael Warnock has a better chance to see. We'll see what Dekalb comes in, but we need those votes.

BLITZER: Those votes and presumably by all accounts they are going to be coming in fairly soon. They are going to work as long as it takes to get those votes out because the whole world basically is watching. This is a critically important contest because that state is controlled, the majority in the U.S. Senate as a new administration, the Biden-Harris administration is coming in in a few days.

KING: Right. Can Joe Biden get confirmation hearings for all his cabinet picks? Can he get legislation to the floor? Can he get judicial nominees through? A 50-50 Senate for the Democrats is not easy by any means but you would much rather have Chuck Schumer control the floor when it comes to the floor and Democrats is the chairman of the committees than Mitch McConnell controlling the floor.

And here it is right here. There are 50 Republicans and there are 48 members of the Democratic caucus. That includes two independents, Angus King of Maine, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. They caucus with the Democrats. But it's 50 to 48, with these two the only outstanding. Right? The only outstanding. So, if Jon Ossoff -- the Democrats need Jon Ossoff to win and then they need Raphael Warnock to win, that gets you to 50-50.

And then in two weeks Kamala Harris becomes vice president she can break the ties even if Republicans only won one of them, it's 51, 49 they control the Senate. These Republicans have the lead in both of them right now as we wait for Dekalb County to see. But Democrats need them both.

Democrats need them both and the consequences are enormous. A 50-50 Senate -- a 50-50 Senate gives Joe Biden a chance, as we said, you know, he controls -- then he controls the agenda. It's not easy. Can't pass big things 50-50, but it's a lot easier.

You'll have a different -- a different set of headaches, Democrats and progressives will be demanding bold change if you have the Senate majority. You'd rather have that headache than Mitch McConnell controlling what comes to the floor of the Senate.

BLITZER: Yes. let's -- we'll see what happens in Dekalb County. We're watching this very closely. David Chalian, what do you see?

CHALIAN: Wolf, we've been tracking all night as the vote has been coming in how much of the vote that's in is early vote versus election day vote. Right now, 88 percent of the estimated vote is in. We're waiting for that last 12 percent to find out who's going to win these races.

Jon Ossoff, 1.867 million. David Perdue, 1.891 million right now with 88 percent in. How much of this vote that's in there is pre-election early vote? Take a look. It's down to 73 percent. You remember earlier in the evening, way earlier, it was up at 94 percent when you first came to me.

Now it's down to 73 percent, and that is right at what we expect the overall early vote to represent. We think it will be at 72 percent. But it's right there. So now it has come down as more election day vote has come in. That's why we see David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler with the leads in these races right now. More of that Republican friendly election day vote has come in.

Now we're down at the percentage that we expect to see of the early vote versus the election day votes. Same thing in the Warnock-Loeffler race. Seventy-three percent of the vote that is in pre-election vote. Absentee by mail, early in-person. That's right at the mark we expect it to be at the end of the night.

[22:50:02]

So, you are seeing now the composite of these votes, sort of representative of what we think it will look like at the end of the day in terms of how much of the vote is early absentee vote. What you're looking at now is where we think we're going to end as a percentage of the vote.

BLITZER: David Chalian, stand by, we're going to get back to you. Ryan Nobles is joining us, he's in Atlanta right now over at the GOP, at the Republican headquarters watching all of this. What are you learning?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Republicans are gathered here behind me in this hotel anxiously waiting these returns as they come in. And I've been in contact with a lot of Republican sources tonight. And I do have to say there's a level of anxiety within Republican circles here tonight in Georgia.

By no means did they think that this race is over but they are concerned about the trend lines and where they're headed. That the biggest concern for them right is that they were a bit surprised by the overperformance by Democrats in some of these key Democratic counties in the election day vote.

Now they knew the Democrats were going to perform well in the early vote, but they were hoping to make up that gap in a big way on election day, but they did not anticipate that so many people would show up in these Democratic counties on election day. And that is what we are seeing, you know, a big turnout in some of these counties, particularly in the Atlanta area.

And that's led to some anxiety over these results in Dekalb County. I know that you guys have been talking all night about those numbers and when they come in. I talked to one Republican source who said that Dekalb County is going to kill them is how this source put it, just a real concern that there may be so many votes available to Democrats in that county that it may be difficult for them to overcome it.

In the Republican-leaning counties, you know, I put it simply to another Georgia Republican I said are people in your circles freaking out? And the response was, if they're not, then they should be. So, Republicans are concerned right now. But Wolf, they said, you know, it's not over yet but there's still a long way to go. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, certainly not over yet. I am looking at the numbers right now. And I can see the Republican lead, both of the Republican leads has gone down a little bit, they've shrunk.

Take a look at this. Kelly Loeffler, her lead is now down to what, almost 66,000 votes. It was a lot higher than that just a little while ago over Raphael Warnock, the Democrat. David Perdue's lead was well over 110,000, now it's down to 98,000 over Jon Ossoff, the Democrat.

So, the Republican leads, John King, they're beginning to go down a bit. They still have impressive leads but they are still what, 91 percent of the vote is in. There's still 9 percent of the vote outstanding.

KING: Nine percent of the vote outstanding, a gain for the Democrats, if you will, meaning a shrinking of the Republican lead. It happened right here in Cobb County which is now up to 94 percent. It was below that as we look early tonight. And you see 57 percent there for Jon Ossoff, 57 percent, 58 percent if you round off for Raphael Warnock.

And so, you know, this is a, again, more competitive, it's not as Democratic as the other counties around Atlanta but the Democrats are getting 57 or 58 percent there. If you go back to the presidential election, Joe Biden had 56. So, in terms of metrics, Democrats meeting what they need here in Cobb County and so then you come back to the statewide and let's bring it back to 2021 where we were in the Senate.

You're still though, looking at 98,000 vote lead for the Republican David Perdue and a 65, 66,000 if you round that up just a little bit lead for the Republican Kelly Loeffler. And the question again that you're asking as you go through this is are there enough votes out there in Democratic areas? That's what the Democrats are asking themselves.

And again, you come through the Atlanta area, 95 percent in Clayton County. So, the possibility you make up some votes here. But at 95 percent, you're not going to make up 100,000 votes or 90,000 votes. The question is can you get some? And again, if you're the Democrats, you're asking yourself repeatedly what is this?

Now we were told it's 130,000 votes outstanding. There's a dispute within officials, within Georgia, some say it's as high as 170,000 votes outstanding. If you're the Democrats, you're desperately waiting for this feed to come in to see is it possible? It is possible.

It's getting bleak if you're a Democrat, Wolf, if you're looking what's available to you out there, were might there be votes. You look around the Atlanta area here and you just move up. Sixty-four Newton County, down to the southeast of Atlanta. It's not as big, it's not as big. You might pick up a few hundred here as this comes in. You see it right there. Maybe few -- maybe more than a few hundred, but not 50,000 or 60,000, which is what your problem is right now.

And you're coming up here if you're the Democrats here, Rockdale is mostly in, Gwinnett is up to 95 percent, this county has been very good to the Democrats, but again, you still might pick a few hundred more, 95 percent in Fulton County. There will be more votes for the Democrats out of Fulton County. The question is how many when you're up to 95 percent. And so, this again, this is our mystery right here is, a, how many

votes? What's the exact number? Again, there's a dispute between the local officials on the scene who say it's 130,000, officials on the secretary of state's office say they believe it is higher than that of what still outstanding.

We'll see what happens when it comes in. Is it mathematically possible to overcome that and to overcome that? It depends in large part what is the real number in Dekalb County. If it's a big number it is possible.

[22:55:08]

And then you're looking around for other places. But if you're the Democrats, especially when you look at the Perdue lead, you're getting a little nervous.

BLITZER: Let's take another quick break. We'll watch what's happening in Dekalb County, we'll watch what's happening in the remaining outstanding vote. Ninety-one percent of the vote is in, 9 percent remains outstanding. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER (on camera): It's a huge moment right now, four hours after the polls close in Atlanta. It's a dramatic moment right now. We're waiting for a huge batch of votes to come in from Dekalb County, outside of Atlanta. Potentially that could determine who wins these two Senate races.

[23:00:02]

Take a look right now. Right now, the Republicans are ahead in both with 91 percent of the estimated vote is in.