Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Election Night in America Continued: CNN Coverage of the Georgia Senate Runoff Race. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 5, 2021 - 23:00   ET

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


[23:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Two Senate races. Take a look right now. Right now, the Republicans are ahead in both with 91 percent of the estimated vote is in. Kelly Loeffler, the Republicans, she has about a 75,000-vote lead over the Democrat Raphael Warnock.

In the other Senate race, David Perdue, the Republican, his lead is more impressive, 107,000 votes, over the Democrat Jon Ossoff right now. Ninety-one percent of the vote is in, 9 percent outstanding.

But we are waiting for a big, big chunk of votes, John King, coming in from the DeKalb County. Right now, what -- still only 42 percent of the vote is in.

I want to go to CNN's Amara Walker right now, who is watching all of this unfold. She has got a special guest for us. What are you learning, Amara?

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we just heard from Gabe Sterling a few moments ago, who's joining me now, that there are 171,000 outstanding votes, early in-person votes that are supposed to be uploaded in DeKalb County at any minute now.

However, there has been a discrepancy because the CEO of DeKalb County said, no, actually that number is 117,000 votes that are supposed to be uploaded. Gabriel Sterling is here to clear up that confusion for us. Why are we talking about discrepancy here? Who's correct?

GABRIEL STERLING, GEORGIA VOTING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTATION MANAGER: You might remember what I said, that a lot of these election workers have been really, really exhausted working to the ground. If you look at the two numbers, 171, 117, the elections director just mixed up the one in the seven, and that's what she told.

We called her to say what is happening and said, oh, yeah, that was my bad. So, this is the reality of real time when it comes to dealing with these situations, in an election where everybody has been working their fingers to the bone.

WALKER: OK. So an understandable mistake, the numbers were interchanged. Do we know when these 171,000 early in-person votes will be uploaded to the system? STERLING: If the county has run elections, it is up to them. We talk to them. They are working diligently. They are trying to get them all done tonight. We know it is going to be done. They told us 45 minutes an hour and a half ago. But, you know, as I go through these things, we want to make it to quality control, make sure it is done properly. So when we do uploaded this one time, we will get the actual results right.

WALKER: You were telling me over the phone, Gabriel, that historically that it's usually 80, 20 split for the Democrats in DeKalb County. Can you walk us through that?

STERLING: In this kind of advance vote, what we saw from November, something similar to that. So this is going to be a huge boom for Democratic candidates and a big hit to the Republicans who have built up a lead over time.

But again, there are lots of nickels and dimes in the rest of those rural counties in Georgia that could come in and balance out some of this. We still see our -- I know the U.S. doesn't care much we have a Republican running for Public Service Commission who has a bigger lead than even the two senators right now, Bubba McDonald.

WALKER: So, it could possibly though come down to DeKalb County?

STERLING: DeKalb County is going to have a really big impact on the outcome, but like I said, there are dozens and dozens of counties out there and you take lots of counties with the few votes margin versus one big county, a big vote margin, they can't even out, so we got potentially a long night ahead.

WALKER: OK. And last question to you, because I did see Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger walking by and I asked him, when do you expect for us to know the final results of this Senate runoff, and he said, probably lunchtime tomorrow. Do you agree?

STERLING: That is a rational estimate given the situation we've seen right now.

WALKER: Optimistic.

STERLING: Optimistic.

WALKER: Gotcha. OK. Well, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Let me -- I want to ask Gabriel Sterling a quick question. John King has a question for him, as well, if he doesn't mind spending a few more moments with us.

In addition to 170,000 outstanding votes -- we are expecting to get those results fairly soon in DeKalb County -- how many other outstanding votes, Gabriel, do you think there are throughout the state?

STERLING: Frankly, we'll find out -- I don't know right now because I have to answer questions every two minutes from people. We know there are bunch out there on top of the 171,000, the 12,000 Election Day votes that have to come in in DeKalb County alone. But we have lots of counties that have no advance and no Election Day votes in some of those Republican counties.

BLITZER: John King has a question for you, Gabriel.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you say you don't know the total universe, you mentioned in your conversation with Amara, a lot of these small rural Republican counties where you think, you know, there's a couple of thousand here, a couple hundred there, but you are certain of the universe at all, in the context.

I ask in the context of this. You know the math. When DeKalb County comes in, there's a chance there that the Democrats can make up the deficits that they have right now, and then the question would be, what else is out there?

STERLING: John, to be fair, they're going to more than make up the deficit. They would likely take the lead when these tranche of votes comes in. It is a question of how much.

The secondary thing we have to worry about and look at is what is out in those rural counties. They say they're small rural counties. Some of them are not that small. Some of them would be 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 in a pop. They could still be potentially out there.

We have the universe of the advance in person. We don't have the universe of the Election Day votes. That's kind of the unknowable unknown for us until we get the final uploads.

BLITZER: So basically, what I hear you saying, Gabriel, it is still -- it could still go either way. The Democrats might win.

[23:05:00]

BLITZER: The Republicans might win. We just don't know. It's going to be very, very close, although you are suggesting that the Democrats will do really well in DeKalb and they could then, both of them wind up taking the lead. Is that when I just heard you say?

STERLING: If I'm going by historical numbers and looking we're saying and knowing the history of DeKalb County, it is the likely outcome when this upload is done.

BLITZER: That is a dramatic moment indeed, the Democrats. We will see what happens in DeKalb County. We're waiting for those numbers to come in. We will be anxious to get back to you.

Let me ask you another question, the timing of this -- the release of these 171,000 votes in DeKalb County. Is it momentarily, an hour from now, tomorrow, what do you think?

STERLING: Well, our hope is it would be as soon as possible because like I said, they told us 45 minutes about an hour and a half ago. So my assumption, it would be sometime within the next hour, I'm hopeful. I knew this. It would be this evening.

BLITZER: That could be really, really critical. Right now, 90 percent of the vote is in. So that means 10 percent of the vote, estimated vote in the state, Gabriel, is still outstanding. That's a lot of votes out there, but the biggest chunk is in DeKalb County, which is a heavily democratic county outside of Atlanta.

STERLING: Yes, that is correct. It's really sort of an irony because in the 60s and 70s, that was the hotbed of the republican takeover in Georgia.

BLITZER: Things have changed dramatically, the demographics in Georgia right now. What else do you want our viewers to know before we let you go back to work?

STERLING: We feel like we had a very successful election day in terms of the election administration. We had a smooth election, shorter lines. We saw a lot of good things out of this. We just want to make sure that people understand that these thousands of election workers have been working diligently to bring a free and fair election to the people of Georgia.

BLITZER: We are so grateful to you and all of these election workers because you know what's at stake, democracy in the United States of America. People are watching here throughout the country, people are watching all over the world, and they're seeing democracy in Georgia right now.

Gabriel, thank you very much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing.

STERLING: Thank you. One more thing, go dogs!

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: All right, John.

KING: All politics is local, all sports is local.

BLITZER: Can I just (INAUDIBLE) bills?

KING: Yes, you can.

BLITZER: OK.

KING: I haven't had a chance to say congratulations, so I will do it right here. People are worried about the Georgia Senate races, but amen for your bills this year.

Look, what we just heard is very significant, very significant. And he is right that we should give grace to these local officials who are tired. He says a local official just instead of 171, said 117. We will watch. Let's watch. We have been through an interesting night and an interesting followup to a very interesting election cycle. We'll see if there is another dispute about the numbers. We'll see how quickly they come in. But the idea that if it's 170,000 plus versus that much smaller number, this could be the difference in these races because Democrats are getting 80 percent or more. If Democrats get 80 percent or more of those votes, each of these Democratic candidates could pick up net more than 100,000 votes. It could be 102. It could be higher. It depends, 80 or 79, 83. We will watch as this plays out.

You could have a net of 100,000 votes or more just from those votes in DeKalb County. Now, if you're Jon Ossoff, probably not enough to get you past David Perdue, but it will get you very close, right, it will get you very close. And if you're Raphael Warnock, if you have a net gain of 100,000 votes, well, then you're suddenly in the lead in this race here.

So these votes in DeKalb County, again, for those of you who aren't sure where it is, this is Atlanta and Fulton County, DeKalb County, big, fourth largest county in the state just to the east of Atlanta. These votes are now absolutely critical and essential to the Democrats.

You can see the math for a Warnock passing and you can see the math for Ossoff if he overwhelms them, getting there, but more than likely, at least getting very close. And then the question is what's still out?

As Mr. Sterling just noted, when it gets that close, number one, it means that we're going into the morning and we're counting on, at least in that race, the closer race, and number two, then you're saying, OK, so what are we missing?

Number one is overseas and military ballots, Georgians who live overseas, Georgians serving overseas. Those ballots have until Friday to come in. It's very, very close. We have to wait on those.

And then otherwise, you're looking -- so again, we are waiting for this. When will it come in? There is clearly some tension between the local officials and the state officials in Georgia.

And then you're running around and looking where there are votes. Gwinnett County, the second largest, you say 95 percent is in. But this is a big country. So with five percent still out, Democrats having a pretty significant advantage. Democrats could pick up some votes here as they come in.

Fulton County is 95 percent again. They are mostly done, but they are not completely done. This is a place where Democrats are getting 74 percent if you round up from Mr. Warnock, 73 percent if you round up for Mr. Ossoff. So there are smaller numbers. It's not like DeKalb. We have this giant pool of votes still to come in. But you have some more to come in.

[23:10:00]

KING: Then you move out to Cobb County again at 94 percent. So there are places where Democrats can pick up hundreds, potentially more than that, outside of DeKalb. But DeKalb is what we're waiting on right now. And then, as Mr. Sterling noted, then you're going around the state, what about the Republican counties, where are the places where you know Republicans are going to gain?

So what you are looking at? Reliably republican counties like Forsyth. Well, they are up to 99 percent. If you get something there, it is going to be pretty small. We move over here to Cherokee County. These two counties are absolutely critical. Democrats are ahead early. Republicans came back. But you're at 99 percent.

You come up here, Pickens County, 58. They're not, as he said, I said they're small. Not all of them are tiny. There's a decent amount of votes here. But you see 11,000 votes.

In the Atlanta suburbs, we are talking about tens of thousands of votes, sometimes more than 100,000 votes total. It's a smaller total here but something we picked up, place like Gilmer County, again 61 of 159, but only 74 percent.

So there are some republican votes here, couple of hundred votes there. This gets really close. This is what we are going to be going through late into the night into the early morning, and potentially, potentially, Wolf, given our track record here, for the next couple of days.

I am just moving across the top of the state just to see, at 95 percent here, this year, Whitfield County was the site of the president's last rally, and you see 71 percent for Senator Perdue, 71 percent for Senator Loeffler. If you go back to the presidential race, it is 70 percent for President Trump.

President Trump, again, he lost Georgia, he lost the presidency in 2020. But if you look at the last couple weeks of the campaign, where he did rallies, his people came out to vote, and it looks like in Whitfield County, which is 100 percent, it looks like they did at least get good numbers for the Republicans there.

The question is, where else? So as we wait 114,000 votes there, 81,000 votes there, when will this come in and how much of a gain will the Democrats make? That is the defining question in both of these races right now.

BLITZER: At least we clarified the 171,000 votes that are about to be released versus the 117,000 votes. We clarified that. One of the -- they made a mistake in DeKalb County, and as a result, they released the wrong number.

KING: And look, we're called human for a reason and these officials are working incredibly hard. They understand the pressure on them. So we need to give them grace. But when you have such high stakes, it's very important. We're lucky to have good correspondents on the ground, who keep pushing and keep pushing.

When you have one official say A and another official says B, we send our people back in the room or we get them on the air like we did with Mr. Sterling, and we sorted out. So it can be confusing, and they're doing a very difficult job under a ton of pressure. These local officials, they don't get paid much. Some of them are even volunteers. So we have to give them grace. But it's also important that when we have questions like this, we push, get the answers.

BLITZER: We are grateful to all of these election workers, not only -- all over the country because they really, really do an incredibly important work. We are waiting to see what happens in DeKalb County. Forty-two percent of the vote is in, 58 percent of the vote is still out. We are waiting for 171,000 votes, Jake, to come in. This could be a decisive moment.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It could, in fact, be a very decisive moment. And the difference, Dana and Abby, between 117,000 votes outstanding in DeKalb County and 171,000 could mean the difference between Senator Perdue and Senator Ossoff.

I have to say just texting with Democrats and Republicans, there's a lot of cautious optimism that I'm picking up from Democratic friends. And Republican friends are preparing for the worst. Some of them are even saying we're toast. Now, that's preliminary, but these people have access to a lot more information than we do right now.

It really does seem as though Donald Trump and his conspiracy theories, attacking Republicans and attacking elections, at the very least, made this race a lot closer than it needed to be. At the very worst, for Trump and the Republicans, it might have cost them the Senate.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: May have, but at this point in time, as you were just alluding to, we don't know. And what's amazing is, you know, we knew that this would be a dramatic day and that these two races would be dramatic because they do determine the balance of power in the Senate.

But let's face it. We thought the 2020 election drama was behind us, when it comes to the ballot box. It's not. It is not because what we are hearing from our sources -- all of us -- is so much anticipation, so much anxiety, a lot of nervousness on both sides because of this -- the weight is going to go down in general but particularly DeKalb County.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, we do have to keep in mind that this is a red state. Georgia is not even yet, I think, considered a purple state.

TAPPER: No, I agree, yeah.

PHILLIP: And so the fact that these two races are as competitive as they are is a really remarkable thing, especially considering when you look back at November.

[23:15:00]

PHILLIP: You saw Perdue and you saw Kelly Loeffler actually overperforming Trump in that state and doing a little bit better. There was a gap between their opponents, a couple of points. It was not enough to get them to the 50 percent threshold. Now, we're looking at a scenario in which this race is going to be very, very tight.

As you heard Gabriel Sterling just say, when we get this tranche of votes from DeKalb, it could end up putting the Democrats up for some time. We don't know how long because there are still more votes outstanding. But that is a complete change of fortunes. It's one that I think should be a wake-up call for Republicans.

TAPPER: And speaking of Gabriel Sterling, Republican election official from Georgia, who the other day had felt the need to go and refute point by point all of the conspiracy theory lies that President Trump and his allies have been pushing, I find it hard to believe that Gabriel Sterling, who knows much more about every precinct and every county in Georgia than any of us except for maybe John King, I find it hard to believe that he would go out and pre-emptively say, if we lose these races, it will be on the back of Donald Trump, Donald Trump will be responsible.

I find it hard to believe that he would say that, if he thought that there was a good chance Loeffler and Perdue would win.

PHILLIP: Well, certainly, I don't think he would say that if he thought that they would win comfortably. Let's be honest, these are republican seats, it's a republican state, it's a place and a time where Republicans should be very competitive. They are in a squeaker right now.

TAPPER: Yeah.

PHILLIP: That is true. I think Gabriel Sterling is looking at the numbers and he knows that. He's looking at some of these red counties. He's seeing underperformance from where Republicans were a few months ago, in November. There is a really simple explanation for that. When you tell everyone that the thing is rigged --

BASH: Yeah.

PHILLIP: -- they're not going to want to show up. Not only that, but President Trump told his supporters that they should hold it against the Republican elected officials in that state. That they did not do what he wanted them to do, which is flip the state of Georgia to him.

So President Trump made it clear what his intentions were. He signalled that to his supporters and it is very much seems like many of them just didn't show up.

BASH: Yeah. And the message that Republicans who were organizing the strategy for both of these candidates felt was a very strong -- was the basic you have to elect these Republicans to have a check on the Democratic president, to have dual control, split control in Washington. If you don't, there is going to be total democratic control. They felt that in their data beforehand and in all their testing of that message, that it was a really strong one. But they ran into a buzz saw, which is the president of the United States, and there was a lot of concern, according to Republicans I talked to, that that message just completely got drowned out by Donald Trump saying that this election is rigged, all of the attacks on the governor and the secretary of state and so forth. And again, it just made it incredibly infusing for voters, no matter what happens at the end of the day.

TAPPER: And think about this. First of all, President Trump swore an oath to protect the people of the United States and he should be spending all this time trying to figure out how to fix the vaccine problem and get the pandemic slows down in the United States.

But OK, given the fact that he is not going to do that, that's not where his mind is, let's put that aside for a second. Who have you heard President Trump go after more? Jon Ossoff -- OK, let us go to Wolf Blitzer right now. He has a key race alert.

BLITZER: All right, let's take a look at David Perdue, the Republican. All of a sudden, his lead was 114,000. Look at this. The Republican David Perdue's lead over Jon Ossoff is now only 2,140, 50 percent, 50 percent, with 94 percent of the vote in all of a sudden. Look at how close it is between David Perdue, the incumbent Republican senator, against Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger, 2,140 votes.

Now, take a look at Raphael Warnock. He has taken the lead right now over Republican Kelly Loeffler. He has 32,214 more votes than the incumbent Republican senator, Kelly Loeffler. There is 32,214-vote lead for Raphael Warnock over Kelly Loeffler right now. He is at 50.4 percent, 49.6 percent. Ninety-four percent of the vote is in.

All of a sudden, the Democrat, Raphael Warnock, is in the lead by 32,000 plus votes over Kelly Loeffler.

[23:20:02]

BLITZER: David Perdue, the Republican, he still in the lead, but look at how it's shrunk for more than 114,000 to 2,140 over the Democrat, Jon Ossofff.

Look at how close that contest. Both are still very, very close. Ninety-four percent of the votes are in. It is virtual tie in one of these races. The other race, the Democrat is ahead a significant number, 32,000.

Let us walk over to John King at the magic wall. We are waiting for a huge dump of votes. A huge dump of votes came in. All of a sudden, one Democrat is ahead significantly by more than 30,000 votes. The other Democrat is behind narrowly by a couple thousand votes.

KING: In a word, wow! We were waiting on this. It was DeKalb County. You see Raphael Warnock is ahead right now. But as you said, 32,000 votes, David Perdue's lead is 7,000 votes. How did this happen? We've been waiting for now for quite some time is DeKalb County.

Look what happened. They were at 42 percent. Now, they're up to 94 percent, a giant jump of votes for the Democrats. I will lay out more detail in just a minute. Jon Ossoff is still among 80 percent there. Look at that, 250,000 votes, 58,000 votes there. That's what happened in there.

Similar jump here for Raphael Warnock. He was obviously closer so he has passed Kelly Loeffler there. Look at this enormous spike here. Wolf, I just want to bring it out here. I want to bring out my tools here from the election to work this out. Let's move this separately over. We'll do them one at a time.

Here's what happened here as we go through this, OK? Let's go through what happened in DeKalb County and let's start with the Warnock- Loeffler race. When the big dump of votes just came in, just came in, Warnock had 140,882, 84 percent. As we said, these are early votes who are being counted Democrats tend to overperform.

Loeffler had 26,801, 16 percent. That's what happened. You're losing in a democratic area, a giant pool of votes comes in, Warnock with that jumps into the lead in this race there.

Let me take this one off, slide this over. That doesn't want to go for me there. I will come over here. We will just do the other race here. Move this way for me.

In the Ossoff-Perdue race, 139,000 plus, 139,932, almost 140,000, 83.5, so again, a little bit behind. We get the scribble as I reach across there, the decimal point in there for you, to 27,000, 27,718. So that's what happened. That's what happened. We have been waiting a long time for this to come. It came in. Giant numbers, giant net game for both Democrats, more than 100,000, almost 114,000.

When you look at it there, again, more than 110,000 there, 112,000 there, that is what did it. The question now is, as you through this is, can you find the rest of the votes where you need to do it?

As you go through, let me just switch here and come up to a different map. I can leave my math up over there. You come up here. We come back to 2021, Senate race. Let us come on here. Here is where we are. David Perdue just now is up. When we checked the map, yeah, it's gone up a little bit there.

Again, you start to see this happens. This is live election reporting as they get closer here. His lead has gone up a little bit, David Perdue's lead. Again, these republican counties are finishing the count just as DeKalb County just changed the race.

We move over here, Raphael Warnock is 20,000 votes ahead there as it goes through. So now, a very different conversation than we were having just a few moments ago. One Democrat in the lead and the other Democrat is down 20, 000. That is still tough. That is tough. So you're in a very tough situation. The question is, are there more? Where that just came in?

They just came in from DeKalb Country. We're still missing six percent, still missing six percent. So there are more votes to be had for the Democrats here. If those trends continue, no guarantee, but we see this, there's some predictability to that, the Democrats will pick up here.

And then you're going around the area, right? Well, that's at 95. Ninety-five percent is most of the votes. But look at the lopsided democratic advantage. It is possible, right? It is possible for both of these Democratic candidates to get more votes in Fulton County, where they have a giant, enormous advantage here, at 95 percent.

Most of the vote counted but in the largest county in the state, population wise, voter registration wise, five percent, still a decent chunk of votes.

And you move over here to Cobb County, up to 94 percent. The Democrats, the nets are not as big here. It is not as lopsided in their favor. But they get some advantage here, as well.

So we're having a very different conversation, Wolf, than just a short time ago. I am moving around the area here just to see what is left. You come south, Clayton County. The Atlanta Airport is here. The democratic area here is up to 95 percent.

So you are close here but they are in places where the population is higher, the sixth largest county here, the fourth largest county here, and the largest county here. Yes, you're up to 95 percent, but that still means there are some votes to be had.

BLITZER: In all those counties, there still five percent outstanding.

[23:25:00]

BLITZER: That's a lot of counties, a lot of votes in these democratic counties.

KING: A lot of votes in these democratic counties. So you're searching the red counties, right? You're searching red trying to look for lower numbers, as well. And again, only 34 percent of the vote counted here, nowhere near as many votes, nowhere near as many votes.

You're looking here at 34 percent, a 2,000-vote difference there, and changed. So yes, Republicans will pick up some votes here. If you're David Perdue and you're in the lead right now by 15,000 votes, it is great. Anywhere you can add, you're going to do it.

Kelly Loeffler will pick up some votes here, as well, as they finish. But if you're behind now, it's not enough. You're moving around trying to figure out how many of these small rural counties have votes left. And again, 95, you will get some.

But look at the math. Look at what we're talking about. Places where there are still some republican votes out tend to be smaller, 95 percent here, 94 percent here, so let us just pull back out and double check the math because results are coming in as we speak. That was 19,000 a moment ago. It is 15,000 now. This one is 19,000-lead here.

DeKalb County, we said all night, that would decide whether or not these races were going to get competitive, whether we are going to have a game-changing moment. DeKalb County gave us a game-changing moment. It put Pastor Warnock in the lead and it put Jon Ossoff back in play. Now, we count the rest.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown is getting some more information in DeKalb County. Pamela, what are you learning?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: We are all wondering what is left of DeKalb County. And if you do the math -- I just confirmed it with Gabriel Sterling, with the secretary of state's office in Georgia -- there are still nearly 20,000 votes, early in- person votes left to be uploaded in DeKalb County.

That is important because you look at how close the margins are. We know that the early votes tend to favor the Democrats. This could really make a difference in the race. This nearly -- it's a little over 18,000 early in-person votes that we're still waiting to find out about there in DeKalb County after this latest upload that we are just finding out about.

BLITZER: Interesting indeed, John, another 18,000. There are still five percent outstanding votes in most of these democratic counties in and around Atlanta.

KING: Right. If you have 18,000 votes, you get 80 percent, you can still -- Democrats can still make up some gains. Again, you're talking about -- so you say, oh, 18,000 votes. Well, when you have a race this close now and you come back to the whole thing, that's a big deal.

Outstanding 18,000 votes in a place like DeKalb County, where you know they're going to go disproportionately democratic, again the votes that just came in were above 80 percent, were in that ballpark, so that's going to be more net for the Democrats there.

It is even more important at the moment for Jon Ossoff in the sense that you're 14,000 votes. Again, watch the changes here. You stay with us for a few minutes. That was 19,000. Now, it is 14,000. It may go up again and may go down again.

What's happening? One hundred, fifty-nine counties in the state, a lot of them are getting to the finish line, are getting closer to the finish line, so you get a couple of hundred votes here, a couple of hundred votes here, the numbers jump up and down, but the most votes that were still missing are here, are in the Atlanta and suburban area around it.

I just want to check, Chatham County earlier is up to 82 percent. It's at 82 percent now. So there is also not a large number here, but again, more democratic votes.

BLITZER: We have a special guest who is joining us right now, Tom Mahoney, the Chatham County Board of Elections chairman. Tom, thank you very much for joining us. We're talking about Savannah, other cities in Chatham County. What is the latest there? What can you tell us?

TOM MAHONEY, CHAIRMAN, CHATHAM COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS (via telephone): Yes, thank you, Wolf, it's good to be with you. We've got uploaded about almost 94,000 votes, which is about 45 percent, an outstanding turnout for a runoff election, certainly a record breaker. But we do have probably about 3,000 more absentee ballots that we will process and count tomorrow.

BLITZER: So how many more votes are outstanding in Chatham County right now, Tom?

MAHONEY (via telephone): Well, about 3,000 of those absentee ballots. Now, any of these returns are unofficial and incomplete because we do have overseas military votes and also cure ballots, provisional ballots that can be cured over the next three days.

BLITZER: And how many of those votes are yet to be counted? Those votes from the military personnel, overseas votes, they have until Friday to review and to give us the numbers.

MAHONEY (via telephone): Yeah. We don't expect a lot of those, a large number of those votes. But it is still nowhere -- that is, you know, that is why these returns at this point would be incomplete and unofficial. But we know that we have about 3,000 more to count, absentees that we will count in the morning.

BLITZER: So we won't know the final numbers in Chatham County at least until tomorrow. There are few more votes, not many, that will be counted by Friday.

Tom Mahoney, the Chatham County Board of Elections chairman, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you and your team of election workers are doing. We are grateful to you.

[23:30:00]

BLITZER: Let me update our viewers right now on what's going on. Ninety-six percent of the estimated vote is now in. In one Senate special runoff, Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, he has the lead now over the Republican, Kelly Loeffler. His lead is 25,765. He's got 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.

In the other contest, David Perdue, the Republican, he's ahead but his lead has narrowed a bit right now. His lead is 9,120 over Jon Ossoff, the Democrat, 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. Once again, 96 percent of the estimated vote in the entire state is in. So there still four percent of the votes outstanding.

The Democrat, Raphael Warnock, is on top right now by almost 26,000 votes. The Republican, David Perdue, is on top in the other contest by more than 9,000 votes over Jon Ossoff.

So, we were expecting both of these contests to be relatively similar, but it looks like one of them potentially could go for a Democrat, the other potentially could go for a Republican.

KING: If that is where it ends up, Republicans maintain control of the Senate. That is the national implications of that, if they split. Democrats need them both to get control of the Senate with Vice President Harris in two weeks when she is inaugurated as vice president. She would then break the tie. So the Democrats need them both. They would love to elect Democratic senator from Georgia. That hasn't happened in a long time. But they need both to have a big national change.

BLITZER: But there are a lot of votes still outstanding at DeKalb County. That could easily bring both of these Democrats on top in this overall contest.

KING: Yes, the DeKalb County votes could. I want to go there in a second. I just want to also focus on the conversation you just had in Chatham County, right? So the chief executive tells you there are 3,000 votes still out there, right?

So if you just look at what is happening, Jon Ossoff is getting 59 percent right there. Pastor Warnock is getting 59 percent right there. Democrats tend to overperform their total number in these absentee votes. Let's just say it comes in at about the same.

So you are in this very close race right now. Pastor Warnock has a lead. Jon Ossoff is trying to come back. He is down 3,000 votes. As you do that right now, he could pick up 600.

BLITZER: All right.

KING: He can pick up 600 right there.

BLITZER: Look at this. David Perdue's lead has shrunk once again dramatically. The Republican, David Perdue, his lead is now only 3,696 over the Democrat, Jon Ossoff.

The other Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, his lead has expanded. His lead is now more than 31,381 over the Republican, Kelly Loeffler. So the Democrats are doing better and better as more votes, John King, are coming in from DeKalb County and some of these other --

KING: Right.

BLITZER: -- heavily democratic counties around Atlanta.

KING: And I am told by our control room, the latest votes that came in were here in Fulton County. Again, it's up to 95 percent. So you say, oh, 95 percent, they are mostly in. Yes, they are mostly in, but there is still five percent out in the number one, the biggest population center in the state by far, by the way, 10 percent of statewide population, Atlanta, the suburbs, to the north and the southwest.

And so as more votes come in, especially you see this in urban areas, you get most of the votes in, they're still counting, Jon Ossoff is picking up some votes here, which is why he narrowed the lead there. Raphael Warnock picking up some votes here, as well, which is why -- let me come out of Fulton County so I can look at the statewide numbers -- his lead stretches a little bit here.

So this is what we are going through the final rounds of chess, if you will, as we go into these countries that are in the 90 percent range. The question is, as you bring them up, this is where your concern now again if you're Republicans, we were talking a while ago waiting on DeKalb County, saying well, Senator Perdue's lead is above 100,000, Kelly Loeffler's lead was close to 100,000 at one point.

You think that Republicans are getting confident. We were waiting on this. Would we have a game changing moment? And we did when the numbers came in. Remember, they are still at 93 percent. So this made a giant impact. Completely changed the conversation we were having.

Put the Democrats back in play. Put Pastor Warnock actually in the lead. We still have seven percent out here in a place that is coming in at 83 percent democratic. For Mr. Warnock, 83 percent if you round up, 82 percent for Jon Ossoff.

So if you are the Democrats, you are more votes to come here, you are winning the overwhelming percentage of them. So you are confident. Again, we just saw those votes in Fulton. There's more to come. They're coming in lopsided in favor of the Democrats.

You move over to Cobb County. Still more votes to come in. It is not as lopsided but it's still likely to be, we are not certain, but likely to be a net gain for the Democrats there. And so here is when you get into crunch time.

And you are looking at the map. There are no places where we have no votes. And in most places, if you're the Republicans and you're looking at your areas, OK, you're going to get a few more votes in Jenkins County. But again, look, it is smaller.

You might pick up a couple dozen. You might pick up a hundred or more as you go from 94 to 100, but can you match? Can you match is the challenge now for Republicans or at least try to stay competitive with what we're seeing happen here.

In Atlanta and the suburban loop around it, that blue circle you see there, and you had the conversation in Chatham County, again, 3,000 votes out, you think that is not a big deal, if the Democrats get 60 percent of those, they get a net gain of 600.

[23:35:05]

KING: If they do better than 60 percent, which in some of the absentee voting we've seen them doing, they could get even more than that. Every one of them matters now. So that is what you're going through. What is out there and who is likely to get a net out of it? And in most of the places you see right now, it's the Democrats you're thinking. We are going to gain more when those come in.

BLITZER: If the Democrats win -- once again, if the Democrats win, both of these contests, they will be the majority in the United States Senate as the new Biden administration getting ready to take off.

We are watching a dramatic moment in American history right now. We will stay on top of it. Don't go away. The drama continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [23:40:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have another dramatic key race alert right now. Look what has just happened in the contest between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The lead is basically tied right now. Perdue's lead over Jon Ossoff is 456 votes. Let me repeat that. Perdue's lead over Ossoff is only 456 votes. An hour or so ago, it was more than 115,000. It's now down to 456 with 97 percent of the estimated vote is in.

The other contest, Raphael Warnock, the Democrat, his lead has expanded almost 35,000-vote lead over the Republican, Kelly Loeffler, 34,692-vote lead, Raphael Warnock over Kelly Loeffler.

The stakes here are really significant, really enormous for the next few years as the Biden administration is getting ready to take office. The balance of power right now in the United States Senate, 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats in the democratic caucus, two independents, two caucus with the Democrats.

The two contests tonight will determine if the Democrats were to win both of them, and it is looking pretty good, if you are a Democrat right now. If they were to win both of them, it would be 50/50 in the new administration.

The new vice president, Kamala Harris, is the president of the Senate. She would break the tie. The Democrats would be in the majority in the Senate. Chuck Schumer would be the majority leader. Mitch McConnell would be the minority leader.

The stakes clearly are enormous, John King, as we are watching this. And the votes are outstanding right now, only about three percent of the votes outstanding. Ninety-seven percent of the vote is in. But the votes are outstanding pretty much in democratic counties, in areas where the Democrats have built up significant leads.

KING: Yes. And the places where you're looking at Republican counties are at 93, 94, 95, 96, they tend to be smaller. So, yes, there are some net gains for Republicans out there in those smaller counties but what we have watched play out in the last 30 to 45 minutes is very indicative of what is so fascinating about this race.

Why did the race just changed in the last couple of minutes? It is because of Newton County. Again, Newton County here, let me come back statewide, this circle around Atlanta, metropolitan Atlanta, the suburbs around it, this is one big giant suburb.

Republicans traditionally are much more competitive than we are seeing. In the presidential election, President Trump is toxic in the suburbs. And now we are watching in Georgia tonight, can the Democrats keep their support in the suburbs?

Well, you're a little far out here from Atlanta. But in Newton County, you see what just happened. We just got up to 89 percent of the vote right here. Wolf, I just want to walk through the map because we have been talking throughout the night about -- so, you're at 94 and 95 percent, where does it matter when you bring in those final votes? Well, you just mentioned how close these races.

This is what happened when we got more votes in from Newton County. So you had 9,982 for the Democrat, Jon Ossoff. Forgive me for changing -- that is 73 percent. And then you have 3,620, 27 percent. You have a net gain there, 6,500 votes, bang. Jon Ossoff comes back.

You saw very similar dynamic just in Newton County in the other race, as well. So what happens? John Ossoff was behind. He closes. He closes significantly, right? You're down close to 7,000 votes. Suddenly, you're down 456 votes.

If you're Pastor Warnock, you add 6,000 votes to what is your lead now. You are stretching it out. You're saying how many more of these are there? How many places can you go where Democrats are going to see a net of hundreds, if not a thousand or more, in this case 6,000 or more?

So you go through. That was in Newton. We're only up to 89 percent. So we still have 11 percent. So you're likely to see again Democrats getting 58 percent, 57 percent rounded up, that's 58 on the other.

So in the early votes that are being counted, the absentee ballots are getting higher than that. But even if they just break with that, even if they stick with that, the 57, 58 percent, it's a giant night gain.

So you move in here, Rockdale County, Democrats are getting 72, 73 if you round up. Again, not a ton of votes still out but votes out, votes out in a place where -- so more votes to come there. Then you keep coming in here. This was the game-changer and it has the potential to be the decider, if you will, as we go on.

You are at 93 percent as DeKalb County. We are still waiting for more votes to come in. There's the potential here again for Democrats to have a significant net when the rest of the ballots come in in DeKalb County. We watched this in the last 30 minutes.

Yes, Fulton County is up to 95 percent. Most people would think, well, it's not going to change anything. No, it's the largest county in the state. It's 10 percent of the statewide population. It is absolutely critical to Democrats in any statewide election. And as the late votes trickle in, every time we get more votes, the Democrats are moving and gaining right here.

[23:45:00]

KING: So you pull out. You look at the picture right now. We were talking a long time ago how big is that Loeffler lead. Can she sustain it? Warnock is now in the lead in that race.

Now, you are asking the question, 456 votes, if you're David Perdue, you are not comfortable at all because you know most of the votes still to be counted are here and 3,000 or so here. What makes that important? Blue and blue. That's the bulk of what is still left to be counted.

BLITZER: Yeah, the Democrats are on the verge potentially of winning both, both of the Senate races in Georgia, dramatically changing what is happening here in Washington, D.C. We're watching all of this unfold. More numbers, new numbers will be coming in. We'll update you. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[23:50:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: What a dramatic and historic night. Take a look at this. Right now, with 98 percent of the vote, estimated vote is in, Democrat Raphael Warnock is leading the Republican Kelly Loeffler by 35,132 votes. He has 50.4 percent to Kelly Loeffler's 49.6 percent.

David Perdue, the Republican, his lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff is now 1,888. It is so close. It is almost a tie right now. Ninety-eight percent of the vote is in in Georgia right now.

I want to bring in Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who is watching this as closely as anyone. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you and all of your colleagues in Georgia are doing. Right now, how many outstanding votes based on what you are hearing, secretary, are there in Georgia right now?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: We believe that the total vote will probably be pushing 4.6 million. When you think, we had five million that just showed up in November. It's just tremendous turnout.

BLITZER: So there are still a significant number of potential votes. Are most of those outstanding votes based on what we are seeing in those democratic-leaning counties in and around Atlanta, where the Democrats clearly have huge advantages?

RAFFFENSPERGER: There will be a lot from those areas. But also the statewide and nationally ballots that need to be scanned and then tabulated. So, we will have a lot of those results probably done by tomorrow. Hopefully we'll have a better idea of where this all goes. It is very close as you can see.

BLITZER: What is your sense right now, Mr. Secretary? How does it look for the Republicans? And I know you are a Republican. How does it look for the two Democrats?

RAFFFENSPERGER: It's very close. I know one thing. A lot of people are looking for that mail coming in on Friday for those 17,000 military ballots. That will be very important.

BLITZER: Are they just military ballots or other ballots as well, other kinds of ballots?

RAFFFENSPERGER: Its military and overseas ballots. The deadline is 5 p.m. on Friday.

BLITZER: So 17,000 although it could be less. That's potentially the maximum amount of those ballots coming in from overseas. Mr. Secretary, John King is with us. He wants to discuss with you, as well.

KING: I want to come back, Mr. Secretary. Again, thank you for your work not only today and recent weeks but back to November. I know it has been a trying time for you and your family and for the state. We appreciate your integrity. You just mentioned, do you think the universe will be 4.6 million in the runoff?

RAFFFENSPERGER: Yeah, last number I saw was about 4,225,000. We got some since then. But when we look at what is outstanding, it will be over 4.5, probably maybe short of 4.6. It's a very, very strong turnout.

KING: It's extraordinary in a runoff election. We're looking where our numbers are right now. We are just shy of 4.4. I know (INAUDIBLE) a little bit since you walked outside to join us.

And so I want to follow back up on Wolf. When it turns to the universe of outstanding, you know that 159 counties as well as anybody, I've been looking through around here, and I'm in the Atlanta metro area, you can't see what I am doing on the map here, but Newton County is at 89 percent, Rockdale is at 99.

You come over, DeKalb is at 93. Fulton, we've just seen some more democratic votes come in there. It's at 95. Cobb, where Senator Perdue just made up some ground actually, even though Democrats are leading in the county, he has made up some ground, at 95.

Is that where, when you think there's that many votes still out there, are the bulk of them in terms of large baskets of votes here in the Atlanta metro area or are they scattered?

RAFFFENSPERGER: They are somewhat scattered. I know Pickens County, Cobb County, few other counties are really going to help the Republicans, and then the other counties will help the democratic voters. We actually have three races here. We have a public service commissioner, and I think he might be in really good shape for the Republican candidate.

KING: What does that tell you? If that is the case, we are in extraordinary cycle. This is the final verdict of 2020 carrying over into January 2021 in your state. Obviously, President Trump lost your state. Joe Biden won it narrowly. There's no question about that even though the president continues to challenge your recount and your recount and your recount. There's no question about that.

But if you have these races so competitive tonight, Reverent Warnock ahead right now, Jon Ossoff still in place, especially even though Perdue leads, when you look at the outstanding vote, does it tell you anything about the national climate versus the state climate when you say the Republican candidate for statewide race is doing pretty well? RAFFFENSPERGER: It really shows you that we are a very competitive state. We obviously have big turnout. Both parties have fought hard to get their vote out. And so we have to wait and see how this shakes out.

[23:55:01]

BLITZER: Very quickly, Mr. Secretary, we are approaching midnight. Do you think a few more hours they will be counting votes tonight or are they going to take a break?

RAFFFENSPERGER: They will probably take a break here, I think, in the next hour. They're trying to get as much work as they can get done tonight. Then get everything -- you know, at least recorded exactly how many ballots are out there and then get as much scanning done tomorrow. Hopefully by noon, we will have a better idea where we are.

BLITZER: We'll watch it together with you. Secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you and your colleagues are doing. We are so grateful to see democracy in action in Georgia. Appreciate it very much. Good luck to you.

RAFFFENSPERGER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let us take a quick break. We will have much more coming up. The drama continues in Georgia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)