Show: HARDBALL Date: November 6, 2018 Guest: Valerie (ph), Alan Gomez
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Many of the Republicans watching, that candidate is named 23. The 23 seats the Democrats need to take control of the House.
Now, the 7:00 hour has arrived and we have the following projections.
In Indiana in the Senate race there, he Donnelley race, we are calling it too close to call at the top of the 7:00 p.m. hour.
In the Vermont, no surprise the reelection of Bernie Sanders, the independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
In Virginia, no surprise, Hillary Clinton`s former running mate, Tim Kaine. This is the race Kaine was in against Cory Stuart who made a big splash early. Not so much along the homestretch.
The U.S. Senate at this hour and this of course is fluid and will change all night, that is the undecided portion in gray of the U.S. Senate. We will fill in those seats as we go.
And a race so many of you are following, so many people have asked about. Georgia, governor too early to call. Abrams versus Kemp.
But Steve Kornacki sure looked busy over there at that board.
Steve, what do you have at the top of seven?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, they are starting to close right now. As you can see, we gave got it. There is two that we are keeping an eye on, two battleground districts here in Georgia, right outside Atlanta. And just seeing quickly, it doesn`t look like there is any vote yet,
But let me just tell you, these are so important, obviously. Because for Democrats these are flip opportunities. But also these are directly related to that governor`s race. And let me just quickly show you how the sixth district here of Georgia. Remember this one, this is where Democrats dumped $30 million last year trying to get John through special election. That didn`t work out. And yet here we go again. This is one of the most closely watched races out there.
The story here, this is right outside of Atlanta, this is the suburbs, about half the district here is the Fulton county portion. Largest county in the state. Now this is where Karen Handel in the special election did well here. But if you are getting that surge Democratic, it is Stacey Abrams has been talking about, this is one of the places you will see it in Fulton County, in this portion of the district.
You will also see it in the Cobb County. This is about a quarter of the district. Handel lost here in special election. If you have surge Democratic turnout for the governor`s race, you will see it here, too. You probably see a little bit of it in Cobb County too, the Cobb County portion of this district.
So, if, if, Stacey Abrams is delivering in the governor`s race, especially in this Atlanta area, it could spill over to this district. And it could also spill over right next door to seventh district. This was sort of a late arrival on the Democratic target list and the national media`s list.
You have Rob Woodall, the incumbent there. That he is in a top race. I`m told he may have some numbers here in Florida. Let me just quickly see, we do.
So Florida, huge early voting state, right. We get a lot of vote. We get it very fast. You see, we have already got over 100,000 dumb. But right now, Rick Scott, the challenger, running ahead here. But you can see all of this is coming from one county.
Paso - this is interesting. Pasco County, in 2016, was the county we looked at, the gulf coast region. And we said something is happening here for Trump. Now, this is just early vote. This is just early, but when Donald Trump, Pasco County, north of St. Petersburg, what you get here, a lot of retirees, a lot of folks from the Midwest. They come down to gulf coast. They are in Pasco County. Early on here. So I`m not saying read anything into this.
But keep an eye on this going because this is the question we are asking tonight in a Senate race and in the governor`s race is can Scott, can Desantis, perform at the Trump level in places like Pasco County or does it recede? Does it go back to where Mitt Romney was in 2012? That wasn`t enough for Mitt Romney in 2012. It was enough for Trump in 2016. So getting our first.
This is another one to keep an eye on, Citrus County. It will be a Republican county. The question is how much it is going to be a Republican county? So just getting a scattering in. And it looks like some Democratic areas. Osceola County, the story in Osceola County, going to be largest Hispanic vote here particularly there is a large Puerto Rican population in Osceola County, talking about like Kissimmee here. Shall Bill Nelson expected to win here? But again, we talked about, you know, Puerto Rican vote, especially in light of the disaster there last year. What effect might that have? This is a county to keep an eye on. So the vote, the early vote starting to be tabulated fast here in Florida. You got three counties spitting it out. Just try to make some sense of it. And I will let you know when I have got a little bit more for you.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Steve, can I -- not to put you on the spot here for a second, but out of Virginia, NBC has projected that the winner of the Senate race in Virginia will be Tim Kaine. To get that kind of projection right at poll closing means that it was not a close contest between him and Cory Stuart. But it does make me wonder about the Virginia House races that have been such a point of focus for Democrats. I know about a handful of Virginia races that Democrats think they might be able to flip. I also know that Virginia tends to count a little slowly. It looks like we are not seeing any numbers yet out of those races.
KORNACKI: Yes, we are not. But you mentioned, so Cory Stuart, the Republican we are now saying is going to lose that Senate race, that Republican were nervous about the effect he might have down. Keep an eye in particular, there are four Republican held seats in Virginia Democrats are targeting.
Number one up here is the tenth district right outside of Washington, D.C. It would be a disaster for Democrats if they don`t get that one. But keep an eye on this one, the fifth district. Now this is a Republican held seat here. It is an open seat. The population is kind of spread out. But look what is right in the middle of it, Charlottesville. Albemarle County, outside Charlottesville here.
Charlottesville itself, a very Democratic town. You expect the Democratic strength to be there. But if you look at the combination of the legacy of Charlottesville from a year ago, the impact that might had on the local population, also the fact of Cory Stuart, with all of his controversies being at the top of the ticket, this is a particularly interesting one to watch. Democratic haves targeted it, Leslie Cockburn their nominee. Polling has showed close in this race.
So it is one of the four to keep an eye on here. The other one we are monitoring too. There is the (INAUDIBLE). I`m trying to get over there. I will get that in a second. There is the (INAUDIBLE) district. It`s the suburbs of Richmond and then also Scott Taylor down in Virginia Beach. Four in total in Virginia. We are keeping an eye on as well where Democrats are targeting.
WILLIAMS: Steve, just smack it. It usually work.
MADDOW: There you go. Yes. Come on.
WILLIAMS: They are in this together. Never apologize. We are in this with you. Any of us who tried to make an iPad work. It`s fantastic.
No, no problem.
KORNACKI: Let me just check to see if we got some in Florida. And I will - will just shout right back to you. How about that?
WILLIAMS: I think that`s a polite way of saying you guys talk among yourself.
MADDOW: Obviously, the east coast closing. 7:00 closings. 7:00 eastern. We knew was going to be a big deal. We are not getting a ton of surprise at this point. But I mean, all the way up to Maine, all the way down to the southernmost district in Florida, there are races that the Democrats think they are going to flip along the east coast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MADDOW: And I mean, the President`s approval rating is bad but it is not terrible, you know. The Democratic wins tonight in the exit polls, the first round of exit polls, all look like they are going the Democrats direction.
I mean, at some point, you know, the Democratic confidence tonight is going to run up against real numbers. But it starting to see these numbers come in on the east coast. You can just sort of feel 2016 coming washing back over you rights now in terms of expectations, pollings, and yet we don`t have the real numbers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And have to talk about - I mean, Florida, Florida, Florida. So much PTSD tied to Florida 2000. Election night. And I think on election night, sitting here in 2016 when Trump won Florida, that was when the night started to turn from the Trump campaign perspective. I mean, when they won Florida, I think that was the first time. And people have reported this up. They didn`t write a victory speech. They didn`t think they were going to win until Florida went for Trump.
So to see Florida and all the polls of it, Andrew Gillum up a little bit, I mean, to see Florida now possibly swinging back to being run by a Democrat is remarkable. And, you know, I know there`s so much, talking about PTSD, there is so much trauma from getting it wrong from our side of it and for the Democrats. But this is - if Democrats have a good night in Florida, that says something really important about the next few years.
MADDOW: And in Virginia, honestly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
MADDOW: Because Virginia has off year elections at the state level, Virginia has already had a chance to weigh in on the post-Trump landscape. And when Virginia went to go vote in the first nationally watched elections after Trump was elected, they went blue hugely, right. That`s popular vote for state legislature. It was like double digits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it was amazing. And the polling before that interestingly did not really catch that blueness of that wave, which was kind of interesting.
MADDOW: And Democrats have tried to get up the vote and turn out and then enthusiasm and stuff that you can`t necessarily measure on paper.
ROBINSON: Democrats almost took the House of Delegates within one seat, which was not ever going to happen.
MADDOW: Well, had the state knock from gerrymandered, they would have taken - they would -- had that legislature not the gerrymandered, they would have taken the House of Delegates by a mile.
MADDOW: I mean, that`s the other thing that is going on tonight. And we don`t talk really about it because it has become the climate and so we don`t talk about it whether we have regular storms. But the country has gerrymandered to structurally benefit Republican candidates in such a way that if you look at the popular vote for Congress tonight, I mean, Democrats may need to win the popular vote by double digits in order to have a chance at winning having control of Congress.
ROBINSON: That is why these governor races and state legislative races are as important as these congressional races because they will redraw the redistricting after the next census.
MADDOW: Yes. If the playing field is going to be un-tilted, they will be the one to do it.
WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews, I owe. I just got the eye from Steve Kornacki across the room with the board.
What do you have?
KORNACKI: You know, let`s take a look. We showed you Florida Senate. Let`s take a look at Florida governor now. Look. You see a lot of gray on the screen. But we say so much of the vote in Florida is early. So, I`m going to show you a screen. There`s going to be a number that is a little misleading on it. I mean, I try to put it in perspective because we got a lot more of the vote. And it looks like, this says one percent is in in Pinellas County.
One percent of Election Day precinct are now reporting. You add this up, you got more than 275,000 votes that are counted here. We estimate based on our projections, that is well over half the vote that is going to coming in from Pinellas County. This is St. Petersburg. Think of that.
Now take a look here. We said this is the area that gulf coast where Trump did well over-performed in 2016. In 2016 Trump won Pinellas 49/47, with a little over half the vote. The every vote now in and tabulated, Desantis running three point short of the Trump pace there.
Now, that is encouraging early sign for Democrats. Obviously, it raises the question, Election Day vote. Republicans seem to have a surge with the Election Day vote in 2016. Independents seem to break their way. So what happens with the remaining let`s say 40 percent of the vote from this county when it is tabulated, the same day vote. Was there another Republican surge? Can Desantis match that number? Or did independents break differently this year? If you are looking at this number out of Pinellas County at the end of the night, that would be good news for Democrats. Same story, north of there.
We were mentioning Pasco County a minute ago. Again, we expect this is more than half of the vote. It`s already been tabulated here. It says say percent. The early vote is not routed through precincts. The early vote goes in to the county. So it is a misleading number. This is more than a half of the vote. It has been counted. And you see again, Desantis running three points underneath the Trump 16 total there. He is ahead. We expected him to win here. But look at that, 22 point margin there for Trump in 2016. It`s clocking in at 12 right now.
Again, I said is it going to be closer to Romney or closer to Trump. This is closer to Romney. The question is when they count that same day vote, was there any kind of Republican surge. So we are starting to get a significant cure of the vote in. And I`m just checking here. Tallahassee, by the way, just saw this pop up. Again, take Leon County. Of course, Andrew Gillum is the mayor of Tallahassee. This is a Democratic area. But you see probably not a surprised here. He is over-performing where Clinton finished in 2016 in a Democratic county, his home county. Bus so, Gillum again, more than half the vote here in Leon County. Out to 2-1 advantage there.
So you see statewide that`s what it all adds up to there. But really, that is my question. Some of these key counties in 2016 where Donald Trump over-performed and surprised everybody on Election Day. Can Desantis who tethered himself so closely to Trump, trying to replicate that strategy, can he replicate that performance or do we look at something more like 2012?
WILLIAMS: Steve, thank you. And thank you for the context and every case showing us the Trump performance and in some cases the Romney performance and just holler if you have results that we need to go to.
In the meantime, we keep telling folks it`s going to be a minute before we have answers on Georgia.
Katie Tur is in Atlanta for us at a polling location where people are still in line to vote even though the polls have closed officially.
KATIE TUR, MSNBC HOST: Brian, you just missed the mini celebration here as the last person one up to begin to process of voting here at this church.
This has been a pact polling place all day. The workers got here, and let`s walk over here, the workers got here 6:00 a.m. this morning. They expect to be here for a little while longer counting the balance. They say the turnout here has been presidential election level. This is not a midterm election. People are excited about voting.
Let`s try to talk to somebody in line.
Hey, ma`am, can I just ask you, you were one of the last people in line. You came in at the wire. They closed the doors right behind you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TUR: Why was it so important for you to come out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, for obvious reasons.
TUR: So in this race, are you voting because the governor`s race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is one of the most important elections ever.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of the state of the country and because of the state of the union, I would say.
TUR: May I ask who you`re voting for?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
TUR: No? You don`t have to tell me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
TUR: You don`t have to tell me. Don`t you worry.
What about you? You were - you are voting for Stacey? You are happy to say that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
TUR: Why are you voting for Stacey?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I feel comfortable.
TUR: Yes. Were you concerned about voter suppression at all or any of the issues?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
TUR: No. Having a hard time at all getting your vote cast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. Well, it was hard to get up here. And I was ready to vote.
TUR: They had lines here, guys, that stretched around the block for hours. I was talking to the lady in charge here.
Valerie, you want to come talk to me real fast?
Valerie, I want to ask you. What`s it been like here all day watching people come in to vote?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. We got here at six.
TUR: It`s just one word, guys, crazy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Crazy. We got here at 6:00 in the morning. So we had lines all day.
TUR: Yes. Any issues at all voting?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People in the wrong precinct and not having patience to wait.
TUR: And it cast provisional ballot when they do that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had about maybe 15.
TUR: Got it. And you heard some problems at various other places, but nothing here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No problems.
TUR: No problems here.
You guys have been watching along with us. There have been problems at (INAUDIBLE) county polling places. They have extended some of the polling times. And I think about two polling places in this state all in all. I mean, this is you guys are talking about, this a state to watch. It`s a race to watch. Yes, we are focused on congressional races and what happens in the Senate and what happens in the House, but the governor`s races are so important. If the Democrats can take over a number of governor`s mansions across the country, that could really change the way voting maps look in 2020, at 2022 and 2024 going forward. Because these governors will have the power to veto any maps if they are taking over from Republicans any maps that are drawn by Republicans. So it could look a lot different in the coming years.
WILLIAMS: Katie Tur in Atlanta.
Katie, thank you for that.
Reminder to all our viewers that elections are local matters. Elections are successful because of people like the woman we just met.
MADDOW: Valerie, my heart goes out to you.
How was it? Crazy. Problems? No. That`s the determination. I love it.
WILLIAMS: She speaks for all of us.
Another break for us. When we come back, we have been joined by Steve Schmidt. We have been joined by Chuck Todd. We will ask them both to weigh in on what we are witnessing this midterm election night 2018.
MADDOW: From the northwesternmost point of the United States all the way up in Alaska, where Don Young is running tonight -- he`s been in Congress since the year I was born.
MADDOW: All the way down to the southeastern corner of the country.
WILLIAMS: Getting personal.
MADDOW: The Florida Keys, where Florida -- where Florida Republicans are worried about holding onto one of their House seats, we have got battlegrounds all over the country, literally to the corners.
We have got results in now from Florida.
And Steve Kornacki is looking at some of those endangered incumbent Republicans in some of those key House races in Florida state.
What do you got?
And I -- also, we have just in the last -- as you were sort of introducing it, we got some key counties coming in, in Florida statewide. So let`s just reset there.
In the race for governor, this is where it stands now. Well, over two million votes have been counted statewide. Let me show you some of what`s just come in. Now, this is a county right here. This was one of those places where Donald Trump outperformed Mitt Romney. The net was six point -- it was a six-point improvement for Trump over Romney in terms of the margin.
You see Trump won here by 20 points. The margin right now, 13 points, again, the early vote in this county. But this is more than half the vote has been counted here. So, DeSantis, again, that is closer to a Mitt Romney number. In fact, I think that might be actually the exact Mitt Romney number -- let me just see if I can get -- yes, 56-43 was the Mitt Romney-Barack Obama number.
So, again, the question with the same-day vote, is there any kind of Republican surge there? We can check in, in Miami-Dade as well? We are getting, again, well over half the vote, I think, out of Miami-Dade.
You can see here, this is a bit of a fallback so far from what Clinton got in 2016, 64 percent for her, 59 percent for Gillum right now. So those are the two big ones that have come in, Hillsborough as well, Tampa coming in, huge county here, again, Gillum four points up on the Clinton total here.
So, you add that up statewide, and Gillum is out to that advantage there. And if we look in the Senate race, what does that look like in the Bill Nelson Senate race? It looks pretty similar right now. Let`s just see if he`s getting any different numbers.
He`s getting about the same out of Miami-Dade. He is getting about the same amount of Brevard. And then if you look in Hillsborough here, yes, so it`s not looking that much different across the board. The question there is some kind of same-day surge for Republicans to get them back to Trump levels right there.
On the House side, there is one competitive race there that Democrats had been targeting we`re starting to get some returns from here. Again, this is a vacancy. This is an open seat, I should say. The Republican incumbent, Dennis Ross, decided not to run for reelection. We got two counties coming here.
This is Hillsborough. This is about half the district population-wise. Trump carried this portion by a couple points in 2016. Good news for the Democrats, they have gotten out ahead here with more than half the vote counted. Probably, though, when you look at this district, they might need to be a head by a little bit more.
This is looking -- this is going to be a Republican area, we expect here. So, the initial indication may be a little more positive for Republicans in that competitive district. But, again, statewide, you can see early on -- and not so early on anymore -- we got a lot of vote in -- Gillum and Nelson tracking pretty closely to each other and running ahead right now.
WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki, thank you.
We have a camera dedicated to you tonight. So, later, when it gets really tight, just flap your arms, and we will -- we will come over there to you.
We are joined here by a native Floridian who also happens to be the NBC News political director, Chuck Todd.
What do you make of it?
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, first of all, I wanted to show Rachel.
You went from Alaska to Key West. But it`s not fair to our friends in Guam.
MADDOW: That`s -- you know what?
MADDOW: Again, I...
MADDOW: ... on Guam.
TODD: On Guam.
And, apparently, that`s the first flip of the night?
MADDOW: Is it really?
TODD: Yes. Remember, we learned who -- yes, the Democrat is now the next governor of Guam.
MADDOW: So Democrats have picked up the Guam governorship.
TODD: They have picked up, Guam, all right? So there it is.
MADDOW: I stand corrected. See, we needed you.
TODD: What is that?
MADDOW: We needed you.
TODD: Who knew?
TODD: What`s interesting to me about Florida is the fact that those two races aligned suddenly, the Senate and the governor`s race.
For most of this campaign, they had been -- they had stayed...
WILLIAMS: Separate tracks.
TODD: That`s right.
Gillum has sort of started to pull a small, but consistent lead. And Nelson and Scott were coin flips. Scott ran a brilliant campaign for, I would argue, a year -- well, let`s say, if it was one year of a campaign, he ran a really brilliant campaign for 50 of 52 weeks.
And in the last two weeks, because he stayed away from the president, he distanced himself from the president, he tried to run above -- above everything. The president came twice, and Scott had to be with him twice, once in Fort Myers 10 days ago, once the other night in Pensacola.
The pattern of where the president visited in the last two weeks and the downturn in the statewide number for that Republican candidate was pretty consistent across the country, when I have talked to Republican pollsters.
Ted Cruz lost four points after the president visited.
TODD: That`s why McSally and Heller didn`t want him to come in the last -- in the last visit.
I think that Scott`s going to ask himself, should -- should he -- look, I had a strategist say to me, here`s the problem with Trump. You`re damned if you do, damned if you don`t. You can`t win without his base. And with him, you can`t win the swing voters.
MATTHEWS: Explain how Gillum played that, because Gillum, in the last week, we have been trying like hell to get him on our show, like everybody has.
MATTHEWS: He`s determined to stay local.
TODD: Well, I think, in a governor`s race, you want to.
TODD: Look, I think nationalizing him got him the nomination in some ways.
But at the end of the day, people -- most voters aren`t like us, putting them in red and blue T-shirts, OK?
WILLIAMS: Thank God.
TODD: Most people, when they decide on their governor, actually think about the person first.
And one of the things that I think we`re going to -- look, Andrew Gillum has run a really good campaign, but he was helped by one of the worst gubernatorial campaigns I have seen in my life in the state of Florida.
Ron DeSantis never explained why he wanted to be governor. He just decided one day, I want to be governor. Donald Trump, can I be governor? Will you endorse me? He does.
I talked to one high Republican, Nicolle, in Florida, somebody that I know you would be familiar with. He said to me -- I asked him, why is he running? And he said, well, I want to support Supreme Court justices. And this person said to him, OK, that`s on day one. What are you going to do the rest of your -- rest of your term?
And he had no idea.
TODD: So, DeSantis was looking to step up in office, but didn`t have -- and somebody else told me he`d rather have been a senator than a governor.
MATTHEWS: That was clear, because he wanted to pick federal judges.
MATTHEWS: I mean, governors don`t get to do that.
TODD: Well, the state Supreme Court does have three open seats that on day one of the new governor...
MADDOW: You will get to, yes.
TODD: You do get to appoint those three.
MADDOW: Has Bill Nelson run a better reelection campaign than people have been giving him credit for?
TODD: I -- it`s hard to say, because I think -- look, I think he stayed more competitive with Rick Scott than he gets credit for.
But it`s the DSCC that gets credit for this for Nelson. And I would say this, because they -- they poured all the extra money that was necessary. Rick Scott is his own super PAC, OK?
He put in some, I think -- I mean, he spent more than both the super PAC and Nelson combined. I think he got into the $60 or $70 million. But they have kept Nelson alive, kept him competitive, when he could have been swamped with money.
Gillum, though, is the special sauce for Nelson, OK, because Nelson was -- look, Scott in isolation, I think, wins this race against Nelson just by simply saying he`s been in Washington too long.
MADDOW: Right. And here`s a billion dollars.
TODD: That`s right.
Gillum was -- look, the governor`s race was the marquee race, not the Senate race.
TODD: This was Gillum. And I think...
MADDOW: And at the end, you see Nelson up there with Barack Obama, with Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson up there looking strong, looking like he`s part of a winning team.
TODD: By the -- way and here`s the irony to all of you this.
Bill Nelson`s people swore Graham was going to be the better ticket mate for them.
TODD: Turned out to be absolutely wrong.
If Stacey -- listen, we`re very early. If Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum win tonight, I think it transforms how Democrats run in the South. I think this idea -- if Phil Bredesen doesn`t get close, but Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams wins, I think that this will -- this just will transform how Democrats think about running in the South.
You don`t -- the clinging to the middle and hoping it inspires the Democratic base, Michelle Nunn will now look probably -- and Jason Carter, who both just got clobbered in Georgia running that kind of ago, are probably looking at Stacey Abrams going, oh, you know what, maybe some of these progressive Democrats were right.
WILLIAMS: Look at how Bredesen handled Kavanaugh.
TODD: And look at -- and look at how Beto O`Rourke -- I mean, you look at Texas and Tennessee. Bredesen chose one way to run. Beto chose another way to run.
MADDOW: Beto has suspense tonight. Bredesen doesn`t.
TODD: It looks -- perhaps, but...
MADDOW: Yes. We will see.
TODD: Yes, I mean, that`s -- I`m just saying that`s something that Democrats in the South, I think, ought to be thinking about, is Gillum and Abrams may be providing a more fruitful path for them.
WALLACE: I think it also -- and it makes Trump`s racist campaign musings more toxic for Republicans.
It makes it a harder bet to stand with Trump, when you`re running against candidates whose very presence on the campaign trail sends the message anyone with kids wants to send. It makes Trump`s toxicity far more perilous...
TODD: Can I just tell you, and it also -- I want to remind people -- don`t just assume you know how the Mississippi runoff is going to go.
OK? There`s going to be runoff. There`s a chance that decides control of the United States Senate. But when you see how other Democrats are -- the -- how Stacey Adams and Gillum ran in the South and how Beto, my Mike Espy is going to look at that, and it`s just going to make -- like I said, I think it transforms how Democrats run in the South going forward.
MATTHEWS: I think the most inspiring picture is what you mentioned a couple of days ago, when you saw Barack Obama coming in and holding up the two hands of Bill Nelson and Gillum.
And it was inspiring, African-American guy helping out the white candidate, in blunt terms.
WILLIAMS: You see there on the graphic what we`re coming up on. We`re 10 seconds away here, 7:30 poll closings.
And, Steve Kornacki, we`re coming to you after we have the results.
So far at least tonight, in the 7:30 closings, in West Virginia, a closely watched Senate race, Joe Manchin, speaking of deciding how to handle the Kavanaugh matter, too early to call.
Ohio Senate, too early to call, though Sherrod Brown is in the lead thus far and has the advantage. The Senate at this hour -- again, pay attention to the undecided, the vacant gray seats in the center over party balance this early in the evening.
Ohio governor, too early to call at 7:30 Eastern time. And one of the big races we keep touching on, so many people are following, Georgia governor, too early to call.
Over to Steve Kornacki at the board.
What do you have?
MADDOW: Steve, I understand that we have got some new important numbers out of some of those Virginia House districts that we have been looking at?
We said -- remember, there are four, four Republican-held seats Democrats are really going after in Virginia. Where we have got the most votes in right now is right outside Washington, D.C., the 10th District.
This is a name you have been hearing a lot about this year, Barbara Comstock, running for reelection in a district Hillary Clinton won by 10 points. So, it`s less than 48 percent in right now, again, but we have got well over 40,000 votes.
And, interestingly, you can see where this vote is coming from. And I think it`s going to be pretty instructive. This is Loudoun County right here, outside Washington, D.C. This is the biggest chunk of the district. About 40 percent of the vote overall is going to come out of Loudoun County.
That`s where most of the vote that`s in is from. And you can see Wexton, the Democratic challenger, running at 56 percent; 56 percent is the exact same vote total that -- vote share, I should say, that Hillary Clinton got in the Loudoun County portion of the 10th District of Virginia.
So she is running at, Wexton is, Hillary Clinton`s numbers right now. And Hillary Clinton carried this district by 10 points. So, again, of the four districts, the four Democratic districts Democrats are targeting in Virginia, the 10th is the one they felt the most confident in.
It would be a catastrophe for them, I think, if they did not carry the 10th. But they are getting out of the largest part of that district the number they want to see right now.
We can also show you starting to get about 20,000 votes now in, in the 7th District. Again, this is routed around the Richmond suburbs here. Dave Brat, who set off that political tsunami in 2014, knocking off Eric Cantor. Henrico County, this is about a third of the district right here in this county. Still a lot more vote to come.
This is encouraging for Democrats here, Spanberger running ahead early. But this is a place -- I can just give you the number here, which I think she`s got a kind of shoot for in this part of the district. Hillary Clinton got 52 percent of the vote in this part of the district. And Hillary Clinton didn`t carry the district.
Spanberger might need to get that a little bit higher as the votes continue to come in. But, again, overall in the 7th district, Spanberger out in front by a point right now. And we can very quickly show you. We said that 5th District there in Virginia, the Charlottesville-based district, starting to get some numbers.
You see here Riggleman, the Republican out in front. Now, what hasn`t come in yet here is Charlottesville itself, Charlottesville, the biggest sort of single city in this district.
What has come in, down here by Roanoke, this is the most pro-Trump part of the district. And you can see Riggleman, these are Trump numbers so far, still more vote to come in. But the question was, would there be slippage in Trump country? In the Trump country portion of this district, Riggleman is getting Trump level support right now.
So that is what we`re seeing in Virginia right now.
WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki, thank you.
MADDOW: In terms of the -- in terms of what we are watching and as stuff starts to come in at this point, one of the things that we are keeping in mind is the national exit polls tell us a little bit about the direction of things overall.
But those turnout numbers are going to be key. So, for example, in that Cockburn race, Denver Riggleman vs. Leslie Cockburn, what Steve is saying is that, in the Trump parts of the district, you`re getting Trump level numbers, but we haven`t seen the non-Trump, we haven`t seen the Democratic- leaning parts of that district.
Democrats are counting on not suppressing the Trump vote. They`re counting on turning out huge new numbers in the Democratic...
ROBINSON: Right, in Charlottesville, After Charlottesville...
ROBINSON: ... there is going to be a big Democratic vote. Now, we just don`t know how big. But clearly there`s going to be a big Democratic vote.
So that district is going to be -- you look at that margin in Virginia 10, with Barbara Comstock losing to Jennifer Wexton, that`s a -- that`s a big margin. I mean, that bodes well for Democratic hopes of taking the House. Big marker.
MADDOW: There`s the board right there.
You can see it`s just over half the vote in. I think this is one -- I mean, Barbara Comstock has been on every list of the most vulnerable incumbents this year, just because that district was plus-10 Hillary Clinton, and because Jennifer Wexton is a very strong candidate.
And you add those two things together, and there isn`t much of a way out for Barbara Comstock.
WILLIAMS: It everybody`s early evening bellwether.
MADDOW: That`s right.
MADDOW: If Barbara Comstock is ousted, she will become -- it`ll be a landmark. She will be the first Republican incumbent to lose her seat tonight, but it won`t be enough to tell you much about what`s going to happen. It`ll be the margin.
ROBINSON: The margin will be important.
And one thing that Wexton did, she constantly ran ads saying, Barbara Comstock voted with Donald Trump 98 percent of the time.
ROBINSON: Ninety-eight percent of the time.
I mean, that ad -- you just couldn`t get away from that ad.
MADDOW: And you know what? That works everywhere in the country, because even the most outspoken anti-Trump Republicans in the country in the House and the Senate still always vote 90 percent of the time-plus with Donald Trump, because of the way Congress works.
And even Jeff Flake, who I think is now famous for being a Trump critic, has voted with him most of the time. It`s important, though.
We keep -- we were going to be talking about turnout all night. And when we talk about the kind of night Democrats are having, if it`s good, it`s going to be because they grew the pie, not because they -- as you said, they didn`t suppress any of the Trump vote.
But if you need to know how important voter suppression was to the Republicans, just watch Donald Trump in the last 24 hours. He said yesterday, he said yesterday -- he made up a conspiracy about voter fraud.
There isn`t widespread voter fraud.
MADDOW: Threatening people about the penalties.
WILLIAMS: You`re going to find law enforcement waiting for you when you come.
WALLACE: But he -- there is no inner monologue -- Julie Pace said this once of the AP after interviewing him -- there`s no inner monologue and outer monologue . There`s just monologue.
So from Trump`s mouth, you heard how important voter suppression was for Republicans.
WILLIAMS: I have been alerted Steve Kornacki has something for us.
KORNACKI: We got a bunch we can take you through.
Let`s go back to that congressional district, the first one we got votes from tonight, the 6th District of Kentucky around Lexington. Maybe it`s easier if I`m on this side.
Amy McGrath, the Democrat, now has jumped out to a lead here. The reason - - again, we have been stressing this -- Fayette County, 40 percent of the district, basically the city of Lexington. We have got now -- this is about accurate. We got about 60 percent of the vote that is in from Fayette County.
She`s running -- remember, we said the benchmark 60 percent for her they`re, roughly. She`s running at 60 percent. And that translates. There`s a sort of an imbalance here in terms of a little more Democratic vote in.
Still to come -- and I think crucial for McGrath -- beyond Fayette County is going to be Franklin County. That`s where Frankfurt is. That`s got to go Democratic for her to be in the -- to be in the game here. That`s the update there.
We can show you quickly Indiana. I want to just -- again, Braun, the Republican, continuing to lead. Only now are we beginning to get votes in here from the big Democratic areas, Marion County, biggest county in the state. Indianapolis, this will be the biggest Democratic county. You can see this is very low early vote percent historically has come out of Marion County.
And I think that`s what you`re looking at here, a lot more same-day. There`s going to be a lot more votes than this. Democrats keeping their eye on Marion County. They are keeping their eye on Lake County up here, second biggest county in the state.
This is Saint Joseph County. Notre Dame is here. Joe Donnelly`s old congressional district was in this part of the state. So they want to see that. And, again, we also want to see -- I said at the start of the night if you start seeing blue in Southern Indiana, you say take a trip back in time a little bit here.
Barack Obama in 2008, when he won Indiana, won counties in Southern Indiana. Joe Donnelly in 2012, when he got elected, won counties here. Hillary Clinton was not in the game here. But you do see some blue popping up.
These are not complete. This is sort of -- I think this will be -- you got Clark County right here. This is the other side of Louisville. Louisville is kind of on the other side of the river there. Early on, but let`s see if you keep getting blue there.
And in Florida, very quickly, we now have in, in Florida vote-wise -- VA 10 -- has Virginia 10 just been called?
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first flip of the night. Here it is, the 10th District of Virginia. We just told you the Democrats got the level of support they needed in the key county in Virginia 10. We are now projecting that Virginia 10 will be a pickup for Democrats.
That means Barbara Comstock, the Republican, defeated for reelection.
And that means, critically, that our countdown here -- we said Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats -- it goes down to 22. So Democrats are now 22 away from control of the House.
Again, we said this would be a catastrophe for Democrats if they weren`t carrying the 10th. We figured this would be the first to be called. Mark it down, though. That is the first to be called on this night.
Quickly, though, to bring you back to Florida, because we got a lot more vote that just came in, in Florida, and I want to quickly take you through it. These three counties right here are the heart of any Democrat`s changes in the state of Florida.
We now have the early vote in from all those. We have the bulk of the vote, it looks like from these counties. And, again, Hillary Clinton in 2016 did not carry Florida. She did pretty well in these Democratic parts of the state.
Take a look here. Palm Beach County, Hillary Clinton got 57 percent, Gillum running at 62. Broward is the biggie. Clinton got 67 percent, Gillum right now outpacing that. Miami-Dade, Gillum running a little bit short of that right now.
But, then again, we said the Gulf Coast. The question is Democratic strength here, and do you get Trump surge, like you had in 2016 in the Gulf Coast? Take a look, Sarasota, this down three points, again, getting closer to what you would have seen with Mitt Romney.
Take a look. Charlotte, it`s about level, a point off. Lee County, actually, DeSantis is running ahead, significantly ahead. I`m just seeing that for the first time. And I`m surprised. That is one place, at least with the early vote -- and that`s significant -- that`s over 100,000 votes counted there -- that very good news for the Republicans there. .
Pasco County off the mark. We showed you that, Citrus County. And the big thing to keep an eye on here is Gillum leads statewide with all that vote in, the Senate and the governor`s race, 52/48, 2 million to 2.8 million there in favor of Nelson and running -- the numbers don`t quite match up, but the margin there, 52/47, 52/48. So, Gillum doing a little bit better there, head to head.
But that`s what we`ve got so far out of Florida.
MADDOW: Again, big picture in Florida, half the vote in. Leading statewide in both the governor`s race and in that Senate race and going county by county shows us why they`re lining up that way.
Can I ask control room, do we have Alan Gomez standing by right now?
Wanted to bring Alan Gomez into this conversation while we`re talking about those Florida numbers because one of the crucial things statewide in Florida and nationwide for a lot of races is going to be the issue of Latino voters. Latino voters tend to not turn out in great numbers in midterm elections. Latino voters are wild card in an election where immigration has been prioritized and was such a ragged edge the way the president has done so for every Republican candidate in the country this year.
Alan Gomez is a reporter who has focused for a very long time on Latino voters and the politics of immigration.
Alan, in terms of these Florida results we`re seeing tonight and what we`re starting to see nationwide, how do you think the Latino vote and immigration are playing?
ALAN GOMEZ, IMMIGRATION REPORTER, USA TODAY: Well, immigration obviously is taking center stage. The exit polling you were showing just a little while ago, where immigration is number two issue. I mean, if you look back a month ago before President Trump started his sort of assault on the migrant caravan and birthright citizenship and all of that, immigration was running third, fourth, fifth in some polls depending what you`re looking at.
So, that shows he made it that much of an issue. Obviously, we`re going to see which way that swings and whether that was a good thing for him. When it comes to Hispanic voters, you`re absolutely right. They have historically underperformed dramatically, way behind whites, way behind black voters.
Last, in 2014, 27 percent of eligible Hispanic voters turned out. Excuse me, of the population turned out to vote. All the indication so far is that we are going to see a bit of a surge this year. Polling indicates it could get up to something in the 35 percent, 36 percent range.
But because they`ve underperformed so much in previous elections and it`s been going just further and further down, we`ll have to wait and see. So far, the early returns show that like everyone else we`re seeing out there, they`re going to turn out a little bit more this year.
MADDOW: And, Alan, obviously, there is no single Latino community in the United States. There`s a lot of different types of Latino communities with a lot of different geographic concerns and different ideological alliances. If we do see Latino vote spike in the way that you`re talking, going from 27 percent to something like 35 and 36 percent of eligible voters, how would you expect that to map in terms of partisan affiliation.
Obviously, that wouldn`t just be a pure Democratic vote.
GOMEZ: I mean, predominantly, if you look at them on average, they are going to lean more Democratic around the country. And somewhere like Florida, things got pretty complicated because you have a predominantly Republicans. When it comes to Cuban American vote, Puerto Ricans are going to be really interesting test this year. That`s -- you know, we talked so much about how this midterm election is a test on the president`s policies and obviously his handling of Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico is going to be -- that`s going to weigh heavily on their decision when they come out to vote.
There`s a lot more Central and South Americans throughout Florida right now. So, the Hispanic vote is very complicated here in this state. But overall, when you look around the country, when you look at places like Arizona and Texas and Nevada where Hispanic vote is already big and growing. Virginia, especially northern Virginia, where you guys just called that first race, that`s another place where it`s really big.
I mean, I think it`s interesting. Comstock, she ran a very, very Trumpian campaign. She talked a lot about MS-13. She talked a lot about dangers of illegal immigration. And look what happened already.
MADDOW: Alan Gomez, immigration reporter for "USA Today", joining us tonight from Miami. Alan, thank you very much. Really appreciate having you here.
If this ends up being on the Republican side, you know, the election of the caravan, where the president put that at the absolute center of everything and ends up from the Democratic side being Latino voters turning out in record numbers and turfing out Republican incumbents, that will be the snake eating its tail.
WILLIAMS: And you`re right. And we thought was going to be a flat line from 2016.
Just to share homework with you, we`re on our way to another break. The very patient Steve Schmidt is standing by and will join us on the other side. But let me read off the list of 8:00 closings we`re coming up 16 minutes away. Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, if you heard your state in there, even if you didn`t, I would advise you to stay close.
We`ll be right back.
WILLIAMS: We are back, 11 minutes away from a huge batch of poll closings and our decision desk is deciding right now what we are going to say about them at the top of the hour.
In the meantime, I`m told our friend Steve has new numbers over at the board.
KORNACKI: Let`s take a look at Georgia. The picture coming in right now. It is very incomplete. You can see the numbers tabulated and overwhelming lead for Brian Kemp, the Republican. The reason, these are heavily Republican areas in small Democratic counties that have been coming in.
The ball game for Democrats really is going to be in the Atlanta metro area. You don`t see much -- look, Fulton County, largest county in the state. This is what we don`t have any votes coming out of here yet. But Fulton County is going to get 350,000 votes or more total or going to be cast here.
Hillary Clinton won close to 70 percent of the vote here in Fulton County. DeKalb County, again, this is going to be, this was 81 percent for Hillary Clinton. We`re going to have close to vote.
I think this one, though, when this comes in, it`s going to tell us a lot. Gwinnett County, there are some precincts apparently where they`ve held voting hours open a little bit longer. It`s a huge county and it`s changed dramatically from a demographic standpoint, nonwhite voters, African- Americans, Hispanics, also Asians coming into this for the first time, Hillary Clinton in 2016 as a Democrat carried Gwinnett County. She got 51 percent of the vote here against Donald Trump.
If Stacey Abrams can improve on that and if Stacey Abrams can build on the turnout with those voting groups we talked about, that could have a huge impact on the governor`s race and a huge impact on that race in Georgia`s seventh district, which is most of -- most of that district is Gwinnett County.
I should note, we`ve now made another call from our battleground. This is a Republican hold. Remember, every district you see here is currently a Republican-held district that Democrats are targeting. The sixth district of Florida, Republicans, we project, are going to hold to this somewhat comfortably here. So, Republicans on this list of 66, they have their first save of the night.
Very quickly, I did want to go back and show you Indiana because it is beginning to tighten. Democratic areas beginning to report. This is Gary, Indiana, Hammond, late county Donnelly doing better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. You`re starting to get some vote out of Marion County. You`re going to have close to 300,000 votes out of here before all is said and done.
Also, Ft. Wayne, this would be -- Ft. Wayne is the city here, Allen County, if Donnelly were to emerge with a win, that would be unusual for the Democrats, big for him. We`re seeing the Democratic areas come in there and that race is going to tighten. So, we will keep an eye on that as well with a bunch of poll closings coming up any minute now.
MADDOW: On that, just to reiterate what just Steve just said there in terms of House races that we`re watching. We do have our first flip of the night from red to blue. We`ve got Barbara Comstock, Republican member of Congress, losing her seat in Virginia to Democrat Jennifer Wexton. And that Republican hold that Steve just outlined there.
That`s actually the district in Florida Ron DeSantis used to hold. He had to give up the seat. Waltz is the Democrat who came in to run to hold that seat for the Republicans against Nancy Soderberg. Waltz will hold that seat.
That`s one of the ones that Democrats had hoped to pick up, if only because it was an open seat. But the Republicans have been able to hold on there.
As we`re starting to see the first conclusive results come in tonight, we want to go to our dear friend, the eloquent Republican strategist and former Republican, I should say, Steve Schmidt.
Steve, it`s been too long since I`ve seen you, my friend. It`s great to have you here tonight.
STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be with you Rachel.
MADDOW: Big picture, how you`re feeling about the import of this election tonight.
SCHMIDT: I mean, if you`re the Democrats tonight, watching this from the national party headquarters, you have some early reasons to be optimistic. When you look at the exit polls it looks like Donald Trump was a determinative factor --
MADDOWW: Steve, I would only do for a call. Interrupt you for one second. Don`t lose your train of thought.
We do have a call. This is in the Ohio Senate race. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown projected to hold onto his seat fending off the Republican challenge from Jim Renacci, who closely aligned himself with President Trump. Sherrod Republicans salivated at the prospect of knocking off very early on in this prospect. But he will, it looks like, comfortably hold onto his seat tonight.
Steve, let me get back to you there. Sorry, my friend.
SCHMIDT: The -- when you look at the race, the issue, I think, that we`re going to see play out over the night is the degree to which Donald Trump and Air Force One and the dramatic arrivals in all of the states for these MAGA rallies where he incited all manner of racial animus, in fact, does it turn out to be a pestilence arriving? Was it a plague of locust for these Republican candidates?
In Ohio yesterday, Donald Trump came, spent the last day in the campaign trail, campaigning for Mike DeWine, who`s running for governor of Ohio. Did he give Mike DeWine a lifeline or did he push his head under the water?
When we look at these Florida returns right now, it seems to be the case that Donald Trump was an anchor around the ankles of the two Republican candidates. It may well have been instrumental in bringing about Democratic victories.
At the end of the day, what the race has been about is a referendum on Trump and Trumpism. Donald Trump has traveled the country, he`s incited the American people, he`s stoked a cold civil war. He has led a campaign of racial animus, the likes of which we have not seen in the modern era. It is something that would be recognizable to Lester Maddox or to George Wallace.
So, what we`re going to watch play out over the night is whether Trumpism faces its first validation or its first repudiation. And when you look at the exit polls, when you look at some of the early returns, I would bet on repudiation at this early hour. It will be a long night, and we`ll see how it plays out.
MADDOW: Steve, do you feel like Republican candidates have a choice as to how they align themselves with Trump or not? One thing Chuck Todd was talking about here early on is that Republicans had a hard decision to make about whether or not they would stand there on a stage with Trump, whether they would attend a rally if he came to their state, to try to put his imprimatur on their own local races.
Do Republicans have a choice? Can they say no to Trump and still turn out the Republican base enough to compete?
SCHMIDT: One of the things I think that we miss in our analysis in our coverage is this, we tend to say that the election is determined by the last big event that occurs in the campaign, as opposed to the first meaningful event.
When Donald Trump arrived in Washington, D.C., there were three parties. There was an insurgent Trump party, a Republican Party, and a Democratic Party. The Republican Party capitulated to Donald Trump one by one by one. They surrendered to Trumpism.
They became apologists for the incitement, for the cruelty, for the malice, for the assaults on our institutions, for the constant lying, for the illiberal assaults on the media. So, they made the decision two years ago to tie themselves to Donald Trump, to tie themselves to Donald Trump lock, stock and barrel. That`s the decision that mattered. Today, the bill comes due for that decision.
So the question isn`t what you do in the last week of the campaign. It`s what you do in the first week of service.
Every single one of these Republicans, by and large, when you talk to them privately, or when you used to have private conversations with them, they would tell you that they were offended. They would tell you that they were appalled. They would tell you that they`ve been in meetings with him and they think that he`s crazy and that he`s unfit. But they would never say it publicly.
And so, the choices to either repudiate or to validate, that`s the question at hand. And I think that it gives these Republicans a pass to say that they didn`t have a choice, that their hands weren`t bound. They did have a choice. They had a choice to be fidelitous to the issues they claimed belief in for most of their political careers until Donald Trump arrived on the scene.
MADDOW: Former Republican strategist, former Republican, Steve Schmidt, thank you for joining us, Steve.
SCHMIDT: You bet.
MADDOW: Sobering, as always.
Nicolle Wallace, you and I were talking about this a few minutes ago off camera. There are Republicans who repudiate Trump, who call the president out on specific matters and even call him out in general in terms of his overall approach to politics and then they quit. Nobody calls him out and then votes against him, or stays in office and decides to fight.
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST: And we shouldn`t -- there aren`t many. You don`t need two hands to count them. But the most specific was Bob Corker. He questioned his competence, his fitness to serve, he called this West Wing adult day care, and then he actually held a hearing to sort of hear expert testimony about the president`s nuclear power.
MADDOW: Just before the poll closings in less than two minutes, we`ve got a call.
KORNACKI: Yes, we got another flip. You have your second flip of the night, this is the 27th district of Florida, Eliana Ross, the Republican who designed -- it`s going Democratic. This is one that Democrats were worried about a few weeks ago. They nominated Donna Shalala, against a former television anchor here, a district Hillary Clinton won by 20 points.
But there`s a large Cuban-American population here. There was a concern that Shalala was not faring well as a candidate. But now, we projected she has won the 27th district. This is a flip. This is the second Democratic pickup of the night. They began the night needed 23, and now only need 21.
We`ve also made a call in the same area for the third Miami-Dade-based Republican held seat, Mario Diaz-Balart, he has held on.
And I believe we have another call just coming in right now. We said that district, that Charlottesville based district Democrats were hoping to win, we said that Riggleman was doing well in the Trump part of the district, he was doing very well. Denver Riggleman projected to be the winner there, Democrats do not get the pickup.
So, we now have five calls from our target list, Democrats have picked up two of them, both of these districts, be clear on this, both of these districts were those districts that Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, now throwing out Republicans when it comes to Congress. So, Democrats have taken two off the target list in the House.
WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki at the board, thank you. We`re coming up on 30 seconds away from the 8:00 eastern calls, a huge list. We`re going to go after the Senate races first. We`re going to break internally. Then we`ll take a look at the governor`s races.
But here is the list of states we`ll be coming up on, starting with Alabama, ending with Tennessee. We`ve had some split closing times as we approach, again, the 8:00 hour here in the East.
And we`re going to start with one that we`ve been covering tonight. We just don`t have the finishing data on it.
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