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Alabama Special Senate Election Transcript 12/12/17 The Rachel Maddow Show

Guests: John Archibald, Cory Booker, Merika Coleman

Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW Date: December 12, 2017 Guest: John Archibald, Cory Booker, Merika Coleman

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST, ALL IN: That is "ALL IN" for this evening.


Good evening, Rachel.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. This is a fun day to be in the jobs that we have.

HAYES: Fascinating, honestly, one of the most fascinating races I have ever had occasion to cover.

MADDOW: And so many things to watch and monitor and pay attention to and contextualize, and this is one of the days I am -- I am super grateful to be here.

HAYES: Me, too. Me, too.

MADDOW: Thank you, my friend. I appreciate it.

Thanks to all of you at home for joining us this hour on this very exciting, very consequential news night. It`s going to be very consequential either way and we have no idea how it`s going to go at this point. It is now 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, which means 8:00 p.m. Central, which means poll haves been closed in the great state of Alabama for one hour.

I mean, more than ever an hour after polls closing, that`s the time when there is no reason to speculate on the ultimate outcome of this election. We are going to know soon enough. We are going to know tonight in all likelihood, and we will let you know as soon as we know anything.

Throughout our broadcast this evening, until we get a call in this race, you will be seeing the same raw numbers that we`ve got, the most up to date count that we`ve got in terms of the vote coming in, in Alabama. As you can see right now, with 8 percent in, this is quite clearly too early to call, Roy Moore leading Doug Jones. But you`ll be able to see this raw vote, as it comes in throughout the night, either in full screen images like this, or the bottom of the screen as you see it there. The lower third of the screen as we get exit poll data and raw vote.

Now, when it comes to interpreting those numbers and figuring out who they look good for, we`ve got our human electoral calculator, Steve Kornacki on deck. He`s been crunching the numbers all day since we got the very first exit poll data in. Steve Kornacki I think is better than anybody else on TV, network or cable or otherwise, at explaining what the numbers mean as they come in and what to watch for and where to watch for relevant data. So, Steve is going to be here in just a minute. I`m looking forward to that.

We`re also going to be talking about why Doug Jones supporters and Democrats were very excited, very buoyed by some of the exit poll data that came in and that was made public late this afternoon. There is both reason for Doug Jones supporters to be excited in the exit poll numbers and there is reason for them to be cautious.

As we are watching the very early data start to trickle in, I think it`s worth appreciating what kind of landscape one of these two candidates is going to be joining when they get elected tonight and sent to Washington very soon. Obviously, if this Alabama Senate seat goes Democratic, if it goes to Doug Jones, that will change the math in Washington for everything Republicans want to do.

I mean, Roy Moore may change the personality of the Republican Party and it may change the discussion around the Republican Party. It likely won`t change the math, but if Doug Jones beats Roy Moore, that will change the math and there has been considerably interest in the possibility that a Doug Jones election tonight might conceivably endanger Republicans plans in Washington to pass a final version of their gigantic tax bill.

Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tried to head off the speculation today with this announcement that he has no intention of allowing the winner of this Senate race tonight in Alabama to be sworn in before the end of the year. Luther Strange to stay in Senate until end of current session.

This announcement from Mitch McConnell today means that if the Republicans in Congress are able to get a final version of the tax bill up for a vote any time before New Year`s Eve, they apparently will be able to count on Luther Strange`s vote for it. Whether or not Alabama voters have already decided to replace him with Doug Jones or Roy Moore.

So, I don`t know why Mitch McConnell made that announcement today. I don`t know if he knows something that we don`t and that`s why he made this announcement that whoever wins tonight isn`t getting sworn in until next year.

I should also say it`s possible that Alabama won`t be able to get tonight`s election results certified anyway until the very end of the year and so, maybe McConnell`s maneuver is only going to buy him Luther Strange`s vote for a few more days. But still, this was a fairly jarring announcement to get from Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate while Alabama voters were lining up today to make their choice.

Let`s put up the full screen again showing how much of the vote we got right now, 12 percent in. NBC`s characterization of the race, again, is that it is too early to call. You see Roy Moore with a three-point lead there, 13 percent in now. Again, too early to call. The difference between them under 5,000 votes. Roy Moore at 51 percent. Doug joins at 48 percent.

In terms of what to expect from the results tonight, honestly, nobody knows because there`s a lot of good reasons why it`s been hard to project. Thirty-three days ago, "The Washington Post" broke the bombshell story quoting four named Alabama women saying that Roy Moore had pursued them sexually when they were teenagers and while he was a grown man in his 30s. That "Washington Post" story was 33 days ago.

Before that story had broken, the secretary of state in Alabama had said he expected turnout in this election to be roughly 18 percent but then that "Washington Post" story came out and now, this race has become what it is and the secretary of state this week upped that estimate, saying that he expects actually, it`s going to be more like 25 percent turnout. And we won`t know the total numbers for awhile.

We did get anecdotal reports over the course of the day today. We saw social media images, saw some local news characterizations that turned seemed high in some places. We`ve heard from both campaigns that it was their estimate that turnout seemed high to both the Moore campaign and the Jones campaign.

But those anecdotes, those impressions, those are always hard to contextualize. They`re hard to sort of turn into real data on election day itself. We`ll find out soon enough what the turnout was.

I mean, bottom line here, in Alabama and a state like Alabama, it is widely believed that it would take a miracle for a Democrat to win a statewide seat right now, let alone a U.S. Senate seat. It`s been a decade since a Democrat won a statewide seat in Alabama and that was a lieutenant governor`s race. That guy beat Luther Strange actually I should mention.

Also, a Democrat won a state public commission seat a couple of years after that but public service commission. But that`s the level of detail you have to go to find big Democratic statewide victories in Alabama politics over the last decade. That`s it.

This is not an ordinary time for American politics. This is not an ordinary race for Alabama and it`s not just because the Republican is Roy Moore, it`s also because the Democrat has an unusual pedigree in this race. Doug Jones is known in Alabama as the U.S. attorney who prosecuted the Klansman who for decades gotten away with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, right? Some of the signs for Doug Jones in the Senate race lists civil rights champion right underneath his name in the seat he`s running for, like that`s his occupation. Doug Jones, civil rights champion, vote December 12th.

Now, Doug Jones is white. He`s running as a civil rights champion and he`s got a background to back it up. The biggest proportion of the Democratic base in Alabama are African-American voters. So, their turnout is key.

Well, one of the wild cards in this race that makes it particularly hard to extrapolate from any past results to try to get a beat on what might happen tonight, one of the wild cards is that Alabama put into place a new photo ID law over the last few years. It went into effect after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act so the federal government could no longer stop them from doing things like this.

It`s estimated that over 100,000 registered voters in Alabama now no longer have the kind of documentation they legally have to show in order to vote because of that photo ID law. Black and Latino Alabamians are twice as likely as white Alabamians to not have the right kind of photo ID to vote. And that makes it hard to predict what`s going to happen tonight. Everybody knows Doug Jones is counting on a big African-American turnout. Nobody knows what the impact of that new restrictive law will be on the prospects of getting a big African-American turnout.

I mean, when it comes to general principles on these things in general, people tend to vote more often in presidential years, presidential election years get the biggest turn jet. People vote less often in miss term elections and people vote less still in special elections like the one that`s being held tonight. And as a general matter, as turnout gets lower and lower, it also tends to get whiter and whiter and older and older, which means as a general principle, low turnout elections and special elections generally tend to be good for Republican and conservative candidates because of the small electorate that turn outs on those nights.

Those same general principles, though, also make it hard to model what turnout might be on a night like this with candidates like this. We don`t know who`s going to turn out. We don`t know who turned out and made it to the polls today, and that makes it -- and has made it over the past days and weeks, it`s made it hard to get good polling for an election like this. If you cannot model turnout, you can`t model what the election result is going to be based on a statistical sample of voters.

That`s why the polling has been all over the map for this race. It`s really because nobody knows who is going to turn out so nobody knows how to wait samples. That uncertainty about turnout, the fact that there`s no good basis which to predict turnout that not just -- doesn`t just make polling difficult, it makes it hard for the campaigns on both sides to figure out their strategy, to figure out their targeting, to figure out what their hopes are and what their goals are when they mount get out the vote efforts for various constituencies that they are targeting.

So, we`re going to go to Steve Kornacki in just a second in terms of understanding how things are coming thus far tonight, what the exists look like, what that tells us. I will tell you a couple things that I`ve been watching over the course of the day and as we started to get results in.

Number one, I`ve been watching Talladega County. I am persuaded by the number-crunchers at NBC News that Talladega is a classic bellwether county for Alabama. But the proportion of the vote that is Republican in Talladega County tends to mirror the proportion of the vote that is Republican statewide. So, that is held true in a couple recent elections. We`ll be watching Talladega tonight just to see if it`s a cliff note microcosm of what`s going to happen in the state overall. So, Talladega is a bellwether.

Number two, I`m looking to compare the Roy Moore vote tonight to the last time we had a Roy Moore vote in Alabama. Roy Moore ran statewide for the state supreme in 2012, who ran against a Democrat named Bob Vance. Roy Moore beat Bob Vance 52-48, which is pretty close, actually.

So, I want to watch the biggest counties in the state, the most populous counties in the state to compare Doug Jones` performance tonight with this other Democrat from 2012 who actually came close to beating Roy Moore that night. In 2012, running against Roy Moore, Bob Vance won all four of the most populous counties of the state. Jefferson County, which is Birmingham is, Madison County, which is where Huntsville is, Mobile County, Montgomery County, Bob Vance won them all against Roy Moore in 2012 with anywhere between 52 and 71 percent of the vote.

So, in each of the counties tonight, we`re going to be looking to see in those places, is Doug Jones able to improve in those big populous counties, is he able to improve on that margin that that Democrat got against Roy Moore five years ago when he almost beat Roy Moore?

I will tell you one lucky part of approaching this election that way is that we`re told that Madison County where Huntsville is, that`s sometimes relatively early reporter. They`re sometimes able to turn the vote around quickly, in which case Madison County might give us an early indication of what`s going on and how Roy Moore is performing compared to the last time he ran statewide in 2012, when he squeaked out a win.

And then the last thing I`m watching for tonight is the same thing everybody is watching for, which is African-American turnout. If you want to know how this race is going to go and you`re looking at it in realistic terms, it`s not just where people are turning out and how they`re voting, you need to know who is turning out to vote. You need to know in particular the proportion of the electorate that is African-American.

If you want to know like the range of possibilities of what they might mean in terms of the outcomes tonight, take for comparison sake what happened in 2012. If you want to know what is possible in terms of African turnout, take 2012. That`s a presidential election year. So, in general, that means a lot of people vote, and in presidential election years, more people who tend to vote Democratic, including African-American and young voters tend to turn out because it`s a presidential year. So, presidential year, 2012, you expect the electorate to be less white and less old, in particular, you expect a high African-American turnout in 2012 because on the ballot at the top of the ticket for the Democratic Party was Barack Obama.

So, that year you expect to be a high water mark for African-Americans as a proportion of the overall vote in Alabama, that year, black voters were 28 percent of the vote. Now, for all the reasons why that was a high water mark, you would never expect a special election to turnout an electorate that had that high proportion of African-American voters, right? Special elections generally are whiter in terms of their turnout and you just -- nobody would expect in normal circumstances to see a 23 percent number for black turnout.

Now, the senior strategist for the Doug Jones is Democratic veteran Joe Trippi. Joe Trippi told "The Washington Post`s" Greg Sargent this morning that what they`re aiming at, what the Jones` campaign is aiming at in terms of the African-American vote is really ambitious. They`re hoping for mid- 20s in terms of the percentage of the overall electorate that is African- American.

Quote: We have built the biggest get out the vote structure in the state of Alabama. But it is totally untested. Trippi said African Americans would have to represent a percentage of the electret in the mid 20s at a minimum. That is ambitious.

Again, the last presidential race for which we got numbers with an African- American president running for reelection, it was 28 percent black vote in Alabama. The Jones campaign is trying to get to mid 20s. I mean, as a general matter that should be seen as an unobtainable number for a special election, let alone for a special election like this. We know from the Jones` campaign trying to get to the mid 20s.

Well, then, the 5:00 p.m. exit poll data came in tonight and updated exit poll data came in around 8:00, and it turns out that at least on the exit polls, that the proportion of the black vote is not just higher than what the Jones` campaign was hoping for, according to the first wave of exit poll data, the portion of the electorate that turned out today in Alabama that`s African-American is not only higher than what the Jones` campaign was expecting, it`s higher than it was in the presidential election in 2012.

African-American proportion of the vote is 30 percent. And that exit poll data, that`s what made Democrats all across the country and supporters of Doug Jones in Alabama, that`s what made people very excited today in terms of the exit poll data.

Here is the giant asterisks, though, it`s exit poll data and a little short-hand, mnemonic device is that exit polls are always wrong. Just a little short hand. Write it on your hand. Don`t forget exit poll is always wrong.

And recently, exit polls are wrong often in the direction of overstating likely Democratic vote, including specifically overstating the black proportion of the vote.

So, those numbers about African-American turnout looked miraculous today for Doug Jones` supporters and had been very heartening to Democrats and Jones supporters, but caution, caution, caution. If you have an emotional investment in this race on either side, do not hook your emotions up to a sleight that is led by exit poll data. It`s worth knowing what it is but this time of year, sleigh is led by reindeer only. Don`t follow the exit polls down any particular path.

Joining us now is national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, Steve Kornacki.

Mr. Kornacki, thank you very much for being here.


Well, let`s take you through everything we got in right now. And you can see here, about a quarter of the vote in with a counted total right now, Moore is leading but big caution here, the biggest county in the state, Jefferson County, that`s where Birmingham is. It only started to come in here. So, basically, let`s forget the 55/44 right now and take a look at the key counties and what we can tell you.

Let`s break this state up this way. Let`s basically look north of Birmingham, this region of the state. There are two things to keep an eye on in this region. Basically, take this is one and the rest of it is the other.

Now, the rest of it, this is the part of the state where Donald Trump absolutely blew the roof off in 2016. These are rural Republican counties. Donald Trump improved the most over Mitt Romney in this part of the state compared to anywhere else. So, this is a really interesting test for Roy Moore.

We know he`s going to be winning up here these counties, the question is what kind of margin does he get? Is it closer to the Trump level last year or is he down where he was in 2012 in these places when he nearly lost the race for chief justice? So, with that in mind, we`ve got a couple counties with 100 percent in, so we can get clues to what is going on.

Let`s take a look up here in Limestone County, right on the border, to set this up. The total for Donald Trump last night in this county was 72 percent. The total for Roy Moore in 2012 when he nearly lost statewide was 62 percent.

What does it look like? Roy Moore is under -- is under his total from nearly losing campaign of 2012. We have another county with 100 percent in here. Trump 74 percent. It was 64 percent for Moore when he nearly lost. What do we have? Sixty-two percent for Moore.

So, again, what we are seeing here, counties that have -- this is what we got 100 percent. A lot are partial totals around here, but that`s a clue. These rural counties in the northern part of the state, the most -- it`s nearly become one of the most Republican parts of the state, closer to the 12 level, even under the 12 level, those are numbers you want to see if you`re the Jones` campaign.

I said, take Huntsville. This county here, Madison. You were setting this up a minute ago, take Madison as a different entity up here. The Madison, the Huntsville area, the metro area, you`re talking about a lot of college graduates, this county here is number two in the state in concentration of college graduates. That is the target for the Jones` campaign. They think they can win over college-educated, traditionally Republican suburban voters. This is the place they want to be getting them at.

To set this up, Madison, 55 percent is the total that Donald Trump got in this county. It was 48 percent for Roy Moore when he nearly lost in 2012 and what is -- this is a partial return. I want to make that very clear, a partial return. But right now, you see Moore coming in at 39 percent.

So, this is a big one to keep an eye on. Democrats don`t just want to win this. They want a margin out of this county. So, that`s what is going on in the sort of northern part of the state. The flip side of it, if here`s encouraging news from some of these early counties for the Moore campaign, it`s down south, in the rural area, the white rural areas, really in the southern part of the state.

Take a look right here in Dale County. It`s almost all in. Small in rural but again, more when he lost -- nearly lost, excuse me, nearly lost in 2012, he was at 63 percent in this county. So, he`s gone up from that number.

You can take a look here. Again, Moore was at 70 percent here in 2012 when he nearly lost statewide. He`s up to 74 percent. So, it`s a mixed bag. This is an incomplete return, I should say.

But again, it`s a mixed bag. There are some positive signs for Jones` in the rural areas up here. There are some more trouble signs for Jones in the rural areas down here and really, again, we`ve got to see what happens. Let`s see. We`ve got a very small partial return.

This is a big one, too. Shelby County, this is the suburbs of Birmingham. This county has the highest concentration of college graduates in the state. This is a county that Donald Trump got 73 percent of the vote in when he ran in 2016.

Now, if you`re Jones, you basically want Moore in the low 60s. Early so far, but that`s where you might want to see more if you`re Jones. You might want to see him a touch lower than that, but this is the kind of place where the Jones` campaign thought they could make some in roads. And as you say, again, let`s see what happens in Huntsville.

Let`s see what happens in Jefferson. Mobile, again, that`s got to be Democratic. This is another one, you see again, that`s it, 65 percent. That`s the number for Moore in Baldwin County when he nearly lost in `12.

Again, if you`re the Jones campaign, you want him there or lower. So, this -- I mean, I said a lot of words here, Rachel. This is a close race.

MADDOW: This is a close race. Following along, I mean, I picked out counties as places to watch, as well, what I hear you saying basically is that Jones is kind of meeting what we assume are his targets in these places and that Moore is meeting his targets or exceeding them in the places where he knows that he is strongest.

I mean, my notes to myself on Shelby County, Baldwin County, Limestone County was that, you know, Jones would be looking at 30 to 40 percent as his target in those places. What you just gave us was 33, 36, 39 percent in those countries.

I should tell you that the characterization of this race is too close to call. It had been too early to call.


MADDOW: That`s an important update. But, yes, as far as I can tell, in terms of what we`re expecting for bellwethers and for what the campaign`s expectations were, this is -- I think they both probably got something to be happy about right now.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, and this is -- we can show you, I put it up on the screen right here. If you`re the Jones` campaign, I mean, look, Mobile, this is -- you only got 4 percent of the vote here. This is where you want to run up the score. Jefferson County, I mean, right now, you want to finish somewhere probably in the high 60s here if you`re the Jones campaign. You got close to a third.

I think this is from heavily black precincts in Birmingham. You got, again, a third of the vote. You love seeing this if you`re the Jones campaign here. But these big metro areas, we got to see those coming. We`ve seen a lot of rural stuff start to come in. Big metro areas, that`s where they need to put the numbers up for the Dems.

MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, thank you very much. I know we`re going to be seeing a lot more of you as the evening goes on. Again, if you`re looking for big population centers here, the four most populous counties, the Jones campaign not only expects to win but needs big margins. That`s Madison County, where Huntsville is, Montgomery County, Mobile County, Jefferson County, that`s where Birmingham is and we`ll be looking at the state overall, but we`ll also be watching the proportion of the vote come in in each of those counties to try to give us a sense of whether these campaigns are getting what they need out of their strongholds.

All right. It`s an exciting night. Lots more to come tonight.

Senator Cory Booker is here, as well as one of the top political reporters in Alabama who`s going to be joining us live from Birmingham. Please stay with us.


MADDOW: Let`s take a look at the very latest numbers that continue to come in from the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Right now, just over a third of the vote is in, 36 percent of the vote in. Roy Moore leading Doug Jones 52-47 percent.

Again, we`re continuing to watch this tonight, as it comes in, also watching key areas of the state to see whether the campaign`s expectations are met, exceeded or underperformed. But we`ll keep rolling those numbers and we`ll keep that raw vote total alive at the bottom of the screen as we bring in one of the best political reporters in the great state of Alabama.

I`ll tell you, just before we get to John Archibald, that one of the numbers that has jumped out from the exit polling tonight is the approval rating of a guy who`s not on the ballot. Last fall, President Trump won Alabama by 28 points. But tonight, with Alabama voters, the president is actually under water. Approval 47 percent, disapproval 48 percent. Maybe that means Alabama has soured on the guy who they like so much last year on the presidential election, or maybe that means a very different group of Alabama voters came today as compared to the 2016 electorate.

Joining us now from Birmingham where he`s at Doug Jones headquarters is John Archibald, columnist for "The Birmingham News" and

John, it`s nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.


MADDOW: So, way back on November 9th, "Washington Post" broke this news of four named women in Alabama who said they`ve been pursued sexually by Roy Moore when he was grown man in his 30s, and they were teenagers as young as 14. I talked with you here on this show in the wake of that reporting and then follow up reporting with additional accusers coming out in Alabama and you told me, John, that even though those allegations and those women`s stories were sinking in and having a major impact, it would not have an effect on this election result tonight, that Roy Moore would still win.


MADDOW: Has anything happened in the ensuing 33 days to change that feeling for you?

ARCHIBALD: Well, right now, it`s really a coin flip and I have no idea what`s going to happen. I think it`s true that allegations rallied Roy Moore`s base. I think you can see that. What maybe I didn`t count on quite enough when I talked to you is it also rallied the Doug Jones base and it turned into something that very few of us ever saw coming and that`s a really, really tight, vicious, insane sort of race and that`s going to go down to the wire.

MADDOW: As far as we understand it in terms of the money in this race, we think that Doug Jones outspent Roy Moore on TV by a margin of 6-1, which is an insane margin, especially in a very Republican state. Do you think that paid media made a difference? What do you make of the quality of the Doug Jones campaign?

ARCHIBALD: Well, you know, I think that from the very start, it was beset with problems. First, being when he decided after the primary to go on your network and talk about abortion and that in some ways that conversation has been mischaracterized but it`s also been the one that is followed him the whole way.

His campaign has actually done a better job getting out the vote I think in the last few days than it was given credit for. So I think that sort of remains to be seen, but there were missteps along the way.

MADDOW: In terms of the Roy Moore campaign, the prospect of Roy Moore winning tonight. I should tell you, based on our current results right now, we got Roy Moore up by six points with 39 percent of the vote in. If those results hold and Roy Moore gets to the United States Senate, are people reckoning with the prospect that he might actually not be seated or get committee seats once he`s there?

ARCHIBALD: I think most people will believe he will be seated ultimately.

I mean, I`m of the opinion, I watched Roy Moore for 20 years. I watched him as a circuit judge and as a supreme court justice twice be removed from the office both times and Roy Moore does not like to serve in government. Roy Moore likes to be removed. I`m absolutely convinced if he`s seated in the Senate, he`ll do anything he can to be removed and he will use that as a platform to either talk around the country or God forbid run for president.


John Archibald, a columnist for "The Birmingham News", a man whose words on this show I frequently and read from the transcript to make sure they were right and then quote to other people because they turned out true. John Archibald, thank you, my friend. Stay in touch with us over the course of tonight.

ARCHIBALD: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: Will do. Doug Jones` headquarters there in Birmingham, Alabama.

I want us to put up one screen we showed a moment ago. I mentioned at the top of the show that NBC News has highlighted Talladega County in Alabama as a real bellwether, as a place that, is in recent election, watching the result in Talladega County, for whatever reason, has seemed to show you what the statewide result is going to be.

Well, right now, with 96 percent of the vote in Talladega County, it`s Doug Jones 50 percent, Roy Moore 50 percent. So, everybody is telling you, this thing looks tighter than a tick. Talladega County would agree.

Senator Cory Booker joins us next. Stay with us.



REPORTER: Republicans on Capitol Hill threatened to expel Roy Moore if he makes it to Washington. Do you think that could happen?

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Absolutely. Alabama needs help with more infrastructure dollars. Alabama needs help with more expanding broadband in this state. Alabama needs help with public education in state.

You, whatever senator, send somebody the Republicans are going to work with and Democrats are going to work with, and there is only one person in this race. My colleagues, my friends on the other side of the aisle have told me and said publicly that they`re going to try to oust him as soon as he`s there. Time is wasted. There are big bills going through, spending bills and the like. Alabama needs a chair and they need somebody that can bring that home.


MADDOW: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker in Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend, campaigning with Democratic Senate Doug Jones. He`s telling reporters there that his Republican colleagues in the Senate have told him that if Roy Moore goes to the Senate, they will try to expel him from the Senate, and therefore, Alabama will lose its Senate representation.

Well, now, the votes are being counted. Right now, NBC News is calling this race too close to call. We do know how technically, a majority of the vote in, 51 percent of the vote in, right now, Roy Moore ahead of Doug Jones, 51 to 47 percent. Again, too close to call, according to NBC News.

Joining us now is Senator Cory Booker.

Senator Booker, it`s rally nice to have you with us tonight. Thanks for being here.

BOOKER: Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: What did you learn on your campaign trip to Alabama, to see this race close-up, to participate in it close-up that you didn`t know before you got there?

BOOKER: Well, I was so proud. I mean, the Alabama pride, the energy, the excitement, whatever the outcome of this election and I still believe that Doug Jones will win. I just -- I just know that whatever you say, this is a sign this race is even this close, this is a good omen for the energy, the enthusiasm, the activism in Alabama.

MADDOW: One of the things that everybody has been watching very closely, people see you as a potential factor in it, is African-American turnout in Alabama. There`s also been worries about the suppressive effort, particularly on the black vote of, for example, Alabama`s new voter ID law, which is thought of as having disenfranchised a considerable number of registered African-American voters in that state.

What did you think about the Jones` campaign and the Democratic campaign broadly to try to mobilize and empower African-American voters for this election?

BOOKER: You know, I spent a lot of time with the incredible field director for the campaign, Rich McDaniel, an African American gentleman who spent a lot of time in the South, he himself is from Georgia. When he sort of running through the metrics of the campaign, he just got me really excited about the kind of calls they were doing, door knocks they were doing, field operation.

There has been a lot of effort to mobilize the African-American community, and I still wasn`t convinced until I started hitting two different college campuses, HBCUs, hitting multiple, multiple churches and just seeing the energy of the black community and how personally they were taking this campaign.

So, I think you`re going to see black turnout exceed people`s expectations and I was very grateful to see how Doug Jones really did connect with that community.

MADDOW: Senator, let me also ask you about those words of yours that we just heard at the top of the segment here, which you made at that campaign event, the statement you made at the campaign event answering questions from reporters. You said that Republican senators have told you personally that they will try to get Roy Moore out of the Senate if he wins tonight.

Are those statements, those promises still operative? Has the Republican caucus in the Senate outgrown their outrage over Roy Moore and those allegations against him about women that said he pursued them when they were teenagers?

BOOKER: Well, I certainly hope so and time will tell. But we`ve seen senators say this publicly about their desire to oust him, not to see him seated. You`ve seen with a lot of conviction, a lot of my colleagues saying that and I really hope that`s the case.

This is getting strained with the partisan analysis. What this really needs to be analysis of the institution itself. Someone who is banned from a mall does not belong in the United States Senate. This doesn`t need an analysis.

And so, this is really a test of our institution should he win and I believe he won`t. But should he win, it`s going to be a test of our institution and see have we fallen into such a low level of tribalism, where we stopped having sort of common decency and common sense.

I was amazed this weekend how many pages, former pages I`ve served with in the last four years reached out to me, ones that were appointed by Republicans and Democrats to express their outrage that this is a person that might come and these are pages who serve when they are 16 years old and they`re outraged this person might have a chance at serving in the United States Senate.

This is not who we are as a country and we can`t allow this person to serve. And I`m hoping the Alabama voters will shut it down in the next hour or so with the results coming in.

MADDOW: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey -- Senator, it`s nice to see you. Thank you for being here.

BOOKER: Good to see you. Thank you for having me. Thank you.

MADDOW: All right. And watching the total result come in right now, we`re at 55 percent of the vote in. This is too close to call, according to NBC News` estimations. Right now, with 55 percent of the vote in, Roy Moore leads 52 to 47 percent.

I want to tell you, take you back to Talladega County for a second. I just said that Talladega County, we had almost complete results and that is seen as a bellwether in terms of the overall results statewide. Right now, we`ve got 100 percent in from Talladega County, and it is very close, 51 to 49 percent, with Doug Jones leading.

Steve Kornacki is actually standing by.

Steve, that`s 100 percent in from Talladega. I understand, we`ve also got some interesting new data on turnout?

KORNACKI: Yes, this is interesting and two things I want to show you. We talked about one of the refrains to the run-up to this, was not just Democrats that Jones needed support from black voters, needed turnout from black voters.

So, let me show you three counties here, and give you an example. These are majority black counties. So, not surprisingly, Jones with 100 percent in. Small county, but this is in the region of the state with lots of majority black counties. Jones winning overwhelmingly.

Here is the interesting stat. This total turnout level in Greene County is 78 percent of what the turnout in this county was in the presidential election last year. So, it`s 78 percent of that level. This seems to be a trend we`re seeing in these majority black counties.

I`ll show you another one right here. Here is Perry County, the turnout in Perry County, again, Jones winning overwhelmingly, the turnout here 71 percent. Excuse me, 76 percent of last year in Bullock County, the turnout here, 71 percent.

So, we`re in the 70s, and the high 70s in one case here, of the 2016 turnout. Now, contrast that to the heavily white rural areas where Moore is running up the score. So, remember, they`re in the 70s down here.

Here is Winston County, Alabama. OK, overwhelming Moore win. This is at 55 percent of the 2016 level. OK? Go north of that to Lawrence County. Again, 100 percent in big Moore win. You`re at 57 percent of the 2016 level.

We talked I think earlier about limestone county. Again, Moore a little smaller in terms of support here than he got last time around but also, this is only 61 percent of the support. So, there seems to be -- you`re seeing in the rural areas up here, not the same energy that was there in 2016 compared to what you`ve got down hear in these heavily black counties. The turnout more impressive in these heavily black counties than up here.

And very quickly, one other county that just come in, the other theme to the Jones campaign is white college educated suburban. That`s where they try to flip Republican voters. So, one county with the highest concentration of college degrees is Lee County, not surprisingly the home of Auburn University. So, Lee has now come in.

Now, I want to just keep this in mind. Trump won Lee with 53 percent of the vote. Excuse me, 59 percent of the vote. Moore last time he ran for office got 53 percent. Tonight, Roy Moore is down to 43 percent and that is with all of Lee County in.

This is exactly when you hear the Jones campaign and you look at the map of counties and you circle the places with the biggest concentration and said this is where we need a big turn, this is exactly what you wanted the see.

MADDOW: That`s -- and if I`m not mistaken, Lee County again home of Auburn University, when Hillary Clinton competed against Donald Trump in Lee County, she got like 36 percent of the vote.


MADDOW: Doug Jones is beating Hillary Clinton`s performance in that state by 20 points.

KORNACKI: Easily. Yes. I mean, this is sort of the -- this is the exact scenario. I`m just checking to see if we got more vote coming in. But, yes, Lee County, that is exactly -- I mean, that is textbook for the Jones` -- if you`re talking about the level of black turnout we`re seeing to be seeing, not quite the level of white turnout in these rural areas, and then you start getting switches like that, that`s the formula.


KORNACKI: If they can continue to see that, that is the formula for Jones.

MADDOW: All right. Overall, again, with 57 percent of the vote in right now, Roy Moore does have the lead, 52 percent over 47 percent for Doug Jones. But as Steve Kornacki said, those numbers should be seen as fluid, depending on where they`re coming in from and as we get more of the vote, we will have more surety as to what is going to happen here.

Stay with us.


MADDOW: Here is something that means absolutely nothing but I`m interested to see it. Can we put up two pictures side by side?

Yes, these are the two headquarters, Judge Roy Moore headquarters on your left and Doug Jones headquarters on the right. These are both live shots. These two campaign headquarters as watching the incredibly close results come in, the Roy Moore headquarters would appear to be more crowded and Doug Jones appears to be less crowded and that means nothing but still, at this point it`s still fascinating, because it`s 59 percent of the vote in, it`s 52-46 with Moore leading Jones.

We`re waiting in particular for more of the vote to come in from populist counties in the state, places like Mobile and Birmingham.

Joining us now from Birmingham is Alabama Democratic State Rep. Merika Coleman. She`s a member of the Democratic leadership in the legislature.

Representative Merika Coleman, thank you so much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to have you here.

STATE REP. MERIKA COLEMAN (D), ALABAMA: So glad to be here. Let me first say, also, there are about five different celebrations going on tonight for Doug Jones election as the next U.S. senator from the great state of Alabama, so you need to look at all five sites to see the number of people excited about this candidate in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama.

MADDOW: I hear your excitement, I also hear your optimism for your chosen candidate here tonight and how you think he`s going to do.

Are you by nature an optimistic person and so you`re always going to say that, or is there something that makes you really believe he`s going to win?

COLEMAN: Well, both. I`m an internal optimist. But also, I rode this county today and I looked at turnout myself all day today and it was up. And I had an event early this morning, Meet Me At Our Polling Place, where I was overwhelmed with the number of people there to vote at 7:30 this morning.

So, I`m excited. I`m excited about what this candidate stands for, and I`m excited to have the type of representation in Washington D.C. of the likes of Doug Jones.

MADDOW: Were there any problems, serious problems that you heard about today that you think were well-documented today in terms of people having trouble voting about the way the election was run, were there significant problems around the new voter ID law?

COLEMAN: Sure, not so much about voter ID because this was not our first time at the rodeo with voter ID. But what I did hear about around the state that in Montgomery County, of course, they had two elections going on. Why in the world did we have two separate ballots? People had to stand in line for both the U.S. Senate election and then the state Senate election.

Something is wrong with that process. That all could have been on one ballot.

Also, we`re hearing issues in Selma where there were machines that were broken down in Selma. You know, why in these concentration of African- American counties did we have these types of issues? So, we did hear those things.

And unfortunately, the TRO that we had against the state secretary and the Secretary of State John Merrill, in order to preserve those ballots was overturned by this Republican Supreme Court in the state of Alabama. If you really want to preserve the vote, why in the world would you not want to keep the scan of those ballots so we can make sure that our election was not compromised here in the state of Alabama?

MADDOW: Representative Coleman, we obviously still don`t have a result tonight. It`s ten minutes to 10:00 on the East Coast, 10 minutes to 9:00 where you. We got 61 percent of the vote. In and according to NBC, this is still too close to call.

Regardless of who wins, do you think this was a transformative election for the Democratic Party in Alabama? Did this change the capabilities of the Democratic Party in your state?

COLEMAN: Sure. Sure. Just the -- I was elected first in 2002 when the Democrats were in the majority. I came in a super majority as a Democrat. And then in 2010, the Republicans swept all three constitutional offices in addition to the state legislature.

So, now here we are in 2017 with this race being this close. This really gives energy to the Democratic Party in the state of Alabama. It also shows the rest of the country, showed the Democratic Party, the DNC, that we play in the state of Alabama.

So I`m excited. Definitely, I want Doug Jones to win tonight. But across the board, we have real opportunity in the 2018 elections, what our state legislative races, with our gubernatorial races. And all of those other state constitutional officers. And I`m excited about 2018.

MADDOW: I can tell. And you`re making a good case for it. Alabama Democratic State Representative Merika Coleman, a member of the Democratic leadership -- I really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks very much for being with us.

COLEMAN: Thank you so much, Rachel. Love what you do.

MADDOW: Oh, thank you. That`s very nice.

All right. More ahead. And, in fact, we`ve been talking about those most populous counties in the state, which are going to be absolutely key to a Doug Jones win. Looking at Madison County where Huntsville is, Montgomery County, Mobile County, Jefferson County where Birmingham is. Those are all counties that are the most populous in the state. Doug Jones is expected to win all of those counties. The question is how big a margin he is going to have in some of those counties.

We`ve got some important data next that we`re going to go through with Steve Kornacki in terms of how much of the vote we`ve got out of those big city precincts and counties.

Much more ahead. Stay with us.


MADDOW: (AUDIO GAP) in the Alabama Senate race, including now a real focus on the most populous counties in the state.

Steve Kornacki?

KORNACKI: Yes, look, I mean, we`ve got a real trend here. We were talking about this a little earlier.

Really, if you`re looking all through this area of Alabama here, these are the heavily black counties in the state, you are seeing turnout levels that are in the 70 percent, 75 percent, 78 percent of what they were in the 2016 election. If you look down here, sort of the Wire Grass Region, supposed to be the epicenter for Roy Moore. He is doing very well in terms of the share of the vote he is getting, but you`re getting 58, 57 percent of the turnout you had in 2016.

It`s something we`re also seeing up here. Again, in these rural, heavily Republican counties, you`re seeing a turnout advantage, an enthusiasm advantage in the heavily black areas of the state. So, that is a key thing that is happening for Jones.

And you mention it, look. In terms of Jones` strategy, that`s good news for him. This is where you got the most vote, you got Mobile County. Barely anything has come in and you got half of Jefferson County. Look, he is already ahead by 60,000 votes. The margin, the 85 percent should come down a little bit. But again, there are some big areas out where Jones is expected to do very well.

MADDOW: And that will be absolutely key to him being able to pull this off where. He is expected to win the most populous counties in the state. We don`t have a big proportion over many yet.

KORNACKI: Right, exactly.

MADDOW: All right. Steve Kornacki, we`ll be right back with more of the results from Alabama Senate tonight.


MADDOW: It is two hours since the polls closed in Alabama, and we still don`t know. Here`s what we got in terms of the latest vote count. Right now, we`ve got 72 percent of the vote in. I did not think we`d have 72 percent in by 10:00. But we do. And right now, it`s too close to call.

Roy Moore with a slim lead over Doug Jones. A little bit less than 23,000 votes between them. A 51-48 split right now with right now with just under 3/4 of a vote in. Again, Doug Jones and his campaign, his supporters right now really keep a close eye on the big most populated counties in the state, including Birmingham and Montgomery and Mobile and Huntsville.

We do not have complete results from the counties where any of those cities are located. And that`s supposed to be the real stronghold, not just in terms of the proportion by which Doug Jones is expected to win there, but the sheer number of votes he is expected to get out of those places.

So, still very exciting.

That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.


Good evening, Lawrence.




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