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Transcript: The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, 9/14/21

Guests: Seema Mehta, Mike Murphy, A.B. Stoddard, Philip Rucker


Polls now close in California recall election. Governor Gavin Newsom speaks to supporters after recall vote.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again. Day 238 of Biden administration, it is as we`ve been covering tonight, election night in California just at this moment. The polls have closed there and we`re about to find out whether voters have decided to keep Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom on the job or make him the second governor in that state`s history to be ousted in a recall election.

Newsom is in the third year of his first term. He`s been facing criticism for his handling of the pandemic, among other things. He won in a landslide back in 2016. Tonight, Newsom needs a simple majority 50% plus one to stay in office in a state where we quickly ad, where Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly two to one, the leading Republican candidate challenger right wing radio talk show host Larry Elder has already started laying the groundwork to blame a loss if it happens on so called election fraud. So, to get us situated tonight, before we get to our starting line, let`s go quickly to the big board.

Steve Kornacki is on duty there tonight. And Steve quickly our NBC News decision desk has given us the following morning for 11 o`clock eastern time straight up 8 p.m. on the west coast, and that is that this race is technically too early to call but know the anti-recall vote is in the lead. Take it away.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that`s right, Brian, you see it here with any minute now. We are going to start getting results from California. No, it means no recall. Yes, means yes recall Gavin Newsom. These counties over here, all 58. And we`re going to start lighting up within the next couple minutes. And let me just take you through exactly what to expect here. The way they do elections in California, there is a lot of mail-in voting, the majority, usually the vast majority of ballots are cast by mail, and many of them have been sent in in the last few days, the last few weeks, the counties have been receiving them, processing them, and they are going to report them out within minutes of polls closing in 2020. The presidential election last fall, the first report we got from any county in California came 11 minutes after poll closing. And by 25 minutes after poll closing, we had about 40% of all the votes that were cast in the state already reported out.

So, this thing looks blank and empty right now. But we`re going to get a lot of votes very quickly here. To take you through, there are three types of votes here, three sort of specific categories of votes, the stuff you`re going to see in the next few minutes over the next hour or so is going to be mail vote, as I just said, votes that arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, days ago, maybe up until yesterday, early today, the mail votes going to be the first thing you arrive. It`s the most friendly to Democrats. That`s what the history has been on this. So, the numbers you see right away, are going to be as rosy as they get for Gavin Newsom against the recall, that`s probably going to be the first, you know, hour or so here as these counties start to come in, then what happens is the county start to release and add up and release the votes that were cast, same day, people that went out to the polls today, cast ballots, kind of the old fashioned way, those will get added in, you know, that`s probably going to be starting about an hour from now, you`re going to start to really get the same day vote added in there.

This is going to be the most Republican friendly chunk of votes that are out there. So, it`s going to be a big number for the Democrats right away. Then the Republicans -- we got our first results. San Diego County and this is a biggie. OK, let me show you what just -- this is the second biggest county in the state. So, let`s take you through what we just got, San Diego County and look at this, I said it`s a ton of votes. Look at what we just got here. We got over 800,000 votes in San Diego County. What you are looking at in San Diego County, these are mail-in ballots primarily. What you just got here, earliest arriving as I just said, most democratic friendly.

And let me take you through how we`re interpreting these. This is a great example as they come in from around the state. Let`s take a look, I got to select this. Let`s take a look at San Diego County in 2020. So, this was Biden Trump in the same County. Biden won this county 6237. So, the benchmark tonight in any county is this. You take the Trump number. Remember Trump got trounced in California, he got 34% of the vote statewide in California. So, the recall to succeed statewide if Trump got 34% statewide, in any given County, the recall probably needs to do about 16 points better than Trump did. So that means in San Diego County as a rough, this is rough, a rough target to be on track to succeed, the recall is going to need about 53% support in a place like San Diego County. And here we go, we just got two-thirds probably of all the vote in San Diego County. The mail-in vote in the recall is running at 39%, the targets 53 it`s running at 39.

Now I said this is the most democratic friendly it`s going to look, same day will be added in, more Republican friendly, late arriving mail ballots, they`re not as Democratic still to be added to this.


But in 2020, if that -- if past is prologue, in 2020, this number, it will only move about four or five points. That`s what it did in 2020. The Trump number went up about four or five points on average from first report to final result. So, for the recall to be succeeding, it means basically, there`d have to be a flood of same day voters in San Diego County, other places like it today. This numbers got to come up big time in San Diego County. So that`s the first one we have right now.

Remember the exit poll, that projection you just gave, Brian. The exit poll looks rosy for Gavin Newsom. The early results in San Diego County certainly look rosy for Newsom, the target again, the benchmark, I should say, the recall needs to be over 50% here, in the mail votes, it`s far from it. We would need a big change in the same day vote in San Diego County for that recall to be on track. It isn`t right now.

Now I`m just looking, let me just reset this. So again, the statewide vote right now that`s only San Diego County. This is a biggie. It`s the second biggest in the state. You know, right here. It`s about 10% of the vote. We just got another one. OK, this is Napa wine country right now, again, this is going to be a heavily democratic County. No surprise here. No is leading in Napa, but again, here you go, yes, 28%, Trump got about 29%. So again, the target and a place like this roughly, for the recall to be succeeding statewide, would probably be at least 40. You know, a significant jump from what Trump got. Right now, it`s level with what Trump got. And again, for Napa, this is the lion`s share of the vote, the mail-in vote that just came in.

SO again, recall supporters would want this number to be a lot higher. Otherwise, the only thing that could change it for them, same day vote because they get this is the mail vote, the votes that were cast today, yet to be counted to have to be just a flood of them, a flood of pro recall votes at a level we haven`t seen in past elections. That`s what it would take. You know, if this pattern continues to hold, we see it now. The patterns held in San Diego -- with the pattern we`ve seen San Diego, Napa, the first two counties that come in, the benchmark is not being met for recall supporters.

I`m just seeing here. Let`s just reset this, the button, I thought it was.

WILLIAMS: Steve, let me ask.


WILLIAMS: Traditionally, we`re also very eager to see La County, we`re very eager to see Orange County, traditionally how fast those two counties report?

KORNACKI: So, Los Angeles County, which you see right here 10 million people in Los Angeles County, it is 25% of all the votes statewide. One out of every four votes cast statewide will come out of La County. In last November, we got about 60% of the vote in La County at 11:25 p.m. And I can tell you, getting San Diego County and Napa this quick, these two counties are already ahead of their pace from last November. So, you know, La County we got the majority of the vote, 25 minutes after polls closed. Last November, it was 11:25 p.m. In La County, Orange County just south of there. We got a majority to vote I believe at 11:26 p.m. Alameda County in the Bay Area, we got before 11:30. We`re, you know, so again, we usually get the majority of the vote in the biggest counties in the first half hour after polls close. And the only thing on the ballot tonight is the recall. So, it`s quicker probably to count in the process.

So, I keep looking at. We just got Orange, Orange County, third biggest. Here we go. And again, look at this. It`s basically two-thirds of the vote. OK, 64% is in. This will be the most democratic friendly, but compare, here`s Orange County in 2020. Biden wins 53/44, right? Trump got 44%. The recalls got to be doing about 16 points better than Trump did. The recall needs to be running at about 60% in Orange County, it`s at 42.

Again, most democratic friendly, should come up. But in 2020, the Republican share the vote only ended up going up about four or five points from the mail in portion which we`re seeing now to the final result. So again, San Diego, Orange, Napa, three counties, we`ve got the majority of the vote in. Three counties, we`re receiving most of the mail vote, and in all three, the recall is far from the benchmark it would need to be hitting to succeed statewide.

And we just got --

WILLIAMS: All right, Steve Kornacki. What do we get?

KORNACKI: Ventura County again, right next door to La.

WILLIAMS: Ventura.

KORNACKI: This another big one here, but 800,000 people here again, two- thirds of the vote just came in Ventura County. The Trump number was 38 the recall number right now 36%. Again, the target here for the recall to succeed would be, I`m going to say about 54%. If the recall is running at 54 in Ventura, it`s looking good statewide. It`s running at 36 in the mail vote right now, again, we`ll see, is there a flood of same day that could move this up dramatically, but it would have to be extremely dramatic. Because again, that`s the fourth county we`ve got numbers from as the fourth county, it`s shorter the benchmark.


Oh, here`s a biggie, Santa Clara, 2 million people, San Jose, overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly Democratic County, you know, bay area here. But again, you know, here is 22% in the mail, we got 70% of the vote in Santa Clara County. Again, it`s -- there`s no sign in any of the counties we`ve seen yet of this recall having any of the momentum it would need to even get near 50%.

Now, the one thing I`ll say is, there could be some regional disparities here, here we go. This is a small one, Republican. So, this is an interesting test. OK, this is a more rural Republican friendly County, we`re getting into northern California here. So OK, you know, Trump got 62% in Glenn County, the recall is now running at 68. Again, for it to be succeeding statewide, it`s probably got to be getting up into the mid-70s, into the high 70s. So, it`s doing better there. But it`s not probably at the level it needs to be running at. So, we`re just, we`re going from county to county here. Merced County, OK, now we`re getting into the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Valley, this is a little bit different demographically than some of the other counties I`ve shown you.

So, let`s take a look. OK. Trump got 43 and a half percent here. The recall is running right now at 48%. Probably the target here in Merced, I`m going to say is about 60, maybe 59 or 60%. So, the recall running a little better than Trump did here. There`s more support for the recall here than some of the other counties I showed you. But again, it`s got a dramatically outperformed Trump to have a chance statewide, it`s only outperforming them by about four points in the mail-in vote here.

So, we were just saying the question, I`m just looking, is anything else come up here? The question coming into this, Brian, are we going to see anything in these early returns, that suggested the polling heading up before election day, or the exit polling site, anything that suggested those numbers were off, because those numbers had Newsom double digits ahead in this thing? Nothing in any of these counties I`ve shown you so far, suggests that the polling or the exit polling was off in this thing.

WILLIAMS: And, Steve, let me ask you a question about our process, you can stare at the board if you want. It`s not impolite. We`re all looking at the same counties, you are. Our decision desk, with whom you and I are not allowed communication or conversation because they have to be able to crunch the numbers without any outside pressure or without knowing what other news organizations are doing, our decision desk, factors in into a giant algorithm, correct? The fact that this is first wave mail ballots, even though in some of these counties, it is north of 70% of all the votes were going to get in. And do they have a threshold where folks stand up late tonight here on the East Coast, are going to learn perhaps what it looks like in California?

KORNACKI: I think the answer to that is yes. And I mean, just to underscore the point here, Brian, we`re, what, 10 minutes 30 -- I see it`s 8:13 West Coast time right now. I mean, look at this, you can add it up, we`ve got more than 2 million votes, well over 2 million votes, nearly two and a half million votes statewide, already counted up in this thing. You know, we`re nearly -- we`re at 19% of all the votes have already been counted. So, I think the game right now just in terms of trying to get to an outcome in this, it basically looks like this, let`s use San Diego County as an example.

So again, this is probably about 68%, two-thirds of all the vote in San Diego County has already been counted. And as I said, it is the early mail vote. That`s the bulk of the vote. Now, what will be added to that probably in the next hour, hour and a half or so they`ll start to add up the old- fashioned way. People who went to the polls today, they count up the ballots, they report them out. If it`s anything, if what we see there is anything like what we saw last November and a typical California election, it won`t bring that number down dramatically. It would have to be, so I think they just want to see one or two, one or two of these counties. They want to see what that same day vote looks like. They want to see if there`s something very unprecedented in it. But if there isn`t, the pattern is being set very quickly here.

Oh, we got La County, oh here we go.


KORNACKI: La County and again, first thing to see basically 60% of all the votes in the largest by far the largest county in California just came in here. Again, there`s 10 million people in La County. A quarter of all the vote statewide comes out of La County, and we just got 60% of it heavily democratic. Okay.


But let`s compare it to last November, Donald Trump got 27% of the vote in Los Angeles County. Right now, in the mail, most of the mail vote from La County, the recall is running with about 24% support. So, it`s running a few points under what Donald Trump got last November. And again, the target for this thing to be succeeding statewide and a county as big as Los Angeles. The recalls got to be up near around 40% support in a place like Los Angeles County, it`s running at 24% with like 2 million votes basically already counted. In Los Angeles County. I`m just going to look right here. I can tell you, in 20, I`ll give you the exact number. So, you can see for comparison here.

In 2020, when we got this batch of votes in Los Angeles County, right, the mail-in votes, Donald Trump was run out of state right here, Donald Trump was running at 20%. Donald Trump got 20% with this batch of votes in Los Angeles County, in this is what he ended up at 27%. So, Trump`s support grew from the same day vote from the late mail vote the other stuff that hasn`t been counted yet, his support grew seven points. If the support for the recall also grew seven points, right in the remaining ballots, that would basically put it at 31%, 31%. And again, it needs to be around 40% in LA County. So, it`s on pace right now to be significantly under where it needs to be.

So again, when you ask, could we get an official result here? I think it`s a question, Brian, in a place like Los Angeles County, of just seeing a little bit of that same day vote to make sure there`s nothing going on there, that we weren`t expecting a flood of unexpected votes and even bigger margin for the recall than we were expecting something that could bring that 23.7 in La County, up to around 40%. And that would have to happen in county after county.

Fresno, here we go. You know, a million people in Fresno, County. The heart of the San Joaquin Valley, you know, look this, we got about 60% of the vote, Trump rate at 45% here, the recall is running at 46. It needs to be over 60 exact same story. The mail-in votes right now have put the recall in a position. You just need a flood and avalanche something unprecedented in same day vote to bring that support up to where it needs to be. I haven`t seen a single county yet where the mail-in vote has the recall anywhere near where it needs to be.

WILLIAMS: By the way, good on California, you and I have spent many a long night painfully waiting, Iowa comes to mind by the way, for reporting this much. What do you have in the Bay Area?

KORNACKI: Here we go. OK, so this is the obviously the strongest democratic area in the state, you know, about 20% of the votes going to come out of the Bay Area. But let`s just take -- let`s go across the bay from San Francisco, Contra Costa County, California, over a million people here. Again, this is core Democrats -- most liberal counties in California. Remember Gavin Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco. He`s a bay area guy, so maybe there`s a bit of a home county advantage for him here. Home area advantage, I should say. But look again, 26% for Trump, two-thirds of the vote in in Contra Costa County, 24% is the support right now for the recall. It`s got to be much higher than that, it would take something wild in the same day vote. We just got the state capitol region here.

Sacramento County, OK, more than half the vote. Early mail-in vote, a little more democratic than the rest of the vote that will come in. But here`s Trump running -- a Trump running at 36.1% here. The recall running below it. I can give you a Sacramento County as I look it up right here. Sacramento County in 2020, right? Donald Trump at first report had 35%. So, this same group vote the big early mail vote dump in 2020 had Trump at 35. He landed at 36. It went up a point it was more Republican in the same day in the late, it moving up a point, if there`s moved up a point it would be at 35% where does it need to be for the recall the past statewide 50 to 53 somewhere over 50 so again, exact same pattern county after county.

Let me just see if we got anything new here. I`m seeing, yes. Is this -- let me just check on this.

WILLIAMS: That`s 95% in.

KORNACKI: Yeah. Hey, Adam, are you -- can you check on Santa Clara? What just -- yeah, let`s just -- let`s get some clarification on that.

WILLIAMS: And what about Alameda?

KORNACKI: OK, that might be an error that just came in Santa Clara County. We want -- I want to check what just happened in Santa Clara County.


Take a look at Alameda County, though. Again, this is one of the giant democratic counties. Early mail vote 15% again, Trump didn`t even get 20% right here, so it`s that same pattern. You know, you just let`s see here. Solano County, OK. Trump 34%, the recalls getting 30% right now, you`re looking at the mail-in vote. You know, it`s the same pattern. Let`s go through the San Joaquin Valley here. Just take a look at a few more that came in, Madera County, OK. Madera, just, you know, about 20 minutes from Fresno. Trump hit 55% here. The recalls running at 57% right now. 70% of the votes in, the recall needs to be running close to 70% year probably, to be having a chance.

Let`s go to the Sacramento suburbs, Placer County, OK, fast growing right outside Sacramento here. Trump actually won this county. This county, Placer County outside Sacramento has the highest concentration of college degrees for a county that went for Trump in California in 2020. So again, Trump got 52%. Yes, is actually running three and a half points below where Trump was right now. Yes, is running at 48%. Again, for the recall, they have a chance statewide, that 48 probably has to be 64, 65%, somewhere around there.

So again, it`s running low there. You would expect it to go up a little bit, you know, with the same day vote. But would it go up where it needs to go? It just -- you don`t see right now how that would happen. Just seeing what else has come in here. This is a core democratic. This is where Davis is one of the most democratic counties probably in the country. Trump 28, 27. I`m just checking to see if there`s anything, any exceptions to this path. We go to sort of far northern California, tiny little counties here. OK, rural Northern California, Trump 75. The recall is running at 82. So here in the recall, is running higher than Trump. This is the largest swing in a positive direction from Trump. Yes, on the recall we`ve seen, you could see how small, less down he is, you know, we`re talking 6700 people.

Meanwhile, we just showed you millions of votes down in Los Angeles. You know, but this is the most Republican part of the state just in terms of vote share. It`s also the smallest part of the state, just in terms of where population is, it`s very geographically big counties, small in population heavily Republican. So, if this is the best news for the recall right now, the recall is not doing too well. I think we`ve got some stuff in Santa Barbara. Yep. Mail vote in Santa Barbara, two-thirds of the vote in Santa Barbara County. OK, that`s south facing coastline right there. Trump 33% here. The recall a fraction of a point lower. Recall probably needs to be in the high 40s in Santa Barbara County to be succeeding statewide. So, you`re not seeing it there. You know, where else can we look, Monterey? What happened in Monterey? Donald Trump at 28%. OK, the recall is running exactly where Trump ran with two-thirds of the vote in, you know, let`s just look Monterey in last November. So, when this same group of votes was counted last November, Donald Trump was running at 25%. Then they counted the more Republican friendly same day votes, late mail, and it went up to 28.2.

So, if that same thing and increase it three points, if the current yes of 28 goes up to 31, where does it need to be? Probably over 60 plus 28, probably needs to be about 44%. So, it`s on course, right now, based on the history, based on what we know about these turnout patterns. It`s on course to be 10 plus points, 13 points short, you know, in a place like Monterey, County.

OK. This is what I wanted to show you a minute ago. And let me just -- let me check one thing, my producer Adam, was the vote flipped. Yes and no in - - OK. OK, so a minute ago, I just want to -- a minute ago, we had Santa Clara, if you saw, this is -- we`ve shown you two phases with Santa Clara. Santa Clara is where San Jose is. You`re talking about Silicon Valley`s about 2 million people right here, getting into the bay area. So, this is one of the most democratic counties in the state, one of the most democratic counties in the country.

This is the mail vote in Santa Clara County. You see, again, we have 71% of the vote right here. A minute ago, we showed you an update that had yes, somehow overtaking it, as you can see mathematically with a difference here of about 250,000 votes. There was an error in our system where the wrong County was put in here for, yes. And so, as a result, Santa Clara temporarily had yes jumping over to the top which didn`t make any sense. So that clerical error has been fixed. And again, we`re waiting for the same day vote in Santa Clara County, but that`s where it is, 78 to 22%.

Just Riverside County -- OK, here we go. Let`s go to the Inland Empire here. OK, let`s take a look at Riverside County, there`s more than 2 million people here. We`ve got the mail-in vote 54 to 46 for no, almost two-thirds of the vote.


Now let`s take a look, Donald Trump, he got 45% of the vote in Riverside County, no is now running at 46%. Let`s just take a look here at what the pattern was last time around. Donald Trump last time around in this same batch of votes, he started with 41%. And he ended up at 45%. So, there was an increase a Republican shift of four points. OK, when they counted up all the other ballots here last November, if there were a shift of four points, again, that this would basically be up to 50%. The recall would be on course, potentially, to narrowly when Riverside County, but what`s the target? What`s the benchmark for the recall to be succeeding statewide? Remember what we said, you got to take the Trump number, and you got to add 16 points because Trump got blown out in California, if he got 45 in this county, the recall would need like 61% in Riverside County to be on course to get narrow wins statewide.

So again, the recall right now based on the historic math is on course for about 50 needs to be over 60. You probably noticed a pattern here we`re seeing this in county after County. Did we get San Bernardino? The other part of the Inland Empire here. OK, yes 42% No, 58% about half the vote in San Bernardino County is in getting this is another biggie here, just so you know, by the way, this swath right here, more than 50% of all the vote in California, coming out of these counties right here, you know, San Bernardino Valley, this corner of it, Riverside County, this corner of it, the Inland Empire very, very densely populated. So, we`re getting a ton of votes right here. You can see Trump got 43 and a half percent here. The recall right now is running at 42%. Again, so the recall has got to hit about 58% in San Bernardino County.

Let`s just take a look, Donald Trump started, let me get the number here. OK, this is a place where Donald Trump started at 38 in 2020. So, the late shift in San Bernardino was about five and a half points, one of the bigger Republican shifts we saw in 2020. So, if you got a shift like that, five and a half, let`s call it six points. The recall would be on course to get about 48% in San Bernardino County, but again, it needs 58. So, it was a sizable shift here, relatively speaking, the last election in the San Bernardino County, the Republican vote increased about five and a half points from the mail-in vote to the final result. If that happens again, it`s still going to be short, it`s still going to be significantly short.

So again, that was one of the better counties we`ve seen so far. We could just reset and check statewide vote. I mean, look at this, we`re now up to nearly 60% of the statewide vote in, the margin is 2.7 million votes right now, for no over yes. We have counted a total of almost seven and a half million votes statewide in California right now. We`re probably going to have about 12 million total, when this is over, maybe 13 million, somewhere in that ballpark. We`ve counted the majority of votes right now.

Again, what`s been counted is the most democratic friendly, each one of these counties have been taking you through the math, on average, in each county as you can see, the Republicans typically gain 3, 4, 5 points in the late arriving ballots. If that were to happen statewide from what you`re seeing right now, 31 and a half might go to, you know, 35, 36. There are some more Republican friendly counties here, I can see Kern County where Bakersfield is that`s the biggest Republican plurality producing county in the state. We don`t have numbers from there yet.

Shasta County we`re reading is, we don`t have numbers there that could get this number up, you may be in the higher 30s. But I really think, Brian, the big picture here is the mail-in vote is coming in county after county. We are seeing that in the mail-in vote, the recall is nowhere near the targets that it needs to be competitive statewide. The early mail vote is totally consistent with an exit poll that showed Gavin Newsom comfortably surviving this recall.

The mail-in and vote is consistent with the polling we saw before the election that add Newsom comfortably surviving. The piece of it that remains to be seen. And I`m just waiting for any kind of alert here where we might get it is we want to see some of these big counties that I`ve been taking you through. We want to see the same day vote be added into that. Because if -- take for instance, you know, go through San Diego County, right? So, the math that I`ve been going through, OK, San Diego County, Trump ended up at 37 and a half percent. Where do you start? I can call it up right here, right, 34 right. So, the Republican vote increased through same day vote and a little bit late arriving mail, it increased three and a half points.


OK, if anything like that happens right now, if yes goes up three and a half points, nowhere near its target. I think what the decision desk wants to see is get the same day vote from a San Diego, get it from a few other places, it makes sure that that basic pattern is what we`re looking at here. That`s the pattern we looked at and 2020, pattern we saw in 2018, it`s a pretty well-established pattern. And if anything, like that pattern prevails here, the recall goes down and the recall goes down in a route. But I think they want to make sure that there`s no surprise here where the recall doesn`t gain 10 points or something through the same day vote with you. A flood of turnout, an unexpected surge of support for something unforeseen, something that wasn`t picked up in the polling. I think they just want to make sure. But I think that`s the level of it would have to be something very dramatic, very unforeseen, frankly, unprecedented to swing these counties. anywhere near the level of support, the recall would need to succeed statewide.

I think we got San Francisco in. Again, I mean, this is -- Gavin Newsom was the mayor of San Francisco. It doesn`t get more liberal in San Francisco, but I`ll just show you it`s almost a million people there. And again, the recall in the mail-in phase here running just, you know, a fraction of a point below Trump. I mean, again, this is the story I`ve been telling you in county after county, Marin.

OK, let`s go across the Golden Gate straight right there. Again, this is just it`s just super, super liberal, you know, a lot of wealthier Marin County. And you can take a look though, you know, Trump`s 16%, 15% right now, in the mail-in portion. Again, the target here for the recall would be significantly higher than what you`re looking at. You know, we got Sonoma County. Here, you`re starting to move up the north coast there to Redwood coast. Trump got 23%, recalls running that 22%, target is going to be 40% here, it`s the same story county after county. So again, big picture, Brian, zooming out 60% almost to the vote statewide is in right now.

Monster, a lead here for the Newsom side against this recall. And I think just waiting to see and I keep looking at his map to see if it something lights up, just waiting to see that same day vote in a few places to confirm that the trend this time looks like it is looked in the past. And that would tell you for certain that the recall has no chance.

WILLIAMS: So, to Steve and to our audience, a couple of notes here, we are going to keep a camera on Steve so if he wildly waves his arms if something big comes in, we will interrupt whoever is talking and go to Steve. Steve, please take a hit of the oxygen I sent over to your apartment this week. Don`t keep -- don`t take your eyes off the map as that is our lead story this hour. All we`re going to do is bring in some of the learned guests we have standing by our starting frontline on this election Tuesday night.

Starting with Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning Senior Washington Correspondent for The Washington Post, famously co-author along with his colleague Carol Leonnig. of the New York Times bestseller, I Alone Can Fix It. A.B. Stoddard, Veteran Washington journalist and Associate Editor and Columnist for Real Clear Politics, Seema Mehta, Political Writer for The Los Angeles Times, can`t wait to hear what`s going through her mind about now, and Mike Murphy, Veteran Republican Strategist who worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger back in `03 when California did in fact, recall its governor Gray Davis, putting Arnold in office also happens to be the co-director of the Center for the Political Future at the University of Southern California and co-host in his spare time of the podcast called Hacks on Tap.

Good evening at long last, and welcome to you all. Seema, if you have to leave to oh, I don`t know, write journalism on deadline, you let us know you don`t have to wave your arms as wildly as Steve. But we`re understanding folks around here. But for that reason, I`d like to start with you. For folks who don`t follow the ins and outs of California politics and the other 49 states who may be watching tonight, remind people what led to this recall effort and how and why did it pick up steam?

SEEMA MEHTA, LOS ANGELES TIMES POLITICAL WRITER: Every modern governor in California in modern history has faced multiple recall attempts, including Governor Newsom, and they largely haven`t gone anywhere except as the one you mentioned earlier against Governor Gray Davis in 2003. So, Newsom faced a number of these attempts that, you know, the people just the backroom, failed to get enough signatures. But this time around, the backroom started off. They were criticizing as promised policies on homelessness on immigration. They weren`t talking about the pandemic, but when the pandemic hit, they went to a judge, and they were able to get four extra months and that four extra months was just critical. It happened at the same time as schools were shut down, businesses were shut down. Voters were really frustrated they were juggling, you know, their kids learning at home, trying to work from home. At the same time, you know, you have the images the famous images of Governor Newsom dining at the French Laundry, mask less with friends. At the same time, he was telling Californians not to gather with multifamily groups on Thanksgiving.


So that really just created this real fuel for the recall effort. And that`s how they were able to get enough signatures to qualify, that`s also an attractive donor money, which they needed to, for the final push of signature gathering. But that timing made all of the difference, this Atmos thing qualified for the ballot.

WILLIAMS: So as a lay person where California politics are concerned, Seema, I would put it this way and correct me if I`m wrong, it is relatively easy as things go to force a recall in California, as we`re seeing at the map tonight, it`s much tougher to reject a sitting governor. We just heard Lawrence`s interview with Congresswoman Bass before the top of the hour. She said she would like very much to tighten the standards, make it harder to force these recalls, is there any chance we`ll see something like that in our lifetimes?

MEHTA: If people are already talking about it, whether it`s increasing the number of signatures you need, or maybe having two different elections, where you have one election for that recall and a second election for the replacement, the fact that having the Lieutenant Governor step in if I recall, successful, there`s also only having a recall, if there`s criminal conduct or malfeasance, there`s all kinds of the time, we have to remember that the recalls and training California Constitution. So, you can`t just like wave a magic wand and make it go away. You`d have to have the legislature or signature gathers, get it to the ballot, and then you`d have to have voters approve it.

And if you looked at the polling, voters do approve recalling, reforming this process, because first of all, it`s enormously expensive. This election alone is costing like $100 million. But let`s also don`t like to give up power. And so, it`s questionable whether this will actually happen. A lot of people are talking about it. But there is some skepticism of what the follow through will be if we wake up tomorrow and things are back tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: So, Mike, A.B. and Phil, I`m coming to you after I go to Steve Kornacki at the board who has news, Steve.

KORNACKI: And there it is, you can see the news, Brian, with the checkmark, NBC News is officially projecting that the recall attempt against Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California has failed. It`s failing as you can see, by the results here decisively at this point, we now have 60% of all the vote counted here in California, the recall right now is failing by a better than two to one margin, the difference there is 2.7 million votes. That`s a 35-point margin between them.

We did see there are a couple of counties that are up to. We were talking about the importance of seeing that same day vote, there are a couple of counties that are up to 100% of their vote right now. And no, there was no surprise there. In terms of that historical pattern, we were talking about. There was a little bit of improvement in the final numbers in those counties for the recall, relative to Trump last year. But of course, the recall needs massive improvement from the numbers Trump was putting up. So, from this point, you know, there are still a few counties here a handful of counties in the state. These are generally small population counties, where we`re still waiting on the mail-in vote to come in. Then the same day vote will be tallied tonight over the next few days. And really over the next week, the late arriving mail vote is going to be tallied up to. So, it`s a long way of saying this number is actually going to take a while to get up to 100%. And it`s going to become this recall number will grow between now and when all of the votes are counted. But it`s clear from what we have right now, it`s clear to our decision desk, I think it`s clear to everybody who has been watching along with me here that this number is going to come nowhere near 50%. This one is a landslide. The recall fails Gavin Newsom is going to survive as California`s governor.

WILLIAMS: All right, Steve Kornacki at the board with the result from our decision desk.

So, Mike Murphy, as our decision desk, sees it. This is done and dusted all over but the shouting and the final tallies of the same day vote. Mike, what did the recall of Gray Davis and the resulting placement of the terminator in Sacramento. What did that have that this recall didn`t have?

MIKE MURPHY, VETERAN REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I was watching the numbers come in. And the truth is this thing has been dead for three months. And I`ll tell you why, as the guy ran the last recall. La County, big vital La County was split by two percentage in the recall because when you have a real recall, there`s energy and all the parties to recall. You do very well with the client, the state or independent voters. You do very, very well. Republicans are out of power. But you chip off some Democrats I mean, San Bernardino and Riverside down the Inland Empire those were 70% count. San Diego was a 64% yes County. So, you know, we`ve kind of been doing play by play on a Globetrotters game here and the reason it`s been dead for so long, and now we`ve counted it and found that out is California has changed since Arnold`s recall was still a democratic state. But the Republican registration in California is only up about 20,000 votes. The Democratic registration is up nearly over three and a half million new votes. So, the state has become much more democratic. So that makes it even harder just based on tribalism, which is why you saw Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, President Biden, all coming just to make sure Democrats showed up, because normal would crush Republicans.


Finally, when you have a candidate like a Schwarzenegger who is not about partisan politics, that keeps the focus of the election on the Democratic officeholder they`re unhappy with. This election became tribal because it became about Trump Republicans that really don`t have their own identity. And so, then it`s blue versus red in California, particularly now that`s done and overweight. So, Gavin was in trouble, but he had a very blue safety harness that I think was always going to save him in this story tonight, though, these numbers will tighten is still that it`s going to be a pretty big convincing victory for him, and he of course will make political hay out of that going forward.

WILLIAMS: To our viewers, just this note, it`s obvious that in the right- hand side of your screen, that`s a live picture from Sacramento note the banner does not mention Newsom, it is all about California Democrats as they indeed have, according to our decision desk, been victorious in turning away this recall tonight. We`re expecting the governor to speak and when he does, we`ll take it live.

Mike, the tougher question for you to answer as we await that event. How is it that Larry Elder ended up as the Republican front runner, the man divvied among Republicans?

MURPHY: Well, none of the candidates had really money or muscle or a base. In the beginning Caitlyn Jenner was famous, but not defined as a candidate and she hired a bunch of Trump people and then disappeared with a campaign death. Larry Elder emerged because he`s a fixture on talk radio, which is a good way to be famous among Republican primary voters. The two more unlikable candidates, a former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and an assemblyman product, Kevin Kiley never got any attention, and they didn`t have the money to get famous. And of course, there were 46 people running and three or four of them were making noise was also getting John Cox who is traveling with a real live bear and probably a lot of beard tranquilizer.

So you know, the early poll said the guy with name ID, then name ID Elder is "front runner" on the Republican side and it became a battle to who can kind of out Trump which is fun parlor games, and the Republican base, but it`s got nothing to do with winning a blue state like California so nobody ever broke through and gave Gavin a real run concert to many of them and the magnetic field of populism, you know, pin them all down into a cul-de- sac.

WILLIAMS: Who among us hasn`t traveled with the either a real live bear or bear tranquilizers in our shaving kit. This is by way of saying to Phil Rucker and A.B. hang with us, they`re telling me if we don`t take a break, they`re going to turn the lights out or something. We`ll take a brief break in our coverage. We will blow out of that break if we see the governor start to speak. Our special live coverage of this special election night in California continues right after this.



WILLIAMS: We are back and at 11:45 Eastern Time 8:45 out west where it really matters. Our NBC News decision desk has determined based on the votes already in, based on the algorithms that tells them where this thing is headed. That the recall has been turned down. Governor Newsom will remain Governor Newsom in the state of California.

Back to our guests, A.B. Stoddard, the ongoing Republican attack very much on brand as part of Trumpism on the integrity of elections. Somewhat famously over the past 24 hours websites went up announcing the Newsom victory. These are sponsored on the other side, announcing the Newsom victory and saying it was somehow compromised. How is that argument going to work when they win one?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST: I was wondering the same thing today, Brian. It is remarkable that they couldn`t just hold the button until the actual results came in. But this is -- it`s sad, because even though it seems so funny, the free speech rights of Donald Trump have allowed, you know, for this situation that we`re in where millions and millions of Americans believe him that he lost the last election and he is so much ever since eroded the trust in the system that people have, if you look at what`s happened since Republicans need to know, there are two things at play here. The membership fee for participation in Donald Trump`s Republican Party is that you have to always back the big lie. And you have to, you know, be a 1/6 truther.

When it comes to any other election, he will even if you don`t agree with him, whether it`s the Georgia runoffs in the Senate, January five or Larry Elder`s attempt in the recall election in California, he will suppress the Republican vote by coming out and saying in advance. It`s all rigged just like the 2020 election, and it`s all a joke and thereby keep voters Republicans need to turn out at home.

So, if you`re a candidate, you just need to know going forward and Republican Party, you have to back the big lie. And then when your ballot comes to the President can be counted on, the former president to come out and tell the voters that it`s all a joke anyway. And the whole thing is rage.

WILLIAMS: Unbelievable stuff, but so on brand for both 2020 and 2021, A.B. Hey, Phil, thank you for your patience as well as. Dual construction here on this question, how important according to your reporting, and just your feel of the situation was Biden to making sure Newsom prevailed? And how important is it to Biden and his agenda that indeed, Newsom prevailed?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Brian, I think it`s important for Newsom that Biden took that trip out to Long Beach, California for that big rally last night, because it reminded the democratic faithful in California that this is not some throwaway election, but that it had -- it could have profound consequences. Remember, Biden was reminding voters in California that Larry Elder, the leading Republican candidate to replace Newsom was as close to a Trump clone as you could have. They were trying to nationalize this election and make Democrats in California fearful that if Newsom were recalled and a Republican were to take his place, it would not be an Arnold Schwarzenegger style Republican, but rather it would be a Donald Trump style Republican.

Now the second piece of your question, it`s always difficult, of course, to nationalize elections that play out in an individual state, especially when it`s unique, and is heavily Democratic as California. That said, there`s a clear takeaway from this result regarding COVID. Because Biden right now is facing a highly partisan politicized environment in reaction to the mandates that he instituted last week federally for the COVID vaccine and his, you know, strong advocacy for mass usage. And what we`re seeing in the exit polling and also in the raw results in California is overwhelming support from the voters there for wearing masks, for vaccinations, and of course for the strict protocols, the health safety measures that Governor Newsom has put in place in the state of California.


WILLIAMS: Hey Mike Murphy quick one for you, Elder is a Trumper. We should just state that plainly. There`s no other way to put it. Is there a danger to running a Trumper in a -- he was the statewide front runner among Republicans, could it hurt or erode Republican chances for suburban vote in 2022 in California?

MURPHY: Yeah, I mean, the truth is, again, this is such a Democratic lengthier, the Republicans are no longer viable, statewide. And, you know, we have lab experiment number 84 here to prove that. But, you know, if I were the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, wanting to win a Pennsylvania where the Philly suburbs are so critical, you know, wanting to win, Arizona and pick, Betsy, you know, we have a formula now that elects Democrats. And Trump`s a big part of it. And so, you know, as long as Trump runs wild, we have a brand problem in the suburbs. And while the House may be going our way for a lot of reasons outside of messaging, if they want to win the senate time for a change, because Trump as an anchor in California is a sign of that, even though it`s not a very viable state for the Republican.

WILLIAMS: Our man had this, Newsom California Democratic Party event in Sacramento is Jacob Soboroff, who over the past two days of coverage has interviewed both Elder and the still incumbent Governor, Jacob, what`s going on there that we can`t see?

JACOB SOBOROFF, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Brian, where I think just a couple minutes away from the governor walking in here to the California State Democratic Party headquarters for what really is not an improbable victory, but one that maybe a couple of weeks or months ago, may have seemed out of reach. This is a state that faces multiple crises, by the definition of the President of the United States, whether it`s how COVID hit this state, particularly hard the highest economic inequality in the Union. And I do think that Governor Newsom, who we`re going to hear from in just a minute is going to come in here and talk about how voters decided to keep him in office amidst those crises. Instead of moving away from the governor of the biggest state in the Union, the most populous state in the Union, they decided to stick with him at a time when many folks thought that he might get thrown out even by members of his own party.

And today, and over the course of the last couple days, the focus moved away from those issues. And on to democracy, Larry Elder, the front running Republican candidate said that he wouldn`t necessarily accept the results of the election. In fact, when I asked him, he declined to do so outright. And today when I spoke with Governor Newsom, he told me, point blank, win or lose, he would accept those results. It looks like tonight he`s going to have the chance to accept those results. And I think probably within the next minute or two, I`m just watching his vehicles pull up in the distance, Brian.

WILLIAMS: All right, Jacob Soboroff, who is also right in front of that cluster of microphones, and the California Democrats banner. Quickly back to Steve Kornacki while we wait, Steve, I am guessing you`re going to tell me that numbers have filled in on the board yet, obviously, in the trend lines that indicate the decision of our decision desk was the correct one?

KORNACKI: Yeah, although I got to tell you, honestly, not a ton has filled in since the last time you saw me. I think when we called the race, it was at about 60% of the vote is in now about 62% is in. And this is where I tell you if you didn`t want to be up for the next two or three weeks waiting for a result looks like the governor`s talking. I think you`re probably going to want to --

WILLIAMS: Here we go.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM, (D) CALIFORNIA: But no is not the only thing that was expressed tonight. I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people`s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women`s fundamental constitutional right to decide for self, what she does with her body, her fate and future. We said yes to diversity. We said yes to inclusion. We said yes to pluralism. We said yes to all those things that we hold dear as Californians and I would argue as Americans, economic justice, social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, our values where California has made so much progress, all of those things were on the ballot this evening.

And so, I`m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions of Californians that exercise their fundamental right to vote, and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that`s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years.


I just think of our kids watching all of this, nightly news day in and day out. And I just wonder, I`ve got four young kids oldest is about to turn 12 this weekend. And what they`re growing up to, you know, in a world, we`re so divided, these kids are increasingly fearful, isolated, disconnected. And we`re teaching them that, and none have to be that way. I think we owe our kids a deeper sense of respect, and all of us as adults` responsibility to disregard this false separateness. We`re so much more in common as a state and a nation that we give ourselves credit for. I`ve been all over the state of California over the last many years, but notably, in the last nine months, conservative parts of the state, progressive parts of the state folks that I know were in a vote no, and folks that I knew were going to vote yes, on this recall, and turned out to do just that.

But one thing that`s universal, everybody wants to be respected. Everyone wants to feel some connection to one another. We all certainly in this pandemic, want to feel safe, protected. And those are universal values. And I think about just in the last few days, and the former President put out, saying this election was rigged. Democracy is not a football. You don`t throw it around. It`s more like a, I don`t know antique face, you can drop it and smashing a million different pieces. And that`s what we`re capable of doing. If you don`t stand up to meet the moment and push back.

I said this many, many times on the campaign trail, you know, we may have defeated Trump, but Trump ism is not dead in this country. The big lie, the January 6 insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country, what`s happening, the assaults on fundamental rights constitutionally protected rights of women and girls. It`s a remarkable moment in our nation`s history. But I`m reminded of something, I don`t know, a few decades ago, someone told me when describing a difficult and challenging moment, said the world is too small, our time is too short, and our wisdom is too limited to win fleeting victories at other people`s expenses.

And he went on to say, we must all triumph together. So, in that spirit of recognizing and reconciling this moment and trying to understand what`s going on not just here in the state but all across the United States of America, I just want to say this, tonight I`m humbled, grateful, but resolved in the spirit of my political hero, Robert Kennedy, to make more gentle the life of this world. Thank you all very much, and thank you to 40 million Americans, 40 million Californians, and thank you for rejecting this recall. Good night, everybody.

WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki with having heard from Governor Newsom, Steve, take 30 seconds here, we`re right up against it to fill in anything we may have missed at the board?

KORNACKI: Yeah, no, Brian, I would just tell folks, again, we`re at 62% of all the votes counted up right now. It`s actually going to take a long time, as in a week or two to get that all the way to 100%. Some of the count is slow, but this is going to be a landslide. The polling in advance of this in the final week that was showing a decisive Newsom lead. If anything, it underestimated what happened here. This is a clear, emphatic win for Gavin Newsom.

WILLIAMS: The State of California home to 40 million Americans beset by active burning wildfires right now. And, of course, the same pandemic we are all battling and dealing with that same state of California just spent a little bit over a quarter billion dollars to carry out this recall legal as it was to raise, legal as it was to bring it to the polls. It did not prevail. The Governor did, Gavin Newsom remains the incumbent governor of the state of California.

Our thanks to our patient guests tonight, to our friend Steve Kornacki for his on-the-spot analysis at the board. That is our broad our guest for tonight, thank you so much for being here with us.