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JOHN KING, USA

Jobless Benefits; Senator John McCain Campaigns; Bart Stupak Interview; Congress Goes Home

Aired March 26, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. What an important and amazing week here in Washington, and what a great time to start a new program. As we say TGIF, our "Lead" tonight no more votes on health care, but as the Congress heads home Democrats need to sell the plan. They say it's a political plus, but Republicans predict a public revolt.

"One-on-One" tonight with Congressman Bart Stupak, his deal with the president on abortion got health care to the finish line, but now the congressman is getting heat from both the left and right.

"Wall to Wall" tonight, fewer nukes, the president announces a big deal with Russia to cut nuclear weapons and hopes it sends a tough signal to Iran.

And you won't want to miss our "Play by Play", together again John McCain and Sarah Palin, the senator faces a tough race at home, basks in the glow and support from his one-time running mate.

A busy hour ahead as we close on our first week, but as always, first, an observation or two.

The health care debate has been full of numbers. Democrats, for example, are proud to note the new law is designed to provide coverage to 32 million Americans who don't have insurance today. The Republicans, on the other hand, often start their critique with this number, $940 billion, too much, they say, for a country deep in debt to be spending right now.

That debate will be front and center coast-to-coast as Congress goes home for two weeks and we promise to be out across the country to share those debates with you. I want to share with you these numbers, though. They left me a little numb.

Total spending on TV ads in the health care debate so far tops $220 million, for comparisons, the McCain campaign in 2008 spent $126 million. One more, as you probably know one of the big political debates now is whether the legislation will create jobs, as the White House says, or kill jobs. That's a big Republican critique. Well so far, you might call the health care debate a mini stimulus program on K. (ph) Street, that's Washington's lobbying corridor, which is making a multimillion dollar killing off this debate.

Deep breath -- the Senate Republican (INAUDIBLE) reports today that more than 4,500 lobbyists hired in 2009 for work related to health reform. Let's do the math -- 4,500 lobbyists, 535 member of Congress. That's more than eight lobbyists for each member of Congress. That's worth repeating -- eight lobbyists for each member of Congress.

As you digest that, let's turn to our correspondents to share some stories tonight that are certain to be headlines tomorrow. Congress is heading home for a two-week recess after sending a package of so-called fixes to the health care bill to the president but lawmakers failed to act on another measure that had been atop their agenda and that failure could mean pain for families already struggling in this recession. Senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash takes us inside this latest partisan stand-off -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, some people on extended unemployment may not get their checks after April 5th. Why is that -- because today Congress left for a two-week recess without extending those benefits. Now how could that happen? Well it's a fight, once again, over how to pay for those benefits.

Republicans want to cover -- to cut spending to cover the cost of the benefit but Democrats insist joblessness is an emergency that should not have to be offset. So Democrats who run Congress, they actually, John, they could have forced everyone to stay in town and vote, even into this weekend, but they chose not to. Democratic sources say, what's the point? They won't have the votes to keep the benefits going anyway and some Republicans I talked to say, well without paying for it Democrats are probably right, the votes wouldn't be there.

KING: We'll keep following that one. Thanks, Dana, and you might say it was together again today for the 2008 Republican national ticket. Senator John McCain faces a GOP primary challenge back home in Arizona as he seeks another term in Washington. Well he called in Sarah Palin today to help shore up his support among conservatives.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: If you want real leadership, and not just rhetoric, not just talk, blah, blah, blah, if you want somebody to fight for what it is that this state and this country needs, then I'm asking you to vote for John McCain. Let's send the maverick back to the Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And remember, in Iowa yesterday, President Obama said if Republicans want to run on repealing health care, then they should go for it. Well Senator McCain today returned the volley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am confident that I am here reflecting the view of the majority of the American people by saying, right, Mr. President, we're going to go for it, and we're going to -- and we're going to repeal this bill. And we're going to stop this spending. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: National political correspondent Jessica Yellin was on hand in Tucson and takes us behind the curtain of this remarkable campaign theater -- hi Jess.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. You know this event has barely ended and already we're told, don't be surprised if you see it turned into a TV ad for John McCain. Just another sign of how big a political rock star Sarah Palin has become.

She's already on the radio here for John McCain, and tonight a big political fund-raiser she's attending is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for McCain. The campaign tell me, it's much more than they expected thanks to Sarah Palin.

It seems Palin mania is rubbing off, but in only some ways because I talked to members of the audience here today who came in undecided and many of them still left undecided when it comes to John McCain. They were chanting "Sarah, Sarah, Sarah" not, "John, John, John." Still the campaign spokesman says they were super happy with the event. Their words, the Mack is back. We'll see -- John.

KING: Super happy with the event, we'll see if they get votes. Jessica Yellin thanks. I wish I could have been there. Thanks so much. Have a great weekend.

And more than an interesting week in politics and more than interesting first week for us -- our senior political analyst Gloria Borger is here with some perspective. First, you got to love the theater of that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Nostalgic -- are you nostalgic? I'm a little nostalgic seeing those two together again. You know --

KING: Reminded me how much I love being out covering campaigns.

BORGER: Right and you know she's sort of -- Sarah Palin said, you know he was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, right, or invented, so that kind of -- that kind of worked for him --

KING: Help us wrap up the week here in Washington, the health care bill goes to the president's desk. He's very clear the White House -- they announced the start (ph) agreement, the nuclear arms agreement today with Russia. More on the details later, but the president wanted to have a big announcement at the White House. They revamped the foreclosure program. He's on the road next week to sign the health care bill, to do a health care rally, to do an economic speech. He's moving around the country. They are trying to create the impression that maybe we were in a bit of a rut, but not anymore.

BORGER: Yes and politics is called the pivot and they feel that they've really got the wind at their back right now. You know they feel that they're going to sell this plan. That they're going to say to the American people not -- it's not as bad as you thought it was but they're going to say look, there are things in here that you're going to like.

And you know, when you pass Social Security and Medicare, John, people knew immediately oh, you're over 60 years old, this is going to help you. When you pass health care reform aside from the 32 million who are uninsured, you're really not sure how it's going to affect you. And so this is going to be an education process that the White House is going to continue to do and move to the economy, of course.

KING: Move to the economy. The big question is, what is the mood for members of Congress going back home? Karl Rove was here yesterday -- he thinks it will be stimulus deja vu. A bit of a bounce for the president, then the public gets mad -- we'll have to watch all that.

BORGER: Yes and we really -- you know you really can't predict because they did get a bounce out of this and they will continue to get a bounce out of it. But as members go home, we're going to see what Tea Partiers are doing in their home districts, whether they get scared. Remember last August, John, members went home and they got scared about health care reform, so we're going to have to see what happens over this break.

KING: Keep an eye on it -- Gloria, thanks, and before we go to break, a quick look behind the numbers. Stocks closed mixed today but it's another up week. Don't let the Dow industrials meager nine-point gain today fool you. Markets aren't that far behind the 18-month high they hit briefly on Wednesday.

One more significant money matter today, the Obama administration announced a major revamping of its foreclosure assistance program. The new deal for those who qualify, lenders must temporarily reduce mortgage payments to no more than 31 percent of a borrower's income. A lender could allow a struggling homeowner to skip a few payments altogether. There's no new tax money involved here -- taxpayer money, but the program will use $50 billion already approved for the Wall Street bailouts.

Next, a man in the middle, Congressman Bart Stupak's anti- abortion compromise helped pass health care reform. Now both the left and right are mad at him. We go "One-on-One" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Many more liberal Democrats don't like it when anti- abortion Congressman Bart Stupak speaks up. Now he's heading home to a Michigan district where angry Tea Party activists say they'll be waiting. Representative Stupak is here to go "One-on-One" -- welcome.

REP. BART STUPAK (D), MICHIGAN: Thank you.

KING: Interesting week.

STUPAK: Interesting six months.

KING: You're heading home. The Tea Party says it will be waiting. You broker this deal to keep some of your fellow anti- abortion Democrats on board in the health care plan.

STUPAK: Right.

KING: In the week before that I'm getting all these e-mails and tweets from conservatives saying, Bart Stupak is our Democratic hero. Then, you cut this deal and suddenly, you're a traitor in their views. And you're getting it from both sides. I want to show --

STUPAK: Right.

KING: -- if you look over your shoulder you can see the Tea Party is raising some money and they say, "Defeat Bart Stupak". That's a Tea Party e-mail. Other conservative groups are raising money saying "Target Bart Stupak in this Election". It's also coming in from the left.

If you look again, you'll see "Stop Stupak". This is from Emily's (ph) list, which raises money for female candidates, most of the time Democrats. What is it like to be you at this moment where you're getting political pressure from both sides?

STUPAK: Well, if both sides are mad at me I guess I did the right thing. When you do legislation there's always got to be a common ground, and I was able to reach it while still honoring the principle of the sanctity of life and maintaining it and still pass health care. You know, the pro-life Democrats that stood with me -- courageously stood with me right until that Sunday and we got our executive order to protect life, they're a courageous bunch of members.

And I was just proud to stand with them and we got -- both goals were accomplished, stood on our principles, protected life and health care. Every one of us voted for health care in the fall wanted to see health care pass. So we got both -- we got both goals accomplished.

KING: You say protected the sanctity of life, but as you know, some of your friends in the Republican aisle who have worked with you many times on anti-abortion issues, they say the executive order is a sham; that it's not worth the paper it's printed on. I want you to listen to Congresswoman Jean Schmidt right here.

STUPAK: Sure.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JEAN SCHMIDT (R), OHIO: Simply put, an executive order issued by the president is not worth the paper it is printed on. It is not the law of the land. And it can be rescinded in the blink of an eye by the jot of a president's pen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Answer that, in the sense -- you talked to the president so you have his word on this -- but answer in the context which she said, but also the idea this has become -- it used to be -- it's an issue of principle as you say. STUPAK: Sure.

KING: You often work with Republicans on this --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- because there are more anti-abortion Republicans than Democrats. But there seems now to be a partisan split on what has generally been an issue of principle.

STUPAK: There shouldn't be, because I mean 2007, President Bush, George W. Bush, issued an executive order restricting stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research and everybody hailed it. It was a great thing. It's got the full force and the effect of law and it was wonderful.

KING: I think they trusted him. They don't trust Barack Obama.

STUPAK: Well that's what it comes down to. It's a trust factor. I'm willing to trust this president because every time -- even during this whole debate about health care, what did President Obama say? We will not use federal funds for abortion. What did the speaker say?

Let's keep current law. Let's not expand or restrict hide (ph). Let's keep current law. It's very clear in the executive order that hide (ph) restrictions on abortion will apply in the health care exchange. So I would ask all of these who are saying it's not worth the paper it's written on to go read the executive order. Is it very clear. It is very clear.

Plus remember, presidents have always used executive orders to implement policy, which may not be politically achievable. I agree with Jean. I agree with my Republican friends. I'd rather have a law like the Stupak amendment we passed in the House but we need 60 votes in the Senate. And the most we could muster was 45.

Find me those other 15 pro-life senators and I'll be happy to join you in passing a statutory law. You can't do that, so the reality is what's the next best thing that has the full force effect of law? An executive order and I'm pleased Obama signed it.

KING: Many Americans probably didn't you know before this past week and they've seen you now, a lot of television interviews, in the news a lot quite a bit. Tell us a little bit about Bart Stupak in the sense that you were a police officer before you got involved into politics. When do you first remember -- how far back does it go where you said you know abortion is wrong, and if I ever get a chance to stand up for that principle I will?

STUPAK: Well I was in state office before state representative, and that was back in the '80s, so that's always been my principle, my belief.

KING: Started politics -- you remember as a child thinking about this -- STUPAK: Oh -- well, my father was in the seminary. He was six months short of being a priest. So if he figured if he couldn't save souls, he'd create souls, and there's 10 kids in our family. We're a big Catholic family, right to life, our Catholic Church means a lot to us, so we've always taken than position. Where I come from in the upper peninsula of Michigan, there's four state representatives, we've all been right-to-life. It's just who we are, blue-collar, hard- working people.

KING: How hard is it -- how hard is it for you now in the Democratic Caucus, a lot of your colleagues, especially the women in the Democratic Caucus, have come up, they favor abortion rights and they have come out and some of them have called it a tragedy. They say this health care bill now sets back women in the sense of their reproductive rights and their reproductive freedom. They think in some ways this bill is bad for women.

STUPAK: Yes, there's no further restrictions. We keep the current law, which has been in effect for 33 years, hide (ph) language which basically says no public funding for abortion. There's no restrictions. Everything stays the same as it is right now. You know, now --

KING: Do you feel welcome in your party? There's been a lot of talk this year about --

STUPAK: Yes.

KING: -- you know the Republicans, the moderates have all disappeared, the people in the middle. What about in the Democratic Party?

STUPAK: No, no, I mean you know (INAUDIBLE) they say because you were able to bring your vote and a couple of others, you passed health care for us. This legislation, when you look at it and even the liberal women will tell me, this is a good bill, especially for a life. Prenatal care, post-natal care, you have a child born with an illness, you're not going to bankrupt a family trying to take care of this child. This is a good pro-life, pro-family piece of legislation and right now the liberals are saying thanks, thanks for helping us out, get this over the line and we didn't violate any principles along the way.

KING: An incredibly raw political environment right now, you're going home for recess. The Tea Party says it's going to come to your district. You remember after the stimulus and the town halls and the anger that came out. What do you expect in this recess for yourself and for other members of Congress who are going home and it sounds like the opponents of this health care bill are going to try to raise their voices?

STUPAK: Sure -- I'm sure they'll raise their voices and I'm glad, pleased to have a healthy debate, but let's cut out the vitriol, the shrillness, the threats of violence against members and their families. We don't need that. We can have an honest disagreement, I'm happy to have that disagreement. The Tea Party, you know demonstrated all summer against the stimulus package.

You know it's -- those that probably most shrill on this issue are those who thought and wanted to use the life issue. They wanted to politicize the life issue. We prioritized the life issue and passed health care, but many people want to politicize the life issue to defeat health care. And if they would have looked back and saw where I and all my -- those who stood with me on this issue our goal was, again, protect the principle, the sanctity of life, but also pass health care.

And those Tea Party folks know that. I wish they'd take a close look at the positive aspects of this health care legislation. When they do, I think they'll see we've had some great consumer protections. We keep people from filing bankruptcy, we provide quality, affordable access to health care. I think when they look at it and everything calms down a little bit, I bet you by the time we're back here in, what, two, two and a half weeks things will calm down. Let's start working on our jobs agenda and move this country forward.

KING: We're going to have some crews on the road and we will see if that prediction turns out to be true. Congressman Bart Stupak, thanks for coming in.

STUPAK: Thanks, John.

KING: We appreciate it. And when we come back we'll take "The Pulse" of America, as members of Congress like Congressman Stupak head home to hear from their constituents.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: As Congress heads home to find out what the voters think, we take "The Pulse" of America. With us today from Atlanta, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, he's the editor-in-chief of the conservative blog RedState.com and in New York, Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of "Democracy Now!", a daily independent news program.

All right, so the big question is, is this stimulus deja vu, stimulus passed, the Democrats thought it would help them; they went home and they found a lot of feisty, angry Americans out there. Amy, there's some evidence of a little bit of a Democratic bounce with the health care passage. The challenge now is to sell it to a still very skeptical public. What is your sense of the mood?

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Well, I think also, at the very last minute, this issue of Senator Coburn standing up and stopping the extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits for what, one million jobless Americans in this type of recession, this is not going to help the Republicans. People are being hit very hard all over this country -- how many -- one in five homeowners are under water with their mortgages.

This is just unacceptable, the condition of America. You talk about health care, it's significant. Now they're going to go home and talk about perhaps 30 million more Americans getting insured, kids with preexisting conditions being taken care of. I don't think Republicans can lobby against that, although single-payer advocates, people who believe in health care for all, might be dissatisfied, not just Republicans who say protect the big insurance companies but those who are more progressive who would like to see this kind of health care coverage for everyone.

KING: So, Erick, to Amy's point, Republicans want to go home and say the health care bill cost too much. The government doesn't have that money, it gives the government too much power. I know you agree with Senator Coburn when it comes to look we have to pay for this. If we're going to give the $10 billion for unemployment benefits we have to cut it elsewhere in the budget. But in the political climate with the pain of unemployment still so high in many places, do you think it could hurt politically even though you agree with him on the policy?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Actually, I disagree with Senator Coburn to the extent that I think they need to stop extending unemployment, and he doesn't. But I don't think it's going to hurt Republicans. They're going home and their facing a lot of angry voters, voters who hear about this preexisting condition for children and they'll realize, oops, they forgot to actually put it in there in a timely way. The unemployment benefits, there are more and more people thinking, you know, maybe we need to stop doing this. And then the stimulus bill, along with the health care bill, we're hearing more and more employers already warning their employees that health care costs are now going to skyrocket and jobs aren't coming back any time soon.

KING: What about the rawness of the climate? We have seen these threats, we have seen some heated rhetoric. Erick, I noted the first thing you did in your blog posting this morning was say, look, the threats, the potential act of violence, all of that must stop, make it about the policy. Congressman Cantor, I should note, had an event yesterday saying he thought a bullet had been fired through his window.

The police now say that was random gunfire but there have been other threats against both Democrats and Republicans in this environment. Amy, to you first, do you have hope that whatever your opinion on this issue that people will be civil in the break and maybe be feisty and stand up at town halls but politely, or do you worry there's a coarsening that could take a turn for the worse?

GOODMAN: Oh I'm very concerned about that. You know when Sarah Palin talks about Republicans reloading and puts the crosshairs on Democratic districts around the country, this is of deep concern. When you have African-American Congress members being hit with racial epithets, when you have Barney Frank, an openly gay congressman hit with a homophobic epithet, these are very serious times. Not to mention these serious, perhaps, well who knows what happened to Congressman Wiener with this white powder that was sent to him.

And there should be warnings by the Republicans, stop this now, not amping (ph) it up like we saw Sarah Palin do. It make me think of the song, John, at the end of John McCain and Sarah Palin's event today in Tucson, I was shocked that they used White Snake "Here I Go Again" because it sounds like here they go again. And if you go to their Web site you see them oh, supporting groups like "Huffington Post", they refer you to "Raw Story" (ph) and "Common Dreams" (ph). It's very funny he would use this again.

KING: Erick, comment quickly on that point. We have a liberal and a conservative here who both say they condemn the violence. How do we throw the circuit breaker?

ERICKSON: Well you know I think it's very hard to throw the circuit breaker when you have got Democrats making disingenuous arguments, making claims that aren't existing. I mean take, for example, the John Lewis (ph) racial epithet that all the video shows didn't happen or the Sarah Palin nonsense that she's putting targets on Democratic districts. That's been going on since I've been in politics for the last decade and a half.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: All of a sudden, oh, my God, this is terrible. It's ridiculous. If this wasn't happening right now, and the Democrats needing to change the narrative back in their favor by playing victim and playing up these stories, some of which didn't happen, we wouldn't be having this conversation. This -- things were just as bad, just as heated when Bush was president with the Patriot Act and the Iraq war, but you didn't see Republicans running to the camera crying about it.

KING: All right, we're not going to settle this debate, obviously. I do hope that the debate during the recess is more civil and there are no threats.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Just (INAUDIBLE). Amy Goodman, Erick Erickson, appreciate your spending some time with us on a Friday night.

ERICKSON: Thank you.

KING: The president says a new arms deal with Russian is a down payment on his goal of a nuclear weapons-free world. We'll map it all out when we go "Wall to Wall" next.

KING: In "Wall to Wall" tonight, a closer look at a major new nuclear arms agreement between the United States

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight, a closer look at a major new nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia. The president says it will cut the number of nuclear weapons deployed by the United States and Russia by one-third, while also slashing the number of missiles and launchers. Let's take a closer look.

This was the goal when the original START treaty was announced back in 1991 to get both the United States and Russia down to 6,000 nuclear warheads. Well, here's where we are today in 2010, there's the 6,000 number, the United States is below that, 2,100; Russia, just under 2,800. So, that's the state of play today. Here's the goal of the "New Start" agreement, by 2022 to get both countries down to 1,550 warheads. Beyond those cuts the president voiced the belief the new treaty will send a strong message to other nuclear nations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: With this agreement, the United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world, also send a clear signal that we intend to lead by upholding our own commitments under The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, we strengthen globalists to stop the spread of these weapons and TO ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Easier said than done, though. Gone are the days when you could use two fingers or one hand to list the members of the nuclear club. Let's take a closer look. United States, obviously, has nuclear weapons. Let's swing around here to Asia. I'll stop the map a little bit. You see Russia has nuclear weapons. China has nuclear weapons. North Korea, of course, suspected of having nuclear weapons. And as we spin the globe around, India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers as well. Iran suspected of having a nuclear program, it's not yet to the point of having weapons. Israel has nuclear weapons. And the United Kingdom and France also among the countries who are declared nuclear powers.

As he celebrated the agreement on the START Treaty today, favorable new numbers for the president on another major international challenge. Americans are growing significantly more optimistic about the war in Afghanistan. Check out numbers: 55 percent of Americans say the U.S. mission in addition Afghanistan is now going well, 43 percent say things are going badly.

In November, just 32 percent of Americans said things were going well and two-thirds said they were going badly. Most opposition to the president's troop escalation came from liberals in his own party, but even they believed progress is being made.

Back in November, only 27 percent of liberals said the Afghanistan mission was going moderately well or very well, now, 51 percent say that.

You have a child closing in on college age? Maybe scratching your head on how to pay for it. The most important person you don't know might be able to help.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: College students and their parents will be especially interested in today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know." William J. Taggert chief operating officer of the government's Office of Federal Student Aid. Tucked away inside the health care fix that was passed yesterday is a massive challenge to the student loan program. It cuts out banks and makes the government the sole source of federal student aid, expected to total just over 150 billion, with "b," dollars, next year. Taggert's office promises to make sure all billions are delivered in time for the start of classes. He's a money man through and through, a graduate of Howard University and the Harvard Business School. Taggert worked for banks like Wachovia and headed his own consulting firm, America's future, or at least the money for it, now in his hands.

Dana, one of the things lost sometimes, missed, to a degree, in the health care debate was this student loan change.

DANA BASH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, absolutely. We reported on this from Capitol Hill but it was impossible to break through the headline grabbing health care story and it was attached to health care. And this is really a huge, huge shift in a program that is very critical to people out there. Starting this summer the federal government will take over the student loan industry from private lenders, so banks won't be able to offer student loans, they won't be able to offer students federal Stafford's loans; and interest rates, they will be capped. John, the Congressional Budget Office says that this will save the government more than $60 billion over 10 years, much of that money will go to increased Pell grants and a little tidbit for you, some of that savings they used to pay for health care.

KING: Shocking. That's why they put it in there. Now, the people you cover are gone for two weeks. To cover them now you're going to have to watch the fallout to the health care debate as they all go home for congressional recess. And as we track this, we're asking Americans every week, we put a question up on our Web site, we say, "make your case," and health care was the question we asked this week, would it help or not? Here's Monica Toups from Jacksonville, Florida. She says she's an independent, here's her take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONICA TOUPS, INDEPENDENT VOTER: I have never had health insurance. I have always worked for small businesses. So, let's stop bickering and look at this as a good basis because, quite honestly, social responsibility is dead in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, Monica, obviously one of the voters the Democrats want to convince when they go home, yes, you should like this. And you have a little binder with you. Where did that come from?

BASH: Well, she mentioned small businesses. If you're a Democratic congressman going home for recess, there's an app for that, literally.

KING: There's an app.

BASH: There is. So this is the binder that is being sent home. And just here, there are pieces of paper that talks about every issue and I just put this one on top, this is the small business guide. If you're a congressman and going to talk about how health care affects small businesses, readymade for you, you have your talking points here, you can photo copy them and move them around. I will tell you, this binder, guess whose this is, it's actually the House speaker's, Nancy Pelosi.

KING: In red, Pelosi's district.

BASH: That's right. She doesn't need it, she's got it all up here.

KING: I was going to say, what is she going to do when she goes home to San Francisco?

BASH: I think she's good on these talking points. But, this is very interesting because not only are there lots of details about how to sell various points of the bill, but it's specified for each member in their district. So, Nancy Pelosi is from the eighth congressional district of California. And this top piece of paper gives very specific details, tailored to her district, about various points. For example, it says that 26,000 uninsured residents in her district will be insured and much, much more.

KING: And what's this?

BASH: Oh, we're bipartisan, here. This is a Republican pamphlet. Everybody's got pamphlets, everybody's got talking points. This is what the House Republicans sent their lawmakers home with.

KING: I would say a more conservative use of paper by the Republicans, there.

BASH: And you know what? Their message is much more simple. It's easier to tear it down...

KING: Yeah, costs too much, we don't like it.

BASH: Exactly. Explains something very complicated.

KING: All right, Dana thanks very much.

At school, recess is fun. For Congress, recess could mean more feisty town halls. Up next, we clash over the state of health care politics and the power of the Tea Party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: So who does the Tea Party scare most Republicans or Democrats? Here for the "Clash," Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher and Republican consultant, Alex Castellanos.

Who, first, a simple question first, who?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I think we're happy to have Tea Party voters out there. Look, we had Tea Party voters out there before Massachusetts, before Virginia, and before New Jersey and the world turned to the right direction.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think we're happy to have the Tea Parties out there for them, too because, quite frankly, I think they scare independent voters more than anyone else when you look at sort of images and the sort of fear that is putting forth, they scare the living daylights of independent voters and so I like them being associated with the Republican Party.

KING: If nothing else, they brought a lot of energy back to politics and some is angry energy, but a lot of it's positive energy and feisty energy.

I want to show you a map of what they say they're going to do during the next congressional recess and coming up: 44 cities, and this is just one, this is the Tea Party Express, there are several factions of the Tea Party -- but, 44 cities in 20 days, it starts tomorrow near Harry Reid's hometown in Laughlin, Nevada, he's from Searchlight. And they'll go all the way through April 15, that will be tax day, they will be right here in the nation's capital.

As they try to do this, they're trying to get more people involved. They're challenging incumbents, they're especially challenging Democrats. Sarah Palin today was in Arizona, and she says John McCain, who has been in Congress a long time, was in the House before he was in the Senate, but she tried to make the case a conservative challenger out there that John McCain, he was there at the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FMR ALASKA GOVERNOR: We might as well call it like we see it, right, and not beat around the bush. In respect to the Tea Party movement, beautiful movement, you know what? Everybody here today's supporting John McCain, we are all part of the Tea Party movement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Tea Party happened in my hometown. I'll have to go through the history books to see if John McCain was there.

BELCHER: Nice jacket, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You like the jacket?

BELCHER: Yeah.

CASTELLANOS: Republicans are wearing leather now, boy, we are moving forward. That works.

(LAUGHTER)

No, I think this is going to be a real test of -- is what unites Republicans and Tea Party voters greater than what divides them. and what unites them is fear that Washington's out of control, that they can say anything, do anything, spend anything, no matter what Americans think and we saw that today in Arizona. Now, if Palin can get those Tea Party voters there to support McCain, what does that mean? That means Republicans may go into this election in a lot of districts like you were just looking at up there, united. This could be the Sarah Palin we had in the campaign that energized those folk, but people had doubts about her, maybe now they won't have those doubts. So, it's Sarah Palin with all the great taste and no calories.

BELCHER: I think it's sad to see, sort of, John McCain being driven out of the Republican Party, sort of being challenged inside the Republican Party because the Republican Party's left him and they are moving toward the sort of the extreme of the Tea Party, when an independent maverick voice like McCain is being challenged in the Republican Party we've got to question where the Republican Party is moving.

KING: Let's spend a minute on the White House strategy, right now. The president's going to be on the road next week, he's going to sign the health care bill in northern Virginia, he's going to go Maine for a health care event, he's going to go to North Carolina for an economic event, out traveling. They're trying to say, and they say the polls show at least a small bit of evidence that they're right -- that people think finally Washington did something. They get an uptick here and they're going to keep him moving and try to show that, you know, he's got a little wind at his back. You're shaking your head, Alex.

CASTELLANOS: I'm not sure that's right. I think one of the things that's happening is Americans are an optimistic and adjustable people. It's like this thing's law now, we have to learn to live with it, so a little bit of that, I think, is just Americans saying, OK, we're going to make the best of it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You're not going to cutting that saying repeal, then?

BELCHER: We saw that with Medicare, too.

CASTELLANOS: I think you're going to see a lot of Republicans campaigning not only on repeal, but let's stop them from spending the money. You know, Democrats still have to implement this thing. They still have to spend this trillion dollars, so, yes, I think you're going to see that.

BELCHER: I got a tingle in my stomach when I saw him in Iowa because it was like, wow, this brings back the memories of this is the guy who can bring raise to the occasion and bring people together and bring people along...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Does it bring back more than memories? Does it bring back the energy and the foot soldiers?

BELCHER: I think you see that energy. I think you see some of it on the liberal side of the party, right now. This guy out there on the road selling our message, I mean, he is the old Barack Obama, again, who won Iowa. This guy can do anything.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, he can, but except win Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Virginia. He went into all of those and look what happened. So I'm not -- I'm sure he can help Barack Obama, he could even help legislation, but politically, to be determined.

KING: Be a great question to see as we go forward. You want to get a quick last word in there?

BELCHER: We -- when our base is energized and we can bring back our surge vote that we saw come out last time around, I like our chances.

KING: All right, you guys stay put. We're going to move over to the big screen, we're going to have a little fun with the "Play-by- Play." We're going to break down the tape. We have some great moments. Alex just noted Republicans wear leather now. We're going to take you to Tucson, Arizona, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back now with the "Play-by-Play." And still with us, Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos. All right, let's break down the tape.

The McCain/Palin rally was the biggest thing in politics today, out in Tucson, Arizona, not just the senator and governor Palin, but the first dude, Todd Palin was there, Cindy McCain there, as well. I want you to listen to Cindy McCain and she's warming up the crowd and let's see if this one passes truth test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY MCCAIN, SEN MCCAIN'S WIFE: You have come today, I know most of all to see my husband.

(APPLAUSE)

But, I know you've also come -- but you've also come to see Sarah, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, let's stop it there. By applause meter standards who'd they come to see -- Alex.

CASTELLANOS: Oh, they clearly came to see John McCain when he was accompanied by Sarah Palin. Palin was the big star of the day. She drew the crowd. She's doing it all around the country.

BELCHER: The produce from Michael Jackson's "Beat It" video called, they want that jacket back.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Could she help him get votes? I mean, when you're being challenged from the right, I know you're -- as a Democrat; you don't like her appeal globally, but in that niche...

BELCHER: But now, I understand what her appeal is and in that niche she absolutely helps him, because look, he is being challenged from the right and he needs his bona fides to be blessed by Sarah Palin, which is an odd thing to say, again, merit independent like John McCain, I think it's sad.

KING: Now you -- go ahead.

CASTELLANOS: No, a lot of Republicans are going to think she did a noble thing today, put politics aside, and within Republican Tea Party and just to help John McCain. So, she's going to score some points today.

KING: Now, you have both helped a lot of candidates, especially when they're having a big event like this, you got to say this, don't say that, you got to look like this, you got to be relaxed. A note, on one of the note for Senator McCain, if you look at that, right there, he had a tie on when he was here last night, he finally got the memo on the uniform. I want you to watch this play out and tell me if this is how a candidate is supposed to do it. Play the tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: Fought against a government takeover of 1/6 of our economy and he told the president that transparency in the legislative process should be more...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, stop that.

CASTELLANOS: He is practicing his spontaneity.

(LAUGHTER)

It's what you do in politics. You got to have genuine rehearsed spontaneity. He's working on that. It happens all the time, everybody check theirs notes. But you know, it's one thing candidates need to learn today is you're always on.

BELCHER: Yeah, maybe he would benefit from a teleprompter, which they keep attacking Barack Obama for. But you are always on.

CASTELLANOS: But, the good news is the McCain/Palin team is back and we're going to keep running until we win.

(LAUGHTER)

That's our strategy. We'll just keep going at it. KING: So, in the debate in Washington this week, the health care bill passes. One of the guys who gets some of the credit is Rahm Emanuel, he's been working the hill. Although at one point a lot of people say, you know, he wanted the president to compromise and the speaker kept him going or to the sweeping bill. But you know, now they announced this new START Treaty, a big nuclear arms treaty, both the president of the United States and the president of Russia have to send it to their legislatures and it will be a tough sledding for the president of the United States in the Senate. President Medvedev has to send to it the Duma. Secretary of State Clinton, today, suggested perhaps the Russian president would want some help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), US SECRETARY OF STATE: Just as we have to go to the Congress, President Medvedev has to go to the Duma and I think President Obama has said he would send Rahm Emanuel to Moscow.

(LAUGHTER)

And we all immediately endorsed that offer, so...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Stop that there.

CASTELLANOS: I think a lot of Democrats if they couldn't send Rahm Emanuel to Baghdad or -- they'd be happy to send him to...

KING: Now, now.

CASTELLANOS: No, there is a little schism in the Democratic Party, now, you know? Barack Obama united the Democratic Party, but on the left, he united them for a trillion dollars in spending, $500 billion in taxes and Medicare.

BELCHER: Now see, I'm trying to make a joke about Rahm, and you come in with all these talks...

(LAUGHTER)

CASTELLANOS: But Rahm Emanuel is a pragmatic guy. He's the guy who last election was very successful for Democrats moving them toward the middle, there's a big division there.

BELCHER: Look, hats off to the Obama team for doing something that no president has ever done. Hats off to Nancy Pelosi who is a real big winner out of this thing...

KING: All right, now let's go back to the tape. Now, you mentioned the other night you worked for Howard Dean. Look at that picture there, the White House, Washington, Senator Clinton, Secretary Clinton -- oh, she wants that...

CASTELLANOS: She is just scrubbing the date on that.

(LAUGHTER)

But there is an opportunity for her. Obama has united the Democratic Party on the left there is a hole in the center, that hole could be filled by Republicans, but it could also be filled by the last president and his wife who balanced a budget, Bill Clinton and the new Democrats.

KING: I'm not sure when that one is. When's that race going to happen?

BELCHER: Well, look, you know, I think she says she is not interested in running again, but I tell you what, after Barack Obama we will welcome Hillary Clinton because, look, she's a leader, she's a great states woman, she'd be a great president.

KING: And we'll keep this photo. Thanks for sharing some time with us on a Friday night. All week long on Twitter we've been giving you a behind the scenes look at our show and our guests have been having a lot of fun with it, too. Check out Senator McCain here yesterday, taking a Twit pic of us, taking a Twit pic of him as he arrived in the studio. For more behind the scenes nuggets, join us on Twitter, FaceBook and check out our blog, CNN.com/jkusa.

Coming up next, there's the Tae Party and the Coffee Party. What is the next party? Pete's on the street searching for alternatives.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's check in with Campbell Brown in New York for a sense of what's up at the top of hour.

Hi Campbell.

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey there, John. Well, one major city on alert tonight after flash mobs of hundreds of out-of- control teenagers repeatedly swarmed downtown. They have brawled, broken into stores, assaulted strangers, and authorities fear it could happen again this weekend. We're going to talk to the experts who are trying to stop the violence.

Also, we'll hear from Mark Halperin, Jessica Yellin, they're with us from Tucson, they were there for the McCain/Palin rally, today.

Also talking to a celebrity chef who is passionate about the changing the way America eats. Jamie Oliver wants to start a food revolution and her is here tonight -- John.

KING: We'll see you in a few minutes, Campbell. Thanks.

Pete Dominick is our offbeat reporter and he's out on the street. You know there's a Tea Party and a Coffee Party. What else, Pete?

PETER DOMINICK, JOHN KING USA OFFBEAT REPORTER: Well, I tried to find out, John, but as far as I'm concerned tonight, as long as the party is inside, it's freezing here, John.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

You guys have sandwiches. You want to be in the Sandwich Party USA?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

DOMINICK: Bald, white guy party?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in.

DOMINICK: All right, keep it real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about you, man, french fry party, are you in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's sounds good man.

DOMINICK: Yeah, you're in for that, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am.

DOMINICK: Giant sunglasses party. It's happening. What's our issue?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sun protection.

DOMINICK: Solar power, renewable energy. I think giant sunglasses party is definitely going to take off.

Hey, you guy, Tea Party, Coffee Party, what is next? What do you think? How about No Socks Party, yeah?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be a good party. I prefer Shawn's Birthday Party, though.

DOMINICK (singing): Happy birthday, dear Shawn.

Hey you guys, we got Coffee Party, Tea Party. What party do you guys want to start?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anti-Human Trafficking Party.

DOMINICK: Yeah, Anti-Human Trafficking Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, anti.

DOMINICK: Not, human traffic. Anti-Human Trafficking Party.

Sorry, guys, sorry guys. Tee Party. Tee Party? No, been done.

Well, my favorite drink is the smoothie, that's the drink I'd like to rally around to create a discussion, maybe a protest. Let's see if we can get people onboard.

I want to get a Raspberry Collider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

DOMINICK: But I want some enhancers, of course. I want the bipartisanship, the filibuster, and the -- I want the public option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't blend with politics, here.

DOMINICK: Well, I guess the Smoothie Party is not going to work, John.

Welcome to the first ever Cupcake Party. This is where we focus on foreign policy. If they get nuclear weapons (INAUDIBLE) -- this is a good cupcake. OK (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Pete, I got to let you go inside for the indoor party for guys with funny hats. And I think since it's Friday night, I might join the Wheat, Hops and Barley Party.

DOMINICK: Have a great weekend, John King.

KING: That's all for us tonight, thanks for spending some time with us, this week. CAMPBELL BROWN starts right now.