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The Great Political Divide; Arizona's Immigration Crackdown

Aired July 27, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Suzanne and good evening everyone.

Tonight, new evidence of the sharp divides that define our politics and are driving, for better or worse, the midterm election debate. There's a crackling partisan divide here in Washington. Senate Republicans today blocked the campaign finance bill favored by President Obama and most Democrats. And despite a bipartisan congressional meeting with the president, the White House this morning it is more clear by the minute that partisan divide could prevent any major action on big issues like energy, immigration before Election Day. The president acknowledged as much just after that meeting, although he made clear he's not happy about it.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone understands that we're less than 100 days from an election. It's during this time that the noise and the chatter about who's up in the polls and which party's ahead threatens to drown out just about everything else.


KING: Ninety-eight days to be exact. The president has a point about polling. We do rely on it too much, and yet some numbers give us an important snapshot of big issues and big dynamics in the country. We at CNN have some new polling tonight that is striking, numbers showing a dramatic and growing racial divide on the big questions in American politics.

Here's one example. Ninety-three percent of African-Americans approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president; 57 percent of Latinos approve. But only 37 percent of white Americans approve. Asked about the president's handling of specific issues like the economy, health care and immigration, and again the racial divide is huge and noteworthy that it is bigger than it was a year ago.

So what causes it and what does it mean for the agenda here in Washington and the elections come November? Tom Davis is a former Republican congressman from Virginia and one-time head of the GOP's House Campaign Committee. Also here veteran Republican strategist Ron BonJean and veteran Democratic strategist and CNN contributors Paul Begala and Donna Brazile. These numbers when you look at them are striking, so I want you to help me put them in context.

Let's show a few more of them, again, the racial divide. How's the president handling the economy? Eighty-five percent of blacks approve; 41 percent of Hispanics; 34 percent of whites. How's the president handling the health care issue? Eighty-five percent of blacks approve; 56 percent of Hispanics; only 33 percent of whites.

And I want to focus in on the white Americans, because it has dropped significantly. If we asked this question, and we did, back in March 2009, how is he handling the economy, 50 percent of whites back then approved. Now it's 34 percent, minus 16 points in a little over a year. Health care, it was 50 percent back in March 2009, now 33 percent.

For the Democrats in the room first, how much of this is typical for a Democratic president to traditionally have a lower standing among white Americans? And how much of it is specific and particular to this president?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I still believe that President Obama has a great story to tell of rescuing this economy, bringing it from the brink, giving the American people a lifeline, whether it was through the extension of unemployment benefits or providing states and local government with the relief they needed to ensure that they could hire public safety employees, as well as educators.

The truth is, John, is that the president and the Democrats have done a lousy job in marketing what they have achieved. And I think once everyone in America understands what the president and the Democrats have been able to achieve over the last 15 months, they will come -- come around and support the president.

KING: Has he dropped 16 points among white Americans on the economy because of a marketing problem, or because they don't like what they're getting?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well I think it's a timing problem. In other words, they haven't seen the results yet. The president I thought had a wonderful metaphor, as kind of a small-town guy myself, he said, it's like if you came out to a farmer's field not long after the seeds have been planted and said, "where's the corn? Where's the corn?" Well the corn's not here yet.

And I think the president was resonant and right when he said Democrats believe, I certainly did, that this economic policy is going to work. It's going to bring some growth, but it hasn't happened yet. The problem is the timing of the election, as you point out, is 98 days away. And they don't have a lot of corn to harvest between now and then. And it's when he moves the needle on jobs that he'll move the needle, particularly you know with whites, on the approval.

KING: But no one expects that needle to move between now and Election Day. Congressman Davis, to you first, as someone who has watched these numbers and mapped them out across the country and how to win House races, when the president's standing is that different among African-Americans and white Americans, Latinos tend to be in the middle and float a little bit more, how does that play out in a midterm election climate where your most reliable voters are older Americans who are disproportionately white?

TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Well two things, number one, Democrats can try get their (INAUDIBLE) out. They're going to have to make a major effort to do that at this point. Traditionally, they don't show up in midterms. But more importantly most of these swing races are going to be in white districts. They don't have large numbers of minorities. That's the battleground for control of the House and that's bad news for Democrats right now.

KING: What are the policy issues that you see driving these numbers?

RON BONJEAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, jobs are -- jobs is the number one issue. I mean, you know, the Obama administration's been talking about the stimulus package, but it really hasn't had quite an effect (INAUDIBLE). The corn isn't there because Republicans and mostly Independents agree that they haven't planted the right seeds for it to grow and so I'd have to say that you know among whites you have a huge independent population that is extremely upset and those are the ones who are going to the polls to vote. In addition to that there's a large enthusiasm gap among the left among Democrats.

KING: I want to add the immigration issue into the debate. We're going to talk about that later with Arizona's governor. We should note to our viewers we're waiting and it could happen tonight on a federal judge's decision about whether to stay or let the Arizona law take effect later this week. But when you ask people how is the president handling the issue of illegal immigration, 73 percent of blacks support the president's handling; 43 percent of Hispanics or Latino voters support his handling; again 29 percent of whites.

So from issue to issue to issue, you get roughly the same breakdown. That cannot be healthy for the country if you have major segments of the population, major voting blocs, looking at the issues and looking at this president in such different ways.

BRAZILE: We have policy differences. That doesn't necessarily lead to a racial divide. It just says that we have policy differences. I think most Americans would agree that the immigration system is broken and that the federal government, meaning Congress and the Obama administration, should work to try to secure the border and to figure out how do we bring the 12 million or so people, undocumented people, out of the shadows. Look, we can call everything but race. I think the bottom line on all this racial stuff is green. People want jobs. They want health care, and they want to be able to stay in their homes.

KING: I'm not trying to color the issues by race; I'm trying to lay out a midterm election dynamic --

BRAZILE: I know the landscape.

KING: If you go back to 1994 Bill Clinton was the president of the United States, took a drubbing in the midterm elections that year and his standing, he was obviously a white president, his standing dropped among whites. It was lower than say most Republican presidents, but in January of 1994, he had a 55 percent approval rating among white Americans.

BEGALA: But it declined throughout that year and it's part of why we (INAUDIBLE). Congressman Davis is right. A lot of these races are in very Anglo districts. The president's not very popular in a lot of those districts. What should Democrats do? Well, they should learn from the Democrats who have one. Most recently, Pennsylvania 12, one special election, we had Jack Murtha's -- the late Jack Murtha's old district, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, right, a district -- the only district in the whole country that John Kerry won but Barack Obama lost. OK, so they didn't much like Barack Obama out there and there's not a lot of African-Americans.

The Democrat beat the Republican out there even though Obama's favorable was in the 30's. How? He attacked him. He didn't let it be a referendum on Obama. He made it become a choice. And that Democrat, he beat that Republican like a rented mule, and that's what Democrats have to do. If they think they're going to win pretty here or win on a hope and optimism, they're wrong. They have to beat the hell out of the other guy and if they do that they can win, even in districts where they don't like Barack Obama.

BRAZILE: I endorse that plan.


KING: You endorse that plan?


DAVIS: The fundamental problem is that voters don't like Republicans either. This doesn't show that, but the ultimate question --

KING: We got plenty of numbers that shows that too.

DAVIS: Absolutely, but the problem is simply this, do they want to put a check on Obama or (INAUDIBLE) give him a blank check? And voters have a tendency to balance government. The last two times we've had one party government, House, Senate and the presidency with one party, 1994 and 2006, the voters flipped Congress. And I think the Democrats are facing that same dynamic. It's a historical dynamic at this point. And it's a big problem for them.

KING: Quick time-out, we'll be right back with our panel, a very smart panel. When we come back, the president had that meeting we talked to you about at the White House today, the Democratic congressional leadership at the table, the Republican leadership at the table, taxes, a big divide -- more on that when we come back.


KING: If we weren't certain taxes would be a big dividing line in this year's campaign, a White House meeting this morning reinforced it. Let's continue the conversation with our panel former Republican Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia, veteran Capital Hill Republican Ron BonJean, strategist extraordinaire -- you going to laugh at that now -- Paul Begala and Donna Brazile --


KING: -- our CNN political contributors -- here we go. All right, I want to show you guys a picture the president called the bipartisan congressional leadership down to the White House today. There he is, Mitch McConnell to the right of your screen, the Senate Republican leader, Harry Reid the Senate Majority leader, Speaker Pelosi there and then John Boehner.

And then we have a close-up shot I believe of the president engaging in a conversation there. You can tell he's talking to Leader Boehner. The most priceless part of this picture is in the background, that's the president's senior political adviser, David Axelrod who looks like he wants to be anywhere else on the planet, maybe even in the universe, than in that meeting at the moment.

There you see it right there. David looks a tad exasperated. We're told in this conversation the president told Leader Boehner I will not let any tax cuts for middle class Americans expire. Leader Boehner then went on to say, well Mr. President, you should leave the Bush tax cuts in place. They're due to expire at the end of the year, for more affluent Americans. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, saw things this way.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said that as he had committed to in the campaign, he would not allow the tax cuts for the middle class to expire. I'll let Congressman Boehner unwind his eloquent argument for preserving the tax cuts for those that are quite wealthy.


KING: If you read the translation there, he didn't really think it was all that eloquent. Congressman Davis, do the Republicans really want to run, on the one hand saying Barack Obama's run up these record deficits, we need to get them down, and on the other hand say keep in place the Bush tax cuts for those who make more than $250,000 a year. If you add that up over the next 10 years, it's somewhere in the ballpark of $2 trillion.

DAVIS: Well I don't know if they do 10 years, but they could do it for one or two years at this point because you get more economic activity out of giving money back to people. Also I want to add you have to remember President Obama carried voters making over $250,000 a year. He carried that electorate. I don't think --

KING: Despite telling them in the campaign he was going to raise their taxes?

DAVIS: Well I don't think they believed him, I don't think Wall Street believed him at this point. The class warfare is never a good strategy. It's kind of your last ditch strategy. And you're trying to I think frame it this way going into November. Traditionally that has not worked, not with unemployment at 9.5 percent.

BONJEAN: Yes, I was going to jump in and say that you know small business owners are the creators of jobs. They're the ones who make over $250,000 a year and the last thing you want to do is in a job's recession is attack the job creators. The way to get the deficit lower is to increase economic activity and get the money in the Treasury through creating jobs. And that's a big problem the Democrats have right now.

KING: He ran on this and Democrats say it's fiscally irresponsible to extend those tax cuts but taxes has always been quicksand for the Democrats. You want to have this fight right now?

BEGALA: Absolutely, it's a fight the Democrats want and need and it's one the president's clearly spoiling for. He won the election in part, on this tax debate. He said I want to cut taxes for Americans making less than 250,000, mass majority of small businesspeople, and 95 percent of Americans. But, yes, raise them; allow the tax cuts to expire if you make more than $250,000 a year. He won that debate and he's going to win this debate, now there's some Democrats on the Hill a little nervous in the service here.


BEGALA: So -- but I hope they listen to their leader. I hope they listen to their president. This is the fight the Democrats want. Republicans right now have tried to kill unemployment benefits for people who have lost their jobs because of Republican economics.


BEGALA: They don't want unemployment benefits but they do want tax cuts for the CEOs.


BEGALA: I mean this is the fight our people want.

BRAZILE: Preach, preach this is the fight we want Tom (ph).

KING: All the way or would you maybe say to Congressman Davis take --


BRAZILE: John, we simply cannot afford to allow these tax cuts to continue. They should expire. The president should offer a new package of tax incentives that will spur economic growth that is aimed and targeted to what the middle class and small businesses that will create jobs.

KING: All right everybody's going to stay put. When we come back, I'm going to show you a little trick here. We're going to go over here. When we come back our panel is going to weigh in, including on the words of one Paul Begala, who happens to be standing at the table, when we go Wall-to-Wall. Is this political deja vu? We'll match up words from 2006 to 2010. Do the two campaigns equal each other? Paul is already trying to figure out just what he said.

Then later in the program tonight, an exclusive "One-on-One" conversation with Arizona's controversial Republican governor, first state's immigration law takes effect on Thursday. She supports it. The president wants to block it. It's a fascinating issue. We'll talk about that.

And on our "Radar" tonight, very important story, some prominent Republican just said no to 2012 -- think about it. You know the name. And what do these numbers add up to -- 485 million? What is it? Well it's a jet engine that Congress loves. The president doesn't want it. The Pentagon doesn't want it. It's your tax dollars. Stay with us.


KING: All right, our panel is standing by, but first we're going to have a little bit of deja vu fun. If you've watched the program, you might have seen Neil Newhouse (ph). He's a Republican pollster and a good one. He's been on the program from time to time. He gave a presentation today drawing a comparison.

Here let me explain. Neil showed this at a conference. This is David Plouffe, Barack Obama top adviser. This isn't just a referendum on Democrats or our party. It's a choice, describing the 2010 midterm elections. Let me slide this on over. A guy who happens to be here tonight -- this has to move over for me -- there we go -- Paul Begala right here, this should be a choice, not a referendum.

Don't make it a referendum on the president, make it a choice. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, people are going to have a choice to make in the fall. This is all 2010. And here's the president of the United States himself. So now we've got a choice. If you don't follow this, the Democrats are saying it's not about the president, it's a choice.

Flashback, 2006, the last midterm election of the Bush presidency -- Karl Rove, we're making it as strong as we can, a choice. Sound familiar? Ken Mehlman at the time was a Republican National Committee chairman, "this election, it's a choice, not a referendum." Mary Matalin, CNN contributor now, Bush/Cheney adviser, "this is not a referendum on Bush. It's a choice."

A little deja vu there -- well Neil says it won't work because he brings up these numbers. Fifty-one House seats the Republicans lost in 2006 and 2008 combined, 14 Senate seats and seven governor seats. As we go back over to join the group, Mr. Begala, I'll give you the first word since your words were used in this situation. When you're in -- when you're in a campaign, especially a tough campaign, you've got to say something, but is this really a choice?

BEGALA: When they're mad at you, you've got to make it a choice. Here's the big difference. When I was working for Bill Clinton in 1994, we got pasted. We lost 56 seats in just one election, OK --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big race when that happened --

BEGALA: It became a referendum on us. But as we declined, Democrats, Republicans moved up. They said, OK, well, they look pretty good and since it was a bit of a choice. Republicans have not moved up. And much as they hate Barack Obama, much as they hate Democrats they hate Republicans even more. So what's your defense? It's just like when you're guilty of a crime, what's your defense, the soddy defense, some other dude did it, right. We got to make it about them and not us.

It worked in the New York 23rd, which is a district Democrats hadn't picked up in 152 years. And it worked in the Pennsylvania 12th, which as I pointed out, it's a district that Barack Obama lost. So there is some good evidence that as mad as people are at the Democrats, they're even angrier at the Republicans and I think that is the strategy Democrats need, make a choice, not a referendum.

KING: Do we in Washington spend too much time on this with the consultants or with the candidates saying framing the elections or this is --


KING: I could go back and I could probably find you saying in a midterm election back there sometime this is not a referendum, it's a choice.

DAVIS: Well, I had good cycles --


DAVIS: You really have 435 separate races for the House. And there will be some of those races where candidates are able to make it a choice. Disable the other candidate, discredit them. Harry Reid's trying to do that in Nevada. Kentucky where your candidates go off the script, but the underlying winds in this direction are blowing against the incumbent party and the Democrats will have to contend with that. And it will be a choice in a handful of races, but by and large, it's a referendum (INAUDIBLE).

KING: You agree with that, campaign by campaign or a wave election?

BONJEAN: Well I think it -- there is -- I think there is both but mostly a wave election because President Obama promised change and that change hasn't occurred and so people are waking up to this and they're angry about it. We're seeing it in the polls, especially among white voters and independents and you're going to see it in November.

BRAZILE: I'm pro choice so --


BRAZILE: I'm pro choice, but I think the Republicans now have a slight tail wind. But I believe it will stall come this fall when the Democrats make it a choice between going back to the Republican past, which led us into this deep, deep recession or going forward that will bring the country --

KING: And you believe you can get them to engage in that conversation, even if they're looking at nine point something percent unemployment --

BRAZILE: District by --


BRAZILE: I agree with Mr. Davis. It is a district by district fight.

DAVIS: John, let me just make a note that over the last 58 years, about 65 percent of the time, voters have divided government. The reality is they don't like either party. They put one party in charge, they make a correction. That's what the Republicans have going for them. Let's make the correction. Give us a seat at the table.

Bill Clinton was at his best with the Republican Congress. We balanced the budget four years. We reformed welfare. I think that's where this midterm is going, unless something happens.

BEGALA: This is the Republican's best argument. Let's have a break on Barack Obama. You like him. He's a nice young man, head full of good ideas, but a little too much, too soon, let's put a break on him. Democrats need to say if you reach for that break the car will go right off the cliff. It's an unacceptable option. It sounds good to start with, but we have to make them think twice. The natural inclination, Tom is right, (INAUDIBLE) break (INAUDIBLE) divided government. Democrats have to discredit Republicans as a legitimate counter balance to Obama.

BRAZILE: (INAUDIBLE) driver's license --


KING: We need to end that one there. Gentlemen, I hope you all come back. Donna, you're always welcome right here.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Arizona in the morning for the countdown to the state's controversial new immigration law. When we come back, Governor Jan Brewer joins us for an exclusive "One-on-One" to preview just what we should expect.


ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: Unless a judge stops it, Arizona's controversial new immigration law goes into effect Thursday. We'll be heading out there starting tomorrow to do the program Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from Arizona. Groups of union members, students, even religious leaders from Los Angeles are making plans for protest rallies against the new law. But the state's governor, Republican Jan Brewer, is used to taking the heat political and otherwise. She joins us now to go "One-on-One".

Governor, my first question to you just as you prepare to implement this law, every time you try to do something new, especially when it's controversial there's some kind of a hiccup or problem, the training. What would you say is the number one issue in implementation?

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think getting everybody to actually understand what the bill actually does and certainly making absolutely sure that all our law enforcement officers are trained. It's not much different than what they've always did. But there's been such misunderstanding and mistruth in reference to Senate Bill 1070 that we wanted to make it absolutely clear and now we understand that people are taking their classes by video and passing their tests and so we feel very comfortable that everybody has been well trained.

KING: I want to show you some numbers because CNN has a new poll out tonight and in it a majority of Americans -- and I know in your state, a majority of Arizonans support the new law. Fifty-five percent say they favor the law; 40 percent say they oppose it. But it's interesting, despite that majority support, you do have indications that Americans of all stripes worry it will cause some discrimination against Latinos.

Look at these numbers; 49 percent of whites; 69 percent of African-Americans; and 74 percent of Hispanics tell us they believe the new law will increase discrimination against Hispanics. Can you guarantee not only to your state citizens but to the American people who might be concerned about that aspect of the law that that will not happen? And what will you do to stop it, if you see evidence of it?

BREWER: Well, John, racial discrimination is illegal. It's illegal in the United States. It's illegal in Arizona. It has been and it will continue to be. You know I believe that people respond to those kinds of polls because they have been led to believe that that's what's going to happen. I hope that it doesn't happen.

I'm sure that there will be claims of racial discrimination, unfortunately. But, you know, I really believe that our law enforcement officers are so well trained, they understand what America's all about. And that it's illegal. And that it's not going to happen. We don't want it to happen.

That was one of my big concerns. But I'm hopeful that on Thursday, that -- and as it moves forward, that we won't see any of that. And certainly, those people will be punished. And the people that are feeling that they're being racially discriminated against can you know pursue a legal relief through the courts.

KING: Every state, every city, every local government is having budget crunch in this tough economy. And while several of your police, major police organizations, support this law, several have also spoken out and raised concerns about it. I want you to react to some of them.

This is Chief Roberto Villasenor of the Tucson Police Department. He said "shifting the burden of immigration enforcement and responsibility from federal to local authorities cannot be justified nor sustained. We cannot bear the burden of the federal government's financial and legal responsibilities." That's one.

The Santa Cruz County, Arizona, sheriff, Tony Estrada, says "this new law requires me to expend substantial and already scarce resources on immigration matters at the expense of combating serious crime." You do have serious law enforcement professionals saying you're taking resources away from fighting the crime they think is the number one priority in their community and redirecting it. How would you answer that?

BREWER: The bottom line is that the Senate Bill-1070 absolutely mirrors federal law. And we are being invaded by illegal immigration in the state of Arizona. And this is another tool. And we are just helping the feds do their job because they won't do it. The bottom line is that the people of Arizona are frustrated. We shouldn't have to do it. The federal government should be doing it, and if they won't, well, the legislature and the people of Arizona overwhelmingly believe that we need to enforce it and help them do their job. And we're a nation of laws. And we hope that those laws will be enforced.

KING: As you know, the federal government, the Obama administration, went to court try to block this law. They're asking a judge to issue an injunction, blocking it from effect. We're waiting to see if that judge will rule before the implementation day on Thursday. Has your office received any head's up on whether or when you might get such a ruling?

BREWER: Well, we haven't. As I left the office this evening, I thought maybe we might have some breaking news for you, John, but it didn't come. But, you know, it's not 5:00 yet. And it's not unusual sometimes for these judges to make a decision and then release it at 05:00. So, you know, we were hoping that we would get it today. If not, I'm sure that tomorrow might be the big day. And I understand you'll be out in Arizona tomorrow so --

KING: I'll be there and I'll come and say hello. Let me ask you lastly, I know you disagree with the president on this issue. You had a meeting with him at the White House.


KING: I spoke with you afterwards. You disagree on this issue. The president was hoping to pass what he calls comprehensive immigration reform this year. It looks like it won't happen. There is a chance it could come up in what they call a lame duck session of Congress after the election. And in our poll, we asked Americans, would you allow illegal immigrants to stay in the United States if they have a job and if they pay taxes? 94 percent of white Americans said yes, 82 percent of black Americans said yes, 78 percent of Hispanics said yes in our poll. Three major groups of the American population saying they could support that. Now, I know critics sometimes call that amnesty, saying if they came in illegally, they should not be allowed to stay. If the president were to ask for your help after the election, saying, look, I'll do more on border security, maybe we disagree on that, but would you help me on this issue pass something comprehensive that allowed people to stay, get a path to legal status? Would you help him?

BREWER: I would tell him, secure our borders. You know, everything's off the table I believe in Arizona until we get our borders secure. That's our number one priority. It's unfortunate it has to be that way. But the people of Arizona, the people of America, have been promised that our borders would be secured for years and years and years, with it not happening. And I don't believe the people of America, certainly not the people of Arizona, are ready to discuss anything other at this point in time other than securing our borders.

Let's take care of this issue of illegal immigration. Then we can sit down and be opened and have good dialogue to discuss what it is that he would like to accomplish.

KING: Governor Brewer, we appreciate your time tonight. We hope to say hello when we're on the ground there in Arizona.

BREWER: Thank you.

KING: It's a controversial new law. The Governor Brewer is standing her ground despite her many critics. Governor, thanks for your time. We will see you where we're in the stay, and we will be broadcasting live Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from Arizona.

Already on the ground is our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Jessica, you listened to the governor standing her ground, saying she's going to implement this law. And you have been there tracking the fierce political debate. What awaits on the ground in terms of the protests? I assume some pro and a lot against?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. There will be both sides represented. We are hearing about especially large numbers expected to come protesting against the law, John. Thousands expected to first do a morning vigil, a morning prayer, and then acts of civil disobedience where we're told that people who are Latino citizens of the United States are expected to show up in front of the federal building not carrying any kind of paperwork or I.D., requiring or challenging police officers to arrest them and then posing a problem, which is how do you verify that these folks are, in fact, legal resident of the United States.

What they're trying to do is challenge some of the gray areas in the law and some of the problems that police are likely to find as they try to implement it. They're saying it will be thousands strong, John.

KING: And I saw an interview you did earlier today with a woman who was leaving Arizona, moving to Los Angeles, because of her fear of this new law. Is there any way, do the immigrant right groups have any way to quantify that? Is it a dozen people, hundreds people? Is there any way?

YELLIN: Well, we saw hundreds of people this morning lined up outside the Mexican consulate getting paperwork. We presume, we're told, to be able to take their children who were born in the U.S. back to Mexico. So, those are just one snapshot of hundreds this morning. Many others, we drove through neighborhoods where there are empty houses. We are told they had been full just weeks ago. Shuttered businesses in Latino communities that we were told had been thriving just a few months ago. So, it does look like entire communities are slowly, slowly being at least pared off if not disappearing in this city, John.

KING: A major policy and a major and emotional political debate this midterm election year. Jessica Yellin on the ground in Phoenix. Jessica, we'll see you tomorrow. Thanks for your time.

And when we come back, is BP getting a tax credit, getting a tax credit, for its role in cleaning up the Gulf oil spill?

And later in the program, our "Pete on the Street" goes in search of a golden parachute like the BP outgoing boss, Tony Hayward.


KING: Today's "Most Important Person You Don't Know" is giving the Republican establishment headaches, one they didn't expect. Republican U.S. Senate candidate, Christine O'Donnell, picked up the endorsement of the Tea Party Express today in her race against Delaware congressman, Mike Castle or as the Tea Party Express calls him, liberal Republican Congressman Mike Castle. O'Donnell is the underdog in the race and the outsider.

Unlike her opponent who served two terms as governor and nine in the House, O'Donnell has worked for the Republican National Committee as an old hand on the cable TV debate circuit. She's been a marketing and media consultant to various clients, including icon pictures "The Passion of the Christ," giving Mel Gibson's problems, taking on the GOP establishment might be (ph) easier. That primary in mid- September.

All right. Let's discuss it. Democratic strategist, Peter Fenn, Republican strategist, Rich Galen, and our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. Rich, to you first, Mike Castle, if he wins this nomination, he's still the favorite, many people think that's a Republican pick up. Joe Biden's seat. Is this another example where a tea party candidate, like out in Nevada, could, could, potentially cost you a seat the party could pick up?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, sure, it could potentially. And an asteroid could fall on our heads potentially. It's just about as likely.


PETER FENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I'm rooting for the asteroid.

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, when they were recruiting these kinds of, you know, candidates like Mike Castle, when John Cornyn who runs the Senate Campaign Committee, was doing it the Republicans were in the toilet so they were recruiting these kind of well-known, solid establishment Republicans to prove that the party still had a pulse, right? So, they recruit these kind of candidates, and they're getting knocked off.

FENN: I think you're probably right, but, you know, we are going to send our troops over to Delaware --

GALEN: John King will bring it up every night --

KING: No, no.


GALEN: But he's going to win.

BORGER: Well, right, but he did knock off the favorite --

KING: We'll keep a watch on all that. Let's move on to some other stories on my radar tonight. The House today passed another $33 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The final vote, 304-118. Significant? More than 100 Democrats voted no. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former Democratic party chairman, says he thinks the president could actually face a democratic challenger in 2012 on this issue if he can't get enough of the troops out in time.


GOV. ED RENDELL, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: If the troop withdrawal begins in 2011, if there are some signs that we're trying to get out of there -- and I heard, I think you, talking about, if there are only 3,000 American troops, we still have a presence. But if we start to begin to reduce our presence, I think that's probably enough to keep any war candidate out of the race.


KING: Anti-war challenge to a Democratic president?

FENN: I think you'd have to see real changes in the president's policy to have that happen, but it would be devastating. 1968, it cost the Democrats. 1976, it cost the Republicans. 1980, it cost the democrats, you know. Pat Buchanan who asked that question. Helped defeat George Bush in 1992. So, you don't want -- if you're a Democrat, you don't want to have a primary challenge, no question.

BORGER: I don't think it's likely, but I don't think it's completely out of the question. You know, Barack Obama's not a party guy. If you think he is Jimmy Carter who was not a party guy, right? But if you think he is, then Ted Kennedy challenged --

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GALEN: First of all, what happens when the president comes and visits, as we all know, is the campaign stops dead in its tracks for ten days for all of the advance work and everything else. Number two is, can you imagine if Karl Rove had said that about George Bush? You know, he can generate excitement but don't think he's going to help you on the election.


KING: -- less than the U.S. treasury. When I asked about it today, the outgoing CEO, Tony Hayward, said, quote, "we have followed the IRS regulations as they're currently written."

FENN: Look, BP's audience is not American taxpayers. Their audience are pensioners in the UK, and they're going to do everything they can to protect those stockholders, and you know, it's up to the Congress to get up and do something.

GALEN: I'll tell you if they get a $9.9 billion tax break, I mean, I'm still waiting for my invitation to the Clinton wedding in the mail that should show up any day now if they get that. Congress won't let that loophole hold.

BORGER: I think currently is the key word.


BORGER: I was talking to a Senate Democrat today who said that this actually came up in a meeting of Senate Democrats who were kind of saying, gee, maybe this will help us get our energy plan through.

GALEN: (INAUDIBLE) Don't apply to civil cases, only to criminal cases so the Congress can pass that --

KING: All right. Let's squeeze one more in. Never mind the deficit, right? Congress seems intend on spending $485 million on a jet engine almost nobody wants. It's an alternative engine for the new joint strike fighter plan. The Defense Secretary Robert Gates doesn't want it. The president's threatened to veto the entire defense spending bill because of it. But the betting is, because GE has many friends in the House, that the money will be there when the bill comes to the house floor. Why is this so hard?

GALEN: Well, because defense spending is defense spending. And nobody, Republicans, Democrats, nobody's ever been able to get their arms around the members of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in the House and Senate who live and die by this stuff, and if they want it, it's going to be in there.

FENN: But you have this threat of a veto, and it's not just this, it's the C-17, which the Pentagon doesn't want. They don't want to fund. The air force doesn't think they need. So, you got these weapons systems which the Pentagon does not want. That's the key.

BORGER: And top House Republican John Boehner supports this money. I guarantee you this is veto bait. Barack Obama will be salivating to veto this.

KING: Well, we'll watch that.

GALEN: It will be tough going. You know, if there's no defense spending going into the fall election, going into the August recess, you watch what happens at those tea party events.

KING: Testing the red pens or pencils at the White House. All right. Everybody, standby. Thanks.

A candidate gets rick rolled? Huh? We'll explain what that means, and we'll show you the ad that has the stuff (ph) humming when we come back.


KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Brianna Keilar for the news you need to know right now. Hey, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. The polls close at the top the top of the hour in Oklahoma. The democratic and Republican primaries for governor will be the big headlines there.

And on the Hill today, Senate Republicans blocked a bill to make groups disclose when they pay for political ads.

Also, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put off Thursday's hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber because none of the invited British, Scottish, or BP officials were going to show up.

And the coast guard reports that a fleet of 800 skimmers in the Gulf were able to collect only one barrel of oil yesterday, just one, John.

ANNOUNCER: Here comes the "Play-by-Play".

KING: You get the drill. "Play-by-Play." We find the best political tape. We break it down. With us to help, Republican strategist, Rich Galen and Democratic strategist, Peter Fenn. Remember when Tony Hayward was testifying before Congress, one congressman, Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican Energy Committee apologized to him and he caused a stir. That wasn't the only thing Joe Barton said that caused a stir. Let's go back in time because we have something new, but first, a little then.


REP. JOE BARTON, (R) ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: With the attorney general of the United States who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the interest of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history --

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That was then. A $20 billion slush fund. He got roughed up by the Republican leadership for that. Well, listen to Joe Barton today.


BARTON: Let me say, I do support that there be a compensation fund. I do support that BP pays most if not all of the money that goes into that fund, and I do support that it be, as I said, fairly, quickly and transparently paid out to people that have the claims.


KING: What's the game show line? Will the real Joe Barton really stand up?

GALEN: I think, you know -- what he said the first time was beyond belief. I mean, whether or not you agree with him, which I don't, the fact is that he gave the Democrats a talking point and took Republicans off their game for about 36 hours which was just silly. This was more -- this obviously is a lot more correct, and obviously, he's thought about it and changed his position.

FENN: It will be interesting to see how he stands on the $9.9 billion tax break that BP might be getting. That sounds like a good idea --

GALEN: As long as it doesn't affect Exxon --

KING: You know, in scoring politics we give them credit when they clean things up. So, he cleaned this one up all right?

FENN: I think he's reading from the talking points that --

GALEN: I think he got the talking points that if he did it again, he --

FENN: And you saw Ken Feinberg's foot was bouncing pretty heavily there.

KING: One of the -- most Republicans support the president's strategy in Afghanistan. We were just talking about he lost 100 votes in the House tonight, but a lot of Republicans also said they wish the president would be more clear, saying that next year he'll start to bring troops home but only if conditions allow. John McCain had an interesting exchange today with the new commanding general of central command. The General James Mattis, nominated to be the central command commander. Listen to this.


GEN. JAMES N. MATTIS, CMDR., U.S. JOINT FORCES COMMAND: We have to be very clear that we're not leaving. That it starts a process of transition to the Afghan forces. It is not that we are pulling out of the region. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: Wouldn't that be more impactful, your statement if the president of the United States just said, quote, "we're not turning out the lights and closing the door in the middle of next year?" Wouldn't it be helpful if the president of the United States made clear what you just said and what Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense have said? I don't expect you to answer that.


KING: Is it important policy point or is it a case of sour grapes? John McCain seems to like poking the guy he lost to.

FENN: Yes. I mean, I think he got -- you could see it in his face. He's not happy with the fact that he's not president. The other point is he's mischaracterizing the president's position. And I think that's very important to realize, that this president said, look, it is the Afghanis war. That's exactly what the general said. We got to transition into that. We're going to start it next year. You know, they are pretty much on the same page.

GALEN: Everybody except for you is calling it Mr. Obama's war, but that's okay, Peter. We'll work on you a little bit.

KING: All right. We're out of time. So, you, guys, don't get a chance on this. Going to break, I want to play you the ad that had our staff going nuts today. This is Bill McCollum, the attorney general of Florida. He's running for governor. We're going to play the ad going to break. When we come back, we're going to see Pete Dominick, but take a peek at this ad. If you like 1980s music you'll like it.




KING: Couple minutes away from the top of the hour. Let's head down and check in with Rick Sanchez for a preview. Hey, Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: This is something people all over the country are going to be following. Is it possible the Arizona law is going to be upheld or is going to be returned? We're also going to be doing gold line, Glenn Beck, the critics, all sides. You'll see it right here on "Rick's List."

KING: You've been following the big news you know today Tony Hayward walking away from BP and the Gulf oil spill. That's so shabby (ph). An annual pension of almost $1 million. Our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick wanted to go out on the street to find out, how do I get such a deal? -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, John King. Yes, I guess they're not calling it the golden parachute because he's only getting $1 million a year, but nonetheless, I mean, the guy was responsible for the company who had the worst environmental disaster of all time, and he's going to be all right, like many of these other executives that run their companies in the ground. I went out to ask people if they could have that in their life. Where do I get one


We're moving on up to the east side. To a deluxe apartment in the sky.

Have you run a company in the ground and gotten a huge severance package?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I didn't get a severance package, but I did ran one in the ground.

DOMINICK: Excuse me, sir. Do you know where I can get a golden parachute? You have a Mercedes? You don't have one? If I lose my job, I can still have a ton of money? No? Nothing? Do you have a golden parachute? Can I just check your bag? Nothing here. No parachute. Maybe I'm taking it too literally. You don't have a job?


DOMINICK: Are you married to one of these park avenue guys?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll probably too young to get a golden parachute.

DOMINICK: There's an age limit for the golden parachute?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there is.

DOMINICK: Is there a hair or height requirement because those two have always gotten me?




DOMINICK: So, I got a shot? I thought on Park Avenue --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I live in the real world.

DOMINICK: You do? You don't live on Park Avenue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't live on Park Avenue. I live in Brooklyn.

DOMINICK: Got a sweet severance deal? You guys don't have that? You get fired for not doing a very good job, but you still get a sweet deal on the way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's not us.

DOMINICK: You don't get that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't get that.

DOMINICK: You got to get a golden parachute, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A golden parachute?



DOMINICK: Not only do I not get a golden parachute, I almost got thrown in the garbage, John King.

KING: Pete, we would not stand for that. We would come rescue you without pause.

DOMINICK: I'll see you in Arizona.

KING: Off in Arizona tomorrow. Pete Dominick, we'll talk to you tomorrow night. And for all of you out there, we appreciate you stopping by today. Please come by the next three nights. We will be live from Arizona as that state's controversial new immigration law kicks in unless a judge blocks it. Keeping track of that debate. As we turn it over tonight, "Rick's List" primetime starts right now -- Rick.