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JOHN KING, USA

Delaware Lightning Rod

Aired September 16, 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 and good evening everyone. Delaware's newly minted (ph) Republican Senate nominee, Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, is attending a candidate's forum this hour and we hope to bring you a live glimpse of the woman is now exhibit A in the GOP civil war. War is a strong word, some of our guests might take issue with it, but the party establishment is nervous to say the least and tonight there's more evidence that leading Republican moderates are annoyed at what they see is a harmful purity test from the Tea Party and its allies.

Later we'll explore the fault lines on the left, too, jitters about losing control of Congress have Democrats squabbling over tax cuts and over how with just 47 days left to get their base energized. But we begin with Christine O'Donnell and the growing fallout from her stunning primary upset Tuesday night. Not only did she defeat a man who had won 12 sometimes statewide, she triggered some nasty finger pointing within the Republican ranks and some overtime work for Democratic opposition researchers.

Here to help, former Republican Congressman from Virginia Tom Davis, former Republican Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and in Austin, Texas, CNN contributor and the editor-in-chief of the conservative RedState.com Erick Erickson. I just want to start with this right off the bat and we may drop in -- if we get a shot of Christine O'Donnell at this event we may dip in and get a -- listen to her.

I want you to just look at this right here, this is the cover of "TIME" magazine which I think covers pretty good the tensions going on. Tea Party time, how conservative rebels are rattling the Republican establishment. Tom Davis you were part of that establishment. What is there to be worried about?

TOM DAVIS (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Oh plenty -- look, you have a political establishment in this country in both parties that hasn't delivered any good news to Americans in 10 years. They fired the Republicans in '06 and '08, elected Obama, now they're going to fire them and they're basically turning on anybody who has been in any authority who has gummed up the works.

KING: So she has come on the national scene from nowhere, Ken Blackwell, in part by copying a Tea Party message, by having a Tea Party message that on the one hand gets people very excited. Let's listen to her campaigning, talking about all the things wrong with Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm optimistic that we can begin the effort to turn the tide in our country, and get our country back on track, but we can't do it by spending our way to recovery and taxing our way to prosperity, but that's exactly what Barack Obama is proposing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That is the Tea Party message that is catching fire, a lot of independents like that message, they think there's too much spending in Washington. They think perhaps the Obama administration is trying to overreach with the power of government. But, but and this is the Democrats who have just been working overtime with this opposition research, here's one clip, Christine O'Donnell on C-SPAN -- this is back in 1995. The Democrats say this will turn women voters away, potentially turn independents away, discussing Christine O'Donnell here, why she believes women should not be allowed into the military academies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'DONNELL: By integrating women into particularly military institutes, it cripples the readiness of our defense. Schools like the Citadel train young men to confidently lead other young men into a battlefield, where one of them will die and when you have women in that situation, it just creates a whole new set of dynamics, which are distracting to training these men to kill or be killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Democrats were gleeful, Ken, circulating that all day long, saying women will run away, independent voters will not support her.

KEN BLACKWELL, FORMER OHIO SEC. OF STATE: Well, look, this is going to be a national campaign, it's going to be on President Obama's push towards expanding the reach of government, the size of government, and government spending, and Pelosi and Reid going along with him, hand in glove. She, in fact, has not turned a tin ear to the grassroots of the Republican Party, the conservative movement or the Tea Party, and as a consequence, she won a primary. If primaries are to mean anything, it means that people at the grassroots have an opportunity to voice their concern, their direction, and their aspirations.

KING: But primaries are also about ideology and Erick Erickson, as you well know, there is a lot of tension within the Republican Party, people mad at you for stirring things up on the right flank, people mad at people like Senator Jim DeMint for supporting these candidates they don't think are electable and again, here's what a lot of Republicans are pointing to privately and Democrats publicly in her record where they say why would you go after a guy who has won 12 times statewide, who has proven he could win that seat and put it into Republicans hands with a candidate who has said some controversial things. And who has these views and again, these are her views and voters may embrace them but the Democrats are saying there's no way she can win in a moderate state like Delaware because she opposes abortion in all cases. She has said in the past that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and is reversible and she opposed the Ryan White AIDS Care Act saying that she thought that federal money should not go to that AIDS -- the AIDS treatment like that. It should go instead to things like to things like cancer research.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know it's amazing about three weeks ago Democrats were saying all the Republicans wanted to talk about was the ground zero mosque because they didn't want to talk about the economy and jobs and now the Democrats are trying to attack all these people on social issues that aren't really even before the voters in their minds this year or what these candidates are talking about because they don't want to talk about jobs and the economy. Sure they can paint her in some sort of crazy way with things she said more than a decade ago, but that can happen with a lot of people.

The issue here, though, John, is that even if Christine O'Donnell loses in Delaware, and she may not, she may win, she would be a casualty in a necessary fight on the right that the left has had, but people care not to talk about it, and you know if we're going to talk about Christine O'Donnell all day we might as well talk about Alvin Greene (ph) in South Carolina, who's the Democrat's nominee down there.

KING: He's one nominee. Alvin Greene (ph) is. You're right. He's a controversial nominee. He came out of nowhere, but that's one nominee and one race. We have a half dozen just Senate races that have surprise Tea Party nominees upsetting establishment figures --

ERICKSON: And they're all ahead in the polls for the most part.

KING: They're all running pretty competitive you're right on that point. I think because this year we have -- I was joking earlier in the green room with the congressman and Ken about, you know, if I showed up at the meeting and said "take me to your leader," -- said take me to your leader who would it be? I want to play a clip -- Sarah Palin was down at an event raising some money today for one of those Tea Party surprises this year, Rand Paul in Kentucky. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those whom I choose to endorse and help support as we head into these midterms where we could take it back, we can take back our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Who is her leader?

DAVIS: Right now, we're just getting an organized conspiracy to get the power back. It's one of these issues where the voters are basically going to put a check on President Obama. They're not voting to put Republicans in as much as putting a check on that. They don't trust either party. Over the last 20 years, both parties have lost market share, more independents are registered and the end result of that Republicans have curled up into a pretty red ball and Democrats into a pretty blue ball and a lot of others have left the parties and participation.

BLACKWELL: Well we're moving towards the most significant change election in quite some time. This is (ph) going to be more substantial than 1994 but I think Erick has summed it up brilliantly. This is not necessarily a one cycle wave. This can be a two-cycle wave and if that is the case, we're going to see the most substantial gains by any modern day party in two cycles than we've ever seen before.

KING: I know Erick stands on this because we've talked about it for months, that he would rather be in the minority and have people of principle, Senator DeMint said that right here on this program yesterday. Tom Davis you used to be the guy who helped the Republicans try to win House seats.

DAVIS: It's a complex country and you've got to be a broad tent to be able to carry a national coalition. There's just -- this is not an ideological country. They react to what's on the ground and right now the Tea Party and a lot of Republicans are riding the fact you have 9.5 percent unemployment. But I will tell you as soon as the Republicans get in a position of responsibility, the voters are saying what do you offer and it becomes a different test and this wave that's going to sweep a lot of conservatives --

KING: An important point you make and I know these Republicans I'm surrounded by here don't take advice from Hillary Clinton but I want you to listen to Secretary of State Clinton today because she did an interview with ABC and she was asked this very question, talking about how you have these ideological candidates in both primaries, left and right and she was talking specifically about the Tea Party saying these people may come to Washington with pretty firm principles, but then you have to see if they can be pragmatic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Then when they have the burden of holding office and the responsibility that goes with it, I've seen them become very sobered very quickly. Sometimes the poetry can get kind of hot and a little over the top, but the prose brings you down to earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In a campaign in which the Republican message is the Democrats have failed to govern responsibly, do you worry, Ken Blackwell, and then quickly to Erick that if you bring in these people who, god bless them, have pretty clear views and they say Washington is a mess and we have to do, you know, Joe Miller in Alaska, says maybe get rid of Social Security for future generations. We can't afford it. Close the Education Department some of these candidates said. Close the Energy Department. We've heard that before -- it never happens. Do you worry that Republicans might take power and be unable to responsibly govern?

BLACKWELL: No, no, I don't, because what the people are saying is that, look, basically government is too big, it is chasing capital out of the marketplace, and we are not growing at a rate to produce jobs. People want to go back to work. These candidates --

KING: But there are other issues the next Congress will have to deal with.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. But I tell one of them is not making government bigger which is what Barack Obama wants to do. It is not ignoring our Constitution, which is what the Democrats want to do. This is going to be about putting a check on the growth and intrusion of government and I think we will find a broad conservative center right coalition that will allow the new Congress to do just that.

KING: I'm going to ask everybody to take a quick time-out. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back we're going to show you a trend in the Republican Party that has many of the moderates very, very, very nervous.

And as we go to break we'll show you, we have a live camera at the candidates' forum up in Delaware. Christine O'Donnell -- this event just getting under way. Christine O'Donnell is due to speak. When she does, we'll drop in and say hello live. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're looking at live pictures there of the candidates' forum, Jewish Community Center up in Dover, Delaware. Among those on hand the two Senate candidates, Chris Coons (ph), he's the Democrat, Christine O'Donnell, she's the Republican. You have heard her name before -- it's in Wilmington, Delaware -- excuse me. We'll take you there live when Christine O'Donnell speaks a bit later.

This is not a debate. Just a candidates' forum, the candidates will give opening statements. There are candidates for several races there. Again, we'll give you a sneak peek when we can. Let's get back to our conversation about the Tea Party. Is it helpful or harmful to the Republican Party at large?

I want to bring you all up to speed. Dana Bash, senior congressional correspondent, everyone is talking about this race on Capitol Hill. She had a conversation today with Olympia Snowe, Republican senator from Maine who told her this. "We can't be endangered if you want to be a majority party." Olympia Snowe being a leading moderate.

"It doesn't stand to reason that the Republican Party would want to exclude moderate Republicans if they want to be a majority party. Those are mutually exclusive propositions. Ideological purity at 100 percent is a utopian world and I don't know who lives in utopia. I've never lived in utopia." Now that is Olympia Snowe. Yesterday we had Jim DeMint on the program and he has backed many of these Tea Party candidates against establishment Republicans. But I put the question to him when Olympia Snow or Susan Collins, the other moderate senator from Maine, if they're on the ballot two years from now, four years from now, would you go after them?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, we'll have to see what happens after 2010. I want to work with all of my Republican colleagues and but we need to make sure that Americans have good choices of people who are focusing on our constitutional responsibilities.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You go up on Capitol Hill today and this is -- these are the conversations happening. That cannot be helpful within the party.

DAVIS: Well it's not. More importantly the kind of wave that the Republicans will experience this fall it's not a perpetual wave. This is a one time occurrence. Things change in two, four years (INAUDIBLE) for the Democrat five straight times to start thinking you're going to be winning Tea Party candidates routinely up there makes it harder in a lot of areas to be a national party and competitive. But this is a high water mark for them this year and I don't blame conservatives for getting everything --

BLACKWELL: John, if Republicans once again have campaigned like Ronald Reagan and they get back and they govern like Jimmy Carter they'll be out again. You know so this is not a purity test. This is basically a fidelity test. This is a party that is a pro-life party. This is a party that believes in small government. This is a party that doesn't believe in judicial activism. That means that should be reflected in their decision-making and when it is not that confuses and angers and frustrates voters.

KING: But let's say of those issues you just listed, let's say you're a pro-choice Republican.

BLACKWELL: Are we a private club or are we a political coalition --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me go to the "Magic Wall".

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Erick --

ERICKSON: The issue here --

(CROSSTALK) ERICKSON: The issue here is not purity. Everyone likes to talk about purity particularly if they're a moderate saying the conservatives are going to throw them out. Look, conservatives did not rally in Illinois to a particular candidate. Mark Kirk (ph) got in. In California Carly Fiorina was able to beat Chuck Defoe (ph) and get in. In Connecticut conservatives did not rally.

They went with Linda McMahon (ph). In Massachusetts Scott Brown. No, the issue here is not picking off moderate Republicans or liberal Republicans in states where a conservative probably cannot get elected, it's pushing to the right those candidates in those states where they can. I think if I was a senator from Tennessee I would probably be a little worried about the Tea Party movement. If I was a senator from Maine, probably not so much.

KING: Well you make that point, I just want to come in and look at this. We're going to go back -- this is New York and New England, and we'll go back to 1980. These are House and Senate seats in the United States Congress, 1980, you had 28 Republicans from the state of New York and the six New England states right up there. That's 1980.

I won't go through them all. But let's come forward to 1992, the number is 25, relatively consistent, you lost a couple in New York and you see that there. 1996, let me just come forward because you get back up to 29 in 1996, even though Bill Clinton wins reelection. Twenty-nine Republicans in the United States Congress from New York and the New England states in 1996.

Let me give it a better nudge. Seven today, seven today and if you come up here and just take a look at the summary -- she's being finicky today. There we go -- 1980 seven, today four. This is in the Senate from New York and New England. House seats 21 in 1980, three today. Now Tom Davis, you're making the point about being a national party, can you be representative of the northeast if your members can't win?

DAVIS: Well I think on the economic issues which largely but not exclusively drives a lot of these Tea Party advocates, you can be in New England. I think Republicans will do much better in New England this year riding this wave. If it becomes cultural alignments, strictly cultural alignments, then I think you're going to be very strong in some parts of the country and much weaker in others and that's what we've had the last 15 years were basically cultural alignments not economic.

KING: And how do you manage that Erick Erickson --

ERICKSON: John, you know everyone likes to talk about this. It's the very clever talking point that a lot of Democrats use. Let's do that in the south and see what happened there, where it's gone dramatically to the right and if it weren't for constitutionally mandated racial gerrymandering in the south you'd probably have even fewer Democrats down there. You have some who just by virtue of gerrymandering are locked in.

This happens across the country. In the west it's hard for people particularly in the northern and western areas for anyone who is not really libertarian in some places to win. This -- you know, it is cultural. It's happened around the country. It's happened with movements of people but you know what? There are 50 states you don't like one, you can get up and move.

KING: And then to Erick's point, party loyalty is down. Independents are up. There is a 50 state incredibly complicated puzzle. Are we going to end up with fractured politics because of regional differences, because of some party that makes it pretty hard when they all come to Washington to get anything done?

BLACKWELL: No, I don't think so. I really do believe Republicans have learned their lesson and that they're going to regain the majority in the House this time around, maybe the Senate, but if not this time the next time in the Senate and I think they will govern as a cohesive Republican Party, that center right party that is strong on life, strong on the defense of marriage but more, as important, strong on placing constitutional limits on the reach of government. That is what unites people because basically collectivism rushes people out of the markets, takes over for families and in fact has a disregard for the religious liberty that has in fact given us the freedom that we have.

DAVIS: John, let me just say I --

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS: -- racial gerrymandering has actually helped the Republicans in the south because it packs Democrats, African-Americans and Democrats into districts. If you look at what happened after the 1990 census. I mean that would be my observation on this, but there's room for everybody in this party. We have open primaries and the key for us is not for everybody to panic. We need to understand where we are and to work together, get the majorities and we can work it out.

KING: All right, I got to call a quick time-out here. We got to keep -- we got to keep the trains on time today. Erick, thank you. Ken and Tom thanks as well.

When we come back, look around the room you are in right now, look around the room you're in. Are there seven people in the room? If that were the United States of America, one person, one in seven in the United States of America are in poverty, according to new government figures. We'll take a closer look when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Republican and Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell speaking at a candidates' forum in Wilmington, Delaware. Let's listen.

O'DONNELL: It's time get common sense ideas, free market ideas back into Washington, D.C. I've worked in D.C. for about 12 years; I've been in politics for 20 years. I have enough experience to know how Washington works, but I have enough real life experience to know how it should work. Thank you for your support. (APPLAUSE)

KING: That's Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate in Delaware. We dropped into that event. We were in the break when she started to speak. We'll rewind the tape and bring you more of that later tonight. That was her first appearance since winning the nomination at a candidates' forum.

Now back to what we talked about just before the break, a new report out today from the Census Bureau saying poverty in the United States is on the rise. We want to show you the numbers here on the "Magic Wall" as we come through. I'm going to play this out, 1959 here, where we are today here. Watching the rate, you see the numbers of Americans in poverty and the poverty rate in the country, 43.6 million Americans in poverty right now.

That's 14 percent of the population, 43.6 million, 14.3 percent of the population, essentially the poverty line is if you are an individual $30 a day, imagine that, just imagine that. One of the places we want to talk about as we try to put this into context is -- I'm going to walk over this way -- is Braddock, Pennsylvania. When we were on the road a week or so back we stopped in Braddock. It's just outside of Pittsburgh.

Used to be a huge steel town. Here is Braddock in it's hey day and as you see from the photograph up here this is the mid 1950's. Andrew Carnegie built his first steel mill here. The town was once a booming town, population 20,000. Let's take a look at Braddock today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Population now down to about 5,000, you see all the closed businesses as you go through it. This is a town where poverty is extraordinary. The median price of a home, of a home is $5,200. The median household income is 17,000. Among the people we met when we were there was Keisha Sails. She's 31 years old. She's a school bus monitor. She was born and raised there. She voted for Obama back in 2008 and was full of hope, but as she lives in this impoverished community listen to the distrust of politicians.

KEISHA SAILS, BRADDOCK, PENNSYLVANIA RESIDENT: What about us, the little people? We count, too, but they don't -- they don't see it, you know, they just worry about themselves. Everybody is greedy and selfish and politicians to me, as an adult, now that I've grown up to watch and really pay attention, these are the most selfish, lying people I've ever seen in my life.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: It's a sad place to visit and you see up close and personal our crew that went in there, just the stunning impact and we saw it last year when we traveled to all 50 states, food banks in places you would never expect them, homelessness reaching to older Americans and teenagers as well. One in seven, look around the room. One in seven Americans in poverty, according to new numbers out today. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation. We'll bring you as well more of Christine O'Donnell's statement at that forum there and we just talked about the divide on the right. We'll also explore divisions on the left.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now -- hey Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. President Obama is in Connecticut for a pair of fund-raisers appearing with U.S. Senate-candidate Richard Blumenthal (ph). The president took a swipe at Blumenthal's (ph) Republican opponent, former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, there's no doubt I can see how somebody who has been in professional wrestling would think they're right at home in the United States Senate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Before leaving Washington, the president thanked the Senate for finally passing a $42 billion bill to help small business. The bill now goes to the house.

And win or lose, Republican Meg Whitman's going into the record books, now spent $119 million of her own money on her campaign for California governor, breaking the all-time record set last year by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. John it seems every single cycle the amount of money the spending goes up.

KING: How much money are you going to spend?

JOHNS: About 15 cents.

KING: Joe Johns is over. Gloria Borger, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash are here. Somebody who is going to need some money is Christine O'Donnell and she has raised since that Tuesday stunning upset $850,000, plus that was as of a couple hours ago. We have to check in and get the latest. We have a lot to talk about. First I want to go back, we were in a break when she started speaking at the candidates' forum at Wilmington, Delaware. Let's give you a chance to listen, remember this is the first candidates' forum, not a debate, and she knows a lot of people are saying I can't win in November. She needs to prove them wrong.

O'DONNELL: Good evening. My name is Christine O'Donnell, I'm a candidate in the U.S. Senate special election for the seat once held by Joe Biden. Thank you for allowing me to be here tonight. I want to especially thank the Jewish Community Relations Center, and all of you for giving me the opportunity to introduce myself to you.

There's, it's no secret there's been a rather unflattering portrait of me painted these days and as we go, as we approach the general election over this next month and a half, it's my goal for you to get to know who I am, and why I'm running in this race, and why I'm asking you for your vote on November 2nd. I'm running because I'm concerned about the direction of our country. Leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington no longer view our founding principles of limited government, low taxation, our constitutional principles on which this country was founded as indispensable. I want to go down to Washington and be your voice. The issues that we face right now are very complicated and it will be difficult for you to truly know everything that I represent in 60-second sound bites, so over the next couple weeks we're going to be unfolding my platform so that you will know exactly how I am proposing to get the country back on track. I believe that what's coming from Washington, more of the same, is unsustainable, as many of you do. Our country is going broke. It doesn't take an expert to figure out that we can't continue to spend our way to recovery, nor tax our way to prosperity.

KING: Let's talk about this as we listen to this, she's under attack from Democrats and Republicans under their breath for social positions she has taken, that is the classic tea party fiscal conservative Washington is a mess and both parties are responsible message. That's pretty safe ground. But --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, but you know, there are questions that have been raised by people like Karl Rove about her credibility as a candidate, and about her background, and about IRS liens against her house and all kinds of things and their advice to her is, fess up, tell the truth, you're going to get attacked in a really tough campaign so you might as well get it all out and start defending yourself. I think what we just saw was a good first start for her really, sort of reintroducing herself to the voters, you've heard bad stuff about me. I'm going to talk about policies and we'll see how she proceeds.

JOHNS: If you want the conservative vote you got to talk like a conservative. A little bit of a news flash I got in my e-mail from the Family Research Council, they say that on Friday, it's going to be her very first speech, if you will, before a conservative national gathering since she got through the primary. So you know that's what they want to hear, red meat to conservatives. If you want them to come out and vote for you, you say those things. A lot of these things --

BORGER: But it's Delaware.

JOHNS: Right, but a lot of these things that we hear her saying from the '90s or whatever, I mean, these are things that we've been hearing conservatives in some form saying for a long time, so it doesn't come as a complete shock to people inside Washington.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But there's the category of comments she's made about personal sex acts and, which is on the cover of the "New York Times," we could probably say the word, but --

KING: Fire away.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, I'll leave it to you.

YELLIN: OK, never mind. I know, I'm backing down. Whatever else, condoms and all of those sorts of things and the character stuff, the allegations she used a campaign debit card to pay for personal expenses that stuff dogged her and that goes to character, what the Republican leadership in Delaware is very worried about.

BASH: And the Republican leadership in Washington. It's not just that maybe her ideas aren't necessarily in line with the broader public in Delaware, talking to Republicans here, that's one of the things they were most concerned about, all of the stories coming out and being used against her and it is character. If people are angry at Washington and feel as we heard from one voter that they're liars and don't understand us, if you hear all of these things about her how does that make her different than people they're mad at?

BORGER: If this is the way the tea party movement wants to introduce itself to the American people, because if you're saying we're a new movement, we're a credible movement, here are our ideals and suddenly Christine O'Donnell is being attacked for all kinds of personal ethics issues, that's not exactly what they want.

YELLIN: The person we don't hear about is the guy she's running against, Chris Coons whose whole campaign is how upstanding and ethical he is, balanced the budget, a graduate of divinity school. You're going to have this woman who has questions and squeaky clean on the other side and that's a race.

KING: He was, Chris Coons, a week ago considered a sacrificial lamb because they thought Mike Castle, who had won 12 times would win the Republican nomination and Joe Biden's seat would be gone. You have an interesting race, it will be fascinating to watch her try to reintroduce herself. Everyone's going to stand by. When we come back a lot more to talk about, including what Dana was just talking about, the fallout on the hill from all of this, what are Republicans and Democrats, what are their jitters about the tea party movement?

The president is about to please the left. Is it enough? Stay there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Among the many challenges facing the president this year, keeping his base, the left happy, trying to get them to turn out on Election Day, 47 days from tonight. Let's continue our conversation with our correspondents and Jessica Yellin, you've been tracking Elizabeth Warren, the consumer protection agency, and would the president name her, even though she's poked the treasury department a little bit, poked the administration a little bit and even though people say could she be confirmed on Capitol Hill. The administration thinks it has a compromise. Is it enough?

YELLIN: I think no. I will tell you this is very important to progressive groups. They felt let down on the single payer in health care, they felt let down on some of the choices he hasn't made on overturning don't ask, don't tell, other issues. They wanted him to deliver on this. He's split the baby which is given her a job that isn't the big job and they don't really get at this point that it's not the big job. The people I'm talking to think this is a back doorway of letting her run the agency without having to get a confirmation, and that she's going to be in that post for many years to come, and that's not going to happen, so someday soon in a couple of months he'll nominate someone else, they're not going to be happy.

KING: I bet that's after the election.

BASH: That's the question. Because Obama is still the president, obviously still needs those progressives to be backing him, we were talking about this before, big time in 2012. And if they realize afterwards they're mad, they didn't get what they want. Jessica is right from the perspective of the Senate there's no way she'd be confirmed.

BORGER: It also depends how she handles it. It will be interesting to se champion of the liberals. If she comes out and says this is better for me and better for you, then maybe the white house won't have such a problem on its hands.

YELLIN: If she says I want to leave and someone else should take the job.

BORGER: However she's not that dependable that way. She speaks her mind, so we have to see.

JOHNS: She stirred up so much anger out in the country with her words, talking about the T.A.R.P., for example, but the thing about it, is that when you look at the T.A.R.P. and the stimulus, they actually did their jobs.

KING: Toxic asset relief program, we like to break down the Washington speak here.

JOHNS: Right, right.

KING: Right.

JOHNS: You look on the right and the left, there's critics on both sides, nonetheless, if these programs hadn't been put in place, most economists agree that this economy would have been in much worse shape. So that's the whole Elizabeth Warren background to me anyway.

KING: Turn the page as we wait for that tomorrow to another big decision tomorrow, you were up on Capitol Hill today. Christine O'Donnell defeated Mike Castle. Lisa Murkowski, was a member of the Republican leadership team, senator from Alaska got beat by a tea party candidate. She is still thinking is there any way to run as a write-in candidate? We'll find out tomorrow.

BASH: We'll find out tomorrow. She's on a plane heading back to Alaska, not going to arrive until 6:30 Eastern Time tomorrow night and make an announcement but we are told from people close to her, from her own lips today and the leadership they really don't think she's made a decision yet. The bottom line is Republican leaders, by the way she was and is a member of the leadership this is the last thing they want is for her to wage her own, you know, write-in campaign because they want to back the Republican candidate, they don't want anything at all that could risk keeping that Alaska seat in Republican hands.

KING: They have enough to worry about.

BASH: Look it was to give you color from capitol hill it was interesting to watch, first day back in the Senate today, there was a moment where she was huddled, we could see through the glass window, huddled of the Senate chamber with Blanche Lincoln, another embattled Democrat and Olympia Snowe, three female senators talking for 30 minutes and it was pretty clear that they were consoling her. It was very interesting.

KING: We have to unfortunately end this one here. When we come back, three very, very smart Democrats, we'll put them on the hot seat, too, talking about pressures on the left, the civil strive is not just on the right. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We talk a lot about stress on the right with the tea party movement and the Republican establishment. What about tensions on the left? Here to talk it over, three very smart Democrats, Stan Greenberg, Democratic Congressman from Minnesota, Keith Ellison and from New Orleans, CNN contributor James Carville. I want to pop up a study, the results of a study that show the trouble on the left through the primary season, Curtis Gans and his poll on turnout. The average percentage of citizens who voted in Democratic primaries was the lowest ever. The average percentage of citizens who voted in the Republican primaries was the highest since 1970. Congressman Ellison, someone who does grassroots politics when you look at that, 35 states during the primaries and you look ahead 47 days, if that holds up you're in trouble

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: It won't. I think it's not going to hold up. Things will turn around

KING: How?

ELLISON: I'm confident because first we'll hit the ground and talk to people but also we're going to talk about a progressive vision for our country, elections are about what's going to happen, not about what did happen and if the Democrats hold onto the house we are going to put in a bill that will help build this country's infrastructure, continue to make it America a manufacturing drive, working on, we're going to make sure that financial products bureau that --

KING: I don't mean to interrupt, if the Democrats hold onto the house. Your numbers, Stan, tell you they're not going to.

STAN GREENBERG, CEO, GREENBERG QUINLAN ROSNER RESEARCH: Numbers are not great, that's true. Well, I mean, the issue, you've got to have a conflict and James, I'm sure will tell you how you get a fight. I mean, the best way I've learned when building turnout is to have a fight about something serious, I think we probably all agree on that. A battle for the middle class versus Wall Street, Democrats got to wage that fight, got to fight for American jobs versus outsourcing. They need a fight.

KING: James first and then the Congressman. Stan talks about a fight. And you wanted that fight to be in, I've seen Stan's polling numbers, fight on the tax cut issue, 250 and below. When 31 vulnerable and conservative Democrats and the speaker send a letter to the president, let's leave them all in place, that muddles the message?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It does. Some of our strategists and some of our strategists in the Democratic Party are called bus boys them say take everything off the table. Take it off the table. And the conflict. We have a great idea. Let's appoint Elizabeth Warren and that will get everybody excited. Like somebody that, you know, what I mean? In Washington, oh, yes, a new consumer protection agency. She is a great woman. Really behind us, she help drive it. She will do a great job. If they believe that will get a turnout cranked up, I'm not too sure but I don't think that's going to work. But you do need to have the conflict and they need to get that, looking to put thing on the table. We need waiters to put things on the table. Not bus boys to take thing off.

KING: Among those trying to gin up the turnout is the vice president of the United States. Listen to this. This is delicious in many ways. We'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One reason I wanted to be on your show is to tell the progressives out there, get in gear, man. There's a lot at stake here. Our progressive base, you should not stay home. You'd better get energized. The consequences are serious for the outcome of the things we care most about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I just love at the beginning, one of the reasons I wanted to be on your show. That's on another network. A network that the vice president clearly identifies with progressives. I'll leave it at that for marketing purposes. Speaking from the middle here, he is trying gin it up. You say have a big fight. How can the president help --

GREENBERG: First of all, he's right but there is also a reality. This is, we have 9.5% unemployment and rising. We have poverty rising. Our base of young people, you know, the minorities, unmarried women. We have a large base of voters. Suburban voters. By the economy. We're in the middle of tough times. We have to try to convince them that they have a stake in this election. We think they do. But I understand, real life goes on. Right now the Republicans are energized to bring down Barack Obama them want to see him fail. We obviously have to convince folks, there is something at stake. That's what the fight is about. KING: It's interesting Stan mentioned poverty and how it could affect politics. The president was asked about this at the news conference last week. He gave an answer that left a lot of people unhappy. Essentially he gave the rising tied. He didn't say this is specifically what we need to do to get in and deal with the issue of poverty. Does he have a problem there?

ELLISON: Well I think the president has done a good job. There's no doubt we have to sharpen the issues and what's at stake here. I like the idea of dealing with these tax cuts. The Republicans want to give tax cuts to Bill Gates and Paris Hilton. We've got to say that we need the American people to get something.

KING: Before we go, I want you to listen to a Congressman on the program a little while back. And I'm not going to say why I'm playing this. You'll get it when we play it. This is a Congressman from I think Chicago.

REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: The chairman of the campaign committee, his job was helping the house Democrats regain control of Congress. Not much time in Chicago as chief of staff. He is an outside Washington hand. He works in Washington. And so he has the big money. He has the fame. He has the potentially the charisma and don't get me wrong, Rahm has tremendous strengths he brings to the debate but there are some profound weaknesses and many are very local. This is an organization town and there will be a reaction.

KING: I spent a lot of time with Mr. Carville and Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Emanuel mentioned back there in the Clinton days. You are Rahm Emanuel's pollster. The word on the street is he has asked to you look into his viability of the Chicago mayor race. Is Mr. Jackson right? Does he have a lot of problems?

GREENBERG: Rahm Emanuel makes that decision. He is a local boy. He is born and raised there. Let's not lose track of that. Born and raised there. That's where his family lives, goes to school. This is a guy who will, has unbelievable leadership skills. I don't know what he'll do.

KING: What are the numbers suggesting?

GREENBERG: I hope he'll do it. I think Chicago is a great city. He would be a great mayor but I don't know what he'll do.

KING: James, tell me what Stan's numbers say since he won't tell me.

CARVILLE: You know, his daddy practiced medicine for about 60 years in Chicago. That's the first time I heard that Rahm's not from Chicago. If he gets in, safe to say that he'll be a very viable candidate. But you know, Chicago politics is rough and tumble. Rahm is a rough and tumble guy and he'll do fine. It will be a contested election. I think he understands that.

KING: We'll let that one go.

ELLISON: We got a lot of good candidates.

KING: Stan Greenberg, Congressman Ellison, James Carville, thanks again. We'll spend more time together in the 47 days until Election Day. When we come back, we've been talking about this. Do you think your taxes are too high? All right. What services should we cut? Pete on the street next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Fact of life in a tough economy. Some people complain they want fewer taxes. In a hard economy, guess what happens? Fewer services like firefighters. So we sent our intrepid offbeat reporter Pete Dominick to go out on the street and essentially say in tough time or lower taxes, what would you cut? Pete?

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, most people understand that tax to go pay for essential services. I suppose we can debate on how efficiently they do that. I went out and played multiple choice with people, what services would they cut if they had to?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one likes to pay taxes.

DOMINICK: Is there anywhere you would like to cut back?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The politicians.

DOMINICK: Teachers, police, firefighters or sanitation? Who are you cutting back on? Don't stop.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sanitation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to cut a little spending on education.

DOMINICK: Firefighters, educators, sanitation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None.

DOMINICK: Police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None.

DOMINICK: None of them. You like all that. That's a nice car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Add jobs.

DOMINICK: Add jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pay more taxes if you have to.

DOMINICK: Anything you want to cut spending on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The politicians' salaries. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we pay too many taxes but I think taxes serve a purpose.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police.

DOMINICK: Police?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: You got a problem with the law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. I don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of these people that don't do nothing and get paid to do nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Military. Yes. We really don't need to be fighting everybody else's battles, I believe.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't feel I should have to pay more tax. I'm happy paying the taxes that I pay.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate taxes.

DOMINICK: What would you cut back on? Education, firefighters, police, educators? What would you do? Sanitation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would privatize everything. Get rid of government.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: John King, John as much as I'm a Yankees fan, I don't think our taxpayer money should have to go to their pro stadiums. That's mine. What do you think?

KING: That's a good one. I think taxpayer funded stadiums are bad one. It is interesting. A lot more people are saying the politicians' salaries and their perks even though they're not all that high compared to the private sector. People feel that way.

DOMINICK: People don't think they should be making, what is it for a house rep, 170, and a senator makes what? Am I right or am I wrong?

KING: Right in the ballpark. Out of time tonight. Pete Dominick on the street, thank you. That's all for us. See you right here tomorrow night.