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JOHN KING, USA

Congress Not at Work?; The Cable TV Wars; Illegal Immigration and Claim of Abuse

Aired September 29, 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.

You know I've covered politics for 25 years now. Twenty-two of them based here in our nation's capital which more and more these days might be better described as our nation's circus.

What happened under the capitol dome today would make much more sense under the big tent. There were elephants, donkeys and clowns of all political persuasions.

In the House, the Democratic leadership decided it will adjourn without deciding what to do about the Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of this year. The leadership knows what it wants to do. And if it tried hard enough, it probably could get the votes to do it.

Let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire and extend those affecting families that make $250,000 a year or less. But a good number of vulnerable Democrats don't want to take that vote before the election because Republicans would call it a vote to raise taxes.

So the leadership punted. Senate Democrats had already decided to dodge the tax debate until after the elections. But what was once called the world's greatest deliberative body was in session today.

Notice I didn't say "at work." This is not the democracy you were taught in civics class.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: I ask you now with consent that the Senate proceed to counter number 119 HR-38, the Crane Conservation Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator from --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.

REID: The Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Act.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, I object.

REID: The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, I object.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I object.

REID: The Shark Conservation Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I object.

REID: The Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I object.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: If that makes you mad -- maybe it doesn't, but if it does, remember, you get to decide who works here. And in 34 days, you decide whether big change will be the big theme of a third consecutive election cycle.

Will your votes change the gridlock that is Washington? Or will they perhaps make it worse?

Let's talk it over. In New York, Amy Goodman is the host of the television radio show "Democracy Now."

In Atlanta, our CNN contributor Erick Erickson who's editor-in- chief of the conservative Redstate.com and author of the new book "Red State Uprising."

Here in Washington, Robert Traynham, the host of "Roll Call TV" and a former senior advisor to the Bush/Cheney campaign.

And CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

And let me start on that point. And Amy Goodman, I want to go to you first because there is so much frustration among Democrats outside of Washington that we had a big election in 2006 that gave us control of Congress, those Democrats would say. Then we elected a president in 2008.

Why can't they do what we elected them to do?

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: I mean this is a very important question. And in fact, the one thing they did do today, James Zadroga 9/11 Act, which will help firefighters, emergency workers, cops.

James Zadroga died in 2006. First one police officer to have his illnesses tied to the toxic plume at 9/11.

It's astounding that it took this long to pass with all of the people who are suffering here in New York. And yet it was done almost entirely on partisan lines. The Republicans didn't vote for the firefighters or the cops, the emergency workers, about, what, 15 of them. This is what it's come to. It is frightening. So much needs to be done to care for the people in every which way. And it's not happening right now.

KING: And Erick Erickson, I want you to come into the conversation, but first I want you to listen to John Boehner. He's the House Republican leader, and he of course was outraged today. He just couldn't contain his outrage over the fact that the Democrats would punt until after the election this vote on tax cuts. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: How any member can vote to adjourn and punt this into a lame duck session I think is putting your election above the needs of your constituents.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now -- now, Erick, can we go back to the record? Do you think at all in the last two years, maybe once, maybe twice, maybe two or three, four dozen times, the Democrats have certainly punted a lot of big decisions, but the Republican -- have they ever put their election above the needs of their constituents?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Well, you know, that's politics. I'm sorry, I'm still hung up on the fact you've been doing this for 25 years since before I was in high school, John.

Sorry, hung up on that one.

You know the issue here is listen to the list of things Harry Reid went through. The Great Cats and Canids Act, the Seal Act. I'm glad Tom Coburn was there objecting. Congress generally does nothing. That's actually a feature, not a bug. The founders wanted it very --

KING: But it's not all --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Some of you -- you can list those bills and we could read them all and maybe we'd like some, maybe wouldn't like others. But it's not all inconsequential legislation.

ERICKSON: Right. Well, you know --

KING: The thing, there would be 90 votes -- there would be 90 votes probably to pass a food safety bill.

ERICKSON: Right.

KING: There would probably be 80 votes to pass reparations or payments to African-Americans and Native American farmers who for decades were essentially screwed by their government that gave different subsidies to white farmers and not others.

And these things are all held up because both parties think that it's all about the elections and not about the people.

Oh, very much so. And that happens. The Republicans have done it. The Democrats have done it. Both sides attacked the other. But I think the last time I saw polling on the lame duck session it was Rasmussen and there was a great fear among the public about what else was going to happen in the lame duck session.

This gives the Republicans another thing to go out with in addition to the tax cuts. I think it'll probably benefit the Republicans in November.

KING: Robert, you spent a long time working on Capitol Hill. You've worked for Republicans in the Senate. You're a Republican. Have you ever seen it like this, essentially breathing is out of order if it comes from somebody of the other party right now?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, HOST, ROLL CALL TV: Not as bad as this. I mean this is partisan gridlock at its worst. And the frustrating thing about this, John, is that there are millions of people at home that are living paycheck to paycheck that absolutely not only want but deserve some type of a tax cut.

And the fact of the matter is that we have Republicans and Democrats, but primarily the Democrats, not because of my bipartisan background but because they're the ones that are in power that have refused to put the best interest of the constituents first as opposed to their political gain. That's the unfortunate thing here.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But you know the tax cut issue itself -- I mean, it came up because these are going to expire, but the whole notion of what to do about the tax cuts was a huge political issue to begin with. And it ended with this kind of whimper.

I mean Democrats had a big meeting about it. They were trying to decide whether this would be in their own best political interest to establish a fight where you had class warfare essentially and raise that old issue again, and then they punt on the vote. Why? Because maybe they don't have the votes for it --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Or they don't want to -- they don't want to twist any arms. But that --

BORGER: Right.

KING: That's the point. In their own political interest. Why can't -- and I know this is silly. But why can't on a big issue like tax cuts that affects every single person out there watching? On other big issues, whether it's Medicare, or Social Security, or education, why can't they have a debate and then have a vote and see who wins?

BORGER: Because they've abdicated basically. They've abdicated responsibility here. And the closer you get to an election, as you well know and you well know, the more they abdicate their responsibility.

And I think that that's what we're seeing on both sides of the aisle because right now it's all about getting elected. And by the way, after this election, I hate to say this, it's not likely to get any better. In fact it could get worse.

(CROSSTALK)

TRAYNHAM: And let me break it down even more. It's about power and it's being weak-kneed. These are weak-kneed politicians that are afraid to stand up and say, you know what? I may lose the election in 34 days from now but I'm going to do what's right for the American people.

KING: The president --

TRAYNHAM: It's also about power because they're drunk and addicted to power.

KING: Drunk and addicted to power. I think that's a first.

The president was out in Iowa today. And he knew this tax cut debate was bubbling up here in Washington. But he was at a backyard event trying to talk about the economy. And his point of the tax cut debate is that the Republicans want to say, extend all the Bush tax cuts but they don't want to put on the table, in the president's view, enough to offset the $700 or $800 billion hit that would take on the deficit.

Let's listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't pretend that there're short cuts or -- that we can cut our taxes, completely have all the benefits that we want, and balance the budget, and not make any tough choices.

That's -- you know, I think more than anything, the message that I want to be communicating to the American people.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Amy, a very passionate president last night on the college campus. A much more sober president there. But he's essentially trying to make the point out in the country that, look, we're going to have a campaign now and the Republicans are going to say oh, the Democrats want to raise taxes.

And the president's point, and he is right on this point, that most Americans have actually seen a tax cut over the past two years. Many of them probably just don't feel that way because of all the ads they're seeing on television.

GOODMAN: It really astonishes me that the Democrats can't figure out a way to explain why it is that they don't want -- what the highest, the 1 percent of Americans who make the most amount of money, that at this point in time, in dealing with the deficit, that they should not get a tax cut.

But that most Americans, more than 95 percent of Americans, will. Why is this so hard to understand when people are losing their homes, their health insurance? When people are in such dire straits?

The fact that the Republicans have been able to frame this debate so well is not a comment really on the Republicans, it's a comment on how -- how problematic the Democrats -- the problems Democrats have in expressing basic truths.

KING: It's a great point you make because when Clinton won the presidency, he campaigned, much as Barack Obama did, saying he was going to come to office and yes, raise taxes on the rich. Although President Clinton looked people in the eye and said, I'm going to raise taxes on the rich.

This administration seems very shy about just saying that's what we're going to do.

BORGER: Yes, they're -- they're very shy about it because they know when you talk about taxes you're really in the Republican wheelhouse. And it's very easy to say oh, this is going to be the greatest tax increase in American history, which is what Republicans were saying.

And I think their problem also is that Barack Obama had a promissory note that he gave to the American people which is bipartisanship, and guess what?

KING: All right. A quick time out. Quick tonight. Robert, hold the thought.

When we come back, the president says he doesn't get caught up in the cable chatter but the same president says one thing about one cable network and his spokesman says something very different about another.

What's destructive and what's invaluable? Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Sometimes you feel sad to be left out of a big debate. This is not one of those sometimes.

In an interview with "Rolling Stone" President Obama voiced the opinion that FOX News is a destructive force in our society. On the other hand -- the left hand in this case -- Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the president believes MSNBC commentators Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow provide, quote, "an invaluable service," to that same society and democracy.

So according to the president this is destructive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Everything that is getting pushed through Congress, including this health care bill, are transforming America. And they are all driven by President Obama's thinking on one idea -- reparations.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: He's bankrupting the country. He is the most incompetent president to ever hold that office.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And, again, according to the White House, this is an invaluable service.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC ANCHOR: And what we're seeing out of this governor of New Jersey is just go to the money, cut whoever you have to cut, there is no ramification for any of this because he's a cold- hearted fat slob.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST: In short, in Scott Brown, we have an irresponsible homophobic racist, reactionary ex-nude model, tea bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Got it? All right. Let's check back with our smart panel for their thoughts on how the president defines friend and foe.

Erick Erickson, I want to go to you first on this one. Why do you think the president of the United States -- and to be clear, the president went after FOX in an interview with "Rolling Stone." It was his spokesman, Bill Burton who drew a delineation, essentially saying when the president says he's mad at the left, it's not with MSNBC, it's more with people in the blogosphere.

(LAUGHTER)

ERICKSON: You know the president -- one of the things -- striking things in the "Rolling Stone" interview, it was talking about FOX News as world view.

Mr. President, a whole lot of people watch that station. In fact, take Glenn Beck, for example. A couple of weeks ago, more people were watching Glenn Beck than any other show on cable at that time.

If you got a problem with that world view, you got a problem with a massive amount of American people. And he may not like that. But you know this is the great thing about our democracy. We have something called the First Amendment.

People can watch FOX. People can watch CNN. People can watch MSNBC or none of the above.

At my house, we typically are watching Disney or Nick Jr.

KING: Nick Jr. So you're surprised I'm old, I'm surprised you're watching Nick Jr.

Gloria, I want to ask you this question because you're a reporter. What happened to this? This is the president of the United States, it's May 1st, it's the University of Michigan, he's giving the commencement speech, and Professor Obama is trying to tell Americans of all political persuasions, listen to each other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: For if we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we become more polarized, more set in our ways.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

BORGER: Well, I think he's describing what's happening in this country right now.

KING: I think he's right. In that commencement speech, he's right.

BORGER: He's absolutely right in that commencement speech. But right now he's got a tough midterm election going on and what he's playing is base politics. He's trying to get his voters out to vote.

And if he's got to talk about FOX News, he'll talk about FOX News because his base doesn't really watch FOX News. His base would prefer another network.

KING: I'm shocked.

TRAYNHAM: But there's two sides of that coin. The more he talks about FOX News, I bet you tonight and probably tomorrow night, FOX News ratings will continue go up and, talk about rallying his base, the Republican base is going to get rallied even more.

I mean this is just red meat to both sides. But if you take a look at it mathematically, FOX News, as Erick mentioned a few moments ago, has much more red meat on their side than the Democrats do.

KING: Amy, you can weigh in on the cable wars but I also want to pick up on a point we talked about last night. After the president's speech on the campus, we were talking about why is, you know, the vice president says the left is whining and the president says it would be irresponsible for any liberal Democrat not to get out and vote.

And there's a lot of commentary about this on the left, in the blogosphere by people who see themselves being set up. And I want to read you some of it. This is Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com.

She says, "Notice that nobody actually running for office is wagging their finger at voters and scolding them like a bunch of children. No, this isn't about GOTV," get out the vote. "It's about setting up a narrative for who will take the blame for a disastrous election. And once again, the White House doesn't care if they make matters worse in order to deflect responsibility from Obama."

Is that's what's happening here, Amy?

GOODMAN: Well, I mean I think it's very clear that the White House is in trouble, right? A number of candidates don't want President Obama, though they'd love Michelle Obama, to come to their rescue and they'll take other candidates because of the -- of really what we're seeing now in Washington, so little getting done.

And I think right now we need to have a big discussion. And the media needs to serve as a forum for that discussion.

In terms of journalism, I think it's our responsibility as journalists to hold those in power accountable, whoever they are -- the Democrats, the Republicans. We are not supposed to cover for power. We're supposed to cover power.

We are not supposed to -- we are supposed to be the fourth estate and not for the state. And that's a really important tenet that all journalists should remember. We're not supposed to be cozying up to power.

KING: And so then do you take offense when he says things like this? I want to read you one more. This is from Glen Greenwald writing in Salon.com. He says, "Democratic voters aren't unenthusiastic because they're reading too much blog criticism of the president. They're apathetic because they see what has happened in their own lives over the past two years and see little reason to work for those who have been in power during that time."

Fair?

GOODMAN: That's right. He is talking about the Democrats. He is talking about the Republicans.

What we really need to talk about is the amount of money that's being poured into all of these elections that really captures Democrats and Republicans together. Some can call it one corporate party. And I think mainstream America is really being left out and not represented at this point.

KING: All right. Amy and Erick, I got to go unfortunately. Amy and Erick, thank you. Robert and Gloria are here.

We got to take a break right now. But a lot more to come on the program.

When we come back, we're going to bring you an interview we tried to bring you last night until the live event -- the president on campus -- took much of our time.

Beau Biden. He's the son of the vice president. He was going to run for that Senate seat. You know the Christine O'Donnell seat in Delaware? She's in that race. Is he kicking himself he didn't get into that race? His answer when we come back.

Also tonight, Wal-Mart moms. Who are they? Well, they're 15 to 17 percent of the American electorate and they are, at the moment, candidate shopping. We'll break down some interesting research there.

And when we look deeper into politics tonight, Barack Obama was a pioneer in Internet politics. But at the moment, if you look at his Web site, well, let's just say it's not trending.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

A new CNN/"TIME"/Opinion Research poll indicates Alaska's U.S. Senate race is a dead heat. Republican Joe Miller's 38 to 36 percent lead over Senator and write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski is within the poll's sampling error.

It's a different story in Florida's three-way Senate race where Republican Marco Rubio is clearly ahead.

In California, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer has opened up a nine-point lead over Republican Carly Fiorina. And Democrat Jerry Brown is ahead of Republican Meg Whitman in the governor's race.

Whitman's campaign says there's no merit to the allegation she exploited her former housekeeper because the woman was an illegal immigrant. She's now represented by celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA ALLRED, FORMER HOUSEKEEPER'S ATTORNEY: It was a nightmare and the way that Nicky was treated by her employer, Miss Whitman, cause Nicky to feel exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Whitman's campaign says the former housekeeper lied about her legal status and labels the allegations as the politics of personal destruction.

The housekeeper trap. How many times does that happen in American politics?

KING: Well, let's talk about that. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is here. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. And let's listen first to Meg Whitman. She's running this campaign.

You look -- show the poll. She's in a tough race in a state that has traditionally been Democratic. The last thing she wants to be talking about in the final weeks of the campaign is this but. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEG WHITMAN (R), CALIFORNIA GOV. CANDIDATE: All the documentations that we had said that she was legal. She had a 1099 on file with the employment agency, a driver's license, Social Security card. We had no reason to believe that she was not legal.

No one could have been more stunned than I was when she came to us on that Saturday in June and said I'm not here legally.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So at the moment, Jess, she said/she said. We'll probably have more back and forth on this one. Probably more documents. But I think the bigger point is a candidate who's trying to run on "I'm the right person to fix a bad economy" is now talking about something very different.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it goes to both her immigration position, which is let's crack down on employers who hire illegals. Well, if it's so hard to verify in your own home, what does that say about the broader policy? She says you need a tougher e-Verify system.

And then Jerry Brown has already started hitting her on credibility. This has been the narrative the Brown campaign has been harping on. And it is -- it's another attack on her. And you know she spent the entire day answering questions about this. Not what she wants to be doing right now.

KING: Just because I remember early in the Clinton administration Zoeier Baird was the nominee for attorney general and that one became a big issue, nanny taxes, I guess we called them back in those days.

Do women get treated differently on this issue than men?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean I think historically there's no question that the women who have had -- people who have had this issue tend to be women. Perhaps it's because, you know, that women have to deal with nannies.

But I mean I know -- you know, just because we know a lot of people in this town, men and women, people who think that there is any chance that they would run for office or sit before a Senate committee to be confirmed for a certain post, they try to make darn sure that all of their -- all of their records are in order that this doesn't happen.

So if there was a chance she was going to run, you have to think maybe she's telling the truth when she said that she actually did ask --

YELLIN: They did release -- the campaign released lots of paperwork. I mean the 1099 form, an IRS form where this housekeeper did say "I'm legal" and the documents show that. KING: And that they them proves that they were -- they're not surprised that this issue came up, they might be surprised just when.

All right, let's move on. We talked a bit about this at the top of the show. There is a rush in this town by the people who are sent here to do the people's business, to get home, to try to convince the people to send them back to do the people's business. Except they don't seem to be doing a lot of the people's business.

So you were wandering the halls of the hill today, trying to get from people an explanation. Why are you in such a hurry to go home? Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER (D), NEW YORK: Everybody wants to get home, everybody needs to go home.

BASH: Why is that? You said everybody wants to get home, why?

SLAUGHTER: Because they think they can do more good at home than they can sitting here.

REP. TIM WALZ (D), MINNESOTA: I'm always more comfortable being at home, I think, especially now I'm making the case for why they should give me another shot at it. And I think when I'm not there it's easier to say things that I can't defend.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: It's like we're in the "Wizard of Oz" in Washington and when we're pulling the curtain back behind the wizard when we go back to our business.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The "Wizard of Oz" here in Washington. This is the part where --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: They're just hoping the house doesn't fall on them.

KING: Do I say ding-dong the witch is dead or pay no attention to that man behind the curtain?

YELLIN: Got more comfortable at home, too, so I'm going to --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: See you.

YELLIN: I don't want to work.

BASH: In fairness, in fairness, what -- the other thing that these Democrats were saying is, you know, as you can imagine, they were blaming the Republicans, in particular, the Senate, for stopping everything that they wanted to do, even in this small period -- short period of time that they've been back in Washington. So that's why they're going to leave.

They are leaving a week early. They are working tonight as we speak. They're going to burn the midnight oil to do what they have do which is pass something to keep the government running so they can leave early.

KING: A continuing resolution to keep the budget -- to keep government going. Not a document called a budget. Not an actual budget.

JOHNS: Not a single appropriations bill this year. You know, which is fascinating because Congress has actually done a lot. A lot of different bills have been passed. Not all of them were very popular. But they weren't able to do the appropriations bill.

And I was talking to a couple of people off the hill today who were saying the reason why they really didn't want to do these appropriations bill is because the more spending bills you pass the more people talk about the tax and spend Congress, and you just remind people of how much money they're spending.

A difficult position. Democrats just say, let's just come back in the --

BASH: Exactly.

JOHNS: Lame duck.

BASH: But let's get real. The reason why everybody wants to leave, particularly the Democrats, is because they realize every second they're here does them more harm than good.

Whether it is potentially passing something that can be used against them or not passing something that their constituents want them to pass. There is such anger at Washington. That's why they just want to get out of dodge.

And you know, it's -- nobody says otherwise. I mean, it is what it is.

KING: And so we will have this lame duck session after the Congress. And a lot of the members who will be here for the lame duck will not be back in January. Almost everybody who loses in November will be back here.

The only difference is the candidates for the temporary Senate seats. There's an Illinois, a Florida and a Delaware Senate seat. Whoever wins those seats held by temporary appointees, the winner automatically gets to come.

So the Senate will look a little different for the lame duck. They'll do the tax cut debate then, what else?

BASH: Maybe. And on the tax cut debate, that's another thing that we should mention. That is, just to show you how polarizing even leaving town is. There was a vote in the House to adjourn. They have to do that to adjourn. That almost didn't pass. Why? Because Republicans are making a stink saying, you know, we've got to pass an extension for tax cuts before we leave. Democrats didn't want to do that because it's too divisive in their own party. Democrats almost didn't pass the motion to adjourn because almost 40 Democrats voted with Republicans saying we want to do tax cuts first so it just shows you how everything they do has -- is hard and difficult, which is why they want to get out of here.

KING: It's all about them, not about, say, the 16.5 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed or --

JOHNS: Yeah, I mean, the other two things, just to answer the question of what I've heard, probably an omnibus spending bill, a great big, you know, catch-all, kitchen sink thing, this is after the election, maybe the start treaty or something bizarre like that, and that's about it. A lot of concerns won't get addressed. You have to remember and say they've done a lot this year.

YELLIN: The voters are angry with Washington. These guys are in a box. Guys and gals are in a box. For all those viewers out there who are so angry at Washington, if you want them doing their job back here, you've got to lighten up on them a little bit. They came here to try to serve at least.

KING: I think she's trying to say, you sent the group that's here now. 34 days, you get to send the group that comes next. When we come back, one on one with the vice president's son. Why didn't he run for Senate in Delaware? When dad comes home what do they talk about at the dinner table?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This time last year, a lot of people figured our next guest would be on his way to keeping his father's Senate seat in the family. Instead Beau Biden decided not to make that race and he joins me now to go one on one. And let me just start there. At the time, the Democratic attorney general of the state of Delaware people thought with the family name you would be a good candidate in that race. Mike Castle was considered the Republican favorite at that point. People thought it would be a good match up. When you look now at Christine O'Donnell as the Republican candidate, you must be kicking yourself.

BEAU BIDEN, V.P. JOE BIDEN'S SON: No, not at all. This is Delaware's seat. I gotten off the plane of Iraq and then I got put in my lap a really critically important case that we're prosecuting in our state. I had one choice to make and that's to finish my job as attorney general and that's what I did. I'm not kicking myself. I'm trying to go out there and stir it up and do everything I can to make sure Chris Coons who is our candidate becomes the next U.S. senator and with hard work I anticipate he will be.

KING: She ran against your dad once. Do you know Christine O'Donnell at all?

BIDEN: I've known Christine for a while. I campaigned in 2006 when she was seeking the U.S. Senate nomination as a Republican for the first time. So I went to a lot of candidate forums throughout the state with her. She then ran against my dad in 2008. Look, Christine knows what she's about, knows what she's believes, and she should be taken seriously. Chris has taken her seriously. My party's taken her seriously and we're out there beating the bushes, making sure 47 percent of the state which are Democrats turn out to vote to elect Chris Coons the next United State Senator.

KING: Another person watching her closely is Mike Castle who has not ruled out running as a write in candidacy. We had a new poll last week that showed Chris Coons up in that race, 55 percent to 39 percent. If you're Mike Castle on the outside, looking at that race, viable as a write-in candidate?

BIDEN: Gosh, I don't know. I take the Congressman at his word that he's giving it some thought that it's a remote possibility as he says. Gosh, I wouldn't try to put myself in his shoes or in his head. This is a man who served our state honorably, who's been our governor, who's been our lieutenant governor, who's been in the country 18 years. The good news is we're going to, as Democrats, take back a Republican-held seat.

KING: I want to ask you about your dad, who as you know sometimes he says it himself, sometimes his tongue gets out a little bit ahead of the brain and he says he creates what we call Bidenisms in national politics. He was in New Hampshire at a fundraiser yesterday. He essentially was lecturing the Democratic base, saying, stop whining and get out to vote. Don't look at the white house and say we're unhappy with this, we're unhappy with that. Look at the other guys because if they win this election you'll be even more mad. What does your dad says when you guys are sitting down for a beer or cup of coffee when he says what gets him in trouble and generates headlines?

BIDEN: Look you know my dad well. You've covered him for a long time. My dad's a great dad, first and foremost. What my dad's trying to do, what the president's trying to do, what I'm trying to do is a very much smaller level what Governor Kane who's coming to Delaware tonight is trying to do and that is, make sure the Democrats that elected Barack Obama and Joe Biden get out to vote. We want to make sure they know the stakes are high. Change does not just happen overnight. Change bill was voted for in 2008 by overwhelming numbers can be voted for again and needs to be continued and pursued and Democrats have to come out and vote.

KING: What is this 20-months experience been like for him? Because I do know your dad. I've covered him going back to 1988 when he ran for president. He wanted to be president in 2008 of course and then he takes the job as the number two. I don't mean this as a criticism. Like many politicians he has a healthy ego. He was the chairman of a committee for a long time in the Congress. It's hard sometimes to be the number two especially when publicly on the case of Afghanistan, for example, he had one course of advice and the president picked something else. How does he deal with this?

BIDEN: Look he ran for president and then agreed to run for vice president with Barack Obama because he believes in the agenda that Barack Obama, the president of the United States, set forth as a candidate, now as president. He loved being in the Senate. So there's been little adjustments along the way that you've observed, probably haven't been here a long time. But he is completely and totally committed to this administration's goals and objectives. What I've seen, observed, is a vice president who is completely and totally committed to the president of the United States doing what he was asked to do and that is provide his unvarnished opinion and advice about any given issue the president asks him about.

KING: When he comes home to that beer or cup of coffee with his son, does he talk at all about what happens here in Washington? People look forward even to 2012 and say, if the president's a little weak, if he's slumping in the polls, he's going to have to push Joe Biden aside and bring in Hillary Clinton to be the vice presidential nominee. Do you guys every talk about the Washington drama?

BIDEN: You're not going to believe this, but you might, knowing me a little bit. Most of the drama doesn't come to our dinner table. We talk about what my kids are doing, his grandkids, my brother's three kids, my sister. We talk about the family and what's going on there. I've made it a kind of rule of not talking about what I talk to my dad about privately. But I'll share this with you. Most of the time, it's not about politics.

KING: All right. He would be 74 years old on Election Day 2016. If the Obama/Biden ticket wins a second term, will your dad run for president?

BIDEN: I think my dad's spoken to that. He's completely committed to making sure Democrats are elected on November 2 and that this administration wins in 2012 but most importantly brings the change that they both set out to do in cold days in Iowa, and that is bring back jobs and restore the middle class among other things.

KING: That's called punting is what we call that answer in politics.

BIDEN: There's the punt. I, I, I -- you know, you have to ask him that.

KING: A few months before you made your decision not to run for Senate, you had a mild stroke. How you doing?

BIDEN: I'm doing great. I take an aspirin a day. I'm back to work full speed since earlier in the summer. I got very, very lucky. The doctors tell me everybody over 40 years old should be on an aspirin, I am. I got great care at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and Wilmington. I had a wife who took a semester of nursing and was smart enough when I wasn't feeling right one morning to call the ambulance. I got a great wife and a lot of prayers that allowed me to be sitting here now.

KING: Do we get a what's next for Beau Biden?

BIDEN: A long time ago in my 41 years, anytime you have plans, life intervenes. So my plan is to work as hard as I can to get re- elected to attorney general of the state of Delaware, a job I love, be the best dad I can possibly be and let the future kind of unfold.

KING: Beau Biden, thanks for coming in today, appreciate your time.

BIDEN: Thanks John.

KING: Some good advice there from Beau Biden. For any man over 40, you should listen to it.

When we come back, back in the '90s in the race for the suburbs you often heard about soccer moms. So what's a Wal-Mart mom and how important are they in the midterm election campaigns? Some interesting new research in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm going to shock you a little bit here. Often you tune into the program and you see the Democrats and the Republicans argue with each other. Well, Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, Democratic pollster Margie Omero, they've actually worked together on something. So maybe they'll disagree in a conversation about it but let's look at their interesting new research into what they call Wal-Mart moms. You might ask, what's a Wal-Mart mom? First, they have children at home under the age of 18. They represent somewhere in the ballpark of 15 percent to 17 percent of the national electorate. They shop at Wal- Mart at least once a month. Back in 2008 they backed President Obama narrowly, 48 percent to 43 percent but at the moment, a majority, 52 percent, say they disapprove of the president's performance. Why do they matter in the 2010 midterms? 44 percent of Wal-Mart moms think the economy's getting worse at the moment. 51 percent say they plan to vote Republican for Congress at the moment. 33 percent say they'll vote for a Democrat. This is important, just 31 percent, 3 in 10 Wal- Mart moms, say they're interested in the midterm elections. So Marjorie and Neil, can I take from that 30 percent interested maybe a lot of them just won't vote?

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think there's a difference between interest in voting and whether they feel the outcome of the election affects them. Our findings show these Wal-Mart moms feel the impact of the policies and the election affects them personally. We saw that in focus groups where we talked to Wal-Mart moms in three different cities. They're really feeling the affect of economic policy and feeling the effect of the economy. I think there's a difference in feeling engaged in the election and in terms of what we think of politics and feeling the effect.

NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The other thing, John, these women are so focused on their daily lives, on their kitchen table issue, that they are really -- they're not paying much attention now to national politics. I think they're important this election because they're going to be late deciders. They have not yet, you know, foully come down on one side or the other side and think they'll make up their minds last two or three weeks in the election and could make a difference in key races. KING: In the '90s we talked about soccer moms and their importance in the key suburbs around the United States. You call these women Wal-Mart moms. And I want to make clear, this research was done, commissioned by Wal-Mart, correct?

NEWHOUSE: We actually identified this group last year in the presidential election as a key swing group and really kind of followed it throughout this year. Wal-Mart helped pay for these focus groups and the surveys. It's just fascinating data.

KING: Hang on just one second. I want you to listen to Joanne Bamberger here. She is the founder of Punditmom.com, and she agrees with you that women, especially moms, are critical constituency. What she doesn't like is the label.

JOANNE BAMBERGER, FOUNDER, PUNDITMOM BLOG: They've really become influencers beyond what they used to be in just their neighborhoods and with their friends. So it's really not a big surprise that the candidates are really interested in these moms and hopefully they will continue to be and maybe they won't have to come up with shorthand names for us in the future.

KING: So she's taking --

NEWHOUSE: I don't agree. I don't see these women as power brokers. I see these women as -- I mean, their goals in life right now are to put gas in their gas tank, put food on the table, you know, take care of their kid's education, and survive from one day to the next. These are not the power brokers. They may be power brokers in the election but they're not power brokers in their community I don't think.

KING: In the focus group, it seems pretty clear reading your reports, that these women feel the economic anxiety in a more personal way, is that the right way to put it?

OMERO: Absolutely. It's not just about the fighting in Washington or one plan or this plan or one tax or another tax. It's about making sure they can send their kids to college. Whether their husband's losing his job or whether they're getting a new job whether they can afford where they're living and how they feel about their mortgage and their bank. It's very personal, very day to day. They're incredibly swing and evenly divided in terms of how they view the electorate.

NEWHOUSE: In the focus group, not a single voter -- we did three focus groups outside of Philadelphia, outside of St. Louis, outside of Denver, not a single voter mentioned the word "earmarks."

OMERO: One person mentioned the word "tea party."

KING: They're focused on things closer to home for them. I want you to listen. Mary Stiers is this woman's name. President Obama met her today in Iowa. Her son is a college graduate, can't find a job. He campaigned for Obama in '08. Does this meet the definition? MARY STIERS, DES MOINES RESIDENT: He's still struggling to find a full-time job. He and many of his friends are struggling. They're losing their hope, which was a message that you inspired them with. Could you speak to that, how you would speak to the young men and women in our country who are struggling to find a job, and speak to that message of hope?

KING: We didn't ask her if she's been in a Wal-Mart in the last month but that sounds pretty familiar if you read through your focus group reports.

OMERO: Yeah, absolutely. I think another thing that I think you can se in that particular event is that when people are talking about the economy and dissatisfaction, whether it's with Obama or the way things are going, it doesn't mean that they blame -- we saw in the focus group, it doesn't mean they're blaming the president. It's just -- they just feel so personally wrapped up still in the economic downturn and they say -- they volunteer no one would be able to recover from where we were a few years ago so quickly. So I think people can have those different kinds of views at the same time. They're not inconsistent.

KING: If you're a candidate out there, I only got a couple seconds left in a second or two, how do you sway them?

NEWHOUSE: You talk to them about kitchen table issues. You can't talk to them necessarily about what's going on in Washington. They are so alienated from Washington and disenchanted. You have to talk about issues that affect their daily lives. that affect their daily lives.

KING: Margie Omero, Neil Newhouse, thanks for coming in. Fascinating research. 34 more days. When we come back, the top political stories of the day. And Obama's work on the internet was off the charts. At the moment, not trending. We'll show you.

(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.

JOHNS: Hey John. President Obama is back at the White House after his four-state campaign swing. Tomorrow, he has scheduled an oval office meeting with Democratic Congressional leaders.

Former President Carter spending another night in a Cleveland hospital where doctors just put out a statement saying his stomach distress was caused by a viral infection which is clearing up.

At a meeting of the president's debt reduction commission today, co-chairman Alan Simpson who's complained that social security is like a milk cow took note of the criticism he and others have been getting in the blogosphere.

ALAN SIMPSON, CO-CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL DEBT COMMISSION: Any person who uses an anonymous blog, say it quite clearly, is a jerk or a bonehead or a boob. Just a personal opinion.

JOHNS: What's not to like about the anonymous attacks on the internet?

KING: Right. Alan Simpson has come under a lot of heat. You know, I'm not taking sides with Alan Simpson, but he's a colorful national treasure, shall we say that?

JOHNS: He certainly is.

KING: Joe hang tight because I want to show you something When the president gave the big speech on campus last night, we got to thinking, remember back in '08, he used the internet to connect with so many of the young voters and others across the country so we wanted to check in on his site. Now it's become Organizing for America, the president's political arm. That's what it looks like. You've seen this site before. So what about page views? How's it doing? This is back in 2008 at the height of the campaign. It was way up here. This is the percentage of traffic on the entire internet. It was way up here, 50 million hits a day averaging back in the '08 campaign. Look that the drop into '09. A couple blips up but pretty much flat-lined way down here, a very small percentage of the traffic on the internet for Organizing for America at the moment. Here's the change. In recent days when the president's been out campaigning, yesterday with that big speech, up 80 percent. They ran a big event to say, come see it online. Over the past week, it's up 22 percent from its recent average. Last 30 days, it's down to 30 percent, over the last three months down 11 percent so the president's site not generating much traffic. Those who do come to Organizing for America, where do they go next? About 38 percent go to Google. Maybe they see something on site and they want to search for more information. Some go to Facebook to talk it over with friends, some to Yahoo. Only about 3 percent go to the white house website. I found that interesting. I thought some people would go to the political arm then the white house for the official statement but apparently they're going online to chat it over with friends or get a bit more information.

JOHNS: Sure from something other than the source.

KING: Something other than the quiet source. One of our favorite sources, Pete Dominick. He's off the streets of New York because he went south. Look at him down there in the south. He's got some questions for me when we come back.

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KING: Our offbeat reporter Pete Dominick is often on the streets of New York but maybe he's been summoned to the principal's office down there in Atlanta. Hey Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey John King. Yeah, I got a little bit lost and I want to share something with our viewers tonight. The main Democratic group, they posted this video up of the Republican gubernatorial candidate Paul Lepage. Take a look.

PAUL LEPAGE, REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: As your governor, you're gonna be seeing a lot of me on the front page saying governor Lepage tells Obama to go to hell.

DOMINICK: Wow. Is there any precedent for that? I mean so much for attacking policy and attacking the president himself. That made me a little uncomfortable.

KING: It's just not necessary. I'll all for candidates being crystal clear and most candidates dodge the tough issues. Say exactly where you disagree with the president. I'll say no to the president. I will fight the president. But let's have respect for the office. Regardless of the man, the political party that holds the office. Just say, I'll fight with the president, we don't need to tell the president to go to hell.

DOMINICK: As long as he doesn't throw a shoe too. That's when we get a little carried away.

KING: You can go shopping right there in the mall there and get some shoes. Pete Dominick, we'll see you tomorrow night. Have a great time in Atlanta. That's all for us tonight. Thanks for stopping by. We'll see you tomorrow night. Right here "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" right now.