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JOHN KING, USA

GOP and Democrats; Midterm Elections; Breaking the Rules

Aired October 26, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone from the CNN Election Center and from the core of our new CNN Election Matrix. It is one week now until Election Day and we'll be here every night over the next week to update you on the major races and issues and to help frame the stakes of a nationwide vote that will have a huge impact on issues ranging from taxes and spending to immigration and education.

Even most Democrats now expect Republicans to seize control of the House of Representatives and our Matrix, this new technology, offers a unique and state of the art way of helping you to keep track of this election's biggest battlegrounds. Let's take a closer look at what we'll be looking for as you walk through these races, 435 House seats at stake across the country. What we have done is built the CNN 100.

These are the 100 most competitive House races. If you see blue on the screen, that's a Democratic held seat. If you see red, it is a Republican held seat. And as I go through some of them, you see a lot more blue than red. That tells you the stakes, the Democrats are on defense in this election year. One key dynamic to watch the new class of Democrats that came to Washington in 2006 -- you see them up on the wall here -- and in 2008.

In 2008, it was on Barack Obama's coattails. In 2006, this was the class that made Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the House of Representatives. Newer Democrats in Washington, Republicans believe they are most vulnerable. And the big question this year will the gains of 2006 and 2008 for the Democrats be washed away by the Republicans this year? Those are the main targets.

But if you go further back in time, you'll see others right here. You see the class of 2004, the class of 2002. We can use this technology to dive deep into every one of these races. How did it vote in the last presidential election? What are the big advertisements in that race? Who are these long-time incumbents suddenly -- here from the class of 1996.

Look at all those Democrats. Why are they vulnerable now? What is going on in their state? (INAUDIBLE) big governor's race, the big Senate race, so we'll take you back in time to the most vulnerable Democrats from the older classes and we'll bring you right up close to all those Democrats who came to Washington, again, that made Nancy Pelosi speaker and came in on Barack Obama's coattails.

As we look ahead to the enormous stakes of this election campaign, let's reset the basics for you. And that is the balance of power. Here's where we stand today, 256 Democrats, 179 Republicans. We can do the math for you here so you don't have to do it at home. The Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats, plus 39 for the Republicans net makes John Boehner the next Republican speaker of the House of Representatives.

Here, how we look at the key targets to look at in the week ahead. Again, our CNN 100, the 100 most competitive races. Look at that number, 90, that tells you just how much the Democrats are on defense. Of these 100 closest races, 90 of those seats are currently held by Democrats. Ten seats held by Republicans. So if the Republicans, say, lose a few of those 10, that means they need to gain, say, 44, 45 seats, to get that net plus of 39.

How have the Republicans picked their big targets? Look at this. In the class of 2006 and 2008 I just showed you there are 53 Democrats new to Washington in the last four years. Those are the top Republican targets. They're not entrenched incumbents. They came in, in big Democrat years. Those are the people the Republicans think are most vulnerable including 45 Democrats in Congress right now who, in 2008, won their seats, even though John McCain carried their district.

The thinking going, in a presidential year, turnout for the Democrats was up. Those Democrats, those could be vulnerable now in a non-presidential midterm election year where the adrenaline is on the Republican side. There's a bit of overlap here. We should make that clear. Twenty-one of the McCain seats, district seats, are also those Democrats in the class of '06 and '08. Those 21 are what the Republicans believe to be incredibly vulnerable.

They're new to Washington. They're not entrenched incumbents and they came in at a big Democratic year. They are the big target. So what should we look for in the week ahead? What are the stakes? What is the strategy? What is working and what isn't? With me here in the CNN Election Center, Gloria Borger, our senior political analyst, John Avlon, and Ed Rollins, CNN contributors. And joining us from Washington, the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and Cornell, I want to start with you since the Democrats are on defense. In this final week of the campaign, what's working and what's not working for your party?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I think a couple things are working. One is and actually I just came out of the poll -- out of the field recently with some polling, with some of our base voters in our battleground states. And What I think is happening is that the enthusiasm gap that Republicans championed over the last couple of months has actually begun to tighten up.

What I'm seeing is Democrats are beginning to come home. The enthusiasm gap has begun to shrink. Particularly in these states where the DNC and OFA (ph) have people on the ground and working and I think in this election, the big X factor is going to be, again, our ability to put people on the ground and turn out our vote. And I'm seeing enthusiasm gap beginning to shrink.

And you're seeing it also in the national polling where the generic horse race is either, you know, tied or within the margin of error nationally in a lot these places. I think the Republicans have arguably peaked too soon and the enthusiasm gap is shrinking and Democrats are beginning to come home.

KING: So Ed Rollins, come in on that point. We do see -- I talked to several Republicans today who say they don't dispute Cornell's point that the enthusiasm gap has closed. They say not everywhere and so the question is can the Democrats use what was a superior ground operation in 2006 and 2008, can they replicate it in 2010 and use nuts and bolts on the ground to overcome this sweeping tactical --

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It would be awfully hard to do that (INAUDIBLE) and the Republicans have an extraordinary get out the vote effort, far more so than we had in 2008, so I think some of these races will be close. There will be some surprises obviously, but I think the momentum is clearly going our way and I think we're clearly going to get the majority.

KING: Do you see anything changing in the sense if you go race by race, and that is what makes the Matrix so helpful to us and we'll dig deeper into the technology as the week goes on. You say there is a national tide. There's no question, national economic tide and -- but if you go state by state, are you seeing a place where you say aha they figured it out here?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean you can see, for example, Connecticut, where Blumenthal and McMahon were neck and neck for a long time. Blumenthal has pulled away. Now that's Connecticut though. Democrats shouldn't be too much celebrating. But you're seeing that in specific races. Sestak, now very competitive with Toomey where that had not been the case previously, but there's no question, the overwhelming tide is Republican.

And it's largely because Independent voters are swinging decisively now more than ever towards Republicans. Democrats are making some gains among centrists but not Independents.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, can I jump in --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I spoke with a Republican pollster today who has done polling in 70 battleground states for Republicans. And he said their secret weapon that they've discovered is tying Democrats to Nancy Pelosi. This is no joke for them. She polls in the mid-20s.

Her favorability is only in the mid-20s. He says the most effective question we can ask in an ad is did you know that congressman X voted with Nancy Pelosi 80 percent of the time? Off the charts for them and they're using it over and over and over --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: Yes, one thing I want to jump in about the national tide thing is, you know, clearly Republicans do have a tide at their back. Clearly they do have a wave, history says (INAUDIBLE) a wave. However, if you look at those 40 toss-up seats, you're talking about they're going to need more than just a tide. There's a question of whether it's a massive tidal wave or it's just a tide.

And here's why -- if you look at those 40 districts that are actually most toss-up that most of us argue you're looking at sort of an average, if you take out the incumbents who aren't running again, you need an average movement of roughly 18 points. To move 18 points off an incumbent is not just a wave, that's a tidal wave. And I would argue that right now if the election were held right now, I'm not so sure they'd have a tidal wave election.

KING: What fascinates me is it was this week in 2006 where Barack Obama, then a young senator, made his name. He always says and many people think he was planning it anyway, but the reaction to him in 2006 is what convinced him to run for president. That's 2006.

Flash forward to where we are now, what strikes me about Barack Obama -- now the president of the United States -- is that he was up in Rhode Island, a state where I got my start in journalism, trying to help a House candidate in Patrick Kennedy's seat. Patrick Kennedy is retiring. If they're worried about a House seat in Rhode Island, whoa.

ROLLINS: The other thing that's occurring -- go into the point that John continually makes about the Independents, he promised he was going to be a different kind of president. He wasn't going to be a polarizing president. He was going to bring people together. He has been -- this has been the most polarizing presidential campaign that I have seen. And at the end of the day, the Independents don't like that and I think it's driving Independents away.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But wait a minute --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can hear Cornell --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute --

KING: I can hear Cornell --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Come on in.

BELCHER: But wait a minute. Hold on. This is exactly what the problem is and why there's not going to be a tidal wave because you know what. They're trying to nationalize it and make it about Barack Obama. The problem is they have all these individual candidates who are flawed, like you see in Connecticut, like you see in Delaware.

(CROSSTALK) KING: Cornell, what's not a tidal wave? Define not a tidal wave. Does that mean the Republicans just win the House or do you honestly see a scenario in which Nancy Pelosi is still speaker in January --

BELCHER: Yes. Yes I do --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: And this is why because --

KING: You're lonely.

BELCHER: If you look -- if you look -- and you know, I'm not one to actually spin all the time, but if you look at -- because someone who's worked on congressional races, look, if you -- I could easily get to 30 seats. When you get past 30 seats, when you're talking about swinging from an incumbent, and Ed, you know, to swing 18, 17 points from an incumbent on average is a tough, tough thing.

BORGER: But what you're saying, Cornell, is what lots of Democrats say, is that you've got better candidates, plus the fact your candidates have gone completely negative, and there -- it's hand to hand combat out there, and you're picking apart the Republican opponents on their character, rather than using the issues, right? I mean that's how --

BELCHER: Well, well I would argue it's hard -- it's hard to pick them apart on the issues when they won't bring up any issues.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: No, but I mean your issues --

KING: Let the referee --

BORGER: Your issues.

KING: Let the referee call a quick time-out. We're going to keep everybody right here. We're going to take a quick break right here.

When we come back, I'm going to wander across the hall. You see the new technology behind me; well I've got an old friend in the room as well. We're going to use that to lay out the economic climate and the battle for control of the Senate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One week to consequential midterm elections. We not only have the new technology in our CNN Matrix, we've also updated the technology in my old friend right here. And let's look at some of the economic dynamics across the country. If you look at a big Senate race, a key Senate race, maybe there's a governor's race in that state as well, say like in the state of Pennsylvania, this is what's driving the politics, nine percent unemployment right now. It was 6.8 percent when President Obama took office. Let's take that down. Another big, both a governor's race and a Senate race in the state of Ohio, as well as a handful of targeted House races. Ten percent unemployment right now, it was 8.6 percent when President Obama took office. West Virginia, another big Senate race there, a tossup at the moment, 9.2 percent now, again, only 5.8 percent when the president took office.

So you get the picture. I'll just show you a couple more across as we move West, Colorado, 8.2 percent, below the national average, but still higher than when the president took office and Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in Nevada, that's the highest state unemployment rate in the country, 14.4 percent, up from when the president took office. So for all the noise you will hear in the final week of the campaign, it is that, the president's approval rating and the anxiety about the economy that are driving the debate.

Ed Rollins, you went through this with Ronald Reagan back in 1982. In a midterm election in which people think the country is on the wrong track and it's really hard to find a job, all this other stuff we're going to hear in the last week of the campaign, all the negative ads, does that make a difference? Can you move --

ROLLINS: Makes a gigantic difference. In 1982, the month before October drop -- went over 10 percent, the seats just dropped like crazy. We lost 26 seats at that point in time out of the 33 we had picked up. And you just see it just overnight just dropped.

KING: And so was there anything a campaign can do, John, to say forget all that, worry about this? That's why you see all this negativity to try to disqualify the other candidate, especially if you're a Democratic incumbent because you can't run on the economic conditions.

AVLON: They're trying to personalize the race to avoid the tidal wave, but in the last week or two you've seen these numbers shift decisively. Democrats who were ahead in swing districts are now getting swept away. And people need to recognize it's that kind of wave. There's going to be all the kind of (INAUDIBLE) always get, but the reality is we know the way the trend looks.

BORGER: You know it's very hard to campaign and say to people, you know what, things are terrible now, but it really would have been worse if we hadn't --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: -- if we hadn't taken over, right? And that's just not a great campaign slogan.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You're laughing --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: You're laughing --

BORGER: Right.

KING: The president -- the president and, you know, we brought it up on this program (INAUDIBLE) I was trying to make the point last week that you know look, I didn't take any victory laps, but I've done a lot of good things and if you would pay attention, you know you'd feel better. I'm not telling you you'd feel good, but you would feel better. It is -- it's a tough environment (INAUDIBLE) the president was a D or an R if you were running in this environment, it's horrible.

BELCHER: It's really tough to sort of argue, well, if I hadn't had done this, things would have been this -- that much worse. It's a tough place to be and I think and frankly, you know some truth telling. Look, we have to get better on the economy. Look, when we beat John McCain back in -- back in '08, Democrats had a plus-10 point advantage on handling the economy. We've seen that shrink. What we're trying to do right now is expand that again because guess what, the party who seems most able to handle the economy, and in touch with your economic pain is probably going to be the party that comes out on top.

BORGER: You know John, it's always easier to run when you have an enemy, right, and you have an opponent and Barack Obama had George W. Bush. Well the Republicans --

KING: Let's --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I want to change the subject because at this time last night, 24 hours ago, about 7:16 in the East last night, I knew for certain that the Democrat and Republican running for Florida governor not only didn't like each other, not only didn't trust each other, but didn't think the other one had the character to be the next governor of Florida.

And there was despite a feisty debate over the issues, taxes, spending, the role and the reach of the power of the governor of Florida, this event that happened during a commercial break is dominating the political buzz. I want to play this through. The rules were Alex Sink, Rick Scott, Democrat and Republican negotiated rules. No notes. No messages during the breaks. Only a visit by a makeup artist -- watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know who that's from, if it's from --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we can get notes, we can have people that work for us come and give us messages?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there, with the BlackBerry. There was someone by that lady.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you just show her the Blackberry -- I'm sorry --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that's OK. It didn't have anything on it that was --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. You saw Rick Scott there. He saw the makeup artist slip a Smartphone to Alex Sink. She read the message and Rick Scott complained, saying that's against the rules. That was our Mark Preston (ph), our political editor there who helped negotiate the rules for this debate and he got involved in the middle of this.

Alex Sink right after the debate -- you see her there again looking at the pictures, looking at the message. It was two sentences. It was from somebody working for her campaign. Ironically, from the person who insisted in negotiating the debate ground rules that there be no messages during the debate. He was fired.

Let go from the campaign immediately after -- about an hour after the debate last night as this controversy unfolded. This is Alex Sink trying to explain to reporters today, trying to make this a one-day story, trying to make it go away. Listen to this. Probably short of that test.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX SINK (D), FLORIDA GOV. CANDIDATE: I turned around, my makeup artist said I don't know who this came from, here's my phone, there's a message here, and, you know, obviously I looked. I have a daughter in school in England and -- you know, I didn't even know what it was about. I turned down -- I really couldn't -- I couldn't really read it so that's what happened. And then when I came out, I wanted to find out what it was all about and I found out that one of my campaign staffers made a mistake and attempted to send this text messaging to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, a couple of things about that before we bring in the experts who have done a lot of campaigns. You heard Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor right there say, I didn't know who it was from. I have a daughter in school in England. If you listen closely to the first exchange, the makeup artist clearly says it's from Brian. Brian was the campaign aide, the staffer there, so the heat of the moment thing, Ed Rollins.

You've been through a lot of debates. This is a state of 18 million people. They have 12 percent unemployment. This campaign should be about jobs and the challenges facing the next governor. But, but, her central campaign premise has been that Rick Scott's a cheat. Rick Scott's a fraud. Because of that, does something like this get magnified?

ROLLINS: Sure it does. It's magnified all over Florida today long before anybody saw this -- repeated, which has been repeated all day long. It's been in every newspaper in the state, and it does basically question her veracity. And I think veracity is very important, especially when you're the state treasurer.

AVLON: Look, hypocrisy is the unforgivable sin in politics. That's the pure and simple truth and in this case, she's fudging. She's fudging the details in that press conference. She's not being credible. And when you're not credible, your trust evaporates and that's what you got --

BORGER: And what about cheating when the cameras are on? I mean, honestly, it's beyond character. It's just stupid, right?

KING: Cornell, what would possess a staffer, any staffer, to just violate the rules? Put the candidate in a bad position? She looked at the message. We'll all parse her explanation after, but if some staffer didn't decide to do that, didn't decide to violate the agreement, you wouldn't have put the candidate in a horrible position. What would possess somebody to do this?

BELCHER: Unfortunately, unfortunately, the candidates can't control all the staffers. And the staffer here made a mistake. And the staffer paid the price for that mistake. But the bottom line is, to me, this strikes me as petty. I mean this election isn't going to be swayed by a text message. The issues in Florida are much too big for us to be talking this long about a text message which she apologized for was the mistake of a staffer.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That's the question and you raise a good point. If it's just about, OK, a petty violation of infraction, didn't affect the tone of the debate, fine gone. But it was the staffer who signed the agreement, number one, who sent the message. She did look at it --

BELCHER: The staffer -- the staffer put their candidate in a bad position. And as someone who has worked for a candidate, your chief job is to never, ever put your candidate in a bad position and the staffer put the candidate in a bad position.

KING: And you as a Democrat would like it to go away, I completely understand that. But again because the central --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- because the central tenant of her campaign is you can't trust this guy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And equally important --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Does it become one --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: -- feel such a need to go violate the rule? What mistake she made in the course of it that they had to come out and correct it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: So it's like three screw-ups in all of that one little --

BORGER: It makes it look like they don't trust her to answer the questions properly. And if you don't have faith in your own candidate's ability --

KING: They told her to be more aggressive against him but she was being pretty aggressive. I --

BORGER: You know that's typical they tell a lot of women that, by the way, OK, but never mind.

AVLON: You get in that bubble and everyone's trying to overcompensate. In this case it's apparently the fellow who -- that made the deal for the debate. So look it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. We've seen too many races this cycle in particular driven by distractions. But I think the real issue and the real news, if there is any, is that -- is her spinning it afterwards in ways that don't --

KING: All right we need to take a break. Cornell, Ed, John, and Gloria thanks -- be with us all week long. We're going to have a fascinating week right here setting the stage for this election, keeping track of all the late-breaking races. Stay with us for that.

When we come back, we get tonight's other big headlines and we'll go "One-on-One" with the former president of the United States you don't see out there on the campaign trail, Jimmy Carter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. The Air Force lost partial communications with 50 nuclear missiles for almost an hour over the weekend. The power failure was at Warren Air Force Base (ph) in Wyoming.

Right now a 1,200-mile line of dangerous storms is blowing out of the Midwest into upstate New York, Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, East Tennessee, North Georgia and Alabama. Today's worst damage is in Indiana, Northern Illinois and Ohio, where 160,000 utility customers lost power. The low pressure system pushing the storms may have set a U.S. record as the equivalent to the pressure of a major category three hurricane. So that is quite a storm -- John, back to you.

KING: Wow, Joe, thanks. We'll keep an eye on that and see how the damage spills (ph) in the coming days. Joe Johns thanks quite a bit.

You know one of the elections this year not getting a lot of attention is a very tight race for governor of Georgia. When we come back a former governor of that great state, who went on to bigger and better things, the former president of the United States Jimmy Carter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One week from a consequential midterm election. It's a privilege and an honor to have with us a gentleman who knows well the pressure of being in the Oval Office and a tough time politically. The 35th President of the United States Jimmy Carter joins us from San Francisco. Mr. President, it's good to see you.

Let me just start on that point. You remember what it's like. In that midterm election year your approval rating was about 49 percent heading into the midterm elections. You only lost 11 House seats. Historically that beats and significantly beats the historical average. When you look at this president now who has had about 44 percent approval rating, and people think he's going to lose 40, maybe 50 seats in the House, describe what it's like to be sitting in the Oval Office knowing that's coming.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I was very popular then and we had a good economy going and I think when the election was over we had a 17-vote margin in the Senate and more than 100 margins in the House for Democrats. So it's a completely different situation now than what it was back in those days. The electoral process has changed with a massive infusion of so much money into the campaigns, most of which is spent in negative advertising so this has created I think the deep division between Democrats and Republicans and I think the polarization of the whole country.

KING: One of the themes in a lot of that big spending and the big advertising. is criticism of the Obama agenda. In your book, you think about some -- your own agenda. Some people see a parallel. I want to read something from your book, "White House Diary." "I overheard in Congress with array of controversial and politically costly requests. Looking back, I'm struck by how many unpopular objectives we pursued. We were able to achieve a remarkable amount of what we set out to do, but ultimately the political cost of my administration and for members of Congress was very high." Mr. President, do you see a parallel between then and now? CARTER: Well, in a way, but the difference is much more great than the parallel, because I have superb support from the Republican side, Howard Baker was the majority leader in the Senate, and Bob Michael in the House, and they supported me overwhelmingly with the programs that I proposed. Even though in the Democratic Party, I had an opponent running against me the last three years. So, and that was Ted Kennedy. So he sapped away a lot of the liberal Democrats and I had to turn to moderate to conservative Democrats and Republicans to give me a batting average in the Congress that was just -- better than any president since the second world war except Lyndon Johnson who had a little bit better average than I did so we had a very successful relationship with the Congress the whole four years.

KING: And that is a very different environment, you touched on there. Those, Howard Baker, Bob Michael, men who were fierce partisan Republican when they wanted to be but were not afraid to negotiate with a Democrat. You came in in the wave after Watergate, anger across America at a corrupt president and what they believe to be a corrupt Republican Party. When you look at the tea party now, what's similar to the grassroots anger and what do you see is the biggest difference?

CARTER: Well, the similarity is there was a great dissatisfaction when I ran for office in 1976 with the incumbent candidates who were running against me and with Washington itself. So I benefited from that tremendously. As you said, we just had Watergate, we just had Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the two Kennedy brothers, the revelations of the church committee that we had committed crimes in international trade. All of those gave me a great advantage. What was different was, I didn't have any money and I ran against a candidate, Gerald Ford who also didn't have any money. We just used the $2 per person check-off in our campaign. Now the entire political process has been inundated with vast amounts of money from unidentified sources, which is completely transformed the electoral process from -- compared to what it was.

KING: What makes your book fascinating, anyone out there, whether you were for or against Jimmy Carter when he was president, it's a great read because it's the unvarnished thoughts of a president of the United States at times both good and bad. You mentioned a moment ago the Kennedy challenge you faced. Something in your book is important about those days. It brought -- is very applicable to these days as we watch the current vice president Joe Biden crisscross the country campaigning even more than the president. You write this about a young Senator Joe Biden in your book. "As a young senator, Joe Biden had been my most effective supporter during the 1976 campaign. Joe's report proved to be quite accurate. This was the first indication I had about Kennedy's presidential plans, but they were soon to become more evident as he marshaled opposition to many of my proposals." I want to talk more about your view of Joe Biden now. Your vice president Walter Mondale became the Democratic presidential nominee and, to be kind, it didn't go very well. It was the biggest landslide in American presidential history. Do you see, as you watch Vice President Biden now, a man you were close to many years ago, do you see him as a future president? CARTER: I think he's highly qualified to be president now or in the future. Joe Biden was a very able help to me. He was a brand-new senator back in those days. He helped me in Delaware, Maryland, all the way over to Pennsylvania on almost a full-time basis. He was the first one that ever came to me quite early, after I'd been in office for one year, to tell me privately that Senator Kennedy was going to run for me against -- against me for president so I think Joe Biden is highly qualified to hold any office in Atlanta, including president.

KING: As you look out there now, in the final week of the campaign and in the last couple weeks of this campaign, another former Democratic president and son of the south Bill Clinton is everywhere campaigning for Democrats. Why don't we see Jimmy Carter out there? Do Democrats not want you out on the campaign trail?

CARTER: Well, I wouldn't say that. I'm really busy doing what the Carter Center does. The last few weeks, I've been in China, I've been in North Carolina, I've been in Egypt, and Israel, and Jordan and Syria and the west bank. So that's what I do primarily. I've been pretty well removed from the Democratic Party affairs since I left office. And it's not because I wouldn't like to help. I hope the Democrats do well. But I don't think we're going to have very good luck this time.

KING: Let me close with one other thing you talk about in your book in great detail and that is back in 1978, the normalization of relations with China. When you took that dramatic step, and it was controversial at the time, did you have any inkling of what the world would look like now, China, who lends a lot of money to the United States, as you travel especially the industrial heartland of the United States a lot of economic anxiety is focused on what people perceive to be an economic threat from China. Could you see that coming in those days?

CARTER: No, I couldn't see it coming, but if you remember, three days after we announced normalization plans which had been highly secret before then, that's when Den Zhou Ping announced that there would be complete reform in China domestically and also internationally. And that's when China began to burgeon not only within itself with the free enterprise system but also to reach out to, really, almost every nation in the world now, with a very aggressive political agenda. So I think it's something no one could have anticipated how well China has done economically.

KING: The former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. His book, "White House Diaries," is a great read, great piece of history. Mr. President, thank you for joining us. We hope you're well. You look great.

CARTER: Getting along fine, thank you. I was just sick for one day but I got a lot of publicity for it.

KING: All right, sir, you take care.

When we come back, is there a chance of having bipartisanship after this election or is what we're seeing on the trail including John McCain saying these are harsh times a recipe for gridlock? Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker join us on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We don't know how many but even the White House concedes there will be more Republicans in Washington after the midterm elections. One big question is this, will we see gridlock and an immediate shift of the 2012 presidential campaign or will there be an effort for bipartisanship at least on some issues? Suffice to say, the pre-election evidence suggests polarized politics much more likely than some bipartisan. Let's assess the stakes with Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer, their program "PARKER SPITZER" just ahead at the top of the hour and with our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash. I'll try to speak English here. So when you look, you know there are going to be more Republicans in Washington. The question is, is there a statesman, is there some Republican who will come forward and say, Mr. President, I'm going to fight you on taxes and spending. I'm going to fight you on the healthcare bill but here are some issues. Let me just, by coincidence, name immigration, energy. Those are issues in which President Obama and his rival from 2008 John McCain actually have some common ground or at least had some common ground. But if you listen to Senator McCain in this campaign, he has been very, very partisan. Let's go back in time a little bit. This is a little more than a week ago. John McCain in California campaigning for Republican Carly Fiorina against Democrat Barbara Boxer.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Barbara Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, most anti-defense senator in the United States Senate today. I know that because I've had the unpleasant experience of having to serve with her.

KING: He also has had very tough words against Senator Patty Murray in the last 24 hours. She's a Democratic senator from Washington State and some other Democrats. We asked him a little bit earlier today, as he was in West Virginia, why so harsh?

MCCAIN: These are harsh times. And the case of Senator Boxer, Senator Biden, when she voted against funding the troops in Iraq, that said it could cost thousands of lives, that's pretty serious. It is Senator Murray that wasted millions and millions of taxpayer dollars on vessels the coast guard couldn't use, on museums that are now closed, in a corrupt practice of earmarking. I have been on the floor for 20 years saying that earmarking was a corrupt practice. So why should I be not -- why should I be reluctant to say it when one of the most ardent practitioners of it continue -- will continue on that path?

KING: So can we cross him off the list as potential statesman or is that just John McCain in campaign mode and maybe come January it will be different?

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: Here would be my observation. I don't think he used the last week of the campaign to judge how people will act after November 2. The last week, the candidates are exhausted. I've been in that context. It is a disaster, emotionally, politically. They're subject to a thousand different pressure points. Having said all that, I don't excuse their commentary. I think it is insidious. On both sides, it is over the top. I am not optimistic about bipartisanship. The presidential race begins Wednesday November 3rd. It's very sad for the state of this nation.

KING: Does it matter that on comprehensive immigration reform, the McCain/Kennedy/Bush bill was something that if they brought to the floor that could probably pass, if you had Republicans to support it?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Well, you know, I just -- I have no idea what's going to happen, but I do think that what we're seeing with John McCain is this is the bill, the new remake, when he's got his hat on and he's being tough. This is McCain, this is McCain on steroids.

KING: Is it the sequel or the sequel to the sequel?

PARKER: I think it's it is sequel to sequel. As for the leadership, I think you're going to see people like John Boehner emerge as -- I mean, these people have been planning on November 3rd, they've got to commission a transition team in place, and they're going to go forward and try to get some things established, try to make some compromises with the White House and then it's all out war.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The reason why it has been so striking to see John McCain talking about Barbara Boxer like he did yesterday in a conference call, he effectively went right up to the line and called his other Democratic colleague Patty Murray corrupt, is that despite how bitterly partisan it is, and it really is, there still is a code in the Senate. There is a code for the club and for sitting senators. And you really don't hear that that much. And it could be some kind of, you know, could portend what we could see in January.

KING: So is there any potential for opening, especially, if you lack at the Senate, the world's greatest deliberative body, and you'll have some tea party pressures on the leader Mitch McConnell if some of these tea party candidates win, Alaska, Kentucky, Colorado, there could be more and he's quoted in the national journal as saying the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. Not balance the budget. Not pass a climate change bill. But one-term president.

SPITZER: John that is what is amazing to me about this. The narrative out of this election will be the tea party flexes its muscles. They are empowered next Tuesday night. They will be saying we are dictating the agenda. The Republican leadership and the presidential contenders on the Republican side will be bowing down to the tea party. The hopes of bipartisanship in that context, close to zero.

KING: As a conservative, do you worry about that? Do the Republicans have a responsibility to step forward? Or let's get into 2012?

SPITZER: John, I don't worry about anything. I'm a -- I'm watching it as a spectator at this point. No, I think it's all, you know, the Republicans are going to play hard ball and they're going to be also very disciplined I think. I don't think there's going to be this bowing down to the tea party to the extent that Eliot does. He loves to play that up because as a Democrat he wants that to be the case, right? Is it all about 2012? Sure it is.

BASH: There's no question that as much as Republicans will gain seats, maybe take the House and gain seats in the Senate, there's no question that they are worried about looking like they have too much control. Talking to their Republican sources, they're worried about looking like they have too much control because then it will be harder for them to run against the Democrats in 2012 and against Obama.

KING: Quick time-out here. We'll see you guys at the top of the hour. Four letters, gotv. That's the point of the campaign where we are right now. Get out the vote. We'll talk about that when we come back.

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KING: In part, it's a cliche, but in part, it's true. In the last week of the campaign, you hear a lot about, it all depends on who can get out vote. Let's talk about what's happening out there on the trail and what's happening on the left and the right. With us, Amy Goodman, the host of the Democracy Now, a television and radio news show, in Atlanta, our CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor and chief of the conservative redstate.com. On the trail in what I understand it is chilly in Denver, our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin. Jessica, you're on the road. Let me start right there. You've been in many of the key battleground states over the past couple of weeks. What do you feel on the ground? We hear and we see in the polling data and all the experts say there's this huge enthusiasm gap. Do you see it?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, here in Colorado, there's a small sign of it. Right now 25,000 more Republicans have participated in early voting than Democrats. Traditionally, more Republicans vote early, early on and Democrats tend to cast their ballots later. What we're seeing are massive operations going into the field on both sides, really, trying to get votes out in more sophisticated ways than we've seen before, John. But it's all about the ground game, especially for Democrats right now. And as one person said, I said every year you keep telling me it's the most sophisticated operation we've ever had and they say well we do get more sophisticated every year. So it's hard to measure what's really going on right now.

KING: I won't ask it but I'm so tempted to ask which way is the wind blowing? We'll just leave that one for now. When you look at the left and we've talked about this quite a bit, the dissatisfaction with the president over some issues, are they willing in the final week of the campaign to say, OK. We're mad at a lot of things but this is important, Mr. President. We'll heed your call and swarm out and surprise people.

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG: I think the example of what's happened this week, the largest leak in U.S. history, the 400,000 Wikileaks documents, these are the pentagon documents that got out, they are really the story here. War is an election issue. And unless the candidates address this issue, I think it's why Obama's president today.

KING: That's why Nancy Pelosi is speaker. In '06 and '08 it was anti-Iraq war sentiment that fired up.

GOODMAN: That's why Obama is president. He beat Clinton on the issue of the Iraq war.

KING: You think he'll lose this year --

GOODMAN: Because of the surge in Afghanistan. You relate this directly to jobs at home. You are talking about billions of dollars, actually $3 trillion to 5 trillion according to a Nobel economist is being spent on these wars. That directly goes to the deficit. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs that could go -- that could be had today by people in this country with some of the highest unemployment rates we've ever seen if we weren't spending this money in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are the issues that mobilize people.

KING: Erick Erickson you wrote in your morning note this morning Republicans haven't won anything yet. It was sort of a message of don't be overconfident. Do you see seeds of that out there?

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: You know, I see a couple of frustrating issues. One, the Republican National Committee in the way it's spent money, sending money to Guam and American Samoa and what have you and going on bus tours. For some reason the tea party movement and RNC have become enamored with bus tours where they show up at pep rallies but don't go door to door. We're seeing a lot of local tea party groups. A lot of conservative groups under the radar are going door to door. Big time in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, eEven some in California. It's been interesting to watch the groups you've never heard of doing the leg work and the groups everyone knows seem to want to have some flash in the pan bus tour.

KING: Who is the rock star on the right now? Newt Gingrich was in Ohio today. Sarah Palin has been out on one of those bus tours. Who is the rock star? If you had to bring one Republican somewhere in the country, a 50/50 race all about gotv, who is it?

ERICKSON: Honestly probably either Sarah Palin or Chris Christie. Right now I would say Chris Christie being a governor, relating to those things, being the budget cutter. He's a big focus right now. Everybody wants Chris Christie. Don't get me wrong. Everyone wants Sarah Palin. She's terrific. But Chris Christie is the novel guy this year that everybody wants.

KING: Amy, if the left is mad at the president of the United States. Who is the rock star?

GOODMAN: I think it's the movements of this country. That's what's being ignored. People are deeply concerned about jobs. They are deeply concerned about the environment, about health care, about war. Soldiers dead and dying. These are the issues that individuals aren't taking up but movements are. And the media needs to focus more on movements.

KING: Movements, OK. We'll do that in the final week. I promise you. Jessica Yellin on the trail as you've traveled and been in the east, West Virginia, Ohio. You're out in the mountain west now. Is it different from state to state in terms of who the Democrats and who the Republicans want to help them in these key final days?

YELLIN: Is it different who the Republicans are -- I missed the question.

KING: Is it different from state to state in terms of who works? Who has appeal in different parts of the country as you've traveled the last couple of weeks?

YELLIN: I'm afraid it's not. Right now it seems like we're seeing a similar pattern everywhere. People are just angry, John. And they, I think Bill Clinton has it right when he says people are mad and they want to send a message. They want to send a message. It's whoever is in office is the one they want to send the message to. That's pretty consistent.

KING: All right. We'll keep on track of this all week long. Jessica Yellin in Denver. Thanks. Eric Erickson in Atlanta and Amy, we'll talk as the week goes on.

When we come back, a special visit. Pete Dominick. Usually we send Pete out on the street. He's going to come right here in studio.

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KING: We're back with our off beat reporter Pete Dominick. We thought we'd let him in off the street a little bit and invite him here into the CNN matrix. Which begs the question --

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: This is pretty cool, sir.

KING: You're the one?

I am the one. Did that work? Do we have any special graphics for that?

KING: How are you with technology? Any good with technology?

I'm not as good as you at touching screens. I'm almost 35. I like to think I'm up to date. I hate to think you are better, but you are.

KING: Pop quiz for Pete Dominick. OK. Ready? Ready? Class of 2008. In 2006 combined in the class of 2008 and 2006, how many Democrats in the CNN 100, vulnerable Democrats?

Combined in 2006 and 2008, that would be 123 is the answer to that. Combined. 43, 44.

KING: You are getting closer.

It's 38.

KING: Let's move on. You are flunking the test. What else do you want to know?

I want to know what you are going to do with this and how it's going to work. You have so much new technology.

KING: This is one part of what we're going to do. At the matrix we can show you the top 100 vulnerable races. We can show you where they are and we can then dip into those races if need be and show how did they perform in '08, the presidential election, where's the money coming from, maybe show a video clip. We can do a lot of it here in the matrix. This is brand new technology. As we unveil more of it, we're keeping something secrets. But then we have our old friend over here. We have our old friend right over here.

Yes, dust him off.

KING: But it's -- you know, it's a familiar screen, Pete. You want to come down.

Can you effect an election with any of your technology. Can you make a candidate win or lose by pressing something?

KING: You want to be president?

No, just for a day.

KING: This is Pete Dominick's America.

Actually it's George Bush's America, but --

KING: What do you want to know? You can touch.

DOMINICK: I can touch? I want to touch Florida with historic Bush's America and are we talking in 2004? And so what does this mean when it's lit up that way? Theses are the only --

KING: We're going to let Pete play. We'll be back all week. He'll be here all week. "PARKER-SPITZER" starts now.