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JOHN KING, USA

2011 Almost Here; Weathering the Storm; Joe Miller Gives up Senate Election Challenge

Aired December 31, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


ED HENRY, GUEST HOST: Good evening, everyone. John King is off.

And hour-by-hour, 2010 is vanishing as people around the world celebrate the start of 2011. Right now, it's London's turn. The clock just struck midnight. And thanks to CNN's global reach, we will get a peek at the New Year unfolding all across the world. That includes New York, my hometown, for it's just underneath T-minus five hours and counting until midnight.

Anderson Cooper, of course, will be officially kicking off our coverage from Times Square, 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. But, for now, let's turn to CNN's Isha Sesay. She's already in the middle of all the pandemonium there.

Isha, what are you seeing on the ground?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there. The atmosphere and the excitement is building ahead of this massive party here in Times Square. Some people say there's no other place like Times Square to be on New Year's Eve.

And this is my first time here for this celebration. And I have to say it is quite something. There are already several thousand people here. The barricades are set out.

The people are here. They got their hats on. They got their balloons. They are in great cheer, ready to usher out the old year, welcome in the New Year and just really party.

You mentioned, Anderson Cooper will heading up nonstop coverage from 11:00 p.m. Eastern joined by Kathy Griffin. It's going to be a great time. But, I can already tell you, the atmosphere is electric, Ed.

HENRY: Well, and how many people are they expecting there, Isha? We know, you know, there's huge crowds there every year in Times Square. What are they expecting?

SESAY: You know, the estimates vary. You know, we heard that, you know, sometimes it goes as high as a quarter of a million people. We don't know yet. We're going to wait for those numbers to come in. What we do right now, as I look around and I take in the sights and sounds, there clearly are several thousand people who braved the cold. Thankfully, the streets of New York are somewhat cleared of all that snow. Ed, as you're well-aware, that blizzard that came in earlier on in the week. They cleaned up the snow here in Times Square.

So, the people are here. They are here to party. They are taking in the music behind me. And it's just a great feeling as, you know, 2010 fades away and 2011 comes into view -- Ed.

HENRY: Well, it looks intense there on the ground already, Isha. Enjoy it. And we also know there's obviously a lot of security there as always is on New Year's Eve. Stay safe. We'll be following your coverage and Anderson's coverage throughout the evening.

Now, the New Year is already three hours old in Moscow. CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance was watching as the Russians welcomed in the New Year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Matthew Chance in a freezing Moscow. And these are the last few moments of 2010. You can see thousands of people have come to Red Square to see in the New Year. The fireworks display has just begun. Take a look.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

CHANCE: Well, there you have it, Ed. 2011 being welcomes in in spectacular Moscow style. Back to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: Now, while people all around the world are celebrating and starting 2011, residents of U.S. heartland are coping with the 2010's latest vicious blast of winter weather. At least six people are confirmed dead after a really fast-moving storm generated strong winds and tornadoes in Missouri and Arkansas today. Some of the heaviest damage is in towns southwest of St. Louis.

Now, Missouri's governor, Jay Nixon, declared a state of emergency to help speed up storm response. And in the Northeast, of course, people are still digging out from last weekend's huge, monster snowstorm.

And at least one politician had what you might call some serious explaining to do. That, of course, is New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie. He took his family to Florida's Walt Disney World just before the storm hit. Today, he was back in New Jersey defending his decision to go on vacation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is not like the 1800s when, you know, no one would be able to get me. Believe me, my cell phone was ringing where I was, much more than I would have preferred it to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, with me to talk about storm and, I guess, political damage control, Republican strategist Rich Galen, Republican media consultant John Brabender, and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

I appreciate all of you coming in on New Year's Eve and spending part of the holiday with us.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Happy New Year.

HENRY: Nice to see you.

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Do we have to speak in British accents, too, or just --

HENRY: No, no. You don't have to do that. You also -- I'm glad nobody is wearing aloha shirt. I know you were teasing in the green room.

(LAUGHTER)

GALEN: For those of you who didn't read it, Ed actually took hula dancing lessons when he was in Hawaii. We want -- we want a recital.

HENRY: We may have more later. I won't promise you that.

But someone else was dancing today. And that was Chris Christie.

Maria, as a Democrat, you had to be enjoying a Republican politician sort of on the griddle about a snow storm.

CARDONA: Well, sure. But I also think it goes to politics is perception, Ed. We all know this. And Christie should know this as well.

You know, he's been lauded as one of the rising stars of the Republican Party, you know, perhaps with presidential aspirations. This might have hurt him because what he let us know is that he doesn't understand the politics of perception.

It might be absolutely unfair. But politics is not unfair. Voters and constituents want to know when they are going through something tough like a snowstorm, that their leaders are in it with them. And he was not.

HENRY: Someone else who took a beating, the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. You can see "The Daily News" headline a couple of days ago, "A White Lie," sort of tells it all. And then "The New York Post," "Yes, Mike, it is a pile of bleep." I guess. It's supposed to be snow, but there's a t at the end of the word.

We've got two Republican media strategist here. I first want you to hear Rich and John, Chris Christie's explanation today, because he wanted went into great detail about his family, and the vacation. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I had made a promise to my children that at the end of my first year as governor, that I was going to take them to Disney World the week between Christmas and New Year's. I was not going to rescind my child's Christmas gift, especially when I was convinced that we had a plan in place.

Now, here are my alternatives: send my wife to Disney World and my four kids by herself. That would be interesting. I would then be divorced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: "I would then be divorced," the governor says.

John, you're inching to get in here as Republican consultant.

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN MEDIA CONSULTANT: Well, he had good news and bad news and bad luck. You know, first of all, that not only was he gone, the lieutenant governor was gone. And I think that amplified the whole situation.

The good news is: he hasn't been in office for one year. And he won't have to worry about reelection for three more years. I don't think this will matter then.

I do think he made a mistake spending so much time explaining about where he was and not enough time explaining what he's going to do. I think politicizing it by claiming other politicized it looked like he was.

And so, I think Chris Christie has to get back to the strong governor he is.

HENRY: Rich, let me just quickly show our viewers. We made a graphic of some of the other politicians in both parties who have really taking a hit over snow over the years. Mayor John Lindsay in New York -- in 1969, a huge blizzard and that was a big, big problem for him.

Mayor Michael Bilandic in Chicago, 1979 blizzard. Mayor William McNichols in Denver, 1982. Mayor Adrian Fenty, you remember here in Washington after snowmaggedon. That was one of several factors we should point that brought him down. And Governor Blanco in Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina, a huge storm there, another national disaster that just blurred out.

My personal favorite is Marion Berry, when he left Washington here with a snowstorm and went to the Redskins Super Bowl in a very nice --

GALEN: His idea of snow is different than everybody else's.

HENRY: Right. Right. He had other problems, obviously, as you point out. But as a Republican strategist, this is a disaster for Chris Christie right now.

GALEN: I don't know if it's a disaster. It's uncomfortable. You know, if you learn from it, you learn from it. I mean, I'm not a fan of Michael Bloomberg, but the fact is you cannot run a city or state based upon what happens if we have a 20-inch snowfall tomorrow. I mean, those things, it's not something you have every day. And if the amount of money that -- if you spent the amount of money necessary to actually do that, people go, why are you spending all that money?

So, I mean, I think it's unfortunate for Christie. I think he could have handled it better.

HENRY: Let's bring President Obama into this. He had nothing to do with the snowstorm. He was in Hawaii with me, by the way.

Listen to what he said on June 4th.

(INAUDIBLE)

HENRY: Me being there with him, yes. The oil, this is a totally different disaster. But the oil spill on June 4th. Here is what the president said and on the other side, I'll explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even though I am president of the United States, my power is not limitless. So, I can't dive down there and plug the hole. I can't suck it up with a straw. All I can do is make sure that I put honest, hardworking, smart people in place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: I bring that up because the president said, "My powers are not limitless." And I thought, Chris Christie, there were shades of that today where he said, look, I was down in Disney World, but we had a plan in place. We had other officials.

In fairness to Chris Christie, in fairness to President Obama with the oil spill, different parties, but in fairness to both of them, the fact of the matter is if you have a plan in place, does the president -- does the governor have to be there for every little disaster?

CARDONA: Yes. And the reason is because it's all about the politics of perception. And again, voters want to know their leaders are in it with them. Look at the difference between how he handled it and how Cory Booker handled it. Cory Booker was texting people to tell them where they were stuck and he was going out shoveling them out. And he is getting huge marks for this.

So, again, it's perception.

(CROSSTALK)

HENRY: Right. Real quick, Rich, last point. GALEN: The final point is that the good thing for Christie is he that didn't have a Billy Nungesser stating they are beating him over the head as Bill Clinton or as Barack Obama did.

HENRY: We're going to have the panel stay here. We got a lot more politics to talk about throughout the hour. They're already fired up as you can see.

But I want to go quickly to London. The New Year is only a few minutes old over there. And let's quickly check in with CNN's Max Foster. He probably can't hear me very well. They're having a huge celebration there right now.

But, Max, give us an idea of what's playing out. We are seeing the fireworks.

MAX FOSTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just came to. I can't tell what's going on. Big fireworks displays. It's spectacular. Suddenly calmed down, I don't know if you can make it out.

But you got the London eye there and it's been strapped with I don't know how many fireworks. It's just full (INAUDIBLE) can only assume it's about to start as it barges out in the front as well with even more fireworks.

You can see Big Ben over there. Obviously, the seats of parliament, and there are hundreds of thousands of people lining the tents here. There's absolutely extraordinary party going along there. You can't make it out from here.

But literally hundreds of thousands of people there and they are having a huge party. They came to us just as the fireworks ended. But it's pretty good, I have to say, Ed.

HENRY: That's great, Max. We appreciate it being on the ground. It looks like a big party. There's going to be a big one in Times Square in a few hours as well. We'll be over that as well.

I don't know if you heard of it. I just back from Hawaii, and that got mentioned a moment ago. That's where -- President Obama is still there. I mentioned that a couple times.

He's -- the president is still there with his family and friends. They're going to be at his rental -- vacation rental for their annual talent show. It's very interesting. Every New Year's Eve, the family -- the Obama family gets together.

We'd love to be a fly on the wall for that and find if the president maybe is doing an "America's Got Talent" or something like that. We'd love to have our cameras there, but the media unfortunately is not allowed.

So, in a minute, we'll give you maybe the next best thing. We're re going to look at the year's top five behind-the-scenes moments at the White House. And I'll fill in the back story behind those pictures that were taken by our great CNN producers and photojournalists. Some big moments at the White House throughout the last year. We'll take you behind those moments and have our panel react as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENRY: Now, literally thousands of photographs are taken each week at the White House. Some of the pictures you never see, but they tell the best stories. Let's look at our top five behind-the-scenes moments at the White House as seen through the eyes of terrific CNN producers and photojournalists. You can find all of them, by the way, a lot more, CNN.com/1600Report.

Let's go through here to the magic wall, John left it behind. Let's see if I can actually work it. This is our kind of fake digital camera. You could see a kind an unscripted moment taken by Erica Dimmler, one of our great producers. Mrs. Obama straightening the tie of the president before their state dinner with the Mexican president. That was a fun moment.

Then we've got the next one right here. The president, again, taken by Erica Dimmler, the big fat lip, the busted lip he had this year, seem to be a metaphor for what was a very difficult year, a bruising year, not just in politics, the shellacking, but also on the basketball court just after Thanksgiving.

Vice President Biden, we'll bring this up. It was taken by Xuan Tai and Dan Lothian, one of our great White House correspondents. They went on the road with Vice President Biden. And a lot of talk this year that maybe Vice President Biden would be kicked off the ticket in favor of Hillary Clinton in 2012, but a lot of Democrats inside the White House say he's been a strong asset not just on Iraq, but also some the campaign stops.

He did -- he actually did more events than President Obama this year. This one, big moment ago by Xuan Tai -- down there in the Gulf. What was significant here is you can see the emotion on the president's face. He took a lot of grief for not showing emotion earlier in that whole oil cleanup. That's interesting. We can talk about it with the panel.

But finally, my favorite of all, not just because of the handsome guy there, but because of the fact that this was also in Florida, near the end of the oil spill, the president and his family went down to Pensacola Beach, Florida, to try to show, look, the Gulf is back in business. This is Peter Morris, one of our great photojournalists, and the rest of the media was on the other side of this event.

And at the end, I happened to catch up with the president. The significance -- it was taken by Emily Schultz (ph), by the way. This was the day after the president and the White House decided to weigh in on that whole mosque controversy being built near Ground Zero. And the next day, I caught up with him. We had a quick exclusive, sort of one of those rare unscripted moments with the president.

And here's what he said. It looked like he was backpedaling. And there was a big, big story out of this. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, Rich, it looked like the president was backpedaling. The White House said, no, he was not backpedaling. And it's interesting is that the tension inside the White House, were sort of -- the faction of sort of Rahm Emanuel, and the pragmatists in the White House thought it's a bad idea, bad politically. And then you had David Axelrod and others inside the White House reportedly saying, look, this is a chance for Barack Obama to take a step back, show he can bring people together and it sort of just blew up in their face.

GALEN: Yes. Well, I mean, it's one of those things that -- this is why it's so hard to be the president of the United States. I mean, no matter what the guy says, there's going to people like me or people Maria that say that's the dumbest thing. But the fact that it did tend to feed the narrative, I think, that the president is not very facile without a teleprompter. And left to his own devices, he's more likely to get himself in trouble. Even then Joe Biden, who would have believed that.

BRABENDER: Yes. If you could -- if being president was limited to still photography, this would be one of the greatest presidents of all time. The problem he gets into is when he has to act or when he tries to respond or particularly when he goes off the cuff. He's great at reading a teleprompter, but I think when he tries to be impromptu (ph) --

HENRY: Maria, I'm sure you want to react to that, and maybe working in the oil spill as well.

CARDONA: Sure.

HENRY: Early on in that situation, they had a PR problem. But then, you know, with time, they seemed to get better.

CARDONA: Sure. And that actually goes back to what we were talking about in the first segment, which is it's all perception.

At the beginning of the oil spill, yes, President Obama got a lot of heat because he wasn't showing enough emotion. People didn't really think or he didn't show that he cared enough about what was going on on the coast, and, you know, all the business that was being lost and everybody suffering for it. They understood that.

And so, he kept coming out in instances where he could really show his emotion and what was going on with him inside -- not just this president, but as a human being in watching everything that --

(CROSSTALK) CARDONA: And it's important. It's perception.

GALEN: You'd be better at this than us because you were actually there.

But my sense was, at the beginning of the oil spill, that the White House insiders were so eager never to have the word "Katrina" put with the name Barack Obama. But they thought the best thing to do is to see if they could just load it all on BP.

HENRY: Well, a good example on that is they never even wanted the president to talk to the BP officials directly because they wanted to try to insulate him early on. But you want --

BRABENDER: This is a TV president. That's what bothers me. He didn't really take the time to understand Louisiana. He puts a moratorium on drilling. So, you take a bad situation, the spill. And instead of eliminate a lot of jobs in the process, whereas he was trying to get some play nationally in Louisiana. His unfavorables keep going up. In fact, they're about 28 percent.

HENRY: You said a magic word there and I let Maria jumped in because you mentioned, a TV president. That's what you are throwing out there.

Bill Burton, one of the White House spokesmen, just put out a list a short while ago of what the president has been reading in Hawaii. And one of the books is "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime" by Lou Cannon. Does that tell you, Maria, as a Democratic strategist, that maybe this White House is saying that some of the image building that Ronald Reagan did, he's pretty effective at using the media, they're trying to learn some lessons from the Reagan administration (ph)?

CARDONA: I think actually think it speaks more about President Obama himself and the fact that he wants and has actually been doing a lot of learning from everywhere. He makes no secret about that.

I think that is just indicative that he also wants to broaden the perspective., which is important for somebody in that office to make sure that they're not inside the bottle. But I do want to comment on something that my colleagues here have said, which is that he's a TV president.

What we've also seen from this president, though, Ed, is that he's clearly not afraid of jumping into cultural and social issues because that mosque comment was not the first time that he has injected himself into a cultural and social issue. And it's not a gaffe. I think he does this on purpose to show people what he's thinking about.

(CROSSTALK)

HENRY: Last point.

BRABENDER: -- Michael Vick and I think he probably should add "Marley & Me"" to the reading material and maybe he'll have a better idea of --

CARDONA: He's not afraid of that and he's not afraid of the discussion that comes afterwards.

GALEN: Those are gaffes.

HENRY: Appreciate it. We have to time-out. The president also on his reading list, we have to be careful to read too much into the Reagan book because he's also reading "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," which is a historic romance novel set in Japan. So, I'm not sure that has a new bearing on what's going to happen in the White House in 2011, although we'll have to pay attention and see.

We thank you, everyone. Maria, Rich, John, happy New Year. Thanks for sharing part of your New Year's Eve with us.

We got some serious news on -- update on the deadly weather in the Midwest. But as we go to break, more images -- this time from White House official photographer, Pete Souza, some of his favorite images from this past year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENRY: 2010 is going out on what's really a harrowing note in America's heartland right now. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the latest on today's severe weather.

Chad, it's been pretty scary out there today.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It has. You think December 31st, January 1st, severe weather season? I mean, not even close.

But the problem is, Ed, there's just been a whole lot of snow in the Upper Midwest. There's a giant cold front separating with temperatures here across the East Coast in the 50s and in many spots, in the 60s. And so, that humidity here, the cold air here, the clash of the titans, the clash of the one and the clash of the other causing big-time severe weather.

Right now, the most severe of the weather is Mississippi, Alabama, parts of Louisiana and on up to almost Memphis where there's flood warnings going on in Memphis. But there's the potential for some spin tonight. And that spin caused tornadoes.

Some of the tornadoes, especially the ones in Arkansas and Missouri, they have been at night. They're difficult to see and they're difficult to warn on. But they're also, if you are asleep, you don't hear the sirens going off. You're not watching TV. They are hard to get warnings out for.

You need to have a NOAA weather radio that will wake you up in conditions like this when tornadoes happen in the middle of the night.

Things have calmed down. Three people dead, though, in Arkansas. Three dead in Missouri. They are still picking up the pieces. When I came to work around noon, there was a big line of weather moving right through St. Louis. And that did some damage right around St. Louis as well. And that's still spinning.

So, here's how it all happens. We have this cold front separating the warm from the cold. Then the cold front charges ahead and the cold air just wraps in. For awhile today, it was 40 degrees colder in Kansas City than it was in St. Louis because that cold air is coming in behind it, pushing all that air up. The air that goes up causes thunderstorms no matter what day of the year it is -- Ed.

(MUSIC)

HENRY: Let's check in now with Gary Tuchman for the latest news you need to know right now. Gary, how are you?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ed, you and I were both in Hawaii. I'm sorry I didn't get to see you. But you were working with the leader of the free world and I was working hard putting on the sunscreen. But I'm sorry I didn't see you this year.

HENRY: We had dinner a couple of years ago in Hawaii. I'm sorry we didn't get the families together, again. But, happy New Year to you, Gary.

TUCHMAN: You were in Oahu, I was in Maui. Next year, Hawaii.

HENRY: We are doing it.

TUCHMAN: How about that, Ed?

HENRY: All right. We'll meet half way.

TUCHMAN: Happy New Year to you.

In the news everybody, a passerby called 911 when he saw masked men enter a bank in Pearland, Texas, in the Houston suburbs. Police got there while the alleged robbers were still inside. The robbers took hostages. Police negotiated with them for several hours, then moved in, captured the suspects and setting everyone else free.

Two people were killed when their single engine Cessna collided with a medevac helicopter over the Shenandoah Valley Airport in Virginia. The helicopter managed to land safely.

The stock market ended 2010 on an up note. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished 11 percent higher for the year -- all the more reason to celebrate when the ball drops tonight in New York. And that as soon as we're done here, I get out of these duds, put on my running clothes because for the fourth year, I'm going to try to run four miles in Central Park in the annual road race as part of our New Year's Eve festivities tonight.

HENRY: Gary, I can't wait. It's become a tradition for you and for CNN. I look forward to it every year and we'll be watching you tonight run the race. Good luck to you. TUCHMAN: Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Now, the ball drop, of course, in Times Square, a tradition that dates back to 1907. But you can see America's richness by looking at what they drop in other places around all the country. Cities who have alternatives to the New Year's Eve ball drop.

I think Pennsylvania, when you look at it, has maybe the most fascinating one. You've got the dill pickle drop. You've got and that's in Dillsburg.

You have the peep candy drop in Bethlehem. You've got the bologna drop in Lebanon, PA. You got the potato chip drop in Lewistown.

If you are following me here, you can make a whole meal out of this, obviously, between all these drops.

Now, where it kind of get a little screwy is in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, they got a wrench drop. So, I don't really know how that fits in.

But my personal favorite, I think, I got two. I got to say it's a tie. Snooki is going to be dropping -- from "Jersey Shore" -- she's going to be dropping where else in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

But it has to be a personal favorite. Gary just mentioned, I was in Hawaii. The president is celebrating the New Year. A giant pineapple at the Kahala Resort is going to be dropping down, I got to look at it. You can see it. It's going to be 14 feet high, it weighs over 300 pounds. We'll see if it makes it down safe at midnight at Hawaii. It's five hours behind the East Coast.

Now, another interesting little bit here, and we'll go to the magic wall, we got to look at that pineapple, to see there are some really cool apps. And this is trending right now on CNN.com. There's a dating app, for example, here, that uses GPS, so that if you want to find sort of a last-minute New Year's Eve kiss, you might be able to find somebody who can do that.

And then you can also see drink and cocktail recipes. This particular app has over 8,000 recipes. I didn't know they had that many. Obviously, you can do all kinds of things.

Now, the other really cool thing, I'm going to try this on the iPad as well, there's a party whistle that you can do. And I'm looking at it right here.

And I've got to kind of take this iPad. And you can -- if you see it here, it actually -- OK. It's not working now. It was working before. I knew that was going to happen.

But go to your iPad, check out the app. It's probably I'm predicting that it's either going to be the coolest app at your New Year's Eve party or it's going to be the most annoying app ever because it may or may not work. But also, it's pretty loud when you actually go through with it.

Let's get to some other news. Less than an hour, Senate candidates Joe Miller told his supporters in Alaska, quote, "Standing down is not an option." We'll talk to him. We got an interview, his first interview since his news conference in Alaska. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: To my many supporters, many of whom are here today, who continue to urge me to appeal to the 9th circuit and even the U.S. Supreme Court, I say, I hear you, but the time has come to accept the practical realities of our current legal circumstances. We shall abide by the court's decisions, even if we do not agree with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: That was Joe Miller just an hour ago in Alaska. He announced he's giving up his court challenge to Senator Lisa Murkowski's write-in victory. But Miller also said, Standing down is not an option. So what does that mean, and what's next for Joe Miller? He joins us live now from Anchorage.

Happy new year to you, and thanks for joining us, Joe.

JOE MILLER (R), FMR. ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: Happy new year. Thanks for having me.

HENRY: Joe, I want to know, have you called Lisa Murkowski yet, or do you have plans to call and officially concede?

MILLER: I have not called her. In fact, I don't have her number.

HENRY: OK. But presumably, you could get her number from the state Republican Party, if you wanted to. And I think a lot of people are wondering, given how far this has gone and now we're about to have the new Congress sworn in, are you going to try to get that number and actually official concede so that there'll be some closure here?

MILLER: Well, I think we already have conceded. We've asked for it before. I don't have it. But that's not the point. The point is that this nation faces dramatic issues. I mean, we're facing a debt right now, a debt load -- this is what drove us into the race -- that is simply unsustainable. And what we've done during the election is we sounded the alarm bell. And I'm hopeful that those in Congress -- and we've certainly seem some indicator that at least the lame duck congress doesn't understand this. Hopefully, the new Congress will -- that if we don't turn things around soon, this nation is going to have a serious problem on its hands. And that's what I'm going to continue to work toward, certainly not to encourage those that are there to continue their big spending that really is creating the fiscal crisis that we have. HENRY: John, I'm glad you brought up the lame duck Congress because -- session of Congress because in your campaign, the Senate campaign, we heard you hit President Obama pretty hard about spending in Washington. But we saw in that lame duck session it was not just President Obama, it was Republican leaders joining him in both the House and Senate. Are you going to be as tough on them, on your fellow Republicans, and hold their feet to the fire and urge them to stop some of this spending? There was a tax deal worth $800 billion, $900 billion. Are you going to speak out and hold their feet to the fire, as well?

MILLER: Well, first of all, you don't tax your way out of a recession. But I will tell you that I have never been somebody that you can categorize and or pigeonhole in a way that makes me a loyalist to some sort of party. I will tell you that the Republican Party, its foundation, its party platform is phenomenal. It speaks to limited government. But you're right that both parties have gotten us into the point that we are today.

We have got to turn the nation around. The only way that you can do that is to hold all leaders accountable, whether on the Democrat side or the Republican side. And unless people get a wake-up call on both sides of the aisle, we're going to continue to be where we're at. In fact, it's going to drive us into an economic collapse. I'm convinced of that.

HENRY: Joe, let's talk about one of your fellow Republicans, Sarah Palin. Now, she obviously was very helpful to you early on in your campaign. But some of your fellow Republicans have noticed that during this fight with Senator Murkowski, she was a little less vocal in support of you. What do you read into that? Is there distance now between you and Sarah Palin? And if she does run for president in 2012, will you join up and support her, help her try to get elected?

MILLER: Yes, not at all. In fact, I mean, the argument that was had during the race, or post-race, is a legal argument. It's not one where campaigning is appropriate. It's not where somebody gets out and starts making stump speeches for a candidate. Certainly, Sarah PAC donated to our recount fund. We're very gracious (SIC) to receive that. A number of other groups, a number of other people also donated. Senator DeMint was key to assisting in that effort, as well. And they certainly continue to stand behind us.

But really, ultimately, what this was about was creating transparency in the Alaskan election system. That's what our fight was about, making sure that the votes were counted appropriately, that, you know, ballot security was maintained, things that I think all Alaskans really now appreciate. In fact, our legislature, both sides of the aisle, are introducing legislation to fix many of the problems that we identified during this post-election count.

So it's not a campaign issue. It's an issue about the integrity of elections, something that Alaska and I think the whole country, given the core democratic system that we have, should be very concerned about and should be thankful that we basically had the backbone to do it. HENRY: Well, Joe, in that election and what you've contested thus far about ballots -- we've just gotten a statement that's come in from Senator Murkowski. I want to read it quickly.

"I was glad to learn that Joe Miller has bowed to the rulings of the Alaska courts and decided to abandon his challenges. Although certification was a long time coming, it does not diminish the historic accomplishment of our campaign. All Alaskans, regardless of how they voted, can be assured that I will continue to work in Alaska's interests for the next six years." That's Lisa Murkowski.

So I want to button up before -- it doesn't sound like you're going to call her. It sounds like maybe, you know, this is still sort of unresolved in some ways for you and your supporters. She's saying, Look, I won fair and square, this is over. Do you agree?

MILLER: Well, I'm not going to talk about sour grapes. There were a lot of things during the campaign that, obviously, I think should have been done differently. But frankly, what this is about is two completely different ideologies, one that embraces big government, one that says the only way forward for Alaska is continue to receive the extraordinary amount of federal funds that we received in the past without looking to the private resource base.

I mean, when this nation faces that bankruptcy day, which if we continue in the direction we're going, that going to happen -- Alaska, which is so incredibly dependent on federal funding, is going to fall flat on its face. And so I think the charge (INAUDIBLE) is continue to fight against that growth.

You know, we have no ill will toward Senator Murkowski. We have absolutely nothing to dispute as far as the finality of this race right now. But we have significant difference in opinion about where this nation needs to head and about what our state needs to do to prepare for the future. And I think it's something that growing numbers of Americans across the political spectrum see as a need. And I think everyone sees that shares this concern the federal government as being the core of that problem. And that's why we campaigned on a states' rights agenda, that the federal government needs to be minimized, the state power needs to increase in such a way to get responsibility closer to home and away from D.C., where these out of control politicians and bureaucrats are continuing to dig us out -- our nation so deep that we aren't going to be able to pull out.

Now, you know, this is a new year, and I'm hoping that we've got the numbers to turn things around. That's our hope for this nation. I'm optimistic it can happen.

HENRY: On that point, I'm going to give you 30 last seconds, Joe, on an very important and substantive issue that you talked about in the campaign, Social Security reform. We're going to have the first Baby Boomer at midnight turn 65. People are wondering whether Social Security is going to be bankrupt or not. You talked about reforming it. Some of your fellow Republican candidates did, as well, Mr. Buck in Colorado, Sharron Angle in Nevada. They also lost, like you did. Does that discourage you that both parties are not going to take a serious look at reforming Social Security? I giver you 30 seconds.

MILLER: Well, it bothers me that they aren't because the end result of that is catastrophe. But I'm encouraged because so many people recognize it as a major issue. And certainly, truth be told, we are going to confront the reality of the reform -- it's absolutely critical -- or else our elderly are going to be left holding the bag. So it's something that w4e can't avoid. We've got to address it.

HENRY: Joe Miller, we appreciate you joining us on New Year's Eve. Happy new year to you and your family. And we look forward to seeing you in the future.

MILLER: Happy new year to you.

HENRY: Thank you.

Up next, a look forward to 2011, and a look back at famous faces in politics who left us in 2010.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENRY: A million people are expected to gather tonight. You can see the scene right there live in New York's Times Square. The big question, really the only question I have right now, is whether or not there have been any sightings of Anderson Cooper or Kathy Griffin yet? Their special coverage, obviously, begins tonight 11:00 PM Eastern. You can't miss it. But CNN's Isha Sesay is in Times Square for us right now. Isha, I understand you've got some revelers there. I'm wondering, have you seen Anderson? Have you see Kathy Griffin? They've got some good chemistry. I wonder if we've seen them yet.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, but they are on their way. I'm asking all our viewers to tune in at 11:00 PM Eastern, when Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin will be hosting CNN's non-stop coverage of all the festivities here in Times Square.

I'm going to get my cameraman to give you a shot. Say hi, everybody! There is a fantastic atmosphere here as the party gets under way. The barricades have been set up. And if you see the crowd here, there are already several thousand people here. They started getting here at around 3:00 PM to make sure they get a good spot. People come from everywhere.

You want some proof? Let me speak to this woman here. Hello. Where are you from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: England!

SESAY: There you go. I found a Brit in the crowd. Tell me, why are you here for New Year's Eve? Why Times Square?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For this event especially. The atmosphere is amazing! SESAY: You're here with your family, right? Now, tell me what it is exactly. You say it's amazing. Is it the music? Is it the crowds? What is it? Tell me how it compares to England?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's just so lively and just -- oh, it's the lights and the music. And it's just amazing! Really good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ecstatic. It's ecstatic. It's really brilliant.

SESAY: And let me just (INAUDIBLE) these are you -- are these your children? OK. And what do you make of it all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's brilliant, fantastic, spectacular event.

SESAY: And let me speak to this lady (INAUDIBLE) I'm going to try and get the whole family in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, there. It's amazing. It's first time for us here at Times Square at New Year's Eve, and it's out of the world.

SESAY: Thank you very much. Have a great night.

I think that kind of sums it up. People use words like it's amazing, it's outstanding. And I have to agree with them. It's my first New Year's Eve in Times Square, and it really is something. The music is playing. People have their hats on. They have their balloons. But importantly, they're here to party, Ed. They party like nowhere else in Times Square. Anderson Cooper, Kathy Griffin, 11:00 PM Eastern -- don't miss it. This is the place to be. A couple minutes from now, we're going to have Tom Foreman's all the best, all the worst 2010 starting right about now. Ed, have a great new year.

HENRY: Happy new year. I see you get style points for your hat, as well. You're staying warm in a very cold New York City. Happy new year, Isha.

As we count down to 2011, we can't forget some of the prominent people who held office or made political headlines and are no longer with us. There were just so many who passed on this year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) government right now? Who's making the decisions?

ALEXANDER HAIG: As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the vice president.

QUESTION: What are the extent of the president's injuries?

SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: My motto has been here, To hell with politics. Just do what's right for Alaska. And I have tried every day to live up to those words. REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: What do you think, I'm going to oversee these companies? That's the Defense Department's job. That's not my job. You guys write these stories. You don't have a clue what this is all about.

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, DIPLOMAT: We are in Afghanistan and Pakistan because of 9/11, because al Qaeda and its allies have pledged and promised and predicted and threatened to do it again to us and other countries.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (R), WEST VIRGINIA: Instead of keeping murderous al Qaeda terrorists on the run, the invasion of Iraq has stoked the fires of terrorism against the United States and our allies. Mission accomplished? Mission in Iraq has failed!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope they got an idea of what you can do in Congress if you really try.

REP. CHARLIE WILSON: I wanted to make the Russians pay and I wanted to grab them by the throat. And that's what happened.

REP. DAN ROSTENKOWSKI: And then all of a sudden, you get these allegations and you start to withdraw from the day that you get the bad press. You start to become a president (ph).

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: I think that when people looked at me, that sometimes people would say, You're so strong, thinking I've done it all myself, when, of course, I haven't done a single bit of it myself. I've done all of it with the help of family and friends and strangers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HENRY: Tomorrow is one of the days where you find out how much politics can really matter because starting on New Year's Day, three quarters of you will see your paychecks grow, some by as much as $40 a week, because of that big tax cut compromise that President Obama, Republican leaders on the Hill worked out just a few weeks ago. There are also some big changes in health care insurance, as well.

For more on all of this, I'm joined now by CNN congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar. She joins us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Brianna, some big changes.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some big changes here when you're talking about money, what we're going to see in our paychecks. A lot of people are going to see more money. If you're middle class, if you're wealthy, you will get more. Here's the thing, though. If you earn less than $20,000, you will actually see your paycheck take a little bit of a hit.

Here's how it's going to break down -- 73 million Americans will see bigger paychecks. This is because those payroll taxes, Social Security taxes, they're going to drop a couple percentage points. If you're making $50,000 a year, you're going to get $1,000 more in take- home pay. Double, obviously, if you're making $100,000, you get two grand more in take-home pay. But if you make less than $20,000, as I mentioned, Ed, you're actually going to see a smaller paycheck, and that's because President Obama's Making Work Pay tax cut, also expiring at the new year, and the new tax cut doesn't benefit you enough to match the decrease that you're going to see through Making Work Pay. Bottom line here, if you're making less than $20,000 a year, you're going to see about 4 bucks less per week. And there are 51 million Americans in that boat, Ed.

HENRY: Interesting. So not everybody is going to be taking home more pay, actually. So interesting for people to know that. But many people will be.

Now, health care reform, as well. Big story this year. Obviously, President Obama had a big fight on his hands on Capitol Hill in 2009, January, February, March. He finally got a deal, but spent a lot of political capital this year. And Republicans have been effective messaging against him by talking about what they see as some of the hurdles, some of the problems. But now there are some benefits kicking in on January 1st, and Democrats are going to try to message that and say, Look, there are some good things affecting a lot of people.

KEILAR: Yes, some popular ones. For instance, parents -- they can cover their children up to the age of 26. This is a big deal for young people. Maybe they're out of college. Maybe they're continuing their education. This allows them to stay on their parents' insurance plan.

Also, for seniors, new Medicare drug discounts, a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs for those on the Medicare prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage. This is kind of a down payment on other discounts on brand-name and generic drugs that will be phased in to completely close out that donut hole by 2020.

And then looking even forward, because a lot of things phase in, as you know, Ed -- some things have already phased in. Some things will phase in in the coming years. You could see in 2012 -- or you will see in 2012 some possible insurance rebates. If you have an insurance plan where your insurance company is not putting 80 percent of its revenues towards direct medical coverage, you could actually be getting some refund checks, which some people are expected to get.

HENRY: Now, Brianna, big week coming up on Capitol Hill, obviously, on health care reform, among other issues, and Republican officials already saying that maybe the first vote they'll have on Capitol Hill, in the House anyway, as the Republicans take over there, John Boehner gets the gavel, the Speaker's gavel on Wednesday, will be to try to repeal the health care reform bill. It looks like they'll have the votes for that. But how do you think that's going to play out?

KEILAR: You know, what we're hearing is that a lot of Republicans are going -- I mean, obviously, a vote on repealing health care reform, "Obama care," as Republicans call it -- that's going to be a priority this month in January ahead of the State of the Union. But what I'm hearing from Republican sources on the House side is that they really want to send a message on jobs, on spending, on deficit reduction. And so it's kind of becoming maybe a safe bet or maybe an expectation that we're going to be seeing their first vote having to do more with the economy and reducing spending.

HENRY: Interesting how the politics will play out, for sure. Brianna Keilar, happy new year to you. You'll be doing some...

KEILAR: You, too.

HENRY: ... anchoring in Atlanta this weekend. We'll all be watching.

KEILAR: Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Up next, Pete Dominick and I will share our own New Year's resolutions.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. But this year...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HENRY: (INAUDIBLE) our intrepid offbeat reporter Pete Dominick is trying to get to the bottom of all this. In fact, he's champing at the bit to jump in here, Pete. So let me just turn it over. Go ahead. I'm the pinata. Go ahead.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING USA'S" OFFBEAT REPORTER: Well, you know, well, listen, I'm coming for you after this piece, Ed Henry. We got to haze you here on "JK USA," of course. But I mean, are they stupid? Are they dumb, the new year's resolutions? Are they useless? I went out to ask people what they thought. Take a look, Ed.

HENRY: Cool.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: What do you think of the whole idea of making a new year's resolution?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they're there to break.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, after a couple of shots.

DOMINICK: After a couple of shots? You make your new year's resolutions once you're intoxicated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You make them, but you never stick with them.

DOMINICK: What about just goal-setting in general for the two of you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's great.

DOMINICK: That you do. How about more hugging this year for strangers? Let's start now.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not talking to strangers.

DOMINICK: Not talking to strangers is a good one. Move it along, sir! Move it along.

You said you would stop smoking, even though you don't smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

DOMINICK: Congratulations. I think you did it.

Do you make them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

DOMINICK: You don't?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

DOMINICK: Do you set goals throughout the year to better yourself in any way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not only bright, he's cute.

DOMINICK: Oh, thank you! A new year's resolution for me is to get more of that!

You guys have any -- any new year's resolutions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit more off-beat reporters with snowballs.

DOMINICK: Hey! Well, you missed. Oh, hey! Hey! That's not -- that -- happy new year!

What's your new year's resolution?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch even more CNN. You know there's a guy who has the Hawaiian shirt on?

DOMINICK: Oh, yes. Ed Henry. He's anchoring the show tonight. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Yes. What is that about? Why does he wear Hawaiian shirts? DOMINICK: It's a great question. Maybe we can get an answer tonight. Thank you. Good question. We'll ask Ed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOMINICK: Well, there you go. There you go, Ed Henry. Ed, there it is. Let's take a look at Ed Henry covering the president or at least in Hawaii. Look at this!

HENRY: Oh!

DOMINICK: Ed Henry!

HENRY: There we go!

DOMINICK: Really, here's my question. You know. You're a veteran. You know that videotape is permanent, Ed Henry. Your new year's resolution this year, is it going to be make more of these types of videos while covering the president?

HENRY: It's going to be making less of these videos because "Pete on the Street" is going to make fun of me. But my operating philosophy is, you don't want to go to the beach and look like Richard Nixon and wear a suit and wingtip shoes. So you got to own it, Pete. You know that.

DOMINICK: That's true. But you might be the first White House press corps reporter, you know, whose feet we've seen, Ed Henry, with your bare feet this year, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

HENRY: Less feet. I'm making that vow right now. Pete, we appreciate it, as always.

DOMINICK: Happy new year!

HENRY: Happy new year. That's all from us tonight. Now for a preview of tonight's Times Square New Year's Eve celebration, we turn it over to CNN's Isha Sesay. She is live right in the middle of all the action, Isha.