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Approval Rating; Government Shutdown; The More the Merrier; Rahm Emanuel's Bid for Mayor

Aired January 24, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight, a stunning rebuke for President Obama's former right-hand man, an Illinois appellate court rules Rahm Emanuel ineligible to be on the ballot for Chicago mayor, Emanuel's last hope, an emergency appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.


RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I have no doubt that we will, in the end, prevail at this effort. As my father always used to say, nothing's ever easy in life.


KING: And anti-abortion activists stage a march for life here in Washington. It's a big annual event, but we'll map out how the major fights over emotional issues like abortion and immigration this year are in the states and we'll debate Colorado's proposal to copy the Arizona immigration law.

We begin, though with the State of the Union, tomorrow night's speech is the president's chance to speak to the nation and to frame Washington's agenda for the big year ahead. New CNN polling out tonight shows the president will speak from a position of strength. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of how he is handling his job.

That's a decent number in any circumstance and surprisingly robust number given the election shellacking the president absorbed just 11 weeks ago. We know the atmospherics will be more friendly or at least more civil as many Democrats and Republicans sit together as a sign of post-Tucson civility. But we also know the differences over policy are deep and partisan, with sparks already flying over President Obama's call for some new investments.

That's a nice way of saying new spending. Here to set the stakes for the president's big night CNN contributors James Carville, Erick Erickson, and John Avlon. Mr. Carville, I want to start with you, because, "A", you're a Democrat, and "B", you've worked closely with presidents who have been in trouble before. How did we get from 11 weeks ago the shellacking, the talk of a one-term Obama presidency to a guy who is at 55 percent approval heading into the State of the Union?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Three things. Number one, the economy is improving a little bit. And I think people sort of -- the numbers are sort of up on that. And probably the main thing is, the Republicans came to town, people took a look at them, and whoa, maybe not. And I think that there's just sort of a general feeling, and maybe Tucson had something to do with it, I don't know, that he's kind of found his footing there and I think three of them combined, 55 percent and nine percent unemployment, I would like to see if anybody's done that before. That's pretty good.

KING: It is pretty good. Let's take a closer look, and then Erick, I want to -- your assessment of that on whether you think James is right. If we follow this through, this goes back to February 2009. Not long before Barack Obama became the president of the United States. And watch -- the yellow line up top, that's his approval rating. He started off of course sky high.

Disapproval rating traditionally for any president starts off very low. Watch how this plays out. We'll come through 2009. We're into 2010 now. You see it's roughly even, roughly even approve/disapprove. The low point of the Obama presidency, 42 percent just before the election right there and now since the election boom today a 55 percent approval rating, his disapproval going down.

Erick Erickson, people are a bit more optimistic about the economy, but what is it about this divided government moment that has people taking, especially people in the middle taking a look at this president and saying, we'll give you another chance?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well they came out of the election and went into the lame-duck session of Congress and the president was able to get a lot of his agenda passed, some of it with bipartisan support. As well, there was the Tucson moment, which I think probably did help his favorables a lot. But you know the only thing I'm comfortable saying now is that his poll number today isn't going to be his poll number in three weeks and that won't be his poll number in two years. Everyone who is shocked by the ups and downs of the presidential process I think that's what happens when we focus on day to day instead of long-term.

KING: Erick makes a fabulous point, John Avlon. As we bring you into the conversation, let's talk about what we're going to hear tomorrow night. Number one, the president sent a video out to his supporters over the weekend, and he is going to talk in this speech about deficit reduction. He is going to talk in Washington, it's time to reign in spending. But he is also going to make the case for some targeted investments. Republicans are already saying wait a minute, that's just code for new spending. But listen to how the president describes it.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have to out-innovate, we're going to have to out-build, we're going to have to out-compete, we're going to have to out-educate other countries. That's our challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Now, the president will call those investments. He'll say we need to build roads and bridges. He'll say we need to have research and development grants to develop new technology. Look around the House right now. That television screen, that iPad you might have, a lot of that was developed first with government research, the Internet was, and then it becomes a product out in the marketplace.

But listen here, John Avlon, senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash talked to Jeff Sessions today. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, and he would not rule out a government shutdown. He says he hopes that does not happen. He does not believe that will have to happen. But he says the one thing Republicans need to do is stand firm when the president says, let's have new spending.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: You know if the president just stonewalls, refuses to pass anything that would be responsible, we'll have to see what happens. I recall when Newt Gingrich got blamed for shutting the government down in 1994, you know what happened? Republicans maintained the majority and balanced the budget.


SESSIONS: That's how it happened.


KING: John Avlon, Jeff Sessions went out of his way to be available today. He wanted to make that point.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, look, the days of "all or nothing" are over. We know, and the lame duck helped prove, that divided government does not have to mean gridlock. And the key is going to be the overall picture. The president's proposing some new spending, which will be framed as investment. If it's under the general umbrella of making America more competitive in the 21st century and bringing us jobs and helping us advance as a country, that can be acceptable if it's offset with long-term deficit and debt reduction. That's the big picture that everyone's got to look out for.

If he reaches out Republicans will have a choice, do they stick to that no-Bama agenda that says all or nothing, which is unrealistic in the case of divided government, or will they meet the president halfway if he's responsive on big picture issues like reducing deficit and the debt? That's the big game. That's the real question. And that's one of the reasons he's been surging in popularity. The reason independents have a 15-point bump because he seems like the adult in the room and he benefits by comparison to Republicans. With divided government, people think the president is in a better position than he was with Democrats in unified control in Washington.

KING: So Erick, is any new investment, and it's new spending -- it's new spending -- is any new spending off the table? Should Republicans say no to everything or should they look at it?

ERICKSON: I think they'll have to look at it and see where the offsets are. Will entitlement reform be on the table? And if so, what about restructuring parts of the Democrats' health care plan that Republicans say will drive up spending? By and large, though, I think the Republicans are going to want to see substantial cuts to what's there before they go along with any new spending, particularly, if he's not willing to jump in and restructure some of the education programs.

KING: Here's one of the interesting things, James Carville, presidents and governors tend to think alike regardless of party. They're looking to create jobs. They're looking to do things, so we were looking around today at how people -- other people use the term "investment". You might be surprised. Listen to this.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: In the past couple of years, we've allocated billions for roads and ports and schools, other vital public works projects. That money, it hits the streets and grows the economy this year so that the private sector can create and we can keep many thousands of good Alaskan jobs through this. So that was good planning. Now, we can stay on the course of this path of investment with continued support for essential construction projects. These projects will literally build our state.


KING: So investing in roads and bridges was good for Governor Palin in her State of the State Address, James Carville. I'm suspecting though many Republicans are going to have a very different view when President Obama says, let's do that nationally. Now, they have a point that the federal government is in red ink. Alaska probably had a lot more money to spend at that time. However, can the president make the case for targeted investments and will he have to meet Erick's test of saying if I want to spend this money, I'm going to cut this money?

CARVILLE: The answer is yes. And we have a horrible jobs crisis. Anything in this speech that is not about jobs, if you ask me, is a waste of time. And if he's able to tie this to jobs, he will do just fine. And there will be an appetite for this. And you know I'm not sure that if a bridge is crumbling and you rebuild it now and you're going to have to do it 10 years from now, that really represents new spending.

I think that's accelerating something you have to do in the midst of a jobs crisis anyway, but we can argue about that later. And the interesting thing is going to be to see Paul Ryan who wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and make it a voucher program or Michele Bachmann, who is going to emerge as the real spokesperson for the Republican Party tomorrow night. That's another side story of tremendous interest to a lot of people.

KING: We're going to talk -- we're going to talk in the next segment about who speaks for the Republican Party and whether there's a tug-of-war over there. But I want to go through some of these numbers because they're quite remarkable. We have this new polling out today and I want to go through it.

How is the president handling the economy? Overall 45 percent of Americans approve, 54 percent disapprove. So the president still has a problem obviously when you have high unemployment right there. Among independents, 43 percent approve, 56 percent disapprove, so a little bit more disapproval than among the general electorate.

How's the president handling the federal budget deficit? Look at these numbers, 38 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove. Now let's look at that among independents. Thirty-four percent approve of how the president's handling the deficit, 65 percent disapprove.

Now let's just look at independents. How's the president handling his job? Independents now say 54 approve, 45 disapprove. Look at the stunning jump from just before the election when only 39 percent of independents supported him. But John Avlon, in that better number, the overall number is a better number, but when you look at how is he handling the economy, how is he handling the deficit? To Erick's point, there is a great deal of volatility. If the president doesn't handle -- if the president does not handle this just right, there's a trap door out there.

AVLON: That's exactly right, but look at those weaknesses and you'll see what the president needs to do in this speech and in the coming months. He needs to make focus on the economy, show that it is his number one priority, and the deficit and the debt, which is why some long ball proposal like entitlement reform, which would be a real Nixon and China moment, could not only help address long-term deficit and debt without hurting short-term economic growth, but really help seal the deal with those independents who like the way he's positioned opposite Republican-controlled (ph) Congress but have real doubts about his handling of the budget deficit and the economy as a whole.

KING: Oh but liberals won't like that.

AVLON: No they won't --

KING: We'll talk about that just after the break. We'll talk more about what's in the speech. We'll also talk about who will respond to answers from the Republican Party -- a tug of war or the more the merrier?


KING: Tradition calls for the opposition party to respond to the president's State of the Union Address. Well tomorrow, we'll be reminded again our politics of the moment are anything but traditional. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin will give the official Republican response. That makes sense. He's the party's point man on fiscal issues. He was here with us recently to talk about where he thinks Republicans can and where they cannot do business with the Democratic president.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: Hopefully, on discretionary spending and other entitlements, we can get some reform. My hope and goal is that we can find some agreement with the president on some things that get us in the right direction to get this debt under control, but his health care law, my guess is, he's not going to agree with us and we're not going to agree on that and that one might just go to the next election.


KING: Now once Ryan is done speaking tomorrow night, well, that's when the nontraditional kicks in. Conservative Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was passed over for a leadership post after the election. But she's a Tea Party favorite, is flirting with running for president, and will deliver her own response.

It was billed at first as a Web cast to the Tea Party Express Web site, but now Congresswoman Bachmann is inviting the television cameras in and CNN is among the networks that will carry her remarks live. Her Friday night appearance in Iowa offers a bit of a preview.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: It is a slavery that is a bondage to debt and a bondage to decline. That's what that slavery entails. It is a subservient of a sovereign people. We're a sovereign people. To have failed self-selected elite that would be our fate.


KING: So two Republican responses. Is that a case of the more the merrier or another example of a tug-of-war within the GOP? Erick Erickson, James Carville, John Avlon is still with us. Mr. Erickson to you first -- does it end up inevitably saying mixed message in the Republican ranks or are you happy to have as many spokesmen or women as we can have?

ERICKSON: I'm a little surprised, somewhat frustrated. But, you know, the Tea Party movement is trying very carefully to tow this line that it's not of the Republican Party. And so you've got Michele Bachmann doing this. She does want to run for president. She'll also be apparently opening CPAC this year. So she's definitely trying to get her name out there and good for her.

I think this will ultimately resolve itself once the Republicans have a presidential nominee. And until then, you're going to have every Republican in Congress trying to assert themselves in some sort of leadership role whether or not they have one or not.

KING: Ever seen anything like this before, Mr. Carville?

CARVILLE: No and she delivered a Supreme Court justice to the Tea Party, the Tea Party caucus. I didn't realize until Erick said that she's going to be opening CPAC. She's quite a little dynamo there. She's emerging as some kind of intellectual center of gravity over there and I might have to withdraw my endorsement of Governor Palin and get behind Congresswoman Bachmann here.



CARVILLE: I tell you one thing, Governor Palin, you're up there, you better come down. She's occupying your space down here in the lower 48.

KING: John, jump in on this --


KING: Let's listen to first -- the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, had a pen and pad, meaning he met with reporters today, and he had to say this because he's getting asked about these things. "Paul Ryan is giving the official response. You know Michele Bachmann, just like the other 534 members of the House and Senate, are going to have opinions as to the State of the Union. This is a process that happens every year and I look forward to all comments."

Well, it's not a process that happens every year, that, number one, first the Tea Party makes a big deal out of it and then Michele Bachmann calls around to the TV networks and says, hey, send a camera.

AVLON: Yes. Yes. Cantor's statement is a cry for help masquerading as a sober press release. I mean the problem is precisely because James Carville couldn't be happier. He wants to conflate -- he wants to point the confusion and conflate not just you know Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann, hard to tell who speaks for the GOP, but she becomes an alternate for Sarah Palin.

I mean you know in terms of symbolizing the far, far right, even more so in Bachmann's case. So the Tea Party and Bachmann are doing a great job getting attention for themselves, but not to the benefit of the Republican Party. Any independent observer can see that, so watch the cameras are going to flock because they're waiting for the car crash. This is Anna Nicole Smith's show happening.


ERICKSON: I got a prediction.


ERICKSON: I predict Sarah Palin's poll numbers are going to go up, because Michele Bachmann is going to take so much airtime, Palin will finally have her head down for a little while.

KING: Go ahead, James.

CARVILLE: John, let me point out she delivered a Supreme Court justice. I don't know if any member of Congress has ever done that. Let me point out -- AVLON: You're right, James. She's powerful --


CARVILLE: -- called Sarah Palin the most influential Republican since Ronald Reagan. I'm not making this up. She's out with the Tea Party. She's -- people are always inviting her to give the response to the State of the Union. She's doing these things, much to my delight, but she is.

KING: Does it -- it's good political theater. Does it matter at this moment? Again, it's a volatile moment in our politics. The president certainly has at least a temporary position of strength. Does it help him? He has the bully pulpit of the presidency. He of course will speak for 50 minutes or 55 minutes or maybe 65 minutes and then the Republicans will have two responses.

The viewership (ph) always goes down anyway, but does it help the president who's trying to position himself in the middle? He'll say I have liberal forces who want me to spend more, who don't want me to touch Social Security and Medicare; I want to reduce the deficit responsibly will be the president's word.

He will say the Republicans, they want to cut too much, too fast, hurt those most vulnerable and hurt the economy. Does it help the president become the man in the middle when you have two Republican responses?

AVLON: Of course it does, especially when one of them, Michele Bachmann, is talking about slavery. I mean it really help makes the case that he's clearly center left. He's not on the far left and you know and the Republican Party is having an identity struggle between the far right and the responsible right, which is Paul Ryan.

KING: Erick, does the Tea Party have a beef with Paul Ryan?

ERICKSON: Yes, I think the Tea Party does have a little bit of a beef with him for -- he voted for the caps on CEOs, the TARP bill, the auto bailout. They've got some problems with him. Overall I think most of them like him. Look ultimately, I don't think this is going to matter. And the proof of that is that people still talk about Bobby Jindal's viability as a candidate in the future. No one remembers his horrendous response to the State of the Union. We'll all have forgotten this in a couple of weeks.

KING: We'll all have forgotten this in a couple of weeks. All right. Everybody watch the speech tomorrow night. We'll check back with all our guys.

Still ahead here though, Arizona's immigration debate is echoing in Colorado. And next, Rahm Emanuel is a candidate without a home. According to Illinois, says the former White House chief of staff is not qualified to run for Chicago mayor. So now what?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Rahm Emanuel has already spent $2.5 million on television ads in his bid to be Chicago's next mayor. And a recent poll showed him running way ahead, possibly, possibly within reach of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff election, riding high, to say the least. That was until today's 2-1 decision by a state appellate court which ruled Emanuel, because he left the city to serve as President Obama's chief of staff, did not meet the residency test to qualify for the mayoral ballot. Emanuel quickly promised to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.


RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO MAYORAL CANDIDATE: I still own a home here, look forward to moving into it one day, vote from here, pay property taxes here. I do believe that the people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make a decision on who they want to be their next mayor.


KING: It is a stunning turn of events and could dramatically change the race to succeed the long time mayor, Richard Daley. Let's talk it through with CNN contributor Roland Martin, national political correspondent Jessica Yellin and political reporter Lynn Sweet of the "Chicago Sun-Times". Jess, you've been reporting on the immediate post-decision machinations, the appeal and the like (ph) printing of the ballots, where do we stand?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well the Emanuel team had appeals ready to go, so they filed a motion tonight. Tomorrow, the ballots are supposed to be printed, two million ballots without Rahm's name on them. And then we'll have another motion filed tomorrow and on Wednesday. Early voting begins Monday, so they need this thing to happen quickly. Right now Rahm Emanuel's folks are saying, if you are going -- they're asking the court, if they are going to print the ballot add Rahm Emanuel's name back in. There's no clarity that the court will do that.

KING: Chaos.

LYNN SWEET, COLUMNIST, POLITICS DAILY: Well yes, that's why the Emanuel campaign is looking so much to freeze the status quo, because it's easier to have his name on the ballot and that, and it's just a bad political situation for him, even if the Supreme Court does rule to keep him on, he was on his way as you said to maybe even clinching in the primary.

KING: So what happens now? If they -- if his name's not on the ballot and he wins, Roland, then they've got to print new ballots and maybe invalidate early voting. If they start that on Monday, if they do put him on the ballot then they kick him off in the end, the other candidates will cry foul because it gives somebody a chance to at least --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: At the end of the day, do you meet the requirements based upon the law to run? So I would not be shocked because of the dates of the Supreme Court, frankly, listening and ruling as fast as possible because also, you have a financial factor here. The last thing you want is all this confusion.

You don't want to have to sit here and print the ballots and take stuff off and also you have all the early voting locations. That's the last thing that you want. The election, again, is you know really, what, three, four weeks away. And so, again, what makes sense to me is the Supreme Court moves quickly, so maybe we'll see a Bush v. Gore type Supreme Court ruling.


KING: I want you guys to pause one second here. Because just a few minutes ago, I talked to Carol Moseley Braun. She's a former United States senator. She was number two in the most recent poll, although Rahm Emanuel was way ahead. Carol Moseley Braun was running second. And I asked her, my first question to her was, I know you hope to benefit from this, Senator Moseley Braun, but do you agree with the ruling?


CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The law is the law. And I'm a great believer in the rule of law. And I support what the court did. Remember, we have requirements, residency requirements for police and fire and teachers, and so the court's interpretation is one that, frankly, doesn't surprise me. And I'm today, as of today, of course, you know, Mr. Emanuel will not appear on the ballot.

That could change, but politics in Chicago is a roller coaster, and so I'm just going to continue with our campaign and our message of creating jobs for our city, for the people of our city, and getting our schools together and protecting senior citizens and having public safety. So we're still on message. We're still doing what we've been doing all along, which is campaigning for all of Chicago.

KING: If you look at the polling from just last week, Rahm Emanuel was beating you 2 to 1. You were his closest competitor, but he was in the "Chicago Tribune"/WGN poll 44 percent to 21 percent. Why was he so far ahead?

BRAUN: Well, one can only speculate. We've had a poor campaign with a rich message, so we've been able to do as well as we have with I mean just a fraction of the kind of money that's been poured into this race so far. So we're confident that we're going to continue to be able to get our message out with the resources that we have and hopefully we'll be able to start doing the commercials and the radio and that sort of thing. But it's been a grassroots campaign so far and, again, speaking to everyday, ordinary Chicagoans with our message that I want to fix the city for every family and every neighborhood.


KING: Yesterday, if we were having this conversation, we would say, it does not appear that she has a prayer. On this day, is she the front-runner? SWEET: Well, there's -- not in terms of the money, and that is going to be a big factor. Carol Moseley Braun has a big name recognition in Chicago. That gives her a running start. It gave her a running start all along, but she just did not raise a lot of money, John. The reports came out last week. Rahm is 10.5 million, Gery Chico, former chief of staff to Mayor Daley, 2.5 million. Carol Moseley Braun --

KING: And he's the board of education president right now --

SWEET: Former board. And Park District has a long time of lots of jobs in the city government. (INAUDIBLE) Valle (ph) has basically hundred thousand bucks, so Carol Moseley Braun just doesn't have the money now to leverage this in the way that Gery Chico does, but sure, everyone else will be getting a lot more attention, because so much of the media has been focused on Rahm.


YELLIN: And it will change the dynamics of the race, you know who -- maybe a lot of voters will stay home now. Who knows where African-American voters who weren't with Moseley Braun, why weren't they with her? Will they move there? It's not clear. And you know even her point that the law is clear here isn't necessarily solid. Another court found it differently. It's really unclear how the Supreme Court's going to find --


SWEET: And one thing to watch for is this, and I haven't studied the law yet, but I think people will (INAUDIBLE) if Rahm is knocked out in the ballot by the Illinois Supreme Court, I think there will be a lot of study of what it would take to mount a write-in campaign because --


SWEET: (INAUDIBLE) but I think people will start studying that to see --

KING: It's good for the lawyers.


KING: We know it's good for the lawyers. We don't know anything else.

MARTIN: Always good for the lawyers.

SWEET: (INAUDIBLE) money to figure out that --


MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) law. At the end of the day the argument of her raising money was supposed to be the reason why she knocked out Congressman Danny Davis and State Senator James Meeks while the report comes out she hasn't raised the money. And also she talks about a -- you know poor money, but also a rich message. No, they have not run a strong campaign. She hurt herself with the whole tax deal as well. So don't be surprised -- if Rahm is knocked out, do not assume that solely because based upon that poll, she's the front-runner. Don't assume that.


KING: We talked about this at the beginning of this race. Would any court read the letter of the law, read the law literally? It's a state law about municipal residency or would they read the spirit of the law and say well you went off to the president's chief of staff. That's sort of like serving in the military. That's public service --


KING: -- give you a little bit more wiggle room.

SWEET: John, that's what you need to make -- we need to make the distinction here. The Emanuel campaign argues that that provision safeguarded his status as a resident, you know, federal service, or service. But the issue the appellate court ruled on are the laws and the municipal code of Illinois dealing with what it takes to be a candidate, different than what it takes to be a voter, which is what that point is about, dealing with service.

KING: Right. And let's read that. Because it's a very key point as we go forward into the Supreme Court challenge and whatever else might come.

"A candidate must meet not only the election codes of voter residency standard, but also must have actually resided within the municipality for one year before the election. A qualification that the candidate" meaning Rahm Emanuel, "unquestionably does not satisfy.:"

He was in Washington.

SWEET: And that came from your reading, you're quoting from the appellate decision, two to one, strong dissent, but still very declarative.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The appellate court found-had a starkly different conclusion.

SWEET: Right.

YELLIN: That's what the Emanuel camp is pointing to. Also the Board of Elections has a starkly different conclusion. And this dissenting judge, they think they can take all of that to the Supreme Court.

KING: This guy gave up one of the most powerful jobs in the government, in the world. He was the chief of staff of the president. If you call in to Cabinet agencies around this town, they will tell you, oh, Rahm just called. He's still calling into the White House and into the big departments around town saying, hey, do that, do this, hire that guy.

MARTIN: He might have gave that up, but you know what, the changes on November 2 this year. He still could have been without a job as chief of staff, depending what the president did when it comes to making changes among his administration. So, look, he left the job to run for mayor, but at the end of the day, I'm sorry, I'm still with the appeals court. If you actually live in the city, you live in the city. This nonsense about serving the president, come on.

SWEET: Ripe legal question.

KING: Ripe legal question. We'll watch. You think the court will move pretty quickly?

SWEET: Quickly, yes.


MARTIN: They have no choice.

SWEET: They'll be expedited. It will be expedited.

Roland, Jess, Lynn, come back. We'll keep an eye on this one.

The State of the Union Address is a big policy event, yet this year it's also being called day night or prom night. We'll go inside the search for bi-partisan seat mates, in a moment.

But next, Colorado is among the states where conservatives are trying to copy Arizona's immigration law. We'll talk to one of the legislators leading the charge.


KING: A the State of the Union address tomorrow night here in Washington, a lot of attention is focused on the nation's capital. And yes, the president will have new policy proposals. The new Republican majority in the House has new policy proposals, but a lot of the action, especially on tough issues like abortion, immigration, is out in the states, especially after the big conservative gains in the 2010 elections.

Let's take a look. Here are some anti-abortion trends in state governments. If you see yellow here, that means the governor and the legislature are both anti-abortion. The blue states, the governor is anti-abortion. And there have been a number of developments in legislative proposals in these states. We've told you about these before. We'll keep an eye on them.

There's also a big push for immigration laws. Here is what happened in 2010, 46 states enacted new immigration laws of some sort in 2010. In 2010, many tried to copy the Arizona immigration law. You see the states right here. Six states introduced but did not finish action, meaning they did not pass Arizona-like immigration laws.

After the 2010 elections, there were more calls for laws like Arizona's. You see right here, nine states have introduced laws this year, in 2011. Essentially, along the lines of the controversial Arizona law. Colorado, as you see, is among those states that may want to try to copy something like Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration.

A bill there would give police power to arrest someone they believe is an illegal immigrant, or if they're facing deportation for serious crimes. But while police would have the power, they wouldn't be required to make such arrests.

With us from Denver is the bill's sponsor, Republican State Senator Kent Lambert and in Los Angeles is blogger, and radio talk show host, Mario Solis-Marich, a consultant for Democratic campaigns.

Senator, to you first. Why does the State of Colorado need this law, in your view?

SEN. KENT LAMBERT, (R) STATE SENATOR, COLORADO: Well, you know, I almost had to laugh. For the first time, I think I agree with Carol Moseley Braun from your last segment, who said we need to follow the rule of law, and it's all about residency. The same rules ought to apply to illegal immigrants that are in the United States. And in Colorado, we just need to enforce the law. That's what the people have said here for the last 10 years.

KING: Mario, why not -- why should not police have the right -- they wouldn't be required to, but have the right to take these steps?

MARIO SOLIS-MARICH, LATINO PROGRESSIVE BLOGGER: Well, first of all, first, it's been shown to be completely ineffective in Arizona. And let's talk about what this law really includes. What this law includes is very simple language that allows police officers to arrest people without a warrant, if they suspect that at some point that person was suspected of committing a crime.

Now, think about that for a second. They're saying, you can arrest somebody if you suspect that somehow in the past, they were suspected. There's a very, very low threshold. It's clearly going to be found to be unconstitutional. And instead of doing what voters sent the GOP to the statehouse to do, that is to create jobs, the GOP is getting ready to create pink slips for workers in Colorado, because if this comes anything close to costing Colorado what it cost Arizona, you're talking $150 million in lost revenue to the state. That is an amazing amount of money at a time when the economy needs legislators to pump up the economy and not to tear it down.

KING: Senator, let me give you a chance to respond. I want you to respond to Mario's point about the legality of it, and his view that it gives police way too much power. And also address, because even some of your Republican friends in the state, have said, I actually like your legislation, Senator Lambert. But why can't we do this in six months or nine months, because what the voters want for us right now out of the box is jobs, jobs, jobs? LAMBERT: Well, yes, I think Mario's arguments are pretty ludicrous. In 235 years in the United States, no federal court has ever overruled the power, sovereign power of a state to enforce criminal law. That's what we're talking about doing right here. We also have estimates that in Colorado, there is about $1.5 billion of state services going to either indirectly or directly to illegal immigrants. And, you know, so the economics argument doesn't make any sense either.

The problem is, this is about jobs. We're seeing unemployment of American citizens skyrocketing. And statistics now-we just saw a new study, that showed, you know, immigrant populations are sometimes coming in. They're younger, they're quite often taking those American jobs.

SOLIS-MARICH: You know what's interesting about this is that there are 150 million to 200 million reasons a year not to pass this law. The people, the workers, the tourist industry in Arizona really now has taken a look at the devastation that this law has created in Arizona.

And once again, obviously, the representative hasn't been following this story of the law in Arizona, because then he would know that major portions of the law have been found to be unconstitutional. Now, those are being appealed, but right now they're injunctions against major parts of the law. So, therefore, he is incorrect when he says that the Supreme Court has never found, or a court has never found, that these laws to be unconstitutional. Right now --


SOLIS-MARICH: The -- the people of Colorado sent him, gave him the majority to create jobs. What he's doing is he's creating pink slips. That's what he's doing.

KING: Senator, address any point Mario just made, if you want to respond, but I also want you to address Colorado Association Chiefs of Police statement-

LAMBERT: First of all-

KING: That says, "any legislative mandate" these are the chiefs of police in your state, "any legislative mandate that shifts the primary duty to enforce immigration law to Colorado police officers, such as occurred recently in Arizona, would be a mistake." Why do the police chiefs oppose this?

LAMBERT: I'm not sure they do oppose it, because it is not a mandate from the state. It allows police officers to do their job. But, you know, this has not been declared unconstitutional by the federal courts. They have put a temporary injunction against the Arizona law, that's still under review, and no responsible court has even decided that it's unconstitutional. Like I said, under -- I mean, they're making an argument against it, but the argument goes something like this. Because the United States government, the current administration, has decided they don't want to enforce the law, then sovereign states have to live up to that low threshold of not enforcing the law. That is not the rule of law.

KING: Senator, do you worry at all about the long-term prospects for the Republican Party? The political implications of this? I understand you stand by your law on principle. You believe it's the right thing to do, but your state now has a 21 percent, 20.3 percent of Colorado's population is Latino. You know the demographic growth. Not just in your state, but across the United States. Do you have any concerns, it's essentially the Karl Rove question on immigration, that you will do generational damage to the Republican Party by pushing these proposals?

LAMBERT: Well, again, I think that's really naive. We've seen the polling in Arizona, where Arizona 1070 was passed. It was passed on a wide bipartisan basis. The people, the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and Hispanic, more than 50 percent of them all support Arizona bill 1070. Also, Jan Brewer, the governor, won by a landslide after signing that legislation. So the people of the United States want this law.

Certainly, I think the man on the street in Colorado wants to see, first of all, enforcement of our borders. Second, we want to enforce the current laws that we have on the books. Right now the federal government's not doing that, and it's time for the states, as many states are doing right now, take on the responsibility that they have for enforcing the law.

KING: Senator Kent Lambert --

SOLIS-MARICH: John, can I say something?

KING: Quickly, Mario, go ahead.

SOLIS-MARICH: This is a point where I'm really torn. Because I have to tell you, as somebody who loves the State of Colorado, because it's been so good to me, I know this law will create devastation to the state. But as a partisan Democrat, I say bring it to us. Because you will see that there is generational damage being done to the Republican Party. So as a partisan, I hope they bring it on. As somebody who loves the state, who loves the tourism industry in that state, I have to hope that they don't go forward with this.

KING: We'll watch this proposal as it makes its way through the legislator. Senator Lambert, appreciate your time. Sorry we're out of time tonight, sir. But we'll bring you back and watch it as it goes through the debate. Senator Lambert, Mario, appreciate your time tonight. It's an important issue and we'll keep track of it.

When we come back, more on the president's State of the Union, including the post-Tucson call for bipartisanship. Some are calling it date night. Senator Amy Klobuchar will join us for her views and she'll tell us who's her date.


KING: Up until now, when presidents deliver the State of the Union Address, Democratic lawmakers sit on one side of the House chamber, Republicans sit on the other, and you've seen this before, the two sides just alternate between standing ovations and sitting in stony silence. But this year, in the wake of Tucson shooting, and calls for more civility in our politics, Republicans and Democrats have been pairing up, promising to sit together, much to their own amusement.


SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: My new Senate Republican colleague from Illinois, Mark Kirk and I, are going to sit together. I'm bringing the popcorn, he's bringing a coke with two straws.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: When I was in high school, I always waited too long before the prom to ask for a date, so I haven't done that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got two days. Tell us now.

LIEBERMAN: I'm going to be on the phone today.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: I've already asked Tom Coburn.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I'm going to sit with Tom Udall and hopefully, I think, Mark Udall may be sitting where I usually sit.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I'm going to sit where I usually sit.

SCHUMER: If Coburn and Schumer can sit next to each other, then probably just about everybody can.

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) TEXAS: I don't have a date.

LIEBERMAN: Kay, I'm available.


HUTCHISON: I'll just find a place to sit down.


KING: I'm joined now by Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

All right, Senator, it's no secret to you, the senior congressional correspondent happens to be my date. We won't be in the House chamber --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), MINNESOTA: That will be very romantic.

KING: --for the State of the Union, we won't be there. But she did talk to your date today, Republican conservative Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Listen to how he describes prom night with Amy Klobuchar.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF SESSION, (R) ALABAMA: I asked her to sit with me at the State of the Union, and I think we'll have a good time doing that. She's a delight to have in the Senate. We serve on the Armed -- Judiciary Committee together, and I admire her. So, I think that will be fun.


KING: Corsage? Champagne? How does this work?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I'm wearing light blue. That's all I'm going to tell him. We'll see what he does. Maybe he'll have a matching tie.

Actually, Senator Sessions and I were talking about some Judiciary matters, actually serious work, and that topic came up. And I was more than pleased to accompany him down the aisle and sit with him.

I think if this is just a symbol, it will mean nothing. But I think if going forward when we have such incredible challenges for our country, John and Dana, that we have got to go beyond this. And we've got to work together more on bills. You know we've got the issue of the deficit. We've got the economy and the innovation competitive strategy, that I think we need to work together and for the country. We cannot do it. We can't do it on the sheer numbers. You have a Republican House, close numbers in the Senate, a Democratic president. If we're going to move forward at all as a country, we're going to have to do it by standing together.

DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, I'm sure you never thought you would say you're walking down the aisle with Jeff Sessions from Alabama. But you know what, things are changing.

KLOBUCHAR: Well, actually, more significantly, the reason we work together on a bill on adoption that was pretty important for a lot of families across this country. And it does happen all the time.

BASH: That actually leads to my next question, because in all seriousness, I asked Senator Sessions today about whether or not he believes that this is just symbolism, or whether him sitting with you, and other Democrats and Republicans sitting together can actually lead to some policy compromises. What do you think? He said yes. What do you think?

KLOBUCHAR: Oh, I think it is a must. And if one party or the other just spends the next two years throwing darts and sitting in their own corner of the boxing ring, it is really at their own peril. Tomorrow night the president is going to lay out some very important challenges for the Congress and for the country. And if we just -- if people are going to act like it's a, you know, something you can throw popcorn at, it's not going to work.

We've got to get things done. We've got an economy that is stabilized, but not moving ahead. We've got other countries that are starting to beat us out with education and other things. We've got great potential in our country and the only way we're going to make sure kids are getting the degrees that they need, make sure we're getting through that red tape, is by working together.

KING: And so what are progressives going to say? We know what the Republicans are going to say. But what are progressives going to say when the president says I propose a spending freeze, and I'm told the draft is being circulated today, somewhere in the ballpark of a three or four year a freeze on federal spending. Republicans will say that doesn't go enough, but I suspect liberals are going to say wait a minute, Mr. President, what are you doing freezing spending?

I'm also told he will not say let's cut Social Security and Medicare, but he will say it is time for Republicans and Democrats to sit down together and deal with Social Security and Medicare and those big entitlement programs because without changes there, you can't do serious deficit reduction. Is the left going to howl after this speech?

KLOBUCHAR: First of all, I have personally supported some of the McCaskill/Sessions spending limits and other things. I think you're going to see a number of Democrats that do want to see us grapple with spending.

In terms of what some members of our caucus will say, I think that they want to see jobs in this country. They want to see people employed again. And the only way we're going to get there is if we, at is the same time as we are doing those necessary spending caps, that we also look at tax reform. So what I'm hoping to hear from the president is some significant tax reform, simplification of our system. Some of the ideas that were put out there by the Deficit Commission Report, like maybe limiting the home mortgage deduction, which is really important to middle class people. But limiting to it $500,000 in value on a home. That covers an awful lot of people in this country.

And so there are a number of things we can do to save money short of messing up Social Security, which I think we could make some changes there, but all that money has to go toward keeping Social Security solvent.

KING: You're going to have popcorn tomorrow night. It's like going to the movies. I want you to look at your monitor.

KLOBUCHAR: OK, yeah, I got it.

KING: I know we brought you a monitor up there because, your former governor is in New Hampshire tonight. He has a new book coming out. Tim Pawlenty is a Republican. He is starting to move around and get ready to run for the Republican nomination for president. And he has a new video here. It's like a pretty high glossy movie trailer. Check this out.


(BEGIN POLITICAL CAMPAIGN AD) ANNOUNCER: If prosperity were easy, everybody around the world would be prosperous. If freedom were easy, everybody around the world would be free. If security were easy, everybody around the world would be secure. They are not. None of this is going to be easy, but this is the United States of America.


KING: That put you down as a Pawlenty voter?

KLOBUCHAR: Tim Pawlenty and I have worked very well together when he was governor. He is now our former governor, and we worked together on National Guard issues, other things. I'm clearly in the president's camp here, but I wish Governor Pawlenty well. And I do think one message that you get from that video is that it's not going to be easy. And I hope that that's what we're going to be hearing tomorrow night as well.

People have to understand that we are in a crossroads in this country. Are we going to move forward to be a country that makes stuff again, that exports to the world, or are we just going to be consuming and building up debt. We are truly at a crossroads. So I'm looking forward to hearing the president's address tomorrow night.

KING: Senator Klobuchar, I appreciate your time tonight and your good humor. We'll check in with you tomorrow.

KLOBUCHAR: OK, very good.

KING: Dana, thanks for coming in as well.

KLOBUCHAR: I'll tell you how the date went.

KING: Thank you very much.

KLOBUCHAR: I'm thinking if I'm wearing light blue, a nice wrist corsage would be good.


KING: All right.

When we come back, we've got the seating chart down. Pete Dominick wants to know how far will groups go to get a mention in the State of the Union. I think Pete wants a mention.


KING: Our off-beat reporter Pete Dominick very excited about tomorrow night's State of the Union Address.

But Pete, one thing's got you intrigued. What is it?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN OFFBEAT REPORTER: John, I have a question for you. You're the expert. You came on my radio program last week. We talked a little bit about this. So I'm a special interest. I'm advocating on behalf of an issue or group. How do I get my issue mentioned? How do I get a sentence for me for my group mentioned? How does that process work John King? For this president, or any president, in the State of the Union speech.

KING: You work your member of Congress who sends a request to the White House. You work the Cabinet agency or you are the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, you give a big press conference today urging the president to talk about guns.

I was talking to someone today who has seen a draft who says there is no gun control in the most recent draft. You lobby, you lobby, you lobby, or do it right here on cable television.

DOMINICK: Thanks, John.

KING: We'll see you tomorrow for the big speech. We'll see you tomorrow, too, special coverage at 7:00, and then the president's big speech. PARKER SPITZER starts right now.