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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Voter Dynamics Can Be Counter Intuitive; Some Scandal-Tainted Candidates Kept Seats

Aired November 8, 2006 - 03:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICA VOTES 2006: And in fact, we got a chance to hear from Joe Negron. And let's have a listen to him conceding to this race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE NEGRON, (R) FLA. CONG. CANDIDATE: I'm very proud that everything that all of you have done, all the volunteers. It looks like we're coming up a little bit short, in the final analysis I called Tim Mahoney a few minutes ago to congratulate him on his victory. And he's the next congressman from the 16th. He's entitled to an opportunity to serve.

And what I want to let all of you know is how much I appreciate everything that you have done and that my family has done to make this a competitive race in a five-week period under extremely difficult situations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And the tentacles of Mark Foley reached all the way to Ohio, as well. And this House 15 race, with Deborah Pryce, the Republican --

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICA VOTES 2006: She won!

WHITFIELD: Winning, over Mary Jo Kilroy.

SANCHEZ: Despite being associated with Mark Foley.

WHITFIELD: Somehow she managed to, you know, deflect.

SANCHEZ: But here's an interesting case in Minnesota, Patty Wetterling, in that case, she had a son who, by the way, was kidnapped or disappeared. I think he was only 11 years old. She used that in the campaign as a result of the Mark Foley situation. But obviously it wasn't enough there, as well. Bachmann, Michele Bachmann ends up winning that race in Minnesota.

I'm sorry -- yes, it's called. It' already called for Bachmann. Still you can see it's a projection. Because there is still 95 percent of the precincts reporting.

WHITFIELD: And we know in New York, you know, with the Mark Foley case, the association with Tom Reynolds. Tom Reynolds came out very quickly with his campaign ads trying to deflect any kind of relationship, but he managed to maintain his lead and his incumbency there with 52 percent.

SANCHEZ: So, interestingly enough, in this case the Republicans win three out of four, despite the Foley scandal.

Amy Walter, what do you make of that?

AMY WALTER, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, let's start from the beginning. I think that the incumbents who got themselves in trouble, especially those who were the most personally associated with scandal. And John mentioned a lot of those; certainly someone like a Don Sherwood or a Curt Weldon.

We're still waiting to see what's going to happen out in California with Richard Pambo, where I think that voters, you know, obviously, making their voices heard there. But I think it's also a case where there is certainly Republican incumbents who were not able to run the kind of campaigns they needed to run to hold on.

The thing that Congressman Reynolds had going for him from the beginning -- were two things -- well, actually three. One he had no control over, which was the fact that during the middle of the scandal a blizzard struck Buffalo, a freak blizzard, which took this story off the front pages and put the snow on the front pages. That was very helpful.

But the other thing was that, you know, Reynolds was actually very prepared for what was going to be a fight that was -- he was expected to win, but a real fight nonetheless. So he had a lot of money. He had a lot of opposition research already against his opponent. His opponent not as strong as he could have been, certainly not the right message and profile. And Reynolds was able to take advantage of that. In the places, though, where the Republican just unable to get traction against their Democratic challenger.

Or in many cases where they just didn't take the race seriously enough. The thought they were doing the right things, but fundamentally, tactically, a lot of these candidates went down, because they just were not up to snuff.

WHITFIELD: Like what?

SANCHEZ: But did we make more? Do you think we made more out of the Foley scandal than was actually there in the minds of viewers? I mean, we hear about corruption, economy, Iraq.

WALTER: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: We don't hear people saying, oh, it was the Foley scandal.

WALTER: Yes, but you know what I think the Foley scandal was? I think it was the straw that broke the backs of many voters. Especially these independent leaning voters, who had been fed a stead diet, not just of scandal, the ones that you all have mentioned earlier, but have also been very disappointed this year. Even some Republican leaning independents, about things like the economy, the deficit, spending, earmarks, the response to Katrina, the response with the Terry Shivo case, lots of frustration brewing, building, about Congress.

Remember at one point Congress and the "NBC/Wall Street Journal" poll, this was a couple of weeks ago, had a 16 percent approval rating.

WHITFIELD: Wow.

WALTER: So voters definitely not giving incumbents the benefit of the doubt. So, if you had any taint of scandal, at all, voters were not going to give you that benefit of the doubt. And some of them were able to survive, simply because they either had the skill or had a challenger who was able to (INAUDIBLE).

WHITFIELD: All right, go ahead, John.

JOHN MERCURIO, NATIONAL JOURNAL'S "THE HOTLINE": You know, I just think one important thing for us to keep in mind when we're looking at this Democratic victory tonight in the House, is that as Republican prepared for the 2008 congressional elections, these districts that we're talking about, these sort of scandal districts that Democrats were able to pick up, are going to be on the top of the target list for Republicans. And these are probably going to be a lot of the districts that Republicans are able to take back.

Democrats who won in Texas 22nd Congressional District, a very Republican district, in Foley's district, again a very Republican district, and in Ohio, and in potentially in California in these two -- Richard Pambo and John Dolittle's district. Those are going to be extremely vulnerable Democrats because as much as they might have campaigned within the sort of mainstream of the political landscape of that district, they owe their victories, primarily to the fact that voters were trying to repudiate the status quo --

WHITFIELD: But what does that mean to be vulnerable Democrats. I mean, especially -- well, in either house.

MERCURIO: It means you could lose.

WHITFIELD: Well, in either house, though, there are more Democrats, then there have been in 12 years. So, certainly there is company.

MERCURIO: Well, sure. But I guess my point is just that the Democrats need to hold on -- or want to hold onto their majority in 2008. And Republicans will be mounting a pretty fierce effort to try and take back the House of Representatives. These districts, I'm just trying to make the point, that these districts would be among their top targets and among their most promising targets, I believe.

SANCHEZ: Did you guys -- one quick -- we've got to let you go because we have a couple of other things we have to cover -- but just a quick question to both of you.

Did you think the Democratic gains would be this large? WALTER: You know, I was looking more at the 25 to close to 30 seat range, 25-29 seat range. We don't know what the final number is going to be, but I expect it to be over 30.

SANCHEZ: You mean net gain?

WALTER: Yes, huh.

SANCHEZ: Net gain. So you did think it was going to be this big?

WALTER: Yeah.

SANCHEZ: Wow.

WALTER: But now it may even be bigger. Closer to the 30 and maybe 34 seats, something like that.

SANCHEZ: John?

MERCURIO: Miles O'Brien has me on record saying that I thought it was going to be 227 House seats, he forced me to pick a number, last week -- earlier this week. So, I don't know exactly. I have to do the math. I guess that's about, that's a little bit lower than where it might end up. But I guess I am a little bit surprised at the ferocity of the wave today.

SANCHEZ: I guess that its late enough that we could say this, send me the name of your bookie when you're done, if you're that close. John Mercurio, Amy Walter, we thank you both.

WALTER: Thanks.

MERCURIO: Thanks.

WHITFIELD: Well, let's take a look, right now at the Senate balance of power. You know, we're talking neck in neck, here; 49 to each side. And again, still waiting for Montana, as the --

SANCHEZ: And Virginia.

WHITFIELD: Yes, as one of the states to be the deciding factor of which way it goes. And here are the numbers, Conrad Burns, the three-time incumbent, slipping behind a John Tester, who is a farmer and has become a popular fresh face in Montana.

SANCHEZ: Keep in mind, it's one of two that still has not been called.

WHITFIELD: Right.

SANCHEZ: And this is the other one. This is Virginia. And this is George Allen, remember his dad, football coach, Washington Redskins, and he certainly has played off of that.

WHITFIELD: With some 11,000 points or so, maybe a little bit more now separating the two.

SANCHEZ: That's not a lot, certainly is enough for a possible recount, although, as we learned from our legal analyst, not long ago, it may not necessarily mean there will be because it's a lot of votes, still. And some still need to be counted.

So, let's go to the House now. The House, it breaks down as thus --

WHITFIELD: Hey, wait a minute, did John say, 223? That was his guess?

SANCHEZ: 227.

WHITFIELD: 227, oh my goodness. John, you are on the money.

SANCHEZ: Look at this. I told you.

WHITFIELD: Yes.

SANCHEZ: It's 226 to 190. And I'm not sure if there are some still need to be called? There are still, right? Producers?

Yes, yes. Still some House races to be called, so we're going to be following that for you.

WHITFIELD: But still an over 20 or so gain, by the Democrats there in the House.

SANCHEZ: Successful night.

WHITFIELD: It's going to be a really interesting in Washington, over the next two years.

SANCHEZ: Let's do this now. Let's talk about the person, the lady, who is going to be in charge of this.

WHITFIELD: Nancy Pelosi?

SANCHEZ: Madam Speaker, they will now call her. When all the votes are in CNN projects the Democrats will of course, take control of the House. That's not too tough to figure out at this point. That means Representative Nancy Pelosi, of California, could take a big step sometime in the near future.

WHITFIELD: CNN's David Mattingly has more on the current minority leader.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICA VOTES 2006 (voice over): Nancy Pelosi is what you call a rainmaker. And in this election she made it pour. The Democrats second-biggest fundraiser next to Hillary Clinton. That success at raising money is one reason she is now expected to be become the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives. REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Maybe it takes a woman to clean House.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICA VOTES 2006: That kind of has a sexist undertone to it.

PELOSI: It does. It does.

KOPPEL: Is that deliberate?

PELOSI: Well, it is, because the fact is, a woman represents what's new in politics.

KOPPEL: How is that?

PELOSI: At the top of power. Because it's never happened before.

MATTINGLY: Politics is in Pelosi's blood. When she was growing up in Baltimore in the 40s and 50s, her father was a congressman, then, the city's mayor. She married and moved to her husband's hometown of San Francisco, where they raised their five children. And where she rose up the ranks of the Democratic Party.

Many Republican tried to make Pelosi an issue this election, even though most Americans had never heard of her.

(BEGIN POLITICAL AD)

ANNOUNCER: Will Brad Ellsworth vote for liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi?

(END POLITICAL AD)

MATTINGLY: Pelosi and the Democrats, of course, made President Bush the issue. This is the way the woman poised to be speaker has been speaking about him.

KOPPEL: You have, yourself, described President Bush as being incompetent, as being in denial.

PELOSI: In denial and dangerous. The president will have to have a different attitude now that he won't have a rubber stamp Congress.

MATTINGLY: Among the priorities Nancy Pelosi says she would push for as House speaker, raising the minimum wage, supporting tax cuts for the middle class, but not for the wealthy, encouraging embryonic stem cell research, giving the federal government power to negotiate with drug companies for lower Medicare prescription costs.

And unlike some many other Democrats, Nancy Pelosi voted against authorizing the war with Iraq; a war which will certainly weigh heavily on the agenda of the next two years.

How rough can a Speaker Pelosi make things for President Bush? Are Republicans right to fear investigations of the administration? In her interview with CNN's Andrea Koppel, Pelosi would only say this.

KOPPEL: You said that you would have subpoena power.

PELOSI: Of course we'll have subpoena power. And we'll have a constitutional responsibility to have checks and balances and oversight.

MATTINGLY: That, she says, is what the Congress does. David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And more of our special coverage of the results from this midterm elections. And again, in terms of the Senate races, still waiting for verification, you know, rubber stamping, of Virginia as well as Montana. And that, indeed, those two states could indeed determine the true balance of power for the Senate.

SANCHEZ: We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back.

The independent swing; independent voters were the swing constituency in this midterm election. CNN exit polls show they broke for the Democrats 59 percent to 37 percent. And Iraq was a major factor in their vote; 65 percent of independents disapprove of the war. Meantime, exit polls also show Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Democratic House candidates. And Republicans voted overwhelmingly for GOP House candidates.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting because so many of the pundits, we have to give them credit where credit is due, said it's all going to break with the independents. Watch the independents, whichever way they go, that's going to be who is going to win this election. And it looks like they broke for the Democrats.

Online and on paper, the midterm election had it's share of glitches as well, you heard about them throughout the day, polling problems reported in 20 states. Long lines, incomplete polling books, computer glitches in the Denver area, in some places the computers simply didn't work at the beginning of the day; but a judge, there, in that area denied a Democratic request to extend some of the voting times.

Delays, some wrong ballots, scanner problems in Florida, as well. Delays also plagued a number of other states, Virginia, for example. The FBI is probing allegations that voters in eight counties got deceptive of intimidating calls from somebody before the election, giving them wrong information about where their precincts were or whether they were open or not.

And then voters also had problems even getting to the polls in Washington State, thanks to some severe floods that closed some roads. WHITFIELD: All right. Well, let's take a look at one of the hotly contested races. All eyes were on this race in Tennessee, particularly because of the mean, nasty, vicious campaign ads that everyone ended up seeing. Our Joe Johns was with the Harold Ford camp this evening.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT, AMERICA VOTES 2006 (on camera): After a bitter battle here in Tennessee, Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, saves this Senate seat for Republicans. Now taking over the seat being vacated by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

BOB CORKER, (R-TN) SENATOR ELECT: It was a strong headwind working against us, but in the end the choice belonged to the good people of Tennessee. They ignored the distractions and distortions and instead focused on the different qualifications of two men, and they made up their own minds.

JOHNS: By all accounts, it was a well run race by the Democrat Harold Ford, the congressman from Memphis. He started out this race with a deficit. In the first place, he was running for a seat that Republicans were loath to give up. They pumped millions of dollars into Tennessee, to keep that seat. And the second place, he was an African-American, running in the South, where no black senator had been sent to Washington since reconstruction.

HAROLD FORD, JR. (D-TN) SENATE CANDIDATE: It's so easy when these things happen to get mad and angry, and I hope that all of you who are here, all of you who watched all this stuff, and read all this stuff, don't be angry about it.

JOHNS: And so one of the things you may be able to take away from the Tennessee Senate race, is that Bob Corker won, but Harold Ford walks away a political rock star. John Johns, CNN, Memphis.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Interestingly enough, what do you say about the situation in Pennsylvania? Consider this, Rick Santorum not long ago was being considered for the presidency, no less the possibility that he'd probably be able to retain his Senate seat, No. 3 in the Republican Party, now a loser.

WHITFIELD: So, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, among those states that was expected, leading into midterm elections, to be those states that could help determine the swing of the power in the Senate.

We're going to take a -- oh, actually, no. I think we're going to hear now, from Bob Casey.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Bob Casey. Right.

WHITFIELD: You'll get a chance to hear from him, as he declares victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB CASEY, JR. (D-PA) SENATOR ELECT: We cannot do that with one party, we cannot do that in just one country. We've got to fight terrorists all over the world. And to do that, we've got to bring the American people together to fight that battle, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

SEN. RICK SANTORUM, (R-PA) Just a few minutes ago I called the new senator-elect from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, and wished him my -- all of ours -- our very best to him in his new role, pledged to him any support that we can give to make sure that the people of Pennsylvania continue to be served in a seamless way, over the next couple of months.

I congratulate him, and I mean that wholeheartedly. I congratulate him. He ran an excellent campaign. I know he'll be -- he is a fine man. And he'll do a fine job for Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Here's another huge race: Mike DeWine and Sherrod Brown. Interestingly enough, Republicans end up on the losing side on this one, too. This is a big win for Sherrod Brown and the Democrats. A big loss, obviously, for Mike DeWine, who a lot of people considered was going to be the big winner in this case.

And then we go to Rhode Island, and there, this is really a political legend in this state.

WHITFIELD: You know, I think this was a real shocker for a lot of folks, even though, you know, it -- Sheldon Whitehouse said, in his campaign slogan, you know, finally a Whitehouse you can trust in Washington. Well, apparently that resonated with a lot of voters, because despite the fact that Chafee was the incumbent and coming from a political family, it was the Whitehouse who ends up winning that race.

SANCHEZ: Well, this is not a vote against, Chafee. He had 62 percent approval rating in his state, despite the fact that he was repudiated in this vote. It was a vote against President Bush. In that state, President Bush's numbers are as low as they are anywhere else in the country, something like in the 20s.

WHITFIELD: Yes, and it is really remarkable, because you know, Chafee tried to distance himself from the White House, particularly on the issue of Iraq, being the only Republican senator who voted against the Iraq war.

SANCHEZ: Yes, actually voted --

WHITFIELD: And was outspoken.

SANCHEZ: Actually even voted against Bush, when he had a chance to vote, even though he was a Republican.

Let's talk about another legendary here, the family of Tom Kean, of course. This is Tom Kean, Jr., running against Menendez. Many thought this would be the only Democratic seat that would be a flip, and would go to the Republicans. Instead, Bob Menendez holds onto the seat, 53-45. Here's Menendez now.

WHITFIELD: Now we are going to hear from him.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D-NJ) SENATOR-ELECT: You will always know where I stand. When the critical vote on the Iraq war came, I weighed the evidence, but ignored the polls, and voted against the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And what happened here, in the state of Maryland? Lt. Governor Michael Steele, folks may have thought that, you know what, the Republicans just might have it here, but again, there was a lot of ugly campaigning in this situation, too. Representative Ben Cardin, now senator.

SANCHEZ: That was the seat the belonged to Paul Sarbanes, by the way. The guy that many called the numbers brain in all of -- all of the Congress.

Let's do this now, let's take a quick break. When we come back we're going to rundown some of the other numbers, talk to some of our experts and break things down for you, as we still have two races, really outstanding. Those, of course, in Montana and the great state of Virginia. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We know it's late and we do welcome you back to CNN World Headquarters here in Atlanta. I'm Rick Sanchez.

Keeping the election coverage rolling through the night, here at CNN. Let's start with the balance of power, shall we? First, the Senate, of course. As you can see, it's all tied up, folks, at 49-49. Somebody needs to win two, if they want to call themselves the new majority. Of course, the Republicans only really need one, because they have the vice president who would have the tie-breaking vote.

So, the Democrats, to take control of the Senate, need two. And those two could come in the form of A, Montana, and B, Virginia. And here is how those stand right now. Let's go to Montana first. As you can see, Conrad Burns has 48 percent of the vote. Tester, the man with the crew cut, or the flat top, as we were arguing about earlier, depending on what you want to call it, has 50 percent of the vote. This would be a huge win, but it hasn't been called yet, for the Democrats.

In Virginia, there the Democrats are ahead as well. Jim Webb, former Navy secretary under the Reagan administration, 50 percent of the vote. George Allen, 49 percent of the vote, too tight to call at this point. There may be a recount, we don't know, but when it's called we'll certainly bring you up to date on it.

Let's bring you up to date on a couple of other things now, including some of those referendums we saw all over the country. The current federal minimum wage is $5.15 and hour. But individual states have the option of adopting higher minimum wage requirements. Voters in six states considered doing just that.

Let's look at how it broke down. According to CNN projections, Arizona voted to raise that states minimum wage to $6.75 an hour, with annual adjustments for inflation. Also minimum wage in Colorado, voters there asked to raise that state's minimum wage to $6.85 an hour, with annual adjustments. And we take you now to CNN projecting that Missouri voters also agree to raise their state's minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, with annual adjustments, as well.

This is a huge issue for the Democrats. They say they are going to try and get this passed federally as well, as soon as they get back to Washington. CNN is also projecting that Montana voters agree to raise the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour, with annual adjustments.

And we've got another, a proposal in Nevada that would require employers who don't provide health benefits to pay workers at least $6.15 an hour as well. CNN projects that Ohio voters agree to increase the state minimum wage to $6.85 an hour, with annual adjustments, as well.

Here's another referendum, same-sex marriage. It was on the ballot in eight states. Most of the proposed measures were designed to ban same-sex marriages. Some also targeted same-sex civil unions, not just marriages. Here's a look, state by state, we'll break it down for you.

Start with Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment in Arizona would ban both same-sex marriages and civil unions. In Colorado, there were two measures on the ballot. One of them would ban same-sex marriages. The other measure on the ballot would legalize domestic partnerships. And you can see for yourself, how it broke down, as you look at the boards. I'll take you through it.

Let's go to Idaho. There they voted on a measure banning same-sex marriage and domestic unions. It passed there, as well. South Carolina, voted on banning same-sex marriage and domestic union. Passed there, as well. South Dakota voted on banning same-sex marriage and domestic union, both passed there as well. A little tighter, though, as you can see. And Tennessee also voted to ban same-sex marriages, passed there, overwhelmingly.

Virginia voted to ban same-sex marriages and domestic unions, both passed there. Wisconsin voted to ban same-sex marriages and domestic unions. As you can see, it was also approved there.

And then there was the hot button issue of embryonic stem cell research. It was on the ballot in a couple of states. We're going to be talking about that as well. Let's go over to Fred, I understand you have a guest. WHITFIELD: Well, Missouri was one of those states where stem cell research was on the ballot. And there the voters were asked, whether they indeed want the right to research and protection in the state constitution amendment there. And they voted overwhelmingly, 51percent, yes.

In South Dakota they voted against banning virtually all abortions. Let's look at the numbers right there. By saying no, they just don't want it.

Let's get more analysis now from John Mercurio, of the National Journal's "The Hotline" in Washington. And Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report" and a CNN political contributor. She's joining us from New York.

John, first with you. Certainly, do you think that voters were going to the polls, even when it came down to weighing which candidates to choose, perhaps these amendments or initiatives may have indeed swayed their vote.

MERCURIO: Yes. Of course, I think these amendments had some impact, but it might not necessarily have been the impact that was intended. I think in Virginia, for example, there a large number of African-Americans, who are socially conservative, who were drawn out to vote for the same-sex marriage ban, but then switched over and might have supported James Webb.

I don't have any exit polling that shows this but this was the speculation prior to today's vote, that James Webb might actually benefit from this same sex marriage amendment because he was going to draw so heavily, or he was expected to draw so heavily from African Americans.

But what I think you're seeing in some of the states you just went through, the minimum wage initiatives in Montana and Missouri and Ohio, obviously states with very competitive Senate races.

WHITFIELD: Six states.

MERCURIO: Six states, but those states just specifically with very competitive Senate races that Democrats look like either they are leading in or have prevailed might have drawn out a significant number of Democrats but Amy made a point earlier that I think is true. Look, this election was about the status quo, it was about voters turning back the status quo. Republicans, the Republican majorities and I'm not sure ultimately these statewide issues had as much impact as a lot of people thought.

WHITFIELD: Well, I wonder, is there any real contradiction when it comes down to most of these states saying, yes, we want to raise the minimum wage, at the same time the White House in particular and other Republicans who have been saying the economy is great and everyone feels comfortable with that. Is there a real contradiction when you have states who say, wait a minute, the economy is not so great if it means people have to live on the minimum wage as is ...

MERCURIO: Amy ...

WHITFIELD: Amy is not with us after all, so it's all you all the time.

MERCURIO: Sure, no, I think to some extent, sure but I mean, the Bush administration's argument that the economy is great doesn't necessarily extend to people in that sort of lower middle income bracket, the economy doesn't - or remains a challenge for people who have had sort of stagnant wage increases over the past several years. There hasn't been a minimum wage increase, I think, in nine years on the federal level so I think that too a large extent states and voters around the country in these specific states this year are taking it upon themselves to make those increases.

WHITFIELD: And you mentioned earlier that clearly a lot of voters went into the polling stations and said, you know what? I am going to vote with a corresponding choice of this referendum or this amendment or this candidate yet we heard from Claire McCaskill in her conversation with our Jonathan Fried, after declaring victory for the Senate seat, that no, she doesn't think that stem cell research and that ballot in the box had anything to do with gaining her additional support.

MERCURIO: Yeah. You know, I heard her comments about that and I think what she's trying to do, frankly, at this point, she has now declared victory, she has prevailed in that race and she would like now to sort of broaden her appeal beyond any one issue. She doesn't want to be considered, understandably, a one issue voter. She didn't win the Senate race, at least according to her spin, because of any stem cell research initiative on the state ballot. She wants to believe she won because of a broad appeal to a broad sector of the state and I can understand now with the election being over why she would want to sort of paint it with that sort of broad brush.

WHITFIELD: There were some other initiatives that we didn't necessarily spell out in terms of their outcomes as of yet but some of the other initiatives that a lot of voters had to choose from, say, in Colorado, for example, a measure asking to legalize small amounts of marijuana and in South Dakota a measure to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.

Is it any surprise to you that we're seeing marijuana still on the ballot when it comes to talking about legalizing small amounts or even the use of - or medicinal purposes.

MERCURIO: Well, for medicinal purposes I think that you're seeing around the country over the past several election cycles the issue of medical marijuana use making something of a comeback. I believe, and you're going to have to correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that California approved a medical marijuana referendum in 2002 or 2004 ...

WHITFIELD: Yeah, I think you're right on that.

MERCURIO: And I don't know - but what's interesting about that is that it's an issue, it's a medical issue, to some extent it's a cultural issue, you have a lot of conservatives voting against it, trying to mobilize against it but it's not being used in the same sort of Rovian way to sort of motivate any sector of the ideological or political base. I think it's a much more narrowly focused issue to most voters.

WHITFIELD: All right. John Mercurio, thanks so much. And we're going to be touching base with you again throughout the evening. All right. Rick?

SANCHEZ: You just heard John talking about the Rovian way, now let's talk about the future way and the future of politics cannot be talked about without the discussion including something about the blogosphere. That's right. It's been a busy 24 hours for bloggers. They are a part of the game now, folks. And as you can imagine, the Internet is abuzz with all the latest election news.

Here is some of the best from the blogs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here we are at Tryst, this is an Internet cafe here in Washington, DC. We've been joined by about 30 prominent bloggers left and right. These are people who have been really getting involved in this cycle.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to introduce you to Jerilyn Merritt (ph) who blogs at talkleft.com. She's actually a criminal defense attorney and one of the things she's looking at today with the voter irregularities and the differences of how states are handling it. What have you blogged about with regard to this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, in Colorado a judge has refused to keep the polls open late even though there's been so many problems whereas in Ohio the judge near Cleveland ordered 16 precincts to stay open until 10:00 p.m.

TATTON: What's your reaction to the news of Joe Lieberman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's delightful to see the voters of Connecticut displaying remarkable common sense but I think that the more disappointing thing, I think, for the left is despite all the resources and energy they poured into this race, it sort of proved their immaturity that they pinned all their hopes in taking out an 18 year incumbent in their own party and failed.

SCHECHNER: What are your thoughts right now after hearing that Lieberman has eked out over Lamont?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, obviously it's disappointing but at the same time I think all of the Democratic candidates that won this evening owe Ned Lamont a thank you. He changed the conversation with his win in the primary to the failures and the lack of accountability in Iraq. He changed the conversation to the fact that there needed to be less rubber stamping in the U.S. Congress and more oversight.

TATTON: Well, there was a collective cheer that went up amongst the liberal bloggers in the room when CNN projected that the Democrats would take control of the House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the blogs had a significant effect in terms of raising money for the candidates but also in terms of being an echo chamber. I think on a number of stories like the Mark Foley page sex scandal, this recent scandal that Preacher Haggard, the evangelical who bought drugs and met with a prostitute or something.

The blogs had a significant role in terms of actually amplifying those stories.

SCHECHNER: Hey, what's your prediction, Robert?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say 30 to 35 seats Republicans losing. I think the moderates go down. I think this ultimately benefits conservatives because they can elect conservative leadership in the House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: There you have it. The blogosphere. The latest report. And how about the president? Certainly it would be disappoint for him but what is his exact take on this? In a news conference scheduled for this afternoon at 1:00 Eastern, we'll find out. CNN will carry it live.

Meanwhile, CNN is your campaign headquarters on the air, also on the Web. And in the blogosphere. Log on to cnn.com for complete coverage. All the very latest on the races including the two results that are still outstanding. One, of course, in Montana, the other one in Virginia. Those are the two that will decide whether the Democrats will not only control the House but also the Senate and we're here to follow it for you.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Welcome back to our special coverage. We want to show you the board right now. The Senate balance power as it stands right now. We all know that going into this midterm election the Democrats would need six seats. They need to gain six seats in the Senate in order to gain the majority and look at this right now. Forty nine and forty nine. They are neck and neck but still outstanding, two races, Montana, where the incumbent, Conrad Burns is in a fight for his political life, a three term incumbent as well as Virginia where George Allen is too in the fight for his life, where we're showing a difference between George Allen and Jim Webb by just under 10,000 votes. Those races still too close to call but those two races will help determine just who will have the majority power in the Senate. Rick?

SANCHEZ: You know, Fred, it's hard to come up with two bigger names during this election than Howard Dean and John McCain. Howard Dean probably winner tonight because he is the one who has told his party over the last year we don't need to just concentrate on our base, we actually have to go out and actually play on Republican turf. May have worked for him tonight and John McCain who really may have licked his wounds but did so honorably, campaigning throughout the country for people he probably knew in his heart of hearts would have a tough time during this election.

Here is Larry King now, talks to both men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: Pretty good. We got a ways to go in the Senate but it looks like we do have the House, that Nancy Pelosi will be speaker and we will give America the new direction that they asked for. I'm delighted.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Is the House as big a victory as you expected?

DEAN: It's actually a little bigger than I expected. According to the CNN projections but those aren't real votes yet and there are still votes to be counted in California and votes to be cast still in Hawaii but it's a very big win. It looks like we're going to pick up about 30 seats. That's very, very good. Very strong. And as I said, it will allow us to do the things the American people want us to do which we think is make things easier for ordinary working and middle class people and also to try to give us a new direction in Iraq.

KING: What surprised you tonight?

DEAN: I think some of the depth of the victory. I tell you one of the things that delighted me. First of all I think Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel deserve an enormous amount of credit but I am particularly and of course delighted that we're picking up seats in supposedly red areas.

One of the things I very much wanted to do with the Democratic Party was to reach out to people in states that we didn't think we could win. Nebraska. We're ahead in western Nebraska. Whether we can win or not I don't know but we have a shot in southern Idaho. We've already picked up seats in Upstate New York, we think we're going to pick one up in Kansas. These are great things for the future of the Democratic Party because we need to be a national party, we need to be competitive in every state.

We're going to win governors races, we've already won, I think, three or four, we'll probably come up with two or three more and some of these governorships are in great states. Arkansas we've won already so I'm just delighted because we're finally beginning to become a national party again after 12 years.

KING: Now you've got four Senate seats up here for grabs, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, Montana, you've got to win three of them. What are your chances?

DEAN: Well, the math is tough for us. Virginia now looks very good. We believe that the remaining votes to come in from Virginia are from Northern Virginia, including absentee ballots so we think that Jim Webb's margin will get a little bigger perhaps and then we've got three tough states that are very, very close and we've got to win two of them, Tennessee, Montana and Missouri and we've got to win two out of those three and that's a tough order but I think we can do it.

KING: Thanks Howard. Lieutenant - the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. A happy man tonight.

Let's go to Phoenix and talk to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, former POW, decorated Vietnam veteran. How disappointed are you tonight, senator?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) AZ: Well, I lost a lot of good friends tonight, at least out of the Senate. We'll remain friends but Mike DeWine, Rick Santorum and some people that I've been very close to for many years so of course, I'm sad and I believe however that this is a wake up call for the Republican Party. We've got to change our practices. Some of our people think we came to Washington to change government and government changed us and so we're going to bounce back, Larry, we're going to get together and go over where we made our mistakes, fix them and move forward.

I still think America is a conservative nation.

KING: What will this election say or have an effect on your presidential bid?

MCCAIN: Well, I haven't made that decision yet but I don't ...

KING: Let's say if you did, what effect would it have?

MCCAIN: I don't know, Larry. I honestly hadn't thought about it but I know this, my first obligation is to sit down with other members of our party and say we've got to fix these spending practices, we've got to have the will to prevail in Iraq, we've got to reform immigration, we've got to do some of the things we haven't done.

KING: You strongly support the war yet every one of the pundits here tonight are saying that the reason the Republicans took this hit tonight was because the public doesn't support the war. Does that give you pause?

MCCAIN: No. But first I take - I agree the war is the overriding issue but Joe Lieberman would not have been reelected in Connecticut if it was the only issue. I think this issue of the scandals, I think the spending has demotivated a lot of our Republican base. I think that there is a number of other areas but I believe that we must have the will in Iraq and we'd like to sit down with the Democrats but if they don't then the chaos that would ensue in this region would be very serious.

I understand the frustration that Americans feel. I feel that frustration as well and we've made many mistakes but I also believe that again, we cannot allow chaos to ensue in the region and we can develop a strategy to prevail.

KING: One thing, then, senator, one other thing, is the public saying we may support the concept of the war in Iraq but don't support the way you're running it.

MCCAIN: That's exactly it, I think. It has a great deal to do with it. They're so frustrated and they should be frustrated because we had such - the comments that were made like stuff happens and dead enders and all of that so - and many of us said we needed more troops over there for a long time. We now find out that that was the case and military people were recommending it strongly.

KING: Senator, we'll see a lot of you in the months ahead and thanks very much for joining us as always.

MCCAIN: Thanks for having me on Larry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And Larry King interviews with Senator McCain and Howard Dean were conducted before some of the races were called. Now, going into this election, both sides knew that there were four Senate seats up for grabs. But not these. Let's take a look at these races.

In California Diane Feinstein maintains her seat. She's been there for a while, she's going to be there a while longer, that Democrat.

Now let's move on to Hawaii with Senator Akaka maintaining the lead with 61 percent. And I think now we're going to move on to Washington State with Maria Cantwell maintaining her lead with 57 percent and that's with 33 percent of the precincts reporting and in New Mexico Senator Bingaman there with 70 percent, that's with 95 percent of the precincts reporting.

And then out of Arizona, Jon Kyl with 53 percent and that's with 98 percent of the precincts reporting. And what do we have next? There with John Ensign with 55 percent out of Nevada, with 98 percent in that Senate race reporting.

And in Utah, a familiar face, Orrin Hatch maintains his Senate seat there with 62 percent of the majority.

And then Kay Bailey Hutchison with 62 percent and that's 96 percent of the precincts in in Texas. And in West Virginia with Byrd maintaining his seat there, Senate seat with 64 percent and 99 percent of the precincts reporting.

And it looks like that's the last one for now. Rick?

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much. There is so much that we're going to be following for you throughout the evening. Still waiting to hear, actually, on some of the information about both Montana and Virginia as we get some of the information and some of the legal questions that are being raised in this one as well if there indeed is a recount which would include, of course, certification, canvassing boards, yes those things again.

We'll let you know.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back to AMERICA VOTES 2006 and it was a good night for the Dems as well when it comes to the governors races.

WHITFIELD: There were 36 races up for grabs.

SANCHEZ: Picked up a few but let's start with this one where the Dems didn't win because they were going up against the Governator. There it is, Arnold Schwarzenegger, big win, 57 percent of the vote. He also, we should add, had an awful lot of contributions coming into him in this race, outspent his opponent, shall we say, in the great state of California. Arnold Schwarzenegger maintaining the governor's seat in California.

Now we can look at the balance of power.

WHITFIELD: Let's hear from him.

SANCHEZ: Let's do that.

WHITFIELD: I think we got a chance to listen in on him a bit earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, (R) CA: Let's get started. Let's come together. Let's build the future. Let's seize the golden moment to make this Golden State shine even much brighter and let's protect the California dream for all Californians. Thank you very much and God bless all of you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: That was a wild one. A lot of people thought that Schwarzenegger was going to lose this race but he really came on strong.

WHITFIELD: I know. He suddenly got very popular. In the last couple of years a lot of folks didn't think that he would be able to even run this round at all.

SANCHEZ: But the thing he did, again, it goes back to the triangulation. He played to the middle.

WHITFIELD: He brought people together.

SANCHEZ: He played to the middle. Went back the other way.

Governors balance of power chart. Now there it is. Twenty, twenty-eight. The Dems have picked up a lot of governors' seats. Why is this important? It becomes important because when the country has a lot of governors - when any particularly party has a lot of governors, obviously it helps them for the next presidential election and here the Dems reclaimed governorships in Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York, Arkansas, Colorado, and those are big.

WHITFIELD: And interesting, too, because we're talking about the governors, the Democrats winning the majority of the governorships in this country for the first time in 12 years, very similar to what we're seeing in the House.

SANCHEZ: Yeah.

WHITFIELD: Coincidence? Don't know.

SANCHEZ: Larry King had a chance to speak to two of the people who are going to be talking a lot about this. Former Republican and Democratic chairs Ed Gillespie and Terry McCullough. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER RNC CHAIR: I don't know, Larry, first of all there has not been a decision for any recount at this point. They are still counting ballots that are outstanding. About 20 precincts, some of those absentee that remain out and about a 1,600 vote margin, somewhere in there right now, not very much at all. It could flip again before it's all over but Virginia, the commonwealth has a law that says if you're inside half a percentage point, in the margin, then the commonwealth will pay for a recount, which ordinarily means somebody calls for one.

KING: Are you surprised that Webb has done as well as he has?

GILLESPIE: I'm not surprised. Virginia demographically is changing. The fact is we always knew this was going to be a close race. I was confident going in today that Senator Allen was going to win and I still believe he is going to win this race when everything is counted and but we always knew as we've talked about off and on over the past month or so that the Senate was going to come down probably Missouri and Virginia and Tennessee and that seems to be where we're ending up.

KING: Of course, when it's this close no one knows what's going to happen. Terry McCullough, you don't know on Virginia. What do you make of the whole evening, Terry?

TERRY MCCULLOUGH, FORMER DNC CHAIR: Well, it's been quite a night after the votes have now been counted. As you know, Larry, we now control the United States House of Representatives. We now control a majority of the governorships in America, we picked up anywhere from six to eight new Democratic governors in states like Arkansas and Colorado, New York, Ohio, very important races for us in 2008 in Maryland, Nevada, and now we have the Senate hanging in the balance. I feel very good about our chances where we are. We need to pick up a couple more, obviously.

I think Montana is going to be in our category. You see now that Claire McCaskill has moved up in Missouri. We still have St. Louis County, St. Louis City as well all of the African American precincts in Kansas City yet to be counted so I feel great about that and we're up with Jim Webb in Virginia so it's been a great night for the Democrats, we've got a lot more votes to come but I'm very excited and I want to compliment all of the great candidates that we had out there.

KING: Ed, if you had to pick one word to describe what happened to the Republicans, would it be Iraq?

GILLESPIE: Would it be what?

KING: Iraq?

GILLESPIE: Oh, Iraq? I think Iraq was obviously a factor in voters' consideration today. It wasn't the only consideration but look, we're a country at war and people are frustrated with the direction of the war and we need to have this debate and we did and now we're going to continue it. Obviously with divided government and the Democrats in control of the House, that's going to continue this debate between the Republicans and the Democrats over what is the best course for us to be victorious in Iraq and to bring our troops home.

We all want to bring our troops home, Larry. The question is when and how and that question will be put to the test, obviously, in the new U.S. House in the next Congress.

KING: Thank you Ed Gillespie, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and Terry McCullough, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN's live coverage of AMERICA VOTES.

SANCHEZ: And to those of you on the West Coast who are just now getting home from working the late shift or those of you along the East Coast or the central part of the United States who have just decided to stay up late because you are a politics and news junky, we welcome you all.

It has been without a shadow of a doubt a very interesting night.

WHITFIELD: It has indeed because we are talking about the balance of power. That was what was at issue in this election. Let's look at the Senate right now. And it is neck and neck. Evenly divided with 49 seats on both sides, the Republican and the Democrat we know going into this race, the Democrats needed six in order to win the majority but there are two outstanding states right now which could determine it all.

SANCHEZ: And it looks good for the Democrats in both cases. Let's start in Montana. There we have the incumbent right now down by a pretty significant margin to Mr. Crew Cut. Mr. Tester. Who has 49 percent of the vote to 48 percent of the vote in that case. By the way, I forget Mr. Tester's first name.

WHITFIELD: John.

SANCHEZ: It is John Tester. That's what I thought. Let's go to Virginia now and there you have George Allen, son of a famous football player, well known in that area, taking on a navy secretary under the Reagan administration.

WHITFIELD: That's right. And this is tight. This is so tight that some experts are saying you might see a recount but we talked to our legal expert earlier, Jeffrey Toobin who said, you know what, 11,000 votes between them, and actually the number has changed a little bit so about 8,000 votes now. He's saying it's really not even worth it because that is a significant enough number to divide the two here.

SANCHEZ: He does not. He does not in his legal opinion he does not think the Republicans will pull the plug on that one and actually ask for the recount but it all depends on how big it is. And whether or not of course Montana goes to the Democrats.

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