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Immigration Reform Debate; Gov. Crist Goes Independent

Aired April 29, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: In politics two defining events is what is already a volatile and consequential election year -- one a big state governor who was once a rising national Republican star left the GOP primary field today, getting out before the door hit him in the you know what. Instead, Charlie Crist will run for Senate without a party label. To Republicans, that makes him a traitor; to Democrats it could make him a threat. In a political year dominated so far by a right/left tug-of-war and a pretty feisty one at that, Governor Crist's decision is a big test in a big and important state of the size and strength of the political center.


GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm aware that after this speech ends, I don't have either party helping me. But I need you. I need you, the people, more than ever.


KING: The other big political event today was a reminder that on many big issues these days, the middle is hard to find. Senate Democrats unveiled an outline of a plan for national immigration reform.


SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: What we have in mind is not amnesty. It's a tough and fair path forward.


KING: We will talk to one of the plan's authors in just a moment, but first two observations that underscore our changing and more testy political environment. This outline, its authors call it a conceptual proposal is 26 pages long and begins with promise after promise of beefing up border security. You have to go 23 pages in before there is any talk of granting legal status to millions of immigrants already here illegally.

In journalism, that's called burying the lead. In politics, maybe it's burying the controversy. Two, some pictures are worth 1,000 words. Look at this one from 2006. Four of the nine senators in that picture are Republicans. And here's this one from today. This is Democrats going it alone. The times have changed and the politics of immigration with them. KING: Does this new plan have any real chance of passing or is it as even many Democrats say privately a political gesture designed to curry favor with Latino voters and does Governor Crist's decision make it even more difficult for Democrats in that already tough Florida Senate race? Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey helped write the immigration plan and is also the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee -- welcome.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be here with you, John.

KING: Let's start with the immigration plan. Your own leadership, if you talk to the sources that privately say you have 50, maybe 52 Democrats prepared to bring it to the floor. You need 60 votes. You don't have any Republicans and you've already lost some Democrats. So why do this now on an issue that you know very well, Senator, stokes so much emotion? Why raise hopes, for example, among Latino voters that you might do this and why raise the ire of the right, who you know opposes this if you don't have the votes to bring it to the finish line?

MENENDEZ: Well John, I don't see it quite the way you see it. And first of all it is a framework document and it's an invitation to our Republican colleagues to join us. It is actually a process that all of the national organizations and immigrant right groups agreed with us that we needed something to get this process started. It contains a lot of the proposals that Senator Graham, who is a Republican, was talking to Senator Schumer about so it's an invitation to say come join us on a critical issue that is both important to national security and our national economy and to a big part of America's population.

KING: But you know the answer's no? Senator Graham has already said he feels that Leader Reid broke a promise to him on climate change and he thinks there is no way that you can bring up immigration reform this year.


KING: -- the emotions of the debate. Do you disagree with him?

MENENDEZ: I disagree with him. Look, I think what Senator Reid said is I want to do both climate change and immigration this year. And of course, you know, I don't know where Senator Graham heard differently in that comment but somehow he took that to mean immigration is going to come first, even though, you know, the majority leader said more work's been done on climate change, so that probably would go first.

However, I don't know that one senator can reject an issue that is so compelling for millions, not only of undocumented individuals in this country, but for many of us who are U.S. citizens and legal, permanent residents, who are being detained unlawfully and against our constitutional rights in immigration raids. And what Arizona did obviously created an even greater ground swell of the need to make this happen, both in the national interest and security of the United States.

KING: If you're right and it is the right thing to do both from a policy standpoint and a political standpoint, to bring this to the floor, you clearly need help. What is at stake for the president of the United States? And before we get to that, I want you to listen here because he came back, made a rare visit back on the plane on Air Force One last night to talk to the press and he said something, where he said, yes this is a priority of his but he also says he's not sure there is the stomach for it, the appetite for it in this tough election year.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue. There is still work that has to be done on energy. Midterms are coming up. So, I don't want us to do something just for the sake of politics that doesn't solve the problem.


KING: The president did call a handful of Republicans last week. Not one of them said they were prepared to vote to bring this to the floor. They all said they wanted to see the final product of the legislation. I should be fair to them. None of them said flatly no way, Mr. President, but they were quite skeptical of this.

What does the president of the United States need to do? And if he can't help you get to 60 will you have the vote like you did on financial reform, have a vote, have it again, have it again, to prove a political point or if you don't have 60 because this is so emotional do you say we tried but we're not going to go through that motion?

MENENDEZ: Well John, I think the president said something that is true about a lot of things. There is not a lot of appetite by some members of the Senate to go to climate change. There wasn't a lot of appetite for Republicans to go to Wall Street reform, and yet we are now going to Wall Street reform. So you know, the bottom line is, is that I think that we will move the effort forward by creating a framework, including a lot of Republican ideas and every statement we made today at that press conference was we invite our Republican colleagues to join us because it's important -- number one.

Number two, I do hope the president will convene a White House summit, bring -- from both parties in both houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate together to see what is possible to move forward. And so, that's the way in which we move forward to try to create a basis to reach the 60. Clearly if we are not going to get any Republican support, if an enforcement-only bill that John McCain put forth in the Senate with Jon Kyl, the other senator from Arizona and with the public statements they made that they are going to try to organize 41 votes against immigration reform, then we won't see immigration reform but we are not going to buy into the possibility that several senators who are interested in different elements of the immigration issue can't be brought together in common cause to achieve something that's so important. KING: You have a majority in the Senate but you have a bigger majority in the House and if the Democratic party wanted to make a statement on this the House could go first and pass the bill. But listen to the speaker of the House of representatives. She made perfectly clear she is not going to have her members take a tough vote unless the Senate goes first.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We have had shared principles of securing our border, protecting our workers, enforcing our laws and having a path, an eventual path to legalization, but the legislation will have to begin in the Senate.


KING: You're very good at what you do, and I applaud you for it, but you have Democratic candidates for Senate seats who don't want to vote on this issue this year. She has Democratic candidates in tough House districts who don't want to vote on the issue this year. That's a fair statement, isn't it?

MENENDEZ: It's a fair statement. It's also a fair statement that there are Democratic candidates who don't want to vote on climate change in certain states with coal. There are Democratic candidates who don't want to be voting on a proposition that suggests offshore drilling in coastal states. There's a lot of Democratic candidates you know, who may be worried about that Wall Street reform isn't going far enough to control the bulls on Wall Street.

So, all of these issues can be very contentious. And I appreciate what the speaker had to say. You know the fact of the matter is it's become well known that moving in the Senate on this issue is going to be the first step. And if we can't achieve the 60 votes, if no Republicans will join us so that we can get millions of people out of the shadows, into the light, pay their taxes, do a criminal background check, be participants in a way that we know who is here to seek the American dream versus who might be here to do harm to it, then, yes, Republicans will continue to permit a status.

You know, it was my dear friend Lindsey Graham who said we need more engagement by the president. And then when we get engagement by the president, he is not happy with that, so I'm not quite sure which way he wants it.

KING: As we test that one over the coming weeks, let's move on to another big challenge for Bob Menendez and Senate Democrats and that is that Florida Senate race. Governor Charlie Crist is a Republican, but he announced today that he is going to run non-party affiliated, so he's going to go at his own. You have a Democratic candidate, Congressman Kendrick Meek, there's a Republican candidate, now Marco Rubio, who most likely will win the Republican nomination quite easily.

Charlie Crist sounded a message today as if he was an outsider because you know there is an anti-politician mood right now. I want you to listen to what the governor said.


CRIST: They look at Washington and they don't like what they see. They don't like what they see from politicians. They don't like what they see from bureaucrats. They don't like what they see from the gridlock.


KING: If you look at a poll right now, and I know it is early, he is actually leading, with about 32 percent support. So do you worry that he can pull off moderate Republicans, pull off some Democrats and emerge in the middle by running an anti-Washington gridlock campaign?

MENENDEZ: I think Charlie Crist only is pursuing his own personal interests at any cost. This is an example of what's happening in the Republican Party across the country, where they are cannibalizing each other. Marco Rubio going so far to the right with the Tea Party element, you know, the governor going -- not being able to win within his own party because he is not to the right enough.

As far as I'm concerned, Kendrick Meek, who hasn't run statewide, both of these have been statewide figures, Kendrick Meek is leading a path that is going to move straight down the center, be able to get Democrats, Republicans, and Independents and for Crist to be leading only by that margin, when, in fact, he has been a quote, unquote "revered governor" for so long is bad news for him.

This is about the Republicans cannibalizing itself. I think it gives Kendrick Meek a real opportunity, a young, bright, African- American who has done a fantastic job in the House of Representatives to appeal to a broad cross section of Floridians.

KING: Senator Bob Menendez, thanks for coming in with us tonight to discuss these two important issues.

When we come back, we will continue the conversation, live to Florida to the scene of Crist's big announcement. We'll also get perspective, some political experts, not only on the Crist race in Florida but on the fractures in the Republican Party Senator Menendez was talking about and the looming immigration debate. Stay right there.


KING: Let's spend a little bit more time talking about this fascinating Florida Senate race before we get to an interesting panel. I want to show you how you are discussing this online. This is just in the Twitter verse, as we say. Let's go back to the beginning, look at these color codes first, blue means he's a traitor, flip-flopper, red is a pro-Crist, the Republican Party is too extreme.

Green are tweets in anticipation of his switching and purple are tweets about his impact on the race. Now let's go back a couple of days, here is the beginning, you see this happening, watch the lines crossing a little bit, a lot of chatter on Twitter about this, everybody is down here, now look what happened just today and watch that blue line at the top. He is a traitor, flip-flop dominating, about 40 percent of the tweets saying that, about 30 percent talking about the anticipation of the switch up to this afternoon and then these other tweets down here.

So this is one way you track how people are interested in this race, the conversations online about it. Now let's get a much more up close look at the stakes. With me now is Freddy Balsera. He's the national co-chair of the Democratic National Committee's Hispanic Leadership Council, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor-and-chief of the popular conservative blog and CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley, also host of "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley. She is right on the scene in St. Petersburg, Florida.

So let's go there first -- Candy, you had a chance to talk to Governor Crist who is in a difficult spot now. He, himself, called it unchartered waters. What's the strategy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the strategy here is to be a populist and to be an outsider, which is going to be interesting for a man who has spent 15 years in Tallahassee because they have made this assessment that, in fact, it wasn't just about Tea Party support for Marco Rubio. It just -- wasn't just about Rubio's conservatism. They believe it was also about incumbents and that perhaps he was seen as an incumbent. So, now what you're seeing is a strategy, and you heard it in this speech that is quite populist and very much it's us against all these people in Washington. All they do is bicker, those two parties, I want to go do something and I'm here for you.

KING: Freddy Balsera, you know the state very well, can Charlie Crist win on a populist message that you know Kendrick Meek is one of those Washington guys, Marco Rubio is too far to the right, you need to send me. I have proven as your governor I get things done. Send me up there.

FREDDY BALSERA, DNC'S HISPANIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: I think Governor Crist is a man without a home right now. He has taken positions in the past that have put him at odds with his own party. He basically adopted the Democratic Party's agenda when he ran for governor (INAUDIBLE) restorations and paper trails on election machines and voting machines. So right now I see him as a man without a party and I can't see how he is going to get elected without having that base from a party in Florida.

KING: Erick, you were part of the movement on the right that said Charlie Crist was not a real Republican, he was too moderate. He hugged Barack Obama. He took the stimulus money. He made too many compromises. What is the challenge now for your part of the right, now that you've gotten him out of the Republican primary to prove that not only can you influence the race that way, but that you can get Marco Rubio to the finish line? Because I assume if Rubio loses, you have failed? ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think Marco Rubio is going to win. I'm not worried about him failing. The interesting thing here now is that this is a three-way race and I don't think anyone is going to see Charlie Crist as anything other than a political opportunist. He can talk about being out there and transcending party. You know this calling the end of "animal farm", where the pigs were playing cards and thinking they were all human.

He is still a politician, just like the other guys, and he has been in Tallahassee for 15 years. Marco Rubio has the benefit of being able to sell himself as does Kendrick Meek. They are going to be able to -- they are young, they are articulate, they are really savvy politicians and Charlie Crist failed. He couldn't even get out of the primary.

KING: Candy, help us out here on how he goes forward. A lot of the Republicans on his staff resigned, his Republican polling firm here in Washington resigned. He will be at least eight names deep on the Florida ballot because these other candidates, you have the Democrats, the Republican, the libertarian, the Independent Party exists in Florida and some other parties, so, how does Charlie Crist, and we have all lived through, I should say, complicated Florida ballots in the past -- how does he do what is necessary to be a candidate without the infrastructure, with less fund-raising, with an inexperienced staff?

CROWLEY: Well, let me tell you just something as an aside and that is when I was talking to him here and admittedly he was rushed and about to get into his car, I said what about your fund-raisers? How many of them are going to leave you? And he said well none of them are going to leave. And I said well what about your staff? They're leaving. He said no, none of my staff is leaving.

So first of all, he is going to have to catch up with at least the reality that we know, which is that he is losing some of both. Having said that, he still has people behind him. He can raise some money, but it's going to be what we are doing right now. It is going to be about free TV. He is still the governor. He can still get out in front and do something and even though they say no, it is a state business, it can be election business as well. So lots and lots of use of free media and, again, trying to get people on board.

He is going to reach out to moderate Democrats. I have to tell you there are a lot of people in this crowd that I talked to who said, well, I'm a Democrat, but I loved it when he vetoed that education bill and they were teachers. So they are very thankful to him and they totally hope and said that they were on board with him because of that veto.

KING: It's a breathtaking race to watch as we go on. Everybody stay put.

Still ahead for us what you might call a tempest in an ice teapot. We will look at what one company is doing to distance itself from Arizona's controversial immigration law.


KING: In "Wall-to-Wall" tonight let's put the immigration debate in context both politically and in terms of some of the spicy conversation online and in a few minutes, we will continue the conversation about it. But let's look at some interesting numbers. Number one, the census projection; this is the reality of the changing America.

This is the percentage of the Latino population. Back in 1970, below five percent, but just watch this growth at 2020 -- 2010 excuse me -- about 15.5 percent of our population is Latino. But look at these projections as you go out, 2020, 2030, 2040, by 2050, not all that far down the road Latinos will make up one quarter of the population here in the United States. So this is a big debate for the Latino population here legally and of course, also for the illegal immigrant population.

That's one way to look at this debate. Another thing is there are more Latinos in America, more Latinos are reporting discrimination. Look first at the orange numbers, those are 2001, 25 percent of blacks reported discrimination back then, 19 percent of Latinos. Now look at the numbers now, 23 percent of Hispanics say they have been subject to discrimination. The number among African- Americans, back down to 18 percent, so as Latino population grows, also growing are the complaints that they are facing discrimination here in the United States.

Now Arizona passed that law just last week, the governor signed it into law, the new law giving police new powers to check for papers if there is reasonable cause, whether somebody is in this country illegally. This is some of the Twitter reaction to it online. And look at the color code here. The dark blue is anti the new law in general. The red is anti the new law because those posting those tweets think it's racist.

The green is anti and boycott Arizona. You see down here neutral blue, orange is pro. Those with the orange line say it's common sense, pro is in general here. But look at the lines coming through, 30 percent earlier, about a week ago, now down into the mid 20s, of those who are anti in general. The number who say they believe it's racist held pretty steady. See the pros, common sense held pretty steady too, but it is a lower percentage of those who say that it is -- that oppose the law on grounds perhaps that it is racist.

Now let's walk over here because I want to show you that is sort of a compilation of all the tweets online, a lot of people are doing this, some average Joe's. Well guess what -- some mayors, like the mayor of St. Louis and the mayor of Mesa, Arizona. Mayor Slay says here, "Arizona's bad new immigration law", he tweets that. Then you get Mayor Smith in -- Mayor Smith in Mesa, Arizona, "with all respect, Missouri, telling Arizona how to deal with a flood of illegal immigrants is like Arizona telling Missouri how to deal with a flood on the Mississippi River" -- colorful debate.

A little spicy there, then Mayor Smith tweets, "also, by the way, I'm no real fan of SB 1070", that's the Arizona law. "There are better ways to deal with the problem". The St. Louis mayor responds, "thanks, Mayor Smith. Understand your flood on this and other issue, cities need federal attention."

And then lastly, Mayor Smith, Mayor Slay, agree wholeheartedly, "like it or not, feds are the only ones who can create a real and universal solution". So is that true that feds are the only ones who can create a real and universal solution? That is the conversation we have as we continue the big debate about national immigration reform.

(INAUDIBLE) more still ahead, you usually find today's most important person you don't know at a desk in the back of an Iowa classroom. See why today he was front and center at the White House.

And then what's with those Brits? First they steal our debate formats, and then they steal our lines.


KING: So, where is this new debate about immigration headed? Will the Democrats be able to pass the bill in the in the Senate? Will they be able to find any Republican support? Back again to help us sort through this Freddy Balsera of the Democratic National Committee Hispanic Leadership Council and CNN contributor Erick Erickson of Freddy, let me start with you. Leader Reid today at this announcement, they roll out this proposal, it's not a piece of legislation yet, and he concedes openly the Democrats do not have the votes to bring this to the floor and he makes an appeal for Republican votes. Let's listen to the leader.


SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We are looking for Republican support -- Republican support. All of you know the rules around here and we've -- they have been pushed into my mind. You have to be able to count to 60 around here and so talk about getting a bill on the floor unless we get Republican help, we're not going to have a bill on the floor.


KING: Help me, Freddy, understand the pros and cons of this strategy. On the one hand, President Obama did promise to do this in his first year, so there's a great frustration among Latinos who want immigration reform, say, Mr. President, keep that promise, but on the other hand, isn't there a risk for Democrats if they raise hopes they're about to do something and then don't have the votes to move forward?

BALSERA: I don't think it is raising hopes or raising hopes falsely, I think is following through on a commitment and promise and also responding to concerns that Republicans have raised especially recently after the Arizona bill saying this is a direct consequence on a lack of inaction on immigration reform. We are proposing immigration reform. Everybody in Arizona, other Republicans taking advantage of this opportunity to say we need immigration reform. If we need it so desperately like we believe that we dork let's work together on it this shouldn't be about rhetoric. This will flush out truly who is interested in rhetoric and who is interested in advancing national security and important policy in this country.

KING: To that point, Erick, I have the Democratic proposal here and they call it a conceptual proposal, not a piece of legislation yet but it does go on and on and on, the early pages, recognizing the shifting politics. It talks about before we do anything else and before anyone could apply for legal status, we have to prove to the American people we will beef up and improve border security. It talks about more border patrol, more coordination, the national guard if necessary. They are answering a number of the Republican and conservative complaints so why not give this a chance?

ERICKSON: This has nothing to do with passing immigration reform. The Democrats are masters of playing the race card. They've had bad several weeks. Their polling is terrible. They need to generate enthusiasm among Latino, African American and female voters which is why we say the president give that wonderful video the other day where he pretty much conceded defeat in November while trying to rally minority voters, women everybody to him, other than white guys, apparently. The demagogue, this Arizona issue, for example, Bob Menendez yesterday said Arizona is going to be the show me your papers state. On page 12 of that proposal you have got in your hand it talks about having the biometric social security card that people are going to have to show to get a job. The rhetoric is disingenuous. They're just trying to incite the base right now. They have no intention of passing immigration this year and it is a shame because we need to pass something.

KING: Freddy to that point, Erick just hit on two things; number one the biometric proposal is in here and I'm sure you the Democrats will say it is very different than police stopping somebody and creating reasonable circumstances. That will be part of the debate, I heard you, Erick, but to the point of the rhetoric and heated emotions of this, that's the point I'm trying to get, at a time we're so divided in the country, you don't see the risk of the Democrats bringing this up in the sense that if they don't get the votes what will the emotional fallout be?

BALSERA: Hang on a second, because if we're dividing this country we don't need bills like the Arizona bill because I will tell you, me, for example, I'm born in this country and if there's reasonable suspicion that I may be illegal because I'm pretty Latino looking what do I have in my wallet to prove that I was born in this country? Nothing. And someone like Erick, with all due respect, does not understand that people like me that are Latino, whether you are born in this country or a legal resident, to have nothing to show in their wallet they are a legal resident. This is racial profiling at its worst. And that's why our community is so united against this bill.

KING: All right. Gentlemen, that's perfect evidence of the emotions of the debate. We'll have you both back as it place out. I think we are into a very interesting time here in Washington and Arizona as well with. Erick Erickson, Freddy Balsera thank you both so much for your time tonight. And later on we spend a good deal of time hearing about independents. What do you have to say? Our offbeat yet intrepid reporter Pete Dominick goes looking for answers. Stay with us.


KING: Today's most important person you don't know was a guest of honor at a presidential reception at the white house rose garden this afternoon. Hardly anyone noticed because the president talked a lot about the gulf oil spill. We think national teacher of the year Sarah Brown Wessling is worth listening to. Did you ever have a teacher like this?

SARAH BROWN, WESSLING 2010 NATIONAL TEACHER OF THE YEAR: If you were to come into my classroom, the first thing you would notice is that my desk is in the back corner. The desk in the back of the room displaces hierarchy, creates an environment where a teacher becomes a lead learner, evolves into a web of interdependent where the classroom walls become boundless.

KING: Guess what she teaches English. Her students don't just write essays, they write songs, public service announcements, film story boards and even grant applications and she gives feedback via podcast. Wessling teaches in the Johnson community school district in Iowa and has a husband and three young children and somehow she'll spend the coming year traveling the country, promoting excellence in education. I'm joined by Susan Molinari, former New York Congressman, Hillary Rosen. Favorite teacher moment?

SUSAN MOLINARI, SR. PRINCIPAL, BRACEWELL & GIULIANI LLP: I don't know that I have a favorite teacher moment but I was just reflecting that, you know, I went to St. Joseph Hill Academy that was primarily nuns, so that whole hierarchy thing she was talking about. I loved them. But it was clearly a hierarchical structure.

HILARY ROSEN, MANAGING PARTNER, THE BRUNSWICK GROUP: I might have wanted to sit in the back of the room.

KING: So here's where we move on to stories on our political radar and you guys can jump in and help me jump in and understand them. One of the fascinating ones is the Florida Senate race and we're starting to get a lot of reaction to Charlie Crist's decision to jump out and run, I can't call him an independent, he's nonparty affiliated. Here is what the Republican candidate Marco Rubio just told reporters.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I knew that I was running against two other people who I think are good people, but quite frankly, I believe are wrong on the issues. I didn't realize I would have to run against both of them at the same time but that's the nature of what's been an interesting election year.

KING: Interesting.

MOLINARI: Understatement of the year.

KING: What's going to happen in this race?

MOLINARI: Look, I think Marco Rubio, this is good news for Marco Rubio.

KING: Really?

MOLINARI: He owns the Republican party organization and a lot of the contributors and a lot of the structure in Florida and I think he was, really has the momentum before Charlie Crist decided to do this and I think he will own it. I think will be very difficult for Charlie Crist. He's some of the basic elements of the Democratic Party, you know, he has trial lawyers and teachers in the labor -- union movement, so I think they might fall in. But do they stay with you through the general? I heard a couple of the teachers saying that they were, you know, all for him now. Do they stay with an independent as opposed to going with a Democrat by the time you get to November? I think that is a big challenge.

ROSEN: Yeah, one of the things that happened in 2008 was a huge voter registration drive by the Democrats in Florida. The Republicans didn't contest it. You know, in the same way in the primary, so, Democrats really got a big advantage. I think that machine stays in place and I think it benefits Kendrick Meek. I think Charlie Crist has turned, you know, Freddy said it before, he has turned himself into a candidate without a structure. And it's very hard to create a structure in this short time.

MOLINARI: A very short period of time.

KING: Let's move on to another thing we will be seeing somewhat. You know how candidates, they show up at the end of their ads, their voice does, saying I am so-and-so and I approve of this message. Senate Democrats, some house members as well, are introducing a bill that would make the people running corporations and unions identify their political ads the same way. It is a response to that recent Supreme Court decision allowing those groups to spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The Supreme Court's ruling in citizens united threatens to allow special interests, including even foreign-controlled corporations to flood our democracy with unlimited dollars and overtake our elections.

KING: That's your old friend, Chuck Schumer there.

MOLINARI: Chuck Schumer.

KING: Republicans immediately came out and said we don't like this, the Democrats wrote it in a way that punishes our -- the corporate guys who usually support us and helps the labor guys, usually supports them, it is a very complicated issue. We can't get into the arcane of it, but any chance this Congress will move to --

MOLINARI: Certainly the Republicans respect going to allow this to happen and it can't take effect until afterwards. You know, if the Republicans keep playing the game the way they are playing it, they will not be majority next year and the issue will be dead.

ROSEN: And won't they be so proud that they will have stopped legislation that actually requires a little bit of disclosure if there's corporate money going into a campaign.

MOLINARI: I'm speechless.

ROSEN: I would much rather have a union representative saying, you know, I'm a working guy at the AFL or a teachers a union and I approve this message than I would Shell Oil and I approve this message and that's where the Republicans want to protect. I think that's big problem. We saw -- we saw what the chamber of commerce, you know, I don't think corporations are going to directly advertise on campaigns. I just think shareholder issues and fiduciary responsibility, I don't think that's a big scare. The issue in this place is whether they give money to places like the chamber of commerce and ask them to do the advertising for them. We saw it in financial regulatory reform, where the banks funded the chamber of commerce's opposition to it, to, you another the tune of millions and millions of dollars. I think that it's bigger danger here and this legislation actually unleashes that -- disclosure on that, too.

MOLINARI: What this legislation does do is give a way upper hand to the labor union in terms of their disclosures versus the corporations. It's not fair, it is even-handed and it challenges the Democratic ability to advertise and promote campaigns.

KING: I would like to just find a way sunshine, we see everybody's money, I'll leave it up to the lawmakers and the courts whether we can -- sunshine -- sunshine would be a good thing. All right, here is one more we want to sneak in, offshoot of the Arizona immigration controversy. Ever had one of these? Bottle of Arizona iced tea? Guess what, talk about transparency, truth in advertising, says Arizona actually comes from New York and these days, they really want you to know it the statement from the Arizona Beverage Company owner says in 1992, two hard-working guys from Brooklyn with a dream of creating Arizona Iced Tea have had wonderful success Arizona has enjoyed throughout the United States and internationally. We have remained loyal to our family-run business based in New York.

MOLINARI: I don't see what's wrong with calling it Brooklyn iced tea?

ROSEN: Not quite as refreshing. Arizona is boycotting New York iced tea is silly but this law really does make people look at Arizona differently. There is a big tourist industry. They have a big convention business which tends to be a little bit more susceptible to politics, when you can do boycotts and things like that, I would think that the resort industry of Arizona would be more worried than the beverage company in new York.

MOLINARI: A lot of people who support the law in Arizona, the federal government hasn't lived up to its mandate to protect the borders and may support it more.

ROSEN: If they want to do it in Arizona fine, but when you talk about the fear mongering that happens with potential pullovers and police incentives and things like that to question people, you might not want to go visit them for a while.

KING: All right. We're going to keep Susan and Hillary right here. When we come back, the play by play, the Brits doing things our way, part of tonight's debate among the prime minister candidates, if you have been paying attention to our politics it is going to sound very familiar.


KING: This is just into CNN, a senior administration official tells us that President Obama today interviewed federal appeals court judge Sidney Thomas of Montana for the vacancy on the supreme court. It was President Bill Clinton who put Thomas on the court back in 1995. He is a product of the University of Montana's law school, one of ten known candidates for the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John Paul Stevens.

All right, time for the play by play now. You get the deal, like in the sport shows, we pick apart the big plays of the day, political moments, take you behind the scenes, and our experts right here help us break it down. Hilary Rosen, Susan Molinari still with us. Let's start with Governor Charlie Crist. We talked about this race earlier in the program. I want to have you experts dissect what he said, when he left the race, he's still personally Republican but now on the ballot, NPA, nonparty affiliated, which means he has a challenge.

GOV. CHARLIE CRIST, SENATE CANDIDATE: I am aware after this speech ends, I don't have either party helping me. But I need you, I need you the people more than ever.

KING: You guys know campaigns. I want to talk about the message, infrastructure problems, problem raising money, if you are going to have all those problems, is that the way to communicate this?

MOLINARI: I don't think he had any choice. I think he has basically been shoved gently out of the Republican Party. I think his poll numbers continue to drop, I think his -- his only chance is to try to appeal to that great middle but it is also an anti-incumbent year and he is pretty much an incumbent governor. I don't see. I think it is the only thing he can do. It is clearly a Hail Mary pass. I don't think it will work.

ROSEN: What it has no authenticity. He didn't actually say you know for a while I have been struggling with a lot of the positions of the Republican Party and I felt more like an independent, I felt more like will you, I don't align with the party, I align on issues and I care about certain things. That might have rung a little more true, instead, he said it is sort of like, well this is more convenient, I was going to lose over here, so I'll run this way.

KING: If he was completely authentic he would have said my pollsters said I would lose the primary this is my only way to win.

MOLINARI: Arlen Specter, right? ROSEN: If he wasn't a more independent minded candidate, Marco Rubio might not have gotten the traction he did in the Republican Party. So there would have been authenticity if he stayed on the issues.

KING: That's a good point. All right. Let's go across the pond, fascinating third of three debates between the candidates to lead Great Britain. It's a parliamentary system. You run as the leader of your party but the party that gets the most gets to be a prime minister. This is the first time they've had televised debates. They stole that from us on this side of the pond. Today, they borrowed something else.

DAVID CAMERON, CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER: Last week in these debates, he tried to frighten people, saying the conservatives would take away benefits, when we will keep the winter fuel allowance, we will keep the coal winter payments. He's trying again to frighten people. He should be ashamed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nick Clegg, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go again --

KING: Let's stop that. "Here we go again." I remember Reagan doing that. What's your take on this? It's been fascinating to watch.

ROSEN: What is really fascinating to me and maybe this is sort of an egocentric American view is there are so many moments in these debates where they have taken theater of classic American-style presidential debates and used little technique, whether it's the newcomer coming in and trying to sort of go down the middle or whether it's Gordon Brown saying, you know, the experience that I bring matters. It's fascinating.

KING: Before you jump in, for anyone out there who perhaps doesn't matter or who doesn't follow political history or might be a little younger than those of us at the table, let's show you the original.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Reagan, again, typically, is against such a proposal.

RONALD REAGAN: Governor, there you go again.

MOLINARI: Yeah, you know, he's like Frank Sinatra. Nobody does it quite like Ronald Reagan. I don't blame him for copying Ronald Reagan across the pond, but he does it best. Pretty soon Gordon Brown is going to say "I paid for this mike."

KING: This is the first time we've gone Oprah in play by play. I guess probably the first time we've gone tabloid. We'll see whether it's the right thing or the wrong thing.

MOLINARI: We're so glad we're here for this.

KING: Rielle Hunter was on Oprah today and she was trying to explain herself, I guess the best way to put it.

OPRAH: How did John Edwards react when you told him you were pregnant?


OPRAH: Come on.

HUNTER: He was.

OPRAH: Was he in or out of the campaign at the time?


OPRAH: He was still in the campaign?

HUNTER: He was in.

OPRAH: And you're telling me that he was gracious when he finds out --

HUNTER: He was gracious.

OPRAH: What do you mean by that?

HUNTER: He said whatever you decide to do, I fully support you.

ROSEN: Fabulous.


ROSEN: This is -- on so many levels. Whatever you decide to do, meaning I want nothing to do with this.

MOLINARI: He was gracious, he was in the campaign, he was married, his wife has cancer.

ROSEN: I'm not sure which is worst, her having the nerve to talk about this relationship publicly. I'm old-fashioned. I think going out with married guys, doing this, she's -- she's a problem for me. And he -- you know --

KING: More of a problem for you?

ROSEN: Done, he's so done.

MOLINARI: There's nothing I can add.

KING: I have very little on it either. Susan Molinari, Hillary Rosen, thank you for coming in. Up next, our off beat reporter Pete on the street, he's asking a very important question -- how do you make your own declaration of independence? He looks like a founding father.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Breaking development to share with you now. "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" are reporting that the Securities and Exchange Commission has referred the ongoing investigation of Goldman Sachs to the justice department for possible criminal prosecution. We will continue to follow it. CNN's seeking its own confirmation. Again, "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal" reporting, the sec referring the ongoing investigation of Goldman Sachs to the justice department for possible criminal prosecution. As we continue to follow that story.

Let's head up to New York. John Roberts is filling up for Campbell Brown. Let's get a preview for what's coming up at the top of the hours. Hi, John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi John, big news with that SEC case. Tonight at 8:00 eastern time, we're covering the breaking news out of Louisiana, an impending environmental disaster that could dwarf the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The federal government is rolling out the big guns sending Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to oversee cleanup efforts down there, but is it too late, as the oil's about to come on shore? We're also following the raging battle on immigration in the state of Arizona. Tonight I'm going to talk with passionate advocates on both sides of the fence, former Congressman Tom Tancredo would who is for Arizona's new law and singer Linda Ronstadt, a Tucson native and a very vocal opponent. All that and more John coming your way at the top of the hour. We'll see you soon.

KING: Looking forward to it. We'll see you in a few minutes. John, thanks.

As always, we have the intrepid off-beat reporter Pete Dominick. We send him out to ask so many questions critically important. With all this talk of independence, Pete went out with a very important question.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Very intrepid and very independent. Charlie Crist announces he's going to run as an independent, although he didn't say the I word. I wanted to ask people what they thought "independent" means, John King.


DOMINICK: Would you ever vote for an independent candidate, not a Republican, not a Democrat?


DOMINICK: You would?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like a vote for independent is a waste of vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These days, you have to give the Is some thought. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand what independent stands for.

DOMINICK: You're a very independent man. I like that sweater.


DOMINICK: That's very independent.

Outside politics?


DOMINICK: Ever go on a trip alone?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, but I'd like to.

DOMINICK: Tell her what she's won. We don't have anything, sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I rode the metro all by myself for four days and walked around D.C. all by myself.

DOMINICK: Guess who is grown up Miss Texas?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't consider myself independent.

DOMINICK: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like my husband to take care of me.

DOMINICK: You're not depending on a man or a woman or anybody else to get things done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can get things done on my own, I'm independent. What do I get, $10?

DOMINICK: No, just confidence and more independence.


DOMINICK: You are today's miss independent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah. Do I get a cookie?

DOMINICK: Can I hang out with you guys tonight so you're not so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We leave in like an hour.

DOMINICK: Can I hang out with you for the rest of this hour?


DOMINICK: Sorry, John King, guess who's no longer independent?


DOMINICK: Yeah, now I'm co-dependent on those four young ladies John King.

KING: She was asked if there was a prize, she should get $10. We should give you a box of JK USA t-shirts. You can at least give them a t-shirt when you wonder around out there.

DOMINICK: People love free stuff.

KING: Where you meeting those ladies?

DOMINICK: All I know is we're having beers somewhere that they said and I think their number might be wrong.

KING: You know, your wife's probably watching so I hope their numbers wrong. You have a great night. That's all for us. John Roberts standing by in New York. We'll see you tomorrow.