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Michael Steele Takes Center Stage at GOP Convention; Recession Recovery?

Aired August 6, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. I'm Jessica Yellin. John King is off.

Tonight's big political story, Michael Steele comes out of hiding and comes out swinging. He had been avoiding the spotlight since he got caught on videotape saying Afghanistan was a war of President Obama's choosing. But today he took the stage at the Republican's Convention in Kansas sporting a bright red "fire Pelosi" baseball cap. He announced a cross-country "fire Pelosi" bus tour and tried out a surprising new dig at the House speaker.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the bus, 117 cities, get on the bus. Every state get on the bus. We're going to win in November, and Nancy Pelosi will be in the back of the bus.


YELLIN: Well that (INAUDIBLE) line immediately raised some eyebrows. But before we get to that Steele also had a serious message about what Republicans see as the glaring failures of the Obama administration.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first summer of recovery failed to recover anything except the inconvenient truth that the Constitution still mattered, and that unemployment was pushing double digits.


YELLIN: Joining me tonight to discuss it all, CNN contributor Roland Martin, Bush-Cheney '04 presidential campaign senior adviser Robert Traynham, California Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of

Thanks to all of you for being with us and Congresswoman Sanchez, I'd like to start with you. We will get to those bus comments in just a second, but first, I want you to listen to Michael Steele's criticism of your party and react to this.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: If you're like most American, you have come to see the radical agenda pushed by Obama, Reid and Pelosi for what it really is -- bad for business, bad for families, bad for America.


YELLIN: I've heard that line a lot on the campaign trail. What's the Democratic response to that?

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, if you believe in agenda of putting people back to work, if you believe that Americans should have good jobs, if you believe that Americans should have air that's clean to breathe and water that's clean. If you believe that our children should be educated, then you are going to like what we have been doing.

For example, today finally the Senate was able to pass this week to get teachers back into the classroom as the start of the new school year comes. We in the House under Nancy Pelosi's direction have voted twice on that bill. And the fact that we have to go back on Tuesday, because the Republicans refused to understand it's important to have our kids in the classroom, they're just wrong.

YELLIN: OK. I will let the Republicans respond to what she said and take up this discussion, but I do want to play the controversial remark Michael Steele made about Nancy Pelosi and the back of the bus. We heard what she said -- what he said. Pelosi will be on the back of the bus. Robert, why is he bringing that up?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, HOST, "ROLL CALL WITH ROBERT TRAYNHAM": You know Michael Steele has a tendency sometimes to probably speak before he thinks. He probably should not have said that because obviously it conjures up some negative connotations about the civil rights movement, but what his point is, is that the American people are driving this agenda and what they're saying is they don't want specifically what the Obama administration is specifically pushing, at least that's what he's trying to say, so I understand what he's trying to say. He probably --

YELLIN: You think it wasn't scripted?

TRAYNHAM: Well clearly it wasn't scripted.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: OK, fine, so he makes the comment. But the reality is when you talk about, he's saying we want to drive the bus in terms of this economy and lead it. OK, so you can get all wrapped up in well, he made this particular comment. The overarching point of that you see him coming out swinging, recognizing that he has to raise money, he has to regain the confidence of the folks on the ground when you have party fundraisers trying to do their own thing, other different 527s.

And so that's what it boils down to. This little bus comment it blows over. You can conjure up anything. At the end of the day, what it's speaking to is he's saying this is the Republican focus for the midterms and we're going to contract the Democrats. That's what it boils down to.

YELLIN: Erick, is this a winning message for you?


YELLIN: Yes, go ahead.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know I've just got to say I want to see the original. I'm not convinced that this footage hasn't been doctored because I didn't see his foot in his mouth. I mean that seems to be how we see Michael Steele these days more than anything, that he was actually making complete sentence is refreshing for me as a Republican --

MARTIN: Well he actually makes complete sentences a lot, so I mean it does happen.

ERICKSON: You know and I agree that whether he's talking about being on the back of the bus or I think a few weeks ago he used a broomstick analogy, you know it's politics. We'll get past that one. I do think though that the message that he's delivering out there resonates with the base now and it's really getting to be all about the base on both sides.

We're hearing Obama and the Democrats talking about returning to George Bush. We're hearing the Republicans bash Obama. We're kind of at that point in the campaign season where it's about driving up the base momentum.

YELLIN: Well let me ask you, Congresswoman, Pelosi's aides were asked about the attacks on her and whether they will work. And one of them said to me that the -- do we have the -- do we have that sound -- that pilot -- one of the Pelosi aides -- they'll put it up.

One of the Pelosi aides said to me that you should ask Michael Steele if the hat was made in China. This shows how desperate they are. It didn't work in 2006, 2008 and it won't work in 2010. Our candidates are focused on job creation. They have no new ideas.

Congresswoman Sanchez, this is the message a lot of Democrats are trying out on the campaign trail that it's all about -- they're about the future. The other guys are about the past, but it doesn't seem to be connecting.

SANCHEZ: Well, I've been out here now in my district. It's so great to be home in California, and as I talk to people about what's going to happen with health care, what it's really about, how there are no death panels to it, how it's not coming out of their pocket, how we're going to bring down the costs and why that is going to happen. You know what we're connecting out here.

And as I spoke and have been speaking to my colleagues around the nation about what's working and what they're talking about, you know what? People are really getting energized about what we've been able to do. We put a stimulus package that now a majority of the economists have said if we hadn't it would have been the second great depression in our nation. So we're beginning to see that. We're beginning to see the future agenda of America, the one that talks and works on and researches new technology, new cures for diseases, everything that was in that stimulus package is coming to fruition --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a question on that one.

YELLIN: Go ahead, Erick.

SANCHEZ: I'm pretty excited about it.

ERICKSON: I've got a question though. The National Republican Congressional Committee put out a Web site with the 76 or 75 most endangered Democrats in the House and only six of them are advertising town halls for the recess so far and if it's so great, why aren't these 70 members of Congress, they're only five of the most endangered who are, why aren't the other 70 having town halls to talk about this?

YELLIN: Are Democrats scared of town halls?

SANCHEZ: Town halls are -- no, of course not. I've had several and you know when a person stands up who doesn't want to listen to the facts -- you know Bill Clinton used to say something -- it was very clear to me and I've always believed this. We don't have to say bad things about the Republicans. I mean they say bad things about us all the time.

But we don't have to make up things. We don't have to say bad things. All we have to do is talk about the facts. We lay out the facts --


SANCHEZ: -- what we've been working on works for them.

YELLIN: Go ahead, Roland.

MARTIN: Here's the problem with that though. The Democrats' messaging has been all over the place. The Democrats also have a problem in that we have the House they pass any number of bills, some 350, 400 bills that have been stalled in the United States Senate where you have 59 Democrats. It's a little hard to say we've done all of these things when so many of these initiatives have not been signed into law by the president --

YELLIN: The truth is in Pelosi's defense, she's the one who's passed a lot --

MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no --


YELLIN: It's the Senate where --

MARTIN: No, I'm making the point the House has started. The Democrats control the House.


MARTIN: The Senate hasn't, but they also control the Senate.

YELLIN: Well let me pause for a minute and show you guys --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know why --

YELLIN: Let me just show --

SANCHEZ: Do you know why so many of us are saying things because but this is a local election. My people care about what I've been doing. Our constituents, the people who live here, they care about what's been happening to them. We don't have to have a national message.

YELLIN: Robert, go ahead.

SANCHEZ: We don't sit in rooms talking with each other saying oh let's say this about Pelosi today. That's not a necessity. Every individual member of Congress --

TRAYNHAM: If you don't have a national message you're going to have a problem in November.


TRAYNHAM: Jessica, here's the issue. The Republicans are trying to nationalize this election about -- all about Obama, all about Pelosi.


TRAYNHAM: And obviously the Democrats are trying say well wait a minute here, we don't want to go back to the failed policies of the Bush past. But here's the issue. The American people are smart enough to realize that the Democrats have been in control -- to Roland's point now -- almost 20 months. They have to own this economy. They have to own the issues that, in fact, the American people are concerned about and the fact of the matter is that the American people are not satisfied.

YELLIN: Let me ask you, the Republicans have tried to nationalize an election before with Nancy Pelosi. We have an ad the last time they tried this, if we could roll that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now gorged on our taxpayer dollars, Pelosi has grown into a power hungry Goliath, defying the will of the American people. Who has the power to stop her?


YELLIN: All right that ad did not work.

MARTIN: What year was that ad? YELLIN: That ad was Pennsylvania 12, a special election and a Democrat won. It was for Murtha's district this year.

MARTIN: Right. Right because of him though, but when you look at, first of all, what was the timing of that election. Also it was an election being held by a Democrat, the Democrats were expected to lead that actual race. What you're facing, though, in terms of this midterm --

YELLIN: But the point is the ad did not work.

MARTIN: Wait, wait, wait, right, that particular ad didn't work. But what you have now is the Democrats can talk about the health care issue, but the driving debate will deal with the economy and what they have to confront --


MARTIN: -- whether they want to own it or not --

YELLIN: And that --

MARTIN: -- is 9.5 percent unemployment --

YELLIN: That is the perfect segue into our next discussion, which is happening right after this break, so hold it right there everybody. We need to take this break, but when we come back we'll look at what the president has to say about the sputtering growth in jobs. Is the clock running out to get things moving in the right direction before the midterm elections?


YELLIN: Tonight, both parties are spinning the latest news about how fast the country is recovering from the recession. New numbers show that the national unemployment rate did not budge in July. It stuck at 9.5 percent. In all, 131,000 jobs were lost last month.

And before we get to the spin, let's first take a closer look at this job loss number. It's mostly the result of temporary government census workers who finished their jobs and were just let go. The same thing also happened in June. That's the yellow bar you're seeing there. Now private businesses -- that's the blue bar -- they actually hired 71,000 new workers last month. Now that is the number President Obama focused on today.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is we now added private sector jobs every month this year instead of losing them as we did for the first seven months of last year, and that's a good sign.


YELLIN: We're back with our panel now and joining us is University of Maryland Economist and Business Professor Peter Morici.


YELLIN: A good participant (ph) -- Peter, let me start with you. The president is trying to spin this month's jobs report as a sign that the economy is recovering. Is that fair?

PROF. PETER MORICI, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: No, it's not fair at all. I mean, the private sector added 51,000 jobs and at the peak of stimulus spending, the public sector subtracted 59,000. Overall, if you take out the census workers, we only added 12,000 jobs. You know we have to add over 300,000 jobs a month every month for the next 40 months to get unemployment down to six percent by the end of 2013. We're nowhere near that pace. Remember George Bush before the financial collapse had unemployment to 4.5 percent.

YELLIN: So it sounds very grim, Congresswoman Sanchez. Can Democrats do anything between now and November to change the perception that frankly that your party hasn't done enough to create jobs?

SANCHEZ: Well we actually have done quite a bit. Again, we go back to that stimulus package, which is about the future. It's about research. It's about innovation. We're going to see some of that money hitting (ph). Look, there's only one way in which America competes against the rest of the nations because capital can move anywhere, production can move anywhere.

It's its people. We have to do several things. One, we have to educate our people. That's why you heard the president in his January speech to the Congress say I want every American to go back to school. I want them to learn a new trade. I want them to learn something new.

He understands that we have to be more productive. Secondly, you have to be healthy to work. And so that's one of the reasons why we've made a long-term investment into health care. You have to have transportation. People get, you know, they're not --


SANCHEZ: -- happy if they sit two hours in traffic going to work.


SANCHEZ: You need communication.


SANCHEZ: We have invested in all of these areas.

YELLIN: Let me give Robert a chance to get in here --

SANCHEZ: We have invested in all of those areas.

(CROSSTALK) YELLIN: Robert, go ahead.

TRAYNHAM: But you know Jessica, it doesn't answer the fundamental question that you have an able-bodied person out there that is looking for work and they can't find a job. And so thus in the process what you have is a bunch of folks out there that are looking for jobs and there's nothing out there for them to find and that's the process that creates this era of despair. The congresswoman makes some very good points out there about health care and the other talking points, but the bottom line this is all about good, quality jobs.

ERICKSON: The problem is that --

SANCHEZ: And we are working on --


SANCHEZ: -- quality jobs.

YELLIN: Erick --

ERICKSON: The public is starting to see the stimulus money as a joke. I mean you look at a lot of these swing state -- swing district polling, Democrats and Republicans both think that it's just more big government spending. And you can say that you spend the money on health care or transportation or education, but the money didn't help create jobs --

YELLIN: Hey Erick, let me --

ERICKSON: -- and this report out --

YELLIN: -- let me push you on that for a minute because Minority Leader Boehner said about today's jobs report that it's time for President Obama to listen to the American people and face up to the fact that his stimulus policies are not working. That's from Congressman Boehner. But the truth is nearly 50,000 of the people who lost their jobs this month were state and local government employees whose states ran out of money. Those are the very jobs that stimulus was designed to pay for, the kind of jobs Democrats are coming back to Washington to vote on funding next week, so by opposing stimulus --

ERICKSON: Ironic, yes. I mean the Republicans would like to see some private sector job growth and the Democrats have been focused on public sector job growth. And I guess if you want to apply to be a monkey at Wake Forest and get hooked on cocaine according to the John McCain report or check out the emotional health of chimpanzees at Georgia Tech, maybe you can find some stimulus money to get a private sector job.

YELLIN: Peter, let me just bring you in for a fact check. Did the stimulus in fact save some jobs --

MORICI: It obviously saved jobs. You can't dump $800 billion on the economy and save a few, but it was woefully badly spent. That's the bottom line -- I'll give you a good example -- green buildings. We're going to have the same amount of office space three years from now as we would have had with or without the green building initiatives. All we did was hire some architects and outsourced some solar panels to China.

The bottom line is it doesn't add to construction and it shows in the data. If this thing is working, Congresswoman, why only 12,000 jobs net after we back out the census data, you know after we back out the census layoffs, only 12,000 jobs at the peak of stimulus spending. This president has gotten everything he's asked for, Congresswoman, everything, health care, financial reform, the stimulus package, why?

ERICKSON: Yes, what he said.

SANCHEZ: You're right, you're right, we did do financial reform. You know people were sick and tired of watching us give money to the banks and then the banks not help to participate in sharing and helping to bring people --

MORICI: Well we sure --


MORICI: We sure shared, Congresswoman --

SANCHEZ: You may not --

MORICI: We sure have shared --

SANCHEZ: You may not care --

MORICI: GDP is up 170 billion and 150 billion went to bonuses.


YELLIN: One at a time -- one at a time. Let me give Roland a chance to get into this -- Roland.

MARTIN: This --

SANCHEZ: I really love when people scream.

MARTIN: Jessica and this is the difficulty the Democrats are going to face speaks to how do you speak to the narrative and that is when you have to go through this explanation of we're losing 500,000, now we did this (INAUDIBLE). When the opposition simply has to say last month we lost 121,000. The part -- that's the difficulty Democrats will have. And when the Democrats also talk about the stimulus spending, the people he was supporting said wait a minute; you gave it to governors who held the money versus going to local mayors. That's the problem when you're trying to get the American public to understand it because you've got to spend lots of time explaining it. (INAUDIBLE) opposition bumper sticker --

YELLIN: They're also calling it Bush's recession. Is this going to work, Robert? TRAYNHAM: Well apparently it's not, according to the polls. But this reminds me a lot of 1992 when George H. W. Bush said look, the economy is growing but nobody believed him and the reason why they wouldn't believe him is when people turned on the television sets or walked down the streets to listen to their neighbor, they were out of a job. So the real issue is, is that there's a narrative here, as Roland was saying, is that the economy is not growing fast enough --

MARTIN: And what I don't understand --

TRAYNHAM: -- and clearly that speaks to the Republican --

MARTIN: What I don't understand is why the White House in terms of (INAUDIBLE) housing -- first of all, do we even have a labor secretary? I haven't seen Solis in a while.

YELLIN: She was on TV today.

MARTIN: No, but my point is commerce secretary as well.


MARTIN: You have to flood the zone to paint the picture to the American people outside of the president this is what we're doing. That to me --

MORICI: The trouble is they don't have the paint to paint the picture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The point is they're doing it, but the American people aren't buying it. That's the issue --


YELLIN: Erick, Erick --


YELLIN: Let's give Erick a chance -- yes.

ERICKSON: Yes, I would like to say I agree with Roland Martin tonight. You can take that --



YELLIN: Let's mark this day down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Writing a dissertation about this at Maryland, my goodness.

ERICKSON: No ascot and I agree with Roland.

SANCHEZ: You know the Republicans -- the Republicans only have one word. No, no, no, no, no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's working.

SANCHEZ: Well let's try to do this. No --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twelve thousand --

SANCHEZ: Let's try to create jobs over here -- no. Well let's try to do something because the banks and help people who have had their credit wrecked -- no, no, no --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Congresswoman, this is the problem --

SANCHEZ: No, no, no. The only word they have is no, no, no all day long.

ERICKSON: Congresswoman, this is the problem --

SANCHEZ: Get some ideas, guys. Put some ideas up for once.


MORICI: I'll give you an idea. You want an idea? Do something about the trade deficit that President Obama promised to do something about when he was campaigning in the Midwest. He said he would do something about the Chinese yuan. He's come up empty; he continued the policies of George Bush. We have a rapidly growing trade deficit and the economy is not recovering.

YELLIN: I knew you would get trade deficit in --

MORICI: The bottom line is you're known by your gains and evaluated by your results. You've gotten everything you want, 12,000 jobs. You can't walk away from today's number --




SANCHEZ: I sound like a broken record. You've got only one thing to talk about, trade all the time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need a blood pressure monitor for Peter.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I need a valium or something over here --

YELLIN: We'll get you everything you need.


ERICKSON: The problem is the American people right now really do like that the Republicans are saying no because they don't see that the yes is working --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know that I agree with that.


MARTIN: And Jessica politically it's very simple --


MARTIN: -- when you have a 20 percent gap in terms of enthusiasm and from a Democratic standpoint, you have got to get that number up to 50 percent or it spells (INAUDIBLE).


MORICI: You know but the Democrats have got something going for them --

YELLIN: I think we have gotten our -- we've gotten our blood pressure up to 50 percent and well above.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm still 110/65. I'm fine.

YELLIN: I'm sure you are. Thank you all for a fiery Friday. I would like to thank Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Erick Erickson joining us from afar and my panel here in the studio. Thanks to everyone.

And coming up, is it a controversial former leader who is returning to the Tea Party movement? We have that news, find out on the other side of this break.


YELLIN: Welcome back and let's check in now with Joe Johns for the political news you need to know right now -- hey Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey Jessica, the feds are sniffing around in Charleston. Officials at the West Virginia's governor's office confirm two federal subpoenas arrived this week, but they have not been informed that Governor and U.S. Senate-candidate Joe Manchin or any other state employee is under investigation. reports the subpoenas deal with work done at the governor's residence.

This afternoon, the Republican Party adopted new rules pushing back the 2012 presidential primary calendar. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada hold their contests in February. Other states that move up will get punished.

Here comes a new division of the Tea Party, blogger Mark Williams, who got pushed out as spokesman for the Tea Party Express after he criticized the NAACP tells CNN he's helping form a political action committee to channel what he calls Tea Party passion into electing conservative candidates.

And by one vote, 400-399, the residents of Lakewood, Tennessee, decided to dissolve their city and become part of Nashville. Sounds like Bush versus Gore all over again.

YELLIN: By one vote.

JOHNS: Come to think of it Al Gore was from Tennessee.

YELLIN: Nashville -- is he from Nashville? I don't think so.

JOHNS: I'm not sure what part.

YELLIN: But I'd want to live in Nashville.


YELLIN: That sounds like a nice decision.


YELLIN: Thanks, Joe. All right, coming up and next in "The Clash" Sarah Palin and her mama grizzlies, we'll debate whether conservative women are the new face of feminism.

And among the items on my "Radar" what if anything is wrong with first lady Michelle Obama's Spanish vacation? Why are people talking about it?

And a New York congresswoman wants to ban paddling -- yes paddling in schools. Guess how many states still allow it?

And finally in the "Play-by-Play" John McCain's opponent is using the senator's own words against him. How?

And we couldn't resist, was the "Real Housewives of D.C." really worth all the hype? Stay with us.


YELLIN: It's no secret, women are the new force in politics. Just look at the east room of the White House today and the packed victory reception for new Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. As of tomorrow, she will be a Supreme Court justice. Now over on the Republican side, both Sarah Palin is a force to be reckoned with. Today, we learned she has attached her name to a Republican National Committee fundraising letter, a bit of a surprise given her outsider reputation, but sure to raise a lot of money. And then there's Sarah Palin's growing army of mama grizzlies, the conservative female candidate that Palin is going out of her way to endorse.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here in Alaska, I always think of the mama grizzly bears that rise up on their hind legs when somebody is coming to attack their cubs, to do something adverse towards their cubs. You thought pit bulls were tough, well you don't want to mess with the mama grizzlies.


YELLIN: So will mama grizzlies bring more women into politics? And are conservative women the new face of feminism? Here for "The Clash," Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Thanks to both of you for being with us. And Kellyanne, I want to start with you first. I have a few factoids about what a real mama grizzly is. They live about 25 years, they're about eight feet tall and they're a threatened species. But what does Sarah Palin mean by mama grizzly?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, THE POLLING COMPANY: Well, she means that women are mobilizing all across the country and I think she's really engineering a huge moms mobilization to tell women that you don't have to listen to the traditional feminists when they pretend the only thing you want to talk about in politics is abortion. You can actually have a much more holistic approach to politics.

And most women this year, Jessica, according to everyone's polls, including CNN's, are looking at the policies through an economic lens. Many economists have referred to this as a man-cession because men have been disproportionately hit by the job losses in sectors like manufacturing construction. And you have many women out there, about 2 million women right now working who are supporting unemployed husbands who are who are looking for work. And about 40 percent of the breadwinners right now in our households are women.

So this idea is really that women are free to look at economic issue, moral issues, social issues, national defense issues, and not feel so constricted. I think that there's been a lot of talk about how enraged the voter is. I think for women, it's less being enraged and more being engaged this year.

YELLIN: So the idea is that women politicians can be tough and women can look at the hard issues. It's a catchy campaign. Is it effective? Do Democrats need something as effective?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think that Democrats need a response. What I think Democrats need to continue to be doing is to focus on these issues that a lot of these women do care about. Issues, economic issues, the health care issues. You know, you're talking about women who before the health care act were scared that they were not going to have the money to be able to take care of their children. Democrats have fixed that.

You have a lot of women whose husbands are out of work. Democrats were working on that issue in terms of trying to either pass unemployment insurance or help small businesses to be able to create jobs. The problem with Sarah Palin is she's talking to conservative women. It's not a growing movement. She's not bringing in moderates or independents, which is what you have to do to have a growing movement.

YELLIN: Let me ask you about that Kellyanne because if you look at the numbers from 2008, 56 percent of women voted for President Obama, 43 percent for McCain. Will this mama grizzly movement persuade more women to vote Republican?

CONWAY: Well, it could. And what's fascinating about the numbers now, Jessica, as you know, a poll watcher, about 47 percent of women approve of the job that President Obama is doing generally. It's even lower on the economy. It tends to be higher on foreign policy issues.

And I think that's a real indictment of the policies. People always believe that men and women are different with respect to their views towards the role of government, that women want a more activist, involved government, that safety net is there. But it's really been women showing up in this past year or so at these health care town halls in large part at the anti-tax rallies, pushing babies in strollers and elderly women in wheelchairs just to be part of the process and say wait a second, I'm concerned about microeconomics at the kitchen table level, but I'm also concerned about macroeconomics.

And there's a point here. This whole movement is much bigger than any one individual, whether the individual is Barack Obama or Sarah Palin. It's much more organic. It's really people taking their anxiety, not anger, but their anxieties and their frustration. We meet a lot of people out there who are generally afraid. And this new feminism, the authentic feminism, the original feminists were pro- life. And I think you've really got to take a great look at -- the suffrages were pro-life. And you've got to take a good look at the fact, "The New York Times" wrote an article about two months ago talking about the rise in pro-life women.

YELLIN: It's a complicated history, but let's look at some of the women candidates this year who have used their own femininity to their advantage. Let's watch some of these ads.


UNIDENTIIFED MALE: One carries a purse, the other carries baggage. One whom Sarah Palin says cut government and is the true conservative. Or the other who added trillions to our national debt.

KEN BUCK, POLITICAN CANDIDATE: Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels. I have cowboy boots, they have real (BLEEP) on them. And that's weld county (BLEEP).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now Ken Buck wants to go to Washington? He would fit right in.


YELLIN: Maria, will this work for women or could it backfire for men who don't want it to be about gender?

CARDONA: Well, I think the focus again needs to be that the issues speak to the women. Labels really don't matter at the end of the day. And I think at the end of the day, if the Democrats and/or the Republicans speak to the issues that American women care about, those are the ones that are going to get elected in the end.

What's happens with Sarah Palin is the more that she actually endorses women candidates, for example, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, she's losing moderate women and independent women as supporters. This happened to Carly Fiorina in California as well. She's bleeding support from independent women. So again, Sarah Palin, yes, fantastic at ginning up the conservative base, but there's no growth there. She's ginning up the people who would have normally followed her anyway.

YELLIN: Kellyanne, let's take a look on the flip side. A Republican candidate, Pamela Gorman, who's a congressional candidate in Arizona, who's showing off a more masculine side, if you will. Look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Pamela Gorman, candidate for Congress in Arizona 3, conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot. Rated 100% by the NRA, conservative Pamela Gorman is always right on target.

PAMELA GORMAN, CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS: I'm Pamela Gorman and I approve this message.


YELLIN: That is hard core. She has not been endorsed by Sarah Palin, but you know she's a Tea Party favorite. Is that effective girl power?

CONWAY: It probably is in her district, absolutely. And look, women traditionally have had a hard time proving that they can do the math on the economy or that they're tough with military, national defense, that big cluster of issues on war and economy. But that's really changed now. And again, I think the great thing this year, Jessica and Maria, is that it's the year of the woman activist, and the woman activist, mama grizzly or not, is very focused on a whole panoply of issues and it's not a single issue thinker or voter.

CARDONA: I completely agree with that. And in fact, the more women that are out there, whether Republican or Democrat, the better it is for the country as a whole.

YELLIN: OK thanks to both of you for a very stimulating conversation. And go girl power, right?

Coming up, an Elvis sighting in Arkansas, and it's not what you think. And still to come, candidates find a new way to gain traction with voters.


YELLIN: Time now for some of the stories on my radar. Joining me tonight, Republican strategist Rich Galen and coming back with us, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona.

Our first story, guys. For Michelle Obama, the pain -- no, I have to do this right. For Michelle Obama, the plane to Spain galls critics who complain. I got it. The first lady, her younger daughter and a few friends are vacationing along Spain's Mediterranean Coast. The trip prompted a "New York Daily News" columnist to huff the first lady as, quote, "a modern day Marie Antoinette who's out of touch with the problems of ordinary people." OK, is this a fair dig at her or not, Maria?

CARDONA: This is ridiculous. It's something that comes up frankly when presidents or first ladies, Republicans or Democrats take their vacation. This is completely over-hyped. She's there with her daughter. It's a mother-daughter trip with a handful of her best friends that she travels with a lot, paid for -- her best friends pieces are paid for by them. Her private parts are paid for by them. And the government is obviously paying for the meetings that she's doing as an official first lady there. So it's completely over-hyped, completely overblown. And I don't think it's going to be a story.

YELLIN: Does she have to stay in a budget hotel just because she's the first lady?

RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, absolutely not. But I give the first family and anybody who works in the White House wide latitude because it is so hard and the pressures are so great. But in an era when we've got all this -- I mean, I just think if that were Mrs. Bush, the screaming would be heard everywhere. That you have -- she could have just as easily taken the trip -- and it's not the money. I don't think the money is the big deal. But she just as easily could have taken a trip anywhere along the Gulf Coast, stayed in a five-star hotel --

YELLIN: They're going to have to vacation on the Gulf Coast the rest of their presidency?

GALEN: No, no. But in this era when they're screaming for tourism, I think it would have been a nice touch.

CARDONA: I don't think Americans will begrudge it.

YELLIN: All right, California Representative -- our next story, California Representative Maxine Waters is back home and she's trying to explain why she's in hot water with the House Ethics Committee. The committee said that she and her husband had, quote, "financial ties to a bank that got a $12 million federal bailout after she arranged a meeting between bank officials and the Treasury Department." Well in a radio interview last night, Waters explained why she's fighting back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Democracy demands fairness. I have 30 years in this business, and I think it's only fair that I be given a chance to be heard.


YELLIN: She should get a chance to be heard. Is this good for the Democrats?

CARDONA: Well, I think clearly what the Democrats want is for the process to be fair. And clearly, this is not great in terms of going into the 2010 elections, but I will say that it does -- it does say a lot about what Pelosi has put in place in terms of the Ethics process because this was nonexistent when the Republicans were having their ethics problems. In fact, they changed the rules so that Tom DeLay could stay. Charlie Rangel has given up the gavel and now we see that both him and Maxine Waters are going through this difficult process.

GALEN: Well first of all, it wasn't a House rule. It was a caucus rule, Republican caucus, it wasn't a House rule that got changed, number one. Number two is Maxine Waters had plenty of time to try to settle this. In fact, she was told not once but twice by Barney Frank to stay away from this. So she obviously knew that she was doing something wrong. She asked for advice and then went out and ignored it.

YELLIN: Well, she will have her day, not in court, but Congress.

OK Rich, this one to you first, a New York congresswoman is making a major issue of, get this, ending corporal punishment. Democrat Carolyn McCarthy wants to end paddling in any school, public or private, that receives federal funding. But what's shocking about this to us is that paddling is legal in 20 states.

GALEN: What are you looking at me for?

YELLIN: Were you ever paddled?


YELLIN: I mean in school.

GALEN: I beg your pardon, young lady. No, and I'm from the era when that was back in the '50s and '60s when I was in grammar school. I mean, that's when everybody thought that -- I never saw anybody get paddled in my whole entire 20-year career.

CARDONA: Jessica, when I read this, my reaction was the same thing, I was like they still allow this? I could not believe it. I actually did get paddled in pre-kindergarten, I still remember.

GALEN: What did you do wrong?

CARDONA: I don't even remember what I did wrong, but I remember that I got paddled. And there was paddling, I grew up in Florida in middle school and I remember some of my classmates --

GALEN: I've got to say, there are more important things in the country that --

YELLIN: I know. These are old laws still on the books. OK, here's a great one, attention, everyone. Elvis has left the building. Yes, we had to say that, the Arkansas secretary of state's building that is where a man named Elvis D. Presley has filed papers to run as a write-in candidate for governor. It's true. He isn't telling the "Associated Press" how he got his name, but he does say, no shocker, he is an Elvis impersonator. Don't be cruel.

GALEN: I can't believe somebody wrote that for you. Is this a great country or what? Anybody can run for anything at anytime.

CARDONA: It's a promotional tool, right?

GALEN: Of course it is and he'll be -- I don't even know if he's running as a Republican or a Democrat, but he'll get invited to Lincoln Day and Jefferson Jackson day dinners.

CARDONA: He's going to be famous. If Alvin Greene can win in South Carolina, I think Elvis can sweep in Arkansas.

GALEN: That's right. You can be somebody out of nobody.

YELLIN: OK, stick around for the next bit, but first, we want to go to our commitment to bring you, the viewers into the conversation. As part of that every Monday, we ask you a question, then we give you all week to make your case by posting a video at our website, This week's question was about a big issue being pushed by some progressive groups, would you vote to legalize marijuana? Here's a sampling of your answers.


MOISES CASTILLO, CNN VIEWER: It would be great to legalize marijuana because it will take the problem off of the streets and it would make the government in control of it.

KIM BEACH, CNN VIEWER: No, I wouldn't. I just think it's a gateway drug that leads to stronger drugs.

FRAZEAL HARRIS, CNN VIEWER: I don't think it's a drug that is as harmful as the administration would want us to think it is.

MICHELLE JEAN-GILLES, CNN VIEWER: I think I would probably vote for legalization. There's a disproportionate number of minorities that are sent to jail for small amounts of drug use.

WINIFRED CHRISTIAN, CNN VIEWER: I don't believe in any kind of drugs.

ADAM DEPALMA, CNN VIEWER: It's a bogus law. Stop putting nonviolent drug offenders in the jails.


YELLIN: And we'll be right back.


YELLIN: And it's time now for the play-by-play, just like in the sports shows, we replay the highlights and break down the action. Joining us again, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and Republican strategist Rich Galen.

OK first of all, would any of y'all vote for someone who drove a compact car? Look at this ad for Roy Herron, a Democrat running for Congress from Tennessee.


ROY HERRON, CANDIDATE: I'm Roy Herron. I put 400,000 miles on this old truck. I'm a truck driving, shotgun shooting, Bible reading, crime fighting, family loving country boy.


YELLIN: All right, he had a lot of symbolism there, but the truck part sounded familiar from another ad we heard a lot this year earlier on. Look at this one.


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MA: My name is Scott Brown and I'm running for the United States Senate. This is my truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like sitting behind a desk. I like to get out there, make things happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a long road and a good road. I've been in every county in Tennessee.

KENNY HULSHOF, CANDIDATE: I'm Kenny Hulshof. I'll never forget where I came from or the value of my dad's good name.


YELLIN: OK, they're not all from this year. That was our truck montage, the best truck political ads.

GALEN: I look for Fred, I saw his red truck, it was sitting on his mom's back lawn outside of Nashville.

YELLIN: So it's genuine? Even Mitt Romney showed up at an event in a pickup truck. What is this message, what's the symbolism?

CARDONA: I think what it means is that these candidates, I think, are smartly reading their constituents. It is the symbolism that matters. But it also gives them an opportunity to talk about the issues that they believe their constituents care about. And if they can do it in a way that makes that personal connection, which it worked for Scott Brown and it worked for the other candidates, I think it works for them.

YELLIN: Is this about macho, is it about being a regular guy?

GALEN: In American history, coming from the log cabin is magic. And this is the modern equivalent of having grown up in a log cabin and having to read by candlelight.

YELLIN: By candlelight, like driving a truck.

CARDONA: It worked for Paul Wellstone when he did a bus in his campaign in the '90s.

YELLIN: OK, John McCain's audio recording, new story, of his 2002 book "Worth Fighting For" is weirdly coming back to haunt him in his fight to keep his Senate seat. Look at how Republican primary opponent J.D. Hayworth is now using John McCain's own words on from his book on tape for his attack ad.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It could come down to lying or losing, I chose lying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now McCain lies again.

MCCAIN: I never supported amnesty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But McCain wrote the amnesty bill.

MCCAIN: I chose lying. Complete the danged fence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: McCain opposed the border fence.

MCCAIN: I chose lying.


YELLIN: Wow. That line, "I chose lying" is again, from his book on tape, an audio recording. Rich, is that effective?

GALEN: I don't know what the context of what he was lying about. If he was talking to, I chose lying to my captors in Hanoi, I think that's OK. So I have no idea what --

YELLIN: Lying about the confederate flag. But still, it was not about his race.

GALEN: Well, you know, it's one of those things that you do when you're behind as J.D. Hayworth is and you try to put doubt in the minds of voters. So I suspect voters in Arizona -- some voters in Arizona are saying, what was he lying about? But he's not going to win that race.

YELLIN: With primary opponents like this, who needs an opposing party? CARDONA: Absolutely, and I think the problem for John McCain though is that this issue about him lying has credibility because he was flip-flopped on so many issues from even just three years ago when he supported comprehensive immigration reform, when he called immigrants, undocumented immigrants, god's children, when he was against the border fence. So it has some credibility. I think it can do damage.

YELLIN: A fierce fight. I'm going to Arizona next week to cover that primary. Not next week, two weeks, I think two or three weeks.

All right, last night it was must-see TV here in Washington for the premiere of the "Real Housewives of D.C." And the question, of course, is it really all about D.C. insiders or not? Let's take a look.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Oh, you lobby.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did it once, Edwina.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I liked it. I went in Richmond and I lobbied and --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you lobbied at the state level?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, at the state level. And it was hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really like Edwina. She is a fellow girl lobbyist.


YELLIN: All right. Are they real insiders?

CARDONA: Oh, my god.

YELLIN: Not so much?

CARDONA: Not so much. Because if they were, they wouldn't have to be talking about all of that. I watched five minutes of it, I want five minutes of my life back.

GALEN: That is more than I would watch and more than I ever will watch again. And if I'm ever on this and you ever play that again, I won't come back.

YELLIN: Sorry, we couldn't resist.

GALEN: No, these are not insiders. This is reality television which has as much to do with reality as "Gilligan's Island." YELLIN: It's our "Gilligan's Island."

CARDONA: You and Rich are insiders, that's for sure.

YELLIN: All right, thanks for being here. Happy Friday to both of you. And coming up next, we have "Beat on the Street." Stay with us.


YELLIN: Many Americans visit the White House each year hoping for a glance of the first family. Well we sent our intrepid off beat reporter Pete Dominick to find out what you would ask President Obama if you had the chance. Pete?


PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING REPORTER: Hey, Jessica. Every day tourists from all over the world visit Washington, D.C., and they always make a visit to the back of the White House here. And I always wonder, if the president and his family came out, what would you ask him? Let's go find out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Obama, good job. Good health care reform. We need medical. I'm in the medical profession. We need medical help. Yes, woo.

DOMINICK: Fist pump some more.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help the third world.

DOMINICK: Happy what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The third world.

DOMINICK: Oh, help the third world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stop nuclear bombs.

DOMINICK: Stop the nuclear missile. Good job. I like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would like to play ping-pong with him.

DOMINICK: You would say, I would like to play ping-pong with you, Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'll take you down in ping pong, Mr. President.

DOMINICK: Wow, what are you going to do, come see my band?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd challenge him at a game of basketball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you take me to a helicopter ride? UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE: I'm kind of a new American.

DOMINICK: A new American, where are you from?


DOMINICK: Oh, you're Dutch.


DOMINICK: So what would you yell, legalize marijuana?

Yes, Mr. President. So what you would yell to the president if he comes out here, would you yell Mr. President, come on, go sleeveless?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I would, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might be able to scream his name, like Barack, real loud, like hey Barack, like we're on a first name basis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tie a bow line?

DOMINICK: Can you tie a bow line, Mr. President?


DOMINICK: Cheer up?


DOMINICK: Yes, all right, good. Cheer up, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the family know how to light a fire?

DOMINICK: Does the family know how to light a fire? The segue forces are out. You've got to be careful out here because the segue nerds, they'll get you. They'll get you. Back to you in the studio, Jessica Yellin.


YELLIN: They are ferocious on the segues. Thanks, Pete.

And that's all from us tonight. It has been a blast filling in for John King this week. And a big thanks to the team at "John King USA" who had my back all week. John will be back on Monday and I'm off to Colorado next week to cover the heated Senate race there. And now, Don Lemon is standing by in Atlanta with "Rick's List Primetime." Don?