CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

JOHN KING, USA

Democrats Running from President Obama; Border Security

Aired August 13, 2010 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone.

Two big debates driving our politics this Friday night; one is the fight over border security and all things immigration related and whether babies of illegal immigrants should automatically get U.S. citizenship to whether Latinos should trust either major political party.

Two, there's new evidence of growing Democratic discontent with the Obama agenda. Floundering and indecisive is how one Democratic congressman describes the Obama economic team. And then, there's this. A new television ad that will make you laugh, but it also illustrates the rush of some Democrats to run from an Obama agenda more and more that Americans view as too liberal. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is from South Dakota. She's a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: I'm Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and this is Zachary, he's going to help me show you what it's like in Congress. First of all, they like to eat, and eat and eat. And you know what that leads to. They have no concept of money and pretty much don't listen. When they all get together, you never know what's going to happen. It's why I voted against all of the bailouts and the $1 trillion health care plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So what does this tell us about the state of play, 81 days to the election, leading our debate tonight Republican strategists Glen Bolger and John Brabender, Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Cornell, let me start with the Democrat and to be fair, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is from South Dakota. This is not -- it's a conservative state. It's a red state obviously and she's a moderate to conservative Democrat. But still, against the $1 trillion health care plan, against the bailouts. It's a pretty good whack at her president.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it is. It's a year where even the incumbents, as you can see, Republican or Democrat are running against Washington. You have to run against Washington being how unpopular Washington is. The other part of this is that you know, it's not about embracing Barack Obama. It's not about putting your arms around Barack Obama, quite frankly. It's about making each race a choice between the Republican and the Democrat. Barack Obama's not on -- is not up for election this time. It's not going to be a nationalized election. It's going to be a choice between the Democrat in front of you and the Republican on the other side.

KING: I'm going to get to the Republican opponent's response in a minute, but just -- you guys are Republicans, I get it. But as in terms of creativeness and craftiness, pretty good, isn't it?

JOHN BRABENDER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I think it was a very effective ad. I think you know political ads are uninvited guests in peoples' homes. If there was a vote that says whether or not they'd get political ads, we'd lose in a landslide. That one grabbed attention. I think people would watch it and I think it was probably effective.

KING: And so the challenge for Kristi Noem, if you're her Republican opponent, is to break through because it's a tough state. This is not on TV. We thought to be fair, this is on her Web site. Kristi Noem is the Republican opposition. We thought to be fair we would show a little bit of her rebuttal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have no concept of money.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they all get together, you never know what's going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So the Republican campaign quickly saying, we do know, actually, she votes with Nancy Pelosi 95 percent of the time. So how does this play out now as a Democrat tries to inch away from Obama, what does a Republican have to do?

GLEN BOLGER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well we've got to -- the Republican candidates have to keep the pressure on. She voted for the economic stimulus package, she's voted with Nancy Pelosi more than 90 percent of the time. Blue Dog Democrats are running from Obama and Pelosi like scalded dogs. So it's going to be a tough year for them, and finally the pendulum is swinging back after two elections where the Democrats made hay.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the problem. I mean the Democrats really have a structural problem here, which is they're a victim of their own success, right? They occupy -- I would have to say -- all of the swing districts or most all of the swing districts in this country, right?

BELCHER: We took 30 seats in 2006.

BORGER: Yes, exactly, so you're very successful. Most people believe that members of Congress should not be reelected. And in those swing districts the percentage is higher. So they've got a real structural problem here if they're going to keep control. They have to win half of these swing districts like (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: And that's a good point. And my friend here knows as well as I do, you've got to put a lot -- you've got to put a lot more seats -- you've got to put a lot of seats in play (INAUDIBLE) because you're not going to win half. I mean typically you don't win half the seats that you put in play. So you've got to put an awful lot of seats -- Republicans have an awful lot of seats in play this time in order to take back the House. I would argue that I don't think they can put enough seats in play. I'm sure they're going to disagree with me.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLGER: It's stunning -- it is stunning coming in as a pollster every morning and looking at polls in districts that you think that the Democrat would be pretty far ahead in and the Republican is either they're tied and has almost no (INAUDIBLE) even slightly ahead. And it reminds me so much of 2006, except the shoe is on the other foot.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLGER: I mean the election it's not much different.

BRABENDER: But going back to that ad. There's a big fundamental thing here. That was not as much anti-Washington as saying, hey, I'm not part of what the Democrats brought you. Not only did they say, you know about the bailouts. Where are the pro bailout ads? Where are the pro stimulus ads? Where are the pro health care ads? Even in more liberal states, you are not seeing Democrats with few exceptions running on those issues.

BORGER: Right.

BRABENDER: People vote by what they're frustrated against. What they're frustrated against is what the Republicans haven't done last time. It's what the Democrats have done this time.

KING: And so my question is how much more of this are we going to see and does it -- when somebody like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who is the head of the Blue Dog Democrats. She's the leader of an organization, when she does it, does it give a green light to others who are maybe on the fence about distance and (INAUDIBLE)? I want you to listen to quick snippets. These are two of those Democrats in swing districts and one conservative Democrat who is trying to run for Senate in conservative Indiana.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I voted against the Wall Street bailout every time. I may work in Washington, but I'll never live there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one should ever be rewarded for breaking the law. That may not be what the Washington crowd wants, but I don't work for them, I work for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My 25 years as sheriff was all about putting other people's needs first. The U.S. Senate needs that same approach. Senators should be helping other people, not just helping themselves like Washington always does.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Washington, this faraway place.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: They all -- all three of them work in Washington.

BELCHER: You pick up on a common theme here, know Washington as well as -- guess what, guys. Wall Street, bailouts, they are dirty words. I mean Wall Street along with the oil companies are an easy beat up. I mean we're --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: The president was beating up on Wall Street. He didn't get any credit for financial reform.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Here's what's driving it. Look at these numbers. Here's what's driving it. You mentioned these are swing districts. These are places where like even if they get every Democratic vote it's not enough. They need to get Independents to vote for them and here's what's happening in the country now.

Is Obama too liberal? Forty-six percent now say yes; in March 2009, that was just 36 percent. And when you're going to vote -- how you going to pick for Congress, you know, most Republicans say they're going to vote Republican. Most Democrats say they're going to vote Democrat, but 46 to 38 is now the Republican edge among Independents. That's why those conservative and moderate Democrats are distancing themselves.

BOLGER: And when you look, for example, at the last three statewide elections, McDonnell in Virginia, Christie in New Jersey, and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Republican won over 60 percent of Independents. So Independents who voted heavily Democrat in 2006 and 2008 have swung the exact opposite way and are really kind of leading the charge.

BORGER: They're very disaffected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BORGER: They're very disaffected. They're among the most disappointed voters if you look at the polls. They gave Barack Obama a chance. And they feel like he hasn't done what they wanted him to do.

BELCHER: But here's the problem, 24. That's the problem. That's the number of people who think have a positive view of Republicans right now --

BORGER: Right.

BELCHER: -- which is lower than it was in 2006. And while ours has dropped too, your guys' has dropped quicker than ours. So the idea that we're going to have a sea change election when you have a 24 percent positive rating is --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: I think --

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Democrats have three problems. Number one is it's no longer --

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: Three big problems --

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: -- affect this election. One is it's no longer George Bush's economy, it's yours.

BELCHER: Yes, we do own that.

BRABENDER: Number two is for the first time people are seeing a relationship between out of control spending and the poor economy. They never did before. Number three is people feel that they blinked and this country has changed. We've taken over Wall Street.

We've taken over financial, housing, health care, the automobile industry. And it's not the America they thought it was. And I think particularly in the middle, Independents are saying this is not what I signed up for when I voted --

BOLGER: And by nearly two to one, voters want to check and balance on President Obama and the Democrats in Congress so they know the Democrats run Washington.

BORGER: Can I just say --

BORGER: But if the economy were going -- if we were going to have the summer recovery, which was predicted by some --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: -- if unemployment numbers were better, if seven out of 10 people in this country thought that it was going in the right direction instead of going in the wrong direction, which is the way they think, Republicans might be in trouble because it is an anti- incumbent year, but look at the economy. That's their problem, the jobless rate --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- quick then I got to --

BELCHER: No, you're right, we do own the economy. And the truth of the matter is as long as the economy is going poorly and people view the economy as going poorly, it's going to be a tough year for Democrats. We do own it now, so and we'll get all the credit for it when it starts turning around.

KING: Without a doubt the economy is issue number one, but border security, immigration, those are big issues too and the president and his team weighed in today in a big way. Don't go anywhere.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Obama today signed legislation that adds $600 million to spending on border security. It will pay for about 1,500 more border and customs agents, two unmanned aerial drones and some other new technology along the border. At the same time, the Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, said efforts to change the Constitution to limit citizenship are, quoting her, "just wrong".

Let's continue the conversation with our panel and joining us as well Latino radio host Mario Solis Marich. I want to start with you on this point because I want you to listen to Secretary Napolitano, you remember President Obama, candidate Obama promised to do immigration reform in his first year. And as we have this debate now over birthright citizenship, Harry Reid's comment at how could any Latino be a Republican. There's a competition for the Latino vote. Secretary Napolitano today asked where is comprehensive immigration reform. She says it's not our fault.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: This is in the hands of the Congress. And they will need to address this in a bipartisan way. It can't only be done by Democrats; the Republicans need to be willing to come to the table. The timetable question should be addressed to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Should the timetable question be addressed to the Republicans? Or is the Latino electorate mad at both parties?

MARIO SOLIS MARICH, RADIO HOST, "MARIO SOLIS MARICH SHOW": I think right now there's a high level of anger from -- by -- from Latino voters against both major parties. We seem to have fallen somewhere in the middle of this major political fight. You have one party that is fear mongering, talking about terror babies, anchor babies, on and on and on. And you have another party that's basically buying into the fear that's being spread.

So this has been a very, very difficult situation for Latino families, for the loved ones of immigrant families. I'll also say something about Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano. The fact of the matter is, is it doesn't seem like other parts of her program or what she says about her program are actually matching what she's doing. We were told that the enforcement and deportation of immigrants was going to be actually focused on criminal immigrants or undocumented criminals. The fact of the matter is every piece of evidence we see indicates that that has not been the case at all.

KING: And to continue the political conversation, you know, Harry Reid raised a lot of eyebrows when he said I can't understand how any Hispanic or Latino would be with Republicans. Now many would say Harry Reid is in a tough race at home. He's needs the Latino vote. And some would also say, maybe this is cynical. Maybe this is just politics that Harry Reid is doing this because he wants the Latinos to focus on the Republicans because he wasn't able to keep this promise.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to come back. We're going to do comprehensive immigration reform now.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER: Look, Leader Reid tried to bring comprehensive immigration reform to -- on the Senate you know three times in '07. He got no help from the Bush administration, and he got no help from a senator from Arizona. So she's right when she says we both -- we need Democrats and Republicans to work on this in a bipartisan matter. But it's just not happening because obviously if you look at the rhetoric here, Republicans seem a lot more interested in demagoguing this issue than actually sitting down and working across the aisle on this issue.

BORGER: But he also tried to bring it back just recently and it was Democrats who were nervous about it, as well, saying we don't want to take another tough vote. This is going to be hard for us and we don't want to do this before the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's also --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a difficult situation.

(CROSSTALK)

MARICH: It is a difficult situation to say oh the Democrats are scared. Well of course they're scared because of the harsh rhetoric from the Republicans. Both parties here are equally responsible. It's not really one or the other. However, right now the Democrats do own the Senate. And it's important for them to take a major step forward. They need to call -- they need to call the Republicans on what they're doing.

They need to demonstrate leadership. That part definitely falls squarely on the shoulders of Democrats. On the other hand, Republicans need to stop the fear mongering. You can't scare people and then complain that they're scared.

KING: But polling shows overwhelmingly that for all of the Republican gains this year, Latinos are still siding with the Democrats. But when you look closely at the intensity factor and at the likelihood to vote, what are you seeing in the Latino community?

BOLGER: It's really not that high. And what I'm telling my candidates on the Republican side is the focus has to be on jobs and the economy, has to be on spending and fiscal issues. And it's about big things in Washington. Illegal immigration is a major concern to a lot of voters. But in terms of what really is at the top of their list, it's jobs. It's economy. It's spending. And it's taxes. And if we stay focused on that it's going to be a very good election --

BRABENDER: Well what people -- what people are also seeing is that no one is actually doing anything. What they did today was a scam. It was a -- what they did today and the bill that they passed at $600 million --

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: What that was, was a political commercial. That was a public relations thing that they can say here's what we're doing, so they can say --

BORGER: Who's they -- Democrats and Republicans?

(CROSSTALK)

BRABENDER: No (INAUDIBLE) that Republicans had to vote for this, but if you look at what the Republicans said is look, this is a small step, great, you're doing something. But if you look holistically at this, you did minimum.

KING: But you can say -- you can say it's not enough if you can make that argument. But the administration -- and I'm not defending them -- but the administration when it says in terms of money spent, border patrol boots on the ground, customs boots on the ground, crime rates on the border, those numbers are all more favorable now than they were at the end of the Bush administration. Not my job and I'm not smart enough to know whether it's enough --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what they're trying to do is nothing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- realistically.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well one of the things that I would add to that, though --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's not enough.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Mario wants to jump in -- quick last word, Mario.

MARICH: Yes, what I would add to this is that, yes, all the stats that John that you've just laid out are absolutely correct. The one part where the administration is falling short and that is that the -- there is no pathway to citizenship. We still have a -- millions of folks that are forced to live in the shadows. And other than a speech this year, we have seen absolutely no political action, no plan of action on behalf of the administration or any other part of the Democratic Party.

KING: All right, Mario, thanks for coming in. I need to call a quick time-out. We're going to continue the conversation -- no, we're not going to let you guys go anywhere. You're Friday night hostages here because when we come back, a lot of people say 2010 equals 1994 -- really? We'll make a comparison and see if it holds up.

And some Republicans are asking, if they are the same, who's our Newt? We'll go "One-on-One" -- you know his name -- Ben Quayle, he's the son of the former vice president. He's 33 years old. He says Barack Obama is the worst president in history. We'll get him to explain why and ask him about his race.

In the "Play-by-Play" tonight, Bill Clinton then, Barack Obama now. A comparison you might find a little eerie and "Pete on the Street" tonight, well Pete's usually asking you questions. Tonight, apparently he's found some people who have some questions for me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One of the recurring debates this year is will 2010 be just like 1994? Will there be a giant Republican sweep? In a minute we use the "Magic Wall" to make a bit of a comparison. First though I want you to listen closely. This is the voice of my former colleague Bruce Morton back in 1994.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, there are all sorts of reasons, but the main one may be that the voters really are fed up, really do want change as long as, at least, as change doesn't threaten them. They elected a new president, wanting change, didn't get what they wanted and seemed ready to elect a bunch of other new faces. Cranky is what they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Wait a minute, elected a new president? Didn't get what they wanted? Wanted change, cranky? That was then, is it now? Well, let's take a look at the numbers when you go through. There's no question there's a voter funk in the country. How are things going in the country? Back in 1994, 45 percent said pretty well; right now 31 percent say that.

Are things going badly? At the moment 69 percent -- at this point back in 1994, 52 percent, so the country is in more of a funk now than it was then. And what happened back then? Well, you had 50 Democrats in districts in 1994 that had been carried by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, so they, of course, were the most vulnerable two years later. In 2010, there are 40 Democrats in districts that won by John McCain in 2008.

You know those are the big Republican targets at the beginning. What happened back in 1994? Plus nine for the Republicans; that meant control of the Senate; plus 52 in the House; that meant control of the House of Representatives. Thirty-four Democratic incumbents lost their seats back in 1994.

But the White House says that won't happen this year. Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, says one reason is Republicans in his view are picking some bad candidates.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Democrats had a very good Tuesday. In every state we nominated the strongest candidates. And in many of those races, got opponents that I think most people believe --

(AUDIO GAP)

GIBBS: Democrats had a very good Tuesday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Eighty-one days out, that does matter. Now we're at to the point where we go race by race. So let's talk it over with our group, but let's start with the Republicans because the White House is insisting as you go race-by-race, that whether it's Linda McMahon for Senate in Connecticut or Ken Buck for Senate in Colorado that the Republicans, the Tea Party and other insurgents if you're on the right in their zeal have nominated people out of the mainstream.

BOLGER: Look, that's what the Democrats have to say. There is a wave coming. Most Republicans in the swing seats are going to win. Will all of them? No. There were Republicans in 2006 who were in seats that they should have lost who won. Democrats, there are some who are going to survive and win.

We won't know until, you know, a little bit before Election Day because the polls are going to go up, the polls are going to go down. You know already, people had already written off Rand Paul in Kentucky. He's still ahead there. People have written off Ken Buck. He's ahead right now.

(CROSSTALK) KING: One of the things people ask --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: One of the things people ask as they look back at '94 and you had a national party chairman in Haley Barber, who's a good fundraiser, a good message guy. You had Newt Gingrich leading the House Republicans in the campaign. And some have said you know do we really have that kind of leadership this year? This is Dick Lugar, veteran Republican senator from Indiana.

"The question is how creative will Republicans be in the face of this? If we get the majority, will there be the sort of negotiations that occurred between Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton, for example? And if so, who is going to be our Newt?"

Now, that's a question you could ask post election, but it's also a question you could ask now in the final days, John Brabender. Who is it who helps the Republicans with you know this guy's close, how do we get him to the finish line?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That guy needs a little money. How do we get him over the hump?

BRABENDER: I think this is where '94 and this year are a little bit different. The environment is the same, but it's still outsiders. It's still the Sarah Palins of the world. You can say a little bit it's DeMint out of the Senate, but there aren't -- this isn't the year where you're thinking about bringing in all these Washington congressmen and senators in for fundraisers, you're running against them quite a bit.

The other thing too is what became very clear is the Democrat strategy now is to go after and attack the Republicans individually. They've made that clear. We don't need to have this big leader. We just got to remind them who has ownership of all of the problems.

KING: Cornell used to do this for a living for the DCCC, the Congressional Campaign Committee. At what point does the party have to make those very tough decisions? You're going to get some money. We think you're close enough to get this one to the finish line, sorry, we'd like to fund you, but we don't have enough for you.

BELCHER: Well, well luckily this time around we're actually doing a fairly good job of raising money. And when you look at sort of the disarray that the RNC is in right now, it does make things a little tougher for Republicans and look at sort of how the DNC is raising money and they are actually guess what, going out building that grassroots infrastructure again to turn out -- to turn out our votes.

In the states like Nevada, for example, where it is a really close race, a lot of people thought Reid was gone. You know we registered, you know, 60,000 plus advantage in Dem registrations towards the end of that election cycle. We're going to have the resources and the infrastructure to go out there and pull those voters --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: The Democrats I talked to -- the hope is grassroots organization better than the Republicans, better candidates on the ground. And one other thing, more experienced candidates --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We said the same thing in 2006 --

BORGER: I know you did. I know --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: I'm just telling you what they tell me --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And the other --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I need to -- I need to end it there for tonight. We've got 11 weeks to go, and I'm going to invite you all back many times. We'll keep this debate going.

Next, though, I go "One-on-One" with one of the interesting candidates this year, Republican congressional candidate Ben Quayle. I'm going to ask him to explain why he's calling Barack Obama not only a bad president but the worst president in history.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: It's time to go "One-on-One".

KING: A congressional race in Arizona is suddenly getting national attention and quite a bit of it. Partly because of a campaign ad that's gone viral and partly because it's from a candidate with a famous name.

Ben Quayle, a Republican running in Arizona's third district, joins me now to go "One-on-One."

And Ben Quayle, I want to get to this ad. First tell our viewers, if they don't know, you're the son of the former vice president Dan Quayle. You're running for an open Republican seat in the Scottsdale-Phoenix area of Arizona. And the reason that you've generated such a national controversy is this ad.

Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN QUAYLE (R), ARIZONA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Barack Obama is the worst president in history. And my generation will inherit a weakened country. Drug cartels in Mexico, tax cartels in D.C.

What's happened to America?

I love Arizona. I was raised right. Somebody has to go to Washington and knock the hell out of the place.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, you're a Republican in a crowded 10-candidate Republican primary. So going after President Obama is not a surprise. But the worst president ever? He's been in office less than two years. Not Nixon, not Harding, not anybody else? Why Barack Obama?

QUAYLE: Well, John, this is a claim that -- I've thought about long and hard. And it was something that I wasn't happy about. But President Obama, through his ideology and his policies, has fundamentally changed our country for the worst.

And I think that he's taken a country, which was admittedly in bad shape, but he has made it worse and his policies are actually going to affect future generations in a negative way. And the future that he has created for my generation and other generations is pretty terrifying.

It seems like right now he's starting to destroy the American dream.

KING: Now, because of what you're saying in this ad, which is quite provocative, and because of who you are, there are a number of -- shall we say -- parodies of your ad already popping up online. Some of them are just funny and some of them are pretty pointed and they go right after you.

I want you to listen to one of them from a standup comedian.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's why I want whatever job Ben Quayle had before he decided to run for Congress. I don't know what it was, but I know I'll be better at it than that schmuck.

I love America and I was raised right. By which I mean neither of my parents ever forgot how to spell potato.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A chance to respond. I want to ask as you do -- you're getting a lot of attention because of this. Some of it's not necessarily polite. But are you benefiting from it?

QUAYLE: Well, you know, John, having the last name of Quayle, we're used to being made fun of and has some parody and having things that aren't true being said about you. So, you know, it stings but you know that's the way that politics goes nowadays.

KING: And as you know, many of your rivals there and many people who've covered politics for a -- long time like myself say, well, why would he do this? And some people think you're trying to change the subject because you're in a bit of a dust-up of first saying no, that wasn't me, and then acknowledging that you had submitted some postings to a pretty racy Web site, DirtyScottsdale.com.

A, why did you say no when it was you? And B, why did you do it?

QUAYLE: John, I have been consistent with my story from the beginning. The Web site that is currently smearing me is a despicable Web site. And I have had no affiliation with that Web site. This is a smear campaign that's being pushed by one of my opponents.

And, you know, it's the type of gutter politics that we really are trying to get away from and the people here in CD-3 are sick of. I mean if you look at what's happened since this commercial, it's been 36 hours. We've had over 300,000 YouTube hits.

This is the thing that people are looking at. The issues that President Obama is trying to take our country towards a social welfare state and that we need to get people into office who are actually going to combat that. That's what people want to focus on.

KING: Well, I won't dispute that except I do want to be very clear. DirtyScottsdale.com. This is a quote from you, "I just posted comments to drive -- try to drive some traffic." You did post some things to DirtyScottsdale.com?

QUAYLE: I posted a -- this is what I've said from the beginning. I posted a few comments on a Web site that doesn't exist anymore. They're innocuous. And, you know, these are the types of smear campaigns that have been pushed against me about nothing.

This is much ado about nothing and, you know -- but since it's a famous last name, people want to focus on that. So -- but I'll be tough and then I'm just going to be staying focused on the issues and focusing on bringing our country back from the brink right now.

KING: Well, to a degree, you're right about the criticism. And I want to read you something from one of your opponents, Pam Gorman. Again, there are 10 Republicans seeking this nomination. She says there's 10 people in this race, there's nine of us that may not agree on anything. But we all agree that it's completely offensive that Dan Quayle is trying to buy his little boy a seat in Congress.

How would you respond to that?

QUAYLE: Well, that's what I've been dealing with since day one on this campaign. They know that they can't attack me on the issues because I'm -- I have a much better future -- vision for the future of our country.

I know the issues better than they do and I have a better campaign right now than they do. And so they just attack me on that sort of things that doesn't make any sense. So she can say what she wants, but in the end, we will take the nomination and move on to the general election. KING: You are in a state right now. Let's talk about some of those issues. You're in a state that is ground zero in the border security and immigration debate in the United States right now. You've written letters critical of the Obama administration, tried to nudge your former governor, Janet Napolitano, now the Homeland Security secretary.

The president signed into law today a new border security measure, $600 million. He was already sending National Guard troops. This does a bit more beefing up the Border Patrol, beefing up customs and the like. Is it a positive step?

QUAYLE: I believe it is a positive step. But we need more. We need more troops at the border. And we need them right now. We were supposed to get the National Guard troops on August 1st, and now it's not going to be until the end of September.

If you go down to our southern border and see what's happening to the ranchers down there and see the devastation that happens from the drug cartels and the human smuggling, it'll rip your heart out. It is absolutely impossible to not see the problems we have with the poorest border.

KING: We speak on the 75th anniversary of Social Security. Just about everybody agrees if you're going to deal with the deficit long term, structurally, you have to do something with the big entitlement programs.

What would Ben Quayle recommend to do to change Social Security?

QUAYLE: Well, with Social Security, we would protect those who are in or near retirement today. But for people of my generation and younger, we would actually have to reform it which would be to start to gradually increase the retirement age up to 70 and allow a portion of the people to allow -- take a portion of their Social Security and actually invest it into private accounts.

These sorts of things need to be done because our entitlement programs are unfunded liabilities related to those are between $16 and $100 trillion which will freeze out all other spending and eventually bankrupt our country.

KING: Let me close where I began. The worst president in history. Nineteen months into office. You at the age of 33. You're sure you can make that conclusion?

QUAYLE: He -- what he has done in a year and a half, he's actually changed the country dramatically for the worse. More so than any president in our history. And I stand by my statement.

KING: Ben Quayle is a candidate -- Republican candidate for Arizona.

Mr. Quayle, thanks for your time today.

QUAYLE: Thank you. KING: Thank you.

And next, an update on top stories including a U.S. Senate candidate who has just been indicted.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the news you need to know right now -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

A short time ago the NTSB released the first close-up images from the scene of that plane crash that killed former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. Today doctors upgraded the conditions of the crash survivor and former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe from critical to serious.

There's no tsunami threat despite a magnitude 7.2 earthquake about 200 miles southwest of Guam.

And a South Carolina jury -- a grand jury today indicted Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene on two obscenity charges for allegedly showing pornographic pictures to a college student.

Greene tells CNN his lawyer is dealing with the indictment and, John, all I can say is, yikes, that cannot be good for your polling in the rest of the campaign.

KING: You know, Alvin Greene was a long shot anyway because he came out of the blue, Joe, in that primary, and nobody knew who he was, he has been one of the more interesting and almost celebrity candidates.

If -- why don't you come on over? Let's talk this over with our guests a little bit.

Jane Hamsher from progressive FireDogLake.com is here and Republican strategist Liz Mair.

Look, Alvin Greene was not going to win the Senate race in South Carolina. I guess you're not supposed to say that. You're supposed to let the voters go first. But I think that's pretty safe. But he has generated a ton of attention.

JANE HAMSHER, FOUNDER, FIREDOGLAKE.COM: I feel a little bit sad for Alvin. He's sort of the Eddie the Eagle of, you know, politics.

LIZ MAIR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Absolutely. He is every Republican's favorite Democrat. He's managed to earn that honor. And yes, he's had quite a ride. I think in a lot of respects, actually he's gotten significantly more notoriety than probably any other Democrat who might run against Senator DeMint could possibly get.

JOHNS: But it's all bad.

KING: Yes, it's all bad. (LAUGHTER)

KING: It's all bad unless you like action figures.

JOHNS: Right. Yes. You know he's just a punching bag. It just keeps coming. You know. It's too bad for this guy, but there are people out there who were saying he was a plant anyway. So he probably needs to write a book and clear the record, but he's sure not going to win the race.

KING: Innocent until proven guilty but we'll let this run goes to the courts. Now let's move on to some stories on "My Radar". Here's another great race this year. Nevada's U.S. Senate race.

CNN's affiliate KLS reports Republican Sharron Angle told a rally the United States should privatize Social Security. She also suggested withdrawing from the United Nations.

That race remains extremely tight. A new poll showing Angle only two points behind her opponent, the Senate majority leader Harry Reid. That's two points within the poll sampling error.

But, Jane, for the left, it has to be frustrating. They keep saying Sharron Angle is extreme, Sharron Angle keeps saying these crazy things, Sharron Angle can't win. And Sharron Angle is very close to Harry Reid.

HAMSHER: Well, I think it's a gift for the Democrats and for Reid particularly if she came out and said Social Security should be privatized.

The vast majority of the country strongly disagrees with that. And particularly when you're talking about older voters that are going to be coming out in the fall, I don't know that that's going to be a very popular message.

MAIR: I think it's a very interesting race to watch. Because while there are statements that she has made that clearly Democrats are pointing to as being very controversial --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And there are statements she has made that if you were advising her, you would ask her not to make?

MAIR: That's a tough call, actually. I think that candidates need to say what they believe. I think authenticity is extremely risky in politics. But that being said, I mean you don't want to scare away the entire electorate.

That's always something that you deal with when you're working with a fairly conservative candidate who may be attacked for being out of the mainstream, whether or not that's always consistently true.

But I think one of the things that's interesting to me about this race is that it is so close. And she is doing a good job with fundraising. And as long as that continues to be the case, I think she's going to be in a position where she can carpet-bomb Reid with some pretty nasty, negative ads.

And that may put her in a position to keep the race competitive and she may be able to win that.

KING: To Jane's point, though, Democrats and the president will touch on this in his radio address tomorrow. It's the 75th birthday of Social Security. And anywhere they can try to remind older voters, the most reliable voters in a midterm election year, hello, you should be with us, they will.

JOHNS: Yes, absolutely. And that's -- and that's absolutely what they're already starting to do. They're going to hold up, number one, Social Security is 75 years old, still very popular, Americans love it.

It's put money in your pocket, your money, and it's the Republicans who want to change it. Even though you can't find that many people talking about privatization right now anymore.

You know you've got to do something in the out-year, certainly, with Social Security. And everybody I think agrees on that.

KING: Eighty-one days to 2010, but it's never too early to talk a little about 2012. Especially since our pollsters have been out there asking some questions.

We asked voters whether they'll vote for a Republican or President Obama. The president loses by 5 points, 45 to 50 percent. But which Republican? The current candidates from our poll, in order, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, former speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

But they're all up in there pretty close and within the poll's sampling error. Does it matter?

MAIR: Yes, I think it does matter. At the end of the day, it's all very well and good having a poll that shows that a generic Republican beats President Obama.

But I don't think that anybody on the Republican side is under any illusions despite how vulnerable the president may appear to be at this point that this is not going to be a tough -- or it's not going to be an easy election when you get to 2012.

And I think ultimately when you look at a match-up, you can show that a generic Republican may be beating him, but the contest is going to be about the actual individuals involved. So it does matter. And I think it's interesting that Republicans are fairly undecided about it at this point.

KING: Are there some people on the left who see in this president some sort of a shift toward the center and worrying -- you hear the complaints sometime that he's worrying more about himself in the long-term than us in the short-term?

HAMSHER: I guess so, but you know, I don't think that he's in that much danger as a result of this poll. And my favorite part of this poll is the fact that Tea Party candidate -- people who identify themselves as Tea Party supporters say that they support Mitt Romney. And that's great.

The group that came together because they think that the banks have too much control over the government support the bank capital hedge fund guy.

JOHNS: And his long term, short term, it's really about the midterm right now.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Ah.

JOHNS: That's the deal. That's the whole point. And his unpopularity is a big concern for those people he's out there trying to help. You know does he have coattails? No, he doesn't even have a coat right now.

KING: It is not often said that politics and good fashion go hand-in-hand. It's just not said very often. But we want to show you something. Now remember the dust-up all week long, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, taking after the professional left, saying they should be drug tested because they compared this president to George W. Bush.

But take a look. Take a look right here. Behold, "Professional Left" t-shirts now available online, inspired by -- Press Secretary Gibbs, of course, all his (INAUDIBLE).

Jane, you might be a member of the professional left, for all I know. I'm not sure, Robert Gibbs hasn't put out --

HAMSHER: I can actually --

KING: -- his definition yet. But what do you think?

HAMSHER: Tell you the history of this. This is -- the guy who does the graphics for our Web site designed this and I showed it on ABC News. The competition on Thursday -- Wednesday morning and it kind of took off.

And so I think it's great that, you know, who knew that the administration's plan for full employment was in the t-shirt industry?

(LAUGHTER)

MAIR: I think it's --

KING: You're not going to buy one, are you?

MAIR: I'm tempted just for the collector value, to be honest with you. But I think -- I think it's an interesting development in so far as the sort of move towards producing a t-shirt for every single thing that's out there as a media mean. It seems to be pretty dominant right now.

JOHNS: I want a t-shirt that says "Ink Stained Retch."

KING: As long as they're made America. That's -- they're made in America. You know give somebody a job right here.

Next in the "Play-by-Play", General David Petraeus talks about the deadline for starting to remove U.S. forces from Afghanistan. And as part of our commitment to bring you into the conversation, every Monday we ask a question and give you all week to respond and make your case by posting a video at our Web site, CNN.com/Johnkingusa.

This week's question, do you ever miss President George W. Bush? Here's a sampling of your answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EGBERTO WILLIES, KINGWOOD, TEXAS RESIDENT: There's one reason why I miss George Bush. It's called comic relief. And by god, we do need some comic relief right now.

CLIFF OLNEY, WATERTOWN, NEW YORK RESIDENT: George W. Bush to me was a president that just didn't get it. Didn't understand that America is strongest when its people are taken care of, not its corporations.

LAUREN MALONEY, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN RESIDENT: I wish that Bush was back because he worked a little bit more with both sides. And with the promise that Obama made, I was hoping that it would have been a little bit better than it is right now.

BOBBY DAVIDOWITZ, LAKE MARY, FLORIDA RESIDENT: Obama needs to learn a few things from Bush. His Matrix-like ability to dodge flying objects. You need this quality, Obama, to dodge the hate that flies at you every day.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Here's comes the "Play-by-Play".

KING: All right. A little Friday night "Play-by-Play." Here to break down the tapes, still with us, Joe Johns, Jane Hamsher and Liz Mair.

We were just talking about the dust-up between Robert Gibbs and the, quote-unquote, "professional left." One thing the left doesn't like is that the president is adding troops to Afghanistan and they're watching closely because the president has promised to start bringing them home next spring.

Well, David Gregory of "Meet the Press" is in Afghanistan this week. He interviewed the commanding general David Petraeus for this Sunday's program. NBC has released one snippet of that interview. But I don't think it's going to make the left all that happy.

This is General Petraeus on the question, will troops start coming over next June.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, COMMANDER, U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: I'm not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear. Vice President Biden has been very clear as well more recently that this is a date when the process begins, that it's conditions based.

And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and the security forces.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right. We're back. Sorry, a little audio glitch inside the studio. So, I'm not bowed over by the knowledge that July 2011 is out there.

Jane, that's not going to make people happy. They're going to think General Petraeus is moving the goal post.

HAMSHER: I don't think this is going to come as a great surprise to anybody in the professional left. I think that people --

(LAUGHTER)

HAMSHER: -- really saw this coming, but, you know it does add to the sort of exasperation, you know, with -- you know, the people who were Obama supporters who really did rally behind him because they thought he was going to try and bring -- you know, wind this down and bring an end to the wars.

MAIR: I think that's right. And one of the things that I'm interested to observe as a Republican strategist is the fact that you have Republicans who have been shifting their views on this, too. And I think it'll be very interesting to see what the response from some of the more skeptical quarters on the conservative side of things will be to this interview.

KING: You think, Joe, it plays out much in the campaigns or will it be a post-election big discussion because the policy review is December?

JOHNS: Yes, that -- that would be my guess. That it would be a lot of discussion after the fact. I mean we know that the left is a little bit alienated and upset with the president for a variety of reasons including this. It's not the kind of thing that anybody is going to be surprised about.

(LAUGHTER) KING: I want you to -- quickly listen, this is my favorite ad of the campaign. I'm not taking sides. But I watch all these ads, you look for colorful messages. This is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. And we played it at the top of the show. I want to play it again.

She's a Democrat running for reelection. She's the leader of the blue dog Democrats. And watch this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. STEPHANIE HERSETH SANDLIN (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: I'm Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. And this is Zachary. He can help me show you what it's like in Congress. First of all, they like to eat and eat and eat. And you know what that leads to.

They have no concept of money and pretty much don't listen. When they all get together, you never know what's going to happen. It's why I voted against all the bailouts and the trillion-dollar health care plan.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And she's a Democrat.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMSHER: Yes. And then she says she'll come to Washington and beat the hell out of everyone.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMSHER: They're running the gamut this year.

KING: But if the head of the blue dog Democrats is saying, you know, that's the president's agenda, and I'm getting as far back from it as I can, Joe, does it send a green light to others? Does it --

JOHNS: Sure, and you know what? There are some others out there saying the very same things right now and doing OK. Because this is the time when you run away from a president. You can't -- you can't stand there with the man when his -- his numbers are tanking. And you --

KING: In South Dakota especially.

JOHNS: Right. And you're running for office. There's only one choice and that's to get as far away as you can and hope the voters accept it.

KING: In terms of creativity and getting your kids in the ad, that's pretty good.

MAIR: I think it's a pretty good ad. I think that the problem she's going to have with the ad is that irrespective of those particular things she's seeking highlight where she has taken a more conservative stance than the president, the fact of the matter is, her voting record as a whole doesn't reflect that.

And if we're in a cycle which I think we are where people are fed up at Washington, they're fed up with the establishment, they don't like the direction that the country has been going in, I think that's going to be a problem for her.

KING: Liz, Jane, Joe, thanks for hanging out with us on a Friday night.

When we come back, "Pete on the Street". He's out on Washington and apparently he's found some people who want to question me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: All this week, our offbeat correspondent Pete Dominick has been out there making mischief, trying to get me in trouble. Let's see what he's got tonight.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, John King, this is your town. People have a lot of questions about how it works, especially around the White House, which you covered so long.

Let's go find out what their questions are and what kind of answers you have for them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUREN: Hi, John. My name is Lauren. I'm originally from Philadelphia and I'm curious to know who you think will be the Republican nominee in 2012.

I love the show.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Lauren, I'm glad you love the show. One of the things I've learned in this business is I don't know. We just showed a poll. A number of decent Republicans out there campaigning but a long time before we know the answer.

We got one more?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, John. My name is Jeanette, and how do you guys get to be a reporter?

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jeanette, you work really hard, you go to school, you learn to write, you love what you do, and you're curious. And thanks for your question.

That's all for us tonight. Have a great weekend. Max Kellerman sitting in for Rick Sanchez tonight, and takes it away right now.

MAX KELLERMAN, GUEST HOST: Thanks, John.