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JOHN KING, USA

Gov. Ted Strickland Interview; Obama's Tax Cuts; Get a Clear Message; Interview With John Kasich

Aired September 7, 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 from Columbus, Ohio. This is one of the most consequential battlegrounds in this midterm election year. America votes eight weeks from today, and in a packed hour ahead, you'll hear from this state's Democratic governor, his Republican opponent and get an up-close look at the battle for control of Congress, a fight in which a Republican son of this state is now given good odds of being the next speaker of the House.

And we have some new information tonight about a breaking political drama. Chicago's long time mayor, Richard Daley announces he will leave office next year and the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is angling to replace him.

A lot of big names there, but I want to begin tonight with a man you probably don't know but with whom you might have a lot in common. Al Quincel owns a blue-collar barber shop right here in Columbus, Ohio, seven bucks a haircut. He's 70, calls himself an independent minded Democrat, but remembers back in the day casting a vote for Dwight Eisenhower. He's a middle class American grandfather, living in a state with double-digit unemployment.

Over coffee this morning he talked of his frustration, that politicians in Washington in both parties he says act like children. And he worries a way of life is slipping away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Yes, you are sort of raised with the idea that the American dream is you know we'll always do better than our parents. And our kids will always do better than us.

AL QUINCEL, GROVE CITY, OHIO, RESIDENT: Those days are gone.

KING: They're gone?

QUINCEL: They're gone.

KING: Why do you think that?

QUINCEL: I just keep going back to the job situation, you've got to have work in this country to survive and to get the dream, you get the House with the picket fence. You've got to have work here. We do not. Jobs that they are producing, our congressman (INAUDIBLE) -- the jobs they are producing don't pay no money. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The president will be here in Ohio tomorrow, trying to convince Al Quincel and Americans like him coast to coast that he has a plan to turn things around. But new CNN polling out just today shows Americans now give Republicans higher marks when asked which party has the best economic approach.

And in our reporting, I'm telling you we've lost count of how many Democrats complain the Obama White House lacks a consistent coherent economic strategy and message. Well Ohio's Democratic governor, Ted Strickland will find out eight weeks from tonight if he can survive the anti-incumbent tide powered by that sluggish economy.

Also on the road with us this week as we take an up-close look at the key states and races our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Governor Strickland, I'll talk to you about your race in particular in a moment, but I want to talk about the big economic picture that you have struggled with here.

The president is going to come here tomorrow and he is going to say just shy of eight weeks before election day, let's try something else, let's have a new $100 billion tax credit. So that a business can build a new factory or hire new workers and get more cash back essentially, more tax credits back. A lot of Democrats are saying why now, Mr. President? Why didn't you try this two weeks ago or two months ago or four months ago? Has this White House let you down in terms of trying to help stir up job growth?

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Well, John, the Recovery Act really helped Ohio. I think it's helped America. Tomorrow I'm going to be in Lordstown, Ohio near Youngstown. I will drive off the assembly line, the very first Chevy Cruise being produced at that plant. Hundreds of workers are working there. That plant would not exist today had it not been for what the administration did for the auto industry. And --

KING: But what about more than that? Back in January 2008, the unemployment rate here was below six percent. Now it's at 10.8 percent and I'll talk --

STRICKLAND: That's right --

KING: -- about you specifically (INAUDIBLE). Your polls aren't very good because of that. Should this White House -- if it's got a big sweeping tax cut plan, wouldn't it have been better for the economy, first and foremost, but also for Democrats on the ballot that it came six months ago?

STRICKLAND: Well a lot was done six months ago and as you know, it was done without any Republican support. So, you know, I'm not going to be overly critical of this administration or the president. I think -- I think what he has done and what our Democratic friends in the Congress has done has been of help to us. The recession would have been much deeper than it has been. We are in recovery in Ohio; jobs are being created for the last four months. We have had private sector job growth in Ohio, and I think we're on our way out of this recession, but it's very slow, and I'm candid with the people here in my state. There are no quick fixes to this economy. We've got to do the hard work of rebuilding what happened to us --

KING: I hate to interrupt, but some of your constituents, the people who will decide whether you get four more years don't agree with you. We've all be out talking to people in the state and Gloria went out today and she asked some voters a pretty simple message. Do the Democrats have a consistent economic message? Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX KUSKIN, OHIO RESIDENT: In a word, no. No, they don't. Sorry. That's the way I feel about it. I don't think they've had a clear message yet.

AMY LOZIER, BAKERY OWNER: I think it's a little muddled. I don't -- I'm not really hearing from them exactly what they want to do. I think they know. But I think that it's being so cautious not to offend anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Gloria, when you're talking to voters like that, do they blame the president? Do they blame Washington? Do they blame everybody?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: These are Democrats. These are people who identify themselves as sort of loyal Democrats. I think they blame Washington. And I think, you know, I have to ask the governor, does this kind of anti Washington sentiment, anti-Obama really sentiment affect you, because you're a Democrat? How much does that hurt you here?

STRICKLAND: Listen, I think -- I think the people in Ohio and across America are upset with all of us, Washington, Wall Street, local leaders, certainly with me. We need to acknowledge that. And I understand why. They are angry. I'm angry and I'm angry over some of the same things they are angry over. We've been dealt a tough blow. We've been given you know a kick in the gut so to speak --

BORGER: But could they have had a clearer message? Could the White House --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well yes --

KING: And if you're -- and if you're looking for a clear message from your leaders, from your governor and from your president can it help eight weeks from Election Day? I know many people here in Columbus and Ohio don't read "The New York Times", but if you pick up "The New York Times" today, Peter Orszag, who just left the Obama White House as the budget director at a time when the president and the Democrats are saying we have to let the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthy Americans at the end of the year because of the deficit, Peter Orszag writes this.

"The best approach is a compromise. Extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them all together. Ideally, only the middle-class tax cuts would be continued for now, but getting a deal in Congress may require keeping the high-income tax cuts too, and that would still be worth it."

Does that help for you to have to face these questions? We thought that was litigated.

STRICKLAND: Well listen there are no easy answers, John. And I want the people of Ohio --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a no.

(LAUGHTER)

STRICKLAND: No. I'm trying to speak the truth here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

STRICKLAND: There are no easy answers and for snake oil salesmen to come along and make promises that can't be fulfilled and to say we're going to do this and it's going to solve all of our problems, that's just simply not the way it is.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, I want to ask you, you were in the House of Representatives in 1994 --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You got swept out in the Republican wave last time. So you've seen this movie before.

STRICKLAND: I have.

BASH: (INAUDIBLE) How is the sequel? What lessons are you taking seriously from that and how are you applying that to how you're running now?

STRICKLAND: Well I'm trying to take my message directly to the people. Listen, Ohioans and I think Americans, you know we're solid common-sense people. We understand that this recession has been tough and difficult. And -- and we're going to come out of it. We are coming out of it. We have been helped by our friends in Washington. It is slow.

There are still people hurting. People are -- are in some cases really losing hope. And that's what troubles me mostly. Because I do believe that we'll get through this. We're tough people, but it's going to take time. And in the meantime, I'm thankful that we have an extension of unemployment benefits for our unemployed workers. I'm thankful that Medicaid is there for us and that we've got more money to take care of the vulnerable among us. I'm grateful that we've got more money for education, so that at least in Ohio, we've actually increased funding for our K through 12 schools. I have gotten help from Washington -- Ohio and Ohioans have gotten help from Washington. Is it enough? I had hoped the stimulus would be larger than it was, quite frankly. I argued for that.

KING: Let me call a time-out here. The governor is going to stay with us. We're going to talk specifics about his race in a moment. Dana and Gloria will be back with us a little later in the program. As we go to break, though, before we talk more with the governor, let's take a closer look at why this state in Middle America is so critical.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: As goes Ohio, so goes the nation. That's what they say in presidential politics and you might be able to say that about this big midterm election year. Cities in the north and in the south, smaller cities, smaller city Columbus in the middle, some suburbs that are key in all of our politics and then some big swath of rural farmland. Ohio has a little bit of everything. Let's compare it to the country as a whole when it comes to the demographics.

The unemployment rate in Ohio right now, as you can see, a little bit above the national average. Per capita income, a bit below the national average. Ohio is a bit more white than the nation as a whole, about the same in African American population, but significantly, Ohio, well below the national average when it comes to the Latino population.

Now what about the economy in the Obama administration? This is why Republicans are so optimistic in Ohio this year, 10.3 percent unemployment, as we noted. Manufacturing jobs down steadily, although bouncing back a little bit from January, still down though during the Obama presidency. Construction jobs just as well, a little bit of a bounce this year.

Still down 12 percent during the Obama presidency. It is that tough economy that has Republicans optimistic. Beginning with the governor's race, Ted Strickland, an incumbent Democratic governor. Republicans believe in these tough economic times their candidate, former Congressman John Kasich, can win for the Republicans in this race very much worth watching and trust me, they are watching this one in the Obama White House.

Also a big Senate race, Republicans hold this seat right now and they need to keep it in Republican hands. Rob Portman, former Bush cabinet member, former member of the House of Representatives, he's the Republican candidate against long-time Democratic state wide office holder Lee Fisher to Democrats heading into the final weeks. It is Republican Rob Portman with the lead.

John Boehner of Ohio is the House Republican leader. He wants to be the next speaker of the House. To get that Republicans need to pick up 39 seats, but to get those 39 they need to get some of them right here in the state of Ohio. Here are three Republican targets in Ohio right now. Steve Driehaus, his district is down in the Cincinnati area. Mary Jo Kilroy, John Boccieri, their districts are more up here up in the central part of the state. If Republicans are to take back the House, they're going to have to make gains in the home state of the man who would be the next speaker, John Boehner of Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Live pictures there of Ohio's beautiful capital city, Columbus, just across the river from where we are in this plaza. You know if President Obama is watching one race on election night, it might be the re-election campaign of the gentleman still with me, Ohio's Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Why?

Like President Obama, who might run for reelection a couple of years down the road, this is a Democratic chief executive trying to get reelected in tough economic times. And Governor, I want to talk specifically about your race. When I talked to your opponent earlier today and our viewers will see some of John Kasich a bit later in the program. He said sure, there is a national recession, sure there are some things you -- just nothing you can do (INAUDIBLE) but he says that regulations have been too strict under your administration. Taxes have been too high. I want you to listen to John Kasich. He says if he's elected governor, he can actually bring jobs to this state faster than you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. CANDIDATE: Oh, I think we can lead. I mean I've never been in the position where I've doubted the ability to control your own destiny. We can start pulling jobs from other places instead of having jobs leave and let young people stay here rather than leave or our entrepreneurs stay here rather than leave. We can make a huge difference, absolutely. And we can even be a role model for the rest of the country. We create a business-friendly environment things will get significantly better here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's your opponent, who says have you created an environment that is not friendly to business.

STRICKLAND: He's just flat out wrong. John, you're flat out wrong. I have reformed a regulatory system with the participation of the business community. I had business leaders come into my office, sit down with me, we've eliminated some 200 or more regulations. We've modified over 3,000 more and quite frankly, many of the business leaders in this capital city have applauded that. We do not have an overregulated state. Not since I've been governor.

KING: I guess the question back then would be then why is the unemployment rate going up? STRICKLAND: Well the unemployment rate went up because of the recession. We went up to 11.1 percent. We're moving slowly down to 10.3 percent. But I didn't cause the recession, John, and Ohio didn't cause the recession. The recession was caused by Wall Street, and who was working on Wall Street during those years when all of those bad decisions were made?

It was John Kasich. John Kasich says that our state has an unfriendly business climate and an onerous tax system for business investment. He's flat-out wrong. We have the best business tax climate in the Midwest, certainly and one of the best in America. He's out of touch with what's happened here in Ohio. I have worked with business leaders, members of the Ohio Business Roundtable and others to -- to embrace a tax reform that was passed before I became governor.

KING: What can a governor do now in this national environment? What more can you do? You are always learning lessons.

STRICKLAND: Sure --

KING: Everybody learns lessons --

STRICKLAND: Absolutely.

KING: What would you say to somebody out there watching in our final minute together who says all right I'm torn. I'm undecided between these two guys. What will you do day one of a second term? Another term? Says all right, this is a lesson I've learned. Here is how I'm going to create jobs.

STRICKLAND: Well John, this is not a contest between me and the economy. This is a choice between me and John Kasich. He's an outsourcer, a Wall Streeter. I'm the guy who's been here in Ohio working his heart out for our people.

And I think people understand the effort that I've put forth. What will I do? I'll continue to do what I've done. Invest in education. Invest in growth industries. I'll embrace a competitive tax structure that my Republican opponent put in -- or my Republican predecessor put in place. Ohio is on its way out of this recession.

What we don't need is to go back to the same policies that put us into this recession. John Kasich wants to impose upon Ohio the same kind of values and the same culture that existed on Wall Street that caused this recession. I don't want that to happen to my state. I love this state, and the people in it.

That's why I work hard and honestly for them. John Kasich says things that in my judgment just old, tired, political rhetoric. I'm the guy who's been working day after day after day for the people of my state, and I think they recognize that, and when they look at what he offers, and when they look at what I offer, I'll emerge as the winner in this contest.

KING: Eight weeks from now, that contest will be decided. Governor Strickland, we appreciate your time tonight. And we want to tell our viewers they'll hear from his opponent, John Kasich, a bit later in the program.

You won't be surprised he has very different views, but stay tuned to hear the Republican view as well. Governor, thanks again for your time.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

KING: Also ahead in the program tonight, a big drama playing out in the city of Chicago. Mayor Richard Daley says he won't run again. And speculation immediately centering on the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who is on the record saying he would like to be the mayor of Chicago.

And we'll go off to the races right here in Ohio. There are several Democrats in trouble in this state and if Republicans are going to take control of Congress, this could be a decisive battleground.

And "One-on-One" as we just noted with Republican John Kasich. He wants to take the governor's job away from Ted Strickland. You'll decide, the people of Ohio will, eight weeks from tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back everyone. We're live from Columbus, Ohio tonight, but let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now -- hey there Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. During a meeting with religious leaders this afternoon Attorney General Eric Holder called a Florida congregation's plan to burn Qurans idiotic. The pastor of that congregation tells CNN they are definitely weighing the situation and aware of warnings their plan to burn Qurans on September 11th could cause problems for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, who has been in office since 1989, announced today he will not seek a seventh term next year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RICHARD M. DALEY (D), CHICAGO: I've always believed that every person, especially public officials, must understand when it's time to move on. For me, that time is now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: End of an era, John, of course one thing you can say is that Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, did not allay any suspicions that he might try to run for that job today. Put out a little statement, didn't say a word about running for the office.

KING: Well he didn't indeed. We're going to talk about that Joe. You know when I first -- long time ago when I first started covering politics, the mayor is one of the beats I got to cover. And Mayor Daley was there then and you know people in Chicago he's controversial of course, but always a very colorful figure, fun guy to talk to, we'll miss him in that regard in the political stage.

But so let's continue the Rahm Emanuel conversation, Joe. I have Gloria Borger -- she's back with us -- Dana Bash back with us, our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin joining us. And he's the White House chief of staff, and he's eight weeks away from a very important midterm election so he's kind of busy.

But everybody today says Rahm Emanuel, who's on the record saying he wants this job will he run for mayor? Here's what he said -- Joe referred to his statement. He said this. "While Mayor Daley surprised me today with his decision to not run for reelection, I have never been surprised by his leadership, dedication, and tireless work on behalf of the city and the people of Chicago." That's called playing it safe and let the mayor have his day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look if your dream job suddenly came open and you had an opportunity to take it, would you? Would you go for it --

KING: I have my --

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: There are some openings for pitching for the Red Sox?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I'm a catcher, not a pitcher. (INAUDIBLE) But let's listen -- let's listen to what Rahm, I call him Rahm, I've known him a long time, Rahm Emmanuel what he said awhile ago on "The Charlie Rose Show," making very clear if there is an opening I would like it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAHM EMANUEL, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I hope Mayor Daley seeks reelection. I will work with him, support him if he seeks reelection, but if Mayor Daley doesn't, one day I would like to run for mayor for the city of Chicago. That has always been an aspiration of mine, even when I was in the House of Representatives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What's interesting about this is you know Rahm Emanuel has a lot of enemies in Washington, but he has a lot of people in Chicago already saying hey stop talking about him. Bobby Rush, the congressman saying that. Other people saying well don't make any conclusions. There are going to be a lot of candidates for this.

BORGER: Oh absolutely. And I think Rahm -- to be fair to Rahm Emanuel, he has made it very clear, he wants to be the mayor of Chicago. He's got a great job too. And you know the talk in Washington is OK Rahm is barely out the door. Who is going to be the president's next chief of staff?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right? They are already trying to figure that out.

KING: And some of this is inevitable. Two years in you have the midterm election. We've already seen a couple of members --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure.

KING: -- of the economic team leave, so people are going to start to cycle out anyway and that is a high burnout job being chief of staff.

BASH: It's probably the most high burnout job, you know second to the president who is in there until he has to run again.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Exactly. Yes, no, but the reality is I think what you said is right. It's very interesting. In Washington we see a lot of hemming and hawing and well maybe and you know we'll see what happens when that day comes. There has been no helming and hawing with Rahm Emanuel. He wants to be the mayor of Chicago. He also -- for those of us who know him -- he loves his hometown.

He -- it was hard for him to bring his family from Chicago when he left the House of Representatives to go to the White House to Washington. That was a big move and he's wanted to go back for a long time --

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: I was in touch with somebody who is pretty close to Rahm Emanuel who says look, this is a complicated decision. As much as he really wants this role, he feels a big responsibility to the president. He has some time because the filing date isn't until mid November --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Yes, but you got to start collecting signatures pretty quick on this --

BORGER: Can I say for those of us who know Rahm Emanuel --

KING: All right.

BORGER: -- there's no hemming and hawing about Rahm --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right? He'll --

KING: All right, all right, a quick break here. When we come back the reason we're here in Ohio. It's not to talk about Rahm Emanuel, even though that's a great political drama. This state is critical in the midterm elections, including when are you doing the math to try to figure out will the Democrats and Nancy Pelosi keep control of the House or will it change to Republicans? Some key House races, some endangered Democrats right here when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Get ready. We're going off to the races.

KING: The big picture in the midterm elections is the Republicans need a net gain of 39 House seats to make John Boehner, a son of this state, Ohio, the next Speaker of the House of Representatives. To get there they need to win in a lot of key districts including right here in this state, so let's talk them over with our correspondents who have been out in the field.

We'll start with Jessica. You visited the district. It starts in north Columbus, with Mary Jo Kilroy. She is a Democrat. She is vulnerable in the greatest sense of the word. Yet, what's interesting about her is that in a year where many Democrats are saying, "Go away, Mr. President," don't want to talk about the White House -- not only does she say she's proud of her alliance with President Obama. She says, "Mr. President, come on in."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARY JO KILROY (D), OHIO: I would love it. Let me invite him again. Mr. President, come on back to Ohio 15. Come back and come to campus with me. Come back and tour the district with me. I would love to have you or your wife come here and campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And Steve Stivers is her Republican opponent. And his point is, the Democrats have been charged and look at Washington, everybody, a lot of red ink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE STIVERS (R), OHIO CONG. CANDIDATE: Well, I'm focused on cutting the spending and getting people back to work. And right now, this Congress, including the incumbent in this district, has ignored the jobs issue and they spent money that we don't have and they borrowed money that we can't pay back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, what's your sense up there? When you talk to the people in Washington who are looking at the map and putting in "vulnerable" pins and "gone" pins, they think Kilroy is probably gone.

YELLIN: That -- this is one of those very, very touchy for the Democrats. And Republicans are clearly targeting at it and feel confident that they can pick it up. It's a close race. I mean, she said she would be happy to have the president here, but she's not going to see with him or be with him when he's in the state just about an hour, an hour and a half drive tomorrow. Now, it's not in her district.

BORGER: Washing her hair?

YELLIN: So, there's a conflict. You know, she also says that while she supports the president's economic plan that he's coming to sell tomorrow, she's not sure she can vote for it. So she supports the idea that he's for this stuff, but she doesn't want to commit to more spending. It's a very tough position Democrats have.

KING: And let's -- before we talk big picture, let's draw contrast.

Dana, you were in the 16th district. John Boccieri is the Democratic incumbent, although you have to remind him, I guess, from time to time. He's a Democratic incumbent.

What do you have here?

BASH: All right. This is the card that he hands out. Now, most candidates have a card -- what they're about, what their issues are, who they are. Nowhere on here does it say he's a Democrat. Nowhere on here that does it mention Barack Obama.

KING: So asked --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So, you asked him about that.

BASH: Right.

BASH: You say, "Where is the Democratic label?"

Listen to this one at home, ladies and gentlemen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOCCIERI (D), OHIO: We may wear a jersey on the field, but we're all playing for America. So, Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter. We're playing so that America can be stronger.

BASH: Is that to do with the Democratic brand right now?

BOCCIERI: I want folks to view me as an American first.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: So, he's on the Team America ticket -- John Boccieri is.

Before we talk about it, let's be fair. John Renacci is his opponent. And he says, you know, he may say he's on Team America, but in Mr. Renacci's view, Mr. Boccieri and the Democrats have cast some bad votes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM RENACCI (R), OHIO CONG. CANDIDATE: Some of the votes that John Boccieri made are definitely job-killing votes. I mean, cap-and- trade, let's face it. It's the worst vote you can make in this district or in this state. This state is dependent on coal as an energy source -- and cap-and-trade is a job-killing tax. Health care, before John Boccieri made the vote for health care, this district voted that they were not in favor of health care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Jim Renacci. I said John Renacci. It's Jim Renacci.

You have both of these races and then most of the races in this state, some pretty sharp contrast.

BASH: Absolutely. And this is one of them. What's interesting about John Boccieri is that he is in a district that he should, by all, you know, purposes should not be in because his district went not, in a huge Democratic year, for Barack Obama. And the state did not go for Barack Obama, it went for John McCain.

Before him, a Republican had that seat for almost 60 years. And yet, if you talk to Democratic strategists here, and privately, they'll say he's still in the race. And what he's doing there -- and you heard Team America -- but in also seriousness, he is very much trying to make the case that despite what the Republicans say, which is following the playbook, he has voted down the middle on most of the issues. Big issues he voted with the president. Most of the issues, he is saying that he is trying his best to vote his district.

BORGER: But here's the problem. Those signature issues that the president is really so proud of are things that folks cannot talk about a lot. I mean, health care reform being one of them, may have voted for health. But 65 percent of the American public doesn't like health care reform. They don't like the stimulus package.

The governor was talking, you know, he is proud of what the stimulus package has done for Ohio. There are a lot of voters I spoke to who said, you know what? I'm not so sure that the stimulus package is all good.

KING: Well, we know by the time we get through Pennsylvania where we were yesterday, and we were counting the votes in Ohio, we should have a pretty good sense. By the time we get here, it's such a bellwether state, that if the Republicans are starting to wrack up, if Kilroy is beaten, if Boccieri is beaten, getting to 39, we'll have a pretty good clue by the time we get to the Mississippi River, won't we?

BORGER: Yes. I think we will. Also, we'll be looking at the governor's race and the Senate race. I mean, you know, this state is always -- is always a bellwether.

KING: Right.

YELLIN: I'll tell you one thing, there's an exception here. And this shows how local races are. I was talking to Mary Jo Kilroy and she's happy in this Columbus district to run on health care reform. I have not seen that at any other races about it. I've covered anywhere. She says this is a community that has a lot of medical professionals in it, and there is -- polling here is about 50/50. So, it does show that these races are determined by local factors

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: -- to some extent and the national trend --

BORGER: And that's what the Dem --

KING: A hugely important point in the final eight weeks to go race by race and check things out. I need to call a quick time-out.

But, Gloria, Jessica, and Dana will be back with us a bit later.

When we come back -- you heard from the Democratic governor at the top of the program -- when we come back, one-on-one with his Republican opponent, former Congressman John Kasich.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Hey there, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John.

Democratic Party chairman, Tim Kaine, has a warning for candidates who run away from President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Check out what he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM" today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: You won't be surprised, Wolf, to know that I tend to be a little more helpful to those who are energetically and enthusiastically telling about the good things that the party has done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Two Democratic sources confirm to CNN that President Obama will team up with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a fundraiser in New York City on September 22nd.

The imam behind plans for an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero is back from his world tour and will break his silence in an exclusive interview tomorrow on CNN. He will be with Soledad O'Brien on "LARRY KING LIVE." Again, that's Wednesday, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. And, John, given all that's been said about Islam over the past few weeks, I would say that is must-see TV.

KING: Absolutely. That is worth watching. It would be interesting to see if he stirs up more controversy about it or if he can answer a lot of the questions people are asking out there.

Joe, I want to ask you a question now. I'm sitting in your hometown?

JOHNS: That's right. Well, not only are you sitting in my hometown, you're sitting right in front of I believe the Center of Science and Industry, COSI, which when I lived was central Ohio, was Central High School, where I played football, went to track meets. It was like the center of the city. Now, it's sort of a museum. So, yes, that's my hometown. Was there 10 days ago, I love you and miss you, Ohio.

And, John, as far as I'm concerned, this is just the best television program ever.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Well, I second the motion. And I think -- you know, when we're done tonight, we're heading into the Joe John wing and check out the archives in there somewhere, right?

JOHNS: So, what do you think of it, though?

KING: Your old cleats are hanging up there somewhere, I'm sure of that.

JOHNS: Yes, right.

KING: I love this state -- I love this -- I love this city and I love this city. Very nice, friendly people, number one. Friendly, even though they are going through tough times. It's great to be here because it's such an important state politically. And I will come to Ohio over and over and over again because it's a great place. And you learn a lot about American politics right here in this state.

And on that point, one of the big races this year is the race for governor. There are 37 governor's contests this year and they are critical -- critical -- to determining how they re-draw congressional districts, education policy, tax policy, and how Barack Obama gets a head start or a headwind or maybe something else, Republican opposition in his reelection campaign.

John Kasich is a former congressman, was a deputy of Newt Gingrich when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994. He's the Republican nominee for governor. You heard from the Democratic incumbent at the top of the program. I sat down earlier today with John Kasich, began the conversation by asking him: What would you do differently, sir, to get people jobs?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: Put some specifics on the table. In day one or month one, what would be different with Governor Kasich as opposed to a second- term for Governor Strickland?

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, the government is going to be modernized and shrunk. The taxes are going to be reduced. The regulations will be -- that get in the way of small business, will be systemically repealed. We are now creating an independent operation called Jobs Ohio, which is going to take private-sector people working aggressively to work with businesspeople to help them or to remove barriers, or to help them find financing and you're going to have a governor that actually understand business, will talk the language of business.

KING: If you listen to your opponents, he says that all sounds good, but your guy who's buddies are in Wall Street and your buddies are the other extreme right of the Republican Party.

KASICH: This guy -- think about this -- this guy is running for re-election, and he spent every minute of his campaign trashing me. I mean, wouldn't you think that a guy running for re-election would have something good to say about himself? And let's deal with Lehman for a second. I was one of 700 managing directors in a 30,000-person company. That's like blaming a car dealer here in town for the collapse of G.M. It's just desperation and designed to really shift attention away from what's happening in Ohio. You know, it's ridiculous to be running for re-election and have nothing good to say about yourself.

KING: A governor also has some impact in education policy. What's different from -- between John Kasich and Ted Strickland when it comes to schools?

KASICH: I'll give you an example. Ohio was 47th in the country in dollars in the classroom, but we're ninth in overhead. Now, how are you going to teach some kid how to learn and empower a teacher if you're not putting the dollars in the classroom? So, that would be the most important thing that we would start with and also asking the districts to tell us what unfunded mandates they'd like to repeal.

KING: Let me play you back in closing. We first met a long time ago when the Republican brand had a bit of a resurgence. 1994 election, Republicans take control of Congress, they work with a Democratic president. We can go back and criticize those times, but you could say, well, for reform of balanced budget, there were some good things that happened.

Right now, I think you'd agree, even though it is the Democrats who are in power and it's a tough year for them, the Republican brand isn't exactly beautiful at the moment. What would you do to fix it?

KASICH: Look, we won in '94. I believe part of why we won in '94 is connected to '93 when we were offering proposals and ideas. I think in '94, the Contract with America spelled out a whole number of things that really got the American people pretty pumped up -- welfare reform, balancing budget, cutting taxes for families, reducing taxes on risk-taking.

I think after the turn of the century and after 2000, Republicans didn't have ideas. They started -- they started just -- you couldn't tell what they were for. It was just make the trains run on time. No ideas, no philosophy and they lost. They were punished.

What can really resurrect the brand for Republicans -- and look, I'm not running for this to be a Republican. I mean, the party is my vehicle, never been my master. But a political party that can offer ideas creates energy and when you create energy, you create excitement.

What the Republicans better realizes is if they do have these sweeping victories, they better be prepared to lead with their ideas, because if they are not, there's going to be some boiling oil and tar outside the building where they are, and the public will take it out on them, just like they've taken it out on Obama, who's overpromised and under-delivered. Republicans got to be prepared to move.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: The Republican candidate for governor, John Kasich, there. Again, that's the headline on the big election here eight weeks from tonight.

You know, one of the many treasures of this state is editorial cartoonist Jeff Stahler. Take a look at some of these pictures. The economic anxiety in this state has been tracked in his work for "The Columbus Dispatch" and for "USA Today."

When we come back, a look at Ohio's economic anxiety through the eyes of an artist.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You can get the pulse of a community by talking to the people. You can get the pulse by looking at the economic statistics. And here in Ohio, they are not so great at the moment.

Or when you're in a city like this, and it has a treasure like Jeff Stahler, you go and say hello to him. He's the editorial cartoonist for "The Columbus Dispatch." His work also appears in "USA Today" and papers around the country pick it up.

So, what you're about to see might look a little familiar. He's a gifted artist. And what he has done over the past couple of years is track the economic anxiety that has dramatically changed this state's politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF STAHLER, EDITORIAL CARTOONIST: What I try to do in most of these cartoons are to capture the moment, capture what people are thinking.

KING: When you go back in time and look at that, that's Inauguration Day, 2009.

STAHLER: That was a hopeful time. I think everybody's spirits were picked up. I think that there was a lot of hope out there. And I'm not sure what the -- what the message would be right now.

KING: Anyone who picks up "USA Today" tomorrow morning will see this. We're eight weeks to the election. The president is actually going to be in Ohio to make his economic argument.

And this is your -- I guess this is your Republican strategy?

STAHLER: This is the new mood of the way we've, I think -- I don't even know if it's Republican. I think it's across lines. I think it blurs a lot of lines right now, just like hope did a year ago, now blaming Obama for almost everything, seems to be the mood of America.

KING: Do you think in part because he did raise the bar and the hopes so high that the fall is harder for this guy?

STAHLER: It will be tough. It will be tough. You know, I'm not sure.

I think people -- there are people out there that still have hope. I have hope. And -- but I still look at these things and like this empty promise of looking through something that some -- that most politicians do such a good job -- they do such a great job of campaigning.

But when -- when the door is shut after the election, I don't want to see another campaign start up again. I want to see results. I think that's what everybody else wants to see.

KING: And what were you trying to do with that?

STAHLER: Well, we're both looking at the issues and we're looking at an economy -- the Republicans look at it one way and Democrats look at it another way. And they're both on the same page.

KING: And we're talking here about the political debate about it, coming from hope into this period of uncertainty. That's one way to look at it through the eyes of the politician and the vehicle of the politicians and the parties. But another way is to make it more personal -- and you do a lot of that in a state that had a tough couple years.

STAHLER: Oh, yes, yes. In this particular cartoon, "The end is near." And I just thought, if you took it a completely different approach and said, you know, we're rethinking -- the worst is over. Now, maybe the best is yet to come.

KING: And in these times, when somebody sees something like that --

STAHLER: I'm trying to get that kite to fly -- the same as we're all trying to get that kite to fly. Every politician is trying to get that kite to fly.

Unfortunately, I think when Obama took over, it didn't make any difference whether Obama made it, McCain made it -- that same politician, Strickland, Kasich, they're all going to have the same problem come the next election. And lifting that kite is going to be a struggle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: So well put by Jeff Stahler. And I got final thought from our correspondents here.

What strikes me about his work is the power of the simplicity, the direct message, but he has captured the anxiety, the economic anxiety of this state brilliantly.

BORGER: The pessimism also around the country, he's also -- he's also captured. I just have to give kudos to disappearing art that I miss seeing in the newspapers that have disappeared all over the country. And what a contribution that is to the political dialogue.

YELLIN: And he's good with pictures and words. Democrats are hoping that their voters are taking the worst out on them now and it will turn around by Election Day.

BASH: And he captured what we have been seeing all across the state, and that is that the problem is that people were so hopeful, the fact that they voted for Barack Obama by 10 points in this battleground state, and now, they're so disappointed. That I think is what's making people feel so much worse, with that hope just two years ago.

KING: Eight weeks to go to Election Day. Here at the moment, the Republicans are feeling good about it.

We thank Jeff Stahler. We thank our correspondents. Tomorrow night is Kentucky.

Still more to come tonight, though, Pete Dominick, our off-beat Pete Dominick, he's out on the street and he's got some questions.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: "RICK'S LIST #PRIMETIME" prime time just a couple of minutes away, at the top of the hour.

Let's check in with Rick Sanchez in New York for a preview.

Hey, there.

RICK SANCHEZ, HOST, "RICK'S LIST": I got a couple of breaking stories that are taking place right now. They both involve fires. Apparently, some arsonists work taking place in Detroit. I'm going to take you through that. And also, what's going on in Colorado right now. Apparently, the situation with those wildfires is even worse. We'll take you there as well. As a matter, we just heard from the governor -- Governor Ritter, is going to join us here live.

Back to you, John.

KING: And, Rick, as we look forward to the breaking news, I just want to take one second to say, congratulations, sir. If you're out there watching and you have been paying attention, coming soon to a bestseller list near you, Rick Sanchez. Congratulations.

SANCHEZ: That's great. You know, "Conventional Idiocy" is really the story of my staff and the show and everything we do in social media. So, it should be fun getting the word out there. Thanks, John. Appreciate it.

(MUSIC)

KING: Out on the street now, our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick.

And, Pete, I understand, you want to play a little question time.

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: That's right, John King. My first job ever was at the New York state fair in Syracuse, New York. And I realize that state fairs are wrapping up. I think Dana Bash was at one today.

And my question, first is, why do all the politicians -- why do they all head to the state fairs at this time of year every year, John King?

KING: Hello, Pete. People don't like politics right now. The politicians go to the state fair because they have a captive audience, all those people there, you know, getting their fried Reese's, and their fried pork chops, and they fried this and they fried the other thing. The politicians get -- the politicians get a chance to grab them and say, hey, please vote for me.

I was at the Minnesota state fair last year and both parties had booths. It's a crazy place.

DOMINICK: Do we have a picture? This is from the Indiana state fair. My question is: Where does it end, John? Do the politicians have to take part in eating deep fried Pepsi? How do you get the Pepsi in there? And would you, John King, have deep fried beer? I know you're a beer drinker.

KING: Wow, you know, the Minnesota state fair, they had beer on a stick. I'm not kidding you. They had beer on a stick.

DOMINICK: Look at that. Butter on a --

KING: I had one. Deep fried Pepsi, I'm not sure how they make that. But this -- DOMINICK: Butter on a stick? I mean, at some point, your stomach says, I'd rather take a whack at the stick than what's on it. We don't give have gizzards. Where does it end, John King? And should politicians, if they don't eat it, it's a lose, if they do eat it, it might be a lose -- is that a tough choice?

KING: You know, it's -- we got to promote the formal economy. But I guess maybe when you pay, got a state fair ticket, maybe it should be cardiologist included.

DOMINICK: Yes.

KING: Pete, I'll see you some time soon at a state fair.

That's all the time we have tonight.

"RICK'S LIST #PRIMETIME" starts right now. We will be in Kentucky tomorrow night, though, a state where Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, trying to win a Senate seat. We'll sit down with the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. We'll see you tomorrow.