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JOHN KING, USA

Campaign Season; David Plouffe Interview

Aired September 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, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. You might call this a back to the future day in politics. The biggest policy fight is over the Bush tax cuts, but it isn't just Democrats versus Republicans. Both parties have internal tax feuds, too. The 2010 campaign ad generating the biggest buzz features Bill Clinton attacking Jerry Brown 18 years ago. Even president Obama got in the flashback spirit today, campaigning like it was 1992.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I feel your pain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And since the blast from the past is the theme de jour, how about the former House speaker Newt Gingrich and the perhaps future presidential candidate Newt Gingrich saying resident Obama's problem is that he has, "A Kenyan anti-colonial world view." The return of Brown, Clinton, and Gingrich in a moment, plus, we'll go live to Delaware to explore a huge Tea Party test in a big primary tomorrow.

But first, your money and a campaign debate over what should happen when the big Bush tax cuts, adopted in 2001, expire at the end of this year. Here to audit the tax cuts, Freddy Balsera, who was a senior Hispanic advisor to President Obama's 2008 campaign; Oklahoma's former Republican congressman, J.C. Watts; CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; and joining us from New York, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, Ed Rollins; and John Avlon, also a CNN contributor, as well as senior political columnist for the "Daily Beast."

Let's get straight to this tax fight. President Obama went out to the Fairfield, Virginia, today, he was doing a little town hall in a backyard. And he was making his case that when the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year, you should keep tax cuts for those families making $250,000 and below, and that those making more than that should pay more. No. 1, the president says that's only fair. No. 2, he says, we can't afford it because of red ink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Well, we can't give away $700 billion to folks who don't need it and think somehow that we're going to balance our budget. It's not going to happen. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: One interesting point, Freddy Balsera, to the Democrat the first, in the audience, as the president did, that was the local congressman Gerry Connolly. If you go to Gerry Connolly's Web site, Democrat, running for re-election, a little nervous, he's probably OK, but he's a little nervous. On his Web site, he's also a handful of Democrats who support extending the Bush taxes cut while the economy continues to recover, a position the "Wall Street Journal" calls "reasonable." So, you have a president in the backyard with a congressman who disagrees with him.

FREDDY BALSERA, SR HISPANIC ADVISOR, OBAMA '08 CAMPAIGN: Listen, I think as the voters start focusing on the elections, because what's happening now after Labor Day, people understand a little bit better what these tax cuts are. And really, it's a return to the Bush economic policies that put us in the situation that we're in today and people will begin to understand that. People will also understand that the middle class is getting a tax cut around President Obama. And as long as the president's out there delivering that message himself, I think that Democrats have a much better chance in November than a lot of the pundits say they will.

KING: J.C., I want you to come in on this point, because it is the Republican Party saying, extend all of the Bush tax cuts, there are a few exceptions, but most Republicans say, extend them all, this is no time to cut taxes in the middle of a recession. I just want to show our viewers, as you come in, just this one question, here, one point here. This is the point that President Obama is making, right here.

He says if you extend the Bush tax cuts, if you do what he wants, extend them only for $250,000 and above, you're adding this to the deficit, the president acknowledges that. But if you do the entire package, you do this. And the president says in a time of all the red ink, when you need to start looking at the deficits, you can't afford that extra part, essentially, the rich don't need it, J.C., so pay down the debt.

J.C. WATTS (R), FMR U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I would have thought the philosophy that says you're adding to the red ink, that that would have been taken into consideration with the health care bill and with the stimulus bill and so forth and so on. We're on pace to spend about $1.70 for every dollar that we bring in this year. So, you know, the tax cuts, I think the philosophy that Republicans have is that we don't need more taxes, we need more taxpayers. And how do you create taxpayers?

The market does not respond very well to uncertainty in the marketplace, and they don't respond very well to tax increases. And that's anybody, you know, middle income, upper income, people will sit on their dollars, they will not invest, if we're going to say, let's create a higher tax bracket for investors, for those who are creating jobs.

KING: Yeah, I don't want to leave the impression that there's only a debate among the Democrats. There's a debate among the Republicans too. We'll get to that in a second.

But how complicated, Gloria, does it make it for the president at a time when the Democrats are already expecting big losses in the mid- term campaign, to have some disagreement? Just some, I know it's not wide spread, but some, where you have Gerry Connolly who thinks he might be vulnerable, being careful...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: He showed up, though.

He did show up. Joe Lieberman on the Senate side saying don't do this and a few other conservative Democrats saying that, the blue dog centrist Democrats in the House writing Speaker Pelosi a letter saying, don't do this, now?

BORGER: I found that when we were out on the road last week, in Ohio as well, look, it's complicating for the president, because he would like a simple argument. The simple argument is, we're on the side of the middle class, and they're on the side of the rich. And that's it. But there are lots of moderate Democrats, there may be four or five Democratic senators right now who say that they won't vote with the president on taking away the tax cuts for the wealthy.

So, he's got a real problem legislatively about where he's going to get his votes. And I think, also, since he has a lot of these swing Democrats, they're just -- they're not falling in line with that, right now. They don't want to raise taxes on anyone in an election year, period.

KING: And Congress is back. The Senate was back in session today, so you might be thinking at home, they're going to deal with this week, they're going to finally do something, whether I like it or not before the election, don't count on it. This will probably at least on the Senate side go over to the lame duck Congress before we can get anything.

But, let's focus on the Republican divide and bring John and Ed into the conversation. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader was back on the floor, today. He knows what the president wants to do and he disagrees with it and he made that crystal clear today that he thinks it's bad policy, and for the Republicans, good politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Only in Washington could someone propose a tax hike as an antidote to a recession. And this is no small tax hike. The tax hike the administration is proposing, according to IRS, would apply to half of all small business income in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The problem is, that's the Senate Republican leader, just yesterday, John and Ed, and then jump in -- the House Republican leader said he would prefer it the way Mr. McConnell wants it, extend al the Bush tax cuts, but...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: If the only option I have is to vote for some of those tax reductions, I'll vote for them. But, I've been making the point now for months that we need to extend all the current rates for all Americans if we want to get our economy going again, and we want to get jobs in America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ed, there's a certain, you know, we hold these truths to be self-evident to that, that in the end, if that's the proposal on the floor, almost all the Republicans are going to vote for middle class tax cuts and say, I wish I could vote for bigger tax cuts, but the other Republicans are mad that Mr. Boehner essentially gave away the idea that I'm offering you $25 for that tie, but I'll give you $50 if...

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the reality is, it's a whole economic battle. And I think to a certain extent, the president making the comment, we have to take the money away from the rich people, because they just save the money. Well, the bottom line is, the Chinese have saved the money, that's why we can borrow. There's three things you can do with your money, you can invest it, you can spend it, or you can save it. All are good for the economy. Giving it to Washington is not necessarily a good thing. And the larger taxpayers, and they are the largest taxpayers, basically are the ones who create businesses, small businesses that employ people. Whether they're employ plumbers or carpenters or whatever, they're the ones that basically are putting the money back into the economy.

If we need to raise taxes, this was an across the board tax, then let's raise it on everybody. If we don't need to raise taxes and we can't cut the spending, then let's keep -- you know, let's basically keep moving forward.

KING: So, John Avlon, who wins the argument when you have some disagreement over tactics within the Republican Party, really, that's a disagreement over tactics and essentially disclosing your negotiating strategy, if you have one. And among the Republicans you do have a bit of a policy disagreement.

JOHN AVLON, THEDAILYBEAST.COM: Sure, look, I mean, raising taxes is never popular, especially in an election year, especially in a recession. I think the reason the president is having trouble getting traction on this issue, though, is because there is a credibility cap when he talks about reducing the deficit, when he talks about reducing the debt.

There's another issue here, as well, you know, When it's $250,000 per family, that can be a two-parent home, both working in the middle class, making middle class salaries. So, I think one of the political tension points on the year this year is a gap between the working wealthy and what might be called the super rich, the Bernie Madoff crowd and a lot of those folks in the upper middle class, especially in the higher cost of living areas are feeling the squeeze from this recession deeply and they deeply resent, as well as fear, the prospect of higher taxes.

ROLLINS: And equally as important -- let me just finish one point I missed. You can't take -- if the whole premise is if you make money, you go out, you work hard, you're a success story in America, we're going to redistribute the wealth. That has been the progressive Democrats and that has been the strategy of this president since day one. This goes back to his community organizer, where he basically passed out welfare checks. At the end of the day, working people want to move forward, they want their kids to move forward and the only way they're going to move forward is to be able to have the ability to save more of their own dollars or invest more of their own dollars.

KING: All right, everybody, hang on for just one sec, this whole group staying with us throughout the show. If you don't see them next block, you'll see them a bit later. But hang on, before we go to break, I do want to say this, we're talking about the politics of tax cuts and I want to just come over here for one sec. If you're watching at home and you're wondering, what does this mean to me? Let's get this thing to work. Here we go, right here. Here's essentially the deal, here. If you are a married couple, you makes around $85,000 a year, if they extend the Bush tax cuts, as is. This is about what you would pay next year. If the president got his way, you would pay a little less if you're a married couple at $85,000. If you're a married couple at $150,000, if they extend the Bush tax cuts as is, you'd pay about this. Under the president's plan, you would pay a little bit less next year.

If you make a million dollars or more, or $250,000 or more, here's essentially what would happen. If you're $1 million, if they extend the Bush tax cuts, you'd pay this. If the president got his way and those tax cuts went away, you would pay more. So, in this income group, you do a little better under the Obama plan, in this income group, a little better under the Obama plan, this income group, you pay higher taxes. That's the policy behind all the politics they're fighting about.

We'll continue the conversation when we come back. We'll go live to Delaware, a huge Tea Party test, there. Our political group stays with us. We'll also check in with Jessica Yellin who is on the ground before a key, key primary, there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Get ready, we're going "Off to the Races."

KING: Tomorrow's the last big primary day before the midterm elections, which is 50 days away from now. And when was the last time you heard anyone say "all eyes are on Delaware"? The polls close 25 hours from now and a huge test for the Tea Party, which is once again taking on a mainstream establishment Republican. Let's take a look at the candidates, here. We can go up to the state of Delaware.

You have Congressman Mike Castle. He used to be the governor of the state, a very popular state. He's a moderate Republican. Everyone thought he was a shoo-in. This used to be Joe Biden's Senate seat, until Christine O'Donnell, she's the Tea Party candidate. This time she is viewed as having a big chance in this primary because of Tea Party support against establishment moderate, Mike Castle. Let's get right back to our panel. Our National political correspondent, Jessica Yellin joins us, as well.

And Jess, you are live on the ground in Delaware. And among those you have talked to is Christine O'Donnell, who knows the national Republican establishment is running against her, and she says they're running against her because they're scared.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I think the party is obviously trying to desperately hold on to the power of who they get to choose to serve rather than letting the people choose to serve. And we're fighting back. We're fighting back hard. And I think that the establishment, who's launched these false accusations and attack ads are not only fighting for my opponent's political career, but their own political career.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Heading into the final day, Jess, what is the sense on the ground? Is she in play?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She really is in play, John, and part of the reason is because there's such a closed pool of voters. It's not an open primary, so only Republicans can vote. And in the whole state, there are 182,796 registered Republicans. So, they will decide the fate here. A lot of Republicans and many Democrats also think that if she wins, Democrats will hold this seat, and that could decide the balance of power in the Senate. So, a lot rides on this primary tomorrow, but she is adamant that she can win in the general, and she actually seems very pumped up, right now. She seems confident.

KING: Ed Rollins, help us with a little context here, because we've had many Tea Party races, Tea Party primary challenges where the establishment says, if oh, my god, if that Tea Party candidate wins, we'll lose that race. And in many cases, at least in polling so far says that may not be true, but if this one, if you look at it, she has run before against Biden and lost.

Just about anybody you talk to who's ever been involved in Delaware politics, you talk to them and they think this is a flawed candidate in the general election. We would give up a seat that we could get. Why is this happening?

ROLLINS: Because the conservatives, in many of these smaller states, particularly with closed primaries, make up a majority of the voters and they don't like the Republican establishment and they see Mike Castle as a very fine guy, who was a great governor, a good member of Congress and I think a sure winner if he gets the nomination. They don't particularly like him. They like the Tea Party. Tea party is as much conservative voters as it is new voters to the process. And I think to a certain extent, this is the old Reagan versus Bush battle. This is -- particularly in a state like Delaware. And I think she is a very credible candidate.

KING: John Avlon, you're shaking your head, why?

AVLON: Because the fault lines in this fight are between Chris Christie, the current Republican Party, who endorsed Mike Castle, and Sarah Palin, who endorsed Christine O'Donnell.

Look, the Tea Party movement says it's primarily about fiscal issues, fiscal conservatism with a strong streak of Libertarianism. But Christine O'Donnell is an anti-libertarian. She has been a lifelong social conservative activist, whereas Mike Castle, when he was governor, cut income taxes three times, balanced the budget, voted against the stimulus, voted against the health care. So, what are we talking about here? We're talking about social conservatives trying to ride the Tea Party wave to do a little bit of rhino hunting when it comes to Mike Castle and will have the effect of giving Joe Biden's seat, which would be a huge win and pickup for Republicans, to the Democrats. It's absolutely insane.

KING: One of the things, J.C., as you watch this play out, this is one of many struggles we have seen within the Republican Party -- your base is mad at your establishment, thinking when George Bush was president and they ran the Congress for six years, they spent too much money, they didn't do enough to keep conservative principles, and some of them are mad. A lot of your friends in the conservative movement are circulating an old William F. Buckley candidate, saying, I'm going to vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. Is that Mike Castle, in your view?

WATTS: Well, and I've written about that, John, on numerous occasions over the last six months saying that, you know, Republicans, Democrats, you take the Tea Partiers for granted or you ignore them, you do it at your own peril. I think the candidate, Christine, I think she's a serious candidate, because she's running at a time that she's running against an establishment guy, and the country's just in a funk right now, if you will. And I think incumbents pay the price.

The difference in Delaware is, I'm not so sure that conservatives and the grassroots Republicans are anti-Mike Castle. And I don't know a whole lot about Delaware, but from what I've seen, what I've read, I've talked to a couple of people that have said Mike Castle can hold those conservatives for the general election or in the primary that gives him an opportunity to win, or a better opportunity to win in November.

KING: Jessica, I sat down with Mitch McConnell last week, the Senate Republican leader, and he's being very careful, because in his own state, Rand Paul won, Mitch McConnell was for the other guy. Out in Colorado, Ken Buck won, Mitch McConnell the Republican establishment was for the other guy. Up in Alaska, Joe Miller won, Mitch McConnell, the Republican establishment was for Lisa Murkowski. So, he's being very, very careful. But listen to Mitch McConnell when I asked him the very question we're debating tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) People who know the state well say if Mike Castle's the Republican nominee, he'll probably win that seat, but if the Tea Party challenger wins that nomination, she will probably lose that seat. Do you see it that way?

SEN MITCH MCCONNELL (R) MINORITY LEADER: Well, the Republicans in Delaware are going to make that decision next Tuesday. And once it's over, we'll rally behind the nominee and try to win the seat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that was the diplomatic Mitch McConnell. But if you talk to anybody involved in this race, here's their frustration, they think they have a chance at picking up Joe Biden's seat in Delaware, Barack Obama's seat in Illinois. Last year they got Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, and they think they have a shot at harry Reid's seat in Nevada. This candidacy, Jess, threatens to undermine what the Republican's see as their dream plan of getting the Senate.

YELLIN: Yes, when you talk to Republicans privately, not on camera, they use very colorful language to describe what they think will happen if Christine O'Donnell becomes their nominee. They feel like this is within their grasp, picking up this seat, and if it's her, there's just no hope, is the general sense you get.

Not only that, there's a frustration that she's causing Mike Castle to spend a lot of money in the primary and engage in a very nasty fight, which we say this about a lot of states, but Delaware, they really are just so gracious and amiable about their politics here, this kind of nastiness is just so unpleasant to many voters that there's a real concern that it will even taint Mike Castle going into the general, should he win.

ROLLINS: Joe Biden's is a nice politician?

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: Oh, come on, it's not personal in biting the way...

AVLON: And for Christine O'Donnell to be playing the victim card in that interview with Jessica is unbelievable with the ugly, really ugly whisper campaigns that are coming out of her campaign ads. I mean, it's really beyond the pale, it's really offensive stuff. So, playing the victim card or saying that the establishment's frightened is just ridiculous.

KING: All right, a quick time-out on this one. We're going to hang on to everybody. Jess, thanks to you. We'll see you tomorrow night in Delaware. I will say as we go, one conservative I talked to today said his biggest concern, all that conservative energy and money going into Delaware now could cost them a seat come November 2.

When we come back, tonight's top stories, all the news you need to know right now, including, including a vote perhaps as early as next week on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Joe Johns is here with the latest news you need to know, right now.

Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. CNN has learned the U.S. Border Patrol has been involved in a shooting along the Texas/Mexican border. The agents were securing a drug seizure near Mission, Texas, Saturday morning. They were fired on from the Mexican side and returned fire. None of the U.S. agents was hurt.

A U.S. Defense official tells CNN the Obama administration is preparing to ask Congress for its approval to sell $60 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

And a Senate showdown may be looming on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." An aide to Senator Harry Reid tells CNN the leader will try for a vote next week on the Defense authorization bill which would repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military. It sounds like they haven't quite rounded up all the votes they think they need from Republicans, but they are going to give it the old college try.

KING: And the supporters, the advocates of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are ecstatic that leader Reid is keeping what they say is a promise to them. But you're right, I was making some calls and e- mails before the show and talked to a couple of people who said, if that vote were today, unlikely it would pass, unlikely they can get those in an election year before next week, but it's worth watching. It's a fascinating issue.

Thanks Joe, we'll see you a bit later. And a lot more to come tonight on the program, you'll want to stay with us. When we come back, we'll continue 50 days from the midterm election. Who better to talk to than the architect of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign? The David Plouffe will be with us at a time many say that Obama coalition is crumbling.

And it is back to the future day, today in politics. Newt Gingrich, Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton all driving big political stories. We'll tell you, break down the details as we go back to the future and tie it to today.

And in tomorrow's news tonight, these are the older guys. How about some pop politics? Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, what do they have to do with this election year? You won't want to miss it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: My campaign manager, David Plouffe.

(APPLAUSE)

The unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign I think in the history of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was election night, 2008. At times seems like it was light years ago. We're now 50 years from the 2010 midterms, and as this weekend's "Los Angeles Times" put it, the Obama coalition, blacks, women, Latinos, young voters and suburbanites is, "frayed and frazzled." Great time to go one-on-one with the president's former campaign manager, David Plouffe who joins us from out in Sacramento.

Let me ask you before -- I've got some policy questions and some politics questions, but it does seem like light years ago, in many ways, does it not?

DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA '08 CAMPAIGN MANAGER: It sure does. But, you know, I think that, you know, we have an election right in front of us, as you said, and what we're trying to work as hard as we can to convince those people who participated in '08. And you're going to have a big drop-off. Listen, we had almost 140 million people vote in the presidential, you're have 80 million vote, now. This is a historic problem. But I do sense some intensification in the last couple of weeks around activism and volunteerism, and I am hopeful that can translate into better Democratic turnout.

KING: Let's go through some of that. One of the ways you can energize people is to give them a good policy fight to carry into their political activism, and yet there's a debate on the left of your party. As you well know, many people who think the president hasn't done enough to try to spur economic growth. Robert Kuttner, a man you know well, a liberal economist, writing today in the "Huffington Post," says this, "Send Congress more emergency recovery legislation, job creation, aid to the states, extended unemployment benefits and dare Republicans to vote against it. It doesn't matter if a few misguided Democrats oppose you, too. The main blockage of a stronger recovery program is the Republican Party."

How would you answer those on the left who say the president is not doing enough stimulus, enough government intervention in the economy?

PLOUFFE: Listen, obviously people are going to have their points of views and we need all the great ideas we can, obviously, in the economic situation we're in.

But I was in Iowa yesterday -- I'll be in Sacramento tonight -- talking to a lot of people who are involved in the elections, and I think people are very proud of what we've done on the economy.

And you know I saw some of your program earlier, the debate on the tax cuts. This is really galvanizing Democrats. I mean, basically, the Republican Party is saying, we want to spend another $700 billion -- almost as much as the Recovery Act, by the way -- to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.

As opposed to the president and a lot of Democrats who are saying, let's give them to the middle class. And this is going to be a big debate in the coming weeks. It's a very important debate for the country.

And listen. Essentially what that says to the American people is the Republican economic policies, which are a big contributor of the recession, that's all they're offering. I mean, they're quite clear.

Every time you have a Republican on your program and you asked them what's their plans going to be, they either don't answer it or they say we're going to go back to what we did before which led the country this close to a great depression.

KING: And so then I'll ask you this. You have that just about right. There are -- but there are some Democrats, as you know, who don't want the president to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, even though the president ran on this, saying the Bush tax cuts would expire and he would let them expire except for the middle class families.

Is this such an important policy point that even if you have eight, 10, 12, 15 House Democrats who say, if you don't help me here, I'm going to lose my seat, that that's acceptable? That the deficit and not extending those tax cuts for wealthy Americans is so important that you wouldn't make a political compromise?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, there were a few Democrats who devoted for the original Bush tax cuts in the first place. And those Democrats that have a different point of view will make their case. But, you know, this was, as the president, I think probably for every day of 700 days during that long campaign you mentioned talked about this. This was very clear.

And this is a fundamental difference. Eighty percent of these tax cuts that Republicans want to give a go to millionaires. And listen, everyone is going to get a tax cut. The question is, the president and a lot of Democrats wanted to end at $250,000 worth of income.

So -- and, you know, you hear some of the Republicans talk about -- although Boehner was honest about this yesterday. We're only talking about 3 percent of small businesses. Most of those are big lawyers -- I mean the small businesses that they're talking about are small businesses like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and they're a media empire.

So the distinction here is clear. And again, it's a -- it's a trip down memory lane. These are the policies that led us off the cliff in the first place. So you've got one idea, the president, the Democrats saying, tax cuts for the middle class, for small businesses.

The Republicans, who like to lecture us on fiscal discipline, who created these deficits in the first place, are more than comfortable giving $700 billion in tax cuts, largely to millionaires and billionaires, and they won't tell you they can pay for it. Even worse, they say they shouldn't have to.

So this is a big difference. And I think it helps crystallize for people that there is a choice here. There's a choice between going back to the economic policies that led us off a cliff, or we can move forward, no one is satisfied with where we are today economically, but we're moving in the right direction.

KING: I want to -- you wrote a book after the campaign and then you updated it a bit to focus a bit on the 2010 midterm elections and in that update, you wrote this. "We are blessed with incompetent opposition. The Republican Party has failed, even in a time of perceived weakness for Democrats, to instill any confidence in the American people or in independent voters in particular."

That is your position, David Plouffe, but I wanted to show you the numbers from our most recent CNN polling. You say the Republicans have not inspired any confidence in independent voters in particular, and yet when we ask independents, how will you vote for Congress this year, 62 percent of independents now say they will vote Republican.

If the Republican Party hasn't inspired confidence in them, has the president and the Democratic Party just driven them away?

PLOUFFE: Well, listen, independent voters, particularly in recent times, do fluctuate a lot from election to election. And you know that's a national number. I see a lot different numbers in states and districts.

But the point is, none of that vote is really based on them improving their image. And listen, what's going to happen in Delaware tomorrow -- whether Castle wins or loses -- is a big problem for the Republican Party.

In the short-term, I think it can help us remind Democrats, who might not be inclined to vote, and independents who are still gettable that this is the Republican Party. That Palin, Limbaugh, Beck and that wing of the party is in control.

And if you look down the line in elections, you know, even in '12, where you're going to have 60, 70 million more voters, I can tell you, most of that increase is not people who are part of that extreme right wing.

They're going to be more moderate independents, a lot more Democrats, as you mentioned, minorities and younger voters. So it's a real problem. And I think something that is fascinating to watch.

Now that being said, the Republicans are going to come out to vote in big numbers. There's no question about that. And I don't think we can expect that to abate. What we have to do is go out there and make a case to the independents. I think a lot of independents haven't yet focused on the choice.

Our candidates are starting to lay that in front of them. We have to make this a choice. And unlike '94 -- I mean I was out running a Senate campaign in '94 in Delaware, actually. And listen, voters tuned us out at some point. They had decided.

That's not where they are right now. Because, again, this isn't a budding love affair in the offing with Mitch McConnell and John Boehner. They're still distrustful of the Republicans. So we have to go out there and have conversations with voters and say, remember those economic policies that hurt you and your family and hurt the economy?

That's all they're offering. And of course we have a lot more work to do, but we're on the right track here.

KING: I want you to listen to a voter we encountered last week. You talk about going back to the Obama coalition, essentially trying to grab them by the lapel and say, look, maybe you don't think Congress votes matter or governors don't matter, but this one matters.

I want you to listen to Keisha Sails. We met her in Braddock, Pennsylvania. The town has been devastated in the recession. She's an African-American woman, was very excited about Barack Obama, and she is dispirited now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEISHA SAILS, BRADDOCK, PA., RESIDENT: These people come from good homes or good backgrounds or had houses and land and property, and was able to do the things that they wanted to do, you know? But they don't care. They really don't care.

So I think that's why the people around here are, like, I'm just going to do me. I'm going to live my life and that's it. You know? Nobody else matters.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How do you convince her it matters?

PLOUFFE: Well, and I understand and appreciate her frustration. And that of millions of Americans, obviously. And I think what we have to do is try and reach these voters one on one, have a conversation between a neighbor, a family member.

And once -- you know, first of all, explain what we've been trying to do here. That while the economy is not where any of us would like, it is moving in the right direction. But more importantly than that, is what's motivating the president and a lot of people in his party, which is, unlike the policies that led us into this mess, and the Republicans want to offer again, it's squarely focused on the middle class.

People trying to get into the middle class. And so we have to -- on tax cuts, on help for small business, on the new jobs that are being created in the energy sector. We have to say we are trying and that there is an alternative here.

So we have to do two things. We have to educate them about all the things we've tried to do. And I think that can be impactful. I find it to be. And then secondly, talk about an alternative.

But there's no doubt this is going to be hard. I mean we have tough atmospherics, we have a tough economy. In 2008, I can tell you, the turnout that we got amongst younger voters, minority voters, it was really hard to do. It just didn't happen.

It took a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of focus. And we in good Democratic campaigns are trying to bring that to bear. We're not going to replicate what we did in '08, but if we can do a little bit better than projected, we're going to win some close races that right now looks like we might lose by a narrow margin.

KING: Let me ask you this in closing, and I suspect I'm about to fail at this attempt. But I'm going to ask you to answer this as David Plouffe, political strategist, the guy who's run a lot of campaigns and understands why politicians do the things they do and say the things they say. Not as a partisan Democrat.

Newt Gingrich quoted in the "National Review Online" this weekend, says, "What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? That is the most accurate predictive model for his behavior."

What is Newt Gingrich trying to get at there?

PLOUFFE: Well, you know two words that come to mind are "sad" and "reprehensible." I mean, you know. I was working in Congress when he was speaker and disagreed with just about everything he did.

But, you know, you got the sense there was some principle involved. He's clearly a very intelligent person. And to see him doing -- it makes me think, by the way, he's probably pretty sure he's going to run for president because he's clearly trying to appeal to the folks that are supporting Christine O'Donnell in Delaware tomorrow.

And you know, whether he believes there's a perceived weakness there or not, I'll leave that to him to answer. But it has no place in our politics. He knows better. He's made comments like this in the past around the Islamic center in New York, for instance, that are really not the Newt Gingrich I think a lot of us remembered.

So I think it's very sad. I think it reprehensible. It may have an audience during the Iowa caucuses next year or, you know, in New Hampshire or South Carolina. But I don't think that's where most Americans are.

And you know, you ought to ask other Republicans out there whether they agree with that. You know, maybe they're in so -- they are so -- have to pledge so much (INAUDIBLE) to the Tea Party, to Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, et cetera that they won't answer. But I think if they answered honestly they would say that those comments are outrageous.

KING: David Plouffe, we appreciate your time tonight and we hope you'll let us check in with you a little closer to Election Day to see if you can do the work you promised you were going to try to do tonight.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, John. KING: David, take care.

When we come back, we'll look at some of the day's big political stories, including pop stars getting involved.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Joe Johns is back with the latest political news you need to know right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Less than 24 hours before the New York primary, former President Bill Clinton's recorded robo-call that's going to voters on behalf of New York Congressman Charlie Rangel.

Politics and pop culture collided at the Video Music Awards. Now only did Lady Gaga wear a dress made of meat, she showed up with service members affected by military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

Young Democrats are using footage of Justin Bieber in a campaign to get out the vote for this year's midterms. Justin Bieber, by the way, is Canadian. That's right.

On ABC's "The View," senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was asked whether she'd become President Obama's chief of staff if Rahm Emanuel leaves to run for mayor of Chicago. Jarrett laughed about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VALERIA JARRETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: I love my job. I and am so fortunate, really, to have the responsibilities that I enjoy, that take me out and engage me every single day with people --

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Will you take the job if offered?

JARRETT: You know what? I want to just -- I would like to just do what I'm doing.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Michael Moore is also talking about getting that job.

Coming up next, is this the election season? Is it deja vu all over again? Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: All right. Newt Gingrich, Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton. It's back to the future in politics today. Let's talk it over.

Joe Johns, our senior correspondent is with us, Freddy Balsera, Democratic strategist, Gloria Borger, our senior analyst and from New York, Republican strategist Ed Rollins. Let's pick up where I left off with David Plouffe. And I want to remind our viewers if they missed the last segment, Newt Gingrich in "National Review Online" says this about President Obama.

"What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece together his actions? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."

Just a few moments ago, I asked David Plouffe, who was the architect of the Obama campaign in 2008, what point he thinks Gingrich was trying to make, and he was not happy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PLOUFFE: Well, you know, two words that come to mind are "sad" and "reprehensible." I mean you know, I was working in Congress when he was speaker and disagreed with just about everything that he did.

But, you know, you got the sense there was some principle involved. He's clearly a very intelligent person. And to see him doing -- it makes me think, by the way, he's probably pretty sure he's going to run for president.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Ed Rollins, what is he doing?

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I've known Newt for 30 years, and I've never quite figured out what he's doing.

(LAUGHTER)

ROLLINS: He -- he does a little bit of intellectual exercises sometimes. He probably -- where his brain gets working a little bit faster than his mouth and sometimes the opposite happens.

I think he has a theory here. I don't think many people are going to support the theory. And I think he ought to basically just be focused on this president, who basically is out of the mainstream, for many Republicans' perspective, and argue those points of view against his programs as opposed to trying to do this intellectual drill about he's a Kenyan or wherever he comes from or any of the rest of it.

KING: There is a way to say the president doesn't think like you, if that's your position or --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's out of the mainstream.

KING: Or -- or he's out of the mainstream or he spent too much time, you know, overseas as a child and he doesn't think like us.

BORGER: Right. KING: You could say those things and I think that people would either agree or disagree, but to say "Kenyan anti-colonial," that seems to be playing a --

BORGER: This is -- well, not like us. OK? He's not like us. And all -- and all that that implies which is why I think David Plouffe called it sad and reprehensible.

You know, Newt Gingrich -- I haven't known him quite as long as Ed, but I did cover him when he was speaker of the House. And he -- he is a man of ideas, but this -- this is playing to some kind of lowest common denominator or maybe some intellectual high plain. I can't figure it out, but it's certainly not the Newt Gingrich I used to know.

JOHNS: One of the things that -- you know, first of all, you're absolutely right. You know if you can portray the president as a little, you know --

BORGER: Different.

JOHNS: Different.

BORGER: Yes.

JOHNS: Then it's easier to run against him. But the other thing about this is -- I mean, intellectually, Newt Gingrich was responding to a magazine article that was written by Dinesh D'Souza, who is, by the way, a native of Mumbai, who thinks he knows a little bit about anti-colonialism and so Gingrich is basically buying into that. But what people don't --

BORGER: Does that have to do with Tea Parties?

JOHNS: Right. Right. But -- yes, but what people don't read in is that Dinesh D'Souza is a former analyst in the Reagan administration. So it's a lot more partisan than people would --

FREDDY BALSERA, SR. HISPANIC ADVISER, OBAMA '08 CAMPAIGN: But it's red meat -- it's red meat for the base.

BORGER: Sure.

BALSERA: It's what he's been doing, what Sarah Palin's been doing. That's why these candidates in Alaska and Florida and maybe in Delaware and in New Hampshire are going to win in these primaries, and I don't think it really gets votes for them in the general.

But it certainly riles up the base in the primaries. And these analysts say that, you know, Republicans are going to overwhelmingly turn out because of these primaries, I don't buy it.

They've just had much more contentious primaries around the country and are bringing out this kind of base.

KING: Let's move on to my favorite "Back to the Future" moment, because I lived through some of it.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Selfish of me, isn't it? Out in California, Meg Whitman is the Republican nominee. Jerry Brown, a former governor, one-time presidential candidate, is the Democratic nominee. And Meg Whitman calls on an unlikely source in a new campaign ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jerry Brown's good old days. But what really happened?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: CNN, not me. CNN says his assertion about his tax record was, quote, just plain wrong.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, let's stop that there. That's Bill Clinton. That's Bill Clinton, criticizing Jerry Brown back in 1992. It was Governor Bill Clinton at the time. Jerry Brown didn't like that ad and he has responded.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: And Meg Whitman, she stops at nothing. She's even got Clinton lying about me. Did you see that? Did you see that? Where he said I raised taxes. It's a lie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lie!

BROWN: So the "New York Times" said -- the "LA Times" said that they'll say anything. And that's why we have to have our own truth squad to get the word out.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All right, let's stop that one there. Jerry Brown went on to say, I did not have taxes -- he made some joke about something involving Monica Lewinsky. I'm not going to quite go there. And then tonight had to apologize. Jerry Brown said Bill Clinton was a good president and he didn't mean to stir all that up.

I want to bring the group in. But first, a little bit of history. Back in the 1992 presidential primaries, Jerry Brown stayed in long after Governor Clinton thought it was all over and he should get out and things got a little nasty. Here's one snippet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You will say anything, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumping on my wife. You're not worth being on the same platform --

BROWN: I'll tell you something, Mr. Clinton. CLINTON: Now wait a minute.

BROWN: Don't try to escape it.

CLINTON: I'm saying that I never funneled any money to my wife's law firm. Never.

BROWN: Well, they got $115,000 in bond business.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I actually thought -- that was the only time in my life covering a debate I thought the candidates were going to start fighting. I swear to god. They were -- hot.

Does this matter in the California race, Freddy?

BALSERA: Of course not. When you have unemployment as high as it is, when you have people losing their homes, this doesn't matter. It's the kind of stuff that -- especially the old polls get into. It's inside baseball. What that really shows you, though, is that Bill Clinton is a master and he can debate.

BORGER: Can I just say that was a great ad? I think it's -- a terrific campaign ad that Whitman --

JOHNS: For the last three days of the campaign.

BORGER: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

BORGER: Because it's got him -- you know, back on his heels.

KING: Yes. Let me give Ed Rollins 10 seconds. If you've got it in you, Ed, then we got to go.

ROLLINS: I'll go further back with Jerry Brown. We were ultimately together --

(LAUGHTER)

ROLLINS: Jerry Brown, this is about integrity. And I think that Jerry Brown is now coming, challenging Whitman on the integrity. If he basically can prove his case, then that will damage her credibility. People don't want people that aren't honest in politics today.

KING: Appreciate everybody coming in tonight. Ed, Freddy, Joe and Gloria, boy, I love that campaign. That was a feisty one.

How about you? Disenchanted or fired up? Plenty of voters on both sides heading into tomorrow's primary. "Pete on the Street has your stories and that advice, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Let's check in with Rick Sanchez for a sense of what's coming up in just a minute or so on "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME".

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: So this Mexican beauty who's a reporter goes to cover an NFL football team. The NFL football team starts throwing balls in her direction and making catcalls and -- well, some women's groups are up in arms about their behavior. They're apologizing. The NFL is investigating. And I have an interview with her. The first one.

Back to you, guys.

KING: Seven states and right here in Washington, D.C., holding their primaries tomorrow. There are some major races at stake so how about you? You going to vote?

Pete Dominick is finding out. Pete?

PETE DOMINICK, JOHN KING, USA'S OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, John King, that's right. Tomorrow one of the last primary days. It's here in New York. I went to find out, do people know it's primary day and are they going to vote?

Here's what they said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINICK: You don't know if you're voting tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: What about in November?

DOMINICK: In November, absolutely.

So you're voting tomorrow, yes or no?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voting?

DOMINICK: Primaries are tomorrow. You didn't know?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not know.

DOMINICK: So are you disenchanted or fired up, if I only give you those two options tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fired up.

DOMINICK: You're fired up.

Are you voting tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DOMINICK: Tell her she should vote, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vote, vote, vote.

DOMINICK: Will you now vote that I told you tomorrow you should vote?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I will.

DOMINICK: Are you a robot?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I am.

DOMINICK: But you'll still vote tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: Are you lying?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

DOMINICK: Are you registered to vote?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I'm not. I just turned 18.

DOMINICK: OK. You just turned 18.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what to do.

DOMINICK: Are you voting tomorrow, primary day?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

DOMINICK: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because my vote means nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm fired up.

DOMINICK: You're fired up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: November. November.

DOMINICK: But not tomorrow?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DOMINICK: So you don't know where to vote?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Online, I'm assuming?

DOMINICK: No. Vote online? What is this, "American Idol" here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.

DOMINICK: You voting tomorrow, primaries? You're voting, right. You know? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

DOMINICK: No?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.

DOMINICK: Why not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because I don't believe in the politicians of New York state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fired up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Slightly disenchanted.

DOMINICK: Would you describe me as attractive or average?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In between.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very attractive.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINICK: John King, we found out that some were disenchanted, some were fired up, but anecdotally, only I still feel like young people are a little bit too apathetic.

John, am I overly concerned about young people?

KING: No, I don't think you are. I think that a lot of people got caught up in the presidential race, when they are for or against Obama, young people got really got caught in it. Many were for him, this time I think eh, they think eh.

DOMINICK: Yes, how do we get them out there?

KING: Here's one quick point. To the people in your piece who said they didn't know where to vote, you can go to CNNPolitics.com and punch in your zip code, and it will help you find your polling place if you don't know where to vote. If you're out there.

Pete Dominick, we will see you on election night tomorrow and we hope to see you all on election night tomorrow.

As Pete noted, big consequences. That big Tea Party race in Delaware, the big mayoral race right here in D.C., we'll be all over it tomorrow night right here and then throughout the night. For now, though, let's turn things up over to "RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME" right now.