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JOHN KING, USA

Dems: It's Getting Better; Convincing Voters

Aired October 4, 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. Call a Democrat almost any Democrat today and you'll get a version of this message, things are getting better or things are bad, but not as horrible as we thought a month or so ago. It's odd to say the least when someone gets excited telling you they think they're going to get pummeled but not destroyed. But odd is the new normal this year.

As evidence of recent gains, Democrats cite record fund-raising last month for the Democratic National Committee and some positive data in some recent polls. I made a lot of calls and sent a lot of e- mails on this theme today, and this was my favorite response. It's a bit snarky -- from a leading Republican campaign strategist. When I asked if Democrats are enjoying a bit of a bounce back, "they're right," he said. "They're only going to lose 40 or 50 seats in the House, not 65 or 70" -- snarky indeed.

Twenty-nine days out the rhetoric's pointed but are the real reasons -- are there real reasons for the Democrats to cheer or at least to sulk less? In Morgantown, West Virginia our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, a couple of big races in that state; in New York CNN contributor and senior political columnist for TheDailyBeast.com, John Avlon and CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ed Rollins and here in Washington Ron Brownstein. He's editorial director of the "National Journal" and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Gloria, let's just start with a simple thing. Every Democrat you talk to says it's getting better, it's getting better.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

KING: Yes. Is it?

BORGER: No, again, I think it's compared to what? It's not getting any worse if you talk to them and look at their internal polls. You know these folks are now polling -- I was over talking to some campaign strategists today who run the House races for the Democrats. They're polling in every district almost twice a week. It's hard, they told me, to even get polls done because there aren't enough pollsters around to do them. Those are the folks --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Right, and so -- so they say --

KING: If you kids want to volunteer for a job at a phone bank, this is your moment right now.

BORGER: What they're saying is that this enthusiasm gap that we talk about is narrowing, thank you, Tea Party. They say it's about things the Republicans have done more than the Democrats have done. They also say, though, that they're doing this on an individual basis. And they maintain that their candidates are better candidates, that they were recruiting for candidates at a better time, and they're better able to withstand this kind of pressure, so don't count them out.

KING: That's what they're supposed to say. The question is, is it right? Is it true? Ron, let's look at some numbers before we keep going here. "Newsweek" had a poll that had a lot of Democrats cheered (INAUDIBLE). Who are you going to vote for, for Congress -- this is among registered voters and Democrat 48, Republican 43. That's a wow if you look at it, especially if you've been seeing these polls in recent months with a big Republican lead.

But remember that's registered voters. The closer to an election you get you want to ask likely voters. Let's look at some Gallup numbers. Gallup also asked registered voters and they get a slightly different number but the same ballpark among registered; 46 Republican; 43 Democrat. That's roughly the same given the margin of error.

But then Gallup ran two different turnout models of likely voters, people who are energized to vote in this campaign, and in both of those, Ron, the Republicans have a double-digit advantage.

(CROSSTALK)

RON BROWNSTEIN, NATIONAL JOURNAL EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: So it tells you that really the key issue and one of the key issues in the last month of this election is whether Democrats can get their base energized and activated. The difference between the registered voter samples on the generic ballot in Congress over the last few weeks which have been generally close no matter who's been doing the polling and the likely voters is where they expand whether in the -- your own polling in Senate races for example in states like Colorado, much closer in registered than among likely.

The common thread in what seems to be happening is that Democrats do seem to be getting more energy out of their supporters, whether there's the money that the Democratic National Committee raised in September or some of the numbers for Democrats in Democratic-leaning states like California or Washington are improving. What isn't changing much is the view among Independents.

And what that means is that while Democratic -- while more Democratic enthusiasm can help stabilize some Democratic-leaning seats, Democrats are also defending a lot of places both in the Senate and the House that are true swing or leaning Republican. And there they've got to do something else --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And Independents say they're likely to vote.

KING: And Dana Bash, you're on the ground in one of those states that for years we said was a Democratic state and for years it's had two Democratic senators but West Virginia and presidential politics is now reliably red and the question is now that Senator Byrd passed away and that his seat is on the ballot will it do what a lot of states do that are Democrat at the local level, they send Republicans to Washington? We'll get to the specifics of the races in a minute, but on the ground do you sense what the Democrats here all tell us, that there's more energy out there?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There's more energy out there. But the energy that I'm seeing, that I'm detecting and the voters that I'm talking to is really against Washington and against Democrats. It's not necessarily, at least here in West Virginia, for the Republicans. It's absolutely what we are hearing even from voters who say that they like their Democratic governor, who is the candidate for Senate here.

There just is a frustration with Washington that is palpable, and that is why people say that they -- I've had many people say to me I don't care who's on the ballot. If it's a Republican, I'm going to vote for them because I don't like Democratic control. That's the energy we're seeing.

KING: And so Ed Rollins, we go through this every cycle. When you get about a month out, that's when you can get a better read of the polls. And somebody's always down, and that party usually comes back a little bit. Your base tends to say OK, I guess it's time to care. Does this look any different? Do you see a surge?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm sure there is. There's advertising going on and all the rest of it. I think at the end of the day, though, you have to go back to 2008 in which record numbers of voters, African-Americans turned out, young people turned out, Hispanic, Asian voters. In all likelihood that vote is not going to turn out in the same numbers, that senior citizens, who are very, very appalled by the health care and all the rest of it, and Republicans, who basically were not exactly enthused about John McCain, are enthused today.

And you have to remember once again, when you get away from the Senate statewide races, these are seats that Republicans held two years ago or four years ago. These are seats that were drawn to be Republican seats. So there's more and more Republicans, more and more Independents. These are seats we can win back, registered voters totally irrelevant. What is really relevant is the likely voter models that you see there.

KING: And let's do a little show and tell, let's show some pictures because we've paid a lot of attention to the Glenn Beck restore America rally. A lot of Tea Party people at that back in August. Progressives had a rally over the weekend. Let's take some pictures we want to show.

We had some people on the ground down there as well. If you look there I believe this is the August rally right here. If you see this -- this is -- this is October, I'm sorry. This is yesterday's rally on the mall. That's a pretty good crowd. There are tens of thousands of people.

Now, if we can have a comparison, I want to show another picture, we'll go back to August to the Glenn Beck rally there. It's a little different. The picture's not as clear. And now we have an aerial view we can show you. And here's the only point I want to make. We don't get into the point of counting crowds but we did have a lot of people at both rallies, our own personnel on the ground, who said the Beck rally, "Restore America," without a doubt had a bigger crowd.

You were able to walk through some of the areas on the side of the mall this weekend where you could not back in October. Trying to get the turnout up among the speakers Saturday was the Reverend Al Sharpton who told Democrats he compared it to back in college when you're taking a midterm when you have to essentially stop doing anything else, stop listening to people, stop getting on the phone, stop watching television, and focus on the task at hand.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I had to turn the lights on my study. I had to tell my friends don't call me. I had to turn the TV off. I had to get ready for my midterm exam. We've got to go home and we've got to hit the pavement. We've got to knock on doors. We've got to ring our church bells. We've got to get ready for the midterm exam!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: John Avlon, this is where the Democrats say they're going to surprise us. They say they're going to have a ground game. They say as they did in 2008 where the Obama ground game was exceptional, they say they're going to recreate at least most of it. Can they?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No. I don't think so. I mean there is a massive enthusiasm gap. We've seen it. Of course they're focusing on getting out their base right now. But at the end of the day elections are won or lost by the party that connects with moderates and the middle class and that's where Democrats are having a hard time doing right now.

We've seen Independent voters swing toward Republican for some time now, and their issues are always the same, deficits. And they like divided control of government. And while this rally can motivate some of the base and the unions were busing in folks, you saw in person that enthusiasm gap between the conservative populace who crowded the mall for Glenn Beck's rally and the union folks and left activists who didn't really fill the mall nearly as much. It was a symbol of the kind of enthusiasm gap they're facing. And they can't just be focused on getting out the base. They need to be winning the center. That's where elections are won and lost --

BORGER: You know this is going to be such an intense campaign these last few weeks. And talking to Democrats today, they say that their ad wars have barely begun, they're holding back a bunch of money. They're going to run -- get ready out there -- lots of negative ads targeting individual candidates, picking on these Republican candidates that they say haven't been well vetted. And so just wait. You're going to get sick of this campaign before it's over.

BROWNSTEIN: The intrinsic problem Democrats face is they have now, the modern Democratic coalition is something of a boom and bust coalition. It's heavily dependent on young people and minorities. And young people in particular even more than minorities drop off in the midterm election. You add to that, you know, tough conditions in the country, there's very little out there to motivate Democrats intrinsically except the fact that Republicans have chosen a uniformly very conservative slate of nominees that can be potentially a motivating factor for Democrats in some places. And that's probably the best chance they have to get out the turnout. But I agree with John. In the end in most places they're going to have to improve their performance among Independents as well.

KING: All right -- a quick break. Our panel is going to stay with us. When we come back, we're going to look at one particular constituency getting a lot of attention because where it is strongest tends to overlap with a lot of the big races this year. Who are we talking about -- working-class white men.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Every night between now and Election Day we plan on taking a close look at a specific issue or dynamic that's having a big impact. Last night -- last week it was Wal-Mart moms; tonight white male voters, in some places angry white male voters. Let's break down the numbers and look. Here's the president's -- how's the president handling his job we asked in our recent polling.

Let's break it down between men and women. Only 38 percent of men approve of how the president is handling his job, 58 percent disapprove. Now, people will say out there already I know they're going to send me messages saying, well, men always are more Republican. However, let's go back in time and look at Bill Clinton at this point in 1994. Yes, men are always more Republican, but Clinton was at 42 percent approval, 54 percent disapproval, so 38 percent for Barack Obama, Ron Brownstein, 42 percent for Bill Clinton. It's not a huge difference but it could be an important difference.

BROWNSTEIN: It's an important difference. Look, white men without a college education are the stoniest ground for Democrats in the electorate for a long time. Barack Obama only won 39 percent of them in 2008. But however bad things are, they can get worse. And in the Gallup average this week of their weekly tracking poll he is down to 32 percent among white men without a college education; only 33 percent among white women without a college education.

And that means anywhere that Democrats have to win a large number of voters, of those voters to win is going to be tough. That Senate races like Wisconsin and West Virginia, states that are heavily blue collar. It's also those heavily blue collar rural districts that are 66 House Democrats and districts. They're (INAUDIBLE) 70 percent white and at least 70 percent of those whites don't have a college degree, so all of those places are on the table. Individual candidates may be able to survive it, but they're going to have to run well upstream against a real strong sense of disapproval of the president.

BORGER: It's going to be interesting when we get a poll that looks at the Tea Party composition and Brookings is coming out with one tomorrow. When we can see where -- what the composition is between women and men. I mean, you see the Democrats are doing better with women. But in the Tea Party I bet they're not.

KING: Let's go straight to one of those races. Dana Bash is down in West Virginia, a fascinating race there. Senator Byrd passed away. A popular Democratic governor, Joe Manchin is running and Democrats thought OK, he's got a pretty high approval rating. We should be able to win this race. He's running against a man who has run before and lost, businessman John Raese, an unapologetic conservative. And Dana, you talked to them both about the impact of what Ron was just talking about, the Obama impact. Let's listen.

BASH: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA SEN. CANDIDATE: I think it is -- it has made a big difference in my race, truly has made a difference in my race.

BASH: In what way?

MANCHIN: President Obama's not on the ballot. He will not be a U.S. senator, and he's definitely not on the ballot in West Virginia. It's me.

JOHN RAESE (R), WEST VIRGINIA SEN. CANDIDATE: So they might like him personally and they might like what he does here in the state of West Virginia but they don't want to send him to Washington to emulate what Barack Obama and -- you know obviously what they're for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Does it come down just to that, Governor, we like you but we're not sure we should send you to Washington?

BASH: It's unbelievable. I cannot tell you how many times I heard that from voters. Voters who were standing on a parade route watching him go by, cheering the governor on, saying we love you, telling me we understand that he's done good things for the state, which is actually in pretty good shape compared to other states. But it is stunning how many voters are actually differentiating between their love for him as the governor here and their concern about sending him, because he has a "D" next to his name, up to Washington to serve with other Democrats.

It's amazing to hear from voters. Now, to be fair, they're being egged on by the Republicans, by John Raese, who's the candidate here, and by the National Republican Party, they're running ads saying that he's just going to be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama. But they don't need a lot of egging on, a lot of these voters. And that is to me if there's a dynamic that tells you how angry people are at Washington this is it, because they do love their governor. They're just not sure they want to send him to Washington. It's fascinating.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: But he gets to stay (INAUDIBLE) he gets to stay as the governor. And a lot of times people don't like you switching back and forth. He's a good governor; he's got a 70 percent approval rating. Let him stay --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: Beg your pardon? Well, he's got a little bit more to go --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A little bit. Not much, though --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Is it -- is it Ed and John, John Avlon, to you first, is West Virginia becoming what we've seen in Kentucky, in Tennessee and much more importantly across the south, a state that is perfectly willing to elect a Democrat statewide but when they look at Washington they just have a different calculation?

ROLLINS: The border states are different and --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: Kentucky, Arkansas, West Virginia, these are border states and they have changed. They've become more and more Republican on the national level. And my sense is this is where they're going to make a big difference. Arkansas and --

AVLON: But of course what you're seeing is a continuation of the fact that working-class whites have been leaving the Democratic Party since the mid 1960s. That accelerates in times of economic difficulty or cultural change. And while in the case of the West Virginia race you've got people saying look, we need to keep our Democratic governor here.

We don't want him to become a Washington Democrat. That's a symbol for the larger frustration that's going out there, the distrust of Washington. And it could be called the Howard Beal effect. You know we see this every recession or so. People are mad as hell, they don't want to take it anymore, and they're focusing on the idea of elites in Washington and right now that's got a "D" by its name.

BROWNSTEIN: John, real quick, from '92 to '94 the overwhelming movement in the electorate that powered the Republicans to their majority was among non-college whites. They moved from 47 percent Republican in '92 to 61 percent in '94. And we could see something perhaps approaching that magnitude in their shift in this year.

The one saving grace for Democrats, as America has grown more diverse and more educated those voters are shrinking as a share of the electorate. They're about half the electorate. The working-class whites in '94, they're now down to about 40 percent. It might go up a couple of points because of the diminished turnout among minorities. But it's not going to be as big. And the West Virginians now are somewhat more of the exception than the rule in being a state that is dominated by those voters.

BORGER: But what you hear Dana saying is that the voters are just looking at this election as yes or no. Yes or no. And the answer according to the Democrats she's talking to are no, even if we like you we don't want to send you there.

KING: It's a fascinating dynamic, 29 days. Dana in West Virginia, Ed and John in New York, Ron and Gloria, thanks so much. A lot more to come tonight, including we're a little more than half an hour away from the debut of a new program here on CNN, Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker. We sat down with them to talk about show time. It's coming up in about 40 minutes.

And then we'll go off to the races a little bit. Sharron Angle, the Republican nominee in Nevada, a fantastic Senate race. Caught on tape, what kind of juice is she talking about? You'll want to see that one.

And also tonight, Bill Maher, right here, to talk about his involvement with his old friend Christine O'Donnell. She's the Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware. She used to be a frequent guest on Bill Maher's show. "Meatball Politics" -- I think you already know what I'm talking about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. A political corruption scandal is breaking in Alabama. Federal prosecutors charge 11 people, including four state lawmakers and three lobbyists, in an alleged scheme to bribe members of the Alabama legislature.

And in Georgia a sting operation caught a 67-year-old federal judge allegedly trying to buy drugs for a stripper with whom he was having an affair. It's the first Monday in October, so the U.S. Supreme Court is back at work and for the first time three women justices are on the bench.

Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Richard Blumenthal have a debate in tonight's Connecticut U.S. Senate race. And hopefully, everybody will be able to stay away from the professional wrestling jokes. KING: Oh, I bet there's one or two. We're watching that race. She's one of the female candidates for Senate we're watching. You mentioned three Supreme Court justices. How about this for a number for you tonight? Ninety, you know what that number is? Ninety is the number of women currently in the United States Congress.

Let's walk over here -- Susan Page of "USA Today" did a wonderful article today talking about the rise of power of women in politics. And perhaps a trend this year that that number might go down, 17 women in the Senate, 73 women in the House add it up, it's 90. You see mostly Democrats, but not always. Three Democratic delegates as well. The question is will that number go up, keep going up as it has been, or as Susan projected might it go down this year?

Let's look at the numbers over time. Going all the way back here to 1965, see relatively few women in Congress. Now, watch this when we get to the '80s, whoosh and then the '95 up. We get up to today, 90 you see the big jump starts in 1996 and up we go to there. That's over time. What about voter turnout? Look at this. As we go through, back in the '60s men, the green line, were a higher turnout, 1980 or so it matched up.

Since then the orange line, women have had a higher turnout in all of our elections since then. That's a fascinating thing to watch. And just who is the woman voter? Let's go back in time here. This is from 2008, the presidential election, so turnout tends to be a little higher in presidential years, but 1.8 million Asian women, 1.6 million Asian men, 9.4 million African-American women, 6.7 million African- American men. You get the trend.

Latino women outnumber Latino men. White women outnumber white men -- women exponentially more influential in the last 15 or 20 years in our politics. But an interesting dynamic this year, will their representation in Congress actually go down -- something worth watching between now and November 2nd and beyond.

When we come back, something else worth watching -- having trouble with the English language tonight -- at the top of the hour "PARKER SPITZER" debuts right here on CNN. When we come back, we'll sit down with the hosts, Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker. They tell us their plans for the new show from an interesting perspective.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a big night here at CNN. We're just about a half an hour away from the debut of "PARKER SPITZER". Joining me now to discuss their big night Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker and New York's former Democratic governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer. Welcome and congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, John.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

KING: On this day I want in part for our viewers to get to know you and how you're going to come at these issues. And I was struck by a column Kathleen wrote last week. It actually became a debating point in our staff meeting. You were talking about how you're a South Carolina girl, lived in D.C. for a little bit in a quiet neighborhood and now you're in New York City and you're --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this is going.

KING: Yes, you like the way this is going. And you're talking about you know essentially comparing it to communist China without the convenience --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Defend yourself in this big city --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on John, come on. Listen.

KING: No, but I want to come at it because I found it fascinating because I come into the meetings all the time especially when I come back from trips saying don't look at politics as D versus R, left versus right. People make their political decisions based on the circumstances of where and how they live.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

KING: And that's how you see it.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CO-HOST, CNN'S PARKER SPITZER: Of course. And by the way, when you say now I know what it's like to live in communist China, except without the conveniences, that is clearly intended as a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a joke.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

PARKER: I'd like to tell you something. I proposed this theory at a meeting one day I said you know it seems to me that people actually make their decisions based on what they're accustomed to and what their lifestyles are like. OK, so in New York you've got high density, right. In little towns in South Carolina where I've lived you don't have such high density. And you also don't have very many rules. New York has lots and lots and lots and lots of layers of rules and regulations. And it's just something I've noticed as a newcomer, you sort of see things through fresh eyes. And I noted that it creates a certain mindset, as in you are more accustomed to regulations. So you're not so opposed to government intervention in your life. Which makes sense. You know, if you don't have government looking out for you --

ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, CNN'S PARKER SPITZER: Trying to talk your way out of this very deep hole you've --

PARKER: But my point is I mentioned this in a meeting. And Eliot says oh, that's so interesting, you should write that.

SPITZER: I was just setting you up and you just realized that, huh?

PARKER: Every time he says that I get in trouble.

SPITZER: No, no, no. Here's the truth. You know what? Kathleen's right. And I have given people the counterexample. If you ever go out to Wyoming or Montana, which you know, I was out there very many years ago with our kids, you survive on these straight roads for 50, 75 miles and you realize space is available and therefore, you know, there's a different relationship on environmental issues and whether you drill or not.

PARKER: Completely.

SPITZER: So look, Kathleen is right. Where you live and how close you are to other people affects all the personal dynamics that define politics.

PARKER: I was just trying to enhance understanding, John.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And does it enhance -- do you think it enhances your understand of the divide in the debate around the country over things like the tea party movement, about what's going on in the country largely in rural -- you see more tea party people in rural America or in the west or these Midwestern states where there's not this big city density saying hey, wait a minute, Washington's doing way too much.

PARKER: Exactly. Why are these people telling us how to live our lives when we're accustomed to having this frontier sort of attitude? It makes perfect sense to me.

SPITZER: I'm not sure it's as easy with the tea party. I think that crosses a bunch of different divides. But certainly the African urban, the rural, the density of population, that has been a long- standing historic divide in American politics and it is very easily understandable.

KING: So maybe Eliot if you have her there for six months or a year she'll be a liberal by the time you're done.

SPITZER: We're not saying six months. In one week we got her to start seeing stuff. She was down in Camden they would have disavowed her.

PARKER: They already made me rude. See I want to interrupt all the time.

SPITZER: She has a mute button for me. This southern hospitality stuff it's not what it used to be.

PARKER: I've had to learn how to talk fast.

KING: Let me ask each of you on your first night, the debut night, to sort of look at four weeks to this very consequential midterm election. We know the general trend Republicans are going to have a very good year. We don't know the results obviously. But what do you see as what's in the water at the moment and what to watch for over the next four weeks?

SPITZER: Well, look, having been in the arena as they say, having been in politics I can tell you that four weeks is still an eternity in terms of what the public psyche will be. So the notion that there will be a tsunami for the Republican Party, a lot of time to turn that around for the White House, a lot of the individual seats when you parse them one by one are still up in the air. So I think the Republicans will pick up not nearly as much as everybody thinks. The Senate remains in Democratic hands. And the house maybe goes, maybe not, but certainly the running room the president has to drive his agenda is enormously narrowed. And whether or not they hold the house, he's going to have to now work with the Republican Party that may spend the next two years looking for gridlock to prepare for the 2012 presidential race. It's going to be a very dicey proposition.

PARKER: Did you get all that, John?

KING: I did. I'm waiting for the other side now.

PARKER: Well no, I would just simply -- I mean, obviously, you can't say that we know what's going to happen. But I think we'd be more likely to see -- yes, I think Republicans are going to win handily in the house. And I don't think that the White House is going to be able to turn things around because everyone's bailing on the White House. And Democrats are turning on the White House. They're not running proudly on their record thus far. Nobody's touting, oh, look, we did health care, vote for us. The fact that the Democrats are not even proud of their own record suggests to me that they're not likely to --

SPITZER: Well, look, I'm not saying this just to be kind to the White House. Look, I've been -- on days I've been just the opposite. But here's what I would say. Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, three of the greatest presidents of the last 60 years, loved by the public, every one of them at this moment in his presidency was at an equal point, about to lose by big margins in the mid-terms, and substantially unpopular. So the Obama White House will turn things around pretty easily if the economy bounces back. That's a big if. But we al know that politics is led by the unemployment figures and the confidence in the economy. So we've just got to wait and see what happens.

KING: Well, let me close with yet another quirk in what has been an odd political year, this our report out of Chicago that perhaps because of some local ordinance about residency that lawyers could challenge Rahm Emanuel's ability to even run for mayor let alone make it to the runoff. Another bizarre twist in a bizarre year?

PARKER: Wow. SPITZER: Yeah. A lot of states actually have a residency requirement. New York has one. So look, I don't know what the Illinois law is. In New York you need to have been a resident in New York State I think fire decade to run for statewide office. But if you've been out of the state on government service then there's an exception which the courts have created. There was some crazy case many years ago, somebody had been an ambassador overseas and the courts said that's okay. So whether Rahm will get through on this I don't know. But this is not dissimilar from laws that exist in a lot of states.

KING: Kathleen, you know, Chicago's not as crowded as New York. Maybe you should go there and run for mayor.

PARKER: Well, you know, half of my parentage came from the Chicago area. So it would be going home for me.

KING: All right, guys. We wish you the best of success tonight. And we'll be with you in the days and weeks and months and years ahead. Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker, thank you so much.

SPITZER: John, thank you.

KING: Up next Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a Republican, secretly caught on tape trashing the Republican Party establishment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Former vice president Walter Mondale has some advice for President Obama. Ditch the teleprompter if you want a second term.

WALTER MONDALE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I think he tends to -- and he uses these idiot boards to read speeches in television, and I think he loses the connection that he needs emotionally with American voters.

JOHNS: CNN has confirmed the authenticity of a secretly recorded conversation where we hear Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle trying to talk a Nevada tea party candidate into dropping out of the race.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm not sure that you can win and I'm not sure that I can win if you're hurting my chances. And that's the -- that's the part that's scare to me.

JOHNS: Total soap opera quality there to that race. You know, what's going to happen in the political race? Is anybody going to get in trouble with the law?

KING: It's a breathtaking Senate race and another fascinating development in it. Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is with us. Let's go to straight out to Las Vegas to Jon Ralston. He's the Nevada journalist who got this tape from the other tea party candidate. And Jon, every time we talk about this race we think it can't get any more weird or strange. So she tries to talk Mr. Ashjian out of the race. He not only says no but he records the conversation. And I will say this clearly so everyone at home understands. You had refused to disclose your sourcing, but then he acknowledged that he gave you the tape?

JON RALSTON, HOST, "FACE TO FACE WITH JOHN RALSTON": Yeah. He acknowledged to CNN, I understand, that he recorded the conversation which of course no one in the room knew he was doing. There were three others there. I don't think he ever had any intention of getting out of the race. He said all he wanted was a public apology from supporters of Sharron Angle with the tea party express who had essentially said he's an illegitimate tea party candidate. That was his only request. But it's just clear he's just loving the limelight and now he's got national attention, not just local attention.

KING: He has national attention. And let's look a little bit more on the tape. In this recording that you obtained she's very critical of the national Republican establishment, saying they've never kept their promises to cut taxes, never kept their promises to cut spending. She, by the way, is going to be in town to see some of that national Republican establishment this week. But she also, in trying to get Mr. Ashjian to drop out, she essentially seems to hint if you help me now, I'll be able to help you later and if I get to Washington I'm going to have some really powerful friends. Let's listen.

ANGLE: Really, all I can offer to you is whatever juice I have, you have as well. You want to see DeMint, I have juice with DeMint. I go to Washington, D.C. and I say I want to see Jim DeMint, he's right there for me. I say I want to see Tom Coburn, he's right there for me. I want to see Mitch McConnell, he's there.

KING: Can she win with him in the race? This has been a race that's defied all expectations. And what's the next chapter in this soap opera?

RALSTON: Well, this is a very unpredictable -- I don't know how we can get it stranger than a secret tape recording. But here you have Sharron Angle. Unfortunately for her, she has run her entire campaign calling Harry Reid "let's make a deal" Harry Reid, no more back room deals. And then guess what she's trying to do. She's trying to make a back room deal with a guy saying that she has juice in Washington if she wins and I can get you access to Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn and Mitch McConnell so, you should endorse me. Sounds like something Harry Reid would do, doesn't it?

KING: That's a little politics as usual. It does sound that way. Jon Ralston in Vegas, thanks so much. I want to bring Jess into the conversation. You talked to Mr. Ashjian today. He confirmed that that's his tape. What is his point?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He says that, first of all, he didn't wear a body wire. He laughed when I asked that. He wore -- he carried a tape recorder in his pocket.

KING: I might laugh.

YELLIN: I just imagined. This story's so wacky. He said it was "for my own protection." That's a quote. He says he feels every time he takes a private meeting he's ridiculed, lampooned, it's misrepresented his opponents are out to get him. He's a very colorful figure. I visited his house. He really is a Vegas guy. And he said he did this to get the facts out straight and when it was misrepresented he said fine, here's the truth.

KING: So a conspiracy theorist might say, Joe, a, is he just doing it for limelight? B, is this some secret plan to help Harry Reid? I don't know what to make of this race.

JOHNS: All I know is you talk to the Democrats, some people today intimately familiar with the Harry Reid side of things, and I really get the impression they're trying to back all the way away from it. You know. Their point of view is at least officially, hey, this thing isn't going to affect the race, it doesn't mean anything at all to us, they're not talking about jobs, they're trying to keep their hands off of it because as long as they've got their opponents going at it like this --

YELLIN: It's perfect for them.

JOHNS: Perfect for them.

KING: Did you guys know this conversation's being recorded? Swear to god.

YELLIN: I know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas too. This one didn't stay in Vegas.

KING: Not in this race at all. Aye, aye, aye. Jessica Yellin, Joe Johns, thank you. Our thanks to Jon Ralston as well. When we come back, Bill Maher. You know him as a comedian. He's got a show on politics. And he's also right now at center stage in one of the country's most hotly watched Senate races. Bill Maher live with us when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware may be a new face to most Americans but she used to be a frequent guest on Bill Maher's television show, and much to her discomfort he's been digging into the archives and finding clips about, among other things, witchcraft and now -- Bill Maher's going to be with us all week long from Los Angeles. And Bill, let me start with this question. You're going back into the "POLITICALLY INCORRECT" archives. What's this week? How about a sneak preview?

BILL MAHER, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I can't tell you, John. That's what -- that's what people are buffing my ratings about. They want to see what Christine O'Donnell did 12 years ago on ABC. And I'm happy to indulge them. KING: You're clearly having fun with it. And I want to get to the example you played Friday night in just a second. But has she reached out to you at all and said hello, my friend, please stop?

MAHER: No. I mean, this all started because we reached out to her and she rebuffed us. And it hurt me. It hurt me very deeply, John. I feel like I was instrumental in creating her career. And I don't like it when people don't forget who their friends are, you know, who they started out with. I tried to connect on Facebook, Classmates.com. Nothing worked. And so I just said, look, if you're not going to talk to me, I'm going to show this old stuff. And sometimes I feel guilty about it. And sometimes I picture her as the 41st senator and I don't feel guilty about it at all.

KING: All right. Let's go back to last week's example. This is from July 19th, 1999 on "POLITICALLY INCORRECT," and on "REAL TIME" Friday night you've said to the viewers here you go, here's another sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I was dabbling into every other kind of religion before I became a Christian.

MAHER: You were a witch.

O'DONNELL: I was.

MAHER: You were.

O'DONNELL: I was dabbling in witchcraft.

MAHER: Nice.

O'DONNELL: I've dabbled in Buddhism. And I would have become a Hare Krishna but I didn't want to become a vegetarian. And that is honestly the reason why. Because I'm Italian. I love meatballs.

MAHER: Boy, are you spiritual.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I don't know quite what to make of that. When I was a kid in Boston there were a lot of Hare Krishna's. I didn't know a meatball would have disqualified you.

MAHER: Well, that's one part of it. But you know, what hasn't she dabbled in? I mean, she has mentioned now witchcraft. She mentioned Hare Krishna's, Buddhists. We know she was a catholic, quit that for the evangelicals, went back to the Catholics. You know, I thought politics was the kind of thing where the voters wanted someone steady. You know, very often someone says something that they -- is at variance with a statement they made 20 years ago and they say oh, flip-flopping. Flip-flopping. But apparently, on this subject, religion, which is supposed to be eternal, infallible, written in stone directly from god, but in her case not married to it, I jump around.

KING: And do you get the sense that that is her -- that's who she is and was or do you get the sense that she knew she was on your show and the idea was to be a showman and to be provocative and to say outlandish things?

MAHER: No, well, that's her excuse, that she was giving me ratings, you know. Like William Randolph Hearst. I'll provide the war. You provide the ink. No. I mean, I think this is who she is. She was being honest. One thing I will say about Christine is I do think she's honest. I don't think she's a phony. I don't think she's pandering. I think this is who she is. I think she's a lost person, as I think a lot of people are who are dabbling in various religions. They're looking for something to anchor their life.

KING: Well, apparently, she also dabbled in classified information. She apparently also dabbled in classified information. There's an A.P. story out today that in a 2006 Senate primary debate she was talking about China and she was talking about how she didn't like the policies about abortion and one birth in China and she said that doesn't work. "There's much I want to say. I wish I wasn't privy to some of the classified information that I was privy to." hmm.

MAHER: Yeah, that -- she must have learned that at one of the colleges she didn't go to. You know, I don't know what's going on in this lady's head. I just know that there's only 100 senators and, you know, each one of those votes counts a lot and a senator can block legislation. A senator can -- she could propose the anti-masturbation act of 2011 if she got in there. And you know, this is not someone I would exactly put on the intelligence committee, if you know what I'm saying. I find it interesting that the tea baggers love Ann Rand, you know, who -- and that book "Atlas Shrugged," which is all about how we're really being held back by the people who aren't so bright and if only the geniuses and the real thinkers could take over then everything would be good. Well, by that standard they would put Christine O'Donnell on an ice floe.

KING: We've got to go to a quick break. But are those your books? I see Ralph Nader's book behind you, Mitt Romney's book behind you, Tom Brokaw. That's a pretty eclectic mix there.

MAHER: Yeah, it's not my office.

KING: Bill Maher's going to hang with us. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, what does he think about the prospect of Donald Trump running for president? Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's continue our conversation with Bill Maher. Bill, Glenn Beck was on his show today, and he was showing some pictures of his big rally on the mall back in August, and the progressives' rally over this weekend. And Glenn Beck was making the point look at these pictures, I had a lot more people at my rally. Then he went on to make another point. We know there were some labor union people there. There were some civil rights activists there, some other Democratic activists there. And there were, we had producers down on the scene, a small group of people from the communist party of the United States of America and the socialist party of the United States of America. And Glenn Beck wanted to make a point about that.

GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: Does it matter that our president and our Congress is running our country with the advice and the counsel and the aid and support of the communist party USA? Does it matter? I say yes.

KING: And you say?

MAHER: I say it's news to me. I didn't realize that the president was running the country with the advice of the communist party. What is Glenn Beck's evidence on this? I didn't see the story. Help me out.

KING: His evidence is that four or five or 10 or 12 or 15 showed up at this rally. You're dead on on the point. And this is a funny conversation. But in some ways it's also a serious conversation, saying it this way. These people show up at a rally which is their god given right and Glenn Beck decides that because they're in Washington, D.C. , they're somehow advising the president and the Congress. As we laugh at it, though, can I also say there were a lot of people who saw a rally of 5,000 tea party people and four idiots with racist signs and said a-ha, the tea party's all racist?

MAHER: Exactly. I mean, they hold up signs, you know, with Obama as a monkey and with a Hitler mustache. And the truth is that there's a lot more people on that side who really believe that stuff than there are communists advising Obama. He's a socialist, not a communist. Duh.

KING: All right. We're not going to settle this. So let's move on. Donald Trump. "Time" reported that people are getting a phone call in New Hampshire. It's about 30 questions, asking them about the Donald and whether it would bother them that maybe he's given some political contributions to Democrats. Clearly an effort to test the Donald unless it was a front for somebody as a presidential candidate down the road. And by the way, the Donald told our program "AMERICAN MORNING," not me, I didn't have anything to do with it. Do you view the Donald as a presidential candidate?

MAHER: No. I don't. And I'm sure he doesn't either. Running for president is really hard. The Donald has had a very pampered life. He's got a great life in New York. He does what he wants. He goes where he wants. You know, when you run for president, you've got to get up at 6:00 a.m. You stay in a Holiday Inn. You flip pancakes with idiots. You have to go milk a cow. And this goes on for like two years. Trust me, Donald Trump is never going to do that. But I also think it's -- there's something wrong in this country that people don't investigate the idea very far of business people going into politics. We have two of them out here, Carly Fiorina is running for the Senate. And Meg Whitman is trying to be the governor of California. And we always hear, you know, I ran a business, I'd be great at that, I created jobs. No, you didn't. You mostly fired people. That's what people at that level do. They mostly end jobs. And it's not the same thing running a government. You can't fire the Congress if you get mad with them. You have to work with people. It's a completely different skill set. I can't think of anybody who's gone from business to politics successfully. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg. He's a good mayor, and he's a good politician. But the only two that come to mind other than that are George Bush. He had an MBA. I don't think we have to go into great detail about the great success he was in politics. Or Herbert Hoover is the other one who comes to mind.

KING: All right. We're almost out of time. In this block of the program we usually have my friend Pete Dominick who's a stand-up comedian and he's a huge Bill Maher fan. He wanted to ask Bill Maher a question. Here he is.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Hey, Bill Maher, what's the best and worst thing about being Bill Maher?

MAHER: Well, the best I can't tell you. And the worst is probably the death threats.

KING: You are somewhat controversial guy. Got a lot of things on twitter just when we said we're going to have you on the program. Some people saying yay. Some people saying not yay. But Bill's going to be with us all week long. We're going to have a few laughs, also get his views on many of the fascinating race this is year. We appreciate it. We'll see you tomorrow night. That is all for us. But don't go anywhere. "PARKER SPITZER," our new program at 8:00, debuts right now. We'll see you tomorrow.