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Alaska Fault Line; Obama/Clinton 2012; Campaign Money; Secret Donors; O'Donnell: Her Faith & The Constitution

Aired October 6, 2010 - 19:00   ET


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

A busy day and night in politics including some developing stories this hour that we're watching, one is a debate in Florida's contentious three-way Senate race, also a rare campaign event featuring the surprise Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell. Her old friend, now nemesis, Bill Maher, will be with us to talk about that and some new polling that underscores the uphill fight O'Donnell is facing.

But we begin with two other dramas involving leading women in both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tonight squatting down talk she'll be on the ticket with President Obama in 2012. And Sarah Palin blames what she likes to call the lamestream (ph) for stirring up trouble. We call it doing our jobs for reporting her husband's tough e-mail message to Alaska's Republican Senate nominee.

With us to sort the truth from the spin, or at least to try, in New York, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for, John Avlon. In Atlanta, our contributor and the editor of the conservative, also author of "Red State Uprising," Erick Erickson. With me here in Washington, Democratic strategist and political contributor Donna Brazile, and CNN's senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

And let's begin with the e-mail battle up in the state of Alaska. First I want to read you an e-mail from Todd Palin, affectionately known to many as the first dude. He got mad at Joe Miller, the Republican Senate nominee, the guy who shocked the establishment with Sarah Palin's help and won the Republican Senate nomination.

Todd Palin sent this since-leaked e-mail back in September to Joe Miller. "Sarah put her (EXPLETIVE DELETED) on the line for Joe and yet he can't answer a simple question. Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president? Joe, please explain how this endorsement stuff works? Is it to be completely one sided? Sarah spent all morning working on a Facebook post for Joe and she won't use it now."

Now, before we get to the conversation, here's what got Todd Palin ticked off. Joe Miller, again, the Republican candidate, was on "FOX News Sunday", back on September 19th, and he was asked the question, would he back Sarah Palin for president?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE MILLER (R), ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: You know I'm running a U.S. Senate race right now in the state of Alaska. That's what I'm focused on. I've been asked about various candidates throughout the country during this race. That's not my role to comment on those candidacies.


KING: Eric Erickson, much ado about nothing, or a sign that there are tensions between the Palin camp and the Miller camp in a race that is still very close?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I very much think it's much ado about nothing. If we re-read Todd Palin's e-mail to Joe Miller, he very much thought that Joe Miller's, the question asked was, is she qualified to be president, not whether or not he would support her if she was running for president.

He has since apologized and said it was that confusion. I think the bigger question is who in Joe Miller's staff is leaking this e-mail? I'm aware that he's got one staffer out there apparently causing lots of trouble behind the scenes and he may need to figure out who that person is. That should be the story.

KING: Does it run deeper than that, John?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it does. I think the real news out of this e-mail exchange was Joe Miller's response that he forwarded to people on his staff saying, holy cow, this is what we're dealing with. That is a tell. That tells the truth, which is that even in Alaskan politics, in this two GOP allies, there's serious questions about kind of the temperament of the Palin family when it comes to politics. That pulls the curtains back. That's the news here.

KING: And even if it's -- let's say, even if it's not a question of the temperament, it's certainly proof that Todd Palin continues to closely watch. He was called the enforcer in the McCain campaign for watching everything that was said, everything that was done about his wife. It proves that he is closely watching.

I want to dig a little deeper here because you've just heard Joe Miller there on "FOX News Sunday", that's back on September 19th saying, hey, wait a minute, I'm not going to answer that question. I'm not going to be distracted by this. I'm running for office. He was back on FOX today, and again the question came up. And he went a little bit further just trying to answer this basic question. Is she qualified?


MILLER: We know what qualified means, don't we? We know that we have a constitutional requirement for somebody that's going to run for president. Of course she's qualified.


KING: So here's my question, before we bring Gloria and Donna into the conversation. You heard what he said on September 19th. You just heard what he said today. What has changed? Why is Joe Miller afraid to say what he said right here on this program back on September 1st?


KING: If Governor Palin were to run for president in 2012, would Senator Joe Miller be an automatic supporter?

MILLER: You know Governor Palin can succeed in whatever she puts her mind to. She was critical to the success of this campaign. She is absolutely a force to be reckoned with nationally. I absolutely will support her in her endeavors.


KING: So why a different answer days later?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He's a politician. I'm sorry to have to tell everyone this. That, you know, he realizes that she's a lightning rod in the state in which she's trying to win election to the Senate. And, so, he doesn't want to go out on that limb, because he doesn't want to alienate some voters who could vote for Murkowski, for example, so he's walking a line. The thing that I'm still working on from earlier is that Sarah Palin was spending all morning on a Facebook post? Do you -- do you know anybody who spends all morning on --


KING: Well, her Facebook --


KING: To defend Sarah Palin, her Facebook postings in this race and other races have been hugely successful in generating money for candidates across the country --


KING: -- including support for Joe Miller up in Alaska. We can -- you can have a debate about how long she spends on them. But, Donna, here's the issue. Is that -- do you think that's what it is? On September 1st, he didn't say he would endorse her for president, but he said I'll support her in all her endeavors. In subsequent interviews, he does not want to talk about this issue. Is it because Sarah Palin is controversial in her own state that if he says I'm with her it cost him votes? Does he not want to get caught into this Palin/Murkowski feud that's going on?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think Joe Miller is trying to establish his own credentials and he understands, like most political candidates, that he has to pay the piper. Sarah Palin is largely responsible for Joe Miller being the Republican nominee. She put her tweet out, she Facebooked about him, and now he is the Republican nominee. He defeated an established female candidate and he needs to pay the piper. BORGER: Well, and what Todd is saying is, we own you.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

BORGER: We own you.


BORGER: And so --

KING: And here -- and here's something Sarah Palin --


KING: Sarah Palin -- hang on one second, Erick. Hang on one second. Sarah Palin tweeted out this today, and I love following her on Twitter because you get some great stuff. But here she says, Sarah Palin tweeted, "there's no there, there, but the lamestream media, the lamestream media will keep on trying."


KING: Maybe this is not going to get anybody a job (INAUDIBLE), but in terms of politics she has kept an incredibly high profile. She is moving around the country. A lot of people think she's going to run for president. And she well knows and her husband well knows that if they communicate with e-mails and somebody in a campaign leaks them out, of course that's going to be followed in the political news coverage.

BRAZILE: Big news when Sarah Palin tweets.



ERICKSON: But we're missing something. We're talking about it as if he was asked the same question over and over, and he wasn't. Todd Palin thought he was asked a question that he wasn't asked, and that's what this is all about. I mean, you know the issue of him sending out to his campaign staff, this is what we're dealing with, according to Miller today, it wasn't meant as a slam against Todd Palin. It was meant as this is a distraction from the big issue, Murkowski.


AVLON: Come on. Everyone can read that e-mail and know exactly what's going on (INAUDIBLE) --


ERICKSON: The Palins, yes.

AVLON: Well no, no, no. I don't think that filter's required to tell the truth of the e-mail.

ERICKSON: Oh it absolutely is --

AVLON: Look --

ERICKSON: All about loathing the Palins by people in the media.


AVLON: In Joe Miller's second statement, what was amazing to me, when he had a chance to clarify, he rated a constitutional standard, which I think is mental incapacity. That's lowering the bar. Why not just answer the question directly like he's done in the past?

ERICKSON: Well, largely because of what Donna's saying, this is about him. I mean we're all trying to make this about Sarah Palin. He's the one running.

BORGER: But Erick, Erick --

ERICKSON: This is a ridiculous conversation --

BORGER: -- do you think -- do you think it was wise of Todd Palin to send that e-mail?

ERICKSON: You know, I'm not going to speak for Todd Palin --

BORGER: No, I'm asking you, though.


ERICKSON: I wouldn't have sent it, but you know what --


ERICKSON: -- he and Joe Miller are good friends. They've got a long relationship.

BRAZILE: Why didn't he call him, Erick, and just say hey, we need to have a man to man conversation.


ERICKSON: This is the ridiculousness of --


ERICKSON: -- why don't we call as opposed to sending e-mails.

KING: Well I do think that may be a lesson learned. That in the age of Facebook and Twitter and e-mails and everything else that if you have a message you don't want some campaign staffer to leak on you use the phone. Use the phone and I guess hope -- I guess well Sharron Angle just found out though and some conversations are recorded whether you know it or not.

All right, a quick time-out on this one. Coming up, we shift to Hillary Clinton. What does a National Football League trade have to do with Secretary Clinton's political future? Stay with us.


KING: All across the world of politics today, a heated conversation. Will she or won't she, Biden or Clinton? Will Hillary Clinton replace Joe Biden as President Obama's vice presidential nominee in 2012? This has been discussed in Washington before, but it got reignited last night right here on this program. Bob Woodward, "The Washington Post" journalist and author was here and he said this.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "OBAMA'S WARS": It's on the table. And some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012. President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries, and so they switch jobs and not out of the question.


KING: That generated a lot of buzz, but it's the last thing the Obama White House wants to be talked about right now is 2012, when they're worried about 2010. So the chairman of the Democratic National Committee went out this morning on NBC, it's the 7:00 hour here in the East Coast and he says, come on.


TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Yes, I'm really focused on the next four weeks, and that's way down the line. I think it's kind of like is Randy Moss (ph) going to get traded from the Patriots to the Vikings? It's speculation but I don't think there's anything to it.


KING: Just one little problem with that. You heard him say just like speculation Randy Moss (ph) is going to get traded to the Vikings. Well, within an hour of that interview, from ESPN and from, guess what happened? Randy Moss (ph) got traded to the Vikings. It's not exactly speculation. So everyone stopped saying aha, left to Secretary Clinton to tamp this down herself. She was at an event here in Washington. She said Joe Biden is my friend. He is a great vice president and not me.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a great relationship, and I have absolutely no interest and no reason for doing anything other than just dismissing these stories and moving on. Because there's just no -- we have no time. We have so much to do and I think both of us are very happy doing what we're doing.


KING: Donna Brazile, end of story? BRAZILE: I think so. Look, luckily, they have no e-mails, no twitters, no tweets about this, so based on my conversation with people at the DNC, at the White House it's not going to happen.

BORGER: Yes and I have to say based on a conversation I had with somebody who works for the vice president, sure, self-interested a little bit, who said, Woodward's been going to too many Georgetown dinner parties.

KING: He was very clear. He said people close to her say this is a possibility.

BORGER: Right. Well and folks at the White House have publicly said forget -- look, I think there is a close relationship between the president and Joe Biden. And by the way, what would Hillary Clinton bring? I know you say women, et cetera, but the base is really mad at Hillary Clinton because of the war in Afghanistan. Joe Biden does well with blue-collar voters. She did well with blue-collar voters during the campaign. But I think we're sort of litigating the last election, not the coming election.

KING: Erick Erickson, do you want Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton on the ticket in 2012?

ERICKSON: Oh lord, you know I don't know that it's what I want. I agree with Donna. This isn't going to happen. This is more of a non- story than the Palin e-mails I think. You know if she's there, she's there. If she's not, she's not. I mean it's just -- I don't know.

KING: Here's the question, John Avlon, if it's such a non story, why does it keep coming up?

AVLON: Well, I think in part because it's a bright, shiny object. I mean you know these two marquee names. People like moving names around, but it really -- I mean you know it would be one thing if this was after the election, a slow news story. We've got real drama, real time, election 2010, an epic midterm and yet for a couple of hours today everybody's attention and speculating about a 2012 VP nominee. It's kind of insane.


BRAZILE: Because if Bob Woodward said that, it must be true. He talks to -- he listens to everyone --


KING: So you're saying it's true?


BORGER: No, but he says -- he says it's on the table. Well, whose table? That's the question. I think it's outside chatter not inside --

ERICKSON: Look, you know I think there's something that rings true here in the stories that have circulated out of Washington for a while among people, that there is this distance between Biden and Obama shaping up. I don't know whether that's even true --

BRAZILE: No, that's not true.


BORGER: That's not true.

ERICKSON: That rumor has come out --


ERICKSON: -- a number of times --


BORGER: Not true.

ERICKSON: There you go.

BRAZILE: Those two share a lot in common.

BORGER: Right.

KING: Look, the vice president has done a lot of work this year. It's a tough political year for the Democrats --

BRAZILE: Oh absolutely --

KING: -- but he has been the happy warrior, making the case all across the country.


BORGER: And he's still out there on the campaign trail. And even Woodward's own book showed the close relationship they had, particularly on foreign policy. I mean even when Obama and Biden disagreed on Afghanistan, Obama encouraged Biden to bring his point of view to the table.

BRAZILE: And the president also has a good, close relationship --

KING: Erick, John, Donna, Gloria, I've got to stop this one here for now. We'll keep a tab on what's on the table and off the table as we go forward. We've got a lot more to come here though as we continue the conversation tonight and a lot more politics including this year a lot of money, corporate money, big money, union money, a lot of money you can't track because it's not disclosed is coming into the campaigns to influence your vote. We're going to have a debate about that and give you a little bit more about it.

We'll also talk to Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker tonight. A new memo out tonight from two prominent Democrats -- you've seen them right here on this program -- say the president's got it all wrong. We'll ask them what they think. And Christine O'Donnell, as we speak, is at an event in Delaware. She's the Tea Party Republican Senate candidate. She's caused a lot of controversy, including because of clips released by Bill Maher. She's taking questions; Bill Maher will be here a bit later to grade the answers.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, a slight problem has developed in plans for this weekend's big political rally in California featuring Sarah Palin and Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. Both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina (ph), the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. senator now say they will not be there. Whitman's campaign is doing a bit more than just denying allegations she knew her one-time housekeeper was an illegal immigrant. The Whitman camp has now released a poll showing 68 percent of California voters don't like the woman's attorney, Gloria Allred.

The Dow Jones Industrials hit a five-month high today, closing just 33 points short of 11,000. But there's a big cloud on the horizon. The latest unemployment numbers come out on Friday, and a preview shook the markets today. ADP, a firm that processes company payrolls, reports the private sector shed 39,000 jobs last month, so not quite out of the woods yet, huh?

KING: Not at all, looking at a tough unemployment report this Friday and as you know, jobs and the economy dominating the political discussion this year. That's why Democrats in so much trouble. There was a fascinating graphic display in "The Washington Post" today, Joe. I want to go over to the "Magic Wall" to share some of it with our viewers.

And all of this, if you go to our blog that links up to the whole thing, but essentially the graphic, the whole idea was why aren't people feeling the recovery? And it's a great display. I'll go through some of the slides here -- you should look at all of them. Here's the idea right now. The economy at the moment is growing at two percent. If the economy continues to grow at two percent, well, in 2020, we'll have nearly 12 percent unemployment.

That's why it's so important that the economy get more juice. Oh, my God, two percent growth means 11.9 percent unemployment in 2020. So what if the economy picks up a little bit and we get three percent growth? That would be up here. We would still have five percent unemployment in 2020. It would take a long time to get down to five. You see the long slope there.

And what if things would come back a bit more rapidly and we could get six percent growth? Well this is what the president would want because that would get unemployment down to five percent by 2012. But if you go through all these slides in this "Washington Post" account today, it's a fabulous demonstration that tells you straight up and close how bad the economy is, how slow growth affects the pace of recovery, gives you an interesting snapshot into how that all that works and when we come back a snapshot into something else dominating this campaign, tons, millions of outside money coming in affecting races probably in your community -- for the numbers and a debate when we come back.


KING: One of the biggest factors and biggest controversies in this year's election campaign is the huge influx in spending by outside groups. It's the result of a major Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that ruled unconstitutional the previous limits on such spending. In a moment, we'll debate whether that's a good or a bad idea and the impact.

But first, let's break down some numbers on campaign spending. It's worth noting that most Americans don't give any money to political campaigns, 200 or more dollars in contributions this year, 0.21 percent. Less than one percent of Americans have given even $200 or a little bit more to campaigns. Of course, some people have given more than $2,300, but it is such a small number, it is statistically insignificant, worth remembering as we continue the conversation.

Let's take a closer look at ad spending so far in this campaign. This is as of today -- outside groups, TV ad spending, more than $113 million. The Republican and the Democratic Parties combined, about $825 million. Now that's of today. This number is on reports filed as of June, so we know it's gone way up. But these are federal candidates, candidates running for the House and the Senate, $641 million as of June.

So of course that number has jumped up quite a bit as we await the latest reports. Now let's take a look at one race, one race where outside money came in and you decide whether or not it makes an impact. Let me pop it back up here. This is the Alaska Senate race. Our country deserves better PAC (ph), which is the Tea Party Express, gave a lot of money to Joe Miller, the candidate in Alaska.

The money started coming in back in July, $550,000 total for Joe Miller. Did it have an impact? Well let's take a look. When the money started coming in, Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent senator, was leading 62 to 30 percent. The money flowed in on primary day Joe Miller won that race 51/49. Pretty easy to make the case there that outside spending helped his campaign because it dwarfed his other spending.

Now -- with me now to have this debate, Tim Phillips, he's the president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups taking advantage of those rules and Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, who doesn't like them. A simple question off the top -- we have seen the impact of this money, why is it a bad idea? The court says let it in.

BILL ALLISON, EDITORIAL DIR., SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: I think, well one of the biggest problems is we don't know where the money is coming from. If you go back to 2004, 2006, 2008 (INAUDIBLE) released a report saying that we knew where more than half, upwards of 90 percent of the money was coming from for these independent ads. Now we're down to 32 percent that we're aware of.

And as the spending continues to come in, you have all kinds of ads run by all kinds of different groups for all kinds of different reasons without the voters being able to determine who is behind the ad. I think that's a real important thing to establish is that where the money is anonymous you can't tell who is spending -- who is paying for the ads.

KING: Is that not a fair point? Should the American people have the right to know? The court says you can spend all you want. Should the American people have a right to know, who's trying to influence my vote for Senate, my vote for Congress? Where's all this money coming from?

TIM PHILLIPS, PRES., AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: On the left, the public employee unions like SEIU (INAUDIBLE) they spend hundreds of millions of dollars. They don't disclose their donors. They don't have to. On the free market side, I think it's a good thing to protect the privacy of individual Americans. We've seen too often individual Americans being targeted by the politicians.

The chairman of our foundation (INAUDIBLE) David Koch (ph), he was attacked personally by the Obama administration, talking about his tax records. How outrageous is that? How chilling is that? I think it's good for Americans to have privacy. And if you want to know who Americans for Prosperity is, you can come to any of our rallies, events --

KING: How would you answer that? That if I disclosed that I had given 10, 50, $100 million to this campaign, that my opponents would try to destroy my business or destroy me?

ALLISON: I think that you know if you look historically, there are some reasons why there has been anonymous giving, but generally speaking, it hasn't been around political campaigns. Back at the turn of the century, the NAACP, the ACLU were unpopular organizations that took on popular stands (ph), but they weren't trying to influence federal elections and I think that's the distinction that you know ever since the Federal Election Campaign Act was passed in 1972, for example, you had ITNC (ph), which is a major corporation offering to underwrite the Republican National Convention in exchange for getting an anti-trust case that the Justice Department had filed against them dropped.

That's why we need this kind of information about money in politics. Most of these folks who are giving are giving to influence federal policy. The public that is governed by that federal government has a right to know who is trying to influence that policy. We disclose lobbying records. We disclose contributions to individual candidates. And just because somebody is better heeled or has more money to say that we don't have to disclose their identity that really strikes me as like a two-class system.

KING: The Supreme Court case was called Citizens United and the Congress, there was an effort through what they call the Disclose Act to get at this and they simply couldn't get the votes. They couldn't pass it. Is there a middle ground between you two or is this no? You say no disclosure and you say there has to be all disclosure.

PHILLIPS: Well here's an important point. I know at Americans for Prosperity the money we're spending this year. We're a C-4, so the case don't affect us at all with our efforts. I think if you're doing what we're doing, which is simply educating folks on the issues and where these candidates stand on health care and on cap and trade, that's a good thing. If you want to go endorse candidates, you can have a different discussion.

KING: Let me be clear. I don't mean to interrupt, but you say you don't advocate election --

PHILLIPS: We don't.

KING: Forgive me, some of these ads are pretty tough, and it's pretty clear when you say, call Congressman John King and tell him you don't like -- after 30 seconds of saying he's the most horrible guy --

PHILLIPS: We don't say he's a horrible guy. If you look at every one of our ads, we're not making personal attacks. We don't do that. And I think you have a c-4 concern or issue if you did do that far.

KING: From your position, do you see any hope in the sense that we don't know what's going to happen, but we're pretty clear we're going to get a more Republican house and a more Republican Senate, and most, not all, but most of the opposition to the disclose act came from the Republican Party. So are we in this? Are we locked now in this new terrain, whether you like it or not, for 2012 and beyond?

BILL ALLISON, EDITORIAL DIR., SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: That's a frightening thing. The disclose act did not pass. It was unlikely to before the election. Even if it were, the FEC, the Federal Election Commission which is responsible for reporting this information, would not be up and running to do it. And there's a real possibility we'll flow into 2012, where there's a whole lot more money than there will be in the midterms with all kinds of groups running all kinds of ads. And if you think about presidential politics, whether it's the Daisy ad from the Barry Goldwater campaign, when Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater, all the way up through Dukakis, a negative ad can really define a candidate, and not to know who's paying for it or who's behind it really diminishes the ability of voters to assess that ad and understand that ad and understand the people behind that ad who are sponsoring it.

KING: Major debate in the campaign, gentleman. Appreciate your time today. We'll continue the conversation, because the debate won't end. I suspect it will carry on into the next campaign. And when we come back, we'll talk to our new 8:00 hosts, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker about the president's strategy. Some think it's not working.

But later in the program, Christine O'Donnell live this hour. We'll talk about that and more with Bill Maher.


KING: Yes, there's an election in just 27 days. And a new memo from two top Democrats today warns the president is selling the wrong message. But, the most talked about political story today is secretary of state Hillary Clinton's insistence any talk of her on the ticket with President Obama in 2012 is dead wrong. Let's start there with Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Kathleen Parker and New York's former Democratic governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer. Their new program "PARKER SPITZER" is at the top of the hour. So Secretary Clinton says any talk and Bob Woodward ginned it up again yesterday in an interview on our program that she'll be on the ticket in 2012 is wrong. As they shoot this down at the White House and at the State Department, there are still some Hillary people that say, wait, stay tuned for 2016. Where are we going here?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Let me just start here. I know that Bob Woodward has never had to issue a correction in "The Washington Post," according to my "Washington Post" editors, so, you know, when Bob Woodward speaks, there's usually something there. Of course they're going to deny it. I mean, Secretary Clinton can't actually start asking for the job that the vice president currently holds and the White House is going to deny it for the same reasons, but I think there's a lot of appeal there across the board, you know, there are a lot of people out there with buyers remorse, and apparently among Democrats themselves.

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: You know, I hear all this, it is inevitable there's going to be chatter. Every possible permutation of tickets is going to be talked about, when President Obama's numbers are sagging as they are now. But here's a prediction for you. I think a year from now when his numbers start to rebound, everybody talks about how brilliant Joe Biden is, what a particular job he has done, how he has pressured on Afghanistan and he is a vibrant part of this ticket. Hillary is a friend, I worked with her when she was in the Senate, when I was governor of New York, but I think the odds of this happening are really, really slim to zero.

PARKER: It seems pretty unlikely when you get right down to it. And this is not about Joe Biden, this is about President Obama and trying to get his numbers back up. And if he is feeling very weak at that point, who knows, anything could happen.

KING: Let's shift to something else about President Obama. I got this memo today, Stan Greenberg, prominent Democratic pollster. James Carville, prominent Democratic strategist, happens to be a contributor here at CNN. They do this polling all the time for this group called Democracy Corps. They put out this memo today and said the president is selling with a precious few weeks left the wrong message. So let's listen to the president. Recently he's tried to sharpen his attacks to frame the election campaign. Let's listen to the president. We'll talk on the other side.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: If you want the same kind of skewed policies that led us to this crisis, then the Republicans are ready to offer that. But if you want policies that are moving us out, even though you may be frustrated, even though change isn't happening as fast as you'd like, then I think Democrats are going to do fine in November.


KING: Well, Carville and Greenberg say that's a horrible message. They say, Democrats should be saying, Republicans are in bed with Wall Street, Republicans will cut social security, Republicans will cut Medicare. And Eliot, they go on to say this, "Democrat candidates must be talking about change, with a populist tinge to get heard from this year." And they say the president's message is painfully weaker than any of those messages. The Democrats took control of Congress in January of 2007 and the president has been in the white house for 20 months now. Can the Democrats credibly say, we're the agents of change?

SPITZER: Well, I think it's a tough message to sell. And I've got to tell you, just watching the president deliver that message, I'm saying to myself, if he had performed that way, delivered his message with that intonation and that level of energy back in 2007, he never would have been president.

PARKER: I was thinking the exact same thing.

SPITZER: Where is the Barack Obama who was pounding the table? He was using a little bit more populist rhetoric back then, but there was energy, there was passion, there was excitement. I want to see that again. Look, Carville and Greenberg may be right. At this point, fear is going to sell better than trying to persuade the public that they like what they've seen for 20 months. But I want the Barack Obama I voted for. He's there. I'm a supporter. Come back! Find us.

PARKER: Yeah, and this is the passion that was lacking in that presentation. I thought the same thing. I thought, my gosh, that poor man needs a nap or one of those five-hour booster drinks or something. But, you know --

SPITZER: Yeah, where's yours?

PARKER: Yeah, I know, I drink them. Look, the Democrats ran on change. They got it. And now they're running on change again, against themselves. I don't see how that works for them.

SPITZER: Well, look, I don't think it's going to be as bad four weeks from now with some of the worst poll numbers are suggesting. There are numbers all over the place. What President Obama is saying is correct, it's just sort of a little hard to make that message go down, because people are saying you own the economy now, you own the Afghan war, you own what's going on in the world. Take credit for it, and don't kind of -- I don't know, sell it to us in a different way. I understand where Greenberg and Carville are coming from, I just want the president to come back with a powerful message.

PARKER: I think this is the 27-day panic, clearly.

KING: The 27-day panic.

SPITZER: They don't panic. They're too good for that.

KING: All right. Kathleen and Eliot, thanks so much. We'll see you at the top of the hour.

PARKER: Great. Thanks John.

SPITZER: Thank you.

KING: And when become back, new poll numbers in two hot Senate races. And a cameo on TV by Lou Dobbs.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. An attorney for John Edwards tells CNN a federal grand jury has issued a sizable number of subpoenas. The jury is looking into allegations money from the Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign paid for an illegal cover-up of his affair with Rielle Hunter.

President Obama is in New Jersey tonight attending a Democratic fund- raiser at a private residence, telling a small group of donors that sometimes the Democrats' tendency to have internal debates can be, quote, a weakness.

In Massachusetts, a statehouse candidate has an unusual name and an unusual problem. Ryan Fattman's campaign signs are turning out to be irresistible souvenirs and getting stolen from people's yards.

RYAN FATTMAN (R), MASS. STATE HOUSE CANDIDATE: If people want the signs, I'm more than willing to give them after the campaign. Aisle give them all away, if they want them.

JOHNS: And in Nevada's neck in neck U.S. Senate race, a new CNN/Time Opinion Research poll has Sharron Angle leading Harry Reid, 42 to 40 percent. A dead heat given the sampling rate. A pretty tight race, but I hear none of the above is on the ballot.

We've got better than none of the above with us. We have our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin. Here's what fascinates me about this race. Harry Reid has spent a lot of his money on television, trying to push Sharron Angle out of the race, saying she's extreme. She's called for privatizing Medicare and social security. And yet if you look closer at this polling among independents, that's Harry Reid saying, a, not only rally the Democratic base, but try to pull back. Ashton, the tea party candidate could be a problem for both of them. But Harry Reid down among 10 points among independents after trying to say this woman is way out in the extreme.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And he's down in seniors after she said to get rid of social security and Medicare. This is not good news for Harry Reid, but the climate is terrible for Harry Reid. Not just because he's a Senate majority leader, the ultimate insider and a very anti-Washington, anti-incumbent time, but because he's personally well known and not very well hiked. But also, the atmosphere in Nevada is just terrible. It's got the highest unemployment rate of any state in the entire country and the foreclosure rate is, I think, four times higher --

KING: 40 percent among likely voters. Wow. I mean, that is ouch repudiation.

JOHNS: It's an amazing thing. And you talk to some of the Democrats, you get the impression, hey, we always knew this was going to be a very close race. But the truth is, you know, we make jokes about none of the above, I think some of the Democrats are actually counting on none of the above to pull votes away from --

BASH: They are.

JOHNS: -- Sharron Angle.

KING: Let's bring Jess into the conversation from Connecticut. A poll in the race, you're up there covering tonight, too, and they had a debate last night. We look at this race, Richard Blumenthal, 54 percent among likely voters, Linda McMahon, the former wrestling CEO, 41 percent. That has to be a disappointment to Linda McMahon. She's spent $42 million of her own money in this campaign. You talked to both candidates today. That can't be good news for the Republican?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A real disappointment for her, John, but she also is adamant that she'll come back and narrow that gap. She plans to pour more money in here and she went up with a very negative ad, attacking Blumenthal after our polling had already begun. So we were in the field when the most negative attacks against her had sort of come out, accusing her of being for reducing the minimum wage, something that she aggressively asserts she's not for. So that was playing out here in Connecticut while we were polling. She will come back and fight hard, even Blumenthal told us today that he expects these numbers to be close in the very end. He expects to have to fight to the finish.

KING: All right. Time going to turn to something nonpolitical for a moment here. Those of you familiar with watching this hour on CNN, there was a guy named Lou Dobbs used to hold this hour. He left CNN. Jess, do you watch "The Good Wife"?

YELLIN: I don't, but I read the transcript.

KING: Okay. Joe, do you watch?

JOHNS: Honestly?

KING: Yes, honestly.


KING: I watch "The Good Wife," because my great wife, she's a fan of the program, so I watch it. I'm sitting down last night watching it, and on to the screen, at the beginning of the show, is Lou Dobbs, and Joe Trippi, the Democratic strategist. At the end there's a debate about a merger and can Lou Dobbs stay with this law firm. Watch this.


LOU DOBBS: You're saying you can set aside your personal political convictions when it comes to representing me and my interests?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Truthfully, I can never put aside my personal political convictions. What I'm saying is they won't be an issue, if I can represent murders when I think they're guilty, I can represent you.

DOBBS: Well, that's damned decent of you, a real vote of confidence. You've been more up-front with me in the past 25 minutes than any attorney I've dealt with and I like the fact that you won't betray your convictions. Think about it.


KING: Joe Trippi and Lou Dobbs last night, Vernon Jordan was on the program a couple months back. Jess, you going to watch now?

YELLIN: I'm just relieved to know that there's a future for people in broadcast after you leave. You can go into cable TV.

BASH: And the best part about it is that she is a very, very, very liberal very, very, very liberal lawyer. And the fact that she has to set it up in order to represent him was a big deal. But I thought that was a big classic. You know what? If you're going to tell me what it is, I'm on your side.

JOHNS: It was Lou Dobbs playing Lou Dobbs.

KING: It was not acting.

JOHNS: If Fred Thompson is going to do it, who knows?

KING: I smiled when he walked out of the set during the show. It was great to watch it. We'll see you on, maybe if they're your client, maybe we'll see you again. Jess in Connecticut, we'll talk to you tomorrow. Joe and Dana thanks as well. We told you Christine O'Donnell is taking questions live this hour, when we come back, your one-time friend and probably nemesis, Bill Maher, he's here to grade some answers.


KING: Tea party favorite and Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell is at a live event this hour. She's been taking some questions. Unless you've been hiding in a cave you know not only was she a big surprise winner in that primary, she used to be a frequent guest on Bill Maher's "POLITICALLY INCORRECT" show and on his current show, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER" Bill Maher's been going through the archives and bringing up some clips. I want to start here as Bill Maher joins us live tonight. Let me ask you this question. One of the things that came up with her, and I know it's came up in her prior conversations. How much does her personal faith influence her politics? Let's listen to Christine O'Donnell just moments ago.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: My faith has influenced by personal life, but an examination of the issues is what has influenced my political positions. It's the constitution by which I determine all of my policies. What is constitutional? What is best for the people of Delaware, I have a strong personal faith that has been quite the topic of the media lately. But when I go to Washington, D.C., it is the constitution by which I will make all of my decisions.

KING: What do you make of that?

BILL MAHER, HBO'S, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Well, I think that's a lie. I don't believe that. We have a clip that we might show where she's saying that she doesn't believe that separation of church and state is in the constitution. Now of course that exact phrase doesn't appear in the constitution, but I have no doubt. And she's not the only one by the way. Lots of leaders in this country, if you ask them, what would you do in a crisis? Pray, that's the first thing they would do is pray because that really helps in a crisis to try to telepathically communicate with your imaginary friend. We could have a race between Mitt Romney who's a Mormon who believes in wearing protective undergarments which I call magic underwear and Joe Lieberman who is an Orthodox Jew I guess who will not use electricity on Friday night so if there's a nuclear attack on Friday night, he has someone push the nuclear button, I don't know. Magic underwear, versus no electricity on Friday night. It's not a question mark to me why we're a laughing stock among civilized nations of the world.

KING: Well, some people have tried to characterize Christine O'Donnell as a laughing stock. One of the things she did, and we see this from a lot of tea party candidates. The elites are saying I'm not qualified. The elites say they should make better decisions in Washington. Listen to her answer on this question. I want to hear your take on it.

O'DONNELL: If you're not a multimillionaire, if you don't have a trust fund like my opponent, then they attack you on not being so- called qualified. But it is these career politicians that have been groomed for office from day one who have gotten our country in the shape that it's in. I, like many people here -- [ applause ] I, like many people here, know how hard it is to earn and keep a dollar and that's why I want to go to Washington and protect our right to earn and keep that dollar.

KING: Is there some power to this anti-elite message that she sells?

MAHER: Well, there is always power in that message, because so many people obviously are not part of the elite so it's an easy strong man. But I don't know what she's talking about. You know, Washington not working has nothing to do with how much money you make or how long you have been there, it's how effective you are. You know, we don't think she's qualified because she thinks that mice have human brains. And other statements like that. She wonders why you can't look at a monkey and see him evolve before your very eyes. This has nothing to do with how much money you make or where you went to school. Maybe it has to do with if you went to school. Because if you went to any kind of school, I would assume that they would teach you that those things don't exist in the real world.

KING: Let's move off from Christine O'Donnell, there's a big story in Washington ginned up by Bob Woodward being here last night saying that he's told there's a possibility still on the table he said that Hillary Clinton replaces Joe Biden in 2012. I want your thoughts on that in a minute but first I want to illustrate this point from your program on Friday night, it's clear that you think the president does have a bit of an issue with women voters and you used a little Bill Maher as Barry White to make the point.


MAHER: As many times we have loved and shared love and made love. You need more stimulus. Slow down, girl, I need time to treat you right. Barry is not one of those wham, bam, one term loves, he's just getting warmed up. Appointing two women to the Supreme Court? Don't tell me that didn't feel delicious. And health care? How can legislation so bad feel so good?


KING: I'm not exactly sure where to go with that so I'll just leave to it you.

MAHER: I wish I did a better Barry White impression. But we couldn't resist, and, yes, that really came out of the town hall meeting President Obama couple of weeks ago who said president Obama, I'm tired of defending you. Of course with Democrats, that's part of their nature. But we were trying to make the point that a disappointing friend is more important than a deadly enemy. Maybe you should reconsider how you're going to react just because President Obama has not been everything you thought he might be. You know, the Democrats get into this problem because they use their base as nothing more than a cash machine.

KING: I got to interrupt you. Unfortunately we're over our time but Bill will be back with us tomorrow night. We've got to go. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.