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Democratic Big Guns Campaigning; West Virginia Flip-Flop?; Traffic Gets Political

Aired October 11, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Wolf. And good evening, everyone.

At this hour tonight, Bill Clinton is wrapping up a busy day on the campaign trail and where he stops tells you something about his blue collar appeal and something about the political weaknesses of the current Democratic president.

In a moment, we'll map out some of the differences between Presidents Clinton and Obama.

Also tonight, Vice President Biden is joining the president in challenging the Chamber of Commerce to prove that none of its campaign ad money comes from foreign sources. The chamber says the White House is demonizing its critics to try to distract attention from failed economic policies.

And 22 days from the election count West Virginia governor and now Senate candidate, Joe Manchin, as among the Democrats literally trying to shoot their way back into contention.


GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: As your senator I'll protect our Second Amendment rights. That's why the NRA endorsed me.

I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets.

I'll cut federal spending and I'll repeal the bad parts of Obama care. I sued EPA, and I'll take dead aim at the cap and trade bill.

Because it's bad for West Virginia.


KING: Tough stuff. And there are more ads like it as Democrats try to stop a slide among white small town voters. In Governor Manchin's case, we'll put what he is saying about the Obama agenda now up against much more favorable comments in the past and let you judge whether it's a natural evolution or a desperate campaign conversion.

But we begin tonight with a tale of two Democratic presidents and their role in the campaign's final stretch. President Obama is in Miami tonight raising money. Former President Clinton in Syracuse, New York, his third stop today to help an embattled Democratic candidate.

Is one president more valuable than the other? Or is this an equal partnership?

In Chicago, CNN's political analyst Roland Martin. In New York, Republican strategist and CNN contributor Ed Rollins. And here in Washington, CNN contributor and senior political columnist for the, John Avlon. And CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Let's answer the question. Which president has more appeal on the campaign trail right now? And let's listen to Bill Clinton. He's in West Virginia today. Governor Manchin was favored heavily, now he's in a close race. Most polls show behind.

John Raese, his Republican opponent, has been saying you can't send this guy to Washington because all he'll do is vote yes when Obama asks him.

Here's Bill Clinton making the case.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT: He's really the president and you have to vote against the president, so vote against him. He'll be just a clone. His whole life was a fraud. He was just waiting for that moment when he could go to Washington and check his brain at the door, check his conscience at the door, check his life at the door, check his experience at the door.

Check everything so he could just be a little Atom-atom (ph), and say yes, yes, yes, yes.


KING: Roland Martin, what do you make of the raspy sarcasm there? If nothing else, I miss that voice.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I mean you use all of your weapons at your disposal. It's also why you see the White House putting Michelle Obama on the campaign trail as well.

I mean, remember, when Bill Clinton was running -- he's not -- he was president, it's not like he could have really used Jimmy Carter on the campaign trail because of the dislike of his term.

Look at President George W. Bush. No Republicans want to see him on the campaign trail. If you're Democrat, this is exactly what you do. You put all of your guns out there because you have to get the base out.

KING: I want to go to the map in just a moment. But Ed Rollins, one of the reasons Bill Clinton is in these places is because Barack Obama in these particular races today is not welcome. Let's take West Virginia. The president is there. The former president's there. He's trying to help Joe Manchin. One of the points Joe Manchin made with Bill Clinton at his side is that if he goes to Washington among the issues in which he will fight the Democratic President Barack Obama is energy legislation known as cap and trade.

Let's listen.


MANCHIN: Respectfully, I just totally disagree with the president, and I respectfully -- and you can respectfully disagree with people -- it's wrong.


KING: And before that President Clinton was in Kentucky campaigning with Jack Conway. Jack Conway was on this program last month when we were in Kentucky, and he said he likes President Obama just fine, but on tax cuts he thinks he's wrong.


JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: This is an issue I differ with the president. I think all the Bush tax cuts ought to be extended for some period of time. I think the economy that we're in right now it's just no time to be raising taxes.


KING: So, Ed, I know you're the Republican. I assume you think it's smart for the Democrats to send Bill Clinton to places Obama can't go.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, and as many places, the president can't go, as many places his policy is very unpopular among of these swing Democrat seats out there.

I think Bill Clinton, obviously, can attract blue collar Democrats. The president can go out and try to get college students and try to obviously stir up some African-American support.

Btu I think where white voters have abandoned this administration over and over again in these key states like Kentucky and West Virginia, you take the most popular man around America today is Bill Clinton.

In the end it's not going to matter because I think the policies is what people are going to vote on. And there's a good alternative in the Republican.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know remember back in the presidential campaign, Bill Clinton was not considered much of an asset for his wife. Remember he was getting tired on the campaign trail. He was yelling at people. He compared Barack Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson after South Carolina.

This must feel great for him because suddenly he is more in demand by Democrats than the president of the United States.

KING: And simple reason, I think in many cases, when Bill Clinton was president, whatever you thought of him personally, the economy was growing, the budget was balanced. He left office in good economic times and people don't feel that right now.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's absolutely true. But I mean Bill Clinton has what the current Democratic Party is missing. He's got the bubba factor. He can attract working class whites.

So there's an iron law in politics. Elections are won or lost by the candidate that connects with moderates and the middle class. And that's what Bill Clinton's great at. He campaigned on connecting with moderates in the middle class so he can help the Democrats connect to the center in swing states like West Virginia where Obama has got a 29 percent approval rating and also help get out the base.

KING: Well, let's go to the map and put that to the test. Let me just walk over here as we see. You say Kentucky, one of the places the president was today, this is the 2008 election, 58 percent, 41. McCain won Kentucky handily but I'm going to go back to the Democratic primary.

That light blue, that would be Senator Hillary Clinton beating Barack Obama 65 percent to 30 percent in the state of Kentucky. And I just want to go back in time to a different presidential election. 1992, Bill Clinton, right there, 45 percent. He won Kentucky. So there's a bit of a history in Kentucky.

But let's come back to the '08 map then move over to West Virginia. This is another case. McCain wins easy, 56 to 43 percent. Remember if West Virginia voted for Al Gore, Al Gore would have been president of the United States.

This state has trended red lately. But again let's look at the Democratic primary. And we come there that's all Hillary Clinton. Blue-collar whites. These are not Barack Obama states, these two. And that's one of the reasons you see Bill Clinton out making this case.

But Roland Martin, you say you use all of the weapons at your disposal, is there any risks involved where you do have open policy disagreements -- Bill Clinton standing next to Democrats who are publicly airing their differences with President Obama? Or is that all fair as long as you try to win?

MARTIN: No, there's absolutely no risk. At the end of the day if you're a Democrat, what you want is you want your party in control of the House and the Senate. You have even seen Speaker Nancy Pelosi say she understands why fellow House Democrats will really campaign against her and her leadership.

Look, at the end of the day you want to run the whole joint. You don't care. There are people who oppose President George W. Bush, fellow Republicans, not as strong, I believe, as you're hearing these Democrats opposing President Obama. But that's the name of the game in politics. It's not new. It's very old.

BORGER: Well, it happened to Clinton himself in 1994. He had Democrats running against him and, you know, they still couldn't keep control.

ROLLINS: But there's a very big difference today. And the difference is what we're doing right here. We are now highlighting the difference between moderate to conservative Democrats and this administration.

Don't think it only goes to Virginia -- West Virginia or Kentucky. It goes across the country. And I think basically you're saying to those voters out there that are having serious doubts about the Obama agenda, you know, there's people out there that don't agree with this president. And this president is wrong on --



KING: Even if some of these years --

MARTIN: Ed, 2006, Rahm --

KING: Go ahead.

MARTIN: 2006 Rahm Emanuel win out and recruited conservative Democrats who are opposed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others.

ROLLINS: That's what we're fighting --

MARTIN: It's something that's not new.

ROLLINS: That's what we're fighting now. That's what we're fighting now to get back in Republican districts.

BORGER: Right. Well, there are 49 Democrats who won in seats that John McCain won in their district. So those folks are in trouble, too.

KING: They tend to be -- they tend to be at the top of the list.

BORGER: Right.

KING: I want to get one more quick point in. Bill Clinton is not the only way Democrats who are having trouble with those white working class voters who are trying to fight their way back into contention.

The Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has been losing. Our latest poll had him down 57 percent to 39 percent. He says his own polls showed a little better than that, but he's also been down among rural voters 62 percent to 33 percent in our last poll. Ted Strickland has a new TV ad. It goes right at those voters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Washington, John Kasich voted to take away our gun rights. In fact Kasich's record was so bad the NRA gave him an F. But Gov. Ted Strickland has been an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment. That's why he's endorsed by the Buckeye Firearms Association and the NRA who gave Ted Strickland an A-plus rating.

For hunters, the choice is clear. Ted Strickland for governor.


KING: Straight play.

AVLON: Absolutely. And yet Democrats in swing district realize they need to show that they are not Washington elite liberals. They're going to do it any way they can, if it means holding up an NRA rating, so much the better. You're going to see a lot of governor with guns that's just surreal.

BORGER: Remember when John Kerry went out duck hunting and Hillary Clinton started --

AVLON: That turned out so well.

BORGER: And Hillary Clinton started talking about guns so much Barack Obama called her Annie Oakley? You know this is not new for the Democratic Party, right?

KING: I don't --


ROLLINS: Let's not assume voters are stupid.


ROLLINS: Voters are not stupid. OK. Let's not assume voters are stupid.

AVLON: No, no, no --

ROLLINS: Ted Strickland has been a liberal governor and John Kasich has been a conservative Republican. So the fact that you're on one spot, that whatever the difference John had with the NRA, which may have been that machine guns, whatever the heck it was, don't think that they're going to think he's now a liberal and Strickland is a conservative.

BORGER: No. But the Democrats have learned their lesson when it comes to --

MARTIN: And John --

KING: Go ahead, Roland, you get the last word.

MARTIN: Voters are also not -- voters are also not stupid. They can also see that NRA is backing Strickland. Also I give NRA respect. They made it clear. We are not a Republican or conservative tool. We support candidates who support our policies. That's good for them.

KING: And they've taken a lot of heat from the right for that.

All right, we're going to continue the conversation in a minute. John is going to leave us. But he'll be back a little bit later in the program. Roland, Ed and Gloria is still with us.

When we come back, we're going to put to the test Governor Joe Manchin. What he says about Obama now and then -- policy evolution or flip flop?


KING: West Virginia wasn't supposed to be on the Democratic Party's worry list this year. After long-time Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away, it was widely anticipated that popular Democratic Governor Joe Manchin would easily win that Senate seat. But little has gone according to plan for the Democrats this year.

Now not only is Manchin defending himself against tough ads from his GOP opponent and outside conservative groups, but against his own words from the past. Consider this from the governor's latest TV ad. A clear attempt to say, I'm no Obama Democrat.


MANCHIN: I'll take on Washington and this administration to get the federal government off of our backs and out of our pockets. I'll cut federal spending and I'll repeal the bad parts of Obama care.


KING: Now the governor is hardly the only Democrat to distance himself from the White House and its health care bill. But how do you square that ad with this very different tone of the health care discussion just this past March?


MANCHIN: You need to praise this president and this administration for sticking with this as long as they have. I've not seen this much commitment in anything else that we've done in the political process.


KING: Policy evolution or political flip-flop? We're back with our group and also joining us CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

You were down in West Virginia just last week. How does the governor answer that? Because his critics are saying wait a minute.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are saying wait a minute. And, you know, look, I mean here's -- there isn't much of an answer to it. He says, well, that was while the debate was going on and we didn't have the final bill, but it was March of this year and that the debate was pretty almost over.

The answer is that he understands what everybody else understands across the country, even Democrats who were very aggressively for this bill. They're not campaigning on its behalf, and people who are kind of on the outside and have the benefit of not having that voting record like him, he's saying, you know, let me go as far away as I can.

When you press him on the question of what do you want repeal, it gets a little bit more murky. It's an not entirely clear how he was --

KING: And so in a year where people don't like politicians, here's a guy who's incredibly popular in this state but there's an authenticity issue there.

BORGER: Yes. A conversion. And you can say, OK, who's the real Joe Manchin? Is he with or against Obama? What struck me about that ad was that it could have been a Republican ad.

I mean it was -- I don't like Obama, I don't like the health care bill. Vote for me. I'm going to be my own person. You could run that in any district in this country, Democrat or Republican, and that's why, you know, this election, it's really about yes or no. It's just if you like the way things are going, vote yes, if you don't, vote no. So I'm going to campaign no.

KING: Ed, you're the Republican here. But I want you just as a campaign strategist. Ed Rollins, what do you do when the ground shifts underneath your candidate? And maybe back in March, health care was OK. Now in October oh, boy, what do you do?

ROLLINS: Well, you can't basically give up your integrity. And I think to a certain extent the governor has done that. The governor has talked about how I'm going to go to Washington, I'm going to be different, I'm not going to -- I'm going to stand up to Obama. When he never has.

So I think to a certain extent this kind of ad which, as Gloria said, our good friend Alex Castellanos could have done this ad. It's a great Republican ad. But I think it basically is cutting into this guy's fiber that I'm a man of the people, that I'm basically a man of integrity when he's flip-flopping all over the place. That undoes all of that.

KING: Roland, you have time to --


KING: Go ahead. MARTIN: Sure. If you showed me a politician who typically doesn't flip-flop, I'd probably say they're not even a politician. I mean we see that all the time. But here's also what's amazing.


MARTIN: Here you have a Democrat who's making a point in terms of what he opposes. And we often talk about on all of these shows how on Republican side you have so few moderates because frankly they're being run out of the Republican Party.

I am appreciative of the fact and I would be hopeful that you actually might have people who are Democrat or Republican who say, don't just -- don't just think I'm going to just vote anybody in a particular way.

I appreciate somebody -- now you can say he's wrong, but I appreciate a politician who says, look, this is my position on this, I can oppose the president and this is where I stand. So I have no problem with it.

BASH: And I'm going to say I'm -- clearly I'm not defending Joe Manchin. But having been on the ground it is very clear why he did that. The number one rub against him.

MARTIN: Of course.

BASH: He's incredibly popular. Rub against him is that they're very worried about Democrats in Washington. So he's desperate to separate himself. And that's the most important thing he has to do.

KING: We just showed you that Joe Manchin ad. Before we go to break, I want to show you something that our staff has picked up in recent days. First, an example we brought you last week. Joe Sestak running for Senate in Pennsylvania. One of many Democrats playing what I'll call the China card against the Republican opponents.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Pat Toomey. He sided with Wall Street voting for unfair trade deals with China.


KING: Now there were a number of those ads run against Republicans last week. Over the weekend those Republicans came up with what we'll call the counterpunch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sadly Steve Kagen is right here, voting to send American jobs overseas. Washington, D.C.'s Steve Kagen, not protecting Wisconsin families.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Baron Hill running for Congress no Indiana or China? Baron Hill supported the $800 billion failed stimulus package that created renewable energy jobs in China.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While we are out of work, Nye and Pelosi voted to spend over a billion dollars to employ workers in countries like China, not here in Virginia. Glenn Nye, bankrolling foreign jobs.


KING: When we come back, one of the subjects we'll talk about is all the influx of outside money into the campaign and the president's assertion that maybe, just maybe, some of it is coming from overseas.

A lot more also to come on the program tonight. Another thing the president wants to do is spend billions of dollars on new infrastructure. He says Europe, China, everywhere else spend a lot more and that you're stuck in heavy traffic.

Do you want your tax dollars spent to try to fix it?

And we'll discuss New York's controversial Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino now says some homosexuals are brainwashed. He doesn't want children brainwashed to be homosexuals.

Elliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker help us break down what he's trying to say if they can figure it out.

And "Pete on the Street" tonight is with us. He's got question time for me. Pete's back in New York playing up the holiday.


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


Firs-term Ohio Democratic Congressman Steve Driehaus has gotten some bad news from party big wigs. CNN confirms the Democratic Congressional Committee will not spend any more money on TV ads in his district after this week.

Georgia governor candidate Roy Barns is offering condolences to the family of a teenager who died in a weekend traffic accident that also injured Barns' daughter and two granddaughters. Police say the 17-year-old boy's car crossed the center line and hit the minivan Barns' daughter was driving.

Before taking Air Force One to Florida today President Obama renewed his call for Congress to spend $50 billion to help the rest of us get around.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are aging systems, highways and byways, air routes and rail lines hinder our economic growth. Today the average American household is forced to spend more on transportation each year than food.


JOHNS: Now traffic is really bad around here in Washington, D.C., so there are some people who aren't going to mind. On the other hand, I know there are people out there saying, wasn't that what the stimulus was supposed to do? You know?

KING: That is part of what the stimulus was supposed to do. It's interesting, you know, this is a long-term plan for the president, Joe, and Gloria and Dan are still here. But it's also, if you look at the elections, the big elections, the one in the suburbs, and the excerpts, and that's where people complain more and more about traffic.

But let's put what the president was saying to the test. He says the United States needs to spend billions more. And I'm going to pop up a map here. These are the 20 cities in America with the worst complaints about the roads and the bridges and the infrastructure.

If you live in any of these places, and we've got a couple right over where we are here, you'll understand the traffic and the problems. So what the president is saying is the only way to fight this is to spend more.

And here's an interesting thing right here. This is the United States, the green line. These are other countries around the world, 32 different countries around the world. United States ranks in the world, 17th in terms of the complaints by its people about the quality of their infrastructure.

So if you live in the Slovak Republic or Poland, Greece, Israel, Canada, Slovenia, you see all these other countries including Mexico, you think you're not complain as much, I should say, about your infrastructure as we are here in the United States.

Here's the president's big point right now. The United States spends 2 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. Europe 5 percent. China 9 percent. The president's point in making that case is that the United States cannot be economically competitive in the long term not just, Joe, from a quality of life standpoint, unless it spends more.

They're going to agree on that? Let's ask that question after the election.

When we come back, a big source of disagreement right now. The president says there might be foreign money coming into the campaigns. The person he accuses of that says no way.

We'll talk it over when we come back.


KING: The White House acknowledges it has zero evidence that any foreign money is used against Democrats in this year's campaigns. But that hasn't stopped team Obama from raising the specter of shady dealings by the Chamber of Commerce and other administration critics.

Vice President Biden today accused the chamber of, quote, "trying to buy this election" and challenged it to tell us "how much of the money they're investing is from foreign sources." The VP's remarks today echoed the president's warning at a Sunday rally in Philadelphia.


OBAMA: It could be the oil industry, could be the insurance industry, could be foreign-owned corporations. You don't know, because they don't have to disclose. Now, that's not just a threat to Democrats, that's a threat to our democracy.


KING: The chamber says none of its political activities are funded by foreign sources and accuses the white house of a desperate smear campaign and the chamber and other conservative groups say there are liberal organizations also taking advantage of a Supreme Court decision that allows millions in new spending but doesn't require these groups to disclose donors. What is the political impact? Should there be more disclosure? Still with us, Roland Martin and Ed Rollins and with me here in studio, Gloria Borger and Dana Bash. Ed Rollins you've run campaigns for more than a generation now. Is this a bad thing not only that so much money is coming in, the Supreme Court says it's free speech, let it in, but never mind us in Washington or us consultants that somebody living in the state of Ohio or state of Texas or state of California doesn't know who's trying to influence their vote.

ROLLINS: This is irresponsible the charges that are made. I'm not against disclosure. Disclosure law is not in existence today. I'm not opposed to that but at the end of the day to charge the chamber of commerce, which is neighborhood businesses, community businesses, national businesses that take in $100,000 in contributions from foreign governments -- or foreign companies and a $200 million program and has not put a single penny into any campaign and to be accused by the president of the United States and vice president of the United States when they know there's no evidence there is outrageous. It would be me like saying when Obama outspent John McCain by 3-1 last time he had Mexican drug money in there. I can't prove it, but I throw the charge out there. It's just ridiculous to make those kinds of charges when they're not factual.

KING: Roland, I want you to answer what Ed just said. I want you to listen to Karl Rove, one of the people who has associated with some outside groups. He says he's not involved on a day-to-day basis but he certainly has been an adviser and consultant and makes Ed's point, saying, look, if you can't show me where that's bad money don't lower the esteem of the office of the presidency.


ROVE: Does the president have such little regard for the office that he holds that he goes out there and makes baseless charges against his political enemies? This is just beyond the pail. How dare the president to this.


MARTIN: I would love to hear Karl Rove saying the exact same thing to his fellow Fox News hosts like Glenn Beck who call the president a communist, anti-colonial and every other name out there. Karl, we're all waiting. Look, John, if the proof isn't there, it's frankly wrong for the president or the vice president to simply throw it out there. What should be happening, you should have people, conservatives, Democrats, independents who are saying, absolute full disclosure. If you're in Texas, if you're in Oakland, if you're in Alabama and you're seeing these commercials we should know who's trying to influence the vote putting things out there. It's ridiculous for people to hide behind the Supreme Court law. I say change it. I want to see political operatives, strategists, pollsters stand up for this change for transparency.

BORGER: Here's the key. I was talking to a Democratic pollster who admitted they're throwing everything up against the wall to see what sticks in this campaign. They're doing that. He said when you ask voters whether they want any foreign money in American elections, they say absolutely not. And it kind of sets them off. Would everyone like real full disclosure? Yes. Did the Supreme Court rule a way the Democrats disagree with? Yes. Is there enough disclosure? No. The foreign money is the keyword and --

KING: They think it gins up their base attacking Karl Rove and the Bush cronies as they call some of them. If they have no evidence of foreign money --

BASH: Not only that, their base, I was talking to a Democratic strategist involved in some of these groups try to compete with the Republican side saying there are people in middle America who think chamber of commerce, wait a minute, I know the people in my local town who work in the chamber of commerce, what's he talking about? At the same time, look, in terms of the balance here, Democratic groups, there's no question. There are fewer of them, they're not as well funded. The enthusiasm gap is playing big-time into this as well as everything else. They're out there. There's no question they're out there.

KING: I think it's about $69 million of outside money from the left --

BASH: People are not happy when they hear the president of the United States demonizing it --

KING: There's zero questions these ads are effective. What a number of Republicans will tell you these organizations went into places the national party wasn't sure about and proved somewhat as vulnerable. Here's an ad running against somebody who was a target from the beginning from Ohio.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unemployment, spending, debt, Washington's broken. And Congressman John Boccieri's policies are making it worse. He flip-flopped and voted for Nancy Pelosi's big government health care.

KING: The president is raising allegations against them. Part of this, most Democrats tell you is they're frustrated because they're getting bruised by these guys.

ROLLINS: Sure there are. There's nothing in that ad that's not factual. The charge against -- the foreign money is not factual. There's nothing in that ad that's not factual. That's what's hurting. The Democrats don't have a case. They tried 14 different strategies here and none of them have worked. This is a desperation strategy right now. It's not going to work.

BORGER: Let me say, if the Democrats had all the money on their side this time, let's say it was flipped and they had all the outside money coming into them, do you think they would do well in this election given the issue set they've got?

KING: Maybe not. Let's close on this point. As I say thank you to Roland, Ed, Gloria and Dana. If you at home don't like this, your grievance should go to the Congress. They fell short of the vote. If you think this is right or wrong, if you have anything you want done with it, yell at the Congress, not at the president at the moment. He tried to --

MARTIN: That's right.

KING: He tried to get this through the Congress. They couldn't get him the votes. It's a tough one. Right now it's legally within the law. Thanks for coming.

When we come back the New York Republican candidate for governor has said more than one, more than two, more than three very controversial things. Homosexuality was the subject this weekend. When we come back we'll talk it over with Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker.


KING: According to the Republican candidate for New York governor it would be a dastardly lie to say he wants to hurt homosexuals. Today the blogosphere is ablaze with comments about Carl Paladino's weekend speech criticizing his Democratic opponent Andrew Cuomo for taking part in a gay pride parade.


CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK GOV. CANDIDATE: And your children would be much better off and much more successful getting par married and raising a family. I don't want them to be brainwashed into thinking homosexually is an equally valid and successful option.


KING: A Cuomo spokesman says Paladino's speech, "Displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality." Let's talk this over by heading up to New York and checking in with Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker and New York's former Democratic Governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer. Their new program "PARKER SPITZER" ahead at the top of the hour. I'm not sure what to make of this guy, Carl Paladino. In some ways he keeps -- you might say he's the gift that keeps on giving in terms of controversy. He went out this morning on the morning shows to try to explain himself. Listen to this on the "Today" show. I'm not sure if it makes it better or worse.


PALADINO: Young children should not be exposed to that at a young age. They don't understand. It's a very difficult thing. And exposing them to homosexuality, especially at a gay pride parade, and I don't know if you've ever been to one, but they wear these little Speedos and they grind against each other and it's a terrible thing.


KING: I would assume the big issues in New York State are jobs and government spending. What is this guy doing?

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: John, I just got to say, I'm mystified because I think he's put himself now more in the crank category. Every day, every couple days he's coming out with another comment that's offbeat and not talking about the things the public might want to hear him talk about. He's the Republican nominee for a serious position, governor of New York. He's said not a single word about jobs, economics. How you reform government. If he made a speech about that, people would pay attention. This stuff he's veering off into crazy land.

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: It doesn't make a lot of sense. I think the man, you know, I think -- he's a catholic, the way I understand it. He may well believe the best course is for men and women to marry and have children and, you know, go that traditional route. But I -- as a political matter, to select that particular statement to make, he's essentially creating an issue where none exists. This is not something that people are talking about or caring about, and I just, you know, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

KING: That is what makes it so odd. I would pay no attention to this guy except the point you mentioned, Eliot. It happens to be our largest state and economic issues like many big states and states with big cities. One of the interesting things, if you watch the beginning of his speech, he's reading from a paper the entire time. We know he had a prepared text and left one line out that could have been more offensive. It said this in it, there is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual. Carl Paladino said he did not write that, a staffer did not write that. Listen to him trying to explain to Matt Lauer how the line got into the prepared text.


MATT LAUER, TALK SHOW HOST: Let's say a staff member of yours wrote it.

PALADINO: A staff member did not write it.

LAUER: So a member of the congregation did?

PALADINO: Somebody wrote that paragraph.

LAUER: I guess what I'm asking, if you're running for the highest office in the state of New York, and you show up at events and they hand you a piece of paper and say, Mr. Paladino, here's what you want to say --

PALADINO: I read it beforehand and crossed off that remark about dysfunctional. That is not me. Period.


PARKER: That's actually my favorite line, because dysfunctional heterosexuals are just fabulous, right?

KING: I mean, Eliot Spitzer, you're a politician, a former politician. Did you ever just walk into an event and say, here, read this?

SPITZER: No. First of all, you don't do that. You read things, you think about them. You act according to the -- he's running for governor of New York. He's got to know what he's going to say. You don't walk into any setting and just read your script. I think he said he read is quickly. This is not a campaign that anybody should be running these days. There are serious issues in New York people are willing to listen to new voices talk about. This is simply not the way to run a campaign that's going to lead to him being taken seriously.

PARKER: There's hardly any way for him to dig himself out of that hole. He should stop talking.

SPITZER: When he won the Republican primary a couple weeks ago it was open for him to define himself to the state of New York. He could have said economics is it, job creation, I'm a businessman, I'm a property owner. Any one of 100 things and put himself into a context where he would be taken seriously. He's completely destroyed that opportunity.

KING: Let's leave him where he has left himself. Eliot, Kathleen, see you at the top of the hour. Thanks.

PARKER: Thanks John.

KING: When we come back, our new polling shows Republicans are favored, but guess what, maybe you already know this, you don't like Democrats or Republicans when you look at Washington.

Our Jessica Yellin on the ground in California, that's among the subject, among the races we'll talk about.


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: John, the Secret Service tells CNN a man who threw a book at President Obama during a rally in Philadelphia was an over exuberant person who wrote a book he wanted the president to read. Authorities say he was not a threat to the president's safety.

The Arizona's governor's race may not be settled yet. A new Rocky Mountain poll shows Republican Governor Jan Brewer's lead over Democrat Terry Goddard has shrunk to three points with one in five voters yet to make up their minds. Among likely voters though Brewer has an 11 point lead.

And on CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM," Republican U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina told Wolf Blitzer the biggest issue in California isn't gay marriage, marijuana legalization or Sarah Palin's qualification to be president.


CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE: What's on voters' minds is jobs. Where are they? We have a 12.4 percent unemployment rate here in California.


JOHNS: Now, that may be the case. But I can tell you, I saw some polling today that suggested young voters in California may be more interested in the midterms because legalization of retail sales of marijuana is on the ballot.

KING: Maybe a little turnout device there. When we come back, Mr. Avlon with us. Joe will stay with us. Jessica Yellin is on the ground in California and will give us the update on what it means to have a tequila summit. And new polling showing you really don't like anybody if they work here in Washington.


KING: Interesting new polling. Fascinating conversations in strategy shifts out in California. Let's talk politics. Jessica Yellin is with us from Los Angeles. Pete Dominick joins us from New York. And with me here in the studio John Avlon and Joe Johns. Jess, I want to get out to you first. We heard Carly Fiorina talking about jobs being the number one issue before the break but you're on the ground out there and been a significant strategy shift among the Republican candidates, Carly Fiorina for Senate, Meg Whitman for governor. Up until recently, they were going their separate ways but something started with a tequila summit.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The two women in their effort to court every last specific voting block held -- both attended a Hispanic event out here in California, Latino Gala and did tequila shots before their speeches. Carly Fiorina said every speech should begin with a tequila shot. They also -- Whitman did a NASCAR event, they're appearing with Giuliani with Iranian Jews. They are micro targeting in the ultimate micro targeting since. But both campaigns are taking different tags with Whitman focusing on being a moderate, Fiorina trying to tackle a little bit more conservatives and finally focusing on jobs and Barbara Boxer's incumbency. You heard her talk about it with Wolf as you point. It's something national Republicans have been pushing her to do for a long time. They think the final stretch will be good for Fiorina if she stays on that message.

KING: We keep an eye on that, Barbara Boxer of course a Democrat incumbent in Washington. We have some new polling out that shows that you at home and you already know this. I'm not telling you anything you don't know, don't like the Democratic leadership in Congress. You don't like the Republican leadership in Congress. You see the approval there. 64 percent don't approve of the Democratic leadership. 66 percent disapprove of the Republican leadership. But here's why this is troubling for Democrats. Look at a long list of issues, terrorism, immigration, health care, the economy, taxes, Afghanistan, ethics, government spending. On not one of these issues does the Democratic Party get more than 50 percent. Would their policies move the country in the right direction? On any of these circumstances not one of them, do the Democrats get 50 percent. John Avlon, the word for that is trouble.

AVLON: Yeah. This should be a huge wake-up call for official Washington and especially Republicans as well because they see their approval rating isn't high either. They don't think they're going to improve the economy or that Republican Congressional leaders are more trusting. What you've got here is a set-up for an even more different stalemate and hyper partisan gridlock second two years of the Obama administration. If any Republicans out there, especially the leadership, think they've been good, they've been a lot more lucky than good. They've been benefiting from the anger but it doesn't translate to an endorsement.

KING: They don't like the Democrats, they don't like the Republicans, just the Democrats that are in charge but as John says, are we looking at almost guaranteed gridlock?

JOHNS: Perhaps we are. It obviously depends on how it all turns out. But this is so much about the economy and jobs, I think. Again and again and again, you look around the country and there are people not doing as well as they think they ought to be doing and they're upset about that. They voted for change and they haven't seen any, at least in the economy, sufficient to make people feel good about it right now.

KING: Pete, we send out on the street all the time to talk to people but maybe a lot of our viewers don't know this. You also host a show on Sirius Radio on the bonus channel. You get people calling in all the time. Does anybody ever call in and say I'm really happy with the Congress and I'm just excited?

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Yeah John, nobody ever says that. I'm ordering a shot of tequila and telling my wife to bring my undocumented worker home. She's got to get home. Nobody buys it. They take what they can get at this point. These people say they, they're not politicians running for the tea party, they're not career politicians, sometimes you think some of them should hire people because this Paladino he had quite a day.

KING: You're up in the middle of it in New York with Paladino. Boy I'm not sure how you do it. He had what I will call a not funny day. That's a safe statement I believe. Let's close on a more funny note. Christine O'Donnell has made a name for herself, the tea party candidate. She shocks the Republican establishment. She wins the Delaware Senate nomination and runs an ad with the words "I'm not a witch." "Saturday Night Live" as you might expect couldn't resist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Christine O'Donnell and I'm not a witch. I'm nothing like you've heard. I'm you. And just like you, I have to constantly deny that I'm a witch. Isn't that what the people of Delaware deserve? A candidate who promises first and foremost that she's not a witch? That's the kind of candidate Delaware hasn't had since 1692. And that's why, if elected to the human Senate, I promise to fly straight down to Washington -- on a plane -- and do exactly what you would do, not spells.


KING: Now, I'm going to give Christine O'Donnell a lot of credit here because she's taken a lot of heat over this. But she tweeted out right after that was on the air -- "SNL" skit was really funny and I have to admit her recollects hair looked better than mine. We have to give her credit for having a sense of humor.

YELLIN: Absolutely. We could study the Salem witch trials and learn a little bit about women and witchery in this country. I don't know what else we can get out of this one.

DOMINICK: I'm more troubled not by the "I'm not a witch" thing but the "I'm you" comment. I hope she's not me. I have an associated degree from the agricultural school. I just had two shots of tequila and I text while I drive. I was arrested when I was 16 for bashing mailboxes. You don't want me, no, no.

KING: I'm going to cut you off right now. These guys with me are neither witches nor warlocks. We'll see you soon and remember Wolf Blitzer has a debate in Delaware Wednesday night 7:30 p.m. That's all for us. Hope to see you tomorrow. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.