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Chilean Miners' Ordeal Ends; Campaign Trail Star Power; Health Care Reform Challenge

Aired October 14, 2010 - 19:00   ET


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

Tonight's star power on the campaign trail as President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Clinton and Sarah Palin, all out making their appeals 19 days before the big midterm election.

Plus a consequential day in court for the Obama White House. The Justice Department files an appeal overruling ordering the Pentagon to stop enforcing its "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

And in another case a federal judge has a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Obama health care plan can go forward.

But we start with more breaking news from the miracle mine rescue in Chile. A little bit ago an official at the hospital where the miners are being treated announced they expect to release three miners tonight and, quote, "many more tomorrow."

They also had this warning. The men he said were subjected to great stresses for more than two months so we won't immediately see which problems could develop.

Another important piece of fallout from the men's ordeal, Chile's president today promised tougher laws for safety and he also promised, quote, "radical changes" in how mine owners treat their workers.

A short time ago I spoke to two of CNN's great reporters on the ground in Chile.


KING: And joining us now our correspondents on the scene, Karl Penhaul and Patrick Oppmann.

And, gentlemen, one of the things we are all fascinated by around the world is trying to find out more about just what happened down in the mine throughout those 69 days, especially what happened on that first day when you had the explosion and the mine collapsed.

KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have talked to a couple of family members who even brought us a little bit of video back from the -- from their husbands. In fact, as one of them was saying, well, the day that the mine collapsed, he was describing in very calm terms, in fact. He says well, we went down deeper. We just went down deeper.

There was a lot of dust. And he said, over time, we did manage to rig some lights up but it was very, very gloomy. And he said -- and he put up his hand in the recording and he said, that's about as far in front of my face as I could see. It was very dark down there -- John.

KING: You know, you guys are sent to cover this story when the whole world thinks it's going to be a tragedy. That there's no way these guys can survive. That there's no way they'll be able to drill down and get to them in time. Not -- let alone to rescue them, just to get them supplies and oxygen, and any medical supplies they might need.

And then it turns into this breathtaking, heartwarming joyful celebration. Take us through sort of the key moments for you back when things looked bleak and then in the end as things began to become the seeds of a miracle.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN ALL-PLATFORM JOURNALIST: It was such a long haul watching the drilling being done. You'd have a breakthrough, something like the (INAUDIBLE) drill being built, and you'd think, this is it, this is going to be the silver bullet. And then you have a setback that could put the drilling back, you know, any number of days or any number of weeks.

And living with the family members, seeing on their face when they got their hopes just up a little bit, only to have them dashed was -- was fascinating but also really, really difficult because you'd be there reporting the news, and you might hear one of the family members creep up next to you to hear what you're saying, and you're saying the news they probably didn't like to hear.

But, you know, after there was that fateful breakthrough with the plan B drill, it was really a foggy morning, I remember, and just seeing the glimpse of the family members running up the hill where they put flags with all of the relatives' names on them and you could just make out in this really foggy Chilean desert morning, the people running up there.

And after that, John, there was just sort of a momentum that picked up and has carried us through today. And the story really hasn't stopped since then.

KING: And as our viewers were watching your reporting throughout these months, many of them, and I've seen this from your own reporting, wanted to get part of the story.

And, Karl, I saw you mentioning a woman, I believe, who was from Texas who would go to her church every night and light 33 candles. How -- give me other examples of that and that one in particular of people around the world who became captivated and connected to the story.

PENHAUL: Yes, I think that was encouraging to see, because initially I thought and the Chilean government thought this is all going to turn into some kind of reality TV. And my answer is to that is no, let's not be over-exaggerating reality TV perils.

I think (INAUDIBLE) that people wanted to put themselves in the miners' shoes or at least in the shoes of their family members. To try and show some kind of solidarity. And there the main man -- checked with the lady, I don't think she'll mind me mentioning her name now.

Donna Ashworth, and she's from Texas. And she saw all this unfold on her TV screen at home in Texas. You know she's American. She's not got any Latino blood, no real connection with the Chileans at all. But she saw it on TV and she e-mailed and she said, there is nothing I can do in Texas. I feel so helpless.

What can I do to help these people and these poor women waiting for their men folk? And so then she came up with the idea that one of the miner's wives, Jessica Yanez, well, her partner, in fact, because her -- her partner underneath had proposed in a letter to her that they have a full Catholic wedding when he comes out, so Donna Ashworth who's sitting in Texas said, I know what I can do, I'm a seamstress so I'm going to make Donna the most beautiful wedding dress she's ever seen. And she's now in that process.

On top of that she goes down to the church every night and that twists the priest's arm to light 33 candles. And I think, you know, that's just a good example of how people went beyond the reality TV, this kind of morbid, voyeuristic approach, to actually saying, you know, let's show some solidarity with these guys.

I don't know what your experiences were, Patrick.

OPPMANN: You know, I got an e-mail the other day from a viewer, and they said today I feel that the whole world is Chilean. And I thought about that and it sort of struck the right note.

KING: And so the question now is what's next? When you have a big event like this, sometimes in the case of a tragedy, in this case, thank God, a heart-warming miracle, the question is, what is the next chapter? How does the community change? How do the characters change? And how does the event change them?

I want to read you one of the miners, who came up, Mario Antonio Sepulveda Espina, he said, I want to continue to be treated like Mario. The worker, the miner. I love that and I think that in some shape, way or form, I want to continue working.

Will there be a life back to normal in a week? Or a month? Or two months? Or are these guys international celebrities now?

OPPMANN: I think it will be very difficult for them in a week or a month or two months. Remember on August 5th they left the town of Copiapo, many of them live here where we are today, just as miners, going out to work their shift like so many people do here every morning.

They've come back in the last few days as heroes, as stars, as people who will be known for what happened to them, what they did to survive for the rest of their lives. So it's changed them, it's changed this community. And I really don't see them going back.

One thing that does have to change, though, is the state of mining in Chile. Both Karl and I got to look at certain aspects of mining here. And their mines here, they're frankly incredibly, incredibly unsafe.

I looked at, you know, the aftermath of people living in this community, people whose arms were broken, people who lost feet to explosives. There's one man I talked to who've lost a leg to an explosion. And he'd worked in the San Jose mine. And he had a word for those mines.

He said they were called kamikaze mines. That if you went down in the mine like the San Jose mines, you oftentimes wouldn't expect to come home. It was a risk you were taking.

And at the San Jose mine, there was actually a Virgin Mary, John, that all the workers, whether they're religious or not, on the descent down in the mine's depths, they crossed themselves because it was that dangerous.

So that's something that Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has said needs to change. The mine safety record here is something that this has all put a spotlight on and you could expect laws and more scrutiny on some of these mines that were really not up to par before this accident.

PENHAUL: You know, I'm not sure that I would agree with the speculative course with everything that Patrick says about how much these miners' lives will change. We have heard from family members who've received letters from miners while they were here on the ground, that all 33 had taken some kind of pact of silence, that they weren't going to tell everything that happened in the mine.

Now that first of all made me think, well, there's something dark and untoward happened while they were down there. Was this some kind of lord of the flies situation? But I don't think so. I hear from others that maybe it is a pact so that together their bargaining power has increased so that they can sign off on book rights or movie rights or even on media interviews.

But what I would suspect is that each -- as each of these 33 miners starts to come out of hospital, the media will focus on three or four of them. Some of that so-called stars, the one that are more extrovert, such as Mario Sepulveda. And he could do all right for himself.

But I think the other guys have played a pretty silent ball, a pretty quiet ball. They were really team players while they're down there because that was the key for their survival, team play, not individual play.

I think they will just go home. I've just come from one miner's house just now. I had to take something round to his wife. And I went down a side street and there was their house. And the front of the house is probably about 12 or 15 feet across. And it's not very deep. It's a concrete floor. It's just a breeze block building without any paint on the side. A very rudimentary. I mean, these are working class men. And my fear is that a lot of the 33 will simply go back home, in a couple of days, and think, you know, I'm back to what it was.

One of the miners in a cell phone video told his sister, he said, you know, this isn't life-changing. I come back up, it's going to be the same old nonsense. You just got the sense from him that he'd struggle throughout much of his young life to make ends meet and get by.

And maybe not much will change. You know, while they were down in the mine they were on minimum pay. And they were even paying taxes on top of that. Nobody has come forward and given them a bumper check for being underground.

And, you know, I just can't help feeling that the Marios, maybe the Luis Urzuas, maybe the Mario Gomezes, let's hope, they might make a buck out of this, but I think the others will be back in their small working class homes and probably back down in the mine or at least working with their hands somewhere else pretty soon.

OPPMANN: So many of these men, John, the mine is all they know. It's a generational occupation for them. Their fathers did it, their grandfathers did it. This isn't many of the men's first mining accidents. There have been men who've been buried in the mine, there have been men who've lost fingers, had backs broken in the mines, and they've always gone back to the mines.

It's all they know and I wouldn't be surprised if despite this horrifying ordeal you don't have one or two who at the end go back to working the mines.

KING: Karl Penhaul and Patrick Oppmann, one of the reasons this story captured the world's imagination is because of your fantastic reporting for us there, gentlemen. Thank you so much.


KING: A bit later we'll take you back to the mine tragedy and show you how it captured the world's imagination online. It's a fascinating look. You don't want to miss it.

When we come back, a shift to politics. The president does a town hall today on MTV. Gets asked some interesting questions.

And live right now out in California, the former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, one of many political stars on the campaign trail tonight.


SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: America with less freedom and less opportunity and lowered expectations run by a detached and a distant and an arrogant -- (END OF VIDEO CLIP)


KING: Nineteen days until the midterm election. And as you might expect, a lot of star power out on the campaign trail today. The president did a town hall jointly broadcast on MTV and BET, part of his effort to reach young voters, African-Americans, energized them for the big election.

You see the president there. We'll get to some of the questions in just a minute.

His wife, the first lady, Michelle Obama also out on the road today, campaigning in Colorado. And you see her right there. That's before she flew to Colorado. Michelle Obama has already cast her ballot.

That's the Martin Luther King Community Center in her hometown of Chicago. Michelle Obama, safe bet, she voted Democrat today.

Also on the road, the former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic president, he's in New Mexico tonight campaigning for the Democratic candidate for governor there.

And as we showed you just heading to break, Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate, she's live right now out in California. We'll keep an eye on this event and bring you any snippets as developments warrant.

But let's have a little conversation. A big night in politics. And with us Democratic pollster, Cornell Belcher, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of the conservative blog,, and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Let's start with the president, because when you do these town halls, you're doing it for a reason. He has a message. He wants to energize young voters, he wants to energize African-American voters. But you also subject yourself to questions.

Remember, it was the MTV forum --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I hate when that happens, when they have to answer questions.


KING: Boxers in brief back in the Clinton days. Well, the president today was asked a lot of questions. And this one, not so favorable.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, of course we ask people to send in their greatest hopes and their greatest fears. I'll read a couple of the fears here first. My greatest fear is that we are turning into a communist country. And another one here, my greatest fear is that Obama will be re- elected.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you like to respond to those?

OBAMA: Well, look. The -- I mean this is an example of how our political rhetoric gets spun up. And, you know, the Internet and twitter and all these things are very powerful but it also means sometimes that instead of having a dialogue we just start calling folks -- calling each other names.

And that's true on the left or the right. That's something I think we've got to avoid. We've got to be able to have a conversation and recognize we're all Americans. We all want the best for this country.


KING: That's the president there at the MTV/BET forum tonight. I actually agree with the president. It'd be nice as Americans if we could have a conversation about these important issues, but we're not going to get a civil conversation in the next 19 days, are we?

BORGER: No, I don't think so. And you know, it's interesting to hear the president there talk about post-partisanship but when he's out on the campaign trail, you know, he's got to -- he's got to talk to his Democratic base. He's got to get them out to vote.

So, he's, again, sticking it to the Republicans. So he's -- you know, he's trying to have it both ways, you'll be shocked to know, but you know he's got to do that in this election year.

KING: I ran into a Democratic strategist the other night, Cornell, who questioned this, who questioned the idea of the president doing so much, focusing on new voters, young voters right now, saying look, they tend to drop off in the midterm campaign.

You're going to get a little bit at the margins. All the money and all the energy, this strategist was saying, should go -- get your union members and people you know --

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: And you know what, John, that Democratic strategist is part of the problem the Democratic Party has. That Democratic strategist is probably the same Democratic strategist saying Barack Obama couldn't win.

Probably the same Democratic strategist who would argue that, you know what, there's no way those young people going to turn out in the primaries for Barack Obama. No way those young people going to turn out in the general election for Barack Obama. He was on MTV and BETV -- BET, because you know what? Seventy percent, close to 70 percent, 66 percent, of people under 30 voted for him. And when those voters come out and they're energized, Democrats win all over the place.

I mean no Democrats win in tough districts. It's interesting that you're all covering that tough district up in Ohio that DCCC is pulling out. That's a district case study where the Obama surge helped Democrats win that seat.

That Democrat consultant is part of the problem.


KING: I don't know how you got to be asked your question --


KING: And I don't know how you got to be --


ERICKSON: Either of us on MTV, I like him but I didn't submit them. You know it is kind of rich for the president to -- on the MTV forum, you know, playing about the partisan rhetoric, when he's on the campaign trail.

I mean, remember, two days after he got elected or sworn into office, John Kyl expressed concerns about what was in the stimulus package and his response was, I won. I mean it's kind of been downhill for him ever since.

KING: Let me go over here --

BORGER: Well --

KING: I want to show you guys something if I got a second to do before we go. Because, Cornell, you were saying that Democratic strategist is wrong and the president is trying to gin up.

I just want to show something. There is some evidence that the president's talking about this and doing these forums is starting to generate some activity. This is his Web site. We showed you a week or so ago how traffic to his Web site had just dropped off the table since 2008.

Yesterday as he attend another town hall at George Washington University, I think, it was up 63 percent. For the week, it's up 11 percent. For the month, up 33 percent. Over three months it's only 4 percent. So you see the recent activity by the president is driving up at least visits to

One of the thing I want to show, well, we asked people -- this is "Rock the Vote" polling data here. This is, you know, what do you consider yourself, young people? They're pretty split -- liberal, moderate, conservative, more in the middle.

Here's the question I want to ask you guys about. I can't get this to roll. Here we go. Who do you want to control Congress? Thirty-four percent of young voters say Democrats, 28 percent say Republicans. This is the part that hurts. Thirty-six percent say it doesn't matter to me.

So, Cornell, these are voters the president's trying to motivate. If they've become cynical two years after hope in getting so involved how do you combat --

BELCHER: And that -- and that's the problem. And, again, the problem, the conventional wisdom is that -- in the Democratic Party, that old, tired, conventional wisdom aside the Democratic Party says let's not spend time and resources trying to cultivate that base.

Look, I said at the end of 2008, the -- the Obama surge voters, they weren't Democratic voters. They were Obama voters. And the Democratic Party better work very hard to make them Democratic voters.

They haven't done that. So that explains that. And when we win -- when we lose seats in tough places because we're not addressing that new surge vote that becomes part of the problem.

BORGER: You know the problem is that the Republicans who don't like big government see this election about Barack Obama. The Democratic young voters who like Barack Obama --


BORGER: -- don't think this election is about Barack Obama.

BELCHER: That's right.


BORGER: And that's -- that's their real problem.

ERICKSON: In the meantime you have a lot of these people who are going to vote Republican and can't stand the Republicans. That's the absolute irony of this --


KING: I was --

BORGER: That would be you?


KING: We're going to take time out. We'll get to that point a little bit later in the program. Everybody, stay right there. A lot more to talk about, including a busy day in court for the Obama administration.

And take a look at this picture of the White House. It's lit up pink tonight in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


KING: Today in Florida a federal judge ruled a challenge to the new health care law can go ahead. Attorneys general from 20 states are suing. They contend the law's requirement that people buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

Just last week, though, a federal judge in Michigan ruled just the opposite, that the requirement to buy insurance is constitutional.

The politics of health care in a minute but to our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, we put this question. What's the legal path ahead?


JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: There are many challenges to the health care law in the federal courts now, and different judges are reaching different conclusions.

A Michigan judge said, the law is fine, constitutional. Judges in Virginia and Florida have now decided they have real questions about the constitutionality.

What this means is that this case will wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court because that's why we have a Supreme Court, to settle disputes between judges and it will probably be sooner rather than later.


KING: Sooner rather than later. But that's still years to get a case all the way to the Supreme Court. There's an election in 19 days and this issue is a factor in it.

Consider this just today, a debate between the candidates in Kentucky for Senate, Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway.


RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SEN. CANDIDATE: And Jack, I know you've been busy traveling to California, seeing your buddy Nancy Pelosi out there, and trying to raise some money. But when you've been back in the state, you've been neglecting us.

There is a question, a valid question, 17 attorney generals have asked. Is Obamacare constitutional? Can you force someone -- can you force an individual to buy insurance? Why won't you sign on to the -- to the debate with the attorney generals over the constitutionality of Obamacare?


JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SEN. CANDIDATE: I -- as the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I'm always amused to get a lecture in constitutional law from a self-certified ophthalmologist.



KING: Point -- counter point there in Kentucky. It's good for a laugh but it's an important debate in the campaign.

Cornell, to you first. We have seen a few more Democrats. There's not a rush of Democrats saying, I'm proud of my vote, I love it. We've seen Russ Feingold, an ad in a couple of congressional districts, health care, is the politics of it changed?

BELCHER: We'd be a lot better off, quite frankly, if this was a fight that we take on and communication -- if we had done communication better. Because look, what we know from the polling is that when you actually test individual parts of what's actually in health care, it tests fairly well.

When you -- you know, when you take away the fact that, you know, death squads for your grandma and you get away with that muddiness, it tests very well. And I got a feeling that as this progresses a lot of this is going to go away, as this progress and people has got to start seeing like their kids can stay on health care, and they like that, and they're not denied preexisting conditions --


ERICKSON: But not before the election?

BELCHER: But not before the election. But after the election, this is going to -- this is going to take hold.

ERICKSON: You know, I just think, particularly the Conway clip, Rand Paul gets to an important issue there that's driving the Tea Party movement where people feel like they shouldn't have to go to the attorney general to be able to figure out how government works. And it's driving people crazy and fueling campaigns like Rand Paul.

BORGER: But, you know, I think when you get back to the Congress, and of course it depends what the divisions are in the Congress, whether the Republicans take over the House or not, or the Senate, it's going to be guerrilla warfare. Because you can repeal it piece by piece by refusing to fund things.

KING: The president of the United States gets one of these veto pens.

I've got to call a timeout for now. We'll see what happens when -- if they try to repeal it. If the Republicans get control and they try to repeal, we're going to have a veto battle.

When we come back, we're going to talk to Mike Castle. He was supposed to be the Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware. He got beat by Christine O'Donnell. His view on the moderate wing of the Republican Party and whether it's heading towards extinction. Then Elliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, they were on television live last night when history was made at the Chilean mine. We'll get their thoughts and we'll have them watch with us a big fight on television today.

And also the big debate out in Nevada tonight. Harry Reid versus Sharron Angle. We'll give you a preview including interviews with the candidates.


KING: Mike Castle has had a month to adjust to his new role as a spectator rather than the favorite in Delaware's U.S. Senate race. In that time he's had time to form some very definitive opinions about the future of the Republican Party and the tea party activists who derailed his Senate bid and propelled Christine O'Donnell to victory in the Republican primary. Congressman Castle is here to go one-on- one. Sir, let me start with that. You briefly considered running as a write-in candidate. You decided not to do that. We have polling here and others have polling that show you might have won that race as a write-in candidate. Any regrets?

REP. MIKE CASTLE (R), DELAWARE: No real regrets. You're always going to wonder about that. Perhaps I could have won it. My party spoke to the selection of a candidate. It wasn't me. And I felt it would be unfair to try to move forward in that circumstance. So, I just declined to go ahead and do it.

KING: You had a conversation with Christine O'Donnell. Are you prepared to say you will vote for her?

CASTLE: No, I'm not going to endorse anybody in that particular race. Not because of the competence of any of the candidates but because the primary I went through was very nasty in a variety of ways. Both politically and personally. And I've just declined to get involved in that.

KING: Mike Castle in Delaware, Lisa Murkowski, Bob Bennett, three Republicans beaten in primaries. Some a bit more conservative, but all three, Castle, Murkowski and Bennett, people who were not afraid to occasionally sit down at the table with a Democrat and try to work something out. Why has that been a problem for grassroots Republicans?

CASTLE: You know, I don't know the answer to that. Senator Bennett and Senator Murkowski have been rated by the people I speak to in Washington as two of the most able senators, Republican or Democrat, in the Senate. Most people assumed that I'd be able to win this particular seat. So, it's very -- it's very disappointing. But political parties have a character of their own. The Republican Party right now is very adamant about the positions that President Obama and the Democrats have taken. If you voted for any of those positions or even sat down and met with the Democrats, you were going to be targeted by the tea party and like groups. That's essentially what has happened. And then they will take those votes and they will, perhaps, overrepresent them and ignore the good things that you may have done and that led to the defeat of all of us.

We'll see how Senator Murkowski does as a write-in candidate. I think she's doing pretty well in Alaska. But it's been a difficult time. More significantly, I've had virtually 100 or more members of the House of Representatives speak to me about this. Not just Republicans. Republicans and Democrats are very concerned about what the future of the country is, what the future of politics is, are people going to be willing to run for office, are they going to be willing to sit down and work with the other party. There's a lot of back and forth on this right now.

KING: Are you prepared in a lame duck session to vote to extend the Bush tax cuts in total? Are you prepared to vote on comprehensive immigration reform or should those wait until after those who win this election come to Washington?

CASTLE: I don't think immigration reform will come up in a lame duck session. I think it's too complicated. I do believe that the Bush tax cuts could. They may come up in a form different than anything that's been talked about quite yet. And that is they could be extensions for one year, two years to three years as opposed to a complete elimination of some of the tax reductions, as has been discussed, too. And my sense is that that might actually be a good solution.

KING: What is happening to the moderate wing of the Republican Party?

CASTLE: Well, I am very concerned about that. Obviously, once you leave Maine, you're not going to have much of anything in the Senate in the way of moderate Republicans, and you're going to have the same problem with a paucity of Republicans in the middle Atlantic and New England states. I do think, however, there will be some more Republicans elected in Pennsylvania and New York this year, which -- who will probably be more conservative, but will add to the Republican influence in the Congress. But if anyone thinks that the next session of the Congress is not going to be more conservative than it is today, they're wrong.

Enough elections are going to be won by conservative candidates, not only in the northeast and middle Atlantic states, but throughout the country to make a difference. I don't know today if Republicans will control the House and/or the Senate, but they're going to get a lot closer. That's going to mean the president is going to be scratching his head in determining what is our future going to be, because the past two years have not served him well from an electoral point of view, so you could have a very different perspective from the White House, the Democrats may be thinking very differently than they have before, and the conservative Republicans are going to be able to make gains at that time.

I would hope that the moderates who are left, and there will be some, will be able to be players in between, to make a difference, between the two parties to make sure that decent legislation gets passed. But to suggest that moderates have not had a setback in this election cycle would be wrong. KING: What would Mike Castle say to those Republicans, I'm name Jim DeMint for one, I don't mean to single him out, who say they would rather lose and have pure conservatives than Republicans they view as more liberal or pragmatic?

CASTLE: I think Jim DeMint is very wrong about that viewpoint. And I think the groups with which he associates are also very wrong about that viewpoint. In addition to that, we're now raising the serious question of whether or not we can elect very conservative candidates, extremists perhaps in some cases. For example, in Nevada, in Delaware, and perhaps in other states. That's part of the test of the general election. I think it's a little hard to write this script until we see how the general election comes out.

KING: Congressman Mike Castle, the Congressman from Delaware, also the former governor of Delaware. Appreciate your time. We'll keep in touch.

CASTLE: Thank you.

KING: And so is Mike Castle right when he says Senator DeMint wrong? DeMint ally Erick Erickson with us after the break.

And Cornell Belcher back as well as we analyze last night's Chris Coons, Christine O'Donnell debate in Delaware.


KING: Let's talk the Delaware Senate race and what it means for national politics. With us Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher, conservative Erick Erickson. You're an ally of Jim DeMint, a friend of conservative Senator Jim DeMint. You just heard Mike Castle there. He was supposed to be, according to the Republican establishment, the candidate for Senate from Delaware. He's a moderate. He was a governor. Many would say he's a stronger candidate statewide than Christine O'Donnell and he sees what Jim DeMint is doing, supporting these more conservative candidates essentially as an effort to purge moderates from the Republican Party.

ERICK ERICKSON, AUTHOR, "RED STATE UPRISING": You know yes and no. the great quote from DeMint is he'd rather have 30 Marco Rubios than 51 whatever is one of the most misinterpreted quotes of Jim DeMint. What he meant by that was it does us no good to have 51 Republicans in the Senate when you have no idea what the Republicans stand for. He would rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate or 30 Ken Bucks or Rand Pauls or whatever because you know what they stand for, you know what they're going to do. Yes the Republicans have to have 51 to have a majority. Jim DeMint doesn't deny that.

KING: But Mike Castle would say he stands for pragmatic effective government and that his experience in 30 years as a governor and member of Congress has been that sometimes you have to cut a deal because you're not going to get your way.

ERICKSON: The great split in the Republican Party is between those who see no problem with bigger government and those who think government is too big. Mike Castle has no problem with bigger government. Jim DeMint and I would like smaller government.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: I have to disagree with that. I think what you're seeing in Castle is, quite frankly, someone who will reach across the aisle and compromise. You know what? That's the way our country moves forward. At the end of the election cycle we'll look back if Republicans fail to take the Senate, which I think they are, we'll look back and best friend of the Democrats will be Jim DeMint who helped us with a lot of tea party candidates and pushed Castles out of the party who were very electable --

ERICKSON: But the Senate doesn't work when you have five Jim DeMints in there because of the Senate rules. I'm happy with that.

BELCHER: I don't think we should have five Jim DeMints in the Senate.

ERICKSON: But we're going to.

KING: Let's move on to the debate last night because Mike Castle lost in the primary. Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons Republican and Democrat respectively squared off last night. Wolf Blitzer was a co-moderator of the debate. It was interesting to watch. A lot of ground covered. I'm going to play a snippet here that I would say if you're running for a federal office, especially the United States Senate, where part of your obligation is to confirm or reject the president's nominees for the Supreme Court, that you should probably be prepared to answer this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What opinions of late that have come from our high court do you most object to?

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Oh, gosh. Give me a specific one. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I can't because I need to you tell me which ones you object to.

O'DONNELL: I'm very sorry. Right off the top of my head, I know there are a lot, but I'll put it up on my website.


KING: Now, to Christine O'Donnell's credit, later she did mention a couple cases about Miranda rights and one of the health care decisions that made its way through the courts, but is that a serious candidate for the United States Senate who's not ready for that question right out of the box?

ERICKSON: Doesn't matter. She is the candidate. She should have been able to answer that question. What I've been telling people, I don't have any problem with Christine O'Donnell as a candidate. She'll be my hero at the end of the race because for five weeks the media has been fixated on her and they haven't put Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, Joe Miller, Marco Rubio or any of these other candidates through the same spotlight that put her giving them a patch for five weeks to get ahead in the polls and that works for me.

BELCHER: I agree, it's kind of bewitching.

KING: But could we, could we, to be contrarian here, could we be wrong in the sense that yes if we have the traditional test of candidates, number one she doesn't win that primary. If we have the traditional test of candidates she's supposed to be able to say, this decision, that decision, this decision, I would cut this agency, this agency --

BELCHER: The problem is Castle could have answered that question. And that becomes a problem. And you have, in her as well as Angle out in Nevada running from the press, literally running from the press not taking any questions. At some point that becomes a real problem. If you're running for U.S. Senate, you have to answer questions.

ERICKSON: Here's the problem that goes with that. We have become a country of professional politicians who have gotten us into the mess we're in. We're seeing across the country a lot of people saying, I don't want the professional guys anymore. We saw that with the Delaware voters. Now, she may not win the general election. The odds are not in her favor. But there's something to be said for elects the citizen politician. The good, the bad, the warts and all.

BELCHER: There's something about electing people that are competent.

ERICKSON: But who's to say she's not going to be a competent senator? She ran a successful charity for quite a while.

KING: We've got 19 days to continue this debate, although Erick won't like us. We'll focus on other candidates including tonight.

When we come back, today's top story is a fascinating look at how the mine disaster played out on the internet.

And you won't want to miss this, Bill O'Reilly, sparring on "The View."


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. The justice department today formally appealed a federal court ruling that struck don't the government's don't ask, don't tell policy. The president was asked about repealing the policy during today's young voters town hall.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It has to be done in a way that's orderly because we are involved in a war right now. But this is not a question of whether the policy is in -- will end. This policy will end. And it will end on my watch. JOHNS: Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice visits President Obama in the oval office tomorrow to talk about a range of foreign policy issues.

And we're still waiting for three of the Chilean miners to get out of the hospital tonight. The 33 men have been undergoing tests and in some cases treatments since their rescue. At the end of the day, this is all about hope, isn't it?

KING: It's about hope. It's captivated the world's attention. A lot of people watching on television but Joe, watch this. This has been a dramatic story on the internet as well. People who maybe can't get to the television set. A peek of more than 4 million page views per minute online. This is when the first miner came out. You see the high traffic staying ahead. How does that fit into history? Mostly sports event generate all this traffic; world cup viewing, USA and the world cup. Obama wins the 2008 election. It ranks fifth in terms of interest on the internet as a news story right there, it's fascinating. And many of the people go online to see these powerful images. This is Chile's president hugging the first miner to come out. Here's another one here, this miner brought up some rocks from down below. Odd souvenirs, but he's got those when he came up on the up side. Here you see a prayer of thanksgiving at the top of the mine shaft. These are the pictures that make you cry and smile all at once, the family members happy.

And this was the moment last night, the last miner out, the president of Chile celebrated as this played out, the whole world was watching. And at that moment, Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker were on television. Their show, of course, comes up at the top of the hour.

So you guys are on TV live at the magical moment last night, the final miner brought up to the surface, the miracle unfolds in front of you. What was it like?

KATHLEEN PARKER, CNN CO-HOST: Yeah, it was thrilling to be part of that. And we tried not to personalize it too much. But it was good fortune for us to be able to do that during our -- the hour of our show to be witness to that and participate.

ELIOT SPITZER, CNN CO-HOST: And you know what, John, I think even though we haven't been in this business of being broadcasters for terribly wrong, I think everybody knows a lot of what we talk about is negative, and the stories aren't really happy. This is one of those moments I think people will remember. And you know, whether it's Apollo 13 or landing on the moon, this was a good news moment and everybody loved it. It was great to be part of it.

KING: Amen. That's a great point. Breaking news is often tragic news or disappointing news. It was nice to watch the world come together and watch something positive. You mention you're relatively new at this. I just want to warn you, sometimes shows can get a little controversial and sometimes ...

SPITZER: That's what we're hoping for. KING: Sometimes when the conversation gets spicy, somebody might get up and leave. Watch this.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No! Oh, my god! That is -- [ bleep ].

O'REILLY: Muslims didn't kill us on 9/11?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't matter what religion they are.

O'REILLY: 70% of the country --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to sit here now. I don't.

O'REILLY: You're outraged about Muslims killing -

BARBARA WALTERS: You have just seen what should not happen. We should be able to have discussions without washing our hands, and screaming and walking off stage. I love my colleagues, but tonight I'm unhappy.


PARKER: Well, you know, you couldn't hear anything. It was -- this is a new dimension in the word cacophony. I mean, it was just a screaming fest. But, yeah, I don't know what it accomplishes to abandon the scene. It would be much better to challenge Mr. O'Reilly on his statement rather than just walk off.

SPITZER: Yeah, look, I mean, the last thing I want to do is criticize anybody who is in this profession, whether it's Joy or Whoopee who have been spectacular at this.

PARKER: He is the diplomat.

SPITZER: That's not my reputation. But do I think you engage with people and try to make it civil as Barbara was trying to say. On the other hand, what Bill O'Reilly was saying was clearly touching a nerve and has been really a sore spot for a lot of the conversation about this very issue.

KING: All right. We will look forward to the moment where somebody just gets up -- maybe it will be one of you two, maybe a guest just gets up and storms off.

SPITZER: Well, we'll let you know before it happens so you can watch. KING: I'll be watching anyway, that's a guarantee. Eliot Spitzer, Kathleen Parker, thank you so much.

SPITZER: Thanks, John.

KING: When we come back, the big debate still to come in Nevada and vice president Joe Biden says he's not going anywhere. He'll be on the ticket in 2012.


KING: Let's squeeze a little more politics in before the top of the hour. With me here to help, Pete Dominick, he's in Atlanta, Jessica Yellin out in Nevada, Dana Bash in New York. There is a big debate in Nevada tonight, Democrat Harry Reid, the majority leader, Republican Sharron Angle, the tea party favorite who shocked in the primary, a debate preview here. Jessica Yellin talked to both candidates and among the questions to Sharron Angle, how have your positions changed over time? In the primary, you had a tougher chance towards Medicare and social security.

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: I didn't change my position. What I have had is more information on that position. I used to think that social security and retirement, privatization, was the only way that we could have personalized accounts. But as you know, Harry Reid and many of his staff and government employees have what we call a thrift savings plan, which is a personalized retirement account.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Her ideas are extreme. And I have, in my contrast ads, talk about what she has said. And these are her words. I haven't made them up. You hear her saying it with her own lips and mouth. That's why we have an ad out now that shows her debating herself.

KING: She won't be debating herself, Jess, in Nevada. I suspect this one could get ugly.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so too, John. And this really is must-see TV for anyone who is a political junky. He has accused her of being heartless. She has said that people are justified in hating him. They will talk about the unemployment rate here. The massive fight they have had between one another about what they would do in the Senate. It will be a ferocious debate, John. But I've got to say, the bar is low on each campaign side, they just keep saying they're praying for no gaffes from their own candidates.

KING: And the Democrats pulling money out of Missouri to send to Nevada. Republicans promising to send more money in; because this is Harry Reid, this is the heavyweight fight of the Senate races, isn't it?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about it. This is the Senate majority leader. This is the woman who wants to be the giant killer, if you will and fact that Democrats are pouring this kind of money in shows that they are what we sort of always expected, frankly, that they believe he is in trouble. One thing that is looking ahead to this debate, you heard Harry Reid talking to Jessica there talking about contrast ads. We know what contrast ads are, but I'm not sure anybody who doesn't follow politics knows what they are. That's one of the things that Reid's folks say they're concerned about, about him not speaking like an inside baseball guy. They want him to speak like a Nevadan not like that. That's what they're looking for.

KING: We'll watch that. And you mentioned controversy here. Here's a guy who says there is no controversy about him. Back on this show a week or so ago Bob Woodward said maybe Joe Biden won't be a running mate in 2012. Well Pete Dominick, Joe Biden told the "New York Times," and the White House confirms all this, the president came to him. He said look, we're going to run together. Are you going to run? I said of course. You want me to run with you, I'm happy to run with you. So Pete you won't be on the ticket with Obama in 2012.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: Yeah. It's a big disappointment. If you want to know how Joe Biden is doing, say hey, Joe. But Sharron Angle and Harry Reid, that's going to be exciting tonight but John I think that these two candidates so disliked, you could run a fictional character. If the cookie monster shows up tonight, you could say cookie, and Nevada voters might say the damn Muppet makes a good point.

KING: None of the above is on the ballot out there. Pete Dominick, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash wish we had more time. We've got some tomorrow though. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.