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JOHN KING, USA

Florida Senate Race; Interview With Governor Brewer; Restoring the American Dream

Aired October 28, 2010 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Breaking news tonight in one of the nation's biggest midterm election contests, a dramatic move by former President Bill Clinton that underscores Democratic worries about losing the Senate along with the House of Representatives. CNN was told the former president tried to talk the Democratic nominee in Florida's Senate race to drop out and to endorse Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who was elected as a Republican, but is now running for the Senate as an Independent.

President Clinton's cutthroat calculation, that getting his longtime friend Kendrick Meek out of the race, we can show you the candidates here, was the only hope of blocking Republican Marco Rubio from winning that Senate seat. What Mr. Clinton wanted is for Kendrick Meek to drop out, endorse the Independent candidate, Charlie Crist. Mr. Clinton's spokesman confirms these negotiations, and additionally our sources tell us the former president thought he had a deal, but Congressman Meek at the last minute changed his mind.

Let's begin a packed hour of politics right there with the Clinton gambit and what it tells us about the state of play. Here to help, "TIME" magazine political columnist Joe Klein, G.W. Bush White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace, author of the new novel "18 Acres", CNN senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

Wow, five days out and you get an intervention by the former president of the United States. And Gloria, he knows Kendrick Meek. He is close to Kendrick Meek. He was close to Kendrick Meek's mother, the former congresswoman, Carrie Meek. He's campaigned for her a half dozen times, and yet Bill Clinton makes this Machiavellian calculation Kendrick get out. It's our only hope.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: For the good of the party, for the good of the country, for the good of the Obama administration. Don't forget, Kendrick Meek also supported Hillary Clinton. I think this is something the president -- the former president would not freelance. It's clear whether -- whether or not the White House initiated it, they had to know about it, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK) KING: And not only do they do this, they go on the record now. Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna (ph) going on the record and confirming these negotiations. Joe Klein that is a signal.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That's a signal. That is a nudge that it collapsed --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So that if Kendrick Meek --

JOE KLEIN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, TIME MAGAZINE: I don't understand politics anymore.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: (INAUDIBLE) know these things and things like this just don't happen, although Bill Clinton has been known to believe that he can convince anybody of anything at any time. And almost, apparently, did it here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I was just going to say, there are Democrats in the leadership beyond Bill Clinton's immediate circle who I've talked to who are not unhappy about this. They just wished it that it happened earlier.

KING: They've wanted this for a long time.

BASH: Long time, but I will tell you that I've already talked to some Republicans involved in the Marco Rubio race who are saying, excuse me, wait a minute. Voting is already going on, 1.7 million people have already voted. Kendrick Meek is on the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What would you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BASH: What would you do and exactly --

KING: But you know Florida politics. You worked for Jeb Bush before you came to Washington to work for George W. Bush in the sense -- Dana is exactly right. Early voting is under way, but going on the record like this, I take, number one, is one more shot at getting Meek to do this. But number two, as a clear message from a very popular former Democratic president to Democratic voters saying, abandon ship, vote for Charlie Crist.

NICOLLE WALLACE, FORMER W.H. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: right, but we all know that that doesn't always transfer. You know a president -- the affection that the voters in Florida have for Clinton will not necessarily transfer to Charlie Crist, who is well known in that state and he's beginning to be known as a bit of a weasel. So I'm not sure that Democrats wouldn't just stay home. A lot of them have already voted for Meek. And this is a state -- this is not California. This is not Illinois. This is a state that very regularly and frequently and by large numbers elects Republicans to statewide office.

KING: And it also is a signal to me that they are getting more and more worried about the west. The Colorado race is a top-up, Michael Bennett --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- could lose that race, Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in Nevada could lose that race. They're worried about Patty Murray after Washington State. Florida is held by Republicans. If you're doing your who takes the Senate math at home, Florida right now is held by Republicans, George LeMieux, the temporary senator there. So this would be a takeaway for the Democrats. To do something like this, to take the risk -- this is an African-American congressional candidate. African-Americans across the country are going to say, wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: Yes. And you and I and we may know that Clinton and Kendrick Meek have been friends, but for a lot of African-Americans this is going to hark back to the South Carolina primary in 2008 when Clinton made some unfortunate comments about Jesse Jackson that made people believe that he was (inaudible) Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And there was concern about the African-American vote. There was also concern about depressing the African-American vote for Alex Sink, Democratic candidate, who's running for governor. Why would she want to do that, right?

BASH: OK, so we missed the primary colors here. You obviously know Bill Clinton, but you both covered him --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: -- for a long time.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You talk about this -- about his loyalty. This is a big segment in the show last week.

KING: (INAUDIBLE)

BASH: Why do you think he did this?

KING: Well he has campaigned for Kendrick Meek a handful of times, whether it's four or five, I don't have the count in front of me and I think that was part of the president's calculation in the end. Kendrick, I tried. I came repeatedly. You haven't budged the numbers, you can't win. Let's continue the conversation, but first I asked Kendrick Meek about this. He was on the program way back -- this was back in August and even back then, you say a lot of your Democratic friends say why didn't this come sooner. There was talk brewing then that how could they get Kendrick Meek out of the race and then talk Charlie Crist into, if he wins, caucusing with the Democrats. Kendrick Meek didn't like the question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: They say, he's a nice guy, he's got a great future, but looking at the other candidates in the race, many of them said he can't win.

REP. KENDRICK MEEK (D), FLORIDA SEN. CANDIDATE: This whole question about, do I have Democratic support? I think that's very interesting. There are very few candidates that had an opportunity to sit down with the president, to have a former president do three events for them in very vote-rich counties that were needed for victory and have a very strong level of support from a number of local elected leaders. So I look forward to the challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's look at brand-new numbers in this race, as we continue the conversation. If you look over at the wall there, the Quinnipiac poll just out today, Marco Rubio, 42 percent, Charlie Crist, 35 percent, Kendrick Meek in that poll down to 15 percent. That's the lowest number I've seen him at, so in a sense, the calculation by the numbers makes sense. But what I see is doing it so late, is the ripple effect of risk.

Not only to African-American voters, as you make the point nationwide, who might say, wait a minute, at a time Democrats are already worried about the base. But there's a governor's race in Florida right now.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And Alex Sink is competitive in that race, and so, Nicolle, you know the state very well, having worked for Jeb Bush. If African-American voters get mad and stay home, and I know Florida, it's not like Illinois, you know, you don't have that size of African- American population, but it is significant enough in a close race.

WALLACE: It's also a midterm election. I mean we're not talking about a general election, where you could look at numbers like that and say, well, you know if just half go to Crist you even it up. You know midterm elections, you're talking about a much smaller pool of voters and you're talking about a part of the Florida electorate that isn't really reliably voting in the midterms there, so this is very risky.

And I would also add that this is not a logical electorate. The electorate is voting with their passions. They're voting with their hearts. And this was a move that has the risk of evoking as many passions against the attempt as for it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well --

KLEIN: You know, the more I think about this, and now I've now been able to think about it for all of three minutes --

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: But the more I think about this, the more I doubt that it is part of a grand strategy, we may be losing the west and so on, or that the White House had anything to do with it. Because it is so crazy --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had to know about it.

KLEIN: I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They had to know about it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has --

(CROSSTALK)

KLEIN: This has the look of a Bill Clinton one-off to me, it really does.

BORGER: It's been going on for a couple -- it might have been his idea but -- and he might have been the one to think he could convince Meek to do it, as you point out. He thinks he's very persuasive and often is.

KING: I talked to a source very close to the former president right before we came on the air who says he thinks the deal is off.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I was asked --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- is going public -- my question was, is going public one last nudge at Kendrick Meek --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

KING: -- or is it just an attempt by the president to send a signal to Democratic voters in Florida, but it's to say the least messy.

BASH: And I talked to a senior Democratic source involved in electing Senate Democrats, who said -- cleared his throat and said Kendrick Meek is not dropping out.

(CROSSTALK) BORGER: How confusing is this, as you were pointing out before, there are people who have voted. What happens if you've already voted and you voted early and you voted for Kendrick Meek? Charlie Crist can't just say, oh, transfer those votes over --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Well you mention Charlie Crist -- here's something interesting. Here's a statement from Charlie Crist, which signals, very clearly, that he knew all about this and was in on it. "While this story is accurate, the governor's focus is on uniting common sense Democrats, Independents, and Republicans behind his campaign because he is the one candidate who can defeat -- talking points here -- Tea Party extremist Marco Rubio and deliver bipartisan results for Florida in Washington." So clearly, clearly Governor Crist was part of it because he can say while this story is accurate, so the deal was --

KLEIN: Or at least he wants to sound as if he was part of it. I mean you know this is --

KING: A conspiracy theorist at the table.

KLEIN: I'm focused on Clinton because it's been -- I've been watching the guy for 20 years, but he's a human roller coaster. He spends -- he spends this campaign --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) you can take for that.

(LAUGHTER)

KLEIN: He spends this campaign regaining his status among Democrats as, you know, as a great politician, and then at the end he ruins it with a stunt like this?

WALLACE: But this is what -- Republicans love to hate Bill Clinton, because he's always got moves.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: On that note --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I wanted -- this just -- I just got an e-mail from Todd Harris of Marco Rubio's campaign who says "this is exactly the kind of secret deals and insider politics that people are turning away from this election. Bill Clinton is carrying a lot of water for a guy like Charlie Crist, who once called for Clinton's impeachment." Ouch.

KING: (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right. Everyone's going to stay -- everyone is going to stay put. This is only one big dramatic story in politics today. When we come back, remember the 2006 midterm elections? That's the election that made Nancy Pelosi speaker. What else did it do? It made Barack Obama a national star. We're going to look at the then and now when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. We're keeping an eye on that breaking news in the Florida Senate race. The dramatic effort by former President Bill Clinton to get the Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek, to drop out and endorse the Independent candidate, Charlie Crist, our reporters are working that story -- more in the moments ahead.

And in a bit, we'll look past 2010 for a moment to discuss this latest hint of 2010 presidential ambition from Sarah Palin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If there's nobody else to do it, then, of course I would believe that we should do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The perhaps future Republican presidential contender was on the mind of the former Democratic president today, part of Bill Clinton's closing argument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sarah Palin's best line in this whole campaign, although it made me cringe, was how's that hopey-changey thing working for you now? So how's that trickle-down thing working for us?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But let's turn now, five nights before the big midterm vote, to a focus on the current president, Barack Obama. The president isn't on the ballot, but his agenda is. And as Republicans try to wipe away the major Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008, it is remarkable to take a "then and now" look at Mr. Obama's appeal.

It was in the last midterm election, the 2006 election, that a young Barack Obama built his brand, so much so that two weeks before that vote, the vote that the Democrats would surge back into the congressional majority whip (ph), "TIME" magazine had the audacity to publish this cover story, "Why Barack Obama Could be the Next President," written by a guy right here with us tonight, Joe Klein. Back then he was wanted by Democrats coast to coast. Check this out.

In the final two weeks of the 2006 midterms, Senator Obama traveled to 19 states from coast to coast, including Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas. And now, President Obama is on a restricted travel plan this midterm campaign stretch, still welcome in places like Pennsylvania and Maryland, Massachusetts, but not so much in the south or in the heartland or the Rockies and the southwest.

What changed and what message is America about to send its president? Let's get back to our discussion with Nicolle Wallace, Gloria Borger, Joe Klein, and Dana Bash. Joe, you just went coast to coast. You wrote that cover story in 2006 when the Democratic Party and a lot of America was saying, wow, who is this new guy. What's the message now?

KLEIN: The message now is why didn't you focus on jobs? Why did you spend that whole first year on health care? And what is in that health care package anyway? And what's in the financial regulatory reform package? And, oh, we see the road crews out there, so there was something in the stimulus package, but what else was in it? People don't know what he did. It is really remarkable. The first time I've ever seen a politician give people money and not tell them that.

KING: That 2006 midterm that made Barack Obama's name, made him a national star, was essentially the last political chapter for George W. Bush. Nancy Pelosi became speaker. Harry Reid became the Senate majority leader. Take us -- what is it like inside the White House when you have a midterm election that you know is about you and about your agenda?

WALLACE: Well, the truth is most presidents probably come out of it stronger than the things that led to their political weakness going into an unsuccessful midterm election are naturally and structurally corrected by an unfavorable outcome. So Obama will actually be politically strengthened going into his re-election bid if he walks into the Rose Garden on November 3rd and says I hear you.

KING: If.

WALLACE: If.

KING: If. Is there any indication -- they were insular in picking a new chief of staff, insular in picking a new national security adviser. Is there anything that we seek now that suggests he will do what Ronald Reagan did and what Bill Clinton did and come in and say, I hear you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: George Bush --

BORGER: Or he could be Harry Truman and run against a do-nothing Congress. You know they're taking that under advisement right now at the White House, obviously, like Nancy Pelosi. They don't want to talk about that, but there is some chatter about inviting congressional leaders up to Camp David to have a session about what they can accomplish and all the rest. So I think you would see the olive branch go out. But I'm not sure long-term, of course, what happens after that.

KING: Go ahead.

BASH: I was just going to say, but I mean I'm still going back to the maps that you showed and the difference, and the difference between now and then. I remember I actually went with Barack Obama, then Senator Obama, on his very first trip to Iowa. He went for Tom Harkin's (INAUDIBLE) which is the rite of passage if you're a Democrat.

KING: Always a good feast.

BASH: Yes and I just remember and it was the first time that anybody had witnessed the Obama fascination. And I sought the sitting governor then of Iowa, who was considering running for president (INAUDIBLE), Senator Mark Warner, who had already said he was going to run for president, came home from there and said, never mind, I'm not running. It was just absolutely --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BASH: -- remarkable and how different it is.

KLEIN: But it's important to put this in perspective, he isn't in as bad shape as people are making it out to be. He's in better shape than Clinton was in '94. He's in better shape than Reagan was in '82.

KING: In terms -- in terms of the affinity of the American people have for him and his approval rating.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: But what about -- this Republican Congress is a lot more polarized, and I think it's a big open question. Bill Clinton was able to define his enemy, be visceral about his enemy, and then do business with his enemy. I don't know if --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- about this Republican Congress --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: And he also ran against the Democrats. He triangulated, if you'll recall. Whether Barack Obama will do that remains to be seen.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: But I just want to go back to -- you're right that he is in a fine position, but what I hear from Democrats --

KLEIN: Not a fine position --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You're right. He's not as bad as --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: A less bad position. BASH: Thank you. But I'm sure you guys hear this as well. What I hear from Democrats is just total and utter frustration --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

BASH: -- that that guy that we all saw back in 2006 and, of course, in 2008, where is he in terms of having that rhetoric? Having the magic with his rhetoric to get his point across? They are absolutely --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: We've seen more of this president than any president I can recall. We see him every day in one way or another --

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: He is very underneath the weight of his agenda, which alienated the people who elected him, the Independent voters. You only win national election if they side with you. They have been alienated from day one, and Republicans haven't done -- I mean, they've done some things right too.

(CROSSTALK)

WALLACE: Republicans decided -- Rush Limbaugh gave a speech in the early days of the Obama presidency, it was a CPAC (ph) speech, it was covered wall-to-wall by this network and others, and everyone focused on him saying, "I hope Obama fails." He meant I hope the agenda fails, and it has failed with the public. The public and the Independents, especially, are completely dissatisfied and turned off by the expansion of the role of federal government in American life.

KING: I'm going to call a quick time-out here. We'll continue our conversation. Joe and Nicolle, I think, are leaving us, although I might convince them to stay. When we come back, we'll give you the day's big headlines.

Plus we go "One-on-One" with the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, in the headlines because of her state's immigration law and now because of something else.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: John, officials at Texas A&M University have issued an all-clear after a campus lockdown because of a possible gunman. Police say it was a person with a replica weapon.

The FBI today confirmed one rifle was used in all three recent shooting incidents at military facilities in northern Virginia, including the Pentagon. Nobody's been hurt. The shots apparently were fired at night when nobody was around. And a search warrant reveals new details about an alleged plot by a Virginia man to help bomb the Washington, D.C. subway. An FBI agent's sworn statement says Farooque Ahmed was accompanied by an associate when he recorded videos of several subway stations, which is sort of a tantalizing question. Was it, for example, an informant or is there another suspect out there? So we'll see.

KING: A lot of unanswered questions about that one. That one is scary, Joe.

JOHNS: For sure, it is --

KING: All right.

JOHNS: -- this post-9/11 world.

KING: That's absolutely right. Joe Johns thanks so much.

We'll continue to watch that breaking news out of Florida, Bill Clinton's effort to get the Democratic Senate nominee, Kendrick Meek, to drop out. Our reporters are working that story.

When we come back, "One-on-One" with the Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who explains to us a 1988 incident where she was suspected but not charged with driving under the influence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Signing Arizona's tough new immigration law put Governor Jan Brewer on the nation's political radar, and it hasn't hurt her effort too win a full term in the governor's office. Recent polls show Governor Brewer comfortably ahead, but with only five days until the election surprises keep cropping up, both in the courts and in the news media.

Governor Brewer joins us now to go "one-on-One". And Governor I want to start with the recent headline in "The Arizona Republic" that takes us back in time to 1988 in an incident you were involved in, in which officers say you failed field sobriety tests, but you were not charged. I want to read from "The Arizona Republic" report.

"Brewer was released because according to the arresting officers, she was protected from arrest by her status as a lawmaker in session. Brewer did not ask for immunity and did not mention that she was a senator, according to reports." You were a state senator at the time. Governor, what happened?

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Well, I had gone out to dinner with some legislators and had dinner and had a couple of glasses of wine and was driving home on I-17, which is a freeway here in Phoenix, and there was a construction zone and we were traveling at very slow speed and I rear-ended the car that was in front of me. And the Department of Public Safety was called.

And they determined, by their investigation, if you will, that they were going to detain me. I believe I was not impaired and it was the decision of their supervisors that I wasn't, I imagine, and they released me. So that was the end of the story. The bottom line is -- is that indeed, I never claimed that I was a state senator, nor did I -- or do I believe that elected officials should have legislative immunity.

So that was not anything that I brought up, and I certainly tried to the best of my ability, and I think the report will say, that I was very cooperative and polite. And -- but it's silly season and I guess these things are of interest 22 years later.

KING: It was 22 years ago. Do you clearly remember the incident? Because you just said you had a couple of glasses of wine. In some of the reporting on this incident --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: -- it says at the scene you said you had a glass of scotch at the scene, and at the police station you said you might have had two scotches. Was it scotch? Was it wine?

BREWER: Well, you know I have never drank scotch in my life. You know, generally, if I decide to have a cocktail or something, it's usually Merlot wine. But you know, I don't think that's -- it doesn't matter what I was drinking. You know I had a couple of drinks and it was reported and, you know, it was an unfortunate situation.

KING: I assume when you say silly season, you assume there's some other motivation that this is in the headlines now.

BREWER: Well, it's interesting that so much stuff just sort of rises to the top, for whatever the reasons. But, yeah, it is the silly season. I think people are kind of digging and trying to discredit different candidates, not only here in Arizona, but certainly across America. But we'll get through it. The people of Arizona know who --

KING: Do you think --

BREWER: Do I think it's my opponent that's digging? Well, one could assume that.

KING: Well, I don't want -- we don't like to assume in my business. Tough any evidence that this is the result of opposition research by Mr. Goddard?

BREWER: I don't.

KING: Some of your observers and critics in the state of Arizona say they see one person in Governor Jan Brewer and a deferent person in candidate Jan Brewer. Specifically, on the case of the Obama administration's stimulus program. On your campaign website, you write, Arizona can't afford Obama. And you go on to say, "Never before has government spent so much and intervened so directly in credit allocation to spur growth. Yet the results have been mediocre at best." Yet if you go to the official state website, you have a stimulus map up there and if you click on it, you go to the federal website and it shows al these successful federal stimulus projects around the state of Arizona. Are you trying to have it both ways?

BREWER: I certainly wasn't going to refuse the stimulus dollars and let it go back to some other state. We did the best we could with it, and in some instances, it has been helpful, and I'm, you know, going to use it in order to have our tax dollars stay here in Arizona. But we cannot continue down the path of the Obama administration in the spending.

KING: As you know, though, many --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Many say you're not the only Republican, some members of Congress who voted against it, then go to the ribbon cutting ceremonies. There are a lot of people who say there's been some hypocrisy on the Republican side. People who say, oh, my god, this is the most horrible thing ever, but then actually help balance their budget or improve their roads by using that very same money.

BREWER: Well, I think, philosophically, we don't agree in which the manner of the federal government continues to print money and spend money and take our children's future into their hands today. We're going to be in debt forever, but we're certainly not going to cut out of our nose to spite our face and not accept those dollars.

KING: I want to take you back to what you have called the longest 16 seconds of your life. This was a moment in your one and only debate with your opponent, Terry Goddard. In your opening statement, where you locked up a little bit and seemed to get a little lost. I want to play this for our viewers.

BREWER: We have cut the budget, we have balanced the budget, and we are moving forward. We have done everything that we could possibly do. We have, um -- did what was right for Arizona.

KING: Now, Governor, again, you called that the longest 16 seconds of your life there, but after the debate, significantly --

BREWER: And that's debatable too. Some people -- go ahead.

KING: You refused to do any additional debates with your opponent, Mr. Goddard. Don't the people of Arizona in such important times, whether it's you or Mr. Goddard, will face a big budget shortfall. You have the immigration debate in your state, so many other important issues in t the state. Don't the people of Arizona deserve more conversations between the governor and her opponent?

BREWER: You know, actually, the people of Arizona, they know my opponent and they know Jan Brewer. We both have served in public office for, you know, 25, 28 years. They know what my opponent stands for, they know what Jan Brewer stands for. Bottom line is that the debate was demanded and was done because of the clean election system here in Arizona, and indeed, it was the longest 10 or 16 seconds of my life, a brain freeze, for whatever the reason. But we had determined early on in the campaign that we would do the one debate with Terry Goddard that was required through clean elections and then we weren't going to debate anymore. I was not going to give Mr. Goddard an opportunity to redefine himself.

KING: Governor Jan Brewer is the Republican governor of Arizona, running for re-elections five days from today. Governor, thanks for your time.

BREWER: Thank you, John.

KING: A lot of political ads talk about restoring the American dream. CNN's Fareed Zakaria is taking a close look at exactly what would take. He joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The cover story of this week's "Time" magazine is how to restore the American dream. In the article, CNN and "Time's" Fareed Zakaria writes, "There are solutions, but they are hard and involve painful changes from companies, government programs and personal lifestyles." Fareed is with us to explain. I want to read one line from your article before we get into the details. Because we're having this conversation just a few days before a consequential election here in the United States. You write, "My proposals are inherently difficult because they ask the right and left to come together, cut some spending, pare down entitlements, open up the immigration for knowledge workers, rationalize the tax code, and then make large investments in education and training, research and technology, innovation and infrastructure." You're an observer of our politics. Do you see anything in this campaign cycle from either party that suggests they're ready to sit down and have those conversations?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is perhaps the most disparaging part from where we are, because there are many solutions to our problems. This is a $14 trillion economy, still incredibly dynamic, still with amazing entrepreneurship, but we need some major fixes. And they all involve bipartisanship. You can't do it -- it's a country of $300 million people, and not everyone agrees on everything. And this is the biggest dynamic that I notice that has changed in American politics. 30 years ago, you became a powerful Congressmen or senator by doing a big deal that involved passing legislation and bringing the two parties together. Today, you become a major figure in Congress by doing exactly the opposite. By never having made a deal with Nancy Pelosi, never having made a deal with Orrin Hatch, whichever side you're on. The pull is from the sides. Because if you were to try and do some of the things I was describing, the next day if you're a Republican, Rush Limbaugh will denounce you, Glenn Beck will denounce you, you will have a primary challenge, your fund-raising will dry up. So the dynamics of American politics now pull you away from the center. The center, of course, is where the majority of the country is, and where the solutions are.

KING: But is that where the system is right now? And the president got a sense of this anxiety, this question. And families across the country are asking that fundamental, almost un-American question. Will my children be better off than I am? And at this town hall he had on CNBC, Velma Hart was the woman who stood up and asked the president a question. And she described her own circumstances. Let's listen.

VELMA HART, CFO, AMVEST: I have two children in private school and the financial recession has taken an enormous toll on my family. My husband and I just joked for years that we thought we were well the hot dogs and beans era of our lives. But quite frankly, it's starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be where we're headed again. And quite frankly Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly. Is this my new reality?

KING: The political debate about this is often small, as you just noted, but that question gnaws at American middle class families. Is this my new reality? Am I going to have to downsize my home? Is it a state school, not a private institution? Might my children not have an economy that will make their lives better than mine?

ZAKARIA: It is the fundamental question. It's what got me to write this article. And just think of the two powerful forces that are producing that new reality for that lady. The first is technology, right? We know, think of everything you do, anything you buy online, every time you go to an airport and check in using a kiosk, every time you get money out of a machine rather than a -- all those things we now use doing machines, not people, right? The second part, of course, is all the cheap goods that we buy from all over the world. Well, that stuff's not being made in America. So these two pressures are pressing that family's wages. Because now you're in competition with the best computers and computer programs in the world and the cheapest labor in the world.

What does America do? This is a fundamental question and I don't think the two parties -- the two parties are still playing political games, particularly, one has to say, the Republican Party, when I hear a Republican say, I'm serious about the deficit and we've got to get serious on it, so we're going to cut taxes, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

KING: And to your point about that, I want you to listen to snippets from two ads in this political campaign. You just mentioned products being made overseas, many of them in China. The country needs to have a serious situation about deficits and debts, because that involves China, about reinvigorating manufacturing, because that involves competition with China. Yet when China comes into our political discourse, it more often than not is like this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman Pat Toomey, he sided with Wall Street, voting for unfair trade deals with China. They made a fortune while Pennsylvania lost 90,000 jobs. But Toomey wants even more trade deals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Barron Hill running for Congress in Indiana or China? Barron Hill supported the $800 billion failed stimulus package that created renewable energy jobs in China. His big spending programs will force us to keep borrowing money from, you guessed it, China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: What you get is more resentment and more fear from ads like that, but you don't get a rationale conversation about, okay, China's gotten ahead of us in a lot of ways. How do we deal with it?

ZAKARIA: The papers this morning point out that China has just built the fastest computer in the world. The fastest computer in the world has always been built in America since computers were invented. This is the first time it's not. Is that because of an unfair trade deal? No, it's because they've made massive investments in science and technology, because they get their best engineers and scientists to stay and work there. It's all kinds of things China has done. We are moving to this place where we are looking at these problems and we're scared by this new world, so we blame other people. If you will listen to the political discourse of this campaign, all the problems we face are because of the Chinese, maybe the Indians, Mexicans, and Muslims. That's basically it. We Americans have done nothing wrong, right? And even with the Chinese under value of the currency, people keep pointing it out and it keeps making their goods cheap. But we keep buying them. No one's putting a gun to our head saying we have to keep over consuming, using credit card after credit card after credit card.

KING: And you sit down with some of America's premiere CEOs, premiere CEOs of American corporations. What do they think needs to be done? And you hear the view from the Obama administration, anti- business, do they see the government as having to take fundamental big steps or do they think corporate America business is on its own?

ZAKARIA: I was struck by this, actually. They agreed and they're very different and diverse politically. They all agree without massive government involvement in investment, in, most importantly, research and development, but also infrastructure, we don't have a chance. That the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt talks about how if the government had not been involved in technology, there wouldn't be a semiconductor industry. You know all these things we think of as somehow being American created and dominated, they were, but often by the American government, not by American industry. Then industry took the ball. But basic research has always been a government function. And they all agree, we need massive investments in research and we need massive amount of government money to educate and retrain American workers. Those are probably the two most important things.

KING: Doesn't look like out of this election, we'll get much consensus on that point.

ZAKARIA: But we'll get a tax cut.

KING: Perhaps we'll be surprised and there'll be some rationale conversation after it. Fareed, appreciate your time.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure, John.

KING: When we come back, more on the breaking dramatic political news out of the state of Florida. In this three-way Senate race, former president Bill Clinton tries to talk his friend and the Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek to drop out. Kendrick Meek says no. When we come back, what did the current president know about this Democratic deal making?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with the big breaking news story. President Clinton's effort to get Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee, to drop out of the Senate race in Florida. Politico was first to report this attempt, but we have many new details here from our CNN reporting, including this statement from Kendrick Meek. "Kendrick Meek was never dropping out of this race, is never dropping out of this race, and will never drop out of this race. Kendrick Meek will always stand up for the middle class and will not leave Floridians a choice between two life-long conservative Republicans, who only stand with the special interests. Kendrick is the Democratic nominee, so if anyone should drop out, it's Charlie Crist." A few talking points worked in there with that denial. Joining to us continue on this breaking news is Erick Erickson, our CNN contributor, plus CNN political analyst, Gloria Borger. Erick, to you first, as a longtime supporter of Marco Rubio and among those who helped Rubio get to the point where Crist felt no choice but to get out and run as an independent, if Bill Clinton was able to pull this off, would it make a difference?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It would have made it tougher for Rubio where Rubio's campaign has I think even been so far as to be public about the fact that the whole campaign has been premised on a three-person race with Meeks and Crist would have made it much more difficult. He would have ultimately won the way Crist has been trending but it wouldn't have been good for him.

KING: Gloria what makes this fascinating is a that it's so late. We're learning it happened last week. It's now five days to the elections when we're learning about it. The Clinton people are putting it publicly on the record which tells you something. They're trying to send a signal to somebody whether it's to Kendrick Meek to think again, maybe to have a third or fourth thought about this, or to Democratic voters, please, vote for Charlie Crist. We now learn from Ed Henry, that the current president of the United States Barack Obama knew about this and was aware of the ongoing effort to get him out. The question I have is if you're already having trouble with a Democratic base, what is an African-American voter whether in Miami, Florida where Kendrick Meek's Congressional district is or in Philadelphia or Chicago or Los Angeles or anywhere else in America to think about this?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a real problem. And that was one of the considerations, I think. First of all, do you upset the African-American community? Secondly, you have a governor's race going on there, Alex Sink, would not want you to depress the African-American vote. Which would the president rather have, would he rather have a senator or would he rather have a governor? With redistricting. And by the way, Bill Clinton is always late, as you know.

KING: Bill Clinton is always late. That's good. But Bill Clinton understands politics. You do not do this casually -- I was going to say cavalierly. But you don't do it casually.

BORGER: And I talked to somebody close to Meek and considers himself friends with Meek and said cutting a deal is one thing. But cutting a deal so Charlie Crist could win is another thing. Because he and Meek have very little in common.

ERICKSON: It's been very interesting the dynamic in this race in particular. Meek and Rubio against each other ran a very classy campaign. Meek has probably run the most classy Democratic campaign across the nation this year. Very cordial towards Rubio. The Crist campaign has been very negative towards both of them. This is the second time this year that the Democrats with backing from the white house have tried to drive an African-American from a statewide office.

KING: What's fascinating is that negotiations fell through, intermediaries started it, President Clinton gets involved when he thinks he has a deal, then Kendrick Meeks says no. Candy Crowley moderated a debate between the three candidates on Sunday. After that, our folks on the scene saw a very animated conversation between Kendrick Meek and Charlie Crist leaving. You know of another conversation the very next night at an APAC meeting.

BORGER: At an APAC meeting on Monday, I was told that Meek and Crist met again together and had what I was told was a very animated conversation. So clearly, they were talking about something and they were probably talking about this. Would he drop out or would he not drop out?

KING: And you're conservative friends, they have no doubt about that race?

ERICKSON: No, they really don't. Looking at the polling trends right now, Meek and Crist were anchored together. And frankly you're having a lot of conservatives right now saying Rubio is going to owe something to Meek when this race is over with.

BORGER: You know Bill Clinton is probably worried and so is the white house, and what this tells you is that they're worried about a lot of other races and they're worried about a surge, a wave that could come. You got the try to win what you know you can win because the unexpected can always occur.

KING: And the question is does taking this risk now that it didn't work hurt?

BORGER: Exactly now that we know about it.

ERICKSON: "The New York Times" polling shows that they've lost every constituent group other than African-Americans. This will hurt, I think.

KING: Erick and Gloria will be with us in the days ahead as we get closer and closer to five nights from the big midterm vote.

When we come back, we'll look past 2010 a bit to 2012. Sarah Palin, is she running? A new hint tonight. Pete Dominick will be among those right here to help us hash it over.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: All right. Let's continue to talk politics as we round out the hour. Joining us Pete Dominick, our offbeat reporter. He's down in Atlanta. With me is our senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash and Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace. Read her new book if you haven't, it's great. Someone Nicolle knows very well is back in news today. Sarah Palin giving an interview on "Entertainment Tonight" where she offers this hint about 2012.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Going to entail a discussion with my family, a real, a real close look at the lay of the land and to consider whether there are those with that commonsense conservative pro constitution passion, whether there are already candidates out there who can do the job and I'll get to be their biggest supporter and their biggest helpmate, if they will have me, or whether there's nobody willing to do it, to make the tough choices and not care what the critics are going to say about you, just going forward according to what I believe the priority is. If there's nobody else to do it, then of course I believe we should do this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pete, I think already they're printing the bumper stickers, Palin/Pete 2012.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, first of all, there will be plenty of other people that want this job. Secondly, we make a media speculation. This woman sneezes, is she going to run, isn't she going to run? As we speculate about everything, Brett Favre, is he going to play, is he not going to play? Is it going to text me? Is he not going to text me? Five days before Election Day, if Sarah Palin so much as sneezes, will she be the president? Back to you.

KING: That's why we're doing it at 5838, not at 701. We're putting it at it's right context in this program but she is an important player. And yeah Pete that was more than a sneeze. Do you take that as a yes or maybe as a I don't want to?

DOMINICK: Yeah, me?

WALLACE: Look, I'm still working through dead fish don't go up the stream from her resignation speech. I don't really know what that meant. It sounded to me like all options are on the table, which would have been a shorter way of expressing that thought.

KING: You're laughing. You're laughing.

BASH: I'm laughing. No, no. I think that's true. But I mean, it certainly sounded to me like the door isn't -- there's no door there to even put up.

WALLACE: More like an arch. It's open. BASH: Exactly. How do you even determine --

WALLACE: She's wildly popular.

KING: But does she have a ceiling?

WALLACE: We don't know. She's make up new rules as she goes. And I think she's certainly one of the huge stories of this midterm is Sarah Palin king and queen-maker.

KING: Pete, do you want back in the conversation?

DOMINICK: I love how "Entertainment Tonight" thinks they're going to get the Sarah Palin presidential announcement scoop.

WALLACE: They might.

DOMINICK: If they do, you know what? I quit.

WALLACE: But she won't give it to Katie Couric.

KING: Pete almost quit. That's all for us. We'll see you right here tomorrow. "PARKER SPITZER" starts. With Pete we'll be back. "PARKER SPITZER" right now.