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Sixty-Eight Hours Until Election Day; Who is Responsible for the Economic Downturn and Who is Going to Fix It?; Policy and Possibility of a Second Stimulus

Aired October 30, 2010 - 09:30   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, HOST: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of YOUR BOTTOM LINE. I'm Jessica Yellin.

We are just about 68 hours away from the first polls opening for the 2010 midterm elections. Senate seats are at stake. House seats are at stake. And gubernatorial races, they are heating up across the country.

And we are coming to you today from the cool set, the Desk in Washington D.C. We can't get enough of this place. It is the city where so many decisions are made that affect your bottom line.

And I'm talking today to "The Best Political Team on Television," joined by Paul Steinhauser, he is the deputy political director here and Mark Preston, CNN's senior political editor.

Hi, guys. We talk all day long, but now we get to let people know what we are always dishing about.

So, Mark, what will it take to shift the balance of power in Congress? It's all we hear about.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL EDITOR: First of all, 68 hours, can you believe that we are just on the edge of this midterm election? You know, look -- a couple bullet points, In the House, 39 seats, Republicans need to pick up 39 seats to take control of the House. In the Senate, they need to pick up 10 seats. So, that's just here in Washington.

If you look at the odds makers, Republicans have a very good chance taking back the house, maybe not so good a chance in the Senate, but they're still going to pick up seats.

YELLIN: And they're pretty optimistic that they could possibly take the Senate, doesn't look good, but they think they can.

PRESTON: You know, we talk about waves all the time. Surfers ride waves, well, Republicans are hoping to ride a wave on election night that starts here in the East Coast and as it sweeps all the way across the nation at the end of the day, they hope they can pick up some big seats from the West Coast.

YELLIN: OK, I'm going to steal your surfer line, I like that. Paul, will you talk to us about the polls? I'm out there, I hear people say that the economy matters, but break it down, what really within that matters most to folks?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, what you're hearing is absolutely right. The economy still by far issue Number one and Jess, it's been that way since the end of 2007 when the recession began.

Check these numbers out from Bloomberg, they're the most recent people to ask this. And, right here at the top, 49 percent saying jobs and unemployment, that's the top issue with Americans right now, followed by 27 percent, in second place, with federal deficit and spending, which has also become a huge issue. We haven't seen it this big probably since Ross Perot in the '90s. everything else is way back there -- health care at 10 percent, the war in Afghanistan and immigration in single digits. And why is that? Well, our most recent poll at CNN three out of four said you know what, they don't feel like the recession is over, experts may say it is, they don't feel it. You're hearing the same thing on the campaign trail.

And finally, quickly, who would do a better job on the economy?

YELLIN: It's a big question.

STEINHAUSER: It is the big question. Look at our most recent numbers from CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, 47 percent say they think if the GOP wins in Congress they would do a good job fixing the economy, that is six points higher than the 41 percent who say the Democrats would do a good job if they retain control of Congress.

YELLIN: OK, but what I notice in that, Mark, is that neither one gets above 50 percent. Sounds like people don't like Republicans or Democrats to fix the problem.

PRESTON: They certainly don't, if you've lost your job, you're about to lose your home, you certainly know somebody that has lost their job or is on the brink of losing their home. They're very upset with Washington.

You know what else is interesting too is that even though Americans think that Republicans can do a better job, they also say that it was Republicans that put us in this mess, which is something we've heard President Obama say over and over and over again.

YELLIN: So that message is penetrating. People do think that it was Republicans who got us into the deficit hole?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, that was funny. Our most recent poll indicated that, as well. More people still blame the Republicans, even after the Democrats controlling everything.

YELLIN: More of them want to put them back in office, even though?

STEINHAUSER: That's the catch-22. Isn't that funny?

YELLIN: It is funny. So, what's going to happen -- I mean, we can't -- I hate it when people say they know. But, based on what Democrats thought would happen, when President Obama came into office on this big wave, he thought Democrats were going to sweep into lots of states that had been red. What's it looking like now?

PRESTON: It's going to go back the other way, right now, because what we saw was the whole coattail effect which President Obama was able to energize an electorate that was upset at that time. Remember, the economy was not in good shape after 2008, President Obama said hope and change, "I will bring change to Washington, I will give you hope."

Well, look where we are right now, we have an unemployment of 9.6 percent nationally, and some of these key states including Nevada where the Senate majority leader's in trouble, over 14 percent. So, not a whole lot of hope, not a whole lot of change.

YELLIN: Yes, big mess out there.

Paul, taxes. That's what everybody cares about, right now, Congress is going to come back, they're going to have to decide, do we extend these Bush tax cuts for people who make $250,000 and more? What are the polls showing? What do people want?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, because this has been a huge issue on the campaign trail, here in D.C.

YELLIN: And for President Obama.

STEINHAUSER: And for President Obama. Well, just every poll indicates the same thing. Everybody agrees, yes, extend permanently those tax cuts for families making $250,000 or less. That's the easy part. Let's get that out of the way.

Let's talk about two percent of the population, those families making more than $250,000 a year. Well, in our most recent CNN poll, check out these number: Only 44 percent favored making those tax cuts permanent for those wealthy two percent, 53 percent of majority, opposing. We also asked what about a temporary tax cut? Extending tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts, for everybody temporarily? A slight majority liked that idea, maybe for a year or two.

YELLIN: But let me reinforce this, because this is what the fight is. When Republicans say President Obama wants to raise taxes and President Obama says, "No, I don't." We're only fighting over who makes $250,000 or more.

STEINHAUSER: Right, and that is a very small portion of the population.

YELLIN: And you're saying the polls shows most people agree with President Obama's position that tax cuts should not be extended for them? STEINHAUSER: Permanently. Exactly. But you know what? This is all about marketing here and I think the Republicans are doing a better job when it comes to marketing this than the Democrats, right now.

YELLIN: Right. And we all know that that is what politics is about at the last few days, it's all about marketing a message.

PRESTON: It's all about class warfare.

YELLIN: Class warfare? OK.

PRESTON: That's what my impression is.

YELLIN: Thanks, guys. Mark and Paul, pleasure as always.

And CNN's Don Lemon is joining us, he is on a listening tour of the Midwest this week. For him, it's all about hearing what's going on in the minds of Americans. And nothing is off limits. So Don joins us now from Madison Heights, Michigan.

Hey, Don, I know you've been out there, you've been listening to people, you have no agenda and I want to know what is the issue that you hear the most from folks. It's the economy, it's jobs, but within that, what are folks saying?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what? I can just say it's the economy and jobs, Jessica, and back to you, right? Because that's really what this is all about. And people are saying, you know what? I wish the candidates and the people who were in office, our government; I wish they would get that and understand that, because that's what's most important to them.

You have been reporting on the negative ads and the negative campaigning and all the sniping in the campaigns and that's not what people really care about. It may draw you to the television, but at some point it's turned you off. People want to be able to afford their homes, pay their mortgages, pay their rents, be able to afford a car and put food on the table and basic care for their family. They don't really care about the other issues.

So, that's what's important to folks and especially here in the Midwest where the unemployment rate was really the highest in a country, that's what people really care about, the economy, jobs, get it candidates, that's what they want to hear, Jessica.

YELLIN: Let me press you on that, Because I was just talking to a top campaign strategist at one of these Senate races who say they have studied their ads and while people say they dislike negative ads, they're the only ones they remember. If you show them a positive one, they don't remember what was in it, if you show them a negative one, they remember the details.

So I'm curious, are people telling you they want to see fewer negative ads? Do they complain about it? LEMON: They're saying, yes, fewer or none. I mean, of course you remember a car wreck on the side of the road, that's why you turn around and look at it, but does it affect your life? What does it mean in the scheme of things?

I mean, it's like sugar in your coffee, not much nutritional value there. But still you need that in a sense and we crave that. And people want a little bit of gossip, it's human nature, but when it comes down to it as I said, they don't really care about that, what's important is being able to provide for your family. And when you don't have a job, when am I able to get one? And if you do, am I going to be able to keep it within the coming months or coming years?

YELLIN: Well, that makes sense. That's what really matters. All right, Don, thanks so much for joining us, and I will continue to enjoy watching your reports from the road.

And up next, it's what we keep hearing time and again: The economy is still your issue Number one. Why voters will be casting their ballots with their wallets on Tuesday.


YELLIN: The economy is still issue Number one for voters and as you head to the polls on Tuesday, you might be voting more with your wallet than with your party this time around. So how will the outcome of the election affect your bottom line?

Joining us in New York, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and personal finance author, Carmen Wong Ulrich.

Thanks to both of you for being with us. And Gloria, let me start with you. Hi.


YELLIN: We just talked a lot about politics and the power of plays of who could win and who might not, But would you explain what's on the table? What matters to voters when this midterm election is over? What can these folks do?

BORGER: Look, you know, Jess, as you know, we talk about this all the time. Everything is on the table right now when Congress comes back. Of course you're going to have a lame duck session that's going to determine whether the Bush tax cuts are extended just for the middle class or also for the wealthy.

My bet is, by the way, that it gets extended for the both, for the wealthy temporarily, for the middle class, maybe permanently.

But also, you know, you've got Democrats who understand that if they're going to win in 2012, they've got to do something about this economy and Republicans understand that if they control one chamber of Congress, they're going to have to be a part of that.

They're going to have to deal with stimulus then. How do you stimulate the economy? They're going to have to deal with the deficit. How do you fix that? They have that deficit commission reporting.

YELLIN: That's all?

BORGER: Yes, that's just for starts, Jess.

CARMEN WONG ULRICH, PERSONAL FINANCE AUTHOR: Yes, Jessica, the thing is, when you talk about taxes too, coming in December and of course that's post election, but another big tax thing that people are going to be talking about are all the tax breaks that we get.

And they're going to look to that as a possible resource to close the deficit or pay for some things. Those are over 200 tax breaks that we get that add up to over $1 trillion.

And three of the top tax breaks are actually very, very consumer- based and troubling in the sense of are Americans going to be happy about these tax breaks? And that is repealing them. The mortgage deduction you get on your taxes, of course, for mortgage interests that you pay, charitable deductions.

And also, state and local income taxes. Now, only 20 percent of Americans actually pay that, but it's a very influential 20 percent of Americans that get those deductions. So, we have to see what's going to happen with that.

BORGER: You know, Barack Obama ran some of those choices up the flagpole, you'll recall, and they didn't go anywhere.


BORGER: And so I think a lot of those things are not likely to go anywhere. I mean, I've talked to some Republicans, believe it or not, who are talking about more tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy. They don't want spending as a way to stimulate the economy, so that's going to be a huge, huge debate.

ULRICH: And for people to see that this is actually an option as opposed to more of the tax cuts, I mean, it's on the table, so Americans are talking about it, they're nervous about the mortgage interest, of course, and the charitable. But, would that be better than, for example, raising taxes? I'm looking forward to December to seeing how that is weighed out.

YELLIN: Gloria, you're hearing about tax cuts with relation to housing, with mortgage programs.

BORGER: Yes, tax cuts to stimulate the economy, very vague, Jess. And I -- you know, I don't believe that's going to -- I'm also hearing that some Republicans are talking about potentially getting into that situation where you may have this little dance about whether or not you shut the government down. Remember we went through that in 1994? Potentially, some real conservatives say, you know, maybe we ought to go back there again. There's a real split among the Republicans on that. YELLIN: That's one of the things Tea Party candidates talk about, absolutely.

Let me dig into some of the numbers with you, Carmen. A new "Washington Post" poll out shows that 53 percent of respondents say they are very concerned about having enough money to make their monthly payments on their mortgage or rent compared to 46 percent in February of 2009, 37 percent in December of 2008. Now government intervention into the housing market has not been successful in the past. So, we were talking about what's likely, but do you think this is where Congress should focus its attention when they come back?

ULRICH: This is very, very important in terms of alienating voters in the sense that, listen, the majority think the foreclosure process should be stopped right now, because they don't understand against that, which may be the business argument, because personally what we're seeing is we're seeing a housing market with over 12 months of inventory.

Now a quarter of those are actually foreclosures being bought. But if you don't pour another 3.5 million foreclosures on the market in the next year, if you hold off, you let these people stay in their homes, if you instead work and adjust with their mortgages, people don't understand what is wrong with that.

So the argument as to why we continue these foreclosures and why the government hasn't done anything, I've got to say the majority of consumers and Americans are saying, stop this process.

YELLIN: All right, ladies, thank you so much. There couldn't be more big issues it seems for this next Congress to tackle. Thanks for discussing it all.

And you think this all doesn't concern you? Well, think again. How you'll be feeling the effects of the election results. Whether the vote is in your state or not, that's up next.


YELLIN: It is an election season like none other, so much up for grabs, so many issues at play. The stakes are high not just for the candidates, but for your bottom line, as well.

Here to help us break down the ballot are Nathan Daschle, the executive director of Democratic Governors Association in Washington, here, and in New York, Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the "Wall Street Journal"

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us. And it's your first time going head-to-head on TV, so it's my pleasure to introduce you both.

Stephen, first to you. For those who have a governor's race in their state, sometimes we focus too much on the Senate. Will you help us understand why is it important to get out there and vote in the governor's race when it comes to your wallet? STEPHEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, it's a great point, Jessica, because it's so much focus on all of these hot Senate races, but you've got to so many, over 30 governors races this year. And, of course, governors are important to governors are important to American taxpayers and American family because the governors are the CEOs of the state. They are the ones who determine what's going to happen with education and taxes and infrastructure. These are tough times for states, so they need good leaders to lead them through these very difficult financial times.

YELLIN: All right, I'm going to come back to you with some specific questions about different states, but first I want to ask Nathan, to help us understand, people don't always realize how elections outside of our own states will affect us. Would you talk a little bit about that? Why is this year particularly important?

NATHAN DASCHLE, DIRECTOR, DEMOCRATIC GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION: Sure. Well, let's -- right off the bat, Steve and I agree on the importance of governors races to this economy. And I think it's very important, Stephen is exactly right, you know, the governors are not only the closest policy-wise to voters, I mean, we're talking educational, health care, roads, prisons. They're also probably going to be the front line to getting our country out of this economic recession.

But politically, Jessica, this year we have a once in every 20 year phenomenon. We have a trifecta of three things that make these governor's races incredibly important. First is that we have more governor's races than ever had before in our nation's history -- 37, 24 which are open.

Second, a number of these go through an important 2012 battlegrounds. If we look at 2000 and 2004, look at Florida and Ohio, the roles those states played in electing a presidents, we understand the importance of governors to presidential races. But third and finally, this falls on the eve of Congressional redistricting. Governor are important players in the redistricting process, so they are going to set the landscape for the next decade. They are going to determine the partisan makeup of Congress for the next 10 years.

YELLIN: All right, so let's look at some of the few, the key states that Democrats are in danger of losing. This is not all of them, but Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and, of course, Rhode Island this week, a bizarre situation where the president declined to endorse a Democratic candidate, Frank Caprio, and he's ended up saying, "shove it." So -- the candidate said, "shove it" to the president -- so, there's so many frustrations going on with unemployment in his state and other states. What's the impact of that race and these other races for Democrats?

MOORE: My own opinion is that as being more of a conservative and a Republican, one of the things that Republicans are looking at is the potential of winning back virtually all of those Midwestern, sort of, rustbelt states. Every state from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Michigan to Illinois to Iowa to Wisconsin to Kansas. All of those states look like they are going to have a Republican governor in this -- after the November elections.

That's a big deal because those governors, you know, those are the states that have been hardest hit by this recession. And a lot -- obviously as in so many states, the Number one issue to people in those states is jobs. Will these governors bring back jobs?

YELLIN: Nathan, you want to weigh in on this one? What if you guys lose all these states?

DASCHLE: Sure. Look, there's no question some of the states you mentioned are going to be competitive races. I still feel very optimistic about where we are in Pennsylvania, I still feel very good about where we are in Ohio. Just saw poll numbers this morning that actually gave Ted Strickland the lead. And one that you didn't mention is Minnesota. That is a state in that upper Midwest region where we think we are going to pick it up.

But look, this electorate is not a pro-Republican electorate; it's not a pro-Democratic electorate. There's still an appetite for change and in certain states that's going to hurt the party that's in power. At the end of the night on November 2. We are actually going to see a number of governorships flip from Republican leadership to Democratic leadership.

MOORE: I'll bet you on that one. But, you know, the two that are most interesting, I think, around the country because they're the biggest states, or two of the biggest states and are real horse races right now are the Florida governorship race and California governorship race.

And you know, those states are in a lot of difficult financial times, right now, fiscal time, they've got the big housing crisis, so I'm going to be really focused on looking at those two -- Jessica.

YELLIN: All right, so we got to wrap it there, but I just want to remind people that that all matters because those are the folks who voting on your taxes and your policies that affect your life. All right, thanks to both of you, Stephen, Nathan, great to have you.

MOORE: Great to be with you, Jessica.

DASCHLE: Thank you.

YELLIN: OK, great. Well, they may have been the most important voting group in the last election and there's concerns they might stay away from the polls on Tuesday. We will tell you who they are and why they might want to think twice about skipping out.


YELLIN: The youth vote, look, we all know it's an extremely important voting bloc, but after a huge turnout in the 2008 election, there is concern that younger voting Americans might not actually vote this year. Heather Smith is the executive director of Rock the Vote and she joins us now to talk about this.

I want to start, because the conventional wisdom on the trail is a lot of kids, young people, people younger than us got excited to go out and vote because of President Obama's candidacy and because of his efforts, but that they are not going to show up this year and you say to that?

HEATHER SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ROCK THE VOTE: Well, I say they show up because they get registered, because they care these issues and because candidates go out and ask for their votes. And if that happens, sure they will come out to vote but it, of course, won't be the same with young people as with older people as it is during a presidential.

YELLIN: Right, everybody -- the voting declines in a mid-term election, it's not generally as exciting, people think, even though it matters. But is there an issue that's motivating people right now, young people? Is there one issue that you guys are targeting to say this is why your vote matters?

SMITH: Well, the issue that young people tell us is most important to them is jobs and the economy. I mean, same with everything else, but these young people are hit way harder than the average American. They have the highest rate of unemployment amongst any age group, they are, I mean, last year if you were lucky enough to go to college, 81 percent graduated without a job. So, they are struggling to find their ways. They are enter entering adulthood and entering their lives...

YELLIN: And they have same problems with debt and college loans all these...

SMITH: Credit cards, all that stuff.

YELLIN: So what are you guys doing to get out the vote? I imagine you're phone banking, do you have ads? What else are you doing?

SMITH: Yes, the whole nine yards. So, we get them registered first. I mean, there's nine million people who weren't even eligible in 2008 who we had to make sure get on the rolls. They grew up, they turned 18. But, also, we make sure they know where to go, when to go, what I.D. to bring, you know, all that information, which is at And then we phone bank them, we knock on their doors, we're running "Vote Furiously" ads online and on television.

YELLIN: With celebrities.

SMITH: With celebrities, of course, "Rock the Vote." Just making sure everyone knows November 2, Tuesday, go out and vote.

YELLIN: And if folks are not registered, is there anything they can still do? SMITH: You know, this is a really big flaw in our Democracy in that as people get close to the election then start playing closer attention, they start calling our office going, "I want to register to vote," and in many states it is too late for this November's election. Tell them check out and see, because in a couple states, you can go register right to the polling places, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Maine, there's a few stats like that -- Connecticut.

YELLIN: Those are the states you can go and vote on Election Day, even if you hadn't registered before.

SMITH: That's right. Register right there at the polls. And even if you can't vote in November, still register, because then you'll be eligible for the next time around.

YELLIN: All right, Heather Smith. Thank you so much, and thanks for the work you do.

SMITH: Of course.

YELLIN: OK, great. And that's going to wrap things up for us. But the final countdown marches on. For now, we send it back down to Atlanta for more CNN SATURDAY MORNING.