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JOHN KING, USA

Tomorrow's Toss-Ups; GOP Senate Slipping Away?; Interview With Haley Barbour

Aired November 1, 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: More on the House in a moment, but the Senate is the biggest election eve battleground and if the GOP falls just short of capturing majority it could be because of the surprise Tea Party primary winners who wowed the conservative grassroots but then could not sell themselves to the broader electorate.

Nevada is a case in point. Senate Majority Leader Harry is as vulnerable as any Democrat in America, but the stumbles of his Tea Party-backed opponent have kept Reid close in one of the country's ugliest races and today the White House dispatched a woman Reid called "the closer".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I know that for a lot of folks, change has not come fast enough. But believe me it hasn't come fast enough for Barack or for Harry either. Not when so many families are still looking for work and struggling to pay the bills and worrying about how they're going to provide for their kids. No, it hasn't come fast enough.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In that Nevada race, the latest polling shows Republican Sharron Angle with a very narrow slight lead over Reid, 49 percent to 45 percent. That's a statistical tie given the survey's margin error essentially atop up there. Colorado is another toss-up and another Tea Party test.

Republican Ken Buck with a slight lead there over the Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet heading into Election Day. Over in Washington State, a late surge by Republican Dino Rossi and this race has Democratic Senator Patty Murray and her party more than a little nervous. And back east in Pennsylvania, Republican Pat Toomey closes with a slight edge there over the Democrat Joe Sestak.

And yes, insert more drama here. West Virginia also has a neck and neck Senate race. In that one Bill Clinton was "the closer" and to borrow a Clinton 1992 label, the former president held out Joe Manchin as a different kind of Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't figure out why the Tea Party hasn't endorsed him. I mean what do they want? Listen to what they want. They want lots of jobs, small government, low taxes and balanced budgets. I give you exhibit A.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now here's why those toss-ups are so critical to the balance of power in Washington. Democrats now hold a 59 to 41 Senate edge. You need 51 seats of course for a majority. But look at this scenario which we've allocated some races in which the candidates have larger leads heading into tomorrow's voting.

See if we can switch that one over -- Arkansas and North Dakota, for example, are likely to be Republican pick-ups while Democrats seem poised to defeat Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell and hold on to Delaware. In this scenario right here you see these eight slates in white, those are the toss-up races.

We've given Arkansas over, Florida over. We've given Delaware to the Democrats here. Republicans essentially would have to win seven of these eight and California is leading Democrat at the moment, so essentially seven of seven if we're right about California to get to 51.

That is a tough road ahead, all the toss-up states including Pennsylvania, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Can they pull it? Will the wave be that big and what is America's biggest midterm message -- a very big and feisty family in the House tonight -- hello everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Brady bunch.

KING: Let's begin with the woman who was smart enough not to join what Roland calls the Brady bunch, our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin on the ground out in Nevada. Jess, you're missing a great party here. You are there in --

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I want to be Marcia.

KING: Yes, hi Marcia.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.

KING: That's probably the ugliest Senate race. It's good to have a laugh about it because if you follow that race -- where are we on election eve in Nevada?

YELLIN: Look, the bottom line here, John, is that both campaigns think that they see winning signs in what was the early vote in this state. Sixty-five percent of everybody who will have voted has already voted. And Democrats think that there was not enough sign of a Republican surge for Sharron Angle to walk away with this.

The Republicans say just the opposite that Democrats did not get the edge that they needed. The bottom line is more than $30 million has been dumped into this race. Charges of one candidate being crazy, another candidate being self-interested and out for himself and nobody know which way this one is going to go. They expect it to be so close that people are on standby in case there's a recount. It's going to be a late night tomorrow night, John.

KING: Oh, great, the lawyers are ready. That's such a great thing to know about our democracy. Jess, stand by and jump in when you can. Let's start on this race --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: A late night in Vegas --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: If you're going to have a late night that's the place to do it.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let's start with this race as a microcosm of how uninspiring this campaign is. We have Roland Martin, Ed Rollins, Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, John Avlon and Dana Bash with us. I want to show on the wall here, if we can get them ready, these are some mailers, Harry Reid mailers essentially trying to beat Sharron Angle.

Here's one if we can put it up -- risky agenda, Sharron Angle is too extreme for Nevada. I guess we don't have that ready. Here's another one for you. Not just risky, not just dangerous, not just outright crazy, too extreme for Nevada.

And, wait, wait, they're not all that bad. If Sharron Angle's extreme agenda scares you, vote for Harry Reid. So finally after calling her all these things, they get around to that. Cornell, let me start with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why?

KING: Why?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Because here's the thing, Harry -- Senator Reid was running behind. And you know for all of us in politics, you know the best way to move numbers -- and pops knows this -- the best way to --

(LAUGHTER)

BELCHER: -- is to go on attack. We all hate -- we all hate negative advertising. But you know what, it works when you enough dump negatives on someone, it works. And what you have right now in Nevada is a toss-up race, which by the way if we go in a toss-up race on election day in Nevada given what early vote is, it makes it awfully, awfully hard for her --

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You also could not go crazy negative because his negatives are so high.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

MARTIN: And secondly, we have to confront it. He's also running against a woman. If you saw the debate, there were opportunities where he could have taken a shot at her. He sort of didn't and backed off and also --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You man he didn't man-up?

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Also -- that's an issue there. But also when you're still running as the Senate majority leader, you still have to have a sense of decorum in terms of as you're running as well, so that all plays a role --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I don't think you'll see a lot of states --

(CROSSTALK)

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: At the end of the day, whatever he calls her, she's still -- he's still Harry Reid and that's enough basically to make this a very competitive race.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's funny you should say that, Ed, because I've had a lot of conversation with the Angle campaign and if you remember for awhile they were stuck 42, 43, 43, 43, 43. They said they finally did a poll and they realized every negative imaginable about the economy was already factored in to Harry Reid. So that's when they started doing the immigration attacks, the Viagra for (INAUDIBLE) health care attacks and that's when you finally started seeing the poll numbers shift.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: And I'm wondering --

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: I'm wondering if across the nation we're seeing that a lot of the negatives are already factored in.

KING: To Jess' point, this is one of the questions in this campaign. Who will be the surge vote at the end? And logic in the polling tells you the Republicans. In that state, she's saying you know with early voting, the Democrats think they have an edge. And every state is a little bit different, but I'm looking at some polling data today and 55 percent of Americans say they're very, very upset about the state of the economy. And those voters break two to one for the Republicans. Unemployment, it's the highest state in the nation, Nevada. It is 14 percent. They have a high foreclosure rate. Can it possibly break for Harry Reid in the end?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's the big question, right? I mean you know tie goes to the Republican in these races because of the anger at the status quo. Take a big picture step back. This is an election that's about the economy.

It's about anger at the status quo and it's about the desire for divided government. That's the big shifts that are moving here. And none of those favor Harry Reid. The thing is can Sharron Angle just so toxic to voters in the center that they say you know what I'm going to vote for Brian Sandoval for governor and I'll hold my nose and vote for Harry Reid --

(CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The way it breaks for Harry Reid is because everybody says this and even Republicans admit that this is true. He is a master at the ground game. He knows his state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BASH: He has his people out there and I mean it's cliche that that's what matters. But it really matters and it especially matters in this --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I just want to come back to this because we have the pictures now. He's the master of the ground game. I'm going to walk over here if I can real quickly. He's the master of the ground game, but this is what he has in the mail to people. Look at these. This is not a positive experience, get out and vote for me. This is --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't say it was positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's the thing, if we can bring her negatives where they're in line with our negatives, well then it's a toss-up. And then what happens, then you see the Reid ground game --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I go back to one state. And again we talk about 2008. We spent a lot of time talking about New Hampshire, so much enthusiasm with then Senator Barack Obama. And what did Senator Hillary Clinton do the last 48 hours? At the end of the day, there's not a single poll in America that really can gauge who actually shows up. And so when we ask the question, well, can it happen? At the end of the day, if we look up tomorrow and then you see folks lined up around the block, that's going to seem a lot different because people actually turn up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the sporadic voters are actually showing up in the early vote in numbers that are surprising a lot of people, surprising a lot of people. And I'll circle back around to that later.

AVLON: There's another big wake-up call that needs to be factored in here. Look, America is a center right country. Look at the fact that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is fighting for his life against Sharron Angle. Look at the (INAUDIBLE) of Tom Daschle in 2004. Look at Tom Foley, speaker of the House losing in 1994. This is a real sense of I think the overall political dynamics in this country and just how bad things look for the Democrats.

KING: Well that's the -- that's the bigger question and Jess jump in for a second here. That's the bigger question and we're talking specifically about Harry Reid. But if you pick up what that race is about, it's the bigger dynamic. Are all the Democratic gains of 2006, the class that made Pelosi speaker and 2008, the Obama coattails, are all of them in the House and then some of these senators, including Harry Reid, to be washed away.

Jess, as you're out there when you're talking to people do they think, you know we made a mistake or do they think the Democrats overreached or over-read their mandate?

YELLIN: Most of the people seem to think that the Democrats overreached, that they didn't fundamentally understand what was needed and didn't focus on jobs quickly enough and haven't effected the change that they want. Look, Michelle Obama was here and said it over and over and John, I have to say I've never heard anyone articulate the president's accomplishments as well as Michelle Obama did today.

She simply ticked off. He's given you six tax cuts on this and that. And she listed them all in a way that was so clear you wonder why the White House hasn't been taking her talking points.

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: That's the kind of thing people haven't been hearing. And we're hearing that from the voters themselves. They don't know. It's like, what have you done for us lately? They just don't know and so they're taking it out on Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: It also is a philosophical (INAUDIBLE). I remember -- just really quickly -- I remember one of the early discussions about -- I can't remember which bill it was, but it was one of the ones that spent a lot of money. And I raised my hand in a press conference and asked Harry Reid, you know do you really want to do this right now? And he basically said, look, I believe it is the job of the government when we are in a bad economic time to spend money. We're the only ones who can do it. That's what he believes believe. It's fine. (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right, but maybe not --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Nevada has the highest foreclosure, the highest bankruptcy. And half the people in that state weren't in the state when Harry Reid began his career. And they want to send a message. And this is the loudest message you can send. I ran the campaign against Tom Foley. Every building in Spokane was named against Tom Foley, but people wanted to send a message in 1994 and they defeated --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: I'm glad Jessica brought it up. I even told the president look, first lady can campaign a heck of a lot better than you can and at the end of the day, maybe after Tuesday, what they should do is bring her in, sit her down with his communications team and say, this is how you talk to America because they -- no, seriously. The White House has a significant failure in terms of how you actually communicate real issues with real people. She can show them how to do it. So take a lesson from her.

KING: A quick time-out. We'll continue on that theme. What does the White House have to do and when we come back, we'll also explore this question -- if the Republicans come up just short -- just short in their quest for a Senate majority, will they blame the Tea Party candidates?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If the president has learned anything these past almost two years in office, it is that governing is very, very different from campaigning. So here's a question -- are many of these Tea Party candidates across the country about to learn the same lesson?

For example, here's Sharron Angle. We were just talking about the Senate race in Nevada, Sharon Angle running against Harry Reid. If she wins the election, she says she wants to do this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SEN. CANDIDATE: I have pledged this. My first act of legislation to put in a repeal Obama care law.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now she's not the only one. Ken Buck is the Tea Party candidate, now the Republican nominee running for Senate in Colorado. His priorities?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KEN BUCK (R), COLORADO SEN. CANDIDATE: I would repeal the health care bill and I would do it for two reasons. I should actually use more precise language. I should vote -- I would vote to repeal the health care bill.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's bring back to our conversation with Roland, Ed, Cornell, Erick, John, Dana and Jessica is still with us from Las Vegas, if she hasn't run to the tables just yet. It is a central tenet of many of the candidates running for the House and we all believe tonight -- does anyone disagree -- that the Republicans are likely to take a majority in the House of Representatives.

(SOUNDS)

KING: You're just being nice.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right, all right, fine, but let's assume they come to Washington, and let's assume the Republicans have a majority and maybe that majority is big enough to repeal, to pass legislation that would repeal Obama care in the House. The chances of it passing the Senate, even if Republicans get to 51 are nil and even if somehow they came up with the magic to do that, the president has a veto pen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KING: So how disappointed -- all this energy, Erick Erickson, and the Tea Party movement you have been so identified with will come to Washington saying the first thing we're going to do is repeal health care --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) it's not going to happen.

ERICKSON: For two years I think the Republicans will make a fundamental mistake if they don't keep bringing it up for a vote because they all know it's not going to -- even the Tea Party activists know when you talk to them it's not going to pass out of the box and if it does it's going to be vetoed and there's not going to be enough of a majority to override it. It's about building a movement into 2012. They want to see this vote over and over and over for the next two years. You have people like Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint and a lot of guys in the House saying, OK.

KING: Is that the line of thought? Because as you know and you've enjoyed watching it, the liberals -- a lot of the liberals say why is Gitmo still open?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KING: Why didn't you get a public option in health care and their disappointment is a factor likely to be a factor tomorrow -- (CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: If Republicans are not able to make significant gains for the Tea Party movement, the Tea Party will come after them in two years. This isn't a Republican movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

ERICKSON: It is a "we hate Washington" movement.

MARTIN: My suggestion to Republicans if they win, you better walk in talking about the economy and not talk about health care. Why in the world would you walk in talking about repealing health care --

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: -- when you just saw the Democrats possibly pay dearly for talking about health care and not the economy? (INAUDIBLE) look, if they win, unemployment is still 9.6 percent.

ERICKSON: They'll do it for a very legitimate reason, which is everyone within the next three weeks are going to get letters from their insurance company saying, your health care costs are going up 25 percent --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: How do they manage it -- how -- I don't know how the Republicans managed this coalition. In that all of the energy or most of the energy comes from the grassroots right, resurgent right, a lot of it's the Tea Party. Some of it is Christian conservatives coming home to the base.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: That is the energy. But what will get them across the finish line and many of those House races you see on the map behind me are Independent voters --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

KING: -- who want something fundamentally different. Yes, maybe they think Obama is spending too much. Maybe they think Washington is overreached, but they don't want Washington to be a day care center. They want these guys to figure things out and get along.

AVLON: That's exactly right and the Independent voters who are supporting the Republicans this year are doing it because they're focused on deficits, the debt. They hope that divided government will force the two parties to work together. And if the folks come in believe that it's -- they're totally invested and stuck in an Obama mode, where they just want to demonize the Democrats and play offense against the president, they're going to run up against the Independent buzz, so again their focus is going to be can they (INAUDIBLE) they can agree on. Maybe there's an (INAUDIBLE) China when it comes to the deficit, the debt, entitlement reform, but shifting from pure opposition to some kind of constructive cooperation will be the real --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: But Mitch has already said that his top priority is to defeat Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: It's his top priority. That's what he's out there for --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: A process takes place. And what has not occurred for the last two years in spite of the president promising in 2008 that he's going to be above partisanship -- if anything's going to work it's going to be bipartisan. And the bottom line is if you want to do deficit reduction, which the president claims he does, then you got to sit down together. I think the key thing here is Republicans to tone it down and McConnell should not have said what he said.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: You know on that note -- on that note, John Boehner in his prepared remarks tonight had this quote -- "we will not compromise on the will of the American people." He's still taking a pretty hard line --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I know -- I know we're not there yet --

ROLLINS: It's the course of a campaign. Next January -- and first of all, we're going to go through a knockdown drag out --

KING: That's Monday. What he says Wednesday --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Let me -- let me bring Jessica -- Marcia Brady -- Yellin in. She's been waiting patiently out there. You wanted to jump into the conversation, Jessica. You've spent a lot of time around these grassroots conservatives. Are they going to have their bubble burst if these Republicans who come to Washington can't get everything done?

YELLIN: I think that as long as their activists continue to take the vote and try to repeal Obama care or try to take a stand, they'll be satisfied with them and angry with the larger Republican Party and the larger establishment, so they do need to see these Tea Party elected officials do some of what they expected of them, even if it doesn't get through. The point I'd make about Independents is it seems that this cycle -- they just keep saying when I talk to them I just want to send a message. I just want to vote no. They're just voting against whoever's there. And if they don't get what they like in two years, they're going to vote against the next people who are there and they could keep flip-flopping back and forth until they get something that looks like compromise and cooperation in Washington --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I'll just tell you -- I'll just tell you I've been talking to some Republicans today on this issue of no compromise and they say yes, of course we're going to push you know one, two, three, however many times on repealing health care, which I know is not going to go anywhere. They are going to push on reducing the deficit and spending and things like that. But they say they realize they're not going to be able to get it all. So they actually will try to trim around the corners on things like health care and hope that that will at least help the base.

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: How much of the contract with America was passed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost nothing.

ROLLINS: Almost nothing --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ROLLINS: And they didn't get voted out for a long time. And they got voted out because they lost their way and they lost the fiscal. As long as these guys stay fiscally conservative, which I think Democrats and Republicans alike are going to be more fiscally conservative and that in itself may be the most meaningful part of this election.

MARTIN: And John that's why I make the point that when we keep assuming that the -- if these Tea Party members are elected, that somehow they're going to fracture the Republican Party, understand, the Republican Party is either conservative or very conservative. The problem (INAUDIBLE) with the Democratic Party, they're too Democratic. There have so many factions they have to pull together to get anything passed. And so it's actually going to be easier for Republicans to stay unified on the measures they have.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unless they have as many factions (ph).

AVLON: You asked the impact of the Tea Party candidates here and one of the really hilarious things about this election is how much rhino hunting went into the primaries. Taken out the centrist (ph), saying they cooperated too much and that's a form of collaboration and now all of a sudden the general, everyone's trying to calling their opponents extremists, even the Republicans trying to call their Democrats extremists. Make up your minds, folks. Either you're an extremist who wants to purge your party or you're going to cooperate and work across the lines when you get in. You can't be both.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I got to close for a quick timeout here, but I promise all the members of the Brady Bunch -- Alice is in the kitchen making dinner. (INAUDIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Still to -- still to come here, how the president is preparing to respond to the midterm vote and why all this Republican infighting when things are looking so up for the GOP. And just ahead, the latest headlines and stay with us, a unique look at how the big debates in this year's campaign are playing out in the Twitter verse.

(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, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tells CNN the U.S. is taking some new security precautions because of the package bombs sent from Yemen, but she's offering no specifics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Again, some of what we're going to do we're not going to talk about and because we don't want our adversaries to know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: The embargo on package shipments from Yemen which was supposed to expire today has been extended to November 8th. Yemeni authorities say they are intensifying the hunt for a militant cleric and bomb maker who may be linked to the shipments.

And in another important story, a federal appeals court this afternoon ruled the military's policy banning openly gay troops from serving will remain in force during the court fight over "don't ask, don't tell", so it seems like on that part of the story, at least, John, everything just remains up in the air. However, perhaps now at least we know the policy remains in force.

KING: And Joe whenever there are decisions or announcements about this -- that particular issue, it lights up the social media world, Facebook, Twitter and the like. I want to start on that point because I want to show you some cool new things we have -- sentiment analysis they call it. It's our way of looking at some of the pre- election sentiments.

This is our normal map here. This is the presidential election from 2008. I want to click over to this new feature we have. This is a sentiment analysis of thousands of tweets. And this one here is your view of the Tea Party. Now we'll do this on Election Day as well. But this is a pre-election analysis.

You see the yellow or the beige it might look to you at home. Those are anti-Tea Party messages in the Twitter Verse, people who feel in those states you can see more tweets were anti-Tea Party than pro Tea Party. The purple that is pro Tea Party, you see Alaska. Remember the Tea Party candidate up there.

Colorado, a Tea Party candidate there, you see in the southwest in Texas, Florida, a big Tea Party candidate for Senate there and way up here in Maine and northern New England, Vermont and New Hampshire, so the purple is a positive view of the Tea Party, the yellow, a less positive view, maybe a negative view of the Tea Party. That's one thing we're looking at.

This next one I'm going to show you is one of the most depressing things I've looked at in 25 years of covering politics. Why -- this is why are people voting? And if it's orange, which happens to be 48 of the 50 states, that is a vote against a person or a policy you see it up here. So overwhelmingly across the country, this is not a positive, hopeful election. This is people saying they are coming out to vote tomorrow to cast a ballot against someone or against a policy.

Only up here in Vermont you see a little bit more get out and vote for a person, policy. In the state of Rhode Island, get out the vote, I voted, so up in New England, they're feeling a little bit happier I guess about this election, but overwhelmingly across the country, a negative sentiment, an anti-vote in tomorrow's election. That is something to watch. It's a little depressing, but it is a sentiment we pick up in the Twitter Verse.

When we come back, a key player in this election, former Mississippi governor -- current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour -- I'm sorry -- is a former chairman of the Republican Party. He has a big voice in this campaign and maybe he's thinking about the next one. He'll be "One-on-One" with us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, well, he's a busy man these days. He's barnstorming the country, giving speeches for Republican candidates. And as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, he has been able to help them financially, as well.

There's nothing like winning friends and making contacts in states that have presidential primaries in just a year or so.

Maybe that's what some of this is about.

Governor Barbour joins us now from Washington to go one-on-one.

Governor, it's good to see you.

One thing I want to note here, I have on the map here all the governor's races this year. The red states are currently held by Republicans, the blue states are currently held by Democrats. There are certy -- 37 contests close -- coast to coast. The Republicans hold 23 governorships right now.

Wednesday morning, we will know you will have how many come January?

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Actually, John, we hold 24 right now. And if we don't have at least 30, I'll be disappointed. And it could be in excess of 30.

KING: As we come down to the wire, California, the Democrats are feeling confident. Florida seems to be a tossup, Democrats feeling more and more confident there.

What about those two big -- two states there?

BARBOUR: I still think California is very competitive. I think we have a slight edge in Florida, but I think it's competitive. Look, we need a big turnout tomorrow. Two votes matters and a big turnout among conservatives and Republicans, Independents, who are voting this year almost identical to Republicans, all that's very important. But those are two close races where you have Republican governors or of them you have an Independent now. I guess that's why you said we have only 23.

KING: Right. Well, a former Republican governor and a good friend of yours, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, told "The New York Times" this: "The looming victories for Republican candidates next Tuesday is not a validation of the Republican Party at all."

He's speaking to the idea that this is an anti-Washington, anti- Democrat, maybe anti-Obama vote.

Does the Republican Party, Governor, still have a bit of an image problem?

BARBOUR: Well, I think Jeb is right. This -- this, more than any mid-term election in my career, which has been pretty long, this is a referendum on President Obama's policies. And if we have the kind of Republican victory some people are predicting, it will be a repudiation of Obama's policies -- excessive spending, skyrocketing deficits, huge debt piled up on our children and grandchildren, a giant tax increase around the corner in January.

But Republicans have to understand, it's not saying the public loves us, it's saying, Republicans, the public is going to give you a chance.

KING: Is that a ques...

BARBOUR: But you'd better get out there and earn it.

KING: Then the question is what next?

You say they'd better get out there and earn it. Republican governors will be charged with implementing the Obama health care bill.

Will they be fighting that?

And in that context, your friend, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who hopes to be the majority leader, but he said this: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one term president."

He didn't say a jobs bill. He didn't say cutting spending. Now, his staff says this is a political argument, that he has policy priorities.

But is that what you want Republicans to be saying publicly right now, that we want to make this a one term presidency?

BARBOUR: Well, what we want to say to the public is, we heard you. If they, as I think they will, repudiate Obama's policies, they're expecting us to try to reduce spending and, in fact, to reduce it. They're expecting us to stop any tax increases that would hurt this already very fragile, jobless economy. They're expecting us to bring deficits down. And we'd better -- that's what we'd better do.

Now, if the president, who agrees with the Republicans on some education issues like pay for performance, merit pay, charter schools, if he wants to work together with us on that, good. If he wants to be part of reducing spending, good. That's what we'll -- we'll see how he responds to the repudiation of his policies.

But Republicans better respond by doing what the public said they voted for.

KING: And if the president reaches out on those issues or maybe some other issues and then he also reaches out and says, Haley Barbour, I need your help. You're a governor. You're a former Republican Party chairman. You're one of the party's best fundraisers. And one of the things I didn't like about this campaign is all this undisclosed money. The Supreme Court says those organizations can spend.

But what about a bipartisan agreement on disclosure, so that the American people would at least know where it's all coming from?

Would you stand up and say, yes, I will support a disclosure bill?

BARBOUR: You know, here is a president who is -- his whole campaign is being heavily funded by labor union money that we have no idea where it comes from...

KING: So I'm (INAUDIBLE)...

BARBOUR: -- that he had a...

KING: I understand...

BARBOUR: -- he had a campaign... KING: Governor, I understand your making your talking points on that one. And you're right, there's union money in and sometimes we don't know where it's coming from. There's a lot of corporate money in and we don't know where it's coming from.

Looking forward, if the day after the election, the week after the election, the month after the election, the president said, let's prove to the American people both parties want to be transparent -- not end the money. The Supreme Court has said the money is OK unless Congress passes a new law.

But in the meantime, how about just disclosure so we know where it's coming from?

BARBOUR: As -- as you may know, John, I have been publicly on the record for years, every penny of political contributions ought to be disclosed. But you know all the campaign reform -- campaign finance reforming of my career has been going exactly the opposite direction.

You know as well as I, McCain-Feingold took power away from campaigns and parties and gave that power to special interest groups, many of which, whether they're funded by John -- by George Soros or not, we know very little about where the money is coming from. We ought to make -- we ought to have a finance system that allows parties and campaigns and candidates to en -- to raise whatever money, disclose it all. But we've gone in just exactly the opposite direction. And the left -- abetted by the news media, quite frankly, has led that.

KING: Governor, we got to know each other quite well back in the '90s. You were chairman of the Republican National Committee in '94, when the Republicans had that big sweep to take the House and the Senate. I've got a map here of all your recent travels. Now you're supporting Republican candidates, without a doubt. A lot of important presidential states, though, you just happen to have visited.

Are you going to run for president?

BARBOUR: John, you know, I've said from the very beginning, I wasn't going to do anything about anything except governor's races through tomorrow. These...

KING: Right.

BARBOUR: -- we can't wait until 2012 to start taking our country back.

KING: But here...

BARBOUR: So I've done...

KING: Here's why I asked the question...

BARBOUR: -- I've done nothing... KING: Here's why I asked the question, Governor. If a lot of your friends were saying, Haley, if we could -- if you're not going to run for president, we need you to come back as RNC chairman and block Michael Steele, because -- I know that you won't say it publicly, but yourself, a number of your close friends, are worried about him as le -- as the leader of the party.

Will you, under any circumstances, agree to come back or agree to be a candidate for Republican National Committee chairman?

BARBOUR: For next year?

KING: For next year.

BARBOUR: No. First of all, it would be against the law. I mean I -- as governor of Mississippi, I have a full-time job. I don't know the law in Virginia, because two Virginia governors have been able to do that. I couldn't do that unless I resigned as the governor of Mississippi, which I'm certainly not about to do.

KING: So we'll just wait for that presidential decision, then?

That's the one we've got to wait for?

BARBOUR: Well, and -- and to me, I'm going to sit down after tomorrow and see if there's anything to think about. But I don't feel any time pressure. Over the next few weeks or months, we'll see if it's -- if Marsha thinks it's a good idea and whether others think it's a good idea.

KING: Governor Haley Barbour, if I don't see you in Des Moines, I'll see you in Jackson.

BARBOUR: All right, John.

Take care.

KING: Take care, Governor.

We'll see you soon.

When we come back, why are Americans apparently turning against the president? Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Will tomorrow's midterm vote be a repudiation of President Obama and what is the white house planning to do to deal with the election results? We have a great panel here. Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Paul Begala and Marty Matalin but let's go first to our senior white house correspondent Ed Henry. Ed, they don't know what's coming but they have a pretty good sense. What is their plan Wednesday morning? Will we hear a conciliatory president or will we hear a defiant president?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think they're starting to lean, when you talk to people privately, towards that conciliatory tone. They understand while they have insisted over and over that this is not a referendum on the president or his leadership that it's a choice between Democrats and Republicans, they're seeing the early indicators and they realize that this may be a pretty tough election for them. What senior advisers are starting to talk about is having some sort of a summit after this election, maybe even at Camp David. Get both sides together, kick the TV cameras out, by the way, not make this like the health care summit that they used to great effect to try to pass that bill. But really kick everyone out and get them behind closed doors and show this president is serious about reaching out. They haven't made a decision yet but they are seriously considering that now because they want to make a dramatic showing that they're going to reach out.

KING: That's a fascinating point. I want you all to listen to something the president said. This was back in October. He was out on the west coast campaigning. And this is the question I guess I keep asking, does the white house understand that the people don't like the product or do they think the people don't like the marketing? Listen to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We were in such emergency mode that it was very difficult for us to spend a lot of time doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing because we had to move on to the next thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you agree with that, David Gergen, that it's a good product, that it just hasn't been marketed well or did they sell the American people a bad product?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there are at least three of us up here who have all been in a position of when things go badly and saying, it's a screw-up in communication. We've all been there for that. And usually it's policy. You usually get the policy wrong. In this case, the marketing has not been all that it might be, of course. But to say that he hasn't marketed, my god, the guy gave about 60 speeches on health care. He was out there all the time. He's one of the most overexposed presidents we've ever had.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean that's my problem. We've seen more of this president everywhere, at every ribbon-cutting everywhere. And people feel like they know him less well than other presidents even though they've seen more of him and he had plenty of time to message on all of his policies. But they didn't do it because they were too busy fighting within their own party about how to craft a health care bill.

KING: How do you deal -- both of you have been around presidents who have to adjust. It's hard. Presidents have a healthy ego. They're the commander in chief and the leader of the free world. How do you go to the president and say, it's not just the marketing, we've got to change? MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It's your white house.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: When I did work in the white house, it actually came the other way. It came from Bill Clinton to the staff, frankly. I was complaining at one point, he was sending me up the hill to go work the Republicans. I didn't much want to. I don't like Republicans, John. This is a news flash. Not as a personal thing but no, seriously. I was upset. He said, look at your paycheck. Look at Newt's. I don't like that they're here any more than you do. Newt doesn't like very much that we're here. But guess what? We both - nobody else was around. This wasn't a public speech. He meant it. And this president, should this go badly for his party tomorrow and I'm not ready to call it a day -- has to understand there's legitimacy that is conferred by winning an election and he's going to have to deal with that.

BORGER: But is he a schmoozer like Clinton?

KING: The question is, George W. Bush came to Washington saying he wanted to get along with Democrats. After 9/11, it happened for a brief period of time and then it collapsed. Bill Clinton had a polarizing environment but he did do some business. Do you see this president and do you see the Republican leaders, who you know better than this president, trying to have at least on some issues proving to the American people, we're going to fight like cats and dogs over this stuff but we can get this stuff over here done?

MATALIN: Well, the voters have spoken. They spoke in New Jersey. They spoke in Virginia. They spoke in the Scott Brown case and in each election, they were not heard. That's part of the problem here. So you can't say that they were just having -- or they just thought they were having a communication problem. David Axelrod went out after the town hall meetings last summer and came back and said, there was nothing. There was nothing out there they didn't hear. They doubled down and the Democrats, they split in the white house. Some of them said, let's pull back a little bit. Others said, no, they'll love it when it's passed and they find out what's in it. And in fact, the opposition increased. They have to come -- these are not centrists -- everyone's talking about governing from the center. 80/20, people think the stimulus was a waste. The majority of the people want health care repeal or at least parts of it.

BORGER: I wouldn't blame the white house alone on this. I think what happened was the white house ceded too much authority to the Hill. The Hill Democrats were arguing with each other and there was no clear message because there was no clear health care bill. There was no clear direction.

GERGEN: In terms of how he now deals with that after the election, I've been very surprised that's going to leave the country on Friday and go for this big international trip. Bill Clinton did that shortly after the election in '94, I thought it was a mistake then. He was -- you remember this.

BEGALA: I sure do. GERGEN: He was hunted down when he was over there. He had to answer questions on foreign soil about domestic politics. I'm really surprised they made the same mistake. He's going to lose control of the narrative. He's going to have a day or two then he's going to lose control of the narrative.

BEGALA: Clinton recovered. Obama can recover. Nancy Pelosi, the villain in 10,000 commercials accepted 213 Republican amendments to the health care bill. Barack Obama accepted them. What did he -- everybody is sitting here saying Obama didn't do good enough to reach out. Should he have taken 214 amendments? What was the magic number?

KING: Time-out. When we come back, we're going to spend a little bit of time on something interesting. The Republicans are about to win, probably pretty big. Why are they fighting among themselves and acting like Democrats? We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We need to count the votes tomorrow, of course. It looks like Republicans are going to have big wins. Probably, take back the house, make gains in the Senate, pick up a lot of gubernatorial elections across the country. So then why then if you talk to Republicans, are they saying, we have to stop Sarah Palin. She can't be the nominee in 2012. We've got to stop Michael Steele. We can't have him reelected as the party chairman. Michael Steele was on CNN on "AMERICAN MORNING" this morning. He was asked specifically about the criticism and the effort essentially to get in the way of Sarah Palin. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: If she goes through the process and the Republican primary voters vote for her, absolutely I would be happy, why wouldn't I be? And again you know another point here, these Republican leaders who don't put their names in print but make comments in shadows need to shut up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now Mary Matalin, this is your party. You said it was his white house earlier. I used to always joke --

MATALIN: It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.

KING: It's usually the Democrats that get into circular firing squads at key moments. Why are so many Republicans worried about Sarah Palin, trying to block Michael Steele from getting a second turn as chairman, essentially having family feuds at a time they should be celebrating?

MATALIN: These are two separate issues. In that same story about stop, Sarah Rush was quoted, the only smart quote in the whole thing and the only named person quoted saying why is this story coming up now? Republicans have been very careful not to talk about 2012. The voters right now are focused on 2010. What happens for 2012 is going to depend on how this bunch of elected people respond to it. If they don't respond to what it is they were voted in to do, it will be a different 2012.

KING: So there's some disagreement within the party about what the message of this election is? Are they to govern? Are they to oppose Obama?

BORGER: There's a danger. When you talk to Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Senate leader I spoke to him last week. He said look, there's a danger in over interpreting the mandate here. He was very open about saying people aren't saying they love Republicans right now. What they are saying is that they don't like the way the Democrats have governed. Republicans have something to prove. Whether or not McConnell gets support from the tea party candidates that are coming in and want to vote against every spending bill remains to be seen.

KING: They're all going to learn to count to 60 just like everybody in this sentence.

BORGER: I agree with Mary. I think Sarah Palin is going to be watching very closely what happens.

GERGEN: The Haley Barbour conversation, we told you it was sort of classic. He didn't really capture the heart of the message they want to get out about what the meaning of this election is but there's no question that there are a huge number of people in the establishment of the Republican Party who do not want Sarah Palin to be the nominee of the party. They think they'll go down. They think they're on the cusp of taking back the Senate in the next cycle and they could take back the white house. I think it's clear she's going to face a lot of opposition private as well as public.

BEGALA: It's a problem when Republican elites treat the grassroots like the girl they fool around with behind the gym but they don't want to bring home to momma.

KING: We'll continue this conversation Wednesday. We have a big election Tuesday first. Let's worry about 2010 first, then 2012. Thank you all for coming.

When we come back, elections have winners and losers. Sometimes there are losers who come out winners. Is your rent too high? We'll explain when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Pete Dominick here with me in the matrix. Are you going to levitate for me?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can. I can.

KING: There are winners in campaigns. There are losers in campaigns. You spent some time on the street with a guy who's going to lose. He's not going to be the next governor of New York, but he's made a key point. Let's listen to Mr. Rent is too damn high. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINICK: Here's Jimmy McMillan, the rent is too damn high. I agree.

JIMMY MCMILLAN, NEW YORK GOV. CANDIDATE: Thank you so much.

DOMINICK: You don't have to thank me. We're all New Yorkers. We're all in this together. Let's clear this up. I have conflicting news reports about what you said and what you haven't said. What is true and what is not true. Do you or do you not pay rent in your home right now?

MCMILLAN: All the mothers are getting evicted right now. We pay rent, they don't pay rent. You want to talk about me or them?

DOMINICK: I would like to talk about you.

MCMILLAN: This campaign is about them not me. Rent is too damn high and there's nothing else to talk about.

DOMINICK: Whisper in my ear, Jimmy, please, tell me.

MCMILLAN: Rent is too damn high. These people are suffering day and night. They cannot afford to pay their rent. They cannot afford to pay their rent.

DOMINICK: Okay, okay. Your campaign about the rent being too high, tell me --

MCMILLAN: My brother cannot, my -- every time, every time.

DOMINICK: Rent is too damn high, I agree with Jimmy. I quit, I'm outta here. Back to you, John King! Back to you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You okay?

DOMINICK: Yeah, I'm fine. But I'm a New York voter. We have a tough choice here. I know who I'm voting for.

KING: If he gets as many votes as he did hits on YouTube for his debate; first come on down here for a second. I want to show you something. We don't have too much time but on election night we're going to show you a lot of this sentiment tracking here. This is the Nevada Senate race over time and you watch the negativity, Green, Angle, Reid, you watch it play out. We can't describe much of it tonight. We're going to show you how politics has played out in the twitter era. Stay with us throughout our election coverage. Pete will be with us tomorrow, big midterm election day. Please vote. Right now, that's all for us, we'll see you tomorrow. "PARKER SPITZER" right now.