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Interview With RNC Chair Michael Steele; Coons Way Ahead in Delaware Polls; Exit Polls Showing Americans Unhappy With Both Parties

Aired November 2, 2010 - 17:00   ET

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


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLIGIST: But there's Port-au-Prince. And so at least it's moving away west of Port-au-Prince farther and farther. That's good news.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: That is good news.

MYERS: Yes.

BALDWIN: They've already dealt with a hurricane and...

MYERS: Yes.

BALDWIN: -- or, rather, an earthquake in January.

MYERS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Barely recovering from that.

MYERS: Yes.

BALDWIN: Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: Sure.

BALDWIN: And with that, let's toss it to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM in New York.

A big night -- Wolf, take it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN Election Center.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just one hour from now, the first polls will close in the most dramatic and monumental midterm elections in the recent history of the United States. In just moments, we'll have the first exit poll results. We'll unveil them here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Right now, Republicans stand poised to take back power in Washington, at least in the House of Representatives, maybe even in the Senate, as Americans issue their first referendum on an embattled President Obama. All day, candidates and their constituents nationwide have been casting their votes. Teams of CNN reporters are across the country in every key state. And the best political team on television is standing by to analyze results as they come in. And they should be coming in fairly soon.

No one potentially stands more to gain in today's elections than the Republicans do, who are likely to win back at least control of the House of Representatives.

Our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is watching it all on Capitol Hill -- Dana, what's the mood of the Republican leadership right now?

Do they taste victory?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They certainly do taste victory. They're not hiding it in the least. In fact, John Boehner, the man who would be speaker if things do go right for Republicans tonight, voted this morning in his home district in Ohio. He was certainly pretty confident. And I just some information about what we can expect tonight, Wolf, from Republicans. They're going to gather at a hotel not too far from here.

And we would expect John Boehner to actually go to that hotel and to be in what I'm told is kind of a command center as he gets the results from the -- from the -- from the races tonight. We -- we are told not to expect him to come out and talk to the media, to talk to the crowd until they get a pretty good handle on exactly what the results will be.

But, you know, don't expect, I'm told, party hats. Don't expect confetti. Don't expect a balloon drop, because although they will try to set the tone from the stage, that they believe that the American people heard the Republicans' voices, they're going to make very clear, I am told, over and over again, that it is not a time for celebration when there are so many people out of work. So that is the tone they're going to set.

It's going to be another question whether the people who are in that room, who worked so hard to try to get these Republicans elected, are going to -- are going to feel the same. But I can tell you, just very early, in looking ahead, one of the things that Republicans are looking at -- one of races of the many, many races that they're looking at is going to be in Indiana, because that state, the polls close early. And there's one particular race, Baron Hill. He is a Democratic incumbent. He had lost his seat, then he regained his seat with the Democratic wave. They -- the Republicans say if Baron Hill loses his seat, that would be a pretty good early indication that they're going to do very well tonight on the Republican side.

One last thing. The United States Senate, we are told now that Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, is going to join John Boehner, along with their chiefs, who are getting Republicans elected. And there's going to be a pretty small gathering on the stage, but they are going to come together, House and Senate, even though the -- in the Senate, they don't believe that they're going to take the majority tonight -- Wolf. BLITZER: Yes. A lot of the experts think they'll have a net gain of six or eight. It would amazing if they got more. It would be a real momentous occasion for the Republicans.

Dana, we'll stand by with you.

Fifty-six minutes or so until the first polls start closing, including in Indiana, the state you just mentioned.

Let's head over to Pennsylvania right now, the heated Senate race between Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak and former Congressman, the Republican, Pat Toomey.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE SESTAK (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: When I was in the House, my first two year, we passed more legislation than anyone else in my class that went down there by working with the other side. And I intend to do it.

I'm not going to sacrifice good policy in doing it. But there's a way to do a principled compromise. I saw it in the military. All ideas are on the table.

Let's work together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I think folks want us to focus on getting this economy moving again, creating jobs in the private sector, reining in a government that's been just growing way too fast and spending way too much money and just bringing some balance Washington, a town that's had no balance. And so I think those are the messages that I've been delivering throughout this will campaign. And I think that's a lot of what people want to hear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our White House correspondent, Susan Malveaux, is over at Sestak headquarters in Pennsylvania -- Suzanne, turnout -- how is it?

The Democrats were hoping there would be a huge turnout which would bode, presumably, well for them.

What are you seeing?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, they're pretty happy with the turnout. And that is really important for Joe Sestak. We have seen the balloons that they hope to be dropping here at his headquarters this evening. But think about this, Wolf. You and I have been here to Pennsylvania many, many times. Barack Obama won this state by 10 percentage points. And Democrats have more than a one million voter -- registered voter advantage than Republicans. This should not be a nail-biter and yet it is going to be up to the very last minute.

Joe Sestak is relying on the base. We are talking about African- Americans, young voters. We saw a lot of people come out here to Pennsylvania, including President Obama, as well as the first lady, Bill Clinton -- all of them trying to get those voters to come out.

Obviously, his opponent, Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican. He used to be a congressman here, a three-term Congressman. Had term limits. Gave up that. Worked on Wall Street. He is the anti-big government candidate. He is the low taxes candidate. The two of them neck and neck. This is a very important race.

What they're hoping for, Sestak, is turnout, turnout, turnout.

What his opponent, Toomey, is hoping for is that there are no mistakes -- no gaffes up until the very last minute. They hope -- Toomey's camp believes that they're going to pull this thing out. But you really don't know, Wolf.

It all depends on some key areas. We're talking about Philadelphia, in the urban areas, where you will have those African- American and young voters that helped Barack Obama get his victory. You're also talking about four Philadelphia suburbs. As you know, this is a place, Wolf, where swing voters matter. And they go either way, Democrat or Republican. This is going to be a very, very close race up until the very end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And there are more than a million registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania. If the Democrats lose the Senate contest, it -- it will show that things are going really badly for the Democrats right now.

All right, Suzanne.

We'll check back with you.

Let's go to Florida right now. There's a bitter three-way battle for the U.S. Senate. It's underway, involving the Republican candidate, Marco Rubio; the Republican turned Independent governor, Charlie Crist; and the Democratic Congressman, Kendrick Meek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I'm also grateful to the thousands upon thousands of people that have supported us, whether it's their $20 checks that they sent us in the mail when they really couldn't afford to send it to us or the people that lined up behind us and endorsed us when it looked like a lost cause. And we're grateful for that, as well. And God willing, tonight, I will have the opportunity to serve in the United States Senate, to be a voice on behalf of those that want their next U.S. senator to -- to stand up to what's coming out of Washington and offer a clear alternative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your biggest feeling today -- relief, anticipation, what?

GOV CHARLIE CRIST (I), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: Excitement. I'm always excited on election day. You know, to me, it's like a -- a holiday -- a holiday for democracy. And I'm really looking forward to tonight. I think that we're going to have a -- a nice surprise and a great result.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Kendrick Meek is the Democratic candidate in that race.

Let's bring in our own Don Lemon.

He's joining us from Coral Gables right now.

The polls suggest that Marco Rubio is way ahead. But I don't know what indications you're getting on the ground in Florida right now -- Don.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's the same thing, Wolf, especially here, being here at the Rubio headquarters. Of course, everyone is saying that this is his night, this is going to be his day, he's going to win it, of course. Of course, it's been a three-way race. And we have been talking about it a lot, about not only about Marco Rubio, but Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek. And then coming in at the last minute, having the former president, we are told, at some point, asking -- possibly asking Meek, the Democratic challenger, to drop out of the race and then, in the end, saying it's not true and then campaigning for him here yesterday.

But it's very interesting to talk to people here who support Rubio. I was speaking to a Rubio supporter and someone who has, over the years, been a supporter and has given him money who said, you know, a year ago June, they planned an event at this very hotel that we're at tonight in -- in Coral Gables, the Biltmore Hotel, and said they had this huge ballroom set up with all of this food for him and no one was showing up. So they had to downsize it, Wolf, at least three times, where they ended up in just a regular room with just over a handful of supporters. And many of them, really, were -- were family members. And, look, they say a year later, just over a year later, look what's happened. He is poised to become the Republican senator from Florida when, really, almost everyone counted -- counted him out. And even more so counting him out was Charlie Crist, the former governor of the state, counting him out, as well.

So he is, he believes, poised to win. Today, it was a very interesting moment when -- when reporters caught up with him. He said, you know, I feel good. I actually got a little sleep last night. And then leaving the polling place this morning in West Miami, he had a close call. When he was backing out, he almost hit a car. And he said -- shouted out the window, Wolf, "That's going to be the closest call, we hope, in this campaign so far."

BLITZER: Yes. If he wins the Senate race, Marco Rubio, he deserves a lot of credit -- Cuban-American and a lot of the Republicans think he has a huge future even beyond Florida if, in fact, he wins this three man contest.

Don, we'll stay in close touch with you.

Let's discuss what's going on right now. Our guest, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Good to see you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You -- you probably, at least if you believe all experts, are going to just fall short of becoming the majority in the Senate. But in some of those states where the Tea Party did win -- and I'm talking about Delaware, for example; maybe Colorado; maybe Nevada. If the more mainstream Republican would have gotten the nomination, you might have gotten that majority in the Senate.

Do you agree with that assessment?

STEELE: Would have, could have, should have. I'm not going to second-guess the decision and the will of the people in those primaries. They decided who they wanted to represent them in the United States Senate, and they elected that person in the primary and they now are a standard bearer tonight.

And I feel very confident about the victory that we're fighting for here. And I know it's -- you know, for a lot of folks, it may seem uphill or difficult. And, you know, if only this had happened or that had happened.

But the fact is, in the case of Christine O'Donnell, she's put together, I think, a very good campaign, very effective. She has been, you know, engaged with the voters there, which is the key thing.

So let's just wait to see what the people decide tonight in -- in Colorado and Delaware and elsewhere, because, ultimately, this is the people's election, as it should be.

BLITZER: What do you think, if the Republicans do gain control at least in the House of Representatives, what will be their first step to improve the economy and create jobs?

STEELE: Well, I -- you know, I think there are a number of indicators on that front. And, certainly, I would defer to the leadership in the House and the Senate for that -- for a more appropriate response.

But I think on the top line, the broader perspective, you've already seen some indications, certainly with the Pledge to America, where the work of Kevin McCarthy, we've talked about, you know, let's -- let's take a look at this health care bill that was passed. Let's take a look at the financial reforms if we're really serious about --

BLITZER: But is that going to create jobs?

STEELE: -- putting people back to work.

Pardon me?

BLITZER: Is that going to create jobs?

STEELE: Oh, yes, I believe absolutely.

If you had started -- if you start trusting small business owners, as opposed to the federal government, yes, you're going to create some jobs. There's a reason why small businesses aren't investing in the economy, because the risks that have been posed on them by the federal government are way too hard and the burden is too heavy for them to bear.

So I think that there are some indicators there. I think the -- the work of -- of a Paul Ryan, a Congressman from Wisconsin, is another one that's kind of talked about the economic agenda in some detail.

So I think there are going to be enough road maps for you there, Wolf, for -- for people to get a sense of where the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate want to go come January.

BLITZER: The president is going to have a news conference at the White House at 1:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. What do you want to hear from President Obama?

STEELE: I'm -- you know, I think the first thing out of his -- out of his mouth should be, I hear the American people. I have heard what you've had to say through your vote on Tuesday night.

And then the next words I think would be appropriate to say, I'm prepared and -- and my administration is ready to work with the Republican leadership in the House, the Republican leadership in the Senate. Because whether or not we get the Senate, you will still see gains of six or seven seats, maybe more, that will allow, you know, Mitch McConnell to -- to be able to put together an agenda to work with the administration.

So I'm hoping that there's a -- there's a sense of working toward consensus from the administration and certainly working -- a willingness to work with the Republican leadership that I know are more than willing and ready to work with the White House.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, you're the leader of the Republican Party, you're the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and you're on the verge of leading the Republicans to an historic victory after two years in office.

Yet, there are some Republicans who want you out and don't want to give you a second term. How do you explain that?

STEELE: Oh, I don't know. Look, not everybody plays well with each other on the playground. I get that, that's politics.

My focus from the very beginning, Wolf, as you know -- and you've known -- you and I have known each other a long time, I'm very serious about the work when I commit myself to it and I was committed to coming into this job, turning the elephant around, having it face its future, working with a team of state party organizations around the country, doing whatever we could out of Washington to empower them to put the onus back on building infrastructure and organization.

We've raised $175 million plus in this cycle. We have empowered our state parties through victory centers and -- that are fully staffed with the latest technology. I think we've done everything that we can to make sure that Republicans are prepared to win. Tonight will be the final test of the -- of the first leg of this effort and we'll see whether or not we were successful.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, you led Republicans to victories in Virginia, in New Jersey and Massachusetts. Now you're poised for more. We'll see what happens, though, later tonight.

Thanks very much for coming in.

STEELE: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: Michael Steele is the chairman of the Republican Party.

Forty-five minutes to go until the first polls close. We're standing by for the first exit poll numbers. Huge numbers coming in right now. A lot of people don't like either party. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The mood of the country is certainly on Jack Cafferty's mind this midterm election. He's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: For most of the eight years that George W. Bush was president of the United States, we were a nation divided. Liberals, many independents passionately opposed to what Bush was doing and the way he was doing it. Remember? The war, torture, wiretapping U.S. citizens, the response to Hurricane Katrina and the president's cowboy attitude when it came to international relations.

When Barack Obama was elected 2008, we were told things would change. Candidate Obama promised a new era of bipartisanship. He promised to change the way Washington works. He promised transparency. A tall order for sure, but a lot of people thought it could happen.

Fast forward two years and in many ways this country seems more divided now than ever. For starter, critics say the administration's insular and out of touch with most Americans, the same thing a lot of people said about Bush.

Also, they say the president's promises of bipartisanship fell flat with the Democrats pushing through controversial legislation like health care reform out of the public view with few if any Republicans on board. Many Americans are now opposed to what this president's done, including health care, the stimulus bill and record runaway government spending. Some are so disgusted with what's going on in Washington that a whole new political movement has been born. In many ways it seems like the phenomenon that is the Tea Party sprung up in reaction to President Obama's policies.

And as the country votes this day in the midterms, it's an election that has been marked by angry, nasty ads, personal attacks about between the candidates and the political parties which is seems to be worse than it's ever been.

Here's the question then -- In less than two years, does it seem that our country has become even more divided than it was during the Bush years? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post your comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Hard to believe what's going on, Jack. Thanks very much. How quickly things change in this country.

We'll take another quick break. We're going to go to Delaware, get an update on what's happening. Christine O'Donnell versus Chris Coons for the U.S. Senate.

We're also standing by for the first exit poll results. You'll see them here live when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Vice President Joe Biden, he was casting his vote in his home state of Delaware today. That's certainly where a critical battle is brewing for the former -- for his former Senate seat. The Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell facing the Democratic candidate Chris Coons.

Our national correspondent Gary Tuchman is joining us from Dover, Delaware. The polls show she's considerably behind Chris Coons, but I assume she's not given up.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, the contrary, she believes she will win. She voted this morning near her home in Wilmington, Delaware, which is in the northern part of the state in Newcastle County, and she said she thinks she's going to win, she thinks she'll have a great turnout. She says what matters is the turnout.

You know, the state of Delaware is the second smallest state in the country in terms of area, the fifth smallest state in terms of population, but it's gotten a giant sized amount of publicity because of the woman who is her party here at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Kent County, Delaware tonight. Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party favorite has gotten a lot of attention since she won the primary over Mike Castle.

Mike Castle was in state government as governor, lieutenant governor, congressman, which he is right now, for more than lee decades. A surprise loss. Most polls show that Castle would overwhelmingly beat Chris Coons.

Now, Chris Coons, the only thing he has in common with Christine O'Donnell is the first five letters of their first name. They're very different people. But what the polls show now is that Coons is well in front, but as I said, Christine O'Donnell does believe she will win.

She got a lot of her attention because of what she uttered on Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" show a couple of decades ago, that she was once involved in witchcraft. She's since had a commercial that says she's not a witch. Either way, she believes she'll be the next U.S. senator here in the state of Delaware -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they close relatively early over there in Delaware, so we'll know pretty soon what's going on. Gary will be on the scene for us. Thanks, Gary, very much.

Much more coming up, including the president of the United States, Barack Obama. He's making a final pitch for Democrats, doing a radio media campaign today, doing lots of interviews. "The Best Political Team on Television" standing by to assess.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're here THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're getting our first exit poll numbers coming in CNN. Let's bring in our own Ali Velshi who has been crunching the numbers with his team.

What are we seeing from what voters actually emerge from the voting booth is telling people out there?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: These are real numbers and real surveys. It's not surprising what the result is. The result is the scale, Americans are angry with politics. They're angry with both parties.

Let me show what you it looks like for the Republicans right now. These are exit polls. The favorable response for Republicans, 41 percent. Unfavorable, 53 percent.

Take a look at the Democrats, almost the same numbers. The number of favorables, 43 percent, and the unfavorables, 53 percent. So both parties, Americans are angry with both of them. Wolf, we asked them what the most important issue is. I think you know what the answer to that is. Take a look. 88 percent - I'm sorry. 62 percent of Americans are saying the economy is the most important issue. 19 percent saying that it is health care, then immigration at eight percent and Afghanistan at seven percent. When we asked more about how they feel about economic conditions, a full 88 percent are saying that it's either not good or poor. We broke it down and asked people how worried are you about the economy right now. Take a look at this, a full 50 percent of people are very worried about the economy. 36 percent are somewhat worried. Add that together, 86 percent are either worried, very or somewhat worried about the economy. Only 13 percent, 10 percent are not too worried, 3 percent not at all worried. Only 13 percent of Americans are not worried about America's economy. That is what has been driving people in the voters booth today and we'll see the results later. I'll keep crunching these numbers for you Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent work, Ali, we'll have a lot more of these exit poll numbers coming up. Thank you.

President Obama has been very busy, he's giving radio interviews on this day to several radio stations across the country. He's over at the White House. Here's what he said on one Chicago station, WGCI.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope is that I can corporate with Republicans, but obviously the kinds of compromises that are going to be made will depend on what capitol hill looks like, you know, who's in charge. If we have Republicans in charge of the House, they will want to dictate the terms of those compromises. That means their desire to roll back health care reform, which they've already announced, or their desire to roll back financial regulatory reform that they've already announced that will be their agenda.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president still trying on this day to energize that base, get Democrats out there to vote. Let's go to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. He's standing by over at the White House. I take it the president is already looking ahead to tomorrow. He's scheduled a 1:00 p.m. eastern news conference at the White House.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that is the first time that we'll get to hear from the president giving his reaction to what happens today. Questions about what possibly went wrong and then what happens forward, how will he be able to move forward with his agenda. It was very difficult even with the majority for this administration to get health care reform or to get the stimulus passed. One political analyst pointed out, though, that this could very well be an opportunity here because both Democrats and Republicans will be forced to compromise in order to get something done and the Obama administration can say to Republicans, listen, for the past two year, you've been throwing up a lot of road blocks. Now it's time for you to step up and ultimately both sides will be held accountable in 2012.

BLITZER: We'll be watching together with you. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian, for that.

Let's bring in the best political team on television. Joining us now, our strategists, our analysts. David Gergen is here, Paul Begala, Donna Brazile, Gloria Borger, Mary Matalin and Alex Castellanos. Thanks very much for coming in. It will be a long night. David, I'll start with you. Assuming this is going to be a bad night for the Democrats, what does the president need to do when he comes out tomorrow and he addresses the media and the American people? DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think he's got to show first of all that he's heard the message, that he's listening, that he gets it. I'm going to make some changes. I have to make changes in the way I govern, I'm going to make some changes in policy, I may make some changes in personnel, and I want to meet Republicans halfway. That, yes, we've got a big fight coming up in '12, but in the meantime, let's get out of the sandbox and spend at least a year for the sake of the country and get things done.

BLITZER: What I did today on a little free time, I went back and read President Clinton's news conference the day after he suffered and the Democrats suffered a huge set back as you all remember, Paul, back in 1994. Do you remember what he said when he came out that day?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: When he finished throwing up? Just kidding. No, what did he say?

BLITZER: You were there. David was there. You all remember. He was making the case he's still the president of the United States.

BEGALA: And of course he was and he wound up I think quite successfully even with the Republican Congress for the rest of his presidency. Polls haven't closed and I'm not yet part of this kind of pundit consensus it's going to be disastrous for the Democrats, let's wait and see, but this president will be tested. It's not simple. It's not just you have to compromise. You have to stand on principle and then you have to compromise on things that are not about principle and knowing the difference is the art of leadership.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The Republicans are also going to be tested here. It's not just the Democrats. Because you're going to have a lot of Tea Party candidates if they get elected, they're not going to want to compromise and the public doesn't want gridlock. So they're on a very short leash, the Republican Party. You can see that it's not as if the public is running in to the arms of the Republican Party embracing them. They're saying, you know what? We don't think the other guys did what ...

BLITZER: You are remember the White House in 2006, in the Bush administration, the Republicans suffered a huge set back in that midterm election.

MARY MATALIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And President Bush rightly said we took a thumping. It was a thumping. We were in the reality zone pretty quick, unlike Clinton who ultimately came to the era of big government being over. It is not an embrace of Republicanism or a repudiation of Democratism, it is a consensus, an 80 percent consensus against the stimulus, against the programs perceived to be expanding government. We talk about compromise and bipartisanship, we're not looking at where people are on these issues. They're voting on issues. It's not even anti-Obama, anti-incumbent. It's specifically anti-big government.

BORGER: I think it's anti-Obama.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Except on spending. If Republicans can bring gridlock on spending, that is one of the messages on this election. For heaven's sakes stop the bleeding. And I think that puts the pressure on the president to be the guy who says, no, we want to keep going.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Republicans have already brought gridlock on expanding the economy so that we can help the middle class.

CASTELLANOS: No, they haven't.

BRAZILE: They brought gridlock on extended unemployment.

CASTELLANOS: I think that's Obama who has brought the gridlock.

BRAZILE: So I think the message from voters is you can hear me now. They want both parties to come together to find common sense solutions to problems that ail the entire country, not just Republicans or Democrats but the entire country. Independents are really sending a loud message to both parties we don't like either one of you.

BORGER: Right. It's not like the voters are changing their minds every two years saying we like the Democrats or Republicans now. No, they just don't like the status quo.

BLITZER: What does Alex to you that say that 41 percent of the exit poll respondents today said they have an unfavorable opinion of the Republicans, 43 percent said they have an unfavorable attitude towards the Democrats.

CASTELLANOS: It says that the Republican Party right now has not offered anything new to compete for social responsibility to try to solve the country's problems. And one of the things they'll be tested on over the next two years is do you have a better way to grow the economy than what hasn't worked for the past two years. Republicans will need to say, yes, we want stimulus, we just don't think we put the money in Washington, we think we put it in people's pockets.

GERGEN: I thought the poll said that 53 percent had an unfavorable view.

BLITZER: Excuse me, you're right. 41 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable for the Republicans. 43 percent favorable for the Democrats, 53 percent unfavorable. You're right.

GERGEN: What that suggests to me is that however the actual seats come out, that this is not an affirmative embrace of either party in this election. That people are unhappy with both parties. Both parties still have to earn their trust and that will be the person --

BLITZER: Do you accept that?

MATALIN: Yes, that's what I just said.

BLITZER: That they're unhappy with Democrats and Republicans? MATALIN: They're unhappy with business as usual in Washington. They're tired of the power being in Washington. They want to self- govern. And they said that to Obama and Obama promised we were going to change Washington.

CASTELLANOS: Washington doesn't have all the answers here. We don't want to send all the money to Washington and let the smart guys figure it out.

BLITZER: Do you expect a shake up at the White House as a result of this election?

BEGALA: This is not about whether the assistant secretary for parking and squirrels is doing a good job.

BRAZILE: This is an opportunity to get a fresh start.

BEGALA: I think it's a big mistake for a Republican panelist to read this as an ideological thing. This is very different from '94 which was really partisan. They sorted through this country in '94 and they selected Republicans and rejected Democrats. And Republicans were moving up as Democrats moved down. In 2008, the same thing, they wanted Barack Obama. They were voting for Barack Obama. Now you have the majority of the country rejecting both parties and it's very hard to have humility in politics, but --

MATALIN: They voted for change. They voted for a president they believed was post partisan and they don't think they got what they voted for.

BRAZILE: This is not the people's choice award, this is the midterm election.

BLITZER: All right guys. We have to leave it there, but remember in '94, and Mary will remember this, there was a contract with America, Newt Gingrich. Now there is a pledge to America. They've got John Boehner poised to become the speaker of the House. Don't go too far away, we have a long night ahead of all of us; it will be exciting and fun for all of us political news junkies. Get ready, Ali Velshi is going through more exit poll numbers. We're standing by for that.

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BLITZER: It's a make or break day for Democrats out there who stand to lose at least one branch of Congress if you believe in all the polls. And for Nancy Pelosi it could mean the end of a historic run as the first female House speaker. Only moments ago, she said this.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We're very confident in our candidates and the message that they are delivering, but with the early returns and the overwhelming number of Democrats who are coming out, we're more paced to maintain the majority in the House of Representatives. But the people have to speak. And this election will not be determined by the pundits or it won't be determined by a few precincts in the east.

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BLITZER: I'm sitting Chris Van Hollen, the Democratic congressman from Maryland, who's been in charge of trying to get Democrats elected in the House of Representatives. Brianna Keilar is our Congressional correspondent. Brianna, I assume they have to say that right now. They have to try to encourage Democrats to go out and vote even if some of the results on the east coast are not necessarily good. They want Democrats to vote in the Midwest and in the later times zones on the west coast.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. This is something the Democrats have to do. You're seeing a very optimistic Speaker Pelosi, you're seeing Democrats put a happy face on this and also trying to stress that they say they're happy at least at this point with Democratic voter turnout. In at least the early information that they're getting. Some people would say seen seems like a Pollyanna kind of response when you consider the kind of head winds and challenges that Democrats are facing, the reality that they could lose control of the House of Representatives. But what's interesting, Wolf, is that we're hearing from Democratic sources close to Speaker Pelosi that this really isn't all that different from what's going on behind the scenes. They say that when there's this question of what's going to happen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi if Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives and they say that she's really being a workhorse, that she isn't talking about it, that she's just trying to reach out to Democratic candidates, encourage Democratic voters to get out there. And it will be interesting, Wolf, here in a couple of hours Speaker Pelosi will be coming out again and we'll be paying attention to see if there is any kind of tone change as more information comes out.

BLITZER: We'll check back with you Brianna. Thanks very much. Let's go to Ohio right now, a critical battleground state, also the home state of the man who could become the next House speaker. We're talking about the Minority Leader, John Boehner. He was out casting his vote and then he said this.

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CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you think you'll become speaker?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: We have a big job to do today.

COSTELLO: Are you confident, though?

BOEHNER: We've been at this election for the better part of nine months. If you look at the races around the country, I think we have a real opportunity to win the majority and hopefully my colleagues will elect me speaker.

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BLITZER: He sounds pretty upbeat. Carol Costello asked him that question. She's on the scene for us. Carol, you've been talking to voters in Ohio. What do they think about potentially having the next speaker of the House from Ohio?

COSTELLO: Well, another question I asked John Boehner is what would he do for the people of Butler County, Ohio, if he became speaker of the House. He said obey the constitution. That will sure to delight his Tea Party supporters here in Butler County. First thing they want him to do is smaller government, repeal health care, lower their taxes, take care of the deficit. When you talk to more traditional Republican voters, though, they have a far different story. They say that if John Boehner becomes speaker of the House, they want him to reach across the aisle and try to work with the president of the United States and also Congressional Democrats and try get the economy rolling, try to bring jobs back to Ohio. You can see what a tough line he'll be walking if he does become speaker of the House because he has to please both ends of the party, so perhaps, Wolf, this election was the easiest part for John Boehner.

BLITZER: We'll see if in fact he becomes the speaker. The governor's race in Ohio is critical, as well. Ohio being the battleground state in presidential elections. It's very close between the incumbent Governor Ted Strickland and John Kasich, the former congressman, the Republican.

COSTELLO: You're right, Wolf. And President Obama has been here 12 times since he was elected president. He's been here about two times in the past few weeks. Joe Biden came here. Bill Clinton came here. They're trying to energize Democratic voters to get out and vote for Ted Strickland. They want to put him back in the governor's mansion here in Ohio. I called the secretary of state's office just a few hours ago to ask how voter turnout was. I was told it was moderate and steady, certainly not heavy. For the Democrats to win the governorship here in the state of Ohio, they have to have a large turnout in places like Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is located, places where there are a large African-American vote. Although it could happen later because we're approaching the dinner hour and more people get out to vote then. But you're right, the governor's race is very close. Most polls have the Republican candidate ahead, John Kasich. We'll just have to see what happens.

BLITZER: Carol Costello on the scene for us in Ohio. Thanks very much. We're getting more exit poll numbers coming in. The first polls getting ready to close at the top of the hour. Stand by. Our coverage here THE SITUATION ROOM will continue.

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BLITZER: We're getting more exit poll numbers coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Let's go back to our own Ali Velshi, who's crunching the numbers. What are we learning, Ali?

VELSHI: What we're learning is that with only 45 percent of American voters disapprove of the job that President Obama is doing right now. Take a look at that. The approval is 45 percent -- sorry, it is 54 percent disapprove and 45 percent approve. Let's compare that to midterm elections for the last couple of president presidents. In 2006 President Bush had a disapproval rating that was higher than where we are right now, and President Clinton had a similar disapproval rating in 1996. But here's the big issue, who do you blame for this? And given the choice, respondents, voters said that they blame Wall Street bankers for the economic situation that the country is in right now. 35 percent say Wall Street bankers and 29 percent blame George W. Bush, and only 24 percent, the smallest number blame Barack Obama. So there is current dissatisfaction, 54 percent of voters disapproving of the job that President Obama is doing but only 24 percent holding him for the nation's current economic conditions. Most respondents, 35 percent, more than a third, saying that it is the Wall Street bankers who are to blame. That is an interesting number.

BLITZER: Thank you, Ali. We're going to get right back to you. I know that you are going through more numbers for us. In less than two years, does it seem that the country has become even more divided than it was in the Bush years? That's Jack's question. The Cafferty File and your email coming. We're only moments away from the first poll closings in the United States.

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BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: In less than two years, does it seem like the country has become even more divided than it was during the Bush years? If that is possible.

Karen writes: "Yes, we are a more divided country than ever before. We spent eight years under George Bush hoping that things would get better when he was gone. The deepening division has come because we expected it to get better immediately with the new president. The damage to our country is so deep that we cannot expect repairs over night. It is going to take years to get back to days of Clinton optimism and hope for the future."

Bonnie in New Jersey says: "I say we are not as divided as one would think. Most of us are still in the center. We have been here through Bush and now Obama. Neither one of them has connected to us. I am not so sure that Bush was worried about connecting with us, and I think that Obama is stunned that he hasn't."

Carla writes: "I don't frankly think that the country will stand much longer. I fully expect a revolution. We are divided into two factions, the poor and the wealthy and there is no middle-class anymore."

Mike writes: "When we create the jobs, we will destroy the demons. Then a great new day will be ushered in."

Peg in New York: "From what I see on television my answer would be yes, but yesterday I attended a Democratic rally for Scott Murphy with former President Bill Clinton. One thing impressed me, civility. Directly across from the Democratic rally, his opponents had their own area to support their candidate. At no time did I hear a nasty comment or see any inkling of impolite behavior. Are we divided? Yes. Can we be civil? Yes. Is it as extreme was it was during the Bush years? In some areas, yes."

Kevin writes: "I don't remember a president who has used the term the other side or the other guys more than this one. How can that possibly be an effective way to build bridges or unite as was promised?"

And N. writes: "I think we are certainly more divided today. In the final years of the previous administration our nation was united in opposition to Bush."

You want to read more about this, you will find it on my blog CNN.com/Caffertyfile.

BLITZER: And we are continuing our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer at the CNN election center, a huge day in politics. The first polls are getting ready to close right now in two states. We are talking about Indiana and Kentucky. After this very costly and nasty campaign, we will soon know the results of what is going on in the United States, how serious the change is that we can all expect. The balance of power is certainly at stake in the U.S. Congress right now, and in the House of Representatives and potentially in the Senate as well. The Democrats are desperately, desperately hoping to hold on to the Senate. Many Democrats are already resigned to the fact that they probably will lose the majority in the House of Representatives. These key races are continuing right now. People are voting across the country. One race is critically important for the Democrats and the Republicans, and we are talking about Nevada. That is where the Senate majority leader Harry Reid is facing a stiff challenge from the Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle. A while ago Harry Reid said this.

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SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The Republicans around the state, all of the leadership are supporting me. I realize why they are doing it. They are not doing it because they want to suddenly become Democrats, but they do not want a Republican party with her brand on it. They want a Republican party that is one of their mother's and father's Republican party. One that they could look to - that Ronald Reagan would support, or the first George Bush would support. So I feel comfortable with what we've done with Democrats, Independents and -- my heart has been warmed because of the support of the Republicans.

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