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What Is GOP's Agenda?

Aired November 4, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks, Wolf, and good evening, everyone. Tonight more dramatic fallout from the election that is reordering the balance of power here in Washington and across America, at the White House what you might call a post election take two from President Obama. At his Wednesday news conference he was sad, but not ready to blame any of his policies for the Democratic drubbing (ph). Today he invited the bipartisan congressional leadership to dinner. Yes, some people can't resist the label the Slurpee summit. And listen to this, surrounded by his cabinet a hint at how the president now reads the country's big conservative swing.


BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are interested in bipartisan ideas and so they are going to be integral in helping me to route out waste in government, make our agencies more efficient and generate more ideas so that we can put the American people back to work.


KING: But the Republican in line to be the next speaker of the House says he thinks the president and his fellow Democrats are still in denial over the sweeping GOP gains and the Senate Republican leader who will join us right here in just a few minutes made clear today that Republicans are hungry for more wins and not just in Congress.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The fact is if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all of those things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things.


KING: Is this combative tone just positioning or does it mean two years of gridlock over big issues like jobs, spending, taxes, and health care. Oh and did we mention Sarah Palin launched a glitzy new web video today touting her conservative sway.

Yes, we are still counting 2010 votes in some places but the march to 2012 appears to be on. Let's break down what we heard today from the president and his embolden Republican opposition. Here to help CNN contributor and veteran Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, a key player in many of the big winning GOP campaigns on Tuesday, and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

Interesting different -- bit of a different one from the president today, Donna, where he talked about rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, but as the president tries to reposition himself and deal with the election the man who will be speaker, listen to this, he still thinks the president doesn't get it.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: There seems to be some denial on the part of the president and other Democrat leaders, the message that was sent by the American people when you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think that the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies that they put forward the last two years.


KING: Is that how the president views it, a repudiation?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well first of all, John, as you well know, a 25 percent approval rating, Speaker-elect Boehner should not go out and start drinking too many Slurpees. Look, the point is, John, is that the American people sent a loud message to Washington, D.C. They want the Congress and the president to focus on jobs and the economy, to get something done for the American people.

The president yesterday said I take responsibility. I'm going to extend my hand to the Republicans. And for the most part I think that is the spirit of the White House right now. Now let me just tell you, Democrats are not prepared to lay over or move to the side and start slurping -- start sipping Slurpees.


BRAZILE: That's why I like a single malt and not all these other --

KING: Right.

BRAZILE: The point I'm making, John, is that we are going to fight for the core principles that the people elected the Democrats to fight for in 2008.


NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: But that's already -- it was litigated this year. That was already decided to some extent, at least in this year's election. Listening to the president yesterday I got the impression that in the words of the movie "Cool Hand Luke" that what we have here is a failure to communicate. They believe they have got a communications problem, not a policy problem. And I think this election was fight over policy and I think truthfully he is on the wrong side of a number of issues, not just on the wrong side of the policy, but in terms of the focus as well.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know he can't come out and say oh by the way, never mind about my health care plan. I didn't really like it. I think we ought to repeal parts of it. He is not going to do that.

What he is doing, I think, is pivoting to 2012 and being the post partisan president that lots of people thought they elected and didn't get. And he is reaching out and he's giving Republicans enough rope, he hopes, to hang themselves because they are on probation with the American people.

NEWHOUSE: Yes, there is no question. We are renting majority --

BORGER: Right.

NEWHOUSE: -- in the House for right now. And whether we lock it down or not is a matter of debate --

KING: When you say that -- when you say that, one of the missteps Republicans say this Democratic president and the Democratic Congress made was that they came into power and yes, they had campaigned on health care, but the economy had gotten worse and they spent all these months debating health care and not putting jobs first.

When you hear Republicans now say we're going to push to repeal, defund, vote time after time after time to repeal the health care plan, does that make you cringe? Do you see Republicans maybe making you believe to be the same mistake the Democrats made?

NEWHOUSE: No -- no. As a matter of fact, I applaud what they are doing. I think what they're doing is terrific because what voters told them and our focus group stuff, voters are saying you know what, the voters -- the president and the administration they are not listening to us. They are not listening to what we are saying on these issues.

And they believe the government -- there is too much government and government is overspending. And if I think -- if the Republicans in Congress focus on cutting spending and weeding out the fraud and abuse and over spending and health care and other issues, I think they are on solid ground.

KING: But trying to repeal health care instead of saying maybe we'll get that down the road, but he has got a veto pen so we can't really do it, so why don't we spend our time on job creation. Why don't we spend our time --

NEWHOUSE: But they've got -- they have to pass in the House a repeal of health care.


BRAZILE: That will be an absolute mistake for the Republicans right now to go out and tell somebody that has a child on their health care plan that hey guess what I'm sorry the Republicans just repealed this provision.


BRAZILE: Preexisting conditions, we are going to repeal that. But I think the best the Republicans can do, John, when this bill comes up for appropriations is to try to make some adjustments as President Obama outlined yesterday. But I want to get back to this point about a mandate. I think the Republicans are over reading the results. Yes, Democrats got a drubbing, thumping, shellacking. We got our butts beat, OK.

When I wake up and see all of that red, I say to myself, where's the purple. The bottom line is, John, we need to get back to commonsense solutions. And if the Republicans are not willing to come to the table, President Obama has invited them --


BORGER: But, John, the point is the economy has to get better. Everybody is invested in that for 2012 and what do you do for stimulus?

NEWHOUSE: You know the president had the opportunity to do this. He lost -- he lost -- sorry. Democrats lost in New Jersey and Virginia and Massachusetts, January 19th, Scott Brown's victory. The same message was sent then as was sent two days ago.

BRAZILE: Frustration over the economy. This is the deepest recession since the great depression and where are the Republicans?


BRAZILE: They've been busy saying no.

NEWHOUSE: And yet President Obama kept pushing health care reform, a reform that voters didn't want.


KING: This is a booklet put out by the man who will be most likely the Republican majority leader. John Boehner will be speaker. Eric Cantor will be the majority leader. He sent this booklet to all of the newly elected and the incumbent Republicans who are coming back. It talks about their agenda going forward. In it he spends two pages or so on enhancing oversight, by having more oversight hearings.

A lot of people take that as a subpoena to the administration, calling them up for records and essentially pestering the president every day. Again, now there is a very good role for congressional oversight. We should have had more of it in the lead up to the Iraq war. We should have more of it every day, but is there a line, do you worry that some Republicans back in power will be overzealous?

NEWHOUSE: Well first of all, I think -- I think these guys learned their lesson after going through the Clinton years and especially in the oversight in the Bush administration. I think they believe they could have done a heck of a lot better and they failed the country. And I think they are going to take this pretty seriously. I don't think they are going to be playing a game of got you politics. I think they're very some people who are doing this. They're going to focus on policy and on spending and you know what I -- you know I think they're going to do the right things here.

BORGER: Or are they going to focus on Joe Sestak's job offer, right?

KING: Because here is one of the things --


KING: Here's one of the things Eric Cantor said in his letter.


KING: Here's what Eric Cantor said in his letter. "To that end, we must govern differently, not just differently than the Democrats but differently from our previous majority." I think that is a perfectly smart message to send people, but here's my thing. You know President Obama won the election in a campaign in which -- when he was running he looked different, his name sounded different, his upbringing was different, and his campaign brilliantly made the point we will be different.

They took different and turned it to their advantage and they said we'll be different. And nobody in Washington sees it as any different, so whatever you say the objections to the health care bill, certainly 9.6 unemployment played into it, I think the biggest thing people complain about when you ask about the president is that he did not deliver on that promise to make Washington look any different. Are Republicans going to walk into the same trap?

NEWHOUSE: No -- no. Republicans are committed to trying to root out fraud, abuse, overspending. They want to be accountable to the American people for the taxpayer money they are shelling out and I think as long as the focus is on that and not on political witch hunts, I think they're on solid ground.

BORGER: Who draws that line --

BRAZILE: I support Neil and that statement because I do believe that if we go back to this era of witch hunts the American people will rebel and thank God --


BORGER: They didn't vote for witch hunts.


BRAZILE: Absolutely.

BORGER: That is one thing they didn't vote for.


BORGER: Did you focus group that?


KING: Which side are you on Donna in the Democratic debate that's going on in town right now? There are some who say the president needs to change the people around him. He needs to bring somebody from the outside, not his own insular team, maybe they are good people and they're loyal people, but they need some fresh perspective and other people including people inside the White House say we'll deal with this just fine.

BRAZILE: Well look, the president is going to be making some personnel changes. That is natural. That is just like the leaves changing and also he will look at some future policy, some things that he will try to work with Republicans. I believe that it is important the president to bring in some fresh players and to have some fresh new ideas and to have some people who are willing to go toe to toe with the Republicans.


BORGER: I spoke with somebody in the White House who thinks they need some fresh players. There are a lot of burned out people in the White House and they understand that they need a new perspective on this and they could use some new folks around there.

BRAZILE: But I want to thank all of them for their service, John. We've got to thank people in Washington, D.C. --

BORGER: It is a tough job.


KING: We do thank everybody for their service. All right, Donna, Neil and Gloria are going to stay with us. We're going to take a quick break.

When we come back, just how red did America go on Tuesday and what does that mean for the coming debates over all the big issues? Stay right there.


KING: -- map in a moment to show you just how sweeping the Republican gains were, not just in the Congress, but at governor's levels, state legislative levels all across the country. We'll break that down in a minute, but first let's continue our policy discussion because the man who will be the next speaker of the House, John Boehner, just gave an interview with FOX News in which he was talking about the health care bill.

We were talking about it before the break. John Boehner said this; "I am going to do whatever is necessary to make sure this health care plan is never, ever, ever implemented." I want to remind you that we took an exit poll on Election Day of what people thought about this bill. Thirty-one percent of those who voted on Election Day said expand the health care bill; 16 percent said leave it just as it is; 48 percent said repeal it.

So to our Republican in the group here, Neil Newhouse, that is a risky strategy. About half of the country is with you in saying repeal it, but the other half country is not so sure about that. And if you look at the bill, the question is how do -- if you are going do that, how do you it?

Do you tell people never mind? The lifting the ban on not covering somebody with a preexisting condition, never mind a parent can keep their child on their insurance until they are 26, never mind an insurance company can't cut you off if you get sick?

NEWHOUSE: No, no, no, no. And what Donna said earlier is you don't -- (INAUDIBLE) repeal it and you replace it. Replace it with health care legislation that makes sense that includes preexisting conditions and includes a number of the provisions that people like and that aren't going to break the bank. But there is a perception this goes way too far, costs way too much money --


KING: When you are trying to --


KING: When you're trying to re-create your brand with the American people because Donna made the point earlier. They don't love you. They don't love you either. When you're trying to recreate the brand, you made the health care fight pretty messy for the Democrats. They can do just the same to you. Is that the fight to pick right away?

NEWHOUSE: Well, what the -- what voters sent -- the message they sent with our guys to Congress is get rid of the health care plan and focus -- and fix it and focus on jobs and the economy.

BORGER: But you know you are not going to get it repealed because the president will veto that, but you try and try it over and over again because you want to make your political point --


BRAZILE: John, but what do you about the deficit that repealing this plan? Remember this bill will also strengthen and extend the life of Medicare. What do you do about all the other cost savings that are a part of this bill that will start going into effect?

We've already started the rule making to implement this law. State governors are now planning for implementation. I think the Republicans run a risk of looking too partisan and too petty if the first thing out of the box is to go out and try to repeal health care --

BORGER: I think there are some small compromises -- small that can be made about reporting requirements --


BORGER: -- for small business which a lot of people think is really burdensome, but it's around the edges. The big political points are repeal, repeal, repeal and that's --

NEWHOUSE: But Gloria (INAUDIBLE) I think they will vote to repeal it. Then they will work around the edges and they'll work to change the way it is implemented, the way it is put into place in individual states and --


BRAZILE: You are talking about the House Republicans, not the Senate because you know that is gridlock as usual.

NEWHOUSE: Yes, but -- you know what? I think you may find a little more agreement in the Senate.


KING: One of the questions is what all those Democrats up in 2012, what are they willing to do after this election? And one of the reasons they will be a bit nervous and maybe -- I'm not sure if they'll be as open to compromise as Neil thinks. But one of the reasons they might want to do some things is let's take a look at this map.

Here is where we were coming when we were coming into -- this is where we were coming into the night. There's where we ended up. There's where we ended up. Look at how much red America got in terms of House districts across the country. You go back to the Senate races -- this is coming into the night, that is where we were at the end of the night, these pickups (INAUDIBLE) in the governors' races as well.

The governors' races -- they don't want to come up at the moment -- there we go -- there -- here is how we ended the night. And we do have the -- we declared in Illinois the Democrat the winner. That race was in question for some time, but the Democrats will hold on to that seat. That is a victory for them today, especially when you look at what happened across here.

Donna Brazile, when you look at this map, especially here, an Obama state, an Obama state, an Obama state, an Obama state, an Obama state, an Obama state, now that's key -- that is a Republican key. They had a Republican governor and they held on to that one narrowly, but when you look at this map, Democratic incumbent up in 2012 in the Senate, Democratic incumbent up in 2012 in the Senate, the same, the same, the same and in Montana and here in Virginia as well. If you are a Democrat especially if you're up in 2012, not named President Obama, you have to look at all that red and think there is some message, do you not?

BRAZILE: It is jobs. It is one out of seven Americans under water with their home mortgages. It is jobs. It is the driver right now in the electorate. John, when I look at that map I want some crayons so I can hurry up and color it back blue. But more importantly, John, I think Democrats will have to roll up their sleeves, focus on the economy like a laser beam, go back out there, present their case to the American people and hope for the best come 2012.

BORGER: I think these Democrats are going to be scared and I think the Republicans are going to try and get some to switch party like why wouldn't they go to Ben Nelson of Nebraska --

BRAZILE: Look at the Democrats who have already lost because they didn't support health care.


BORGER: Come on over --

BRAZILE: Gloria that is a pipe dream. They're (INAUDIBLE) stick with us.

BORGER: I wouldn't be surprised, Donna.

BRAZILE: They will stick with us.

KING: Here's the thing --


KING: Here's the thing --


KING: Let's just look at one of those Democrats, Bob Casey, Democratic senator from Pennsylvania -- this is his hometown, Scranton. These were coming into this election, let's go here, these were coming into this election -- that will turn off I promise -- those were Democratic congressional districts. Here is where we ended up after the election. So if you're a Bob Casey, Claire McCaskill can say the same thing and in Missouri Roy Blunt and Robin Carnahan was a blowout.

BRAZILE: John, you and I both know that midterm elections are very different than presidential election. You have a 20 percent drop-off in voters. Many of the people who did not show up, the Obama surge voters. You know minorities and others. Look, I'm not blaming the election on the people who didn't show up. I'm saying that by 2012 if we get our act together our blue crayons will be --


KING: As you know, there are a lot of Democrats who think that President Obama and his political operation over depended, over invested, over maybe dreamed in the power, in the lasting power of their coalition. BRAZILE: Their political operation operating in the states where they had a stake in 2010 not 2012. They played by the rules of 2010, here are the most important gubernatorial seats -- more important senatorial. They didn't invest in Louisiana. They didn't invest in certain southern states like North Carolina. But, look, come 2012 there will be a different game plan, different resources, different --


BORGER: Democrats felt abandoned by this president, by the way. They felt that --

BRAZILE: I'm not commenting on any of that.


BRAZILE: Silence.

BORGER: Silence is golden, Donna.


KING: The 2010 results mean almost nothing for President Obama in the sense of his re-election prospects, a long time between now and then. But in terms of the redefining of the map, you have all those governorships, more than 600 legislative seats, 19 chambers flipped.

NEWHOUSE: John this is -- it's huge. It is huge for Republicans, not just because we won the majority in Congress, but you look at the state legislative races, picking up more than 680 state legislative seats across the country. I did -- the Michigan State House, Michigan State Senate, Ohio State House, Ohio State Senate. We picked up states in the Michigan State House where the campaign committee had actually dropped the race and we still won.


BRAZILE: That's why you got to have a 50-state campaign.


BRAZILE: He gave the Republicans --


BRAZILE: He gave the Republicans so much territory to pick up with all of that secret cash that they flushed. Can you give me some of that money?


BORGER: Oh, come on. Donna --


KING: -- one last sentence. NEWHOUSE: The impact on redistricting and the congressional seats down the road is huge.

KING: All right Neil is going to be back with us a little bit later for a conversation. When we come back Oprah and George W. Bush talking about Barack Obama -- you don't want to miss that.


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Right now rain bands from Tropical Storm Tomas are moving across Jamaica and Haiti. But forecasters now say the center of the storm will not make a direct hit.

Both Qantas and Singapore Airlines grounded their fleets of double-decker airbus A-380s after one of the jumbo jets had an engine cover come off in flight. The Qantas jet landed safely and no one was hurt.

Now check this out. A U.S. spacecraft came within 435 miles of a comet today and sent back pictures. This is Comet Hartley II (ph). You can see boulders as well as geysers of gas coming out as well as ice.

And President Bush taped an interview to be broadcast next Tuesday, November 9th on "The Oprah Winfrey Show". She tried to get him to talk about President Obama.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is hard for people to believe I already said that. I am through.


BUSH: I enjoyed it --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- you haven't commented on what Obama is doing or how he's doing?

BUSH: No. Because I want to treat my successor the way I would like to have been treated. I don't think it's good for a former president to be out there opining on every darn issue. He's got a plenty tough job, trust me. And there's going to be plenty of critics and he doesn't need me criticizing him. And I don't think it is good for the presidency.


BUSH: Other people have a different point of view.



JOHNS: You know, I got to tell you, I feel like George W. Bush is the only person in the entire country who doesn't have an opinion to express about the midterm.

KING: He said he wasn't going to talk about Obama. He has kept his word on that one. You hear the hoarse voice there --


KING: I think that's (INAUDIBLE) all those Rangers games --


KING: He yelled at all those baseball games. We've got a bit more of that interview a bit later when he talks about other things political, some more George W. Bush a bit later.

We'll also go "One-on-One" with Senator Mitch McConnell, the new Republican leader -- the current Republican leader in the United States Senate, his definition of compromise in the new more Republican Washington.

Democrats are also losing seniors in this past election. We'll break that down and show you why it's so important and Palin versus President Obama in 2012?

We'll go deep inside a new poll and show you some very interesting things and when "Pete is on the Street" is here tonight. He will help us understand just what a Slurpee summit is.


KING: Let's dig deeper into just what happened in the 2010 elections and what it means looking ahead to 2012. Here to talk and help us break it down, Neil Newhouse back with us, Republican pollster, and from New York, our own James Carville. At first before we start the conversation, let's set the table by reminding people it was two years ago tonight Barack Obama was elected president of the United States and delivered this stirring acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park.


OBAMA: It is the answers spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are and always be the United States of America.


KING: That was the president two years ago. Wow. On Tuesday night did voters send a different message? James, among the groups, you heard the president say young and old. I'm going to flip this map here. This is 2008 the presidential election the blue the Obama states, the red the McCain states. Let's come here to 2010 in the house races. This is the big sweep the Republicans had in the house races, 60 plus seats. One of the reasons they got it, it was the changing affiliation of senior voters. Look at this. Look at this gap in this election right here, historic gap for the Republicans. 59 percent of seniors voted for Republicans, 38 percent, James Carville, for the Democrats. That is a stunning gap. If the Democrats don't fix it, it is hard to see the Democrats winning in 2010 with a gap in the most reliable part of the electorate.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Of course. A couple of things are at play. First of all, this is a contracted electorate from 2010 or what you will have in 2012. This was a low Democratic point. I would remind people that 1994 was a low Democratic point and we went on to win the popular vote and three of the next four presidential elections. Look, if the situation is the same in 2012 as 2010, count me as not optimistic.

NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: James, you can't just blame the turnout. You can't blame the seniors who didn't vote.

CARVILLE: I'm not blaming anybody.

NEWHOUSE: That is what it sounds like.


NEWHOUSE: That is a significant change. Voters are sending a message. It is not just health care. Government is too big, overspending and a sense that the administration wasn't listening to these voters.

CARVILLE: I think what the seniors, a lot of it was that they like their Medicare and they thought the health care bill was going to affect it. I think the voters will measure by jobs. We can hash that out at a later date. The truth of the matter is also I suspect and Neil you can verify this, the seniors who voted in this election were a lot whiter than the seniors in 2008.

NEWHOUSE: No. There is no question that when you look at the electorate, people who came out to the polls, this electorate was tilted white, more Republican, more conservative just as in '06 it was tilted more Democrat, in '94 tilted more Republican.

KING: And so one of the questions we all ask is what does it mean looking forward? We talked about it earlier in the show. Ronald Reagan had a bad midterm, he won re-election. Bill Clinton had a horrible midterm, he won re-election. Anyone who says this is proof Obama can't win re-election needs to think again. American politics, the voters just proved it can change like that. Of course people are starting to think about it. George W. Bush has a new book coming out. He did an interview with Oprah Winfrey who either her or her research staff watches this show. Jeb Bush was here a little bit back and he said you betcha. Listen to this exchange between the former president and Oprah.


OPRAH WINFREY: Your brother Jeb was asked by CNN if he would support Sarah Palin for president in 2012 and he responded you betcha. Do you think Sarah Palin is the one for the Republican Party in 2012?

FMR. PRES. GEORGE BUSH: You know, I am not a political pundit. I'm really not. Secondly, a lot is going to happen between now and the nominating process. --

WINFREY: I'm not asking you to pundit.

BUSH: Yeah, you are.

WINFREY: I'm asking you your opinion.

BUSH: You are asking me to wade back into the swamp.

WINFREY: Come on in. Come on in.


KING: Nice try, Oprah. Nice resolve by the former president. He is not going to get involved. We asked people to look ahead. The 2010 campaign is over except for a few places we are counting votes. People are already maneuvering for 2012. Here is the sense for Republicans with their early look at the Republican primary field and who they rank. Mike Huckabee, who ran last time, 21 percent, Mitt Romney, who ran last time, 20 percent, Sarah Palin who was the vice presidential nominee, 14 percent, the former speaker Newt Gingrich at 12 percent. There a number of other Republicans in single digits. Sarah Palin was so visible in this campaign. We asked people as well, what's your opinion of her? Her favorable is 40 percent, unfavorable 49 percent. Neil Newhouse we call that under water. She was everywhere in this campaign and did not improve favorability.

NEWHOUSE: John, those favorability numbers don't mean a thing.

KING: It would in a general election if she won the nomination.

NEWHOUSE: You have a long ways to go between now and then and just as we have a long ways to go for Obama. If you look at the numbers among Republicans, she probably has the highest favorability among Republicans. What I find most interesting is she has high favorability among Republicans but it doesn't translate into support for the ballot test. They love her. They love what she is saying. She has the right message. They are saying I'm not sure she is the right messenger.

KING: James, you know what it's like. You helped Bill Clinton get elected president. If Sarah Palin called you up and said what do I need do to what would you tell her?

CARVILLE: I think we have a favorable number. I think she can do pretty well in Iowa. Actually those numbers 40/49, if that's a general election number that is an improvement over what I have seen in the past. Look, there's going to be a lot of -- it is going to be a fascinating thing, this Republican nominating process. It encourages more candidates. The bigger the field the better Palin could fare in that thing. Iowa would be a favorable place for her. The caucuses, conservative, very religious, plays right into her base. Generally the Republican that wins Iowa doesn't win the nomination but you sure get a boost.

KING: Look a little closer at the numbers here at Sarah Palin, among conservatives 65 percent a favorable rating, 25 percent unfavorable rating. Among moderates 31 percent favorable, 60 percent unfavorable. And among independent voters, you can't win the presidency without them and they were huge in helping the Republicans take back the house, 38 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable. She has a problem in the middle of the electorate.

NEWHOUSE: She does but you can't talk about a Republican primary without talking about the tea party and the huge impact its had on politics this year and if you look at Republican primary voters about 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. You've got 1/3 of the primary voters are tea party supporters who are tea party first and Republicans second. Then you've got another 1/3 Republicans first and tea party second and 1/3 that are non tea party folks. It's this way of looking at the electorate that I think is going to be significant. She is going to do extraordinarily well among the hardcore tea partiers.

KING: In the west Barack Obama beats her 57 percent to 38 percent, in the Midwest Barack Obama beats her 50 percent to 47 percent. In the northeast he beats her convincingly 55 percent to 42 percent. Here's what surprised me, in the south, Barack Obama essentially in a dead heat 48 percent to 47 percent. That suggests that she's not that strong a candidate against him as of today. James, the flip side if you are the Democrats, we looked in the suburbs where most American elections are won if they're close, 48/48. That is not so much a reflection of Sarah Palin's weakness in the suburbs but Barack Obama's current weakness in the suburbs?

CARVILLE: Yeah, look, when the president of the party loses 60- something house seats you have a political problem. People have to have their head in the sand to deny that. This is a low ebb for Democrats. We'll see where we go from there. I hope she runs. I think she is the most compelling person in American politics. As a cable TV pundit she is great. She'll make it interesting. What it may do is encourage more moderates to get in, between her and Huckabee and Mike Pence, they will split that religious conservative vote.

KING: Maybe Carville will run as a moderate Republican. Who knows? James and Neil, thanks for coming in.

When we come back an exclusive sit down with the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. Stay with us.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. I'm Joe Johns. Here's the latest news you need to know.

France's interior minister raised a lot of eyebrows when he said one of the two parcel bombs from Yemen was deactivated 17 minutes before it would have gone off. White house and other U.S. officials are not confirming that story.

Thanks to the Federal Reserve's new $600 billion plan to stimulate the economy, it was a huge day on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial jumped 219 points and the Dow and NASDAQ hit two-year highs.

And hall of fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson who led the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers to world series titles died today. He was 76. Now back to John King.

KING: Republican Senator Mitch McConnell will still be the minority leader when the new Congress convenes in January but he will have a larger, more conservative Republican conference. In a speech in Washington today Senator McConnell defined compromise as the president giving ground and vowed over the next two years to stop the liberal onslaught. Leader McConnell is here with us to go one on one. Let me start with your relationship with the president. We've talked about this many times over the past two years. He called you after the election.


KING: He made a point of noting that.

MCCONNELL: In the last 24 hours.

KING: That's progress right there.

MCCONNELL: I'm on speed dial now.

KING: Your fellow leader in the house, the man who will be speaker, John Boehner, says he thinks the president is still in denial. Do you?

MCCONNELL: I don't know. Clearly the president isn't fooling himself. He knows this election was about him and about the majority and the American people saying they want to go in a different direction. There is a game plan there immediately apparent to President Obama. We saw what President Clinton did in reaction to a mid course correction. He went in a different direction. Some important things were accomplished for the country. My view is if the president will simply listen to the American people we can do some business.

KING: Now, of course, the Democratic president knows the Republican Senate leader doesn't want him in the white house, but when you say these things so some would say combatively and so soon after the election, why should he think there is going to be a relationship of trust here when he knows you're looking at every negotiation to get him.

MCCONNELL: You shouldn't cherry pick my remarks. I have also said the president said he is for trade agreements. In fact, today we talked about the Korea free trade agreement. Most of my members are for trade agreements. We have three pending, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. We ought to work on them together and ratify them. He says he is for nuclear power. I'm for nuclear power. He says he is for clean coal technology. I'm for clean coal technology. It could well be John that he will take a message that maybe we ought to reduce spending and debt. If he does that I think he will find more people willing to help him on my side of the aisle than on his. So I think it is not particularly noteworthy that I would like to elect a Republican president in '12 and he would like to have a second term in '12. What is more important to the American people is what are we going to do between now and then.

KING: I want you to listen to what you said today because it is significant.

MCCONNELL: We will also have to work in the house on denying funds for implementation and in the Senate on votes against its most egregious provision.

KING: Would you take that to the point of shutting down the government or not passing a budget if that's the only way to deny funding for the health care bill?

MCCONNELL: No. We are not talking about shutting down the government. What we're doing here is talking about responding to the American people's desire that this bill not become law. My first choice is to put a full repeal on his desk. If we were able to do it or if we were able to do it he would certainly veto it. After that you come back and go after it piece by piece. For example, he conceded just the other day at his press conference this stupid 1099 requirement that a business person have to send out a 1099 form to anybody who did $600 worth of business with. The IRS said it couldn't handle the paper. This bill is 2700 pages long. It is replete with those kinds of problems. We need to try to fix as many of them as we can. Some of them, he indicated, he would go along with.

KING: Let's be very specific on this because some provisions of the healthcare bill are unpopular, others are popular or might be 50/50. If you were to get the power to start to repeal some of it, could you guarantee the American people before you took away parts you don't like would you leave in place the ban on denying somebody coverage for preexisting conditions?

MCCONNELL: That was not particularly controversial. That is one of the parts of the bill everybody liked.

KING: Under no circumstances would Republicans make that go away?

MCCONNELL: The price for that is we had to swallow 2,700 pages of a government takeover of American health care. What we would like to do is to get rid of this. We know that's not possible with him in the white house and start over and do it right. Those were the arguments we made throughout the health care debate. The American people ended up siding with us.

KING: You know what they're saying. They're saying Republicans want a repeal and that means no preexisting conditions, no children can stay on their parents until they're 26 years old. No the lifting of lifetime caps on coverage. Would Republicans leave those in place?

MCCONNELL: I would not negotiate with the substitute would look like. There are way more parts of this bill that are unfortunate and unpopular and should be done away with, than a few portions of it that had pretty broad bipartisan support. Those are the things we were arguing we should have done instead of having the government take own 1/6 of the economy.

KING: So answer somebody out there, whether they're a Democrat or an independent or maybe just even some Republicans doing the math, who says OK this Republican leadership says they want to reduce the deficit, but if you extend the Bush tax cuts, I understand your policy argument, people can agree or disagree with what, but in the short- term, that would add to the deficit, somewhere in the ballpark of $700 billion $800 billion. The Congressional Budget Office says the Obama health care bill, with all the policy disagreements that you have with it reduces the deficit by $143 billion over the next ten years or so. How can you --

MCCONNELL: The assumptions are all wrong. The fact of the matter is if you raise taxes in the middle of a recession, the government is going to get less revenue, not more. To do that right now John would raise taxes on 750,000 small business, which represents 50 percent of small business income, 25 percent of the workforce, in the middle of a recession, you're going to get less revenue, not more. Nobody seriously believes the health care bill is actually going to save money. Nobody believes that. So don't assume that you're going to exacerbate the deficit by doing any of these things. What we need to do is get a handle on domestic discretionary, we have already made some steps in that direction. Right now in this Congress, Senate Republicans insisted on close to a freeze on this year's appropriations bill. The Democrats have already conceded that point. It's not a small matter, it would save $300 billion over ten years. Then with regard to entitlements, we're anticipating a report from the president's debts and reduction commission December 1st a month from now about how to go forward on a bipartisan basis, to address the long-term unfunded liabilities, the big ones, Medicare, Medicaid, social security. I hope that's the kind of thing that he can embrace and that we can embrace.

KING: I'm going to ask you lastly about some politics. People very close to you and I'm told you believe this. I'm not sure how much you'll say publicly that you get mad at the map. Right now you're going to be shy of 51. You will not be the majority leader but if you look at Delaware, you had an establishment candidate beaten in the primary. Everyone believes he would have won. If you look at Colorado, most Republicans believe that the candidate that was beaten in primary by tea party and conservative support, just lost the election, they believe the establishment candidate would have won. Nevada, they believe again that the tea party candidate lost, the establishment candidate could have won. Washington State is still out there being counted. If that one goes Republican, and you lose those three, that denies Mitch McConnell the majority. MCCONNELL: Well you can play what if forever. I mean the nominations are decided in the primaries. Let me give you the good news. After the '06 election, I had one freshman Republicans, after the 2008 elections, I had two freshmen Republicans. I'm going to have 13 and we're at a very robust minority and a body that requires 60 to do anything. I think we have a lot to be grateful for. The outcome of the election was really quite satisfying.

KING: Is one of your challenges though as the leader whether it's with Senator DeMint in your own conference or with others out there who supported it those candidates, who knocked off your favored candidates, to say look, if we're going to grow going forward, we got to figure out a way not to do this?

MCCONNELL: I don't think we need to lecture anybody, we're going to have a larger number, a lot of experienced people, some brand-new people. I'm going to be the leader of a much larger army and that's a great problem to have. When you're a leader of a mere 41, you have a scarcity problem. I would rather manage abundance than scarcity.

KING: Senator McConnell, thanks for time.

You serve red wine with a steak. What do you serve with a Slurpee? Pete on the street next.


KING: You know how this works, you have an important question, you got to find an expert. What do you pair with a Slurpee? Let's bring in our man on the street, Pete Dominick. He is here. Pete a little history first, everybody remembers during the campaign the president would give this speech, I'm trying to pull the economy out of the ditch and the Republicans are up there sipping their Slurpee watching me. Of course the question came up at the news conference yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to ask if you're going to have John Boehner over for a Slurpee.

OBAMA: I may serve them a Slurpee. They're delicious drinks.

KING: That was the president yesterday. Here's the next speaker today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Slurpee summit in the future?

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: I don't know about a Slurpee, how about a glass of Merlot.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: John King, the future speaker of the house needs to hang out with the senator from Louisiana, head to New Orleans. They have wine Slurpees and as a matter of fact, I've got my own Slurpee here. John King, I'm thinking if Republicans can have a blue Slurpee, like me the Democrats can have a red Slurpee, maybe we can have at least that much compromise. What do you think?

KING: Pete, you're a parent; you're not setting a very good example here.

DOMINICK: That's a good point John. This is all fresh, blue raspberries though just to be fair. This is organic 7-eleven Slurpee. Hey do you think the president's wife is going to be upset with him for endorsing the Slurpee, by the way?

KING: They do make sugar free Slurpees. My son used to want them and I would tell him he could only have the sugar free Slurpee. But you know if you drink that too fast, you might get a brain freeze and I don't know what Pete Dominick with a brain freeze would be like.

DOMINICK: My head might explode. That would be terrible. But listen, I'm just trying to get free Slurpees for life. And you know they had the beer summit and now maybe the Slurpee summit but I'm pretty sure no one will be drinking a Slurpee on November 18 in the white house.

KING: You don't think so.

DOMINICK: I don't know. You're the expert. Do you think actually they might actually do that? Was that product placement? By the way, you were in the white house press corps, what was that guy thinking when he ask about the Slurpee?

KING: Well you're doing product placement right now. We apologize to any other actual CNN advertiser out there. Pete, we'll see you tomorrow. That's it for us tonight. "PARKER SPITZER" starts right now.