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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

California Firefighter Remembered; Election '06

Aired October 30, 2006 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, countdown to the election, eight days to go. Who's up? Who's down? Are Democrats talking about President Bush more than Republicans?

From the hottest issues to the tightest races, the latest news and debate; and, if you thought the campaigns have been nasty up until now, wait until you see this.

Talk radio host Laura Ingraham takes on CNN's James Carville; plus, David Gergen, adviser to four presidents.

But first, a half million dollar reward is offered for whoever set California's devastating wildfire that killed four firefighters and left another critically burned.

And, we'll hear from a mother and girlfriend who lost the firefighter they loved to the massive blaze.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Good evening.

Twenty-year-old Daniel Hoover-Najera and three fellow firefighters were killed Thursday in the Esperanza wildfire in Southern California. A fifth suffered burns over most of his body. He's hospitalized and fights for his life.

The wildfire being blamed on arson has burned more than 40,000 acres northwest of Palm Springs and it is now over 90 percent contained.

Joining us from Beaumont, California, is Gloria Ayala. Gloria lost her son, firefighter Daniel Najera. He was killed Thursday in that wildfire. And, with her in Beaumont, is Whitney Lingafelter. She was Daniel Najera's girlfriend; our deep condolences to you.

He was quite young, Gloria, wasn't he to be on that kind of job?

GLORIA AYALA, SON DANIEL HOOVER-NAJERA KILLED FIGHTING WILDFIRE: Very young, he was only 20 years old. He started right out of high school. That was his passion was to be a firefighter.

KING: Did he want, Whitney, to fight particularly wildfires rather than work for a city and do, you know, burning buildings?

WHITNEY LINGAFELTER, GIRLFRIEND OF DANIEL HOOVER-NAJERA: He wanted to do forestry because, you know, eventually he might have went into city but forestry was what he loved, you know. He had a lot of friends out there and he loved being out there whether they were staying the night overnight, you know. It was like a camping trip to him. It was a hobby rather than a job.

KING: How did you learn of his death, Gloria?

AYALA: On Thursday two gentlemen came to my home after I was brought home from work. Somebody dropped me off at my work because I think somebody knew something. And, as Whitney and I were both there at the house when -- we were ready to watch TV and there was a newsbreak or so forth. And two men knocked at my door and came in, in uniform, and I totally lost it because I knew already.

KING: Well naturally. Whitney, did you know that Daniel was fighting that particular fire?

LINGAFELTER: He had called me at two o'clock in the morning, maybe 2:30, and he told me he was going to a firing (INAUDIBLE) and that everything was going to be OK and it was so early. But, you know, I said "Go for it, you know, just be careful and I love you."

And then I got a phone call at about 6:45, maybe 7:00 and it was just a message because I didn't get service and he just told me that everything was OK and that he loved me.

KING: Gloria, you've been quoted as saying that Daniel was too new and too green to be fighting this fire. Do you still feel that way?

AYALA: I'd rather not talk about that right now. I just have mixed feelings about it and I would rather not comment about that because he did the best he could. He did the best he could and in my eyes my baby is a hero.

KING: Are you further bothered, Whitney, by the fact that it was arson?

LINGAFELTER: Yes, very much so, very much so because -- yes, I am.

KING: Because that would be horrendous. Gloria, who would -- who would want to start a forest fire?

AYALA: Idiots, honestly idiots would want to do it for the thrill of it, my goodness. How idiotic is that? You know don't they know that fire hurts people? You know it's absolutely horrific to even think that anybody would play with matches. My goodness are they children? Are they like little two or three-year-olds? No, they were adults that did this. They were adults that did this that killed four men, four men.

KING: Boy. Authorities, by the way, are offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the person or persons responsible for this horrendous act. How do you go on, Gloria? How do you deal with that? How do you deal with this?

AYALA: Honestly, I've heard the saying live each day one day at a time and I thought I can't even live one second at a time because I don't even know what I'm going to be doing in 15 seconds. I just totally lose it. I totally lose it and I have no idea what I'm going to be thinking in 15 minutes. I think of my son and I think of how he died. I think if it was -- if it was instant, I think if he suffered. I don't want to know that my baby boy suffered.

KING: Yes.

AYALA: A mother doesn't -- a mother's nightmare.

KING: Let's hope that he didn't. I've done a lot of interviews about fire and deaths and usually they go out pretty fast due to the inhalation of the smoke where they don't feel, pray to God, any pain. Do you have other children, Gloria?

AYALA: Yes. I have Monica (ph). Monica was the little sister that used to get teased and her hair would get pulled by her big brother. And, he loved her so much. And then there was little Michael. Michael is only 11 and Michael is just taking this so hard.

He loves his brother so much and he's going to miss his brother tucking him into bed when they'd stay up late and we would even -- we wouldn't know that they were up late and Michael always got tucked into bed, so big brother Danny would tuck him into bed and put his little ice bear next to him. And, Michael asked me, "Mommy, can I take the ice bear to Danny and tuck him in when he's gone now?" That kills me.

KING: Wow, Gloria, it's not a consolation but you do have two beautiful children left and you have an important responsibility to raising them. You know that.

AYALA: I do and they're going to know their big brother. They're going to know that he was a big hero (INAUDIBLE).

KING: They're going to know that all their life. And, Whitney, I know how hard this is for you to go on but you have to go on Whitney.

LINGAFELTER: Yes, you know, for a while there -- it seems like you can't though because when you lose your best friend, your other half, your first love, your true love it's hard to go on and it's hard.

KING: But you go on. Thank you both and God bless you, Gloria Ayala and Whitney Lingafelter, the girlfriend and the mother, Gloria the mother, Whitney the girlfriend of the late 20-year-old Daniel Hoover-Najera. He and three fellow firefighters killed in the Esperanza wildfire here in Southern California.

Coming up, the countdown to the big day, will it be the political smack down some people are hoping for? We'll get the latest from both sides after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You vote on Thursday huh?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll win this election because Republicans understand the values and priorities of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now we'll talk to three prominent Americans and three veterans in the world of politics about the upcoming elections.

In New York is David Gergen, editor-at-large, "US News & World Report." He was White House adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. He's professor of public service at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government; in Washington, James Carville, the famed Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor.

Also in Washington Laura Ingraham, host of "The Laura Ingraham Show" on talk radio network, her "New York Times" best-selling book, "Shut up and Sing, How Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. are Subverting America" will be out in paperback soon. And her website is lauraingraham.com, lauraingraham.com.

David, Tip O'Neill said it best, all politics is local. If all politics is local, can there be momentum for one party or the other in a national race?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR TO PRESIDENTS NIXON, FORD, REAGAN AND CLINTON: All politics is local except when they're not and this is an election when they're not.

You know there is momentum on the Democratic side. There has been for the last few months. The Bush administration is in a trough. It hasn't been able to climb out and that's affecting races, not just the House, not just the Senate. There are some gubernatorial races that are being affected by this too. It's striking that there are more Democratic ads carrying pictures of President Bush than there are Republican ads carrying pictures of the president.

KING: Is the overriding thing in all of this, James, Iraq?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Of course it is. I mean I don't think there's any doubt about it. And, in fact, the president put it front and center. Fred (INAUDIBLE) wrote a memo and said that they should push Iraq that it would help them activate their base. He was out doing press conferences last week.

And, anytime that you're in a war it's obviously going to weigh heavy on people's minds. And, yes, and they've pushed it out there I think some of these Republicans much to the regret of many of these Republican candidates. But is and will be the chief issue on Election Day.

KING: Laura, how do you fight something like that when public opinion has become so strongly against it and you're running for Congress in southern Illinois?

LAURA INGRAHAM, HOST, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW": Well, I think one thing we're seeing, Larry, is that the Democrats who are in these interesting races, whether it's Casey in Pennsylvania or Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee, or even James Webb in Virginia, all these Democrats are running fairly conservative campaigns.

I mean we had Harold Ford, Jr. talking about how "I'm the guy who loves Jesus and loves (INAUDIBLE)" last weekend. You have Casey who is pro-life and Webb, former Reagan administration official.

So, the Democrats who I think are perhaps on the verge of doing something amazing for the Democrat Party, are actually, you know, looking fairly conservative.

And, I don't know what that says about the future of the Democrat Party. But, as a conservative I think Ronald Reagan is up there smiling down on us right now saying that all things considered, conservatism isn't doing so bad.

KING: So, David, is Laura saying that this will be the pitch word for a week from Wednesday, "We won even if we lost?"

INGRAHAM: That's not what I said, Larry, but nice try.

GERGEN: That's whistling past the graveyard, Larry. I don't think so. I do think the Democrats have been shrewd this year for the first time in a while and this I'm sure James supports is that they've recruited centrist candidates for the Senate and the Casey race is an obvious one.

There was a woman who was going to be the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania, who was very pro-choice, very much on the left and they pressured her to get out of the race to make room for Bob Casey, who was pro-life running as a Democratic candidate for the Senate there. And he's now got this big lead over Mr. Santorum. And, you know, he's run a good race. I think he's going to win it.

But, I do come back to this, Larry. What the Democrats are trying to do in this race is to nationalize it. They do want to make this a national referendum. You know, as Peggy Noonan wrote, they're trying to convince people you can't fire President Bush so why don't you fire the Congress? And, a lot of Republicans, of course, are trying to keep it local.

KING: And, are they doing that well, James?

CARVILLE: Well, no because the war is front and center and people are concerned about it. And, by the way, David Gergen is absolutely right. Governor Rendell deserves a lot of credit for clearing the field for Bobby Casey to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania and obviously that's one race I'm very confident about.

But, when you have a war going on and a war is not going well, it's kind of hard to come up and say, "Yes, but I'll get your pothole filled." I mean people see this and every time they pick up the paper they see something else. And this is issue number one.

It's front and center and I think something like 75 percent of the people who are voting on the war are going to vote Democratic and they're not pleased with the way it's going.

KING: So, Laura, what do Republicans do?

INGRAHAM: Well, I think Republicans on a whole host of issues point out that, look, on social issues the country is much more aligned with conservative views than they are with liberal views. That's why Democrats attracted and cultivated more conservative candidates to run in these tight races.

KING: So, what do the Republicans do though? What do they...

INGRAHAM: I think what the Republicans do is say, look, "Yes, this is very difficult in Iraq but the choices here are simple. We either win it or we lose it. And losing it would require our leaving. If we left, the people dancing in the streets would be, without a doubt, the terrorists, the jihadists, the Ba'athists, anyone who Iran has sent over the border and I hope nobody here in the United States."

So, they'd be happy and Americans would they be safer? I don't think so. And, it would send a message across the Islamist world that Americans can be beaten on Main Street, not the Arab street but on Main Street and that would be a disaster, Larry, for the United States of America.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be right back with David Gergen, James Carville, and Laura Ingraham. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL J. FOX: As you may know, this past week I had a little run-in with some less compassionate conservatives. I guess I'm not supposed to speak with you until my symptoms go away or maybe I'm just supposed to go away. But, I'm not going to go away and the millions of Americans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Michael J. Fox in Ohio today, didn't look like he was faking it.

Anyway, David Gergen, what does this Fox thing play - stem cell?

GERGEN: Well, it's very interesting. The Michael J. Fox ad would not have made much of an impact on this had he not been attacked by Rush Limbaugh in a way that he hyped this issue. And now there's a very good chance, it seems to me, that stem cell research is going to play as a wedge issue for Democrats finally.

You know it's always the Republicans who have been very successful at coming up with strong wedge issues that bring some Democrats, the moderate Democrats their way. And now the Democrats have got a couple of issues. They've got stem cell and they got, you know, higher minimum wage, which are working at wedge issues for them.

I think the stem cell in Missouri has got about 56 percent support. It's helping in the Wisconsin governor's race. There are several races where it's going to make a big difference and I think the Democrats are helping themselves because of the Rush Limbaugh. I think it's backfired on the conservatives.

KING: Laura, let's start with you this time around after David. What do you think of the stem cell issue?

INGRAHAM: Well, I think what was interesting over the weekend is that on George Stephanopoulos' show, Michael J. Fox, you know, he's very compelling, has a very compelling story to tell but he also in a very candid moment said that he had not read amendment two, which is the amendment in Missouri which would constitutionalize the cloning of embryos for their ultimate destruction in research.

And, when David says stem cell research he shorthands it and it's embryonic stem cell research and it's the type that would get billions of dollars in funding and there's a real debate to be had about this. And, I think that's what is missing here is the debate on the facts, not the debate on whether what Rush said or whether what Michael said is the right thing.

It's interesting but that's not the fundamental question. It's whether adult stem cell research has proven to be the most efficacious and effective in fighting these diseases or whether this very early stage embryonic stem cell research makes sense and whether it's the destruction of life. That's the question.

KING: James.

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the only place to have a debate is on talk radio. There's absolutely no debate in the medical community. The entire medical establishment in the state of Missouri, of course, supports this. It's just it's all this other nutty science they have and creationism and opposing the morning after pill and a bunch of other goofy right-wing positions.

But I think what you're seeing here in Missouri and what you're seeing around the country is people understand that we need science if we're going to progress as a country. And what we're seeing is just a reaction to science that is part of a pattern in this administration.

Yes, obviously Rush didn't help Talent at all or didn't help Republicans by sitting there mimicking a guy with Parkinson's Disease. It was quite a moment in a campaign and I think it's going to be one thing (INAUDIBLE).

INGRAHAM: Larry, I have to get in here. I mean what James -- what James is saying that's not accurate. The debate really also focuses on whether this is the cloning of a human embryo to destroy it. They didn't want to say that in amendment two. That's why this debate has become about Rush and Michael J. Fox. They don't want to talk about what this is, the constitutionalizing of cloning.

GERGEN: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute.

INGRAHAM: And, David, you know exactly what I know, exactly what's in this amendment. You don't want to talk about the amendment.

KING: David.

GERGEN: I just think that, look, there are serious scientists in this country who are saying, "Look, we can take cells off an embryo and"...

INGRAHAM: Yes, and destroy the embryo.

GERGEN: No, no, no, no.

INGRAHAM: Yes.

GERGEN: There is new research has come out now that you can actually take cells off the embryo without destroying it.

INGRAHAM: That's not amendment two, David.

GERGEN: But here's the point. This is not about cloning. This is about therapy. It's about saving lives.

INGRAHAM: Right.

GERGEN: And the fact is...

INGRAHAM: Conventional wisdom 101.

GERGEN: Let's hold on. The Pugh surveys, which are very good, have shown since 2002 to 2006 the more people understand what is at stake the more they approve of stem cell research. The numbers are clear that the support for stem cell research has gone up 13 percent in the last four years. It's not a majority because it goes to the point that James is making. This is about preserving life.

KING: Now...

INGRAHAM: It's about destroying life if you believe the embryos are human beings. They're early...

KING: But as a political -- Laura.

INGRAHAM: We were all embryos at one point were we not?

KING: Let's get back to politics, Laura. Let's get back to politics, Laura.

INGRAHAM: Speaking as a former embryo. GERGEN: Speak for yourself.

KING: Laura, would you agree that more than 50 percent of the public would support stem cell research?

INGRAHAM: I think more than 50 percent of the public would probably approve of public executions of child molesters but it doesn't mean that we actually do that, Larry, I mean please.

KING: But so the question is -- Laura let me finish. It's my show.

INGRAHAM: Thanks for clarifying.

KING: Laura, the question is if you came out for the public execution of child molesters you might win and that's the question. Will this issue win for you?

INGRAHAM: I have no idea whether it's going to win or not.

KING: OK, what do you think James?

INGRAHAM: I actually talk about what I think is right and I don't think it's right to destroy human embryos.

KING: James, is it a winning issue?

CARVILLE: I think that the entire Republican war on science is going to hurt them. I think that people like Senator Danforth in Missouri are completely (INAUDIBLE) by this. I think the scientific community is. And I think people in this country have a lot of trust in the scientific and medical community in this country. I don't think it's something very smart to run against. So, I think it's going -- I think that this is going to work out pretty well.

KING: That's all I was asking, Laura, is it a good issue for the Democrats to run on? That's all, period.

INGRAHAM: I think it depends, Larry, on how the issue is argued. There are effective orders on this issue and there are ineffective. And I think when you ask people "Are you for stem cell research" most people would say "Absolutely."

If you ask them, "Are you for the destruction of human embryos to forward stem cell research in its embryonic stages" a lot of people would say, "Wait a second let me think about that a little more. Let me learn about that. Let me read about that." I don't think it's as clear cut as either David or James say. I think it's more complicated.

KING: David, who's going to win in Missouri, David?

GERGEN: I think the stem cell research initiative is going to win. The race for the Senate seat where Ms. McCaskill, the Democrat, is running, that's tight. It seems to be tied up in the polls. But I will tell you that basically this issue has helped her campaign. Her campaign is not the most energetic and best campaign one's ever seen.

But she's doing -- she is tied but I do think the initiative is going to go through. I think people are going to look at that and say, "This is a good issue" and people by and large in this country believe that you can be religious and also believe in modern science. You do not have to make choices. Those are false choices.

KING: We'll take a break and come back, more with David Gergen, James Carville, and Laura Ingraham.

Then we'll meet our panel of radio talk show hosts.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.

Katie Couric will be with us on Wednesday night.

And, tomorrow night, Bush, Clinton, and Schwarzenegger maybe, don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, Laura Ingraham's book, which I mentioned earlier, we didn't show it to you. We'll show it to you now. It's called "Shut up and Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics and the U.N. are Subverting America". It's coming out in paperback. There you see its very dramatic cover.

James Carville, is this campaign nastier than most off-year elections?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR/DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, every campaign we go through, somehow or another we say this is the nastiest one that we've been in. It seems to me that, you know, there's quite a bit -- there's quite a bit of nastiness here.

And you know -- but what's odd is, Larry, it's none of it seems to be working very well. I saw Bobby Casey's mother and she said, "James, what do think that they're going to do to Bobby in the last, you know, couple weeks of the campaign?"

I said, "Well, they spent $20 million attacking him, and it hasn't done any good yet, so I doubt the next $3 million will do any good."

What's happened here, in most instances, is that when people look at a mismanaged incompetently executed war they don't seem to be paying much attention to what's going on. When they see a $5.3 trillion dollar turn into a $300 billion deficit, the negative campaign doesn't have the same impact.

KING: How effective are political ads, David?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISOR: Well, they used to be -- these negative ads used to be very effective. But I think when they go over the line, as they say the ad they ran against Harold Ford in Tennessee, I think that's backfired on him. In Massachusetts where I live now, the gubernatorial race, the Republican candidate there ran an ad against Patrick, the Democrat, which went over the line. And it usually backfired on her.

I think what we're seeing now, Larry, is not just a nasty campaign. What has struck me is how -- how much more negative, how many more negative ads there are than positive ads. It just seems like the proportion has gotten way over. You turn over the TV in many parts -- many stations in this country now and you can't find a positive ad. Everything is negative.

KING: Laura, is this a very -- forget what side you're on -- angry populace?

INGRAHAM: Well, I think it's a restless populace. And I think obviously, that leans a little bit more Democratic.

But on the negative ads issue, from James to David, you would think that the only negative ads being run are -- are ads by Republicans.

And, look, I mean, since 1796, we've seen vicious, nasty campaigns in this country and the most horrible things said about people running for the presidency. OK? It just happened. That's where we are in this country. And it's really not that much different today, except we have a media that amplifies it.

I do think David's right that there are so many out there that people start saying, "Oh, it's just another ad. It's just -- you know, how is that really going to affect anything?"

I think in the end, if things are as bad as James says and as David says, if Iraq, the economy, it's all a disaster. If the Democrats can't win and win big in this election, they might as well shut it down as a political party. You have to win big.

If you're going to put this all out there as the world is coming to an end under the leadership of George Bush, then you better win in the House and the Senate. You better win by a sizable margin.

KING: Let's get some predictions, although we hope all three of you are back with us.

By the way, we're going to have a special election show on Sunday night. We'll be in New York. We'll have a Monday night election eve show from New York. And then we'll be back in Los Angeles on election night itself.

And we'll be on, following all the results from midnight to 2 Eastern, 9 to 11 Pacific with summaries and interviews.

But let's get predictions from our guests. We'll start with David Gergen. What's going to happen?

GERGEN: Well, Larry, the only thing we know for sure is that these elections are going to be more exciting than the World Series. KING: You're not kidding.

GERGEN: But here's what I think. Look, right now if you look at the polls the Democrats win the House. The expectations are Democrats pick up 22 out of the 25. Pick up three to four in the Senate. Fall a little short of control.

But the one thing you've got to remember is that the Bush White House is very good at beating the expectations game. They've done it three elections in a row. I don't think we're going to know until late Tuesday night when you go on the air, and we may not even know then.

KING: Laura?

INGRAHAM: I really don't know, Larry. I'm not a good predictor. I tend to think the media hype about how it's the Democrats are going to blow the Republicans off the face of the earth. I tend to think that that's been really over-blown. And I think the turnout machine is going to be pretty significant for the Republicans.

Maybe hold the Senate, maybe lose the House. But I think this hype is way, way over-done.

KING: James?

CARVILLE: Well, I think, David is about right, is the expectation is the low 20s in the House and three or four Senate seats. And I think the Democrats will be able to do a little better than that. I do.

KING: Big turnout, James?

CARVILLE: I think it will be probably average. And you know, depending on where the races are hot, and where you have more contested races, that they'll be, because of the way the redistricting has worked, there are fewer competitive seats than there have been in the past. I would have to compare it to other things.

But I think -- I think the turnout will be -- will be adequate. It will be pretty good. I mean, people are upset out there. I expect it will be pretty ginned up. But it's never as good in off years as it is in a presidential year.

KING: Give me an upset, David. Any one.

GERGEN: Well, I -- I'm not at all clear that Burns has lost that Montana race against Tester. I think he can still take that. And I also feel that Harold Ford needs to be comfortably ahead to win in Tennessee.

There is the fact -- he is black and, you know, there is always this thing about people telling the pollsters what they think the pollsters want to hear. And not for racial reasons necessarily, but I think that, you know, I think that Corker in Tennessee is going to -- may do a lot better than the polls suggest. KING: We'll have all of you back again throughout the rest of this week and at the end of the week. Thank you all very much.

CARVILLE: Thank you, Larry.

GERGEN: Thanks, Larry.

CARVILLE: Appreciate it.

KING: David Gergen, James Carville and Laura Ingraham.

When we come back what's being said on the airwaves and the Internet. We're going to find out what they're saying. Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now here in Los Angeles Stephanie Miller, the nationally syndicated host of "The Stephanie Miller Show", former co- host of CNBC's "Equal Time". She was the liberal counter balance to the conservative Bay Buchanan.

In Portland, Oregon, Lars Larson, the host of "The Lars Larson Show", the radio show that's billed as right on the left cost.

In Washington is John Aravosis, liberal progressive blogger. He blogs at AmericaBlog.com.

And also in Washington, Mary Katherine Ham, conservative blogger and managing editor of TownHall.com.

And remaining with us in New York is David Gergen.

All right, Stephanie, who has the momentum and why? Be a reporter, not an opinion person. Who has the momentum and why?

STEPHANIE MILLER, HOST, "THE STEPHANIE MILLER SHOW": It would never occur to me to think of myself has anything other than a reporter.

I mean, clearly, the Democrats have the momentum, Larry. I mean, you know, I think it's just -- I think that it's at a point where -- I think we talked about this last time. I'm concerned about the electronic voting machines. And I think a lot of people are.

There was a survey done that a lot of people in America are not confident their vote is going to be counted. But barring something like that, chaos at the polls, I think the Democrats are going to take it in a cake walk.

KING: Lars, how do you read it?

LARS LARSON, HOST, "THE LARS LARSON SHOW": Come on, Larry. Everybody loves a horse race and the media most especially. But the fact, is, what does the American public care about? They care about being safe, No. 1. They care about having a decent economy, low gas prices. And they're not anxious to have Nancy Pelosi running the show back there.

KING: Meaning you don't think they're going to take control of the House, the Democrats?

LARSON: No, I certainly don't.

KING: Another reporter joins us.

LARSON: No, sir.

KING: OK. Is it a hope or a thought?

LARSON: It's more of a -- it's more of a thought because I really think the American public is going to walk into that voting booth and they're going to cast ballots based on what they think is best for them. And I don't blame them for doing that.

KING: John?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, LIBERAL PROGRESSIVE BLOGGER: Well, I don't blame them for doing that either, but I think they're going to vote for Democrats. Basically, the American public is fed up. They've had enough.

They don't like the way things are going to Iraq and they just feel like the Republican Congress isn't really willing to hold this administration's feet to the fire. And they'd like to have two parties in Washington again, because unfortunately conflict sometimes helps to get down to the truth.

KING: Mary, how do you see it?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: Well, I think the momentum depends on which race you're looking at. If you're talking about Steel, he's -- Steele in Maryland for Senate -- he's been surging in the past week.

He just had five or six very prominent Democratic black leaders endorse him. And that's a -- that's a big huge win for us if we pick that up. I think it's telling that we're being competitive in New Jersey and Maryland this year in Senate races.

KING: So far every one of our guests thinks of their own opinion, and we haven't had a reporter yet.

Mr. Gergen, what in your opinion is the impact of the radio talk show in American politics?

GERGEN: Larry, we miss you already on a talk show. Remember how we used to talk about elections on that years and years ago?

KING: Those were the days.

GERGEN: Those were the days, my friend. The -- look, I think there's no question that talk radio has -- has given more force to conservatism in the country, and most of the country that's what you hear when you're driving.

This new attempt to launch a liberal alternative, a radio network in effect, you know, that company is basically going bankrupt right now. And it hasn't really taken off.

So I think it's talk radio. Talk radio has really, for a lot of conservatives, come to balance what they see as the mainstream media. But on the blogging sites I must say it's more of a free-for-all. I don't think it -- I think it's -- you can find a lot of blogs on each side now, and they really go at it. I think blogging is the -- and the Internet are really the coming forces.

KING: Stephanie...

MILLER: David, I can just say quickly that you've given the eulogy for progressive radio a little soon, because I'm alive and well. And progressive radio is doing very well. I'm not Air America. And a lot -- a lot of shows out there are not Air America. Progressive talk is doing very, very well.

LARSON: Don't trust them to manage any of your money, Larry, because you saw what they did. They stole from the Boys and Girls Club and they can't balance a budget.

KING: So Lars...

MILLER: Yes, and the president is doing much better with that, with the $300 million deficit. Good job.

LARSON: ... from the Boys and Girls Clubs.

KING: To be fair guys -- hold it. To be fair, Lars, we'll turn it back to you. How is Iraq going?

LARSON: Iraq is not going well, but I don't think we had any choice. I think that America is safer. The world's better off.

KING: If it's not -- it's not going well, who takes the blame? Harry Truman says the buck stops here.

LARSON: Obviously, the blame goes to the Oval Office, and there's no doubt about that. The fact is, though, if you ask Americans what could we have done differently, I don't think there was a great option. Leave Saddam in charge?

KING: No, how about -- would you say if America had to vote today and the question goes, would you go knowing what you know now, what do you think the vote would be?

LARSON: I think the vote would be no but then I'd ask people what was your long-term plan? Turn it over to the United Nations? They've been so successful in Darfur.

MILLER: Yes. The inspections were working.

KING: One at a time. LARSON: Were working, right, talk to the Syrians.

HAM: There's certainly blame to go around the problem is the Democrats have been talking themselves out of having any credibility on national security for years and years and years. And it's going to take a long time for them to build that back up.

People like John and Stephanie on the far left of the Democratic Party have been running people like Joe Lieberman and Zell Miller, who have credible reputations on this subject out of the party for years. And that's a problem.

KING: So Mary, are you saying -- are you saying then the Republicans are going to have a good day in a week?

HAM: I think we're going to do all right in the Senate. I'm not as positive about the House. But I think the get out the vote is strong. The money is strong. I think we're going to do fine.

MILLER: Mary Katherine, excuse me for just a moment. My dad ran with Barry Goldwater in 1964. I voted for Reagan. So if I represent the far left, there's an awful lot of far left Americans out there.

ARAVOSIS: Larry, can I just insert on the left side of the blogosphere. Mary Katherine might have been right 12 years ago as far as the left wing and the Democratic Party. They got too a little proud and they got shot down. The Democrats lost the House and the Senate.

What you've got now is a new Democratic Party. People like Tammy Duckworth running in the Chicago suburbs, who's running a really good race. She's an Iraq vet. She gave up two limbs in that country, fighting for America.

And I think you've got a whole different party now. You've got -- you've got some really strong candidates. A lot of folks who are vets. And the American public recognizes that, and they just want a stage.

KING: Let me get a break. Let me get a break. Let me get a break and check in with Anderson Cooper. He will host "AC 360". He's back!

Anderson, what's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Larry, thanks very much.

Coming up at the top of the hour, new developments on the number of Iraqi troops that might be needed. We're getting late word that the troop levels could rise. And announcement might come tomorrow from the U.S. commander in Iraq. The story's developing.

We're going to speak to our reporters in the field. We're trying to tell you exactly how many troops are involved and how this could impact the elections only one week away. Also tonight, continued controversy over some of the sexually explicit passages in the books of congressional hopeful Jim Webb, as well as Lynne Cheney. Mrs. Cheney told Wolf Blitzer she's never written anything sexually explicit in her books. We checked. You might be surprised what we found.

All that and more, Larry, at top of the hour.

KING: That's "AC 360" at 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific. It gets weirder and weirder. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: David, I want everybody to chime in on this. Stephanie expressed concern at the beginning about the voting machines. Are you?

GERGEN: I'm concerned. I may not be as officially informed, but I think it's something we ought to be -- there are some indications these voting machines may break down again. Can you believe that after all the money and all the time we haven't got these darn things fixed yet after six years? Unbelievable.

But yes, there are some indications they may break down. And we may have long counts Tuesday night. This could easily go into courtroom battle if they're not careful.

KING: Lars, what do you hear?

LARSON: I want the purple finger back. I want to bring the purple finger back from Afghanistan and Iraq. I want every American to put their finger in the ink well. That's how I'd like to vote.

KING: What's the machines like in Oregon?

LARSON: You know what? We have vote by mail, which is a fraud that is ongoing right now. Vote by mail is a disaster. The rest of the country is talking about it. Don't go there. You'll end up with fraud. That's what's happening. And illegal aliens voting.

KING: John?

ARAVOSIS: Larry, I'm concerned about the electronic voting. In the last couple days we've seen in Northern Virginia, you know, here in the D.C. area that literally, they're cutting off people's names. Nobody imagined in a voting machine that somebody's name would be longer than seven letters.

And in Broward County, Florida, today, there were showing that people are voting -- are early voting, and it's pulling up the Republican when you vote for the Democrat or the Democrat when you vote for the Republican.

It's a non-partisan issue. This should work. It's crazy that we're still dealing with these things.

KING: Stephanie, what's the -- I'll get to Mary in a minute. What's your biggest concern?

MILLER: Well, I mean, the biggest concern, Larry, is that we have allowed in the United States of America our vote to be privatized by the private companies, all of which are owned by Republicans, who have claimed to be Bush supporters who say they cannot see the source code.

KING: You think they've rigged the machine?

MILLER: I know there was a lot of problems in Ohio in 2004 and, you know, if it were the other way around, if it was somebody that was John Kerry's head of, you know, the campaign like Blackwell was in Ohio where you had all of these irregularities, all of which benefited Bush. I think when you see polls saying the vast majority of Americans are not confident their vote is going to be counted, we have a problem. And it's always Republican.

KING: Every American -- every American should worry about that. Mary, do you?

HAM: You know what? I'm partial to paper, frankly. It's important to remember that the electronic voting machines are not the only voting problem we have. We have problems with -- I'm not a big fan of voting without I.D.s. I'm not a big fan of that kind of thing either.

So it's -- I'm also not a big fan of the conspiracy theories about Ohio, and I think Democrats have perhaps been victim of some of their own rhetoric on that subject, because people are getting disenchanted, partly because Democrats have been talking for six years about how elections have been stolen when they haven't been.

KING: So you're not concerned, Mary?

HAM: I am -- I have concerns about -- about the electronic voting machines, as well. I just think it's important to remember that we have a lot of problems. And that -- and that we need to watch out for a lot of things.

I think it's a nonpartisan issue. And I think the Democrats have not done themselves a favor by sort of going on attack mode on it.

KING: David, go ahead.

GERGEN: Well, if we have problems this time, the Democrats come away feeling like this election has been stolen from them in some fashion, and you can already hear the -- you know, the progressive side making some of those arguments that they have the deeper worries here, because they think there's going to be a lot of, you know, poor people or working class people who are going to be -- who are going to be denied their franchise.

I just think it would be horrible for the country. And you know, we may need to replace the local system of running all this with a national system. And bring in an independent group and make it good and making an extension of the government. For God's sake, if we can't get it right this time, we need to -- we need to revolutionize the way we do the voting in the country. This is -- it should be totally unacceptable if we have a crisis in voting in 2006, six years after 2000.

ARAVOSIS: Larry, if I can add this quick, too. David is exactly right. This isn't a partisan issue. We're talking about something as easy as do you vote for him or do you vote for her. I mean, how complicated of a machine does this have to be?

It's not rocket science. And we're one of the best countries in the world in electronics, and we can't come up with a machine that says yes or no. It's outrageous.

KING: More with our -- more with our panel in a moment.

And a programming note, Wednesday night, a prime time exclusive with "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric on the pressures and challenges of a new job that the whole world seems to be watching. If you'd like to e-mail Katie Couric a question, go to CNN.com/LarryKing online. That's CNN.com/LarryKing online.

We'll be back with more on the elections. Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK. Let's check, what happens if the Democrats take both houses, Stephanie? How significant does the country change in two years?

MILLER: I'm going to party like it's 1999.

KING: I know, but how significant is the country?

MILLER: I think we get this country back on track. I think it's the only way we get an actual plan in Iraq and we get some checks and balances.

I don't care if you're a Republican or an independent listening right now. If you believe in the United States of America, you've got to vote Democrat this time.

KING: Lars, if the Republicans retain the House and the Senate, do we see just more of the same? Or what significant difference?

LARSON: I hope the Republicans are responsible and clean out some of the mess that we've seen. I hope we get back on track with fiscal restraint. I hope we solve, you know, and get the Iraqis up to speed so they can take care of their own affairs and bring the troops home but not cut and run.

And we need to do things in a responsible way. When we're no power we need to make sure that we do things the correct way.

But Nancy Pelosi as House speaker? My goodness. Say good-bye to the Patriot Act and any kind of oil drilling. Cut and run from Iraq. That's not a prescription -- that's a prescription for disaster. Full-time employment for people...

KING: No, that wasn't the question. The question is, if Republicans retain, is it more of the same? It will be more of the same.

LARSON: No, it won't be. I think Republican -- the Republican Party faithful has gotten sick and tired of some of the same things that mainstream America has gotten sick and tired of: over-spending by government, not being responsibility about certain kinds of -- and immigration, illegal aliens, got to take care of that.

KING: John, what happens if the Democrats take both houses?

ARAVOSIS: I think if the Democrats take both houses you're going to finally see how government is supposed to work, which is the Bush administration says one thing, the Congress says the other and we actually have a debate on the issues, we actually have a debate on Iraq.

You know what? Here's an idea. Wouldn't it be great if the American public could find out what's actually going on in Iraq right now? I'd like to know if we're winning or losing. I'd like to get the facts and not just get this really bad feeling in my gut that things are going poorly. But we can't find out the truth because nobody in Congress wants to find out.

We'll actually have a Congress be able to help create a real debate in this country.

KING: Mary, what if you -- Republicans retain both houses?

HAM: Well, let me say, A, if the Democrats take both houses, I may ask to party with Stephanie, because I'm going to need a drink. So if you don't mind.

But as far as Republicans go, I think, you know, the conservative base is not happy with the Republican Party. And they want them to spend wisely, and they want them to be straight with them.

And -- and if they come out of this with both houses, I think they will have gotten some -- a bit of a spanking from their base. I mean, they've been hearing it loud and clear. And so I'm hoping they're going to shape up on some physical responsibility and that kind of thing.

As far as Iraq goes, we will -- we'll stay and get the job done, which is what I'm concerned about.

KING: And David Gergen, we have 30 seconds. What's your -- I think earlier you said the House goes to the Democrats and probably the Republicans retain the Senate?

GERGEN: Right, Larry. If the Republicans hold on, a surprise big victory, there's some escalation in Iraq to get this finished. If the Democrats come in, there's going to be a lot more pressure to disengage. KING: David Gergen, always good to have you with us. We'll be seeing you a lot toward the end of the week, we're going to do major shows.

Stephanie Miller, as always, good seeing you.

Lars Larson, thanks. John Aravosis and Mary Katherine Ham.

And again, we'll have a special LARRY KING LIVE on Sunday night from New York, Monday night from New York and back here on election night in L.A. We'll be on from midnight to Eastern -- 9 to 11 Pacific.

Speaking of elections, we've got a very timely show lined up for tomorrow. President Bush is here on the set with me, or is he? Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media makes -- it makes me look like I'm not smart by emphasizing when I mis-announce a word. And that's just not fair. You know?

It's a good thing, Larry, that I can turn a phrase. Because I can. I can turn it upside-down, inside out and downside in. I can turn it. But usually when it's all said and done, it comes out the way I want it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is it him or isn't it? Tune in tomorrow night and find out. Right now, let's go to New York, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" -- Anderson.

COOPER: Larry, thanks.

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