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Results Still Coming in From Dramatic Midterm Election
Aired November 8, 2006 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back everybody. It is Wednesday, November 8th. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to our viewers all around the world watching on CNN International.
S. O'BRIEN: And we have a special early edition of AMERICAN MORNING at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time right here in the U.S. Here is what's new this morning.
The Democrats roll a huge win for the House. CNN projecting at least 28 seats to regain control of the U.S. Senate is still undecided at this hour. The Democrats pick up four of six seats needed to get control there, locking in a win for Claire McCaskill in Missouri and that happened in just the last few hours.
There's an all-out fight though in two battlegrounds this morning, state of Virginia and the state of Montana. The winners in those races will determine just who controls the Senate. President Bush is to call Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi this morning. She's expected to become the very first female speaker of the House. We're going to hear from the president at a news conference that is set for 1:00 this afternoon Eastern Time.
M. O'BRIEN: And of course we'll keep you updated all throughout the morning as the results come in. We have reporters in those two undecided states. Ed Henry is in Virginia. Chris Lawrence in Montana, plus a look at the issues and what the power shift in Washington will mean for President Bush's last two years in office.
Let's get right to that nail biter in Virginia, where it's a good bet a recount will happen. It's not automatic, but it's a good bet. CNN's Ed Henry joining us from Richmond with the latest from there.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Miles. That's right. You know this race was so nasty that both sides really couldn't wait for it to end. The Democrats and Webb after he voted yesterday morning even joked to reporters he couldn't wait to have a beer. Well he might have to put that on ice for a while.
I can tell you last night we're standing right now in front of the headquarters of Republican Senator George Allen, a very tense scene in there. If you remember, just a few months ago George Allen was expected to have a cakewalk here on his way to a White House bid in 2008. It didn't work out that way.
The macaca moment, other missed cues. Jim Webb riding away (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anti-incumbent out there. He made Iraq a central issue as well. He is not up by about 8,000 votes this morning, but there is still six precincts that have not been counted.
Nevertheless, Jim Webb last night came out and addressed his supporters in another part of the state. He declared victory. George Allen still not conceding anything. This will just have to be yet another thing that they're going to agree to disagree over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all go out. We vote. We argue. We vote. But also we like to say that the votes are in and we won.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the point of the matter is I've been through it. I think that the counting -- I know the counting will continue through the night. It will continue tomorrow. And I want to thank you all because I know you're going to be like a bunch of eagles and hawks watching how every one of these votes are accurately counted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Very likely it's going to actually continue not just for days, but for weeks. The bottom line is that these results have to be certified. That does not happen until November 27 here in Virginia. At that point, the loser if it's within a percent -- one percentage point, if it's decided within one percent, the loser can ask for a recount. It will happen. That will take days, maybe weeks as well. There was in fact a recount just last year in the attorney general's race here. It took a full month, Miles, so with the control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, this one is not going to be decided any time soon, Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Ed, were there any places where there were significant problems with the vote, any irregularities?
HENRY: In all honesty, no. We did have from the Board of Elections in Virginia a report late last night that there were two machines that were jammed up. They were frozen basically. They couldn't tally the votes. They were basically in Allen country. It was unclear though how many votes it would bring George Allen. Those are expected to now be counted this morning, but really did not have any major reports of real irregularities, Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, Ed Henry, this is a story that is certainly not over. We will be watching it. The Montana Senate race also hugely important, still up for grabs. Democrat John Tester versus incumbent Republican Conrad Burns. And it appears to be all coming down to one county, Yellowstone County. That's where Billings is and the results are expected within the next couple of hours.
Let's take you now to Billings right now where Chris Lawrence is standing by. Chris, any problems with the vote there? CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Big problems actually, Miles. They had some glitches with the vote counting machine. No problems with the actual ballot, but it came to actually counting them, Yellowstone has had to go back and start recounting from scratch.
They started out about an hour or two ago, expected to continue for the next few hours. So we're kind of the last one standing here. Everyone else has gone to sleep, just waiting for that count to finish up later this morning. But again, it is tight. They're within one percentage point and the mood here was a little glum early on as -- here at Conrad Burns' headquarters because John Tester took an early eight-point lead.
But some of those counties that was still out there lead heavily Republicans so that gap closed as the night went on. Again, you've got Conrad Burns been in office 18 years, a highly respected Republican senator from Montana. But at the same time, CNN exit polls said that corruption and ethics were some of the most important issues to voters.
Here in Montana, Burns was the subject of many attack ads because of his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. On the other hand, Democratic John Tester was criticized as being too liberal for the state of Montana, criticized and accused of possibly raising taxes on people here. But again, he presented a different face of the people of Montana. He's a third generation farmer who really reached out and tried to get some of those rural and conservative votes that Democrats had perhaps written off in the past -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: So Chris, was corruption at the top of the list among voters -- on voters' minds as they voted?
LAWRENCE: It was part of the issue. It wasn't the entire issue. I spoke with voters who just had many different reasons for why they voted. I spoke with one man who said I voted for Conrad Burns because I think John Tester is going to raise my taxes. I spoke to another man who said I voted for John Tester because I think Conrad Burns is sold out to the big oil companies. There was so no one defining issue here for the people of Montana.
M. O'BRIEN: Chris Lawrence in Billings watching it for us. Thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Control of the House means that Democrats get to set the agenda and they've already put together an ambitious plan. Congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel tells us about the new face of Capitol Hill this morning.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Tonight is a great victory for the American people.
PELOSI: Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now that Democrats have won the House, what will they do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to move this country in a new direction.
KOPPEL: In a recent interview with CNN, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi now poised to become the next House speaker, promised to use that clout to push an ambitious agenda in her first 100 hours in power. It includes enacting all 9/11 Commission recommendations on national security, increasing the minimum wage to 7.25 an hour, eliminating corporate subsidies for oil companies and allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, as well as cutting interest rates on college loans and imposing new lobbying restrictions. As for Iraq, Democrats say they'll make 2007 a year of transition.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where we redeploy our troops, putting many if not most of them out of harm's way, both in and outside Iraq.
KOPPEL: On the campaign trail, Republicans warned Democrats would increase taxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Democrats take over Congress, they will raise taxes by $2.4 trillion.
KOPPEL: Pelosi's response yes, but only for the wealthiest Americans.
PELOSI: We will revisit the tax cut at the high end, but in order to give tax cuts to the middle class.
KOPPEL: Complicating matters, a new batch of moderate and conservative Democrats just elected who will force their party to shift towards the center.
THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The trick for Pelosi and the other leaders is going to be define issues that unify the various wings of the party.
S. O'BRIEN: Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi will join Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
President Bush is set to have a news conference this afternoon as well and also first thing this morning he's expected to call Nancy Pelosi, as we mentioned, the new anticipated speaker of the House, to give her congratulations.
CNN's Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning. Good morning to you, Elaine. ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad.
Well as you might expect, the White House is trying to strike a conciliatory tone. As you noted, the president is set to make two calls later this morning according to Press Secretary Tony Snow. One will be to the outgoing speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, to offer condolences. The second will be to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to congratulate her.
She, of course, set to become the next speaker of the House. Now, this is a president who does not like to play quote, unquote, "small ball". So the White House is already trying to focus on what is ahead. Perhaps, some common ground when it comes to energy independence, as well as comprehensive immigration reform, something that President Bush was not able to get when Republicans were in control of the House.
At the same time, White House officials say that they are looking to perhaps some conservative members of the House, people who may be closer to the president's thinking than Representative Pelosi. Nevertheless, aides are conceding that it will in fact be harder to move bills and of course issues like Iraq continue to dominate.
We're going to hear the president himself talk about all of these issues. That news conference set to take place this afternoon, but Soledad, the big questions looming of course what will happen with Iraq and how will President Bush approach the next two years. What on his agenda will he be able to accomplish in his remaining time in office -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Elaine Quijano at the White House for us this morning and again thank you for that reminder about the president's remarks at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
You also want to tune in tonight for our post-election special beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Wolf and Lou and Paula break down the results and what they mean to all of us. Then Bill Marsh (ph) takes -- shares, rather, his take on results with Larry King at 9:00 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. a special post-election edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360". It all begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Hope they're resting up now. Coming up, the Democrats control the House now. What will they do now that they have power? Their biggest priority is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This election was not about me. This election was about you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was about you and thousands others like you across this state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: That's Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Just a few hours ago she unseated the one-term incumbent Jim Talent. You know going into Election Day, the polls told us this was the closest Senate race of them all, but in the end, McCaskill won by about 30,000 votes.
Let's take a look at the balance of power here for just a moment. Move in a little bit on the Senate. Take a look at those numbers. Republican 49, Democrat 49. As you can see, this is how things broke. The two white buttons here, Virginia and Montana, the two races we've been telling you about that are still outstanding. OK, we've been -- we've just checked in with reporters in both locations.
George Allen versus Jim Webb, very likely this won't be decided for quite some time to come. The chances of a recount very high there, not automatic, but certainly in the works right now highly likely.
And then in Montana of course Conrad Burns versus John Tester and what's happening there in Yellowstone County, one of the more populous counties, the most populous county in Montana, they're having to go through and recount ballots because of some problems with the voting machines there.
It takes quite some time for that, but once again, if those two go into the Democratic column, if we do that, we'll just do a hypothetical here. We'll give that to Webb and we give Montana to Tester, then you see we've got a 51-49 Senate. Remember, if it remains a tie, if these should split, and this one goes to Burns, let's say, then it's 50-50.
A 50-50 Senate is really a Republican controlled Senate because the vice president is the tiebreaker. Let's go quickly and check out what's going on in the House of Representatives right now as we move out and over to the other side of the Capitol. Current numbers we have, 227 Democrats, 191 Republicans. Seven races out there right now that seem to be favoring toward the Democrats.
That number should shift a little further on the blue side, but we're watching that and this is constantly updating as those results come in. About a quarter past the hour now, if you're heading out the door, Chad Myers is up early with us this morning. Good morning, Chad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Chad, thank you for watching that for us.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You're welcome.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's get back to some political news this morning. New line-up in Congress to talk about, so just who are the players? What will be the priorities?
Amy Walter is a CNN political analyst. She's also the senior editor of the "Cook Political Report". She's with us. Nice to see you -- you've been working hard all day.
S. O'BRIEN: Nice to have you...
S. O'BRIEN: ... and all night and then on morning again.
S. O'BRIEN: We appreciate that. Democrats control the House. The Senate is still up for grabs as Miles was just kind of doing the math for us. Nancy Pelosi most likely the new speaker. Obviously, because the Senate is still up for grabs, lots of big questions, but give me some alternatives on how the power shifts now.
AMY WALTER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well you're exactly right. It looks more than likely that Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker and there may be some leadership fights among Democrats, but the bottom line is we still have to find out just how much of a majority she has to work with. Now the one thing that's -- if you're in the majority, the nice thing about the House is you don't need to have that many seats in order to control everything, even if it's just a one-seat majority, you control everything from what bills come up, when, to how often you get to leave Congress for recess.
What's going to matter here is just how she's able to keep her Democrats in line. She kept them in line very well during this last year in Congress. They've been very cohesive this election cycle. They've been very much on message. It's a little bit like the dog chasing the car, though, now. They've caught it. Now, what are you going to do?
And the expectations there certainly among Democrats, as well as voters and Americans (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who voted for change...
S. O'BRIEN: Show me the money now.
WALTER: Exactly. Now you've got to give it to us.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I was interesting when she did sort of the victory lap to some degree. This is what she said. Let's play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: We cannot continue down this catastrophic path. And so we say to the president, Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: This coming just days after the vice president, Dick Cheney, said full speed ahead on Iraq. What kind of realistic pressure can she and the House really bring on any actual changes in what happens in Iraq?
WALTER: Well you're absolutely right.
S. O'BRIEN: They campaigned on it...
WATLER: Exactly. They campaigned on it, but at the same time, there still is a commander-in-chief who's making those decisions. That's not the House's job to do that. The one thing the House does control is the purse strings and I don't think we're going to see the House cutting off funding or anything like that. So the real question is what kind of pressure can they put on to bear, on to the president.
What you are going to see and this is where I think Pelosi is going to have her work cut out for her, is the expectation among a lot of Democrats to see many of the architects of the war in Iraq brought up before Congress...
S. O'BRIEN: Investigation...
S. O'BRIEN: There was a sense that many Republicans were dragging their feet on investigations. You see a big change in that...
WALTER: I think we're going to see and you know there were Democrats (UNINTELLIGIBLE) oversight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. That's the word. We don't like...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly.
WALTER: But yes, that's what they want to be able to do, is to say to the American people out there, OK look, the first place we've got to start is where are we. Where do we even begin in looking at Iraq? We have to get the right answers first before we make the next step. At the same time...
S. O'BRIEN: Be interesting to see how that theory though plays out in '08. You know after two years, you haven't kind of made -- brought to fulfillment your promises...
WALTER: Well, see that's...
S. O'BRIEN: ... from '06.
WALTER: That's the real question here. There are a whole lot of Democrats sitting around Washington right now who are certainly happy about taking control of Congress, but a lot of them really want to win the White House. Absolutely and if Democrats look like they did not get enough done in two years or they've just dragged their feet or they became...
S. O'BRIEN: ... White House.
WALTER: There you go.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes. Interesting. All right, Amy Walter, nice to see you.
S. O'BRIEN: You look great for being up literally for 48 hours.
WALTER: Thank you. I appreciate that.
S. O'BRIEN: Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Very impressive. From abortion to same-sex marriage, how did biggest ballot initiatives fair? We'll take a look ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.
S. O'BRIEN: In addition to the changes in Washington, Democrats took six State Houses from Republicans as well. That gives Democrats the majority of the nation's 50 governors. For the first time in 12 years there are new Democratic governors in the states of Arkansas and Colorado, Maryland, New York, Ohio and in Massachusetts.
Deval Patrick is the governor-elect of Massachusetts now. He's only the second African American elected governor since the reconstruction. Virginia's Doug Wilder, of course, was the first. Democrats held on to 15 State Houses and Republicans retained 10 -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: There weren't just people on the ballots. There were a lot of ideas. Voters in several states weighing in on same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage, stem cell research and legalizing marijuana, just to name some of the issues.
AMERICAN MORNING's Ali Velshi was watching those results. Ally, I hope you got some sleep too. You...
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got a little bit, but these were really interesting. I'm going to be with you through the morning talking about some of them. I want to start with minimum wage. The federal minimum wage, as you know, $5.15 an hour. That's $900 a month.
M. O'BRIEN: Hasn't been changed in... VELSHI: 1997 was the last time it was changed. Now, a number of states voted last night, bringing the number of states to 23 now that have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum. I just want to go through some of those with you.
Colorado has raised it to $6.85 an hour, but has tied it to inflation. Ohio, same thing, 6.85 and tied to inflation. Montana has not gone as far, $6.15, but if the federal minimum wage goes up, which the Democrats have said they will do within the first 100 hours, they'll work on doing that. That minimum wage will go up as well.
Missouri, $6.50 an hour, tied to inflation. Arizona, $6.75, tied to inflation -- not tied to inflation. And Nevada, $6.15 an hour, if the employer doesn't pay health benefits. This doesn't sound like a lot of money, but the fact is 5.15 very hard to live on that.
M. O'BRIEN: Well you have to wonder along the borders of these states, there will be a lot of incentive for people to seek jobs just to...
M. O'BRIEN: ... and that will put pressure on those other states to do something...
VELSHI: Now more than 50 percent of the states have minimum wages at a state level that are higher than the federal minimum, so you're seeing -- you're definitely seeing a trend up.
M. O'BRIEN: So really the states are pushing...
VELSHI: That's correct.
M. O'BRIEN: So what are we going to talk next...
VELSHI: We're going to talk about same-sex marriage bans, succeeding pretty much everywhere, almost everywhere that they were on the ballot.
M. O'BRIEN: OK, we'll see you in just a little bit.
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Ali.
Coming up, all eyes on Virginia this morning, the fight for the Senate depends on a probable recount and of course here it comes, a possible legal fight there. Plus, the winners and losers in the biggest races from the Senate battle in Ohio to the fight for Mark Foley's seat in the House. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) M. O'BRIEN: A new day dawning on Capitol Hill. Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives.
S. O'BRIEN: While the Senate is undecided still at this hour. Results are coming in from two states. Could Virginia in '06 be a replay of Florida 2000? We'll live across the country with complete election coverage on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Welcome back everybody. It's the day after, Wednesday, November 8. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: Don't worry, they don't have chads in Virginia at least. I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us. Welcome to our viewers all around the world. We're simulcasting on CNN International this morning.
S. O'BRIEN: An election exciting for some, depressing for others. Now it's going into extra innings this morning. As we said, the Senate still undecided. And hanging on the results from two races still coming in. While the Democrats celebrate a convincing win in House, voters turning out to tell Washington that they are not happy with the status quo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people have sent a resounding and unmistakable message of change and new direction for America.
S. O'BRIEN (voice-over): An historic night for the Democrats, the party winning far more than the 15 seats necessary to take control of the House of Representatives and for Nancy Pelosi to become the new House speaker.
PELOSI: The campaign is over.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: An historic night for the Democrats, the party winning far more than the 15 seats necessary to take control of the House of Representatives and for Nancy Pelosi to become the new House Speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: The campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP) We are prepared to govern. And we will do so working together with the administration and the Republicans in Congress in partnership, not in partisanship.
S. O'BRIEN: Pelosi now set to become the first female Speaker of the House. The Senate is another story. There, Democrats needed six seats for majority. Early on, red turned to blue in Rhode Island, Ohio and in Pennsylvania, where incumbent Rick Santorum, one of the most powerful Senate Republicans, was swept out of office by Democrat Bob Casey Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: I congratulate him. And I mean that wholeheartedly. I congratulate him. He ran an excellent campaign. And I know he will be -- he is a fine man. And he'll do a fine job for Pennsylvania.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: With the Senate still very much in place, Tennessee became a must win for Republicans. And Bob Corker didn't disappoint. He defeated Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAROLD FORD JR, DEFEATED SENATE CANDIDATE: We went through a hard campaign, a tough campaign. A lot of things were said. But it's now time for all of us to figure out how we can come back together and heal and make this thing called our country work again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Then, early this morning, Missouri fell to the Democrats with challenger Claire McCaskill outlasting incumbent Senator Jim Talent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MISSOURI SENATE WINNER: Tonight, we have heard the voices of Missourians. And they have said we want change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: In Virginia, voters heard this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM WEBB, VIRGINIA SENATE WINNER: The votes are in and we won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: Democrat Jim Webb declaring victory in the Virginia race over incumbent Senator George Allen before the race was officially declared. And a recount there appears likely.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEBB: My friends, stay strong for freedom and representative democracy, accuracy in elections will prevail. Thank you and have a good night. We'll see you tomorrow, counting the votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
S. O'BRIEN: And that leaves Montana where the Republican incumbent Conrad Burns is in a very tight race against his Democratic challenger John Tester. The race, too close to call, but one that could give Democrats a clean sweep in the midterm elections.
They've got Virginia and Montana too close to call this morning. In Virginia, recounts looming. And the Democratic challenger Jim Webb is in a slight lead over Senator George Allen.
Let's get right to Ed Henry. He's in Richmond, Virginia, this morning.
Good morning to you, Ed. Break it down for us. How exactly could this recount happen?
ED HENRY, CCN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Soledad. You heard Jim Webb there basically trying to say that's it, it over. But it's really not. It could take about a month, essentially. Because there is precedent here. Just last year, the state attorney general's race, there was a recount. It took about four week.
And if we walk through it, today, what will happen is the provisional ballots -- we don't know how many were actually filed -- but those ballots will be evaluated. Then, we have to wait until November 27, that's when the state has decided that the State Board of Elections will meet to determine and certify all results in this election, after they do a lot of canvassing.
Then, if the race is decided by less than one percent of the vote, at that time, the loser has 10 days to file for a recount. Within seven days of that call, of that recount petition, then a state judge has to set a preliminary hearing to actually lay out the rule for this recount.
Once the recount is complete, that's it. The court issues a final non-appealable decision and it's over -- Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: So it could take quite a while is what you're saying?
Ed Henry for us this morning.
Thank you, Ed.
Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead. I didn't mean to cut you off there.
HENRY: No, you're right. I mean, basically, if it's not going to be certified until November 27, then it takes 10 days for someone to say whether or not they want a recount, then seven days to set the rules. If you start going through the calendar, we're pretty close to the holidays. So you're right, this is going to go on for a bit.
S. O'BRIEN: A long road. All right, Ed Henry.
Thanks, Ed -- Miles?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Connecticut, Joe Lieberman is headed back for another term in the Senate, but this time as an Independent. His staunch support for the war in Iraq cost him the Democratic nomination. So Lieberman bolted a political gamble that paid off.
"AMERICAN MORNING'S" Dan Lothian with more.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The victory caps a dramatic come back for Senator Joe Lieberman, who had suffered a stunning defeat in the Democratic primary against his antiwar opponent Ned Lamont.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN, (I) CONNECTICUT: ... tonight, have given me, once again, the honor of being their senator. And in doing so, chose progress over partisanship. Problem solving over polarization and the main stream over the extremes.
NED LAMONT: SENATE CAMPAIGN LOSER: ... but a heck of a journey. I'm so much more optimistic about our country and our direction and our future, having had this extraordinary conversation with the people of Connecticut over the last 10 months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Senator Lieberman says what the victory shows is that the voter's embraced progress over partisanship. He heads back to the Senate now for a fourth term, this time as an Independent.
Dan Lothian, CNN, Hartford.
M. O'BRIEN: In the Midwest, the Democrats take charge in at least two battle grounds. In Ohio, an upset, Democrat Sherrod Brown takes a Senate seat from two-term Republican Mike DeWine. It was a tough race.
Our John King has been calling Ohio the cesspool of American politics -- a perfect assignment for Bob Franken, who we find, this morning, in Columbus, Ohio.
Good morning, Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I wondered how I was chosen for that.
M. O'BRIEN: Now you know.
FRANKEN: You know, it's interesting, Miles, that even from the cesspool, we can see how accurate the polls were just about everywhere, including here. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
FRANKEN (voice-over): How many times did Ohio Republican Senator Mike DeWine supporters say it's not over until it's over. Well it's over.
MIKE DEWINE, DEFEAT REPUBLICAN SENATOR: You know, in this race, we fought hard. We did everything we could do, but it just was not to be. This was not the year. We could not win.
FRANKEN: This was definitely not the year for Republicans. And Ohio was, once again, delivering on the state's reputation as the nation's political bell way.
REP. SHERROD BROWN, (D) SENATOR ELECT: Today, in Ohio, in the middle of America, the middle class won.
FRANKEN: One of the toughest Senate fights of all, came in Missouri, where Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican incumbent Jim Talent fought tooth and nail before McCaskill finally nailed it in the wee hours of the morning. And Talent threw in the towel.
JIM TALENT, DEFEATED SENATE CANDIDATE: All of our efforts fell a little bit short this time. But they were worth the making, weren't they? And I...
CLAIRE MCCASKILL, MISSOURI SENATOR ELECT: It has been a long time since our party really had something to celebrate.
FRANKEN: But on occasion, the Democratic surge crashed into overwhelming GOP resistance. That's exactly what happened in the heavily Republican suburban Chicago congressional district, where Iraq war amputee Tammy Duckworth finally had to concede.
TAMMY DUCKWORTH, ILLINOIS SENATE CANDIDATE: It's OK. We put up a tough fight, folks. You guys did a great job.
FRANKEN: Back in Ohio, another closely watched House rank was high-ranking Republican Deborah Pryce's battle to keep her House seat. The bitter fight was still being bitterly fought hours after the polls closed. It is still too close to call.
DEBORAH PRYCE, (R) OHIO: This is going to be a victory in the R column. And I'm going to enjoy celebrating with all of you at a later date.
FRANKEN: Well, if she does celebrate, she's going to be, certainly, a small group of Republicans who will have any cause to -- Miles?
M. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken in Columbus.
Thank you. In the Southeast, Republicans celebrate one bright spot in the Tennessee Senate rate while suffering a bit of fall out from the Mark Foley congressional page scandal.
CNN's John Zarrella wraps that up.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): So just what impact did the Mark Foley scandal have? His district, Republican for nearly a quarter of a century, is now in the hands of a Democrat.
Tim Mahoney, a businessman, who had never ran for public office before, was given no chance to win before Foley's fall from grace. Now, he's going to Washington.
In a tight race, Mahoney beat Joe Negron, who had been hand picked by the Republican Party to replace Foley, insisting all along that Foley wasn't the issue.
TIM MAHONEY, TENNESSEE SENATE ELECT: I think it was really clear that the people of the sixteenth congressional district got over the Foley thing. People were going to the polls. They had a clear choice.
ZARRELLA: In Virginia, republic George Allen and Democrat Jim Webb are locked in the tightest race of any in the country, a race still too close to call, and one that may not be decided for days.
And in Tennessee, another hard-fought race in the south. Bob Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, held on to retiring Bill Frist's Senate seat for the Republicans.
His opponent, 36-year-old Congressman Harold Ford, a tireless campaigner, kept it close, but could never overtake Corker.
HAROLD FORD, DEFEATED TENNESSEE SENATE CANDIDATE: It was a strong headwind working against us. But in the end, the choice belonged to the good people of Tennessee.
ZARRELLA: All three, critical races for both parties. So far, at least two new faces going to Washington and, perhaps, redefine the shape and direction of Congress.
John Zarrella, CNN, Jupiter, Florida.
S. O'BRIEN: Much more election coverage for you coming up in just a moment. We're going to take a look at how Iraq's reacting to the outcome as well.
Stay with us. We'll be back in just a moment.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) S. O'BRIEN: Every poll, prior to the election, showed that Iraq was at the top of the concerns for voters. The question now, of course, is just how U.S. policy going to change to match voter expectations. And how's all that going to affect troops on the ground in Iraq.
CNN's Aneesh Raman is live for us in Baghdad this morning.
Good morning, Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
They don't know who Nancy Pelosi is. They don't know what really the Democrats want to change in Iraq. But Iraqis we spoke to this morning say simply they know that change is in the air in Washington. And they hope that that means change will soon come to Baghdad.
The capital city, the capital province, still mired in sectarian violence. Just one attack, a suicide bomber yesterday, killing 17. And so, for a lot of Iraqis that we spoke to this morning -- we spoke to a Shia, a Sunni, a man of mixed sort of Sunni heritage -- they all say simply that we do not want U.S. forces to leave immediately. But they've got to go. We don't like the situation as it stands now. It's got to change.
And the Democrats are now absorbing a lot of hope within the Iraqi population. Why? Because they are really the only thing that has changed in the immediate vicinity of the situation we're in now.
Another interesting development to tell you about this morning. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had a press conference for members of the Iraqi parliament, for the Iraqi media, trying to explain these elections.
It was clear form his statements, he was afraid that Iraqis that had seen the elections, which Khalilzad called polarizing and exaggerating differences, that those had seen what the campaigns had been saying might fear that U.S. troops are suddenly going to leave or there was going to be dramatic change in Iraq in the immediate offing.
He appeased those fears. And he said some lines that really were directed more to the Democrats, one would assume, than the Iraqis. He said that parties that had won had to really lead for all their constituents, not just those who back them. And leaders in Washington must have the courage to persevere over difficult challenges.
And his final word to this group, perhaps the most important that he was trying to make, the president is still the chief architect of foreign policy. He is still the commander in chief.
So the U.S. ambassador trying to keep fears at bay of dramatic change. But Iraqis are really eager for dramatic change, at least those we spoke to this morning. They are hoping the Democrats, whatever they mean, will mean that the situation will improve in whatever fashion it can -- Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: A lot of people watching that there where you are, and here where we are as well.
Aneesh Raman in Baghdad for us.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, the advance polling said it was Iraq. But our polls at the polls -- that's when we talked to voters after they weighed in -- put corruption at the top of the list.
To help us understand what this means and what is ahead, we're joined by Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, who has been looking at the exit polling data all night.
Jeff, good to have you with us this morning.
JEFF ZELENY, NEW YORK TIMES: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: corruption at the top of the list. Did that surprise you?
ZELENY: It surprised me a bit. But, look, it's been in the news for months and months and months, beginning with Tom Delay and then Mr. Abramoff, and all the way through, like Congressman Foley, to a degree. So it certainly had been out there.
And, look, it was one of the questions that exit poll questionnaires asked voters. So anytime you ask a voter are you concerned about corruption, the answer's usually yes.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes. It's like do you like apple pie. What are you going to say?
ZELENY: It is, correct.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. So when you look at the numbers -- you really kind of go through this, read the tea leaves -- do you firmly believe it was a referendum on George Bush?
ZELENY: I think that is without a question, on corruption, on Iraq, on the economy specifically. Voters said they weren't necessarily going to the polls to send him a message or to teach him a lesson, if you will. But up and down the ballot, with suburban voters, people who were definitely with in 2004 and 2000, were not with him last night.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about leadership now. In '94, when the Republicans swept into power, Newt Gingrich was just synonymous with that tied that occurred. There isn't a Newt Gingrich character this time around, is there?
ZELENY: At least there's not at this point. Now, you have a bunch of Democrats who are sort of saying this one is mine. I deserve credit for it. There certainly are a lot of Democrats who deserve credit. And among the top of the list is soon to be Speaker, Ms. Pelosi from California. But also, the two people, I think, are Ron Emmanuel, the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Senator Schumer, the head of the Senatorial Committee. Thos two gentlemen did recruiting and did other things, for the last two years, to get the party to where it was last night. So those two are certainly the Newt Gingrichs of the year, if there are some.
M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting though, because they were, in many ways, in opposition to the party chairman, Howard Dean, who had this 50-state strategy. Who gets the credit for that? Was Dean correct in the 50-state strategy? Is that why Tester is doing well in Montana? Or does Ron Emmanuel get the credit for what we're seeing elsewhere?
ZELENY: I think we're going to see some of that play out with sort of dueling press conferences today in Washington. But I talked to Chairman Dean on Friday. And he said that he absolutely deserved some of the credit because there were competitive races in Kansas, in Nebraska, and certainly in Montana. But I think, if you talk to Senator Schumer and Congressman Emmanuel, they will say that they have been planning this for at least a couple of years, and they deserve the credit. So we'll see how that works out in the next 12 hours or so.
M. O'BRIEN: So the Democrats are, for some reason, fighting again. That's an interesting proposition as they accept power here.
Are they going to be able -- this is not a party known for discipline generally, towing the party line, so to speak. Can Nancy Pelosi corral all this?
ZELENY: I think this is one reason they are so happy that they won. And they have a list of plans and a list of agendas that they want to do. So I think, at least in the first hours, the first months even, they can. We'll see how that works going forward as the presidential campaign emerges in 2008 where there are more leaders of the party stepping forward. But I think, in the early days of this, when they are going to be very happy that they won. And I think they'll do just fine.
M. O'BRIEN: Okay, final thought here is sort of secretly, not publicly, do you think a lot of Republicans -- almost in a Machiavellian way -- where hoping this so they have a foil for the next two years leading up to 2008?
ZELENY: I don't think any Republican wanted the kind of punishing defeat they had last night. When you lose power, it is something that is hard to get back, regardless. So I don't think any Republican was pleased by what happened last night.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, Jeff Zeleny, the New York Times, thanks for your time.
ZELENY: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: Ahead, the challenge now for President Bush, now that the Democrats control the House. We'll take a closer look in a moment. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEBB: We'd like to say that the votes are in and we won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
M. O'BRIEN: Or maybe not. That is a very confident Jim Webb declaring victory in Virginia's closely watched Senate race. But it's by no means official. The votes are still being counted in that state.
Webb, the Democrat, holds about an 8,000-vote lead over the Republican incumbent George Allen. The race so tight that it's a sure bet you'll see a recount there -- Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: And for the first time since coming to the White House, President Bush is not going to have the complete cooperation of Congress. The president, of course, well known for staying the course.
Now, as CNN's John King reports, that strategy might not work.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president faces unfamiliar territory -- divided government -- after a midterm election rebuke that gives Democrats significant influence over his final two years.
Control of the Senate remains in doubt. But Democrat Nancy Pelosi will be the House Speaker. Her initial tone quite conciliatory.
NANCY PELOSI (D), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats promise to work together in a partisan way for all Americans.
KING: For six years, Mr. Bush has enjoyed strong support from a Republican Congress. Now though, he must decide whether to compromise with emboldened Democrats, who promised to call for raising the minimum wage, authorizing federal spending on embryonic stem cell research and rewriting the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit.
RICHARD GEPHARDT, (D) FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think, if President Bush wants to end his presidency on a high note, he's got to reach out to Democrats and get those bipartisan compromises.
KING: Immigration could be a starting point. House conservatives blocked, but most Democrats support, the president's proposal to give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants as part of a new guest working program.
GEPHARDT: Probably, on energy policy and immigration policy, you can get some things done quickly.
KING: The first challenge will be moving past some personal campaign attacks. Pelosi, for example, repeatedly mocked the president's description of Iraq as central to the war on terror.
PELOSI: He has a tin ear. He won't accept the facts. And he won't tell the truth to the American people.
KING: and Mr. Bush, in turn, mocked Pelosi's promise that Democrats will not raise taxes.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When they asked her about taxes. Guess -- she said tax cuts. Well, given her record, she must be a secret admirer.
KING: But it was Iraq that set the tone of the campaign and is now likely to drive post-election politics.
A Democratic House will call for a specific plan to bring the troops home and for a new defense secretary. And Mr. Bush will face additional pressure from Republicans who managed to survive the anti- Iraq midterm mood.
REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R) CONNECTICUT: If the president wants to build consensus, he needs to have a new secretary of defense.
KING: Mr. Bush tends to bristle when the term lame duck comes up, even more so when Congress challenges his decisions as commander in chief. But if he hopes to get things done and recover from an election rebuke, even Republican allies suggest, the president need to change his ways.
John King, CNN, New York.
S. O'BRIEN: You'll want to tune in tonight for our post-election special beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. (Inaudible) and Paula will break down the results and what they're going to mean to all of us. And then, Bill Marr is going to share his take on the results with Larry. That's at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Then, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, a special post-election edition of "Anderson Cooper 360." It all begins tonight, right here on CNN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Ahead this morning, we continue to talk about the fight for Virginia. Will it, in the end, be decided by a recount? A closer look straight ahead. Stay with us.
M. O'BRIEN: Just before the top of the hour now. If you're heading out the door, Chad Meyers has some weather words for you.
CHAD MEYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Miles.
MEYERS: The next hour of "AMERICAN MORNING" starts right now.
M. O'BRIEN: America votes. And Democrats dominate this morning. They are poised to take control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
S. O'BRIEN: Control of the Senate, though, is a giant testing mark. Races in Virginia and Montana are just too close to call. Results are still coming in on this "AMERICAN MORNING."
Welcome back, everybody, Wednesday, November 8. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
M. O'BRIEN: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Thanks for being with us.
S. O'BRIEN: Six a.m. Eastern, right here in the U.S. Here's what's new this morning.
The Democrats roll up huge wins in the House. CNN projects at least 28 seats to re-gain control of the House. While the U.S. Senate, as we mentioned, still undecided at this hour. Democrats pick up four of six seats that they need to control there, looking for a win for Claire McCaskill in Missouri within just the last few hours.
There's an all-out fight, though, in two battlegrounds this morning, as we mentioned, Virginia and Montana. And the winners of those races will determine, in fact, who controls the Senate.
President Bush will call Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi this morning. She's expected to become the first female Speaker of the House. We're going to hear from him at a news conference, which is set for 1:00 this afternoon.
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