Return to Transcripts main page


Predicting the Youth Vote in 2008; Christina Aguilera Rocks the Vote; Luke Russert Remembers His Dad

Aired June 25, 2008 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, Christina Aguilera wants you to make a difference. She rocks the vote. Why don't you?
Plus, Tim Russert's only son Luke. His dad taught him a lot about people and power and politics.

Vote, it means more now than ever before, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A pleasure to finally welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Christina Aguilera, the Grammy-winning singer and songwriter who sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. She became a mom for the first time in January. Her baby son, Max, will star with her in a new PSA for Rock the Vote.

That's not ready yet, right? You're working on it.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, MUSICIAN: Yes, still in the editing process. But, yes, it's looking good.

KING: Well, we have some -- I guess we'll be running some little clips from it.

AGUILERA: Still pictures.

KING: I know you have a lot of demands on your time. You're recording.


KING: What's your involvement with Rock the Vote?

AGUILERA: My involvement with Rock the Vote is just trying to bring awareness to everybody out there. In particular, for me, being a new mother, you know, it was really important for me to get involved and get excited about this election in particular, being such one of change and new development for our country and for the future of my son.

You know, being a new mother, I just want the best possibilities for him so I was extra excited about getting involved.

KING: You have Max on camera, you're going to have him on camera, you're going to have him on camera in this...

AGUILERA: Yes, yes. KING: Was there any qualms about that?

AGUILERA: In what way?

KING: Well, displaying him?

AGUILERA: Well, you know, being that I am someone that is in the limelight, I just figured, you know, he is going to be, time and time again, probably, subjected to, you know, the press, in one shape or another and in a way, where I'm really not going to have much control over.

And so what a great way to sort of subject him in such a positive way and in such a great time in history to do something as positive as getting people to vote and getting people to care about their country and get excited about this change.

KING: They came to you, the Rock the Vote people?

AGUILERA: Yes, yes, Rock the Vote came to me. I'd done some work with Declare Yourself at the last election, for the last election. And, that was very successful. And it was a great thing for me to be a part of and to try and, you know, voice my concerns, and...

KING: You're going to sing, I'm told, "America the Beautiful," in this. And that's a kind of belting song.


KING: You're a soft kind of approach singer, aren't you?

AGUILERA: No, actually, I'm actually pretty much known for powerhousing my vocals and for doing a lot of power ballads. So for this in particular I was -- I came at a softer approach, which...

KING: Well, I guess more people...

AGUILERA: That's what it was, yes.

KING: I've got it reversed. More people expect a softer approach to "America the Beautiful."

AGUILERA: Well, yes -- well, you can go either way with it, but for this one, I got to sort of sing it. Since I'm holding my son, I'm not going to, you know, belt in his face or anything like that. But it was really, really nice to bring it down to a really intimate moment between me and my son and kind of symbolizing what this song means in the sense that it's passing it on to the next generation. It's trying to contribute in a way to make the future better for my son.

KING: When did you first vote?

AGUILERA: I first voted -- you know, that's an interesting thing. Because I was registered to vote as soon as I could. And I really didn't exercise that right until -- embarrassingly so, until the last election. Just because -- you know, I sort of grew up -- as I'm sure a lot of people out there probably do the same. A lot of people give up on politics. A lot of people are like, oh, there's so much dishonesty, I just want to wash my hands of the whole thing.

But I sort of grew up in a house where politics weren't discussed. It wasn't really something that was talked about, different issues, concerns. It was sort of a hopeless situation in my home. And as I grew up and became a woman myself, started caring about certain things such as domestic violence, being the background that I came from and whatnot, certain issues were brought up to me that I felt, you know, I can voice my opinion, I can change how the world is.

You know, it takes one person. And then, you know, it goes from there. And so the last election was the one which I had done Declare Yourself, the campaign there with Norman Lear where I really made it a point to get out there and really encourage others to vote and really exercise -- and as a woman, that's embarrassing for me that it took me that long just because, you know, we weren't always give than right and I think it's really taken for granted, especially with the younger generation now, you know? So it's something that I really, really am adamant about getting out there.

KING: Why do you think a lot of young people don't vote?

AGUILERA: Maybe it doesn't affect them. They're not seeing the bigger picture. I think when you're young, you have the sense, too that you're sort of invincible and -- or that you're not taken seriously, and that it will matter later on, later on down, down the road maybe.

But, really, you know, time goes quickly. I'm 27 years old, but already, you know, being a mother and -- you know, I mean, things -- things happen. And it's so important to get involved. And I think now more than ever actually I think young people are really getting involved. I think with the Internet boom over the years and everything being so accessible at the press of a button at your fingertips, I think, you know, anything is available to you as far as information and whatnot. So I think it's -- now more than ever it's a great time to get involved.

KING: Maybe especially this campaign.

AGUILERA: It's an exciting one. It's an exciting one. I mean, wow, what ground-breaking -- what a ground-breaking time in history. I mean, we had a woman running for president, which was pretty much unheard of. An African-American running for president.

So it's just exciting, the change that has come to our country and just to get involved and -- and I think, also, that's another reason why young people might be more motivated now to vote, just because they can see, you know, what might have been even unheard of or unthinkable even last election, it's right here and right now and very present and this is the moment. This is the moment. KING: Christina Aguilera for Rock the Vote. She's back in a moment. Along with a woman who rocked her into the vote campaign. Don't go away.



KING: What's your favorite Christina Aguilera song? Go to and cast your quick vote now. Joining Christina is Heather Smith, the executive director of Rock the Vote. It's hard to believe that Rock the Vote is two decades old. How did this start?

HEATHER SMITH, EXEC. DIR., ROCK THE VOTE: Yes, sir. Rock the Vote was founded nearly 18 years ago. And founded by artists and musician, members of the recording industry who really thought, you know, young people need to have their voice heard and they started an organization to do that.

KING: And you got her involved?

SMITH: You bet.

KING: Did you twist arms?


SMITH: Oh, it wasn't that hard.


KING: Were you happy to join it?

AGUILERA: Of course I was, yes, I'm always happy to be a part of a great cause. Actually, the concept was presented to me during a spin-off of Madonna's original PSA for Rock the Vote, being wrapped in the American flag. And that's how the idea came about, but instead of wrapping myself, I would wrap my son, sort of pass it on to the next generation.

KING: You know, like, Christina's upcoming TV spot, the first Rock the Vote PSA, featured an American flag and another music superstar. The year was 1990. The star was Madonna. Watch.


MADONNA, MUSICIAN (singing): Freedom of speech, power of the people is in our reach. Don't just sit there. Let's get to it. Speak your mind. There's nothing to it. Vote.

And if you don't vote, you're going to get a spanking. Cut.


KING: Was that successful? SMITH: It was. That was the launch of Rock the Vote in 1992. And we registered hundreds of thousands of young people to vote and had a huge increase in young voter turnout that year. And you know, 18 years later there is, there's a new generation of young people. And they're voting in record numbers. And Christina agreed to do this spot with us that really reflected this new generation.

KING: Are there other things you do or just the spot?

AGUILERA: Well, I'm always involved or always willing to talk more and present myself where necessary. But we'll start with the spot. The spot...

KING: But you're really involved in this?

AGUILERA: Yes, absolutely.

KING: On Election Day, are you going to be able to track this? You know, they have all -- they can tell you how many young people are voting by 4:00 in the afternoon, you'll know.

SMITH: Well, we already know, right? It's going to be a record year.

KING: You do think so?

SMITH: I do. In every single primary and caucus this election cycle, turnout has either doubled, tripled, or quadrupled compared to four years ago. And voting is a habit, that's why we've got them involved at a young age. They'll keep voting and I think in November you're going to see the largest increase of young voters at the polls in our nation's history.

KING: Did you agree with Christina as to why they're going to come out?

SMITH: I did, yes. I think that their future is at stake and they know that. And, you know, alone we're one...

AGUILERA: It's exciting, you know? And also, you know, I think, you know, of course, Obama, being so huge and everything, he just represents so much -- just ground-breaking, history-making, just what an incredible moment, you know...


KING: You're not endorsing him, right?

AGUILERA: I'm not here to talk about who I'm endorsing today...


KING: Because as a war hero, John McCain is going to attract a lot of young people, too, young military people.

AGUILERA: You know, I've met, yes, a lot of young people that are for McCain. It's just exciting, all the way around, altogether.

SMITH: In fact, both candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama, were the recipients of Rock the Vote's awards in 2005 for doing great young voter outreach. And so it's kind of funny now that the two of them are the two presidential candidates for both parties. We expect them both to reach out to young people because they know to win...

KING: Do you have a specific goal in mind?

SMITH: We do. We've set a goal to register 2 million new young voters this cycle, which will be the largest youth voter registration campaign in history by about three-and-a-half times.

KING: And then hope they vote.

SMITH: We'll make sure they do.

KING: Register is one thing.

SMITH: That's right.

KING: Are you going to have drives to the polls? Are you going to...

SMITH: Absolutely. So we'll be running spots like the registration ones. Encouraging people to go out to the polls. We'll be hosting forums to make sure people can learn about the candidates.

KING: How are you financed?

SMITH: It's a public charity so individual contributions, some corporate sponsorship and foundation money.

KING: Anybody can contribute?

SMITH: Anybody, and we hope they do,

KING: A couple of quick questions, Christina. You're recording now. When do you go out on tour again?

AGUILERA: As soon as the record is done and after the promotion cycle of the next record, really exciting, really excited about it. So probably some time in the following year or so, end of the following year maybe.

KING: Have you written a lot of songs in the new CD?

AGUILERA: Absolutely, always, always has a personal touch, always try to come with as honest material as possible.

KING: Are you more comfortable singing your own songs?

AGUILERA: Absolutely.

KING: You are? AGUILERA: Yes, well, the whole for what I do really comes from the heart and I'm extremely involved. I'm sort of a control freak. So I'm extremely hands on...

KING: Oh, another one.

AGUILERA: ... to a fault to some point. Yes. Because I'm just so detail-oriented, I can drive myself and those around me a little insane.

KING: Well, with the voice you have, and the way you look, have you ever thought of doing theater, like touring with a show, where you sing songs that have a story, Broadway?

AGUILERA: Well, you know, I'm really interested in doing film more so. But I've been really choosy about what role that is. So I've really taken my time with it. You know, instead of jumping right in, years ago, as I could have, I've really wanted to make sure that it was something well thought out.

KING: Well, Christina, I wish you nothing but the best.

AGUILERA: Thank you.

KING: You're a tremendous artist.

AGUILERA: Thank you.

KING: And you deserve all the success. Hopefully little Max grows up great.


KING: Hope this is the first of many visits.


KING: And, Heather, I hope everything goes cool with the election. Turn them all out. The more young people, the better.

AGUILERA: Absolutely.

SMITH: Thank you.

KING: Remember, that's Rock the Vote. I don't have to tell you -- you don't have to go any place -- is there a Web site?

SMITH: Yes, register to vote right on our Web site,


SMITH: You got it.

KING: Before they leave us, let's check in with my man, Luke Russert, Tim Russert's son, the recent graduate of Boston College. He is joining us in Washington. He is an independent when it comes to politics. He is a first-time guest on this program.

We know you because your dad talked about you so much. How are you doing, Luke?

LUKE RUSSERT, TIM RUSSERT'S SON: Doing well, doing well. Hanging in there. Obviously, it's a day-by-day process. But my mother and I are just so thankful for the nation's support. It really has been truly special and truly remarkable and it has really helped us get through these darkest of days.

KING: Are you surprised at it?

RUSSERT: Oh, yes, absolutely. When we were at the wake for my father last week, thousands of people came through, my former high school, St. Alban's, and they were just not the Washington media players. It was people from all walks of life. We had every race. We had every religion. We had every creed. We had every orientation.

And we had one woman who drove from South Dakota. We had a family who had just emigrated from Congo six months ago that said "MEET THE PRESS" is what taught them English. And the just outpouring of support from all of those people really helped to heal my mother and I's hearts and made it just a little bit easier to go to bed at night.

KING: When we come back, we'll talk to Luke some more about politics and his father's influence on him. As we go to break, here's Luke's dad on this show.


KING: How do you measure yourself as a father?

TIM RUSSERT, NBC WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: it's a hard challenge. You know, when I wrote "Big Russ," I reread it. And I realized I had written as much for my son as for myself. And I wanted to take those same values and those same lessons of preparation and discipline and accountability and instill them into my son.



KING: Luke Russert joins us. He's in Washington. We're in Los Angeles. He's going to be with us the rest of the way. Joining our panelists later. But we're going to spend this portion of the program just with Luke.

Were you brought up talking politics?

RUSSERT: I'm sorry to interrupt. I cannot -- I don't think my career will ever be as good as now after having Christina Aguilera open for me. That's just tremendous.


KING: Opening act.

RUSSERT: Opening act, Christina Aguilera, that's not a bad person to follow.

KING: Were you brought up talking politics, Luke?

RUSSERT: I was. It was always something that was always talked around the dinner table with my father and my mother from a very young age. One of my earliest memories is being a young toddler and remembering Ronald Reagan's face on television. My dad was watching a press conference, most likely at that time on CNN.

And it was just something that I always grew up around. And we also talked a lot of sports. We talked a lot of culture. And -- but politics was something that I guess has been engrained in me at a very, very young age.

KING: Did he pick the brains of you and your friends?

RUSSERT: He did. We would actually have some fun discussions where I would assume the role of who his guest would be on Sunday and try to answer the questions that he threw at me. And sometimes if I could answer a question pretty well, he'd say, that question's too easy, I've got to get rid of it.

So sometimes I was a guinea pig for politicians. But it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing it. And he would also pick the brains of some of my friends. Some did pretty well and some didn't. But he was always kind to all of us.

KING: When -- we're going to talk about voting a lot tonight. When did you first vote?

RUSSERT: Well, I first voted when I was 18, which would have been 2004. And I registered at the same time I registered for the Selective Service, which I think they do here in the District of Columbia. So I've been a registered voter since 2004 and that's the first time I cast an official ballot.

KING: How did it feel vote?

RUSSERT: It felt great. It kind of felt like you became a man or at least an adult in some capacity. That your decision -- your decision became part of the country. And its leadership. And I'll never forget the way I voted was I was in college my freshman year, 2004, so I had to go by absentee ballot. And I was going to meet my father in South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame/Boston College game.

And I said, dad, I'd rather you bring the ballot personally so it doesn't have to go through the mail, send it up to me in Boston. So he brought the ballot and I filled out my absentee ballot in a South Bend, Indiana, hotel room and he brought it back and put it right in the FedEx for me.

KING: Wow. Great story. About 6.5 million voters under 30 took part in the 2008 primaries and caucuses. That's a record. RUSSERT: It is.

KING: The youth vote has risen in three straight election cycles. Why do you think it has gone up?

RUSSERT: I think there are a few reasons. Primarily, I think the availability of the Internet has allowed kids to be very engaged in the political process and also be very educated. I myself am a religious reader of political Web sites, as are a lot of my friends, even kids who went into business who are only interested -- or just interested in art or other aspects of -- in college life, they would read up on politics, more so this election than in the past.

But I think if you look at 1996, that's when the Internet started coming into everyone's home, or everyone's school, and everyone's office, and that's when you could get the direct access, not just through the newspaper that you kind of had to go find, but 24/7, at your fingertips, what you wanted. And I think that has been a great contributor to why young people are coming out and why they're more informed.

KING: And why do you think there are so many that don't?

RUSSERT: Well, I think it's a hard question to answer directly. I think, one, you're going to have kids who are just apathetic, who really don't care, who would rather go to a party or think about a sports game rather than actually voting.

I think there are a lot of kids who are just disenfranchised with the process. They really don't care. They don't like how -- they think politicians are all the same. They think that politicians are all -- should I say, slimy, that they're all going -- they're going to lie to you straight up.

And one thing that always strikes me is, if you talk politics to a lot of kids, some kids don't want to go near it. And you can almost say that the motto for kids in politics is "whatever." What you hear a lot amongst college kids is "whatever, man, whatever, I don't care, it's not that big a deal to me."

But I think that's changing. And obviously the data from the election cycle proves it. And let's hope that it keeps getting bigger, because it's so, so important for young people to have a stake in this election right now and just in their democracy.

KING: We have an e-mail question for you from David in Cary, North Carolina.


KING: "Luke, my condolences," it said. "You've shown great strength and character in recent days. Any chance we'll see you reporting or doing commentary about the 2008 election?"

RUSSERT: Oh yes, you just might. It's something that I'm...

KING: Where?

RUSSERT: ... definitely interested in. Well, I think that I will probably be part of peacock network. But you never know. I still have the sports show on XM Radio and Carville and I kind of go into politics. But I wouldn't mind...


KING: What if CNN made a bid for you?


RUSSERT: I'd be your assistant, Larry?

KING: You got it. You could come to work for us. I don't want to speak for -- I thing I can speak for management. In fact, they'll probably talk to you tomorrow based on just how well you're handling yourself tonight.

RUSSERT: Well, I appreciate it. Everyone has been so kind. I'm just -- I'd love to have the opportunity to come out here and talk about something that is important to me. And it was important to my father, which was young people getting involved. That really is the important issue tonight. Not me. That's important.

KING: One other thing before we bring the panel in and get into other discussions, on a personal note, how did you learn of dad's passing?

RUSSERT: Well, I was in Florence and I was at an Italian sports bar watching the Italy versus Romania game, and I got a call from my dad's secretary that said he had fainted, and could I get in touch with my mother.

Luckily, I was right across the street from the hotel where my mom was. I ran up to her room and said, dad has fainted. And we kind of learned in increments of what exactly happened.

So it was basically about a half hour after first hearing that he fainted that we actually knew he collapsed and had a heart attack. And at first I was upset that I was so far away and removed. And I really wanted to be there.

But in reality, it was really a blessing to be an ocean away because it allowed my mother and I to have some real private time to collect our thoughts, to grieve in private, and not be inundated with all the media coverage and all the phone calls.

So, you know, it was something that -- it was difficult, but to have that little cocoon I think my mother and I really used it to our benefit.

KING: Must have been a long flight back.

RUSSERT: It was. It was a long nine-hour flight. But mother and I -- my mother has been so strong through this. And my family has been there for me every step of the way. My girlfriend has been wonderful. So I can't thank everybody enough. And obviously this happened, but it has made it a lot easier to have such good friends at NBC and all through Washington and my family personally.

KING: It goes without saying, you're a very special young man.

RUSSERT: Well, you're very kind.

KING: Before we go to break, here's Tom Brokaw speaking about Luke's dad at the memorial last week.

RUSSERT: My man Uncle Tom.


TOM BROKAW, FMR. NBC ANCHOR: And as Tim would look out on this gathering, he would say, it's wild, wild. My family, my closest friends from near and far, the powerful, the ordinary, and the largest contingent of all in this room, those who think that they should be his successor on "MEET THE PRESS."





SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we all admit that President Reagan was not perfect, but he was able in both '80 and '84 to mobilize and motivate millions of young Americans to our conservative cause. And I think we ought to take a page from that book.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll invest in you. You invest in America. Together, we will march this country forward.


KING: Youth and voting. The panel is Luke Russert in Washington, the recent graduate of Boston College. David Hardt is in Dallas, president of Young Democrats of America. He'll be a super delegate, by the way, to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. And back in Washington, Amy Holmes, CNN political contributor, served as a speech for Senator Bill Frist and is an independent conservative.

David, are more young people going to vote this year than ever?

DAVID HARDT, YOUNG DEMOCRATS OF AMERICA: Absolutely. It's continuing a trend that's been going on for several election cycles now. Young people are pumped up and excited. They're more engaged in just not politics but civics in general. They're very excited about this particular election. There's so much at stake for our generation. What's exciting for me is they're voting overwhelmingly for Democrats.

KING: Amy, will you agree with that?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it looks like so far in the primaries they are voting overwhelmingly for Democrats. On Super Tuesday, over three million young people, people under the age of 30, voted, two million voted Democratic, 900,000 voted Republican. So McCain has a long way to go. But this is exciting. David's right. We have big issue on the table. For those youth Republican voters, terrorism, economy, are big, big issues. I'm really excited to see this voter participation and engagement.

KING: Luke, is there a way to get more people involved? I know you're in favor of registration on the same day. Is that it?

LUKE RUSSERT, SON OF TIM RUSSERT: Yes, I think that's one of the best things individual states can do to get young people to the polls. If you allow for same day registration, it allows college kids -- we all here were in college. Maybe registering to vote is on the top of your list behind the party or the test you have to cram for. If you can just show up and register, I think a lot more young kids would vote. The table I like to use, if you're in college and there's a ticket party, there's always more kids at the ticket party who buy at the door than having to buy it in advance. I think that could translate into young people voting.

I would hope every state does adopt same day registration because it allows young people to have access to the polls. It doesn't make young people think that far in advance, which is not something they're the greatest at. We can all admit that.

KING: Good idea, David?

HARDT: Absolutely. I like the way you think, Luke.

KING: You agree, Amy, good idea?

HOLMES: I think it has some problems. It has some problems in terms of being able to identify just who those voters are and being able to compare them to the record. I think it actually opens the door to a lot of fraud and abuse of the electoral process. But I think getting young people registered early, for people to be knowing their issues, their candidates, where they stand, what's important to them. I'm all for civic participation.

KING: Luke, why are you an independent?

RUSSERT: Well, I'm an independent because I believe it's important to vote for politicians and not a party. I like to see what a politician's going to do and what he says he's going to do in Washington. Being here in the District of Columbia, we don't vote for a governor or senator or congressional representatives. You pretty much vote for mayors, city council members and the president of the United States. And I just really like to wait on my vote until the last second to see what each politician has done, what they say they're going to do, and what the media scrutiny reveals of each politician.

I think it's very, very important to see how politician holds up to the questions the media asks. One of the things my dad always liked to say is, how are you going to make tough decisions as a commander in chief if you can't answer tough questions from media. That's why I'm an independent. I also think it's kind of ridiculous how people in the United States, if they're a member of the party, they don't even listen to the other side of the issue; oh, the Democrats are voting this way, I agree with that; Republicans vote this way, I agree with that. I might be sounding a little Lou Dobbs, but that's why I'm an independent in that sense.

KING: David, you're the president of Young Democrats. Is Luke wrong?

HARDT: I disagree with him in some respects. I do think that you need to be careful and look at candidates and scrutinize candidates. Not every candidate is perfect. But I think what's important for young people is to join a political party so they can have a voice in that political party. I know that they're joining the Democratic party in large numbers and they're having a voice in the Democratic party and having a voice in the direction that our politicians go and how they vote.

And so in some respects, even though Luke is an independent, because he wants to look at a candidate based on what their opinions are, and how they intend to vote, the same thing happens in party politics as well. We form opinions in -- and part of our party politics are there to help determine the direction of our party and the direction that our elected leaders vote.

KING: Amy --

HOLMES: You know, I have to -- sure, I have to agree with Luke here. I'm actually a registered independent. I'm a conservative. I worked for the Senate majority leader who was a Republican. But one of the things that a lot of young voters really don't like is the partisanship in Washington. You want to be able to make your own judgment about individual politicians; is that person really the most capable leader that we could be electing? I think you see actually in trends -- through the '90s that more young people were registering independent because they wanted that flexibility.

Maybe they want their Congress person to be Republican and they want their senator to be a Democrat and their governor -- you know, they want to be able to have this whole menu of choices. So I wouldn't necessarily be saying that they have to narrow it or constrict it to one party or another.

RUSSERT: Not to mention, about registering in a party, if there's certain aspects of a party you don't agree with completely, I think it's being disingenuous to yourself to label yourself as a Democrat or as a Republican if you don't agree with everything that they, you know, stand for.

KING: Let me get a break. Understand Luke predicts this election will be a lot closer than a lot of people think. We'll find out why next.



KING: Do you remember the first time you voted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't remember what I had for lunch.

KING: Did you continue through the years to vote?

JERRY SEINFELD, COMEDIAN: Oh, sure, every -- oh, absolutely, always vote, yes. Because, you know what, I think your parents kind of instill that in you. They tell you it's important and you do it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a great thing that we have that opportunity in our nation to pick leaders.

KING: Are you a conscientious voter?

STEVEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Yes, I mean, I read the names before I pull the lever.

SNOOP DOGG, RAPPER: I'm not down with the Republican party or the Democratic party. I represent the Gangsta party.


KING: Luke, why do you think it's going to be closer than we think?

RUSSERT: Well, I think it's really early on right now. You see some polls that show Senator Obama leading heavily. I think that will close up eventually. I think what we have to remember here is what my dad always said, this election really does come down to swing states. What I think is going to be really interesting in this election is where do these states out in the southwestern part of the country, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, where do they turn? Democrats barely lost them the last two elections. If Senator Obama can catch those, that gives him a pretty good boost. If he can catch those and catch Virginia, he can afford to lose in Ohio or Florida.

I don't think we can really judge this election on national polls. I think we have to look at individual state polls, look at those battleground polls, because those really do tell the climate of the election right now.

KING: Spoken like the son of a Russert. Do you agree, David?

HARDT: Well, I do believe it's going to be a tough election for both candidates. But if you look at it just from the youth angle, in 2004, if only 18-year-olds to 29-year-olds had voted, John Kerry would have won in a landslide. Senator Obama is doing very well amongst young voters. I think the youth turnout is going to be much greater in this election. So I think he has a much easier road.

KING: Amy, what do you think?

HOLMES: Well, the youth vote is going up, but so is the general vote. Actually, older people are voting at a higher rate than the youth vote. But I think actually Christina Aguilera said something so interesting at the top of the show about how she got more interested and involved in politics when she became a mother. That's another demographic that McCain is going to be going after, that married women, particularly women with children, tend to vote Republican.

There's a lot of ways you can look at demographics. The Catholic vote, for example, is a quarter of the vote and it tends to be a swing vote. Al Gore won it in 2000. George Bush won it in 2004, running against a Catholic in John Kerry.

KING: Thanks, David, and thanks, Amy. Luke remains. Much has been made about John McCain's age. Does it really matter to younger voters? We'll ask Luke and major supporters of McCain and a Bush supporter, next.


KING: Luke Russert remains with us. Her in Los Angeles, Reed Dickens, former White House press secretary for President Bush, supporter of John McCain, and Jamal Simmons, first time he's ever been with us in this studio, Democratic strategist, and president of New Future Communication, a supporter of Obama. Reed, what's the youth vote going to do this year?

REED DICKENS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Probably going to go Democrat. That's a bold prediction. You heard it right here. Since 1992, up until the '90s, it was actually a Republican bloc. Since Clinton played the saxophone, I think they've gone -- I think in '04 overwhelmingly towards the Democrats. And I don't think that's a surprise. I think John McCain's tough guy schtick will play well. Believe it or not, there are some young people that are going to vote Republican. They won't have as much celebrity attention or get as much media attention, but there are a lot of young people who vote Republican.

KING: Jamal, will you get enough of them out?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think you will get enough of them out. Also, the big issue here on what happens with young voters isn't just talking about the celebrities and all the other things that everyone pays attention to. It's also talking about these issues. The war in Iraq is a huge issue. Health care is a big issue for young people. Not being able to got a job. I was one of the youth voters who when Bill Clinton first got elected in 1929, a long time ago, but that was during a recession also.

One of the things that attracted me to Bill Clinton was he had an economic plan and he talked about helping to create jobs at a time when there weren't a lot of jobs for young people. I think we'll see youth voters will show up not just because they like these candidates, but because the issues that they care about are being addressed.

KING: Luke, does John McCain's age resonate against him with young voters?

RUSSERT: I definitely think for some young voters it definitely does resonate against him. But I personally think that John McCain's age shouldn't be that big of an issue in this campaign. He has a lot of college age kids and young kids. As you know, personally, kids keep you young. And I think -- didn't he hike rim to rim of the Grand Canyon last year in 113-degree heat? So I don't think it will be that big of an issue for some kids.

But, obviously, a lot of young people, they don't want to be like their parents, and they want to kind of go against the older generation and they want to have their own voice and their own direction. So I definitely think that there will be young people out there who say a 71-year-old man is just not my style in '08.

KING: Do these vote drives, Reed, work?

DICKENS: You know what, the numbers show that they do. They register a lot of young people. I think it's great for the Democratic process. I think it is healthy. You know, in 2004, George W. Bush brought -- I think we brought about 15 million new Republicans into the process. And so the Democrats are going to balance that out probably this election and I think it's fantastic for democracy to bring young people in.

Keep in mind, the Democratic party, as of late, has become a cult of personality. Obama has a big personality. That's undeniable. There are some young people out there, especially in the Evangelical bloc, who respect the ideals of the Republican party. And eventually, when these guys start paying taxes, they'll be Republicans.

KING: Jamal?

SIMMONS: Here's where I'll disagree on this particular point also; the Democratic party is not so much a cult party. In fact, the Democratic party, if you take a lack at what's happened these last few elections, we've won more governor mansions. We've won more state legislatures. We've won the House and the Senate back, long before Barack Obama started running for president. So to say we're a cult of personality really cheapens what's been happening with Democrats.

I spent some time today over with Declare Yourself, the youth voter movement. In Declare Yourself, they're talking about online activism, viral campaigns, really going out, reaching out to people, not just who are in college, but also young people who aren't in college, because they need a message and some attention also. So I think, you know, you're going to see -- we've had about 6.5 million young people vote -- young people vote in the primaries. And you'll see a lot of those young people and more show up in the general election.

KING: Luke, do you think there's going to be much interest or, if any, any interest in the conventions?

RUSSERT: Oh, yes, I think will be tremendous interest in the conventions. KING: But the outcome's known.

RUSSERT: Yes, but the outcome's known I think since 1968 pretty much, you have gone to the convention knowing what the outcome has been. I think a lot of people are really interested in Barack Obama's convention speech. It happens -- I believe it's about 40 years to the day of Martin Luther King's speech on Washington -- or 45 years, sorry, speech on Washington. So that's definitely going to attract a lot of coverage on all the networks. Young kids will be tuned in to that.

As will the Republican convention. John McCain has been very popular amongst young people. I've had friends who worked for John McCain. They like his war hero status. If there was ever an election that's going to turn out young people, it's this one. You have a war hero. And then you have a man who captivates everyone with his wonderful words. So I think this is really one to watch and young people will tune in, I think, to the conventions, at least they should. If not, they'll read about it on the Internet, you know, Youtube and little video clips.

KING: And they'll probably be a new one by then.


KING: Memo from young people to politicians, don't are boring. We'll talk about that when LARRY KING LIVE returns.



JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": Last night, we had Cindy McCain on. Cindy McCain, nice woman. She talked about her favorite antique, her husband.

DAVID LETTERMAN, "THE LATE SHOW": But don't just sell John McCain short. He's also influencing fashion. He has popularized the something on your chin look. Dad, you got a -- dad, you got a thing if you could --

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Both McCain and Senator Barack Obama are trying to woo voters outside their natural demographic in this election. For Senator Obama, that means trying to work working class non-Muslim white women who love America.


KING: That's funny stuff. Oh, I forgot to ask, Luke, do you think Tom Brokaw is a good choice to replace your dad in the interim?

RUSSERT: Oh, absolutely. I think it's a wonderful choice. My mother and I are very happy with it. Tom has had a very long distinguished brilliant career in broadcasting. And I think because my father's death was so sudden, it's very important that the chair is filled by someone who already has a close relationship with the American people. People know who Tom Brokaw is. He has great name recognition. And he'll do an absolutely tremendous job. And my mother and I are very happy he's there.

KING: Do you have a favorite to replace your dad when Tom leaves after the election?

RUSSERT: No, not at this time. I think we'll see how Tom does and maybe Tom will stave off retirement and leave that Montana ranch in Montana for a few more years and move back to D.C. Who knows. But as of right now, we don't have a favorite. We'll be supportive of whoever NBC wants to put in there.

KING: You wouldn't mind it if he did that, left the ranch for two years?

RUSSERT: It would be great. I love to hang out with Tom. I call him Uncle Tom. He's very close to our family. He's a really, really nice guy. If he was in D.C., he would be a fun guy to go to dinner with. He's a really, really, really funny man.

KING: He is.

RUSSERT: He tells great jokes. Real pleasure to be around.

KING: We just showed that picture of you at your dad's desk. Tough moment?

RUSSERT: It was. I originally went there, if you see in my left hand, I'm holding his cushion. I wanted to hold the cushion so I would always sort of have a piece of him. He liked to sit on that because it boosts him up a little bit. I went over there and his spirit came around me, and I wanted to touch that chair. He sat in that chair for 17 years. And just a wave of emotion came over me. But it was -- it was almost like -- it was a relief to go there up on that set and touch it and almost hug it for the last time.

There's a picture -- there's no picture, but I did hug the chair. And that was kind of one of my final good-byes to my father.

KING: Reed, you remember the first time you voted?

DICKENS: I do. I do. You know what, I think that more and more young people -- I got into the race. My family was not that into politics.

KING: Where do you grow up?

DICKENS: Louisiana, deep in the south. I actually grew up -- Sunday mornings, I would rearrange most of -- for as long as I could remember, I watched "Meet the Press."

RUSSERT: But Reed, I think you're the only person in Louisiana who is not into politics. I do a show with James Carville and you'd think the whole state turns into it like LSU games almost.

DICKENS: I wasn't a very bright kid, and I wasn't from south Louisiana, where all the politics happen. Keep in mind, when I was young, you had David Duke and Edwin Edwards, so there wasn't a lot of great choices.

KING: You remember it well?

DICKENS: I do, I remember it well.

KING: Do you remember, Jamal?

SIMMONS: Oh, yes.

KING: Where do you grow up?

SIMMONS: I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. I did grow up in a political family. We were very involved. The first vote I cast for president was Bill Clinton in 1992.

KING: You're that young?

SIMMONS: Yes. That was the first one. Although some people don't think that's so young anymore. But in this year, I think it's going to be a big deal for a lot of young people who are voting, because they've had so many things that have happened over the course of the last few years. So whether it's 9/11 or the recount or Katrina, I think people are really looking at this as a time to grab hold of the country.

RUSSERT: I agree with that, Jamal. I couldn't agree with you more. I think this election more so than any one in the past, young people are really directly affected by the war, by the economy, by student loans. So there's a lot of issues with two fundamentally different viewpoints that young people are going to have to make a choice on.

KING: As your father used to say sometimes, we're out of time. Want to do a quick James Carville, Luke.

RUSSERT: Oh, Larry King, get down here, and he'll be with Clinton. (INAUDIBLE) I don't want it. I don't want it. I don't need it. I don't want it.

KING: OK, calm him down. Go to our website, You can still weigh in on our Christina Aguilera quick vote. We've got a special King of Politics section too. Also, check out upcoming guests. And don't forget to click in on about last night.

About tonight, it's time now for Anderson Cooper and "A.C. 360" -- Anderson?