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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Primary Results; California Gas Line Explosion Investigation Continues
Aired September 14, 2010 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us, everyone.
An exciting night tonight, breaking news: results coming in, and a major upset already from the last primaries of 2010, a Tea Party victory that, ironically, could jeopardize Republican chances of winning control of the Senate this fall. Seven states and the District of Columbia holding primaries today.
What used to be the final preliminaries before the main event, they're turning into a main event in their own right. And that is certainly true tonight. Key results tonight for you in New Hampshire, New York, and Delaware, scene of the biggest upset so far.
John King's got an early look at the results -- John.
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Dramatic breaking news tonight, beginning in Delaware, a big Tea Party upset there, and we're watching. There could be more in the works tonight.
In Delaware, though, Christine O'Donnell, written off as a long shot, written off as a fringe Tea Party candidate, she is your winner tonight for the Republican nomination in the state of Delaware. And she won convincingly -- let's break down the numbers -- defeating a man who won 12 times statewide in Delaware, Mike Castle, a former governor, nine terms in the House of Representatives, only 47 percent for the establishment candidate, Mike Castle, a moderate Republican.
Christine O'Donnell, a pro-life conservative, a Tea Party favorite, 53 percent of the vote, she is now the Republican nominee for the seat that was held for 36 years by Vice President Joe Biden.
Tonight, Anderson, national Republicans tepid about this. Democrats say she's out of the mainstream. She will be the Tea Party and Republican candidate in November.
A potential upset as well brewing in the state of New Hampshire. Let's look at the candidates there in the Senate race. Former Attorney General Republican Kelly Ayotte, she was the establishment favorite heading in. Conservative activist Ovide Lamontagne, he has the backing of some Tea Party elements.
Kelly Ayotte has Sarah Palin. Mr. Lamontagne has Jim DeMint and some Tea Party activists, as well as the big conservative "Union Leader" newspaper. Let's break down the numbers. This count is starting to increase. We're now up to 19 percent. Lamontagne has been holding this percentage lead for quite some time, 45 percent to 36 percent. This, too, would be a stunning upset from the right, Kelly Ayotte, conservative, Mr. Lamontagne, though, running a more conservative campaign. We will keep watching this one in New Hampshire. This race for the -- this is the Republican nomination for the seat of the retiring Republican Senator Judd Gregg. Republicans must keep this seat if they have any chance to take back the Senate come November.
One more we're watching -- and this one could be another big Tea Party surprise in the state of New York,. Rick Lazio, former Republican congressman, he is the establishment favorite to be the Republican candidate for governor. Developer Carl Paladino, he is the Tea Party candidate in that state.
Very early results here in New York, let's take a look at the numbers and break them down, Rick Lazio trailing, 72 percent for the Tea Party candidate, Carl Paladino, at the moment...
KING: ... 28 percent for Rick Lazio, just 7 percent of the vote in there, Anderson, but on a night like this, we have seen it happen in Delaware. It could be happening in New Hampshire.
KING: And We will keep an eye on New York.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, that's huge, 72 percent. Do -- do we know where that's coming from? I mean, are those just kind of skewed based on where it's coming from in the state?
KING: We don't know where they're coming from yet. That's what we're breaking down as they come in.
KING: And you're in New York City. You know it's a big diverse state, so we have to be very, very careful when the number is down below seven percent.
But Mr. Paladino, again, a Tea Party candidate running against the establishment, that's a good start, but a long way to go.
COOPER: Do we know anything about the Charlie Rangel race here in New York?
KING: Haven't seen any results on that one yet, and, of course, that is a dramatic primary. He's seeking his 21st term.
And, as you know, he's facing a dozen ethics charges here, and a shot, a chance, although most people believe Charlie Rangel will pull it out tonight, a chance for Adam Clayton Powell IV, but still no results from that one yet.
COOPER: Yes, robocalls from former President Bill Clinton, also from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the last couple days.
We're going to follow this -- all -- all of this over the next hour or so, into the next hour as well.
Let's go to Jessica Yellin. She's at O'Donnell headquarters in Dover, Delaware.
A lot of very happy people there tonight.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They're elated here, Anderson.
Folks say that they expected this, but once we put those numbers up, they actually started boogie dancing behind me, they were so beyond pleased with the -- the victory that they have picked up here.
I have talked to people in the crowd. They say this is a message to the Republican establishment -- this is a quote -- "no more backroom deals."
One of her campaign aides got on the stage and said, this is proof that grassroots America is alive and well.
The point here, Anderson, is the Republican Party in this state, even the national Republicans, took out the trash on this candidate. I mean, they are on the record saying she is not electable. The chair of the party here in the state said she cannot win. And yet she did go ahead and get this victory tonight.
Those words will be used against them, no doubt, in the coming general election -- Anderson.
COOPER: Do we know if Mike Castle plans to endorse her?
YELLIN: Well, that does seem to be an open question. We're getting word that she's going to come out in a few minutes, just so you know what's happening behind me.
Castle was asked earlier today, before all this, if he would even call her tonight, if he loses. He did not say yes. And we're told she's waiting back there because she wanted to get a concession call from him.
I have gotten -- I have no reason to believe that that's happened, and I don't know that an endorsement will be forthcoming. Democrats think, in its essence, Anderson, that they have won the Senate seat tonight. They wouldn't say it that way, but, bottom line, this is a victory, they think, for Democrats. They're convinced she cannot win in the general election.
Many national Republicans think that, too. And they just don't want to invest time, resources or money in her campaign.
COOPER: Jessica, stay tuned.
I want to bring in our panel. But, when she comes out and begins speaking, we are going to bring that -- some of that to you, just so you can get a sense of -- of who this woman is. Probably a lot of folks have never heard her talk. This is a big surprise probably to a lot of people nationally, but just a fascinating race we have been following now.
Our political panel is with us for the duration tonight, contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, contributor and editor in chief at RedState.com, Erick Erickson. He's the recent author of "Red State Uprising: How to Take Back America," also NPR commentator and founder of thatminoritything.com, John Ridley, and Kate Zernike, national correspondent for "The New York Times." She's the author of "Boiling Over: Inside Tea Party America."
Paul, you know, first of all, is this, for Democrats, for you, good news tonight in the state of Delaware? I imagine you think it is.
And I want to just read to our viewers what the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which worked to stop O'Donnell -- they were supporting Castle. They put out a statement tonight saying -- quote -- "We congratulate Christine O'Donnell for her nomination this evening after a hard-family primary campaign in Delaware."
It's probably the most tepid congratulations I have ever heard. It's the kind of thing you would think a Democrat would say who lost. I mean, have the Republicans shot themselves in the foot tonight in Delaware?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, they have.
But, first, let me be a little more gracious. Congratulations to Ms. O'Donnell. I find her views eccentric, to say the least, but she won fair and square against a political legend in that state, Mike Castle, former governor, current congressman. That's a very big deal.
I would also note the statement you read was from a staffer at the National Republican Senate Committee, not even the chairman, John Cornyn, the senator from Texas.
Democrats think that this is obviously a very good development for them. I wouldn't count any chickens in this year, when the Democrats look like they're going to not really do very well. But when the state Republican chairman is on the record calling the candidate now of his party a -- quote -- "a liar" -- let me get it right -- "a liar who has trouble paying her bills," and then later said she's unfit even to be elected dogcatcher, I think that's pretty good fodder for the Democratic Party.
This is a -- it's a remarkable victory. She should be congratulated. I certainly hope that Congressman Castle has the good manners to call her, and concede, and congratulate her.
But it's a -- it's a -- I think a -- look, if you look at the polling, Mike Castle was winning against Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate, by 11 points in a poll that came out this week. Ms. O'Donnell was trailing by nine in the same poll.
So, it's a 20-point swing for the Democrats. That can't be bad for my side.
COOPER: Erick, you wrote on your blog -- and I quote -- "I would rather die a thousand times over via crushing by an anaconda while being torn limb from limb by a jaguar than see Mike Castle in the Senate. If the majority depends on Mike Castle, to hell with the majority."
You also managed to work in a reference to Janeane Garofalo's movie "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," but I'm going to leave that as a tease...
COOPER: ... for anyone who wants to go to your blog and read that.
COOPER: But a lot of prominent Republicans disagree with you.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
COOPER: They think, look, she's going to lose.
And, if she loses in the general election to a Democrat, and Republicans are one vote shy of a majority in the Senate, you won't complain?
ERICKSON: No, I won't complain at all.
You know, the Delaware race, what a lot of people miss is -- is, there is infighting on the Republican side between people who think we need to have the majority and forgot what we did with it the last time that wasn't so great, and people who think we need to push the GOP in the Senate to the right.
And, in two years, we have got a very good shot at picking up the Senate. You know, we can get the Senate without Delaware, but we can't get the Senate and have the Republicans move to the right with people like Mike Castle.
COOPER: Kate, I want to also just play -- Paul referenced it. I want to play the clip, one of these robocalls that went out from O'Donnell's former campaign manager from two years before.
By the way, you're looking at a live picture at O'Donnell headquarters. When she starts to speak, beyond just the thank-yous, we're going to take you there. So, maybe we will continue to show that live picture throughout.
But I just want to play some of this robocall that -- that went out. I mean, this is kind of unheard of, I think -- or I haven't heard of it for a while. Let's listen. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KRISTIN MURRAY, FORMER CAMPAIGN MANAGER FOR DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I got into politics because I believe in conservative values and wanted to make a difference. But I was shocked to learn that Christine O'Donnell is no conservative. You see, this is her third Senate race in five years.
As O'Donnell's manager, I found out that she was living on campaign donations, using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, O'Donnell's campaign says, look, this is blatantly false; it's absurd.
What does her victory say about the power of the Tea Party right now?
KATE ZERNIKE, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Oh, it's -- look, for months, people have been saying, oh, the Tea Party is just AstroTurf. It's just these big Republican establishment groups. This isn't real. This is all fake grassroots.
If anything proves that this is grassroots, that this is not the Republican -- this is not some Republican front group, this victory does. And if New Hampshire goes for Lamontagne, it's another story similar. It just shows -- it shows the power of organizing...
ZERNIKE: ... the Tea Party.
COOPER: I mean, Lamontagne doesn't have the endorsement of Sarah Palin. The other candidate has the endorsement of Sarah Palin.
ZERNIKE: Exactly. And that's another myth about the Tea Party we need to understand, which is that they don't always follow what Sarah Palin does. They like Sarah Palin, but they don't necessarily think she should be president. And they're not necessarily -- necessarily following her endorsements.
COOPER: John, does -- what surprises you tonight so far?
JOHN RIDLEY, COMMENTATOR, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I was surprised how well she did, not just that she won. She won with a pretty sizable margin.
But I think, more than anything else, it really says it's not about Democrat, it's not about Republican. It's really about this incumbent, we want these folks out. And I think it's going to be interesting moving on now for the Republicans to have to deal with -- you saw Trent Lott over the weekend talking about, how do we co-opt these individuals? That's already the language they're using. It's not just having these people in, but we have got to co-opt them. They're going to be a wild card, and it's going to be interesting. It's going to be a very interesting fall.
COOPER: Paul, what are the other big races that you're watching tonight? I mean, in New Hampshire, what would it say if the candidate that Sarah Palin endorsed did not actually win?
BEGALA: Yes, I think Kate makes a very good point. I can't wait to read her book about the Tea Party, because it's not Sarah Palin's movement, although she has played, I think, a pivotal role as a catalyst for a lot of these more obscure candidates.
The New Hampshire race is not as clear a storyline, though, because the, I guess, establishment candidate, the Palin candidate, at least, Kelly Ayotte, the attorney general, is certainly quite conservative. But then Ovide Lamontagne, as John King pointed out, backed by the ultra-conservative "Union Leader," the newspaper up there, and by Jim DeMint, the conservative leader in the Senate.
It's a tougher, I think, storyline. If, in fact, Mr. Lamontagne pulls it out, though, I think you do have to chalk it up on the kind of grassroots side of that ledger.
It is remarkable. The Republican Party for all of my life, has always been the predictable party, the hierarchical party, the corporate party. They always nominate the oldest white guy in the room.
BEGALA: OK, now, this time, there are -- they're -- they're nominating the angriest white person in the room, the most extreme person in the room. And it's exciting for me, just as an analyst, to watch.
COOPER: Erick, in New Hampshire, could either Republican candidate beat the -- the Democratic candidate?
ERICKSON: Oh, very much so, much better odds in New Hampshire for either Ayotte or Lamontagne to beat the Democrat than O'Donnell in Delaware.
The interesting thing about this, though, is that if Ayotte wins in New Hampshire, there are going to be a lot of conservatives -- and I have been raising this point for a month, even though I supported O'Donnell -- that resources might have been better spent in New Hampshire on Ovide Lamontagne, where the Tea Party candidates really had a shot at getting their guy to Washington, where they don't have so much of a shot in Delaware.
COOPER: We have got to take a quick break, a lot more to cover.
Again, we continue to wait for O'Donnell to come out and speak. We have got the race in New Hampshire, fascinating races in New York, the Rick Lazio race, but also the -- the Charlie Rangel race. The panel is with us throughout the evening.
We're looking, as I said a moment ago, at O'Donnell headquarters. We're waiting for her to make some remarks. As I said, we will bring those to you live when she does.
Let us know what you think. Join the live chat now under way at AC360.com.
We will also take a look at attack ads tonight, candidates aiming knockout punches, especially in the final days of campaigning. The question is, are they low blows? We will put some of them to the fact test in our new "Political Theater" feature.
And later: The people who lived through this -- take a look -- the images are stunning -- lost neighbors and friends through this, they're demanding answers from the utility whose gas line blew. We will take you live to San Bruno, California, "Keeping Them Honest."
COOPER: Let's go live to O'Donnell headquarters. Christine O'Donnell, I'm told, is just coming out, taking the stage.
Let's hear what she has to say on -- tonight, her big victory.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thank you so much, everyone.
We worked hard to be here. I cannot thank you enough for that.
Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Delaware have spoken.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: No more politics as usual.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: I can't thank you enough, because you guys partnered with me, believed in me from the beginning, stood with me in the face of adversity. And, because of that, we are here tonight.
You believed in me, and I cannot thank you enough.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: Thank you so much.
I want to specifically thank all of our volunteers. We have an army of volunteers who are committed to a cause greater than themselves.
If I could quote Christina (ph), our -- our volunteer coordinator, I read a -- where is she? (LAUGHTER)
O'DONNELL: Get over here!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: I read...
O'DONNELL: We do.
I think she has every single one of your phone numbers in her cell phone...
O'DONNELL: .. on speed dial. And she's going to be calling you a lot.
O'DONNELL: But, if I could quote something that I read from her in a recent newspaper article, she said: "It's more the cause than a campaign."
And the cause is restoring America, because America...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: The America we're fighting for is worth restoring.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
O'DONNELL: I want to share a story with you about a gentleman that I spoke with named George right here at this Elks lodge.
But before I get to that story, I want to finish thank -- I can't thank everyone by name, because we would be here until midnight, because so many people have sacrificed so hard.
But I specifically want to thank the 9-12 Patriots for laying the foundation and stirring things up in Delaware...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'DONNELL: ... the Founders Values group, and all of the Delaware Tea Party groups.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: OK. Let's bring back in our panelists, Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, John Ridley, Kate Zernike. Erick Erickson, you know, and listening to her, it's interesting. She talked about the 9-12 group. You know, FreedomWorks, which backs a lot of Tea Party groups, did not support her, saying it's basically counterproductive because they didn't think she could win in a general election against the Democratic candidate.
Why -- I mean, why do you think it's worthwhile? Why -- why -- why is the cause more important than getting that seat?
ERICKSON: Well, you have got to understand, for a lot of -- for a lot of people, particularly the Tea Party movement, that is anger directed at Washington.
A lot of people have said it's anger directed at Democrats or Barack Obama. It's anger directed at Washington. And you, as a Republican, cannot harness it without also having to deal with it on your side.
We may have gotten Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, who may lose in November. And the odds are against her in the polling. But, in the process, Republicans also got people like Marco Rubio and Ken Buck, Rand Paul in Kentucky, all of whom are looking good in the polls.
Republicans in Washington have really misjudged the mood of the Tea Party movement, thinking they could co-opt it, when the Tea Party really wants to burn them down as much as the Democrats.
COOPER: It's got to be scary, Kate, for mainstream Republicans sitting there watching this tonight.
What is fascinating to me about she said that you listen to her and she says, this is a cause greater than themselves, that people -- people who campaigned for her believed in a cause greater than themselves. And this is what you hear when you talk to Tea Party activists.
This is -- they talk about, this is the most important thing they have done with their lives. And, so, to them, this really is a cause, and that's why they're not going to listen to someone who says, oh, but she can't win in November, because, to them, it's all about moving the Republican Party to the right.
I mean, for me, I -- I -- I still -- I understand it's a cause. I'm still waiting for people to define that cause, because when they say things like, it's restoring America, restoring honor, to me, that hearkens back to sort of like the '66 midterm elections, when you hear people, go, whoa, government's going too far, but where it is going too far? On civil rights and things like that.
So, to me, this is great. I'm always excited to see another party. I'm not crazy about the two-party system. But I'm still waiting for, what does that restoring really mean? Because, at this for me, it's still codification.
BEGALA: Well, and let me press that point a little bit, because this is what's been so interesting of so many things about Ms. O'Donnell, but to me particularly all -- not most -- all of the Tea Party candidates before her who have had any measure of success have been focused on fiscal issues. It's the spending, stupid, is what they have been saying, essentially.
Occasionally, they drift off, as Mr. Ridley points out, to Rand Paul in Kentucky commenting that the Civil Rights Act probably wasn't a good idea, but, mostly, they talk about fiscal issues.
This woman, Ms. O'Donnell, at least first got on my radar screen when she went on MTV and started talking about sexual issues in a pretty remarkable way, more candid than I'm comfortable being, frankly, on a family network, but talking about self-gratification.
COOPER: It's -- it's 10:20.
COOPER: She was against masturbation. I will say it.
BEGALA: She was against -- well, first off, if she doesn't like masturbation, she will hate the United States Senate, OK?
BEGALA: You freed me, Anderson. You liberated me.
BEGALA: My mom is going to kill me, because she's watching this.
But, look, that's a bizarre -- look, that's not this -- I -- I have -- I have talked to people in the Tea Party movement. Very few of them have said they want to remove the big O. from the GOP. That's just not the animating force out there right now in American politics is criticizing self-gratification.
ERICKSON: Paul, you know, let me jump in and just say, I think a lot of people are missing the focus here.
The focus shouldn't be on Christine O'Donnell, even among the Tea Party movement. It had a lot more to do with beating Mike Castle, which a lot of people, myself included, were happy with.
I, for one -- and I realize I'm in the minority within conservatives and the GOP -- but I am perfectly willing to give Delaware to the Democrats in November to beat Mike Castle. BEGALA: We're willing to take it, by the way, too.
ERICKSON: Glad for you to have it. I hope to never have to talk about Delaware again.
COOPER: I want to turn to New York, because Democratic Charlie Rangel is pretty much in the fight of his long career, facing an ethics investigation, several of them, some 13 charges, no longer chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Tonight, the primary is going to determine whether he loses his seat entirely. Congressman Rangel, I mean, he is probably going to make it, but he's facing Adam Clayton Powell IV. Rangel came by Congress -- came to Congress by beating Adam Clayton Powell III 30 years ago.
A lot of history here.
Joe Johns is at Rangel headquarters for us tonight.
Joe, any sense there? What's the mood there? We haven't gotten any numbers yet.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't gotten any numbers yet, still waiting for those.
It's sort of a celebratory atmosphere, quite frankly. Some of the Democratic establishment in New York already turning out in advance of whatever those numbers may be, including New York State Governor David Paterson, as well as David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York City, very well known here in Harlem, of course.
We have seen Charlie Rangel. He has talked for a little while. He hasn't come -- gone all the way in predicting a win tonight, but talked a lot about the ethical charges against him on Capitol Hill.
Among the things he said this evening, people should not reach conclusions without the completion of the process.
And there he is now, as a matter of fact, apparently introducing yet another individual who's here coming to speak.
COOPER: Hey, Joe, how -- how important...
JOHNS: ... violations...
COOPER: We're going to probably lose some sound hearing Rangel talk. We will come back to Joe in a little bit. Let's just talk with our panel a little bit about Charlie Rangel.
John, I mean, this is clearly the fight of his political life.
COOPER: And, in the last couple days, we saw robocalls from former President Bill Clinton and also New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
RIDLEY: Yes, it's a big political fight. And you have got to wonder where the Democrats would actually like this to land. If he gets taken out, all that ethics issues, those get put on the back burner.
I -- even though you have got, obviously, like you said, Bill Clinton is in there making those kinds of phone calls, would they not be a little happy if it just went away tonight?
COOPER: Why did, do you think, Bill Clinton and Mayor Bloomberg make those calls?
ZERNIKE: Well, for the same reason that we saw all those people showing up to -- to Rangel's 80th birthday part, that, you know, he's been around a long time. They feel he's deserved a certain amount of respect. And, you know, he's just -- he's just a fixture in New York life.
COOPER: And -- and he has a good chance of winning, still.
Go ahead, Paul, was it, or...
BEGALA: He -- he -- I think he does. But, look, the ethics issues, they are real, but he hasn't had a chance to answer them in the proper forum at the Ethics Committee.
I think he ought to be able to have that. And, also, he's been a great congressman for Harlem. I mean, he created empowerment zones, which has really done an awful lot of good in Harlem. He persuaded Bill Clinton to put his office there in Harlem.
And, before that -- and this ought to be commented any time Charlie Rangel's name came up -- he marched from Selma to Montgomery, risking his life, so that, one day, a Barack Obama could become president. And I wonder -- maybe I'm just making this up, but I wonder if a little of the support Rangel is getting is not the same sort of anti-establishment thing in his district.
In other words, the president came out and kind of pushed Charlie out. He said, I think Charlie wants to retire with dignity. Charlie wants to quit.
And, you know, I heard a lot of Democrats say, you know, that's really not his business. This is our district. We want to decide who our congressman is. So, maybe there was even a little anti-establishment tension within the Democratic Party, this time directed at the president, who is the ultimate establishment figure now.
RIDLEY: But I -- I don't think you can think -- and Charlie Rangel has done very good things, but I don't think you can just say, well, he did a lot of good things, so it excuses some of the things he's been accused of.
RIDLEY: I want to stress accused. He has been accused of some things.
RIDLEY: So, as a historical figure, I look at the guy. Yes, I -- I remember he's been around since I was old enough to remember politics.
But that doesn't mean, just because of those things that he's done, that he should get some kind of a pass.
BEGALA: No, no, but he's getting -- but he's getting votes for it. And that's how you get votes, by doing a good job.
ERICKSON: I would say there's...
ERICKSON: ... disconnect here.
RIDLEY: He get votes for it, but for ourselves in -- I'm not in Harlem, but for -- for those of us who are around people -- I'm in California. We have got the same situation going on with Maxine Waters. She's done a lot for that area, but at the same time, we have got to be cognizant of the fact we have got to live up to the same standards as well.
ERICKSON: You know, Anderson, I would say there's a real disconnect between a lot of the national and local press in what is going on.
I have talked to a number of people who live in New York 15, his district, and no one there thinks he's going to be thrown out. Everyone, it seems like, in Washington and people I have talked to outside of his district think he's probably in for a fight for his life, but I know very few people who live in or around his district who think that. COOPER: We're also obviously following the race up in New Hampshire and also throughout New York. Rick Lazio, a household name probably in New York -- he's certainly run enough times -- it looks like, from the last count we got, he is facing a very uphill battle tonight from a surprise challenger, Paladino.
But we will take a look. We will check in with John King. We will crunch the numbers, more with our panel, continue with updates and analysis throughout the evening, all the way through to the midnight hour.
Tom Foreman also with last-minute political theater, looking at some of the last-minute campaign ads that have been running, putting them to the test. Are they actually truthful?
And we will take you to San Bruno, California, where people want to know why this happened, why their neighborhood was destroyed. They're demanding answers. We will show you if they're getting them right now, "Keeping Them Honest."
COOPER: Let's check in with John King who's been looking very closely at all these races. Let's see where we stand.
John, what are we seeing in terms of numbers?
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a lot more evidence that the voters are sending a message to all politicians but including within the Republican Party, an internal feud.
Let's start with the biggest upset that you've been talking at the panel. Let's just double check the numbers in the state of Delaware. Here's your winner, Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party favorite. Written off as a long-shot fringe candidate just weeks ago. She is the Republican Senate nominee in the state of Delaware tonight.
Let's break down the numbers. She will run for the seat long held by Joe Biden, defeating a man who had won 12 times. That's 12 times statewide in the state of Delaware, Michael Castle, 47 percent. Christine O'Donnell sending a clear message to the Republican establishment in her state and nationally. She is now the Republican nominee for Senate in the state of Delaware.
Let's move on to the state of New Hampshire. Potentially another big upset here. Kelly Ayotte, the former state attorney general, she was the establishment favorite. Ovide Lamontagne, he ran once for governor and lost. He's a conservative activist in the state. She was the favorite heading in, but let's break down the numbers, as we look at perhaps another message here.
This one, as Paul Begala noted, not a clear Tea Party versus the establishment race. Sarah Palin backed Kelly Ayotte. Only 36 percent of the vote for her. Jim DeMint and the conservative newspaper, "The Union Leader," 44 percent for Mr. Lamontagne. A lot of conservatives up in New Hampshire telling us tonight they believe radio ads criticizing Kelly Ayotte for supporting the Obama pick, Sonia Sotomayor, for the Supreme Court could be the difference if these numbers hold up. Still only 20 percent of the vote in. We need to stay on top of that.
This one, Anderson, could be a stunner. People for years have been saying when will the New York Republican Party get its act together? Rick Lazio was supposed to be the candidate who would have a decent chance in the fall running for governor. Developer Carl Paladino, a Tea Party candidate in this race, look at these numbers. It's still early in New York, but let's look at the numbers, if we can flip the screen here: 66 percent for Carl Paladino, 34 percent for Rick Lazio.
Mr. Paladino saying he's establishment, you don't like it. He also has campaigned on the theme that, if he is the next governor of New York, he would seize by eminent domain, if necessary, the site of that proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero.
Only 13 percent of the vote. But this also could be another stunning victory for the Tea Party tonight.
Two other races we're watching. One is right here in the District of Columbia, the mayoral race, incumbent Adrian Fenty being challenged by the chairman of the city council, Vincent Gray. Education reform a huge issue in this. Also, jobs and whether this mayor has forgotten, as many African-Americans in the city say, forgotten his African-American base.
This is a big race tonight. We're watching this one. Could send a national message on education reform.
And one more we're watching tonight is, of course, right there in Harlem, in New York City. Charlie Rangel seeking a 21st term in the House of Representatives. Adam Clayton Powell the lead challenger in that race. A handful of other challengers, as well.
Charlie Rangel hoping to overcome not only the challenge from Mr. Powell and others but those ethics charges he faces when he comes back to Washington in the House of Representatives, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, John. We'll check back in with you when we get some new numbers, more updates.
Erick Erickson, what do you make of this Paladino-Lazio race? The numbers, if they hold up -- again, it's only, I think John said, 13 percent of precincts reporting -- but 66 percent in favor of Paladino. What do you attribute that to?
ERICKSON: Disenchantment with the New York GOP. You know, Chairman Cox up there has just been, frankly, I think, terrible for the New York GOP. The Republicans in New York have failed to get strong challengers for either Chuck Schumer or Senator Gillibrand, who's on the ballot this year in a special election to fill Hillary Clinton's seat.
Across the state, Republicans, particularly at the grassroots level, have been complaining about the state GOP. And if Paladino is able to pick off Lazio, it's a clear signal, I think, that finally the Republican base is fed up with the GOP, that they've gone basically thrown Scozzafava out, as a lot of them are telling me.
COOPER: Do you think -- I mean, Lazio is pretty much a household name. I mean, if you -- of these two, he was well known. He's run for an awful lot of races. And he tried to latch onto the mosque, the Islamic center near Ground Zero as an issue, but he didn't have much room on that, because Paladino was talking about using eminent domain, which Lazio wasn't going there.
BEGALA: Yes. You know, Rick Lazio, a popular congressman when he was in the House of Representatives, one would think, at least a Democrat would think, he'd be beloved by New York conservatives, because he's the man who ran against Hillary Clinton. You know, he came in second, but he ran a credible, I guess, campaign.
But I think Erick's making a good point here. Up and down the ballot, New York Republicans have seemed to have been unable to field good candidates. I actually thought Lazio probably was the most talented of the candidates they found, and it looks like they may well bounce him off the ballot.
I would note that the Democratic nominee for governor there is Andrew Cuomo, a very popular attorney general, former housing secretary, really, really, I think, a strong favorite to win that race.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I think the question is, do you -- if you're the Republican, do you want to win this primary? Because chances are -- and at this point, I'm not predicting anything, because obviously, there have been a lot of upsets, but if you win this race, you've got to go against Andrew Cuomo. Chances are you're not going to do very well up against Cuomo.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, you know, again, if you remember last year there was a sort of what we thought of as an obscure upstate House congressional district race in New York's 23rd District last year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. Which Erick mentioned. And this was a defining race for the Tea Party, and they really, you know, they put all their passion into that. That was their first sort of race where they thought about, how do we organize? How to win? They came very close with Doug Hoffman. They came so close with Doug Hoffman, who was a conservative third-party candidate, that they pushed the moderate Republican from the race three days before election day.
They went on to win the Scott Brown race. They've been doing this over and over and over, and they're -- they're discovering again and again the power of organizing.
COOPER: We've just been listening to Kate Zernike. I got the name of your book wrong. But with the "New York Times." The book is "Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America."
We're going to have a lot more from our panel throughout this hour and into the next hour as these results come in. We're sticking with this thing.
We're going to bring you late primary results from around the country tonight. In Delaware race, Christine O'Donnell upset, some very tough ads hitting the air toward the end. Tom Foreman has been checking the facts on the ads in tonight's installment of our new feature, "360 Political Theater" -- Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, the home stretch of these final primaries has been very ugly, and nowhere has it been rougher than in the place we've been talking about all night, Delaware.
The Republican Senate race there turned into, you know, a steel cage handcuffed death match by the end here. The Tea Party conservative, Christine O'Donnell, has triumphed, but only after trading body blows with Congressman Mike Castle. Look at how they led up to the vote tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She didn't pay thousands in income taxes. Had to be sued by a university for thousands in unpaid bills. Defaulted on her mortgage. She ran up a huge campaign debt and left vendors and staff unpaid, while using campaign funds to pay her own rent and personal expenses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Castle is attacking working-class Christine O'Donnell, supporting the Obama agenda. Billion-dollar bailouts. Michael Castle, yes; O'Donnell will fight them. Keeping Obama care and cuts in Medicare. Castle for it, O'Donnell against it. The cap and trade energy tax. Castle yes, O'Donnell says no way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We don't have time to go through every point there. I will say, however, that her financial problems have been grabbing a good many headlines. She's denied any impropriety.
But "Keeping Them Honest, he did not support President Obama's health-care reform, as claimed in her ad. Of course, Anderson, it doesn't matter now, because he's out.
COOPER: Yes. And I've noticed that, in a good many places, candidates are using the fact that voters are watching this primary to try to position themselves for the general election.
FOREMAN: Yes, absolutely, Anderson. You can see that all over the place. We have a good number of instances in which Republicans are attacking Democrats for too much spending, Democrats calling Republicans the party of no. That's standard fare.
But there is one ad that is just lighting up the Internet for plain goofiness. Out in California, Republican John Dennis is trying to take the congressional seat currently held by Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi. And if you want to have an idea of the tone that we're going to see in the next eight weeks, look at how he's portraying her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello, my pretties. I will save you from those evil Republicans. But first, pay $18,000 a month for my downtown office. And then go into massive debt for Wall Street bailouts. And here are my monkeys to make you pay for it all.
JOHN DENNIS (R), CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Step back, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I'm melting.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for saving us. Who are you?
Dennis: I'm John Dennis. I'm running for Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: political analysts, by the way, are giving him very little chance of winning that seat, but you know, maybe, Anderson, there could be an Oscar in his future.
COOPER: It's certainly -- it's certainly getting a lot of national coverage just for that commercial. Tom, thanks.
Our primary coverage continues tonight. We're looking live at Charlie Rangel headquarters where the 80-year-old congressman is facing the biggest challenge in nearly three decades. We'll take you there later on tonight as our results continue to come in.
Up next, though, what first responders said when they came across the Northern California inferno, like nothing they'd seen before. Newly released recordings and videos ahead.
COOPER: I'm told we're getting numbers now on the Charlie Rangel race here in New York. John, what are you hearing?
KING: Very early numbers, Anderson. Let's break them down. And first let's remind people Charlie Rangel, the 20-term incumbent, one, two, three, four, five challengers in this race, and that could be a factor as we go forth.
Let's take a look at the early numbers coming in. Charlie Rangel's congressional district in Harlem, 46 percent for Charlie Rangel at the moment, 23 percent for his lead challenger, Adam Clayton Powell IV.
That's just six percent of the vote. But I want to make this point early. Remember, it is early, so this could all go away as we keep counting the votes, but here you have the incumbent under 50 percent right now, 46 percent of the vote, the lead challenger with half that, 23 percent of the vote. That big, crowded field could be a factor in this race as we get up higher, Anderson, but only 6 percent at the moment, Charlie Rangel holding on. We'll keep counting them.
COOPER: All right. We'll keep counting. We'll check in with John and also have more with our panel. Again, we're live all the way through into the midnight, just bringing you the latest results.
We are covering other stories, as well. We're going to have information on the American hiker who has been released from Iran, two others still being held. We'll have that in our next hour.
But right now, newly-released audio recordings from last Thursday's deadly gas explosion in San Bruno, California. At least four people died in the blast fire and the fire that followed. The tapes of conversations between dispatchers and firefighters revealed the terror, the confusion, as crews arrived on the scene. And these pictures we got yesterday for the first time really giving you a ground's eye view. As you -- as you'll hear, the firefighters thought basically early on that an airliner had gone down. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Control, this is Engine 77. We're headed north on Bayfront Expressway, is there a large fire approximately at the Redwood-San Carlos border, large, must be 50-foot flames in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a plane down. We're getting multiple responses started.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got multiple houses. We're trying to get close. We have extreme heat. We have possibly several blocks on fire at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call for a fourth alarm for this. It appears that we have a plane down in the neighborhood. Multiple structures on fire, and we have a fire ball still coming out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It took more than an hour before everyone knew it wasn't a plane down but a ruptured gas line burning. That's the after -- after pictures, five days after the disaster. Officials are continuing to search for the precise reason why.
And as families mourn those who died, many say the utility at the center of this tragedy isn't doing enough. Dan Simon is live from San Bruno with the latest -- Dan.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson, that is the charred debris behind us. We're about 150 yards from the blast site, and just from where we are, you can tell how hot this fire was. Take a look at this Volvo car right here, totally melted taillight, side of the car is melted. You've got a van here also with a lot of heat damage.
The good news is you have a lot of people who are back in their homes. Basically, what the city did is they color-tagged all the homes in this neighborhood. If you have a green tag, like you see right here behind me, you're good to go. You can go back in your house. They have the power back on. They have the gas back on.
But if you have a yellow tag over here, it means that your house has some damage. You're not allowed to live in your house. You can pull some things out and then leave.
And then, if you have a red tag, it means that your house is destroyed. Obviously, you're not going near your house.
Meanwhile, Anderson, as you said, we're five days into this, and we're still getting some powerful firsthand accounts today for the first time. Listen to these first responders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) was that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A fireball, the sound, the noise of it was deafening. It was very loud. It sounded very much like it could have been a jet airplane engine still running.
And as we took the turn, there were citizens fleeing the street, running up the hill. San Bruno Police Department was arriving on scene. It was very chaotic. Cars were driving, trying to get out of the street, and we were trying to make our way into the fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What's the latest on the investigation?
SIMON: Well, Anderson, there's still -- right, right. There's still this lingering question: was there the smell of the gas in the neighborhood? Did the utility crews come out and investigate? Obviously, we've heard neighbors say that, but PG&E, they've gone back and looked at their records over the last several weeks. They've looked at their phone records. They've looked at their dispatches, and they say they see no evidence of that.
The NTSB, they're also investigating, and they say this issue of whether or not there was a gas leak is a very powerful component of their investigation. We heard from their -- from them earlier tonight. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the things we're trying to find out is, was the pipe, did it fail catastrophically? Or did it fail as a pin ole leak with gas coming out, and then meeting air, and then having a spark someplace. So if it failed catastrophically, that means that -- that means it's unlikely that there would be a gas smell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIMON: The NTSB has asked people to e-mail them, to say that they called the utility company, called PG&E and said there was a problem. At this point, they say they've received 90 e-mails, but guess what? Only one person said that they called PG&E to report a gas smell.
So, Anderson, this notion that there was this big concern in the neighborhood over a gas smell, over a gas leak, at this point, not a whole lot of evidence to support that.
COOPER: We had one person in the neighborhood saying that folks in the neighborhood had complained about it, that somebody had called, the one we talked to didn't know who. And he had actually seen a crew come out, but he never got any resolution on what actually happened. We'll continue to follow it.
Dan Simon, appreciate it.
We have a lot more to cover. Isha Sesay right now joins us with some other stories we're following in the "360 Bulletin" -- yes.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
A bomb shuts down the Eiffel Tower tonight. Two thousand people in or near the Parish landmark were forced out of the area while police investigated a threat made by telephone. In the end, no device was found.
A flash fire at a Tennessee manufacturing plant injured at least six people this afternoon, three of them critically. The plant contracts with the military to make decoy flares, which are said to be flammable but not explosive.
An air-traffic controller who was on a personal phone call shares much of the blame for the collision of a small plane and a helicopter over the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey last year. That conclusion in a federal report released today. Nine people were killed in the collision.
And, Anderson, I know it's the news you've been waiting for. Jennifer Lopez will be one of the new judges on the upcoming season...
SESAY: ... of "American Idol."
COOPER: Yes! My dreams have been answered.
SESAY: I know. She signed a deal worth $12 million a month after an initial deal fell apart. We're still waiting to hear who her fellow judges will be, especially now that Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres have left.
COOPER: Yes. So is she going to be the mean one now that Cowell is gone? Probably not. She doesn't seem mean. She seems like a nice person.
SESAY: She does, but what I say is Jenny's leaving the block, heading to "American Idol," which means, Anderson, you're going to have to wait a little bit longer for her next musical offering. Thank the lord. COOPER: I miss Paula Abdul. I've got to tell you, I miss Paula Abdul. I miss -- I miss...
SESAY: Yes. You miss the rambling?
COOPER: The weeping, the rambling, the collapsing at the table, the incoherence, I miss it all.
SESAY: The slightly glazed look, when she's like, "Whatever your name is."
SESAY: Great performance.
COOPER: Yes. I'm not even sure who was performing. I love it. I loved every minute of her.
SESAY: Stick with J. Lo. I'll get you through this.
COOPER: Back to -- we'll have more of Isha in just a second. Back to late primary results to the panel next.
Also tonight getting closer: a big day in the bid to rescue the trapped miners in Chile. We'll tell you what happened and why it has a lot of folks there a lot more optimistic, coming up.
COOPER: Really interesting night of politics here. We're covering throughout this hour and into the next hour through 12 a.m.
Big upset in Delaware, major Tea Party victory. Major developments, as well, in New York in the Republican governor's primary. Carl Paladino piling up votes against the establishment candidate, Rick Lazio, with about a third of the precincts reporting.
Let's bring back the panel and bring in senior political analyst David Gergen. Also, Paul Begala, Erick Erickson, John Ridley, and Kate Zernike.
David, we haven't heard from you tonight. What -- obviously, a big night for Tea Party candidates.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it was, Anderson, and the results were reverberating all the way here to Texas, where I'm at Southern Methodist University. People are buzzing about this, because I think it's the clearest rebellion we've had all season, the biggest anti-establishment vote that's occurring against Republican candidates.
I think there's one clear result out of Delaware is the chances of Republicans now gaining the Senate have gone down significantly. Delaware was an automatic pickup for Republicans before Mike Castle went down. And I'll tell you, Anderson, for moderate Republicans who are thinking about a future in the GOP, this doesn't -- when Mike Castle goes down, who's been a governor, a popular governor, been a member of Congress for these many years, when he goes down to a Tea Party candidate, you've got a real insurgency going on in the party, and it's leaving a lot of moderate Republicans tonight shaking their heads, not quite sure what the future of the party is.
COOPER: So how does this play out in more general elections? I mean, the amount of voter turnout we're seeing is pretty low. You know, you look at numbers from Delaware. We're talking about this huge upset, that we're talking maybe 50,000 voters altogether who voted so far.
ZERNIKE: Yes. It's interesting. You know, the thing I was thinking, too, we talked about the Rand Paul race in Kentucky, and we all thought that was going to be the huge upset, the huge Tea Party victory of the season. And that looks relatively tame compared to this.
I mean, this has just been a crazy race between the Republicans and the Tea Party. And it's going to be really hard for Republicans to get behind this candidate. So I think the Democrats are right to think it's theirs. Again, you know, we never know, but...
RIDLEY: Yes. One thing they have going, we know it's about the enthusiasm gap. And right now with the Tea Party and with this -- whether it's anger or frustration, however you want to couch it, there's enthusiasm there.
And if you look on the Democratic side, they just did a Pew study, and if you could use one word -- and this is from Obama supporters -- one word to describe your feelings for the president, it's disappointment. There's just so much disappointment out there.
But I do think what David said is also very interesting. Is what does it mean for moderate Republicans? And more importantly, what does it mean for governing going on if right now we have all of this rancor? If there are no more moderates, how is the government going to function two years from now, 2012?
ERICKSON: I'd just like to chime in here with this, because I keep hearing all this use of the word "moderate" and just by definition, I think moderate means a liberal who happens to have an "R" next to his name, because we never talk about liberal Republicans. I mean, these moderates -- Mike Castle to me was a liberal.
But you know, there's a larger story here that I think a lot of us are missing about the Tea Party. Mr. Lawlor just got the nomination for the Republicans in one of the Maryland seats. It is the Republican establishment across the country that's been backing the old white guys, and it's these Tea Party activists who have now just nominated the fifth African-American Republican congressional nominee in Maryland tonight, with Alan West in Florida, Tim Scott in South Carolina, Ryan Frasier in Colorado, and one other. They've backed Marco Rubio in Florida over Charlie Crist. Nikki Haley for governor in South Carolina.
It's the grassroots picking the nonwhite guys, and it's the establishment Republicans picking the white guys. And frankly, as one of those grassroots Republicans in the trenches for a while, I think it's hilarious.
COOPER: Well, there's a lot more to talk about on that subject, and I definitely want to because I think a lot of folks want to weigh in on that. We're going to do that when we continue.
We have more breaking news from tonight's primaries and Washington taking on BP. The lawsuit the Justice Department is planning against the company. Details on that after the break.
COOPER: Updating the breaking news, primary results coming in from seven states, the District of the Columbia. CNN projected Delaware's GOP Senate nomination will go to Tea Party challenger Christine O'Donnell. We'll have our panel in just a few moments and John King with all the latest results.
Let's get a quick check of some other stories we're following with Isha Sesay, and a "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.
SESAY: Hi there again, Anderson.