Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

The Election Matrix; Top Senate Democrat in Peril; Pres. Obama's Campaign Finale; The Best Political Team on Television Dissect the Midterms; Nationwide Likely Voters

Aired October 31, 2010 - 21:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: Now, live from the CNN Election Center, Wolf Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CO-HOST: We want to welcome in our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The United States Congress, the capital, the majority is at stake right now for the Democrats in the House and the Senate.

The House of Representatives' 435 members, all of them, all seats up for grabs. The Republicans are hoping to become the majority. They need a net gain of 39 seats in the House. If they get it, John Boehner will be the next Speaker of the House, succeeding Nancy Pelosi.

Let's walk over to the Senate side of the U.S. capital right now. There are 100 seats in the Senate. Thirty-seven are up for grabs right now. The Republicans need a net gain of 10 in order to become the majority. That's much more difficult for the Republicans right now, but not necessarily out of the question.

We have extensive coverage, only two days to go before this critical midterm elections in the United States. Anderson Cooper is here, together with "The Best Political Team on Television," also the biggest political team on television, as well.

Let's walk over to our new election matrix right now. CNN's John King is taking a close look, John, at the House of Representatives. A lot of Democrats are even assuming right now that the Republicans will become the majority.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The public line from Speaker Nancy Pelosi from the president of the United States, Wolf, is we can keep our majorities, but most Democratic strategists privately can see - they see the Republicans on the way to winning 40, 45, some say even 55 or more House seats.

You're looking right here at the CNN 100. These are the 100 most competitive House races, from coast to coast. And if you look at all that blue - see all that blue? Ninety-one of those 100 most competitive races are now held by Democrats, which shows you the challenge the Democrats have come Tuesday night.

As we look at these races, they go from east to west, north to south. A lot of them are in - if you're looking up, they're the class of 2008, the class of 2006. 2006 was the class that brought Nancy Pelosi the speakership. 2008 was the class that came in with - on Obama's coattails.

And, if you look at these races, what are we going to look for on election night? Let's look at one right here, Colorado, '04. This is one of the races the Republicans targeted early.

Betsy Markey. She won in Colorado. She's a freshman Democrat. You see, 2008, the first time somebody is up is usually the easiest time to beat them, especially when they came to Washington in a presidential election year. Also, if you look right here, John McCain narrowly carried that district, Wolf. That's another reason.

She's also one of nine, what the Republicans called trifecta Democrats. She's in a district John McCain won, plus she voted for the stimulus program, the cap and trade energy bill, and the health care bill. So the Republicans believe those nine are the most vulnerable.

You can move over here and you see another one. If you come this way, Virginia, '05, Tom Perriello. Remember, the president of the United States campaigned in this district just the other night. Again, voters for health care, the stimulus, cap and trade, and he's in a district in a presidential year, carried by John McCain.

There are 44 Democrats in districts carried by John McCain in our CNN 100. They are considered vulnerable. But you can look at this. As I said, 53 in the class of 2006 and 2008. That's where the Republicans will start their targeting.

But look at all this blue as we go through, Wolf, think all the way back. There are Democrats as far back as the '90s, '70s, and even the late '60s, the Republicans believe.

And we will know this. As the polls close in the east and come across, so many of these races are in the east of the Mississippi time zone. We should have a good sense early in the night if Republicans are on the path to building that foundation through gains in New England, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and look at the class of 2006 and 2008.

BLITZER: And of the hundred seats that are really at stake right now, they're really at play, you said 91 are held by Democrats.

KING: Ninety-one. Ninety-one, which tells you just about all you need to know about how much it is the Democrats on defense in this first midterm of the Obama presidency.

BLITZER: John, stand by because we have a lot more to discuss.

There's been a lot of last minute campaigning, understandably, on this day. In Providence, Rhode Island, we see the former President Bill Clinton. He's campaigning with the Democratic nominee for governor, Frank Caprio. We saw that happening today.

We also saw in Wilmington, Delaware, Christine O'Donnell. Everyone remembers Christine O'Donnell. She told us she is not a witch in that campaign ad. She's in deep trouble, though, in Delaware, but she's doing some campaigning. Chris Coons, the Democratic nominee.

In Cleveland, Ohio, we saw the president and the vice president. Ohio is critical for the Democrats right now, very, very close races. But the Republicans suspect they have an advantage in those contests in Ohio.

No state - no contest is more important for the Democrats and the Republicans than Nevada right now, because Harry Reid and Sharron Angle are opposing each other. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader.

Jessica Yellin is in Las Vegas. Both of these candidates, Jessica, should be no surprise. They were very busy today. You're getting new information. What are you picking up?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, both of these candidates have been stumping across the state to get out the vote, and their campaign phone banks have been on overdrive because this one is simply so close.

Now, it's important to note that campaign - I'm sorry, election officials in Nevada tell us about 65 percent of everyone who will vote has already voted, either through early voting or with absentee ballots.

And here's something we know from history. On Election Day in Nevada, more Republicans are likely to turn out than Democrats. Democrats are simply more prone to vote early. That means Harry Reid needs a healthy lead in the early voting in order to win on Election Day.

Now, Democratic officials insist Harry Reid has the lead he needs. Depending how you count, about 8,000 to 10,000 more Democrats have already voted than Republicans. And Democrats say there is no sign of an enthusiasm gap.

But Republicans insist, not so fast. They say that Democrats would have voted in bigger numbers by now if Reid was going to win. They're predicting a historic turnout among Republicans on Election Day, and they think that is where they will take this in victory.

But, the truth is, officials on both sides say, privately, that they are just incredibly nervous about this one. No one -- none of the experts can guess which way this is going to go. It's going to be a nail biter, Wolf.

BLITZER: And Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country, 14 percent, which is a huge issue. What were the last minute get out the vote campaign efforts that you saw today?

YELLIN: I saw phone banks going on on the Democratic side. I saw Republican people canvassing, going door to door, even using some technology that's new.

The basic emphasis is to get as many of your guys out to vote. They are not focusing on the undevoted - undecided. They are not trying to persuade people who haven't made up their mind. They don't have time for that.

What they want to do is make sure that the true blue Democrats, the true red Republicans do what they need to do and go and vote, because they think this one could be close enough. Almost recount territory that each one of those matters, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's what the polls suggest. A very, very close race for Harry Reid and the Tea Party favorite, the Republican, Sharron Angle.

Jessica, we'll check back with you. We have a lot more coverage coming up.

Only - what? Forty-five hours or so left till the first polls close on the East Coast, 7:00 P.M. Eastern Tuesday night. We'll have extensive coverage, nonstop coverage. Stay with us.

Anderson Cooper and "The Best Political Team on Television", they're standing by, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Obama was in Cleveland, Ohio, trying to rally his base. Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Tea Party favorite, she was in Wilmington, Delaware, trying to do the same thing. And they spoke, not necessarily directly to each other, but they made these points.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Imagine the Republicans were driving the economy like a car, and they drove it into the ditch - and this is a very deep, steep ditch. And Joe and I and Ted, we had to put on our boots. We had to rappel down. And it's muddy down there, and dusty and hot.

Somehow, the Republicans, they fled the scene.

CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: President Obama, instead of doing what is right for the country, plays the blame game and says, oh, there's nothing I could do. I inherited a car in a ditch.

You know, that - that whole I got a car in the ditch and we tried the stimulus, we tried the bailouts, and, you know, there's nothing we can do. And so those Republicans, they're the enemy, even though I've been in office for two years. Even though I spent nearly a trillion dollars on - on stimulus, and we've lost 2.5, there's not - 2.5 million jobs, there's nothing we can do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. You got a little flavor of these last minute campaigning. Let's go over to Anderson. He's got "The Best Political Team on Television" - Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CO-HOST: We have "The Best Political Team". We don't have any fancy graphics. We're kind of kicking it old school over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, we're just talking.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have iPads.

COOPER: That's right.

Does Christine O'Donnell have a chance, Candy Crowley?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my. You know, you always get in trouble at this point in the election cycle. Everybody's e-mailing you, how dare you say - we haven't voted.

But, honestly, polling has gotten pretty good. This - this would - this would have to be a Halloween miracle for her, just looking at, A) Delaware, and, B), just, you know, she's up against an opponent that has been able to take her flaws and build up a great, big lead.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the big - the big thing in Delaware and everywhere is the independent voters, and she's just not appealing to those moderate independent voters, the ones that -

CROWLEY: The Delawarean (ph).

BORGER: -- well, and the ones that the Democrats are losing and that, quite honestly, Barack Obama has lost, you know? Fifty-two percent of - of the independent voters in this country say they're going to vote Republican.

COOPER: How enthusiastic are they, though, this election, in terms of coming out to actually vote? I mean, who is actually going to be turning out the polls? In terms of enthusiasm, clearly Republicans seem to have an advantage this time around.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That - see, that's one of the most fascinating things of all. We've talked so much about the Tea Party all over the United States, when the fact of the matter is if you stand away from it - from it, 1,000-foot view, at the end of the day, a lot of people are going to end up saying, hey, it was Democrats that were just not that interested in coming out to vote, and - and there weren't that many Democrats who were really focused, because the president of the United States himself wasn't on the ballot.

A lot of reasons for that. One of them, of course, is health care. There are many, many liberals in this country who don't think this president went far enough in trying to answer their views.

COOPER: Ed Rollins, Republican strategist.

Sharron Angle. Obviously it's a very close race with Harry Reid. How much of those - the people who are going to be voting for Sharron Angle, how much of it is a deep love and - and desire to see Sharron Angle in - in the Senate and how much of it is against Obama, against Reid?

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It started about three years ago, with a deep hatred for Harry Reid, and it was a question of finding the alternative. And she emerged through a very tough primary, in which she basically took out the - what many people thought was the best candidate.

She's emerged as a good candidate, and I think, at this point in time, she's acceptable enough that people feel comfortable, we're going to vote for her. That's why the polls are dead even.

So my sense on Election Day, I'm willing to go on a limb, she's going to win and I think she win by four or five points.

COOPER: You think (ph).

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, Republican candidates that are acceptable this year win, if Republican candidates actually make the race about themselves, sometimes they're disadvantaged, and that's what's happening in Delaware, you know?

Your job as a Republican this year is to keep your boat in the Gulf Stream and ride that current. It's anti-Washington. It's anti- spending. It's anti-health care. It's anti-Obama. The minute you make the race about something else, as in yourself, you're giving up your advantage.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just to tell the truth there. This is an anti election. This is more about what folks are against and angry about than what they're for and looking for. And independent voters are swinging decisively Republican in this election in part because they feel that what they voted for when they voted for Republicans over - Democrats overwhelmingly in 2006 and for President Obama in 2008 hasn't been resolved. There's out of control spending, worse than ever. The partisanship is worse that ever.

So it's another bet on divided government because they're going to vote at least it looks like 15 percent for Republicans this time.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But here's what's amazing, Anderson. And I hear that, John, of course, talk about a partisanship out of control. What do they think is going to happen come January, 2011? Because the reality is, since the 2000 election it has been very clear in terms of where we stand in terms of red and blue. And so this whole notion that somehow that people their whole life (ph), they're going to simply bring everybody together and it's simply not going to happen, but period.

CASTELLANOS: No, no. What they do want, they want some gridlock here. Americans are saying first do no harm. But first, stop spending us in a hole, you know? For $3 - for $3 trillion - for $3 trillion you should be able to get a car out of a ditch.

AVLON: Traditionally, when the American people vote for divided government, it's for checks and balances. And I think what's different here, what independent voters think they're doing normally is they're going to force the two parties to work together. I think what they're going to find is that the partisanship is so poisonous right now in Washington that folks are going to come in and not look to be working together, but instead everybody do their balances (ph).

COOPER: Well, especially, you have some of these candidates, especially Tea Party candidates who are making a virtue of the fact of no compromise and they don't want to compromise.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: : And they're making a virtue of that back and they're appealing to voters whose first priority is not compromise -

COOPER: Right.

BASH: -- right now. It's not working together right now. It's we're really mad and really frustrated and we just want things to change, you know?

COOPER: So what happened when somebody -

BASH: And that's - and that's what I'm definitely hearing on the campaign trail and it's what propelling these candidates, Tea Party or not.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And this (INAUDIBLE) to American anger and that's what going to drive people, people who have something they want to vote against as opposed to (INAUDIBLE).

BORGER: But here's the danger, that you over interpret your mandate. OK? Republicans get - all right, look, could very well win the House of Representatives, do very well in the Senate. And the danger politicians have is they say, oh, people elected me because they love me and they love what I stand for. In fact, they're doing it because they don't like what the other folks have done.

CROWLEY: Well, if they're going to misinterpret it, if the Republicans misinterpret it it's because they're not listening to anyone, because it's been out there. And this is not because they're so great, it's because people wants some breaks from the Democrats.

But let me tell you also what Republicans are saying now, and that is post election, right? I mean, it's now all about post election and to the issue of gridlock. There are two templates for Democrats here if you look at Democratic presidents who had to face hostile Congresses. There's Harry Truman, who went out and gave them hell and there's Bill Clinton who triangulated and worked with them.

And Republicans say, well, what's the question here? The question is what's President Obama going to be? Is he going to be Bill Clinton -

COOPER: Right.

CROWLEY: - or is he going to be Harry Truman?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or both?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or both.

CROWLEY: Yes, both. And he is capable, yes.

BORGER: And knowing Barack Obama, he can be both.

JOHNS: And there's also the internal Republican conflict -

COOPER: Right.

JOHNS: -- between the Tea Party and the Institutional, if you will, Republicans. That isn't resolved yet.

COOPER: And we're going to talk about that in our next - our next roundtable. But we're just going to take a quick break.

We're going to have some new poll numbers coming up in just a second. Wolf Blitzer will be back. Also, John Neal King will be at the CNN Election Matrix. We'll be right back. A lot more ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: With only two days to go before this crucial midterm elections, CNN has some brand new poll numbers just coming out right now.

CNN's Ali Velshi has been going through these numbers, Ali. And it's fascinating to see the snapshots where the American public stands right now.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And that's what I'm going to show you.

If Anderson and his team were using - they were kicking it old school, I'm going to drop it like it's hot with these graphics I'm about to show you. Let me show you.

We've got brand new CNN/Opinion Research polling showing you how Americans are voting. If the vote were today, it's only two days from now. This is how it's going to look. Take a look at this.

We asked the question, which party's candidate would you vote for? And here's what the result is, right now, 42 percent of likely voters say that they would cast a ballot for Democrats; 52 percent say that they would cast a ballot for Republicans - a 10 percentage point spread.

Why is this interesting? 2010. Go back to 1994. On this very Sunday in 1994, two days before the election, we asked the same question, which party's candidate would you vote for? Back then, 44 percent said they would vote for Democrats; 51 percent said they'd cast a ballot for Republicans. Just a seven point spread and that led to a 52 seat loss in the House of Representatives for the - for the Democrats and control of the House to the Republican Party.

Now, where is this frustration coming from? Where is the anger coming from for the Democrats? Many places. But let me give you some sense of one of the reasons. That this is favorability. This is likability. We asked about the favorability ratings of various Democratic leaders, various people who are prominent in the Democratic Party. Let me see what it says.

The speaker of the House, the head Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, her favorability rating, her likability rating just 26 percent. It's been pushed down over the last several months because of very targeted attacks from Republicans. President Obama, this isn't his job approval rating. This isn't what you think of the job he's done. This is his likability, 48 percent. These two are very, very connected to the Democrats at this point.

Two people also connected to the Democrats, but not holding office, not having to deal with the issues that are connected to those elected offices. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, she does hold an office, but she's not associated with the same problem, 62 percent favorability or likability. Bill Clinton, 63 percent favorability or likability. Some of these is a bit of an explanation is to why we're seeing that big spread.

But keep in mind, a 10 percentage point spread, this is our new polling, much bigger than it was in 1994 on this day two days before an election.

BLITZER: I remember that election.

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: I was the White House correspondent for CNN. It was a black day for the Democrats and for Bill Clinton. He did come back two years later, though, to get himself reelected.

And it's interesting, Ali, and you're going to have all of our exit polls -

VELSHI: Yes.

BLITZER: -- starting Tuesday night, 7:00 P.M. Eastern. We're going to go through each of those exit poll, so we're going to keep you very -

VELSHI: Those are really good reasons as to why people voted the way they did.

BLITZER: Very, very busy.

It also explains why Bill Clinton has been so active over these past several weeks trying to campaign for Democrats. Listen to what he said in Providence today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: And the thing that has bothered me about this election all over America is not that voters are angry. I'm fine with that. They got a lot to be mad about. Not that they're full of anxiety and uncertainty. I'm fine with that.

The thing that's bothered me is this is the most fact-free election I have been involved in in my life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Speaking bluntly, the former president of the United States.

Let's go back to Anderson. It explains, Anderson, why so many more Democratic candidates want Bill Clinton out there campaigning for them as opposed to the president of the United States.

COOPER: Yes. And he has been out there quite a bit.

And talking about what former President Clinton said this being a fact-free election and the most fact-free election. We've seen kind of a new wave of anti-media pushback from a lot of candidates across the country and not a lot of people seem all that concerned about it, frankly. I mean, I guess it's a sign of just how hated the media folks are.

CROWLEY: Well, that and a sign of how many media outlets there are now. I mean, you have your choice. And if you are a candidate that can put your message through friendly media, you don't have to go any place else.

O'BRIEN: Or if you're social networking. Now, you can control your own message. I mean, nobody e-mails me more than Joe Miller. You know, I mean, literally, I wake up. I have all the e-mails from Joe Miller filling me in on his campaign, every single day, and he's controlling his own message. They don't need to go and risk an unfriendly interview. They can just -

BORGER: You know, Sharron Angle first said that in this - in this midterm election and we're always sort of saying, oh, my gosh, she's -

CROWLEY: She's the first sort of Republican to go, but you're not for me.

BORGER: Right. Exactly. And it was really OK. And now, other candidates are doing it. They're managing to get away with it.

JOHNS: It's also sort of what it shows is the anti-inclusiveness, if you will. Allen West down in Florida has said he doesn't like inclusiveness very much. There's this real sense that we're not going to compromise on certain things and one of those is about government spending. We're going to do whatever we're going to do. It also includes the media and how they deal with us. Because a lot of them, I think, see us as something closer to an enemy than a friend.

BASH: And as I see (ph), let's go back to that poll that Ali just showed, the thing that I thought was so interesting was Nancy Pelosi, who I cover every day, 26 percent favorability. It's not just that her favorability is so low, it's that she's so well known. People really know who she - she is especially right now thanks to ads that are running in almost every competitive Congressional district linking a Democratic candidate to her.

And we did some research a couple of weeks ago so it's probably higher now. The Republicans have spent over $70 million using her name in ads. It's got to be sky high. It's going to a hundred now.

BORGER: I was talking to a Republican pollster and these guys can probably vouch for it who does battleground polling in 70, you know, states. And he said the single most effective ad they can run against any Democrat is Congressman "X", voted with Nancy Pelosi 80 percent of the time. It's a sure winner for Republicans and they're doing it over and over.

COOPER: I want to bring in some of our Republican strategists in just a minute. We're going to take a short break. We're going to continue with our - our no graphic panel. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: A few minutes before the break, we saw former president Bill Clinton out on the campaign trail, as he has been an awful lot the last few weeks, campaign for Democrats. Alex Castellanos, you pointed something else that former President Clinton said.

CASTELLANOS: The Democrats have a message, and I thought President Clinton was echoing it there this year that...

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: Oh, did I lose my...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CASTELLANOS: It's the liberal media.

(LAUGHTER)

CASTELLANOS: No, I thought Clinton was echoing the Democratic message that you hear from President Obama quite a lot, and that is voters just don't get it. They don't quite understand what we wonderful, smart people in Washington, all the good we've done for them -- insulting your way to victory, telling voters that they just -- you know, they're not really smart enough to appreciate it and understand, where they're the most informed voters have ever been in history -- I just don't think that's a very good strategy. The customer is always wrong?

ROLLINS: One of the most telling things in the poll that we haven't got to yet -- there's a question, Has the -- does the president have the right priorities? Forty-two percent says he has the right priorities, mostly Democrats. Hasn't paid enough attention to the right priorities -- 56 percent say he hasn't. But most important of all, 62 percent of the independents say this president is not paid -- is not saying (ph) the right priorities. So all this stuff about us driving to the ditch, or what have you -- he ain't getting the keys back, either. And there's going to be a lot more Republicans there to help him get out of the ditch.

AVLON: And if you look with independents, Obama had 66 percent approval for independents up through May of '09. And then all of a sudden, on the heels of the stimulus, he got into health care. And over the course of the summer of '09, his support from independents plummeted. Right now, over 60 percent of independents oppose, do not approve of the health care reform. So the break with independents is all about the focus on health care over the first two years, instead of the laser-like focus on the economy.

MARTIN: But you also -- (INAUDIBLE) Anderson, where, in essence, he got a mulligan, lots of criticism on the stimulus bill in terms of allowing Democrats to basically run with that. It was clear people said, We don't trust Congress. Health care comes along, what happens? Puts it right back in the hand of Congress, as opposed to him taking ownership of that and saying, I'm going to drive this through. Part of that issue is that by putting it in the hands of Congress, people simply don't trust Congress. He basically ceded the ground to them. Now, all of a sudden, they're wondering why people are turning on them. Because you put into hands that people don't like.

COOPER: In terms, though, of what happens after this election day, I mean, how much of a schism is there in the GOP, among these Tea Party candidates and more establishment GOP?

CASTELLANOS: Not nearly as big a schism as there is in the Democratic Party. Look, you've never seen the Republican Party more united. They're united by the leader of the Republican Party, Barack Obama, and his health care plan. I mean, that's the North Star for Republicans. We've even got independents acting like Republicans. That's how united we are. It's the Democratic Party that's going to have to make a big decision.

ROLLINS: And the Democrats...

CASTELLANOS: Is it Obama and health care and more big spending, or is this the avenue, the opportunity for new Democrats?

ROLLINS: And Democrats were very happy in 2006 to take conservative Democrats, many pro-life, many pro-gun, and make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker. We will be very happy to take a few more conservative members in our caucus and basically give us (INAUDIBLE)

AVLON: But here's -- here's the thing. When Republicans have responsibility for governing, they cannot just stick to "Nobama" strategy. The game fundamentally shifts. And that, in some ways, is what the White House is banking on. They have to start taking responsibility and putting plans forward. And what the president needs to do after the election, if the Republicans control one of the houses, is say, OK, let's talk about the areas we can agree on.

MARTIN: And the big issue, Anderson, will be for Republicans, how can you keep pushing this whole notion of extending the Bush tax cuts, and then you say get the deficit under control? They're going to have to answer that question.

CASTELLANOS: And here's how Republicans do it.

MARTIN: And that's going to be a part of it.

CASTELLANOS: And here's how Republicans do it. You go to President Obama, say, Mr. President, well, which economy would you like to grow, Washington's or America's? We'd like to take this much out of Washington's economy to grow America's economy. How about you? That's why we need tax cuts for everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Will those same tax cuts contribute to the actual deficit? So you want -- so I mean, let's not overlook that. I mean, there were an important eight years that Republicans had a hand in what took place.

CASTELLANOS: Look, we all agree that stimulus spending...

MARTIN: No, no, not...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Did the Bush tax cuts play a role in the increasing the deficit? Yes or no.

CASTELLANOS: No.

MARTIN: It didn't?

CASTELLANOS: No. Stimulus...

MARTIN: OK, that's a new one, then.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We've got to take a break...

CASTELLANOS: How do you grow the economy, from Washington or from...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Our coverage continues -- we'll continue right after this break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: More from our self-described low-tech "Best Political Team" in just a moment. But let's use our high tech to pose two of the big questions in this campaign. Will the Tea Party that gave the Republicans so much momentum in the primary season actually hurt the Republican Party's chances to keep the Senate, to win back the Senate on election day? And number two, how will we know if there's a true massive Republican wave on election night? First to the Senate. These are the 37 races for Senate. A blue state is currently held by a Democrat. A red state is currently held by a Republican. The Republicans need a net gain of 10 to get there. I'm going to go to a scenario here. Some of you at home won't like what we have done. This is all hypothetical, but we've assigned some of these races.

New Hampshire, we believe, will stay Republican. Arkansas, we believe, will be a Republican pick-up, now held by a Democrat. Louisiana will stay. Florida, we believe the Republicans will keep. Arkansas, we believe -- and Alaska will stay Republican. You see here we've given the Democrats Connecticut. We've given the Democrats both New York seats and the Delaware seat.

What you have in the middle here are eight toss-up races, and we believe we can say right now that the Democrats will most likely win this one here in California.

So what would you get, then? Forty-four for the Republicans under this scenario, 49, when we give them California, for the Democrats. To get to 51 -- remember, if they only get to 50, Joe Biden, the vice president, would break the tie -- the Republicans would have to win all through these toss-ups -- Wisconsin, West Virginia, Illinois, Nevada, Colorado, Washington state and Pennsylvania. In Colorado and in Nevada, there are Tea Party candidates that many Republicans will tell you privately they think their other candidates, other candidates, might have been stronger in the general election.

So we'll ask the "Political Team" if they agree with that, that perhaps the Republicans could win four or five of these, but fall just short because of those Tea Party candidates. That's one question. Can the Republicans essentially thread the needle to get the Senate?

Now, how will we know as the results start to come in, is there a wave happening, a massive Republican tide like in 1994? Let's go up to the "Matrix" to look at that.

One thing to look at is the decline of the Republican Party in New England and the Northeast in recent years. Can they change that around? Here's one seat in Rhode Island. Patrick Kennedy held this seat. He is not running this year. David Cicilline, the former mayor of Providence, is the candidate there. President Obama had to go up and campaign in this district the other day. That tells you the Democrats are worried about the Northeast.

Here's another one here, Massachusetts 10, again another retiring Democrat, Bill Delahunt, a former prosecutor came to Congress. Democrats are very worried about this seat. Can the Republicans make a comeback in New England? That would be a sign, if those seats start to go, that we're getting a wave.

A couple other quick things to look at here. You come over into the later classes (ph) in Congress, and you'll see some seats in the Pennsylvania suburbs. Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania 8, Chris Kearney further up near Scranton -- if those seats go, you know they're starting to build a wave. And lastly, let's look at these. The Democrats had huge years in 2006 and 2008 in New Hampshire. President Obama carried it. Two congressional seats now held by Democrats, the Republicans think they can win in New Hampshire, including here, Republican Charlie Bass running to get his seat back.

Look at this district. President Obama got 56 percent. If those districts carried so handedly by the president in the Northeast two years ago start to topple for the Republicans, you will see the early bricks (ph) in the wave.

That's using our high-tech knowledge. And when we come back, that low-tech team over there will discuss, can the Republicans get the Senate? And is it a wave year?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: And welcome back. We've actually replaced the "Best Political Team on Television" with the animatronic version...

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: ... of the "Best Political Team on Television." They're amazingly life-like. It's incredible. And they're willing for work for hours and hours, really, for virtually money at all.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So we talked a little bit about what the GOP does after this election day. What does President Obama do, assuming he loses the House? What lesson does he take? Does he learn a lesson? Does he change?

BORGER: Well, you know, it's interesting. As we talk about Bill Clinton, and it took Bill Clinton a year, essentially, to learn the lesson. Remember, he first gave a press conference saying, I am still relevant. Then he went off on a foreign trip, which I think the president is also scheduled to do. He came back, and a year later, he passed Welfare reform.

So I think there's the stages of grief you have to kind of go through to get to working with the Republicans. But I do believe that in the end, it will work for Barack Obama, have Republicans say, OK, we want across-the-board cut in spending. It fits in his new narrative, which...

COOPER: But do you think he will develop a new narrative? To Alex Castellanos's point before, which is if the Democrats believe the message is, Voters just don't get...

BORGER: I think he's going to have to...

COOPER: ... how great we've been?

BORGER: I think he's going to have to because he wants to continue to be president, although Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has said that his goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

JOHNS: He's got to remake himself.

BORGER: So it's kind of hard to work together when...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: He's got to remake himself, number one, in some form or fashion. The question is whether the Republicans are going to push him into some type of a confrontation where America has to decide.

BORGER: Shut down the government?

JOHNS: Right, a government shutdown is one of the things that's actually been talked about.

BASH: Not by the leadership, though.

JOHNS: Right, not by the -- exactly. So if there's a confrontation, maybe he remakes himself, or maybe he'll do it on his own with some type of...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Can I just tell you, as somebody who walks the halls of Congress every day and did -- especially was interested for the first two years of the Obama presidency, the whole MO of the Democrats was, essentially, We don't necessarily have to compromise because the majority is so big. I mean, in the Senate, it's always difficult. But in general, the majority is so big, which is why they tried to push through all of these big ticket items that they knew Republicans weren't necessarily going to vote for. And that's just got to change! It has to change. There's no way that anything could get done or even pretend to get done unless...

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) a refocusing. A big loss will bring him around from, The message of voters need to come to us, understand us better, to, We need to understand the voters or two years from now, we're going to be in serious trouble.

CROWLEY: But the Republican side of this equation is, it is one thing to -- there's a reason that Nancy Pelosi is in the ads and not President Obama, and that's because he still has a high likability quotient. People still want their president to succeed. And so I think Republicans have to be really careful about this.

First of all, I don't think Republicans should want the Senate. I think that's disaster for them because then they'd really be in control. With just one house, it's a little bit easier to kind of try and frame the dynamic. But I think that the president still enjoys, you know, if not the approval, at least they like him very much.

COOPER: Personal approval. CROWLEY: He scores high in those polls. And so they have to keep that in mind. They can't run against him because -- you know, too hard...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: John, I saw you nodding your head over there.

AVLON: Yes, and Republicans also have very high negatives for a party that's about to get swept into power, by all indications. That's very significant.

COOPER: Hold on a second. Dana, didn't you have a -- some polling...

BASH: Yes. Well, our new poll...

COOPER: ... a polling person...

BASH: Right. Our new poll out today asks, If Republicans win control of Congress, will the country be better off? Only 34 percent say yes. So that completely speaks to what you're saying, John. And Republicans know that.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ROLLINS: People in Nevada, people in Washington, vote for us!

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Anderson, we continue to talk about in about it in terms of how he is going to govern, in terms of with Republicans. But one of his biggest issues is really his own base. I mean, when you look at the difficulty the president has had in trying to deal with progressives and trying to get them excited -- if you look at even young voters, you look at the polling data in terms of last year's election in Virginia, in Massachusetts, in New Jersey -- and when you also see the difficulty they've had in trying to get them excited, he has to confront the reality of, What does he say to his base after 2008? Now how do you operate in 2011 and going into 2012?

COOPER: So you don't see him doing what President Clinton did.

MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no. First of all...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Again, what I'm saying is there are several things that he has to do, but the reality is, if he has no strong base, there is no shot in 2012.

CASTELLANOS: There's a way, though -- to Joe's point -- that he does reinvent himself without doing a Clinton, which, of course, is what he'd hate the most in the whole world, to do anything like Bill Clinton. But what he can do is say, I'm not changing, America has changed. He said, America sent me this kind of a Congress, left of center. I worked with them. Guess what? Thank you, America. Now you've sent me this other Congress that wants to cut spending and wants to do something about the deficit. I'm going to work with them.

I think Republicans need to be prepared to confront that president because this -- the base is what's gotten Obama in trouble and is going to cost him Congress this election.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: ... not going to cost him seats.

AVLON: No, but this is -- this is part of this really distorted debate we've been having in the country, where the far right think he's a socialist and the far left think he's a corporate sellout. I mean, that is part of the distortion. Playing to the base is not the solution to the president's problems. He lost the center. He lost independents. That's the lesson he needs to learn.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: ... one of the things he has to focus on, but you still need your base in order to win. Without them...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Two interesting notes from the past to talk about. We've got to take a quick break. We'll be right back with more from our panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Got a couple of images we want to share with you as we continue our coverage. The former president -- we should say two former presidents threw out the opening pitch today at the Rangers/Giants World Series game four. You see George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush a former owner of the Texas Rangers. They were there together, an exciting moment for these two former presidents in Texas, game four of the World Series.

A sad note we want to inform you about, as well, in case you didn't know. Ted Sorensen, who was a very close adviser and speech writer to the late president John F. Kennedy -- he died today at the age of 82. He was the youngest senior adviser to President Kennedy. He left his mark over the years, including the hand he had in writing these memorable words for President Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Ted Sorensen, 82 years old. You know, a lot of us remember. We were young. Ed, you remember.

ROLLINS: I not only remember, I knew him, and he was an amazing man in the sense he was the ultimate staffer. Unlike a lot of speech writers today who lay claim for everything, he never laid claim to everything. People knew he was the principal writer and one of the great thinkers, but he was the ultimate staff man. He served his president well, and basically, over the years, has been very, very quiet about what he did and didn't do.

AVLON: But he was also really the patron saint of all speech writers. Those of us who've worked as speech writers study his work. He was the best, arguably, there ever was.

CASTELLANOS: Wrote the "Profiles in Courage" and that wonderful Rice University speech in which President Kennedy committed this country to putting a man on the moon in a decade. And Sorensen wrote the words, urging America not to take counsel of our fears and to reach for big things. That sense of optimism was extraordinary.

COOPER: Well, you talk about studying his speeches. What in particular -- I mean, what made a Sorensen speech, do you think?

AVLON: You know, he just -- his rhythms, you know -- you know, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country," the way he could frame an argument in a way that was soaring but still grounded in details, that each of his speeches had a very specific theme and memorable lines, but they worked as a whole. He just was -- he was -- he was in the other ballpark.

CASTELLANOS: The sense of humor in that Rice University speech. I think President Kennedy started it by saying -- it was a very hot day, and he started by saying, I don't know why -- why you guys are out there so glum. I'm doing all the work.

ROLLINS: The hardest speech was he wrote Lyndon Johnson's speech to Congress when he memorized -- memorialized Kennedy. So you can imagine, a man who was like his brother, who had been his older brother, he basically had to write that speech for a president that they didn't all particularly like.

COOPER: Remarkable record, Candy.

CROWLEY: Yes. And you know, I remember -- and if you'll forgive me, started in the age of Ronald Reagan, that we went from amazing speeches to bumper stickers. You know, things became, you know, You ain't seen nothing yet. I mean, it was very effective. But you know, he had a lyrical way of writing. You go back -- it's the kind of stuff that gets etched in stone in Washington, literally.

COOPER: You don't think that's going to happen with tweets?

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Never say never!

BORGER: And don't forget "Profiles in Courage," which, of course, the president wrote, but with an assist from his loyal aide, who remained anonymous.

BASH: The other thing I was reading is that he penned the letter that President Kennedy sent to Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis that helped end that crisis. So he was really behind so many critical moments in history during the Kennedy administration.

KING: And stayed a part of the extended Kennedy family after the passing of President Kennedy and then Senator Robert Kennedy, was always in Ted Kennedy's universe. You'd see him from time to time. He was at the Kennedy funeral. I had an extended conversation with him. He always would (INAUDIBLE) to Ed's point about staffing. He would always ask what's going on in politics.

COOPER: Loyal to the end -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very, very much. Let me just wrap it up with some programming notes. I'll, of course, be here tomorrow, together with the entire team, in "THE SITUATION ROOM," 5:00 PM Eastern. We'll be back starting at 5:00 PM on Tuesday in "THE SITUATION ROOM." At 7:00 PM Eastern, the polls start closing on the East Coast of the United States. We'll have live coverage throughout the night, extensive coverage. You don't want to be no place other than right here at the CNN Election Center. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting. The news continues next on CNN.