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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Election Day Preview

Aired November 1, 2010 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the polls open hours from now. Last minute frenzy of ads and appeal for votes floods the airwaves. The balance of powers up for grabs. Stakes are high. Results might mean the difference between gridlock and maybe getting things done.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you fired up?

KING: Elect to be informed right now on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's finally here. Let's get right to it. And our guests, Ari Fleischer. He served as White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. Marc Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University and host of "Our World with Black Enterprise."

S.E. Cupp, conservative political commentator, senior writer for the "Daily Caller" and columnist for "The New York Daily News," and Hilary Rosen, CNN political contributor, managing partner at SKDKnickerbocker, a communications and political consulting firm. Hilary on the way here.

Ari, what does it look like from the Republican point of view?

ARI FLEISCHER, FMR. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Biggest win in 100 years, Larry. I went back and took a look at it. And the biggest election victory any party has ever had was 116 seats the Democrats lost in 1896.

You have to go back to the election of 1910, the last time Republicans or Democrats won or loss 57 seats. And that was a case where the Republicans lost 57 seats.

My prediction now is that Republicans are going to gain 57 seats in the House, and eight in the -- seven in the Senate, Larry.

KING: Mark Hill, if true, why has -- why has it been so bad for this president who has gotten some major legislation through?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, despite getting major legislation through, the Democrats have done an awful job at public relations. They haven't spent enough time trumpeting their victories. They've been playing defense the entire time.

You combine that with a terrible economic situation, people don't have jobs. And when people don't have jobs they don't care about health care reform. They don't care about HIV/AIDS expansion. They don't even care about ending the war in Iraq.

They're worried about the month lasting longer than their money. And so right now the economic despair combined with Republicans -- Republican opposition has led to the Democrats just going to have an awful, awful, awful Tuesday.

I don't think it's as bad as Ari does. I don't think it will be 57 seats. I think it will be more about like 35 to 40 seats. But it's still a bad day for Democrats.

KING: S. E., the president beck on the wrong team, should he have gone the jobs route first?

S.E. CUPP, SR. WRITER, THE DAILY CALLER: Yes, I mean, when we have, you know, record unemployment and the economy is still so bad, pushing through a very radical agenda of spending and health care initiatives that were wildly unpopular, did not make for a good midterm election season.

But instead of trumpeting this record, what I have seen are so many Democrats running away from it. It's not that the message hasn't gotten out, Marc, it's that -- it's that the message is bad and if the message had just been about jobs, then I think you would see a lot of Democrats running alongside Obama instead of running away from him.

KING: Hilary, from your standpoint, how bad do you think it will be?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I agree with Marc. I don't think we're going to have a route, and I think that what Ari said is just wrong when we look at the early voting in key states like Nevada, Ohio, and then Washington, and California.

We are seeing Democrats with a serious level of enthusiasm, not a huge enthusiasm gap, and I just don't -- you know, the predictions all along in special elections were that Democrats were going to be in trouble. I'm much more optimistic tomorrow than some others have been saying.

KING: Ari, could this be a pundit embarrassment? We've had that too in the past.

FLEISCHER: Well, you know, I don't think so, Larry. I think when you take a look at all the long standing trends, and this has been going on now for about six months, this is something deep and meaningful where the American people have substantially opposing what Barack Obama is for.

It's not the communications. It's the substance, it's the policies, that he's been put in place. But frankly, I find this conversation delightful. I hope people write it down. Hilary doesn't think it will be a route. Marc thinks it's going to be about 35 to 40. We'll all going to know in 24 to 28 hours and I think if the Democrats after this election say to themselves we've had a communications problem and we didn't see this coming, boy, does that portend for --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: No -- I think Democrats have seen this coming, they're ready for it, they've been acting a lot -- look, we have had, you know, eight months of positive job growth in this country. We -- you know private sector --

FLEISCHER: No, we haven't.

ROSEN: Yes -- yes, we have.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSEN: Look at the numbers, Ari, you're just wrong if you say no. Private sector job --

FLEISCHER: Hilary --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Not enough. There's still too many people who are unemployed. But there is some measure of progress. But it is not moving fast enough. This is an economic election. People are unhappy with progress. But the Republicans are not necessarily offering any serious solutions when you look at what the Republicans say --

HILL: They've offered no solutions.

ROSEN: What they say they're going to do, they're going to do tax cuts. Well, guess what? There have been 16 tax cuts in the last two years. That hasn't created as many jobs as you said.

KING: S.E. --

ROSEN: What else are you going to do?

KING: Let's get everybody involved. S.E., what about the effect of the Tea Party on your party?

CUPP: Yes, this is -- this is going to be huge. And when you look at people like Rubio and Joe Miller, they're really going to be the bellwether for what happens after Tuesday. You know the Tea Party came on very strong and it's going to be, you know, up to them to decide, do we coalesce, do we organize, do we talk to the GOP, do we stand on our principles?

How do we make ourselves relevant over the next two years? Especially if a lot of Republicans and Tea Party candidates take the House? Because then they're not just railing against Obama, but like Hilary said, they also have to come up with solutions.

So it is going to be very revealing for them on Tuesday.

KING: Marc, is Nevada -- if --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Marc -- Marc. Marc, can we get a -- if Harry Reid goes down, is that a sample for the evening or a misnomer because Nevada is so unusual?

HILL: I think Nevada is unusual and I think Harry Reid is in an unusual position, because he and Nancy Pelosi had been sort of the whipping boys and girls for the last two years, from the Tea Party, from the right.

And so in many ways it's possible for Harry Reid to lose and lose big even although I don't think that's going to happen, and the Democrats still not get routed at the rate that Ari is suggesting. I think that, you know, that's a unique circumstance.

With regard to S.E.'s point, I think that the Tea Party, in many ways, is going to have a very tough time over the next two years staying relevant. For two reasons. One because the American people are not extremists. The Tea Party represents the most extreme wing of the conservative movement and I just don't think that that can hold out.

CUPP: Marc, there's nothing extreme about fiscal responsibility. There's nothing extreme about their party line.

ROSEN: Well, let's -- I mean.

HILL: And if only that were what you all were actually warning.

KING: One at a time. One at a time.

HILL: But then the second point here -- no doubt. But then the second point here is that the Tea Party has its own internal contradictions. Most Tea Party members want veteran's benefits, they want health care, they want Medicare, they want Medicaid.

They want all these bloated goodies at the very same time that they're, you know, screaming for fiscal responsibility. And that contradiction can't hold. It certainly can't hold when you're actually trying to govern. It's easier to scream from the sidelines but when you actually get on the court it's a different thing.

ROSEN: I think there's also --

KING: All right, isn't it a little weird that in Alaska where the Tea Party appears strong Alaska gets more federal benefits than any other state per capita?

FLEISCHER: Yes, but that's because it produces so much oil, it's entitled under the law to the royalties from that oil. If any other state produced all the energy and all the oil that Alaska produces, they'd be in the same position. So that's just a function of the economy up there and what they do.

But, Larry, I want to go back. Hilary talked about how unemployment is improving. Unemployment has been at or above 9.5 percent for 14 straight months now. The last time it was that high that long was the great depression in the 30s.

So if that's the Democrats' definition of improvement, the Democrats are going to be the ones losing a lot of jobs on Tuesday, in addition to the American people. That's where -- I just think that there's this denial going on about how bad things are for the Democrats. And the really -- the big reason is a president who won with so much hope and so much promise in such almost Watergate size majority blew it.

ROSEN: Now I --

FLEISCHER: Barack Obama and Harry --

KING: How about the campaign --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: All right. Let me get a break. How about the campaign -- let me get a break and we'll discuss the campaign against him and how vilified the president may have been and the effect, that is will have on congressional and Senate races because he ain't running.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with our panelists. Discussing some of the individual Senate races.

What do you hear in California, S.E.? Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina?

CUPP: Yes. It's a tight one. California is going to be really interesting to watch. It will come in late. It might go late. You know some polls have Fiorina up, some have Boxer up.

That's going to be a really interesting one and it's going to have -- it's going to have more implications than just local. I think a lot of people are going to be watching California, a very blue state to seem, you know, if someone like Carly Fiorina who comes from the -- you know, the corporate world can unseat a long-term senator who has been much maligned by people on her right.

KING: What do you hear -- and Marc Hill, what do you hear about Senator Murray in Washington?

HILL: You know, again it's a similar issue as you see everywhere else, is that the race is tight. The race is tighter than people thought it would be. And the race is tighter than I think that people even expected it to be. And the outcome really will be a bellwether for this night. I think in many ways, the race in California and the race in Washington, even some of the gubernatorial races, are probably better indicators of how the Democratic Party is going to do than that Harry Reid/Angle race in Nevada.

KING: Ari, is Christine O'Donnell an embarrassment to you or a plus in Delaware?

(LAUGHTER)

FLEISCHER: Well, she's not -- she's not a plus, Larry. I wouldn't say she's an embarrassment in the sense that she won a primary fair and square, and that's the way our country is built.

That was a seat that would have gone Republican. It hasn't. On the other hand, if you look at Florida where a member of the Tea Party, Marco Rubio, a real conservative, pushed out a moderate Republican, Governor Crist. And Republicans are going to keep that seat.

So different states, different results. Kentucky's another one where the Tea Party candidate Rand Paul was supposed to gone to defeat, but nobody thought he could win and against a Democrat incumbent -- a Democrat. That seat -- open seat.

And he's going to win in Kentucky by it looks like a big margin. So you win some, you lose some with the Tea Party. But the Tea Party is going to have to come to Washington also. And I think slow down their gallop and horses.

They are a great shot of adrenaline in the arms of Republicans, especially on fiscal matters. But we have to be a party that can win in all regions of the country and be conservative. And now we're going to have to figure out how to do both as a governing institution, too. Not always easy to do.

KING: Hilary, we're going to show this clip now. In Alaska, Lisa Murkowski is running strong as a write-in candidate. She needs voters who of course rely on spelling her name correctly. Watch part of this rather creative ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The word is Murkowski?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you please define that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alaska's senior senator in Washington who represents all Alaskans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you please use that in a sentence?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To re-elect Lisa Murkowski, you must fill in the oval and write in her name.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Murkowski. M-U-R-K-O-W-S-K-I. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hilary, can she win?

ROSEN: It looks like she can. You know, but write-in candidates are very difficult. It hasn't been done since, you know, Strom Thurmond in the '30s or something. And the -- I think there will be a long week ahead counting votes in Alaska.

My long-shot is that Scott McAdams, the Democrat, like shoots up the middle there between a fight between Murkowski and Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate.

Let me just say this, though, Larry, about the Tea Party, which is that people talk a lot about the civil war within the Republican Party, the Tea Partiers versus the mainstream Republicans.

The Tea Party in my view did one really big favor for the Republicans. It made their message sound fresher even though it really isn't. It's sort of -- it erased the Republicans as being the party of the failed economic policies of George Bush, where we had record deficits, where we start this unemployment crisis we're in now started.

And it made people believe that there was some new offering. Now what we've seen is more of a return to the same but it is wrapped in a different color coat and I think that that has helped all Republicans significantly in this election.

KING: We'll return with the panel in a little while, but John King is going to check in with us right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to our election preview. Joining us now in New York is John anchor -- John King. Right. John is the anchor of "JOHN KING, USA." Although John Anchor ain't a bad name.

He's at the CNN election matrix, which is what we call it now. I like the John King wall.

All right, John, walk us through some of the -- what does this House race look like from your perspective?

JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S JOHN KING, USA: We still got the old wall, Larry. It's been updated with some new technology, too. But let's start right here in the matrix then you can take me over to the wall if you want me to go.

The matrix right here, these are the 100 most competitive House races across the country. And you see all that blue behind me? That's because Democrats are so much on the defensive in this election campaign that you've been discussing with your panels tonight.

Ninety-one of the 100 closest races for the House of Representatives are being defended by Democrats. And Republicans only need a net gain of 39. So right here in these 100 races they could get to that magic number and make John Boehner the next speaker of the House.

A lot of these are in the class of 2006 and the class of 2008. You see those two classes here. Remember 2006 was the class that made Nancy Pelosi speaker. 2008 President Obama won big, brought a lot of Democrats in on his coattails.

Let's look at some of the races here. Here's one we'll look at. This is the president's own state, Illinois. Right here, Phil Hare, he's the Democratic incumbent, now why is he in trouble? Well that's a great question.

The Midwest is turning Republican this year. And what's troubling for the Democrats is that they're on defense even in districts, you see that number. President Obama carried that district with 56 percent of the vote, Larry, just two years. The Democrats are on defense there. Tells you a lot about their problems.

Let me show you another one. We'll close this one down. We'll just show you a couple of others. You see Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut. This is coast to coast, north to south, east to west. This is a great race here.

You can walk from Washington, D.C. to Jerry Connolly's district in northern Virginia. And he's in trouble as well. Northern Virginia has been trending Democratic, more and more young voters. Moderate voters moving in that district. Another district, the president -- 57 percent for President Obama two years ago and yet Jerry Connolly could be in trouble.

Just watch this one here, Larry, in Virginia. If this one goes after the polls close in Virginia, then you'll have the sense that there's a Republican wave. That even in those suburban districts where President Obama won big, if they start going Republican, watch out.

KING: And what about the Senate, Jonathan?

J. KING: Well, let me walk over here to -- it's not the same exactly. We've updated the technology but this is a bit more familiar. Let me bring in the current Senate lineup right here.

This is the current lineup you were just talking about this with some of your guests. And you get 59 Democrats at the moment, Larry. Forty-one Republicans, you can do the math. It's a plus 10 -- plus 10 -- the Republicans need to take the majority.

So let's do this. A lot more races in this, there's 37 in all. But you see the white slates in the middle. Those are the tossup states right now. We assigned some of these races. We believe Arkansas will go for the Republicans even though that's a Democratic seat right now.

We believe the Democrats will keep that Delaware seat. Christine O'Donnell has gotten a lot of attention as the Tea Party candidate. But we think Democrats will keep.

What we have in the middle here are seven tossups states after we've made an allocation of some of these races. Now if you're watching at home, you might say, oh no, the Democrats are going to win this one. The Republicans are going to get that one.

This is an allocation we've made based on pretty good sense of where the polling is. And look at where we are right here. Under this allocation with seven tossups left, Larry, 48 for the Democrats, 44 for the Republicans. So this is why it's so much harder for the Republican when it comes to the Senate. They would have to win all seven of these tossups -- Wisconsin, West Virginia, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Pennsylvania.

The Republicans essentially would have to be perfect for those seven tossups to get to the magic number of 51. If they get the 50, of course, then Joe Biden becomes not only the vice president, but one of the most important man in America, breaking all those ties in the Senate.

But the House most Democrats will concede the point maybe not publicly that the Republicans will get the House tomorrow, the Senate we might be up very late. If you notice Washington state - you know Washington state and Nevada, and some West Coast, some mountain states with Colorado there.

This s is the tougher challenge for the Republicans. They don't think it's out of reach, though.

KING: What -- John, what Senate race intrigues you if we can pick one out the most?

J. KING: Well, if you pick one, it would be Harry Reid in the state of Nevada just because he's the Democratic majority leader. And if he were to lose what a repudiation of the national Democratic leadership.

It looks like the Democrats will hold the Biden seat in Delaware. The Illinois seat, that's Obama's seat, it's a temporary senator in there right now. That's one to watch as well. The Republicans are confident about that.

But in terms of a repudiation of the leadership, if you look at, remember you know after Senator Kennedy passed away, the Republicans took that seat in Massachusetts. President Obama's seat in Illinois could go to the Republicans.

And then to have the Democratic majority leader Harry Reid, if he were to lose too, boy, that would be a tough run, if you will, of high profile prominent Democratic seats going to the other side.

KING: Wouldn't Illinois be the story, though? I mean everyone knows that Reid is a little behind and Nevada is in such economic trouble. Wouldn't Illinois be the big story?

J. KING: It would be sort of a personal rebuke to the president, of sorts.

KING: Yes.

J. KING: And I just want to come down and get this out of the way to show you the Midwest. Because these are the House races right now, Larry. And if you go to the Midwest, look at -- there's a lot of blue in the presidential race. If you go over to the presidential race in '08, you see all this blue in the Midwest right there?

The Democrats have done well in these industrial states. Watch tomorrow night in the races for governor, the races for Senate and these House races. That's where the manufacture and economy has been so down.

The rust belt is hurting and the Republicans think they're going to have a lot gains in this part of the country right here that has been so critical to the Democrats in recent years, Larry.

That's a place to watch, including the president's home state of Illinois without a doubt.

KING: That's John King. You'll be seeing him a lot tomorrow night.

Candy Crowley and David Gergen -- David Gergen, rather, you're going to see a lot of them, too. And they are with us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Candy Crowley is the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." David Gergen is CNN's senior political analyst. We welcome them both to LARRY KING LIVE.

All right, Candy, what's your overview of tomorrow?

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S STATE OF THE UNION: My overview tomorrow is there'll be a lot of very surprised people if the Republicans don't take control of the House. Obviously, that's where all the attention has been.

It's interesting to me that, you know, we need to watch these governor's races simply because it's a census year. And that means they're going to redistrict in all of these states. And it makes a difference who the governor is.

The governors don't actually redistrict but they certainly in many of these states have a say so. So that's important, but you know all the attention is on the House because it says so much about the country and how they feel about the direction of the country under the Obama administration, and I -- do I think that the Senate will go Republican? I don't, and neither do the Republicans.

But I can also tell you, Larry, that if you talk to Democrats tonight they're saying you all are underestimating our turnout machine. And perhaps we are, but in the end, that's all the Democrats have left right now, is that turnout machine, and whether it can at least help in some of these districts that's still look like tossups.

KING: David Gergen, the late great Mike Royko of Chicago -- I know you knew him, I knew him -- once changed Illinois politics by telling people to lie to the pollsters.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Could the pundits be wrong?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Absolutely. It was a wonderful piece in the "Wall Street Journal" this last night week by Josh Lerner. He was a really interesting young man who went back to a lot of political science and said more often than not, pundits are wrong.

You know, we have a worse record than if you just did it randomly in terms of predicting the --

(LAUGHTER)

GERGEN: You just flip a coin and you would come out with better predictions.

But Larry, you know, we have been so polled this year -- I don't know. There must be a zillion polls that have been taken. I don't think you and I have ever seen this in our lifetime.

How much money -- it's not just advertising, money going to the polling. A lot of people making money out of this. But all of this says I think that this is shaping up to be an historic election. If it comes out the way it appears, you know, only two years ago, you and I were talking about the fact that wow, this young man, Barack Obama has just changed history.

The Reagan tide is receding. Many wrote that conservatism was dead. And here we are two years later where conservatism is back in full throat and is -- and the president is on the ropes. He's going to be wounded tomorrow night.

And we could have an election that could give the Republicans. If they win like 53, 54, 55 seats, they could get to the point they'll have the biggest numbers they've had in the House of Representatives since -- for over 60 years.

KING: Does that -- Candy, if all that is true does that end compromise or forced compromise?

CROWLEY: Well, there's the rub. I'm not sure which one. I mean, I think if you had to vote tonight on what was going to happen afterwards, it does seem to be a recipe for gridlock. Having said that, nobody really has a vested political interest in this. The president needs to get something done, and Republicans need to get something done, because the truth of the matter is that most voters don't like either one of these parties.

So, in the end, if 2012 is going to be about who they hate the least, it's going to be an even uglier election than it is now. So I think that there is a vested political interest in these parties getting together. I just -- you know, the Tea Party element I think puts the element of the unknown in there on how that's all going to work, when they get together with more mainstream Republicans.

I think that there will be some things that they can get together on. But on the major issues, immigration reform, the two things the president says he wants to do, that's going to have to be a lot of compromising. And right now before the election is not when they want to discuss compromising, that's for sure.

KING: David, in 1994, Republicans swept in and Clinton was a dead duck. Two years later, he won in a romp?

GERGEN: He was. He was back in --

KING: Can Obama be a Clinton?

GERGEN: Yes. But he's going to be -- it will be tougher, Larry. With Bill Clinton, the economy was in strong shape. Those next two years were good economic years. The next two years promise to be very, very rough economic years for President Obama. And Bill Clinton as we both know -- Candy knows even better -- Bill Clinton was an extraordinary nimble president who loved deal making. He loved the sort of getting down in the weeds with other politicians and dealing with it.

It's not clear if Barack Obama's very comfortable doing that. And he -- in order to govern well, he's going to have to do a lot of deal making. He's going to have to be in conversations regularly with Republicans, coax them over. They have to coax him to the middle. There's got to be a lot to make that work.

And there's got to be a temptation, Larry, for -- in the early days after this election, when he's wounded, there's going to be a temptation on the part of some Republicans to say, there's blood in the water, let's go get him. Let's finish him off.

KING: As Mitch McConnell has said, right, Candy?

CROWLEY: Well, he did, in fact, say that the top priority was to make sure that this would be a one-term president. It's that kind of rhetoric -- in fact, I talked to some Democrats about this and said, do you really think that if this election turns out the way you believe it is, that it's some message for voters that they want gridlock in Washington? Because I don't think -- and the exit polls will certainly tell us more about this -- that that's really the message that's coming from the American people that we at least see in the polling before the actual voting.

So I think that everybody has to be careful not to over-interpret the results for themselves, the Republicans and the Democrats. They always over-interpret. Here's a mandate. Here's not a mandate. They need to listen very closely to what this election is about. And I don't think that the people are looking and saying, what we need is gridlock. Let's just make sure nothing happens in Washington. Not in the kind of economic times that we're having.

GERGEN: I think --

(CROSS TALK)

GERGEN: I think Candy's absolutely right about that. This is much more a negative election; we don't like what we're seeing. Republicans, as Haley Barbour said earlier tonight on CNN, are going to have to earn the trust of Democrats. But I want to say, to offset -- John Boehner I think was wrong in saying the most important thing -- or Mitch McConnell said this -- to bring down -- or make sure he doesn't have a second term.

Equally so, what President Obama said, well the -- talking about republicans, they can come along for the ride. But they have to sit in the back seat. That also is an invitation to gridlock. He's got to make sure they ride shotgun with him if he really wants to govern in the next two years.

KING: Candy Crowley and David Gergen, two of the best in the business. You'll see them tomorrow night. You'll see lots of them. Thank you.

By the way, Wednesday night, we'll be back with a post election analysis. And I would bet these two are going to be back with us. Thursday night, Janet Jackson. And we'll be back with more of our panel after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A bitter race is going on in Nevada between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle. It's supposedly very, very close. All day Jessica has been with the First Lady of the United States campaigning with Harry Reid. And do I have this right, Jessica -- before we get back with our panel -- that both victory parties tomorrow are in the same hotel?

YELLIN: They're not both in the same hotel, but Harry Reid's victory party is in the same hotel that the Tea Party Express victory party is. They're trying to -- the Tea Party Express trying to rub Harry Reid's nose in the success the Tea Party has had in fielding a strong candidate against him, Larry.

KING: OK, what's the story tonight, Jessica? Has Michelle made a difference?

YELLIN: The story here -- well, Michelle Obama was here to actually get out the vote for die hard Democrats. What everyone's looking at now are the -- is the assumption that this race could come down to just a few thousand votes. Everyone I talked to on both sides of the aisle tonight, Larry, is exceptionally nervous, because after 50 million dollars has been spent in this state, no one can tell which way this one will go.

Obviously, Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, is a huge target for Republicans. Symbolically, it would be meaningful if they could defeat him. Republicans insist that late polling shows that Sharron Angle, his Tea Party opponent, the Republican nominee, is having a late surge.

But Democrats insist that early voting, which has taken place in this state, shows that Democrats are holding their own, and that there is not an enthusiasm gap. And Democrats say they're feeling strong about tomorrow. Basically, Larry, you can tell the spin war is on. And we're going to have to watch those returns. I think it's going to be a very late night here tomorrow.

KING: You'll be seeing lots of Jessica tomorrow night. Jessica Yellin, our CNN national political correspondent.

Back with the panel. Ari, if the late voting is going -- by the way, do we know how those votes are tabulated, Ari?

FLEISCHER: You mean the early voting?

KING: Yeah.

FLEISCHER: The early voting? They can tell if people are Republican or Democrat who fill out their forms. And that's how they're guessing at it. But the interesting fact -- many Democrats like to say that they're winning the early votes and they're hanging their hats on that. If you compare the number of early votes D's are getting this year to 2008 and 2006, which were very good years for the Democrats, they're well behind their marks in both 2006 and 2008. So the early voting indicators are not good.

Larry, I heard your conversation with David about could every be wrong, the pundits be wrong? That's kind of like going into two years ago and saying, can John McCain really win? Aren't all these polls wrong?

When you have this many for this long, with the trends this big, there's something in the air. And what's in the air is a strong wind blowing. And another number to give you; I think this is going to be the third biggest sweep in the history of our country. That's how big the win is going to be. I gave you the number earlier, 116 was the biggest change of parties ever in 1894. And there was also a 96-seat swing once in the House.

If this is above 47, it will be the 30 -- third biggest in the history of our country. That's not your normal mid course correction. That's a fundamental rejection of what the majority party has put in play.

(CROSS TALK)

KING: Marc Hill, are you depressed?

HILL: Listening to Ari talk, I'm getting more and more depressed, yes. But I think we're going to be just fine. Again, I think that one difference between 2008 and now is that it comes down to the ground game. Democrats can mobilize their base. We can win get voters out and we can win some of these contested but close elections. I think that's something that John McCain had no shot of doing in 2008. I'm also not pessimistic, because even if Republicans do have the kind of rout that Ari's predicting, I do think that President Obama actually will be better governing with a narrow majority or playing slightly from behind than he does with this huge lead that he's had for the last two years. He's been an awful front runner. Democrats in Congress have been awful front-runners.

Even with the little super-majority, we've done very little in the way of making progressive change, at least at the scale that we could. I'm looking forward, even if we lose, to a very productive two years, assuming Republicans don't commit themselves to gridlock and obstruction, as they have for the last two years.

(CROSS TALK)

KING: We'll get with S.E. Cupp and Hillary Rosen in a moments, get their thoughts. We'll get into some individual races in the governors bailiwick as well, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back with our panelists. Let's discuss one race with S.E. Cupp and Hilary Rosen, then get into overall picture again. That's California. S.E., what do you hear on Brown and Whitman, in which the spending has been over the top?

CUPP: Absolutely. I mean -- and such a weird contrast when you think about the economic state that California is in right now. That's another close one. Jerry Brown seems to have a bit of a lead, but I think Meg Whitman is going to turn out supporters.

But I'm so glad you brought up the governor's races. It's not just about Congress. Republicans could end this with 35 state houses. That's massive. And as you know, that's incredibly important when you're looking at redistricting and electoral seats.

So it really isn't just about taking control of the Congress. This -- you know, the governor's races are going to be incredibly impactful over the next two years.

KING: Hillary, you agree?

ROSEN: I think she's right. I think that Jerry Brown is going to beat Meg Whitman in California. California is littered with rich business people trying to buy the governorship. It's a state that just rejects it. The voter registration really overwhelmingly favors Democrats in that state.

But there's no question that the gubernatorial races where we're going to see significant Republican gains are going to come back to haunt us in 2012.

But on the bigger picture of what Ari's talking about, this kind of back and forth and this sweeping -- grand sweeping support for Republicans, rejection of Democrats; we have to remember a fundamental shift that's happening in this country, and it's not about republicans and democrats. It's actually about independents.

Forty to 50 percent of new voter registrations are registering independent, especially among young people. And it's those independents that are altering the course of elections, and those independents that are quite -- end up being quite fickle, because they're looking for their best opportunity at both parties.

So what we're seeing is not historic shifts to a single party or not. What we're looking for is an electorate shifting back and forth between homes, neither one of which are feeling entirely satisfactory to them.

KING: Want to comment on that, Ari?

FLEISCHER: Well, I agree. And I didn't say this is a referendum for Republicans. I said this as a sweeping, historic referendum against Democrats. And that will be the jump ball going into a presidential year, who can win the independents.

More importantly than they're just registering as independents, they're breaking sharply, sharply Republican, having previously voted for President Obama. One other thing, Larry, I just got an AP story sent to me. In Nevada, the headline -- this is an AP story, and it is Nevada GOP turns in promising early vote tally.

So much for that myth about the Democrats having the early votes in Nevada. Looks like the AP says Republicans have the edge there.

KING: Marc, you want to comment on the governor's races?

HILL: Yeah, I agree with everything that's been said. They are so crucial. I think we're underestimating how crucial they are. I don't think it's going to come down spending in California. It's going to come down to where the voters actually situate themselves. In that particular race, obviously, they're going to go with Jerry Brown.

But I think around the nation, you actually are going to see a huge, huge set of victories for Republicans. I think that's a space Republicans are going to be very, very successful, I think it spells extreme danger for the state legislatures around the nation. And particularly, it spells danger for the redistricting policies that are going to happen in the next few months.

You're going to see many attempts at redistricting vetoed in ways that favor Republicans. Texas is going to pick up four congressional seats likely with the redistricting. Pennsylvania's going to lose one. Florida's going to pick up two. These are things that are going to strongly advantage Republicans.

So this will have implications for the next few election cycles. So I think it's major. It's major.

KING: What, S.E., is causing this Republican sweep of the gubernatorial races? CUPP: Well, yeah, I think like everyone has said, this is not an embrace of Republican ideas or Republican personalities. This is a move away from a sweeping Obama agenda that was very unpopular, over- reaching, a little arrogant. And I think both in the House and the Senate and the governor's races, you -- what you're seeing is the people are walking away, running away from the Democrats in power, Pelosi, Reid, you know, all the big names. And they're going toward not Republicans, but the alternative.

It will be up to Republicans over the next two years to prove that they're not just the naysayers, but that they actually have ideas. And that's going to be very tricky when they're considering 2012 and how much sort of credit they want to line up for Obama.

ROSEN: You know, president --

KING: We'll take a break and come back with Hillary's thoughts right after these words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

KING: Hillary, is race still an issue?

ROSEN: Well, sure, race is an issue. But if you mean is race a big issue in this election?

KING: Yeah.

ROSEN: It doesn't seem to be. I think there are clearly elements of the radical part of the Tea Party, as we saw in recent NAACP report delineating some of the origins of the Tea Party. But I think for the most part that the leadership of the Tea Party has tried to push those aside. But some of the anger and foment that we sometimes see around race I think we see less of in the African- American side.

Now, the place where there is race baiting is on the Latino side. We saw Sharron Angle use an anti-Latino ad as an attack on Harry Reid. We've seen several instances in Florida of the same thing. So, I am surprised, actually, that the political elements of race has shifted now toward attacks on Hispanic Americans.

KING: I'm going to go to break. When we come back, we'll have -- hold on. I got to get a break. We got so many breaks. When we come back, we'll get each of the panelists to give us a quick prediction. And I want each to tell us who will be the Republican nominee to oppose the incumbent, Mr. Obama, in two years. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Because of a time limitation, I want to get each of the candidates -- each our panelists to tell me who they think will be the Republican standard bearer in two years. But I want to start, Ari, with this: stopping Sarah Palin, the 'Politico' has an article out saying that the GOP establishment is out to stop -- here's the quote: "there is rising expectation among GOP elites that Palin will probably run in 2012 and could win the nomination, a prospect many of them regard as a disaster in waiting."

Ari, what are your thoughts?

FLEISCHER: Huge controversy about the story. Sarah Palin attacked the writers over it. And I think they're kind of both right. I agree with those writers, though. They are both excellent writers, and they know what they're talking about. But they have all blind quotes. They didn't quote anybody by name. And I never like that. But I know the people they talked to and the people they talked to would say that.

KING: Who will be the nominee, Ari? What do you think?

FLEISCHER: I think the two to watch -- most intriguing names for me are Mitch Daniels of Indiana and John Thune of South Dakota. They are the most fresh, new voice on the Republican scene. But way too early. No one knows who it will be. I'm just intrigued by those two especially.

KING: Marc, what intrigues you?

HILL: You know, I actually don't think it will be a young face. I think it will be someone who we've seen before. If God is a Democrat, it would be Sarah Palin, because I think Obama would have a handy victory in 2012.

FLEISCHER: God's not a Democrat. I can tell you that.

HILL: But my expectation is that it will be -- fair enough. My expectation is that it will be a dark horse. It will be Mike Huckabee. I think Mike Huckabee will actually give Obama a tough run, but Obama ultimately wins.

KING: S.E., who do you think?

CUPP: If it weren't for Mass-Care and Obama-Care, which is like an albatross around his neck, I would really like Mitt Romney. I would love to see Bachmann run. I think Michele Bachmann would be a really great jolt of energy to conservatives, to women, to the party. I think she's a really smart lady.

ROSEN: Sarah Palin --

KING: Are you kidding or do you mean that?

CUPP: What kind of question is that, Larry? Of course, I mean it.

HILL: If she's the nominee, Obama needs to start --

(CROSS TALK)

ROSEN: Michele Bachmann is a pale comparison to Sarah Palin.

CUPP: Michele Bachmann is a woman to admire. She's very smart. She's done great things for her state. And conservatives love her.

ROSEN: OK. I'm all for it, Michele Bachmann. I was going to say go, Sarah, go, but now I'm all for Michele Bachmann. Go Michele, go.

HILL: So am I.

ROSEN: That's the one we want.

CUPP: You guys are terrible.

HILL: Please, please!

(CROSS TALK) .

KING: I think Ari would complain, too.

(CROSS TALK)

ROSEN: Larry, Barack Obama is the most popular Democrat in the country. -- Barack Obama is the most popular politician in the country, still, in every poll. Sarah Palin is actually the most popular Republican politician in the country. So, you know, there it goes. Go, Sarah, go!

KING: If it looked bad, do any of you -- go ahead.

FLEISCHER: Larry, three years ago, nobody would have thought Barack Obama could beat Hillary Clinton. So my only point about presidentials is there's so much history yet to be written. And it's way to early to handicap it. Anybody could win.

I just think -- I'm a big believer in capitalism and competition. And I love the fact Republicans are going to have a real fight for who's going to represent them and what direction the party wants to go. That's how we should settle things.

KING: Thank you all very much. Remember, the Michele Bachmann thing started here, tonight. That's Ari Fleischer, Marc Lamont Hill, S.E. Cupp and Hillary Rosen. All-day coverage tomorrow on CNN, all- night coverage. We're back Wednesday with analysis. Janet Jackson on Thursday. Jeff Bridges Friday. Right now, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360." Anderson?