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AMERICAN MORNING

Post Midterm Elections; Balance of Power Shifts; John Kasich Defeats Strickland in Ohio; Reid Wins Big in Nevada; A Look at the Exit Poll Analysis

Aired November 3, 2010 - 06:00   ET

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


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning and thanks so much for being with us on this Wednesday, the 3rd of November, the day after Election Day. Typically this is the time when we go on the air, but we've already been on for three hours following everything that's happened. And boy, there's a lot that's happened.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: A lot going on. Still seven governor races undecided this morning. Still three Senate races up in the air. Let's go to the wall and take a look at some of the numbers for you this morning.

If you're just waking up, one of the big stories today, of course, is the balance of power has shifted, especially as it relates to the House of Representatives.

Take a look right now. Actually let's start with the Senate, with the Senate. Right now in the Senate, the Democrats hung on, but barely and still maintain a majority there. They retain control of the upper chamber, but the majority has dwindled now to just 51 seats for the Democrats, 47 for the Republicans, as of now. But when we talk about the House race, this is the big one. This is a new reality for President Obama this morning when we take a look at the balance of power. Republicans have now won control of the House of Representatives. And they were able to really ride a wave of voter anger.

Nine out of ten people that were exit polled as they left the polling station said the economy was a big reason why they came out to vote. And four out of 10 said they feel that they're in worse shape than they were two years ago when Obama came into office. So, anyway, this is how it turned out, the numbers right now. They actually gained the GOP more than the GOP gained back in 1994 during the "Contract with America," the biggest swing in this chamber since 1948.

Let's talk about Alaska right now, because Alaska is a little bit more complicated. There's a three-way Senate race going on and it still has not been called here at 6:00 in the morning on the East Coast. We have Tea Party-backed Republican candidate Sarah Palin backing Joe Miller. We have Democrat Scott McAdams, and then the write-in candidate who was the incumbent senator from Alaska, Republican Lisa Murkowski. This is a race that could actually end up taking weeks to finalize. Still more than 70 percent. Seventy-four percent of the votes counted right now. And we have a slight lead for the write-in candidate, Lisa Murkowski. But again, it is going to take time. Another race that could end up taking a while to finalize is going on in Washington State. This is another three-way race. Democratic Senator Patty Murray, Republican Dino Rossi, and they're in a dead heat with two-thirds of the votes counted there. It could take days. Again, I don't know why we called it a three-way race. It's a two-way race at this point. And we still don't have a winner. They're talking about potentially dealing with a recount right now in Washington State.

Let's go to Colorado. This is the third undecided of the day. The Senate race there could be heading for a recount, as well. We have Democrat Senator Michael Bennet and Republican Tea Party-backed Republican candidate Ken Buck. And right now, they're separated by just a few thousand votes. We have 86 percent of the -- of the votes counted right now. And you have Ken Buck with a razor-thin lead here, only up by 3,200 votes right now. And they are talking about the thousands of provisional and write-in votes that still need to be counted and then added to the final totals.

But Republicans did knock Democrats out of nine governorships, including a major victory in Ohio. We have John Kasich defeating the state's incumbent governor, Democrat Ted Strickland, and this is despite some last-minute intense campaigning from the president himself. The Republicans also swept into power in the House and it means they have a new speaker, Ohio's John Boehner. And that's where CNN's Carol Costello is today in Ohio with the morning after reaction to the GOP's big night. John Boehner in tears.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, it was very emotional from John Boehner and very emotional from both candidates for governor. I'll tell you one thing, Kiran, Ohio will not be President Obama's firewall. He came to Ohio many times, 12 times since he was elected president, twice in the last few weeks. He wanted that Democrat in the governor's seat so that he could campaign here effectively in 2012. He wanted the Democratic political groundwork in place, which would make it much easier for him to run. But that will not be.

The Republican candidate for governor, John Kasich, a long-time congressman who's been out of politics for 10 years won the governor's chair by a slim margin. Here's what he had to say last night. And then you'll hear from Ted Strickland, the Democratic loser.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. ELECT: Ohio has said it wants to run our state in a new way. A way that is good for jobs, good for families, and good for our future. We rejected the doomsayers and said let's get together and build the kind of future we want for our beloved state. We succeeded because we stayed true to what we believe. Ohioans are worried about their futures, so we gave them solutions.

I'm very proud of the fact that it was ideas and values that drove this campaign, and they're the only things that will drive my administration. And I want you to understand we don't owe anything to anybody. We're going to do it the right way and turn the page on American politics.

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: This is my last campaign, and I have seen a lot and I've lived a lot in nearly seven years. But I have never given up hope in the will, the wisdom, and the goodness of people. I have never stopped believing in Ohio. And I never will. I love you. I thank you. God bless you. And God bless the great state of Ohio. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: It's hard to believe, Kiran, just four years ago Ted Strickland won the governor's chair with 60 percent of the vote here. But the economy got to him. Ohio's been hurting for a long time. As you know, 400,000 jobs lost, unemployment rate in the double digits. Ohioans wanted a change. They want to better their lives and they think they can do it with a Republican governor. And also, they voted out Democrats in the state House, as well. Republicans now control the Ohio state House. So we'll have to see how they do.

CHETRY: All right. Carol Costello for us in Ohio this morning. Thanks so much -- John.

ROBERTS: One of the happiest people on the planet this morning has got to be Senator Harry Reid of Nevada. He eked out a win last night. It was actually more than an eye. It was a substantial win, bigger than anybody thought. Sharron Angle was ahead, but he beat her by a fairly substantial margin.

And our Jim Acosta is live on the strip this morning where it's about 3:00 in the morning. And people are still going strong there, Jim. So how did Harry Reid do it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Well, I got to tell you, John, one of the most striking exit poll numbers for me that really stands out if you look at the exit polling data that CNN has collected from this race, Harry Reid won moderates in this state, self-described moderates by a margin of 65 to 31. That's extraordinary in a year where he's the Senate majority leader.

This state, as you know, is in serious economic trouble. This should have been a cakewalk for a Republican. And so there is a bit of a Tea Party hangover here. Not quite stealing Mike Tyson's tiger type of hangover, but a hangover nevertheless, because with a more traditional Republican candidate, one could argue that they would have won this race.

And I asked one of Senator Reid's campaign staffers, what do you think was the deciding factor here? And he said that they wanted to make this a choice. And if you looked at the air waves over the last several weeks, every ad coming from Harry Reid painted Sharron Angle as extreme. They went back and recycled her old comments about phasing out social security, about, you know, domestic enemies, Second Amendment remedies, all of her greatest hits from this campaign. And they really just ripped her to shreds when it came to those moderate voters. But nevertheless earlier tonight, Ms. Angle came out. She addressed her supporters and said she's still proud of her campaign. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SEN. CANDIDATE: I am so proud of you. So proud of you and so proud to be one of you. We're going to look back on this day and remember this as the day for Nevada and a day for America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: One of the other deciding factors for Senator Reid, John, minority voters according to the exit polling here in Nevada by two- thirds margin. Two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Harry Reid in the state. Nearly three quarters of African-Americans voted for Harry Reid in this state. So when you talk about a state where the minority vote is a factor in Nevada, just ask President Obama. He won this state by a healthy margin in 2008. That kind of advantage for Senator Reid cannot be discounted. He's expected to hold a news conference later today. He's going to be asked about what he's going to do in the Senate now. He's still the majority leader, but just by a hair, John.

ROBERTS: And we'll get a chance in our next hour, by the way, to ask him what he plans to do because he's going to be joining us live this morning. And I guess it's Sharron Angle who's waking up today wondering how the heck the tiger got in the living room.

ACOSTA: Exactly.

ROBERTS: We've got our political panel with us this morning, as well -- Jim, thanks so much -- to kick around a whole bunch of topics.

But coming up next, a live report from Ed Henry at the White House. What does the president have to do in the next two years to try to get some things done now that he's dealing with a split Congress? Ed's been looking into it and he joins us coming up.

It's 10 minutes after the hour now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: So your election headquarters this morning at 6:13 Eastern Time, the economy was certainly no friend to the Democrats in this election. We have Christine Romans here taking a closer look at her exit poll analysis.

We knew that people are going to be voting on pocketbook issues. The question was, who are they going to blame?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I tell you the angst ran really deep. You know, in these polls, it shows that more than half of all Democrats and Republicans have someone in their family, Kiran, who actually lost a job. So that's what is really running this thing.

Look, how many people are worried about the economy? Eighty-seven percent overall, 50 percent of people are very worried, 36 percent said somewhat worried, 10 percent of these lucky voters are not worried, and three percent have no -- not at all worried about the economy. But mostly, you see that people are absolutely taking with them what's happening around the kitchen table.

What about the stimulus package? Did this help? This I found fascinating. Total, total division here. A third of people said that it was helpful. A third of people said it wasn't helpful, and a third of people said that frankly, it made no difference at all. Some thought it hurt, some thought it helped, some thought it made no difference.

This is going to have a lot of ramifications as we head into the next year when people will be talking about either this new Congress will either have to spend to help the economy or have to cut spending and make some big choices to try to reign in the deficit. So you'll be hearing more about this.

Who to blame? Who is to blame? Guess what? Wasn't a good day for Wall Street bankers. Thirty-five percent blame Wall Street bankers. Thirty percent blamed the prior administration, George W. Bush, 23 percent blamed this president and his administration, which is also interesting heading in the next couple of years because if you start to see the economy gain a little bit of a traction, it might be something that this White House could be able to capitalize on.

CHETRY: That was interesting though when you talk about who's to blame. Because if we could delve deeper, technically, if you're blaming Wall Street, if you - if you blame Wall Street, you're - you're also faulting the administration for bailing out Wall Street - I mean, in some way, which both administrations had a - had a role in.

ROMANS: Right. And all of these people - I mean, it was overwhelming support for bailing out Wall Street. Remember, TARP, a couple (INAUDIBLE) for - I mean, it was overwhelming support because everyone - I mean, there was bipartisan support for that legislation. So it gets sort of tricky when you start talking about bailing out bankers and who's to blame for bailing out bankers, because both parties did.

CHETRY: That's right. And - and, you know, the question, did it work? You know, are we - are we - are we on that secure footing now, which is what we were promised to happen if we did bail them out?

ROMANS: And many - and many of the economists say that - that the White House has not been able to capitalize very well on the fact that we are better off than we were two years ago when the economy really was on the verge. And many of these people who were - who were running thought that the lights could literally go out in the economy, but now it's jobs. It's all about jobs, Kiran.

CHETRY: Interesting stuff on the (INAUDIBLE).

ROMANS: Sure.

CHETRY: Christine Romans, thanks so much - John.

ROBERTS: Kiran, with Republicans in firm control of the House this morning, President Obama has been busy making some congratulatory phone calls, one of them to high (ph) Republican, John Boehner, who will likely be Mr. Speaker come January.

Ed Henry's live in the White House this morning - or live Washington this morning., in view of the White House there (ph). How did that phone call go? And does the president change the way that he governs, moving forward?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question, John. I mean, in the short-term, these calls went well, according to both sides. That's to be expected.

There's a clear message out of these results, certainly worse for the Democrats, with losing control of the House, but both parties are probably going to see this message, that people outside Washington are angry. They want to see these parties come together, at least on some issues, not all issues.

And so, both sides are - including the White House, the Boehner side are saying, look, the phone call went great. They're going to work together, moving forward.

But a reality check here, as you see this official White House photo of the president smiling there, the - the tie loosened, he had his sleeves rolled up a little bit, he had the BlackBerry in one hand. He's ready to get down to work for the American people.

But the reality check here is that both sides have talked a good game for almost two years now. Boehner has tried to stop this administration at just about every turn, said no to just about every initiative. And while the president has talked, you know, for example, in the State of the Union several months back about meeting with Democratic and Republican meters at - leaders at least once a month, trying to bring everyone together, he's fallen short there, as well.

So, both sides have a lot of work to do if they're going to actually govern together.

ROBERTS: This is his first midterm election. We all remember 1994, and President Clinton virtually gobbling up every piece of political information he could. How closely was this president watching the midterms?

HENRY: Yes. I can tell you from talking to senior Democratic officials, he was working the phones, he was reading the BlackBerry very closely, getting data from aides, you know, like David Axelrod and others who are working into the wee hours of this morning, there, in the West Wing of the White House, to feed information in the residents, number one.

And - and number two, I think what's interesting is that the president's going to have a news conference in the East Room today, 1:00 P.M. Eastern time. And, basically, we're going to see whether he comes out of this, when you ask if he's going to change his style, what message did he get out of this? What adjustments will he make? When Bill Clinton had a similar press conference after the thumping he took in 1994, he made very clear that he was going to move to the center on some things, but he was also going to assert his authority and - and said, look, the president is still relevant here. He wasn't going to cede all the ground to the Republicans.

So everyone will be watching very closely to see what posture this president takes in just a few hours from now, John.

ROBERTS: Yes, whether he moves to the center to the - the center, to try to cooperate with Republicans, or, as Hilary Rosen was suggesting earlier this morning, he may move to the left to try to energize the base.

We'll be talking with "The Best Political Team on Television", coming up next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

6:22 right now here on the East Coast, and Republicans have taken back the House, if you're just waking up with us. That was the result last night. The Senate, though, stayed in Democrat hands. So who were the biggest winners and losers last night?

"The Best Political Team on TV" is back with us. We have senior - CNN senior political analyst Ed Rollins, as well as CNN contributor Erick Erickson, editor in chief of RedState.com. Michael Crowley, he is the - Michael Crowley. I can't believe I said it right this whole time. Deputy Washington bureau chief for "Time Magazine".

We have CNN contributor and Independent analyst, John Avlon; Democratic strategist Kiki McLean; and CNN political distributor - contributor Hilary Rosen. Great to see all of you this morning.

So, your picks for winners and losers - we were talking, you know, about some of those individual races, but also big picture.

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: By far, the two big winners were John Boehner - John Boehner came back from the dead. Four or five years ago, he's dumped from the leadership, now the new Speaker of the House, and he clearly held that thing together.

And Haley Barbour, who basically did an extraordinary job. When Michael Steele dropped the ball as the party chairman, many people didn't want to go to him. Haley picked it up as chairman of the Republican Governor Association, raised $100 million, did an - an extraordinary job of putting things together across the country.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. I would say Haley Barbour definitely is probably the big winner out of this, looking at the way the governor's races went.

And, you know, one of the - one of the things that people haven't paid attention to is that because of the - the horror of what was going on at the Republican National Committee in the way they weren't spending or raising money, Barbour really used the RGA to run some ground games, to get governors elected that helped get others elected.

Big loser out there, John Cornyn. We would not see the Republicans in the Senate do as they've done if he hadn't ignited that civil war in Florida by endorsing Crist and then going out across the country in defiance of local grassroots activists, state-by-state.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME: Also looking at outside players who put money in - to raise to supporting Republicans, you have the Chamber of Commerce, which has really established itself as a huge political player.

Also, I think you have to look at Carl Rove, you know, who kind of made a comeback. He was sort of down. Bush left office on a low note. A lot of people were questioning Rove's instincts. He put together some of these independent groups that pumped a lot of money into key races.

And - and, I think, speaking of Rove, has tousled a little bit with Sarah Palin. I think Palin, depending on what happens in Alaska, may come out tonight a little bit tarnished. People may be questioning the judgment of some of the endorsements she made, the picks she made, whether she hurt the Republican Party's chances in the Senate.

And Rove went head-to-head with Palin a little bit. I think Rove had a good day, Palin not so much.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I mean, one race that I - I don't think's gotten enough attention so far is Mark Kirk in Illinois. A Republican won Barack Obama's seat, a centrist Republican, who were fighting a very lonely fight to keep that tradition alive and pulled it off. That's a remarkable feat.

You know, when you've got Meg Whitman in California who invested a huge amount of money -

CHETRY: Right, $140 million -

AVLON: $140 million and - and did not, ultimately succeed, lost to Jerry Brown, a guy who'd been governor back in the 1970s.

But look, this is a huge, historic night for Republicans, and - and Democrats really need to do some soul searching about how they got back in the situation that's not only not - that's analogous to '94, but even worse in terms of the House seats.

KIKI MCLEAN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, I look up and there's a guy whose name who hasn't been used very much, and that's Bob Menendez, the senator from New Jersey who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

He's a big winner in holding the tide back. He kept the Senate. He played a strong role for Democrats trying to hold it, as Cornyn didn't in the primaries there. So people like Gillibrand, who really dodge - didn't dodge a bullet, but frankly worked really hard to hold on to her seat.

Here's the other interesting, though - thing, though, when you look at the independent expenditures, right, Republicans completely overwhelmed my team. But when you go in and you look at Nevada, you had some IEs from the democratic side, like that - the Patriot Majority went in very early, April 30th, started doing the definition work on Sharron Angle.

I think that helped, along with an amazing ground game. The best ground game operatives in the Democratic Party went to Nevada to help Senator Reid pull it across the line.

CHETRY: And, you know, Hilary, what - what I would thought we'd hear more of but we didn't hear is former President Clinton. He - you know, he was out there constantly, trying to help candidates where the presence of the current president may not have done them much good.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and - and -

CHETRY: Is he a winner or loser in this?

ROSEN: You know, Bill Clinton's always a winner -

MCLEAN: A winner. Yes.

ROSEN: -- because people still want him in their district across the country. And so, I - I don't think you can - you know, as we talked earlier about Sarah Palin, you can't tag winners necessarily by endorsers, (INAUDIBLE) workers.

You know, clearly, in my book, the luckiest winner is John Boehner, because he pretty much did nothing and let the Tea Party energize Republicans to - to sit, you know, push him forward to become Speaker. And - and he's kind of the lucked out winner, and - I think.

You know, clearly the biggest -

ROLLINS: We'd call him Mr. Speaker, though.

ERICKSON: You know, there's one other winner that we (INAUDIBLE). Oh, go ahead.

ROSEN: Well, I was just going to say, you know, clearly, the biggest losers are the Democratic leadership, but - and I find it ironic that we had a, you know, the most productive House in history, in my view, with Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

The Senate was often gridlocked, you know. There are hundreds of things that the House passed that the Senate couldn't get done, and, you know, it is ironic that Harry Reid is - is back and -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

ROSEN: -- and Nancy Pelosi is - is going to be gone.

ERICKSON: One - one significant winner that goes under the radar that - that we should be paying attention are the local media markets and consultants who have made millions out of billionaires running losing campaigns.

(CROSSTALK)

CHETRY: I have one more winner. I have one more winner - the people who don't have to hear the robo calls 24/7 during dinner, right?

MCLEAN: Yes. But if you say who's the biggest winner for 2012? Hilary Barbour. Hilary Barbour.

CHETRY: And we are going to be talking to him, by the way, coming up in the later hours.

Thanks -

ROLLINS: And don't forget the Secretary of State, who was 6,000 miles away.

CHETRY: I knew you were going to get Hillary Clinton in there.

MCLEAN: She's a - she's a great leader and a great -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)?

CHETRY: We'll take a quick break.

Thanks guys. We're going to check back with you in a little bit.

Stay with us here on AMERICAN MORNING. The day's top stories coming your way next. Two minutes till the bottom of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Crossing the half hour at 6:30 on the East Coast, we're going to have more of our special election coverage coming right up.

But first of all, let's get a check of this morning's top stories with Alina Cho. She's here.

Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there. Good morning, John. Good morning, everyone.

Here's a look at this morning's top stories.

Yet another close call involving air cargo: Greece has suspended all air shipments for the next two days after packaging containing explosives were found in Germany and Italy. Those packages were addressed to the leaders of those two countries. They were sent via an air cargo plane from Greece, a country that has seen a wave of attempted bombings.

Another powerful eruption from one of the world's most active volcanoes. We're talking about Indonesia's Mount Merapi. Take a look at these pictures here. The eruption lasted just seven minutes this morning, but it certainly was enough to send tens of thousands of people running for cover. At least 39 people have been killed by volcanic eruptions there in just the past week.

The controversial community organizing group ACORN is declaring bankruptcy. Congress cut off funding for ACORN last year after highly edited videos appeared to show workers advising conservative activists posing as pimp and prostitute. It was the first in a series of scandals that also included numerous voter registration investigations after the group, you'll recall, was accused of registering Mickey Mouse and dead people to vote.

In a statement on the group's Web site, the CEO writes, quote, "The ongoing political onslaught caused irreparable harm."

New York's Madison Square Garden has been shut down until further notice following fears of asbestos. Last night's Knicks' game was apparently postponed after traces of a suspicious substance were found falling from the ceiling. Crews discovered the cloudy debris during a routine overnight clean-up of asbestos-related materials.

It's all part of a $775 million renovation of the garden. It is unclear if the garden will reopen in time for Friday's home game.

And there are growing concerns in Haiti this morning as Tropical Depression Tomas closes in. It could be a category one storm by Friday, that's when it's forecast to reach Haiti, where 1 million are still living in tents after January's earthquake. Tomas is already blamed for at least a dozen deaths in St. Lucia.

So, just how bad is it going to get? We're going to get a quick check of the morning's weather headlines, including Tomas, from Rob Marciano in the extreme weather center.

So, Rob, how bad is it going to be?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, the good news, Alina, is that it's weaker now than we thought it would be. A tropical depression, as you mentioned, with winds only about 35 miles an hour, a very disorganized. And the guys at the National Hurricane Center are kind of scratching their heads as to why it's weakened. So, maybe this forecast of it re-strengthening to a category one storm, maybe that won't come to fruition.

But nonetheless, that's what our computer models continue to say is that it will re-strengthen and make a turn towards the north. Yesterday, at one point we had it at a category two storm. So, keep it at a cat one or less as it traverses past Jamaica and potentially over Haiti.

That would be a better scenario to see it weakening. But right now, we have it as a hurricane making landfall likely Friday night into Saturday morning. Again, there's still some time for this thing to potentially die. But right now, the atmosphere's not really set up for that. Atmosphere set up for a lot of rain across parts of the South again today. Although yesterday was the heaviest amounts, Texas, Louisiana -- Monroe, Louisiana got almost five inches. It was a washout for sure, kind of miserable. But it's been unusually dry in this area, drought going on. So, they'll take the rain for sure.

It'll get more wet in times today across the South. But continue clear and sunny across the Northeast and continued sunny and warm across parts of southern California, where temperatures today could get back into the lower 90s.

Alina, back up to you.

CHO: All right. Rob, thank you very much.

MARCIANO: You bet.

CHO: More of our election coverage now with John who is with our very busy panel. Energetic at 6:30 in the morning, I hope.

ROBERTS: Highly caffeinated, Alina. Highly caffeinated.

She wasn't even on the ballot, but it was a terrific night for Sarah Palin. So, does that mean she might be on the ballot next time around?

We'll kick that around with our political panel. "The Best Political Team in Television" coming right up.

It's 35 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. We're back with "The Best Political Team on Television." Ed Rollins, Michael Crowley -- got it right that time -- John Avlon, and Hilary Rosen.

They really want to talk about the fact apparently the news today that Miley Cyrus' mom might have had an affair with Bret Michaels, which might have been the reason why she and Billy Ray Cyrus split.

But let's start with something else.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: It was a big -- about what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, well.

ROBERTS: Oh, well.

It was a big night for Sarah Palin, no question about that. She had a lot of candidates that she backed and a lot of them won. Score card is, in the overall, including primaries, she got 60. Five in the Senate, 14 in Congress, six governors, three other.

She's a force, Hilary, in politics. You can't deny that.

ROSEN: No, I don't want to deny it. I think she is a force. And I think that she -- actually, there's kind of a freshness about her celebrity that I think makes her extremely effective for the Republicans, although, she's also a double-edged sword.

ROBERTS: You reminded us -- you reminded us that you were the first people to say in the Democratic side at least, ignore this person at your own peril.

ROSEN: I think that's right. The -- but she takes quite a lot of delight in putting Republicans on notice that, you know, she is not to be taken for granted and that she's going to be watching and she's going to be holding Republicans accountable for her kind of conservatism. And -- which seems to fluctuate by definition, you know, by the week. So --

AVLON: Yes.

ROSEN: So, it's quite hard to kind of make Sarah Palin happy. So, I don't envy the Republican leadership on this one.

ROBERTS: John is beginning to light up with every word.

AVLON: I mean, Sarah Palin was not on the ballot last night. And sure, she's hugely popular among the conservative populists --

ROBERTS: But her power was on the ballot.

AVLON: But even that, I think, can be overestimated. I think she clearly plays a role in helping candidates win primaries in the Republican Party. But I think, you know, the media's clearly -- the media is fascinated by Sarah Palin.

Democrats would love for her to be the face of the Republican Party. But the reality is, even in the Republican Party, Sarah Palin is an increasingly polarizing figure.

And I think the story of last night's big Republican win is a lot bigger than Sarah Palin. It's about a lot of figures who put their courage on the line, people who are working behind the scenes, whether it's Haley Barbour or John Boehner. This is, I think, to wrap this up with Sarah Palin's win, misses the real story.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, DEPT. WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, TIME: John, you know, I agree the larger story here -- this is not a story -- this election is not a story about Sarah Palin. But I would say, actually, that the night may not have gone so well for her. Let's see what happens in Alaska. But if you look at the places where she went out on a limb and made endorsements that were running against the grain of the party establishment that were a little bit risky, people who were not necessarily --

ROBERTS: Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell.

CROWLEY: Sharron Angle did not win. Christine O'Donnell did not win. Joe Miller in her own backyard -- Tom Tancredo.

So, she endorsed a bunch of people who won, but who did not necessarily win because of her endorsement. And in the cases where she really went out on a limb and push people up to another level, those people did not do so well. And I think she's going to face some awkward questions from the Republicans in the days to come about this race.

ROBERTS: Carly Fiorina, another that she backed who didn't win.

So, what are those tough questions that she faces?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sometimes perception is reality. And I think that the key thing here is that she -- first of all, the tough question about policy and substance, and has she learned a lot from the campaign.

But I will tell you this, for a campaign like this, she was our star. She was our equivalent of what the Democrats had.

Wherever she went, it wasn't Rudy, it wasn't Mike Huckabee, it wasn't Romney. It wasn't. It was her. When she went, she got the media attention, even when she didn't win.

So, the bottom line is she begins with a very significant group of people who would love her to run, even though she hasn't made that decision.

ROBERTS: Well, let me ask you this question, because as you pointed out, you know a thing or two about this. Can she become the Republican nominee in 2012?

ROLLINS: She could be, you know? And I think -- I think what happens is depending on who gets in the race, she'd be very strong in Iowa. She could get a second or third in New Hampshire. She'd be very strong in South Carolina.

And then it comes down to who basically is the alternative to try to beat her the rest of the way.

AVLON: And let's tell the truth. The reality is Democrats would love nothing more because Sarah Palin might be able to win a Republican nomination, but she cannot win a general election.

ROBERTS: Why?

AVLON: Because she's too polarizing out of the gate. She's not only has she completely alienated independents and centrists, but she'd motivate Republicans -- Democrats to --

ROBERTS: You're willing to write her off?

AVLON: No. She can absolutely win the nomination.

ROBERTS: No, no, no. You're willing to write her off in the general. AVLON: I do not think she can win in the general election.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Well, and this is, I think, what Democrats are going to sit back and enjoy for the next 16 months.

AVLON: Right. Which is why --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: That the Republicans are going to have a divisive and intense primary, it's going to twist their party to and fro, ideologically and tactically. And it gives Democrats -- I mean, the silver lining, it does give the Democrats a chance to coalesce around some single ideas, single messages, and support the president.

ROBERTS: Let me just remind people that this does have relevance because the general election, not the general election but the primary campaign, the presidential campaign begins today. So, Sarah Palin's relevant.

CROWLEY: And you are already seeing Republican establishment insiders kind of coalescing to try to start a stop Palin movement. I mean, you may or may not agree with John, but I think a lot --

(CROSSTALK)

ROLLINS: If the one lesson Republican establishment should have learned from this election is: hands off the primaries, hands off the primaries.

ROBERTS: Let me ask you to clarify this. Michael just mentioned that this idea of a "stop Palin" movement. Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei, both of them terrific reporters from "Politico" came out with this story. Sarah Palin called them jokes, that the reporting is just worthless.

Is that actually a fact? Is that going on in the Republican leadership?

ROLLINS: There are people who clearly don't want her to run. There are people who are smart political strategists who realize that, just as we all said today, it could be detrimental.

And at the end of the day, though, you know, I lived with Ronald Reagan. I watched him take on an incumbent president. I watched everybody say he's the one we want to run against. And he ended up winning two landslides.

AVLON: That was just silly response. These guys are great reporters and I think the story was based on real reporting. Like here endorsement of Tom Tancredo yesterday -- that comes under a whole new level of scrutiny and ends up being indefensible. Sarah Palin is no Ronald Reagan.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, we'll see.

ROSEN: Come and join the fight.

ROBERTS: Two years until the election.

All right. Thanks, guys. We'll be back with you again soon.

Kiran?

CHETRY: (INAUDIBLE) to the top of the hour -- when we come back, we're going to be talking about the balance of power in Washington. Certainly it's shifted. A huge wave of red washes across the map, especially in those House races. We're going to get Tom Foreman to break it all down for us -- next.

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CHETRY: Forty-seven minutes past the hour now. It's a sea of red this morning. Republicans steam rolled Democrats in the House taking at least 60 seats at this point. We have Tom Foreman with us to show us just how the country has shifted this morning. It's remarkable because some of the districts you're going to show us flipped the other way in 2008.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. I mean, some of these people -- we were talking earlier on about how some of these people really barely had time to unpack their boxes, and now they're packing them up again because people didn't show a lot of patience in this. Look, this 2006, 2008, this area here, this is the big meaty part of this. You can see all of this -- yesterday, this was a sea of blue. Today, there's all of this red in here, showing this irritation among the voters.

Some of them really big changes that I think were very troubling for the Democrats. But I want to move over here, Kiran, and look at the Senate side of this because I think the equation there becomes a little trickier. Here, it's a clear big Republican victory. You look at the Senate numbers, and everybody says, well, look, the Republicans didn't win there. And they didn't win there, that's absolutely right.

CHETRY: Right. And there's still three, by the way, this morning that are undecided that may not be decided until later on in the month.

FOREMAN: That's right. But let's look at what's happened out here. This is where we are currently and that nobody's taken the oath yet. Let's go ahead and say that we move forward from this point into sort of the what if area. Right now, we have Alaska as a republican seat because no matter what happens over here doesn't look like the Democrats are going to come out with it.

So, it's either going to be Murkowski (INAUDIBLE) or Miller, but it looks like Murkowski is looking very strong at the moment. But let's look at this. We have 47 to 51, and we have two that are outlying here. We're going to go ahead and flip these. We don't have to, but we're going to flip this and say -- let's say a Republican won one of these.

CHETRY: In Washington State right now.

FOREMAN: Rossi beats Murray over there, and then let's move here to Colorado and let's say that Ken Buck managed to pull this one out over here. So, now, you've got 49 to 51. Here's the real question I have about this, how -- this is in striking range for all sorts of things to happen. If you're the Republicans, yes, you don't have an automatic advantage, but you only have to pick off one or two people over here and you've got enough.

Beyond that, here's the other question, if you have any attrition of older senators, people who just can't continue to work anymore or perhaps they pass away, that sort of thing. And many of them, I mentioned earlier on, more than half of the Senate is over 60 years old, a quarter which over 70 years old. The simple truth is you have a lot of new Republican governors. They're the ones who are going to pick the replacements.

That can shift this again and can change that number up here even more. That's important to think about. Just as importantly, the question is how are Democrats going to respond? Are they going to come out of this and say, we are resolute now in standing together as Democrats? Or are they frightened by this? And are they softer and more likely to cross that line?

CHETRY: Does this lead to gridlock or does this lead to bipartisanship?

FOREMAN: Yes, because these numbers tell you something, but what they really tell you is that this is totally jittery like that now. It can change just on one or two votes.

CHETRY: Interesting stuff. Tom Foreman for us this morning with a look at the senate -- John.

ROBERTS: All right. Thanks, Kiran.

Possible history be in the making in Alaska. You're going to hear from write-in candidate, Lisa Murkowski. She's feeling pretty good about her chances for a win, but we might not know who won Alaska for quite a while. Stay tune. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Balance of power right now is 51 seats in the Senate for the Democrats, 47 for the Republicans. There are still three races undecided, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska. Now, we've given these 47 to the Republicans because a Republican is going to win Alaska regardless of whether it's Joe Miller or Lisa Murkowski. But right now, and this is really, really interesting, the write-in vote, which includes votes for Lisa Murkowski is leading in the polling.

Joe miller is about four points behind that. I think it's 40 to 36, but we're not going to know the winner of that contest -- oh, it's actually. It's right over here. 40 to 35. Seek and you shall find here. 40 percent to 35 percent, but we're not going to know the results of this for a while because under Alaska law, which is very complicated, the recount is not going to take place potentially until Thanksgiving.

So, while this might not be Minnesota in 2008, it will be a while before we found out if all of those write-in ballots or the majority of them are for Lisa Murkowski. She is now currently a little more than 10,000 ahead of Joe Miller. Drew Griffin is up in Anchorage. He was at Murkowski headquarters earlier this evening, spoke with the senator about this candidacy, which if she pulls this one out of the hat will be historic. Here's part of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI, (R) ALASKA: We are in the process of making history, and we started that about 46 days ago when I declared as a write-in candidate for the United States Senate. They said it couldn't be done. They said not the last time that anybody did that was 1954 with Strom Thurmond, it can't be done. You know, we look at them and we said, if it can be done anywhere, it can be done in Alaska and let's prove the rest of the country wrong, and we're doing that tonight.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT: You know, let's be honest, a lot of those who said that you couldn't do it also said that you shouldn't do it, and they were Republicans. What said to you, Lisa Murkowski, I'm going to be in this race?

MURKOWSKI: It was for my state. It was for my state from the very beginning. It's not about whether or not the Republican Party thinks it's a good idea, whether the Senatorial Committee gives you the blessing. If you feel as I felt that it was necessary for Alaskans to have a choice, a choice between the Republican Party nominee or the Democrat nominee, the write-in process is a completely legitimate process. It's part of the -- part of an election. And I gave Alaskans that choice.

GRIFFIN: Let me ask you one more question. I interviewed you over the weekend. And you said something that got you in a little bit of trouble and your opponent took it and ran. I asked you if you go back to Washington, are you going back as a Republican? And you said, I feel very liberated not to be running as Republican, but you are going back as a Republican?

MURKOWSKI: I -- when I filed my notice to run as a write-in candidate, you have to state your party affiliation. On that form, I stated the party affiliation that I have had since I was 18. I've never switched it. And I am a republican. I'm not my party's nominee, but I am a republican.

There's only two conferences, two caucuses in the United States Senate. There are the Democrats and the Republicans. I caucused with the Republicans before, I intend to caucus with the Republicans when I return.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROBERTS: And coming up, we're going to have more interviews this morning. One of them with Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, who managed to hang on to his seat there. So, we'll get his reaction when he joins us at 7:50 eastern this morning. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back after this.

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