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Presidential News Conference: Democrats Suffer Huge Loss in House

Aired November 3, 2010 - 12:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is an exciting time for all of us. Let me go over to the wall and tell our viewers what's going on.

We're one hour and one minute away right now from the start of the president's news conference. The president will be in the East Room of the White House. He will be answering reporters' questions. Before he does that, though, he'll have an opening statement.

Will he accept at least some personal responsibility for what happened to the Democrats yesterday across the country? I recently went back and read President Clinton's news conference transcript the day after his huge setback back in 1994. He did accept personal responsibility for the Democrats' loss in the House and the Senate on that day.

We'll see how far President Obama goes in accepting responsibility. That will be in one hour.

There's still some unfinished business. The Democrats suffered huge losses in the House of Representatives. They suffered huge losses in the Senate, although, in the Senate, they will retain control.

Let's take a look and see what's going on. These are some of the undecided races right now.

In Washington State, first, Patty Murray, the incumbent Democrat, with 50 percent. Dino Rossi, the Republican challenger, with 50 percent. She's ahead by 14,005 votes, but only 65 percent of the vote has actually been counted.

There's still a long way to go in Washington State. We'll see if the Democrats can hold on to that seat.

In Colorado, it's still very close as well, with 88 percent of the vote counted. Forty-eight percent for Michael Bennet, the incumbent Democrat. He was appointed to fill the seat left by Ken Salazar, who President Obama named as the secretary of the Interior. Ken Buck, the Tea Party favorite, 47 percent.

Right now, Michael Bennet is ahead by a mere 7,516 votes out of about 1.5 million cast in Colorado so far. Remember, 12 percent of the vote still to be counted.

In Alaska right now, we know that Scott McAdams, the Democratic candidate, he will come in third. The Republicans will retain control of the Alaska seat. Will it be Joe Miller, the Republican nominee, or will it be the incumbent, Lisa Murkowski?

Right now, Lisa Murkowski, the Independent candidate, we don't know how many votes she has, but we do know that the write-in ballots have 41 percent. We assume she has got most of those write-in ballots. Joe Miller with 34 percent.

This was 76 percent of the vote counted so far. They're not going to open up those write-in ballots until it's clear that they have to, until it's clear that there will be more write-in ballots than what Joe Miller, the Republican candidate, gets.

Right now, it looks pretty good for Lisa Murkowski. This would be the first time, by the way, if she wins, if she retains her Senate seat, since 1934, when Strom Thurmond was a write-in candidate in South Carolina, and he got elected in South Carolina. So this is history, potentially, unfolding in Alaska.

Just a little while ago, Rick Scott was projected the winner in Florida. Alex Sink, the Democratic nominee for governor, she conceded.

Rick Scott, the Republican, is speaking, in fact, right now in Florida. I want to listen in to hear what the next governor of Florida, the Republican, is saying.

All right. We're going to wait for Rick Scott to start speaking. He's a very happy guy right now. Alex Sink, Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, she announced just a little while ago she was conceding.

He is going to be the next governor of Florida. He'll succeed Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Independent, who himself lost the race to Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio will be the next senator from Florida.

They're celebrating over at Rick Scott headquarters in Florida. We'll get back there shortly.

But just a little while ago in Washington, John Boehner. He is right now the minority leader in the House of Representatives. Soon, he will not only be the majority leader, he'll be the Speaker of the House and Representatives, and he spoke out. Listen to what he said.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Last night the president was kind enough to call me. We discussed working together on the American people's priorities, cutting spending, creating jobs. And we hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities. But as I said last night, the new majority in Congress will be the voice of the American people.


BLITZER: All right. So there you heard John Boehner speaking out.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's up on Capitol Hill.

We're a little bit less than an hour from the president's news conference, but we've now heard from the new Republican leadership in the House of Representatives. And we also heard from Mitch McConnell. He will stay on as the minority leader in the Senate, but just barely.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And, you know, that last part of what we just heard from John Boehner, listening to the voices of the American people, that was a theme that we heard over and over, really, no matter what we asked him. And it was really indicative of the kind of generalities that they are speaking in when it comes to the new Republican majority in the House.

They are not getting very specific at all, no matter how much we ask. They're quite vague in terms of how they're going to take those voices of the American people, as they call them, and translate that into an agenda and what they will do first. I mean, we obviously have the general ideas of cutting spending, and cutting the deficit, and keeping taxes low, and dealing with the health care plan, but they would not go there very much at all when it comes to specifics.

Perhaps the most pointed comment came from the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, where he said, point blank, "The election clearly was a referendum on the president and the Democratic majority." But he was the one in the Senate where they are going to have to compromise to get anything done, if they want to get anything done.

He was the one that brought up the idea of working with the president, and he did give some specifics on that. He said he thinks they can work together on the debt, on trade agreements, on nuclear power, on clean coal technology.

So, we did get some specifics there, but, by and large, really, really hard to pin down these Republicans on specifically what they will do first. They say that they're going to form a transition team and figure that out in the days and weeks ahead -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, before they take over, though, there's a lame duck session that's going to begin, and very soon. It's going to go on for a few weeks. And I guess the number one issue that they're going to have to deal with is the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003.

Did he give an indication if he's willing to compromise with the White House on this sensitive issue?

BASH: He did not give any indication on that. And I think the big question is, what will Democrats do, who were also really -- they drew a line in the sand saying that they will only go for an extension before the election, only go for an extension on middle class tax cuts and not the others.

It is hard to imagine that there won't be a compromise given the landscape, given the atmosphere that we are in now. And we should note that those tax cuts do expire at the end of the year, so they're going to have to figure it out in the next few weeks, when they come back for that session.

BLITZER: Because there has been a lot of speculation that they'll extend the middle class tax cuts indefinitely, but the tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year, maybe for a year or two. That might be a compromise in the works.

BASH: Temporarily, exactly.

BLITZER: And maybe that can be approved during the lame duck session before they expire.

All right, Dana. Don't go too far away.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more -- remember, we're standing by for the president of the United States.

Ed Henry, our senior White House correspondent, we'll check in with him to see what they're saying over at the White House. Huge setback for the Democrats yesterday.

John King is over at our election matrix with the new balance of power in the House and the Senate. We're checking in with John.

Much more of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: Only about 49 minutes away from the start of the president's news conference over at the East Room of the White House. He'll open with a statement, then he'll answer reporters' questions. We'll see how far he's willing to go and accept some personal responsibility for the problems the Democrats suffered yesterday, especially in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate as well, even though the Democrats will barely maintain their majority in the Senate.

Let's check in with our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's over at the White House right now.

What are the officials over there saying, Ed? What are they saying to you about how far the president will go in saying, you know what, maybe I made some mistakes as well?

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're being very cautious about sort of getting out there ahead of the president. They're going to let him speak. But I think you're right, there's a very important question, because, you know, there are a lot of people wondering how far he will go.

You're right to compare it to Bill Clinton in 1994 in terms of whether he will take personal responsibility. But I think the other thing to look for is how far he goes on offense in terms of calling out Republicans and saying, look, you have some ownership now, you have some responsibility, a stake in governing now.

Republicans have been able to sit on the sidelines, largely, for the last 22 months. This is a line White House officials have been pushing pretty hard in the run-up to the election and now in the post- game as well, that they've been able to lead this strategy of what they call here the strategy of no. And John Boehner has made no bones about it, has said that he wants to dismantle the health care reform bill, he wants to maybe take a look at the Wall Street reform bill, et cetera.

And so they're going to say the president and his aides will follow up in the days ahead, but it's time also for the Republicans to show that they've got some responsibility to govern here and they just can't say no -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, because if you take a look at Bill Clinton's news conference transcript the day after the Democrats suffered huge setbacks back in 1994, after saying that he congratulated the Republicans for their wins in the House and the Senate, he went on to say this: "With Democrats in control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable yesterday, and I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of the election."

So, he was pretty blunt, Bill Clinton. And a lot of us who covered the White House in those days remember that he changed. He was a different president the second two years of his first term than he was the first two years of his first term.

HENRY: You're right. And I was just speaking to the former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott, who was telling me that he, in private, has been working with the former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle -- they had lunch a couple of days ago -- to try and send signals to the White House, but also to John Boehner.

They're working back channels right now to say, look, you guys don't have much of a personal relationship, but you're going to need to develop one. Because Trent Lott, even when he was at odd with his Bill Clinton, as you'll remember, on a lot of policies, did come over here, have coffee, have lunch, whatever, talked things out, number one.

Number two, Trent Lott was also saying that, just as Bill Clinton has to make adjustments, as a former Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott was saying John Boehner is going to have to sort of balance out his rhetoric now as well and can't just be throwing bombs, can't just be saying we're going to dismantle everything. He is going to have to govern as well.

So, you're right, we're going to be watching the president's words very closely, how much responsibility he does take. But also, moving forward, there's been a lot of talk here around the White House about the president possibly calling a summit with Republicans for when he returns from this big trip to Asia. Maybe later this month, bring everyone to Camp David, go behind closed doors without the cameras, and try to start hashing some of these issues out such as the Bush tax cuts and whether they should be extended, as you were talking to Dana about.

The bottom line is, there's a lot of heavy lifting that needs to be done. And these folks have been at odds for a long time. Now it seems like it's time for them to govern -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by. We're going to check back with you.

Ed Henry.

We're going to go to John King in a moment. But there's a new governor-elect in Florida right now, Rick Scott. He's a Republican. He's speaking.

GOVERNOR-ELECT RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Can't wait to get to work. Thank you for this great honor. And God bless the great state of Florida.


BLITZER: All right. Well, he's done speaking. We missed the top of his speech, but I'm sure he's very, very happy.

Let's go over to CNN's John King. He's over at the election matrix.

This is a big win for the Republicans. They take the governors' seats in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio. If the president wants to be re-elected in 2012, he needs these states.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: An excellent point, because those governors are critical to reapportionment, when they redefine all the House districts after the Census. They're also critical to 2012 politics.

And, Wolf, they're also critical -- and Rick Scott among them -- critical in implementing the health care bill, which the House Republicans want to repeal. But the governors are on the front lines right now as they implement that. Rick Scott, as you know, a fierce opponent of the Obama health care approach.

Look around me right now. When we started this last night, 91 of these lines were blue, Democratic seats. Now more than 60 of our CNN 100 were taken by the Republicans last night, and it is just stunning in the geographic and the generational scope.

This is a message. Every Democrat will be watching the president today, because if they don't see him moving to where they think he needs to go, Wolf, they will move for him. And this is why. I want to show you a few things here as we look.

We can go out to South Dakota. It's not just liberal Democrats who left, not just Pelosi supporters.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, she's the leader of the Blue Dog Democrats. She was beaten even though she said, I'm not a fan of Nancy Pelosi, I'll stand up to the president on a lot of things. She was beaten by voters out in South Dakota.

If you come over to New York, you see these flashing. All these flashing are seats that were picked up the Republicans. New York 19, just in the suburbs here, John Hall. He won that district. Again, he was a supporter of Obama on most things, not all.

And if you look around the map, Wolf, you can find seats here in Wisconsin. Herb Kohl is up next year. You find seats here in Pennsylvania. Bob Casey is up in 2012.

You can go across the map into Michigan, a new Republican governor. They lost some seats there. Debbie Stabenow is up in 2012.

So, the Senate Democrats who are up in 2012, they see what has happened here. They see this bloodbath. They see across the Midwest, in the industrial heartland, the Democrats getting beat. If the president doesn't take the lead with a new message, they will try to get out ahead of him, you can be sure of that.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to dissect some of these a little bit more. Some fascinating numbers.

An African-American Tea Party activist in south Florida was elected, beat a Democrat who supported President Obama. We'll talk about that, a lot more.

"The Best Political Team on Television" is standing by. We're getting ready for the president's news conference over in the East Room of the White House. We'll have live coverage. That starts at the top of the hour.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: The Republican leadership in the House and Senate -- now we're waiting -- has spoken. Now we're waiting for the president of the United States.

You're looking at a live picture of the White House. They're getting ready over in the East Room in the White House. Right at the top of the hour, the president will walk in, he'll make an opening statement, presumably about what happened yesterday. And then he will start answering reporters' questions.

It's an important day in the history of the United States, as the Republicans will become the majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats will hold on slightly to their majority in the U.S. Senate. We'll see how far President Obama goes in accepting some personal responsibility for what happened to the Democrats yesterday.

Let's assess what's going on with "The Best Political Team on Television": David Gergen, Eric Erickson --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've forgotten Roland.


BLITZER: How can I forget Roland Martin?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You've been up a long time.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, Alex Castellanos, Cornell Belcher, and our own James Carville.

I'm never going to live that down, am I, Roland?

MARTIN: No, you will not.

BLITZER: All right. I know you will make me remember that all the time.

How far should the president go in his news conference in accepting responsibility? What do you think he should say?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he should say that, you know, last night, the American people spoke, and it was not good for my party. And I understand that there were things that we did that people felt could have been done better or differently. And they sent you people to work with, and they're in charge, and we're going to work with them.

This happens all the time in democracy. These things happen. And we'll adjust and we'll move on.

And I had a nice conversation with Speaker-Designate or Speaker to be, or whatever you call him, Boehner, and we look forward to pushing ahead with the business of the country.

BLITZER: Should he acknowledge that maybe it was a mistake to spend so much time on health care, as opposed to jobs?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I certainly think he has to acknowledge that he has hurt people and things, but I think he has to go beyond -- these things happen. These things only happen about once every 60 years, when you lose over 60 seats. And that is huge, and he's got to go beyond just sort of the pleasantries.

I think he's got to go beyond sort of the obvious. And he has got to say, look, I've heard you, and I recognize that you don't like some of the things we are doing. I will defend what we have done in the past, but I'm willing to change course.

BLITZER: How far, Erick, should the Republicans go now in compromising, in working, cooperating with the Democrats and the president?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I would pose that in the reverse. How far do the Democrats go with compromising with the Republicans given what happened? The starting point is the Democrats are going to have to pivot towards the Republicans, and we'll see how far they go to where the Republicans move toward the center.

BLITZER: Because there are some Republicans, as you know, some Tea Party activists, who don't want to see any compromise.


BLITZER: They're firm on their beliefs and they want these establishment Republicans to stay true to them.

ERICKSON: Right. It depends on the issues. And what I'm most interested to hear the president say today is, does he hint on the non-negotiables? Where is he not going to negotiate with the Republicans? I suspect health care is going to be one of those, whether or not it comes up.

MARTIN: First of all, it makes no sense to sit here and suggest that the Democrats need to come to the Republicans when the Democrats control the Senate and the presidency. That's part of the issue there. That's where the standstill has been.

The reality is the American public said with the election, look -- if you look at the exit poll numbers -- we don't trust you, Republicans, or you Democrats. We need the two of you to act like grownups and actually come together.

And so no one can't sit back and say, your turn to come to me, your turn to come to me. No. The two of them have to come together to say now we must cooperate to pass legislation, to get the economy started.

BLITZER: And the first thing they have got to do in this lame duck session is decide whether or not to extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone or for some.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And it seems to me that what they'll end up doing is they'll make the middle class tax cuts and maybe they'll do some temporary one-or-two-year extension on the tax cuts for the wealthy, and they'll get that over with.

BLITZER: Will the Republicans accept that compromise?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't think so. Certainly not right off the bat.

BORGER: Right. But eventually, yes.

CASTELLANOS: We can't -- what Republicans are looking for is not a one-night stand on economic policy. They're looking for a long-term relationship to give some certainty to business, not for the next year, but so this economy can count on lower taxes for the long term. They're going to hold pretty strong on that.

But, Wolf, one thing about what the president can do, pivoting on policy is easy. He can say this different Congress with the Democrats, now I've got a different Republican Congress, I can do that. But he has been telling voters for the past month, I'm right, you're wrong, you just don't understand. He has just got to stand there and say, I hear you, we're listening.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Cornell, was this a vote against the Democrats or was it a vote for the Republicans?

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, see, here's the thing. When you get inside the numbers, you find that just over a third of people sort of expressed their vote was an opposition to President Obama. So I love the way the Republicans take a narrative and they run with it. However, that narrative isn't quite the right thing.

Look, Governor Dean, in 2006, said something, that Independents gave us a chance to govern. And they broke hard this time for Republicans. They're not in love with Republicans either. In fact, your unfavorables are fairly high with Independents.

They're still about change. Right now they've changed to you all. You all have got to win them, too. Not compromising on a lot of areas is not a way to do it.

BLITZER: All right.

We're waiting for the president of the United States. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: We're awaiting the president of the United States. He's getting ready to walk into the East Room of the White House to start a news conference. He'll open with a statement that will answer reporters' questions on what happened, the political earthquake that occurred in the United States yesterday. We'll of course, we'll have live coverage. Stand by with us for that.

Meantime, let's head out to Nevada right now. Jessica Yellin is in Nevada. She watched this race. Harry Reid, Jessica, he was in trouble. But he managed to hang on. He beat Sharron Angle. He will continue as the United States senator from Nevada. What's been the reaction where you are?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Reid folks here are jubilant. That is the word I would use. This was considered a dead heat, too close to call all the way into election day. And then in the end, he pulled out a decisive win. There are quotes in today's paper where people said you know, Harry Reid never wins big, and he never wins pretty.

Today, in this election cycle, five points is pretty big. He won even in Sharron Angle's home district, her home region. He won across the state by getting out his people and by defining her as too extreme for Nevada. And it was a message that resonated here.

Last night, his remarks were focused on Nevada but today, shortly, he will be holding a press conference, talking about his role as the Democrats' majority leader and how he plans to lead this new, reshaped Congress. And one of the messages he's going to deliver is that both sides have to compromise. Both sides have to find ways to work together a little differently. But Wolf, as you and I know, Harry Reid, he always refers to the fact that he's a fighter and he holds the line. One of the messages he has already delivered is that there will be no repeal of Obamacare under his watch. He's open to some tweaks, but he said the "Congress of no" won't get away with no on his watch.

So, I'll bring you what Harry Reid has to say shortly once that happens. It will be an interesting day ahead, Wolf.

BLITZER: Already Nevada pundits are saying he was lucky. He had a flawed candidate in Sharron Angle. A more established Republican candidate might have done better and won that seat for the Republicans.

All right, we'll go to the White House momentarily. Ed Henry is standing by, the president getting ready for his news conference. We'll be checking in with our own John King. The map of the country looks a lot more red today than it did yesterday.


BLITZER: Awaiting the president of the United States. He's getting ready to go into this room, the East Room of the White House, where all the reporters have now entered. Some of the television reporters getting hooked up to do live shots and live reports from inside the East Room. The president will walk in. He will make a statement and then he will start answering questions about what happened yesterday.

Let's walk over to CNN's John King. John, you have a map over there. This is the map that existed before - before the elections yesterday. We see a lot of red. But we see a lot of blue out there as well.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you remember the good old days, covering the White House together. This is the day you want to be in that room. Because the president has some explaining to do to the American people.

I want to show you - and this is stunning. American politics changed overnight in a way that I think will take us a couple of years, maybe through the 2012 cycle, to fully understand. It is dramatic, it is stunning, it is on every level.

This is the House -- coming into the House last night. See all this blue, especially in here? These are the House districts coming into last night's election. This is where we are today. Look at the swath of red, a sweep, just a bloodbath for the Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and out through the West. This is just the House of Representatives, then and now.

Now let's go back to these Senate races. These are the Senate races that were on the ballot last night. Here's what it looked like coming into the night. Whoops, got a little cranky there. We can come back to that. We'll just bring it back up. Come up to the Senate races. This is how we began the night in the Senate races. All that blue, you see it? This is how we ended the night. Look at that red, especially out through here. And Wolf, when the president is thinking about 2012, he is going to be thinking about who are the governors of these states?

Again, here is where we started the night. Look at Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, out into the Wisconsin. Out into the Midwest. Watch how this changes overnight. Boom, more red here.

So, the president of the United States is going to be thinking about this. Florida is a big 2012 state. Pennsylvania is a big 2012 state. So is Ohio. So is Michigan. So is Wisconsin. So is Iowa. And then you go further west from there. Look at all that red right there. If you think the president isn't worried about this, Wolf, you have a Democratic senator up in 2012 in Florida. A Democratic senator up in 2012 Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in Michigan and in Wisconsin. So, those Democrats will be looking at the president today saying the American people sent us a message, sir. How are you going to deal with this? And then you will watch them deal with this.

You cannot underestimate how much change in America is now code red. It was blue in 2006. It was blue in 2008. It is red now. It is Republican. And Democrats, looking ahead to 2012, beginning with the president, who we'll hear from in a few minutes, Wolf, they have to look at this new map and have to be nervous.

BLITZER: And especially if you take a look at a state like Ohio, which is a battleground state, a state that the president will desperately need if he wants to get himself reelected. It was pretty much a clean sweep for Republicans in Ohio. The governor's seat, the Senate seat and a whole bunch of congressional districts.

KING: They won the governor's race. This is the governor's race right here. It was a narrow victory, but still a Republican victory. Beating an incumbent Democrat. The Obama campaign watched this because you have a Democratic chief executive in double-digit unemployment, trying to say have patience with me. That was Ted Strickland's message. That's Barack Obama's message. Ted Strickland lost narrowly.

Then you look at the House races. You're exactly right. This is where we were coming into the night. Look at this. Look at this. There are four House districts right in there. There's another one down here. Those are Democratic districts, that's how we came into the night. That's how we ended the night. It is just stunning, absolutely stunning in its scope, and the Senate race as well in Ohio, which went convincingly Republican on this one.

If I could take one more second to go back in time. Here's another thing the president needs to worry about. This is 2008. This is present, right? The president didn't carry. But watch this. These are the Democratic primaries. See where the Democrats lost all those House districts? That's Hillary Clinton. She won all this area, white, working class. Small-town American voters. Barack Obama had trouble with them early in the Democratic primaries in 2008. He has a problem with them right now.

Over here as well. A little bit different. Cincinnati had an African-American population in the primaries. But just north in that district, Hillary Clinton had an issue. So, the president, looking at this map, has a lot to worry about.

BLITZER: A net loss in the House of Representatives of at least 60 seats --

KING: -- at least 60 seats.

BLITZER: And maybe considerably more. There's still some undecided seats still out there.

All right. John, stand by. We're standing by for the president of the United States. He will be in the East Room in the White House very, very soon. He will be answering reporters' questions about what happened in the world of politics in the United States yesterday.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), NEXT HOUSE SPEAKER: I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt our country. That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of health insurance.


BLITZER: John Boehner will be the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Making it clear he wants to destroy the Obama health care legislation that became the law of the land over the past year.

Let's discuss what's going on as we await the president. He is getting ready to go into the East Room of the White House for this new conference to respond to this political earthquake that occurred yesterday. Can the Republicans repeal the health care legislation -- health care law?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They can get it through the house, and with Manchin now in the Senate, who may vote against it -- he already put a bullet in cap and trade in one of his TV commercials. They may be able to get it through the Senate. We would expect the president to veto it.

BLITZER: And then it would require two-thirds vote.

CASTELLANOS: Which they can't do. Which they can't do.


BLITZER: So, the answer is they can't repeal health care. CASTELLANOS: But they have no choice but to try because that's what they ran on. To take exception of the nicely dressed gentleman, what's his name over there? Roland?

BLIZTER: Roland Martin.


CASTELLANOS: To take exception with Roland and the pretzel logic, America didn't just send 60 Democrats to ratify the president's agenda. They sent new 60 Republicans to stop it and reverse it. That was their message. Republicans will have to do what they said.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Can I say something about Boehner, though? Unlike Newt Gingrich, who ran the revolution in 1994, it was his insurgency. John Boehner in the house and Mitch McConnell over in the Senate are followers of the insurgency. They're not the leaders of the insurgency. They have something to prove to the folks who are coming into the Congress right now.

So, they've got to try and repeal health care, even if it's through guerrilla warfare, which is exactly what they're going to wage. Try to defund it at every step they possibly can.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf let me -- I want to answer Alex. The answer is no. You have the House. You can pass it there, fine. It's dead on arrival in the Senate. You can talk about Manchin all day. First of all, it is DOA. The second piece is --

BLIZTER: You're talking about health care?

MARTIN: Yes. The second piece is, if Republicans come out in January and the first thing on their agenda is health care, the same American voters are going to say, hey, didn't we tell you guys, it's all about the economy? That's what it boils down to. You make it your priority --


BORGER: Big government.


MARTIN: The top issue yesterday was about the economy, not big government.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, obviously, I disagree. But the fact of the matter is the Republicans can do more than just repeal health care when they come out of the box. And I think you will see them bring this issue up over and over and over and over, building momentum into 2012.

They know they can't get into the White House. If there's one lesson that can come out of this that I think they can take, there's no such thing as a permanent political majority anymore.

BORGER: Nope, of course, not.

ERICKSON: I mean, ask Karl Rove how the permanent Republican majority is going. But there is such a thing as a permanent policy victory unless the Republicans keep fighting this.

BORGER: We have had three change elections in a row.

ERICKSON: Yes, exactly.

BORGER: And until you get it right, you're going to have another change election, right?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Repeal of health care could still happen through the courts, and Republicans will continue to pursue that. They've got the case going. This probably is going to be resolved in the Supreme Court. But in the meantime, I think we're likely to face a showdown in the Congress with the president, either over health care or on the debt ceiling that could lead to a shutdown of government. And who wins that fight? It has a huge impact on where things go from here, because when the de-funding, he may not accept that, he might shot everything now.

BLITZER: James, you know, there are a lot of Democratic senators right now, who are up for re-election in 2012. A lot more Democrats are up for re-election in 2012 than Republicans, and they're looking to -- and what happened to some of their colleagues like Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, and they're saying to themselves, I may not be there automatically for the president of the United States. I've got to think about getting myself re-elected like Claire McCaskill, for example, of Missouri.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And they also got to think about being in the primary, which is just another low mind up.

One of thing is around this campaign, around the country, the thing I heard, it was the debt. It was the debt. We need to do something about it. That was the big concern. I think that the president should say, and this is -- they've won the election (INAUDIBLE)


BORGER: Write a budget.

CARVILLE: Write a budget, and let me react to it. You have the energy. Maybe you have the ideas. You certainly came to Washington and that is what you talk about. That's the real reason. That's what he said. It's the spending. Rand Paul has promised to not vote for any budget that are not balance. OK? Senator Paul, you're influence guy, you got the respect of a lot of people. Let's take a look at it.

ALEX CASTELLANONS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: One of the things Republicans can do in that budget, Republicans carried seniors last night by ten points, because of health care. One of the things Republican can say is, Mr. President, here is how we can find $1 trillion in the budget. We repeal health care, put half of it, half a trillion dollars back into Medicare where you took it and the other half is reduce the deficit.


CARVILLE: That doesn't go -- the trillion dollars, you can take the half out and put it, you see, that's zero. It doesn't do anything. It just moves half a trillion around.


BLITZER: When you press the Republican leadership in the House and you ask them, where specifically will you cut spending, they'll say, well, they're going to go back to the spending that existed two years ago. That will represent hundreds of billions of dollars in savings.

CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And guess what? They do polling just like we do polling. And they know that for every time they sort of say, OK, this is what we're going to cut, there's a constituency out there that is going to go south on them. So it becomes really difficult to govern, but James is right, now they have to govern. And now that is more difficult.


CASTELLANOS: James was right on the budget. You agree on a budget number first, then you can play priorities off each other. But that's the first job ahead.

CARVILLE: Alex, no, no, no, no, no. They said that they were willing to cut the deficit, all right? Switching half a trillion dollars around in the deficit does not cut the deficit. They said -- they said --


CASTELLANOS: You're misunderstanding again.


CARVILLE: No, I didn't. You said take it out of health care and put it into Medicaid Care. That doesn't cut anything.

CASTELLANOS: No, half a trillion of it does, James.

CARVILLE: OK. But my point is, what's wrong with putting a plan on the table that balances the budget?

BORGER: They'll have to. Well, they're going to have to do something when the president's budget goes up there. The president's budget will be dead on arrival. They're going to have to present their alternative at that point.

BLITZER: I want to take another break, because the president is getting ready to go into the east room of the White House for the news conference. We'll, of course, have live coverage. The reporters are all in their seats right now. Some are standing, but the rest are getting ready to start asking questions of the president. A big day over at the White House. We'll have live coverage, coming up.


BLITZER: The second anniversary of President Obama's election as president of the United States. What a difference two years in American politics makes. It was very, very different on November 4th, 2008, as opposed to November 3rd, 2010.

Let's go over to the White House right now. Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, is standing by.

Ed, the president is about to come into the east room, make a statement, answer reporters' questions. If somebody would have said to him exactly two years ago, you know what, two years from now, the Republicans will have taken control of the House of Representatives by more than 60 seats, the Democrats would have lost a whole bunch of seats in the Senate and you would be in political trouble looking ahead to re-election of 2012, who would have believed that? But that's what the political environment looks like today.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Not a lot of people would have believed it two years ago. But the fact of the matter is the way they look at it is it's cyclical. And we know that in the first midterm election for any new president, they're going to lose seats in the House and the Senate. That happens to any Democrat, any Republican, but the question is, how many seats?

This turned out to be far worse in the House than Bill Clinton faced in 1994. That's why I think they are so much focus on exactly, you know, will he follow the same path of Bill Clinton. Will he take personal responsibility here in this news conference for this big defeat? Will he also suggest that he's going to make some dramatic changes moving forward to potentially move to the political center, to potentially reach out to John Boehner and other Republican leaders to show he is serious about correcting, you know, having a midcourse correction here. Because the other key piece of the Clinton experience, of course, as you know better than anyone is that two years later, he was re-elected.

BLITZER: Obviously, thinking about getting re-elected. Are there officials at the White House behind the scenes who are already thinking, well, you know what, maybe there will be a challenge for the Democratic presidential nomination, as Jimmy Carter faced from Ted Kennedy in 1980 when there was a sense that Jimmy Carter was in trouble. Ted Kennedy challenged a sitting Democratic president. Are they already gearing up for that possibility?

HENRY: Well, they know that's a possibility. I don't think they believe, when you talk to senior officials that it's a real possibility, that there's going to be a challenge from the left, but they have to be prepared for that. They also have to be prepared for the possibility that with the electorate, as angry as it has been, for a couple of cycles now, not just on this one, but the change that has gone back and forth, Congress bouncing back and forth between different parties' control, there's a possibility of a third party of course in 2012 as well. Michael Bloomberg, someone like that has been speculated before. So they're going to prepare for any possibility, but we're still two years out. So obviously they're going to focus on what's ahead of them now in the immediate future in terms of trying to rebuild things here, figuring out which other staffers maybe moving to other position.

There's already been talk about David Axelrod early next year, leaving here to go back to Chicago to play a big role in the campaign. Others may do that as well. So there's going to be more retooling than we've already seen them.

BLITZER: All right, Ed, stand by, we're going to be coming over to the White House, the east room, as soon as the president walks in, which should be in a few minutes.

Let's get back to The Best Political Team on Television.

And I want everyone to go around and quickly give me your gut instinct whether or not this president of the United States, a Democrat, will face a Democratic challenger for his party's nomination.

We'll start with James Carville.


ERICKSON: Absolutely not.

CASTELLANOS: Not a serious one.

BORGER: Too tough. Nope.

MARTIN: Well, you can say, hail to the no. No.

GERGEN: No, but a year from now with this kind of unemployment, it's going to change.

BLITZER: Because a year from now, it's going to be -- they're getting ready for Iowa, New Hampshire, it's going to be a little late for someone to start thinking about challenging him. If someone is seriously thinking -- you know, let me throw up a couple of names.

ERICKSON: Russ Feingold.

BLITZER: Or Evan Bayh, for example, from Indiana.

ERICKSON: You'd have to challenge him -- I don't think he would. You can't challenge him from that position.

MARTIN: The last thing -- you do that, you're going to have a civil war in the Democratic Party and you will guarantee your loss in November.

BORGER: I think it's more likely you have a civil war in the Republican Party, and you end up with two candidates -- (CROSSTALK)

BORGER: -- and you end up with two candidates, and that party of Sarah Palin gets the nomination, the Republicans wait for another independent.

BLITZER: Let me ask John, because he was over at the White House back in 1994. We covered the White House during the Clinton years. Is it realistic to think that there will be a Democrat who will stand up and say to this president, I want the Democratic presidential nomination?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are zero serious Democrats on the horizon, Wolf, who seem to be pondering that question, as everyone just noted. You know, this is a stunning setback for the president, in some ways, whether it's a personal repudiation, or repudiation of the agenda or how they tried to implement the agenda, people will debate that for some time. But this is a repudiation of the president and his party, but he still is the best brand in the Democratic Party.

He is still personally popular even though his agenda lost in all across America yesterday. He still has a fund-raising operation. It is almost impossible. And as Democrats now essentially try to recover from this, from this, this is now an increasingly red America. That was last night. That is today, just when it comes to the House of Representatives. Yes, the president faces huge challenges, so does his party.

We'll see over the next couple of months the policy questions. Are there liberals who are still mad about Afghanistan? Still mad about a single pair? Yes. Are they going to challenge the president, as the panel just said, there is no serious one on the horizon.

The question is, how does the president adapt to this? And to David Gergen's point, we know Mike Bloomberg is looking at this from an independent standpoint. Would some liberal Democrat a year from now if unemployment goes up a little bit, if they think the president is compromising too much, say cutting entitlement programs, trying to reduce the debt, would somebody look at it? I think that is something we need to watch.

But when you look at the map now, this is a stunning setback for the president. But, Wolf, we covered the White House together in those days. It took Bill Clinton a little while, but he did reposition himself. He did business with Republicans. On some things, they were aimed at independent voters -- welfare reform, a balance budget. Aimed at the middle of the electorate that Barack Obama lost in a stunning way last night, so there is a lesson there. And then Bill Clinton picked a few polarizing fights with the Republicans, too, to tell the Democratic base, you're mad at me about some things, but watch me go at them on this.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Cornell.

BELCHER: Wolf, you can't challenge him from the left because the black Democratic base. You cannot -- he won't be challenged on the left.

CARVILLE: Thank you, you can say that.


BLITZER: What about a moderate conservative?


BLITZER: What about a moderate or conservative Democrat?

CASTELLANOS: They're called Republicans.


MARTIN: A conservative Democrat cannot make the move, because if you make that move, you can forget the general. You will not be able to go to your -- look, black women vote at a higher rate than anybody else in America. And if you tick off black women as a Democrat, you can't win.

BORGER: Can I just say also that he may have a little bit of an easier time, ironically, dealing with the base right now. Because he's up against the House Republicans. They have a mutual enemy now, not to use the word enemy, because he doesn't like to use the word enemy, but the president can say, look, this is the best I can get for you. And his base will believe him a little bit more now than they did when he was in charge of everything.

BLITZER: David, is there one specific thing you're going to be listening for from the president? He's about to speak.

GERGEN: Change. Is he going to be -- is this going to be a statement of continuity or I just got to be a little smarter in my communication, or this is going to be about real change. If it's not about change, I think he's got real problems.

BLITZER: And James, is he going to -- is he going to triangulate in the famous word that was use after Bill Clinton suffered a set back in '94?