Return to Transcripts main page

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Republicans Gain Control of House; President Obama Getting the Message?; Interview With Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann

Aired November 03, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks, everyone, for watching.

We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest," with President Obama today struggling to answer the question: Does he get it? Does he get what happened last night? Does he believe some of the policies he's pushed have been pushed back by the American people, or does he believe, as some Democrats seem to, that the American people just don't understand the president's policy successes and that the White House hasn't communicated them well enough?

Whatever the reason -- and we will debate it in a moment -- last night was, as the president finally acknowledged today, a shellacking. Republicans gained control of the House, picking up 60 seats so far, the biggest GOP win since the 1940s, with a number of races still undecided right now.

Over on the Senate side, Democrats held control, but lost six seats. Two major Senate races still undecided we want to tell you about. In Alaska, incumbent Lisa Murkowski is out in front as a write-in candidate, Republican Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who beat her in the primary, with the help of Sarah Palin's endorsement, close behind, Democrat Scott McAdams a distant third.

In Washington State, mail-in ballots are dragging things out, with in but Patty Murphy hanging on to a two-point lead with 72 percent of precincts reporting -- Patty Murray -- excuse me.

But, all in all, a very, very rough night for Democrats.

In an hour-long news conference today, a subdued President Obama said repeatedly he wants to work with Republicans where he can.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What yesterday also told us is that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here; that we must find common ground in order to set -- in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges.

As I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night, I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.


COOPER: But, "Keeping Them Honest," listen to the president's interpretation today of why people voted the way they did last night.


OBAMA: Yesterday's vote confirmed what I have heard from folks all across America.

People are frustrated. They're deeply frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery and the opportunities that they hope for their children and their grandchildren.

They want jobs to come back faster. They want paychecks to go further. And they want the ability to give their children the same chances and opportunities as they have had in life.

Over the last two years, we've made progress. But clearly too many Americans haven't felt that progress yet, and they told us that yesterday. And, as president, I take responsibility for that.


COOPER: Well, the president doesn't seem to acknowledge that some of his policies may have turned off voters, and he was repeatedly asked about that today.


QUESTION: Are you willing to concede at all that what happened last night was not just an expression of frustration about the economy, but a fundamental rejection of your agenda?

OBAMA: I think that there is no doubt that people's number one concern is the economy. And what they were expressing great frustration about is the fact that we haven't made enough progress on the economy.

QUESTION: But you still resist the notion that voters rejected the policy choices you make?

OBAMA: Well, you know, Savannah, I think that what I think is absolutely true is voters are not satisfied with the outcomes.

QUESTION: According to the exit polls, sir, about one out of two voters apparently said that they would like to either see it overturned or repealed. Do you -- are you concerned that that may embolden those who are from the other party perhaps?

OBAMA: Well, it also means one or -- one out of two voters think it was the right thing to do.

QUESTION: You don't seem to be reflecting or second-guessing any of the policy decisions you've made. Is it possible voters can conclude you're still not getting it?

OBAMA: I'm doing a whole lot of reflecting. And I think that there are going to be areas in policy where we're going to have to do a better job. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So, in that answer, he does say there are areas of policy where we're going to have to do a better job.

In comments before the elections, the president and a number of Democrats have said that the White House's problem has been a communication problem. They just haven't done a good job of explaining what they have accomplished. The president said that a couple weeks ago while campaigning in Seattle.


OBAMA: I think that one of the challenges we had two years ago was, we had to move so fast, we were in such emergency mode, that it was very difficult for us to spend a lot of time doing victory laps and advertising exactly what we were doing, because we had to move on to the next thing.

And, you know, I take some responsibility for that. I mean, our attitude was, we just have to get the policy right. And we did not always think about making sure we were advertising properly what was going on.


COOPER: So, advertising, a communication problem -- the problem with that argument is, this president has been on a seemingly endless number of television programs, news programs, late-night, and talk shows. And he will appear on "MythBusters" in a couple weeks.

It's not like we don't hear a lot from President Obama. In fact, he's made dozens and dozens of speeches touting his policies. He's given 158 interviews in his first year in office, more than any recent predecessor, 90 on TV, 11 on the radio, the rest in newspapers and magazines.

And in the months before he made that remark about not advertising properly, he made at least 20 speeches. Here's a sample.


OBAMA: The economy is now growing again. The private sector -- we have seen job growth in the private sector nine months in a row now.

We have an economy that's growing again. We have seen nine consecutive months of -- of private sector job growth.

The economy is growing again. The private sector has created jobs for nine months in a row.

The economy's growing again. Private sector job growth, we have seen nine months in a row.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So, he actually did do plenty of advertising about his economic policies. The question remains, are voters simply tired of what he's trying to sell them?

Joining us now, Democratic strategist James Carville, senior political analyst David Gergen, former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, senior political analyst Gloria Borger, and Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher.

David Gergen, the president today saying -- I mean, do you think he gets it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He certainly gets the magnitude of the defeat. I think that was beginning to sink in.

COOPER: The reason for the defeat?

GERGEN: Well, no, but I think he understands how -- how big it was. There was some question -- some Democrats are in denial today.

But the -- I think -- he looked like a very wounded man out there -- out there. He was -- he was chastened. He was tired, and, in some ways, very sympathetic, and appealingly sympathetic.

But I do not think he showed that he got the message, the substantive message. He's -- the only -- the real problem is, the policies didn't work yet. They're working too slowly. He didn't say, look, there are a lot of policies here, such as health care, that the public has clearly rejected by a significant majority. And he's not willing to concede that.

And I think, in that degree, he's still not communicating in the way that Bill Clinton did after the '94 defeat...


COOPER: James, is this a communication problem?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but it's little bit of a different communication problem that I would say is, is that we have been very consistent. You should never go out and tell people what you're doing is working, because they don't believe that. And you're fighting a losing fight.

What we have advocated in "The New York Times" and actually to the White House is, you need to go out, and you set up a construct of, he's the only thing between the middle class and he's fighting against -- what happened here was, you had unregulated, speculated, greedy bankers that caused a financial crisis unlike anything we had since World War II.

He sets that up and says every day, we're coming out and fighting and we're doing things, fighting as hard as we can against this enormous thing that we're facing, that message would have broken even, would have been much better than the message...


COOPER: Ari Fleischer, you're a communications specialist. Is this a communications problem?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This has absolutely nothing to do with communications. It has everything to do with spending, with big government out of control, with debt, with a health care bill that nobody read, with a country that is just absolutely frustrated with the substantive direction that Barack Obama was pursuing.


FLEISCHER: That's why it was such a big rejection, Anderson. This is not your typical midterm correction. Ronald Reagan had 10.8 percent unemployment in 1982, and Republicans only lost 26 seats that year.

He's lost more than 60.

COOPER: Cornell?

FLEISCHER: You have got to go back 72 years to see a midterm election defeat this big.

CORNELL BELCHER, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, but here -- but here's the problem. And, again, I have got to sort of inject sort of the -- the -- the factoids here.

There is no broad majority mandate for overturning health care. You look at exit polling. There's no -- that's the first thing I looked for. There's no majority mandate for repealing health care. So, you -- so you look at that, and I know it's a majority of Republicans who want to do it, but there's no majority sort of mandate.

And, quite frankly, part of it is messaging. When you still have a third of people who think there -- there are death panels in -- panels in there for seniors in health care, they have done a poor job of messaging.


BELCHER: They have done a poor job of messaging.

What -- my -- my last point is this. I think this election was not that dissimilar from what happened in '06. You had -- you had independent voters wanting change and not seeing change fast enough. And they pushed the pendulum, and it swung our way.

And you had this time around those same independent voters seeing change not happening, and it pushed...


COOPER: You're saying essentially the same desire for change, and just different result?


BELCHER: And they pushed the pendulum.

BORGER: Right.

BELCHER: If Republicans think this was about ideology and about sort of them -- them -- independent voters falling in love with them, they're wrong.

COOPER: Gloria?

BORGER: No, this -- this -- this is the third change election we have had in three elections.


BELCHER: And so the public is not rejecting Democrats. They're saying, somebody's got to get it right, and we're going to keep throwing you out until you do get it right.

But what the president said today was -- and it was kind of interesting to me -- he -- he sort of made an excuse. He said, you know, we had to do all these things because it was an emergency. People thought what we did in the emergency, i.e., the bailouts...


BORGER: ... was part of my agenda. But, really, that wasn't part of my agenda. That was something that was handed to me, and I had to deal with it.

But he hasn't talked about TARP or the fact that it's actually...




CARVILLE: But, see, that is exactly my point. He had to -- nobody here would say you shouldn't have done TARP. Nobody...


BORGER: Including George W. Bush.

CARVILLE: No one would have said that. But he seemed too happy about doing it.


CARVILLE: He should have had the bankers in there. He should have clubbed them over the head. He should have said, look what you have done to this. BORGER: OK.

CARVILLE: Look what you have forced us to do. We're going to deal with this, buddy, but then you're going to be called on the carpet.

Instead of doing that, he fell for all this foolishness that to rack these bankers over the head would have been anti-business. How silly can you be? They wrecked business. They wrecked the world.

COOPER: David?

GERGEN: The president made 54 speeches about health care. He marketed and marketed and marketed, and the numbers stayed firmly against the bill.

It was the first major social legislation we have had since the Great Depression, which was done in the teeth of public opposition. And when a -- when a party goes out, as the Republican Party did, and said, we want to do two things, we want to cut spending and we want to change the health care bill, and they pick up 60 seats, an historic record based over 70 years, we normally call that a mandate.

We normally call that, that the voters...


BORGER: But, David, he gave speeches on it.


BORGER: He gave speeches on it, but he didn't lead on it.


COOPER: Cornell, why...


COOPER: Cornell, why do you not see that as a mandate?

BELCHER: But, see, here's the problem, because, David, I can show you polls that show there's not five or six points between -- difference between those who support it and those who disagree with it.

And, quite frankly in the exit polling, there was almost 30 percent who said they wanted it expanded. So, I don't -- so, I don't buy this whole ideal that it's all about -- it's all about health care.

Republicans have been very good on going back to their bread-and- butter message: smaller government, less taxes. And, right now, that's where most Americans are.

BORGER: And health care... (CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: But they don't realize that, quite frankly, where your taxes are right now...

GERGEN: When people vote with their feet...


BELCHER: ... you're paying less taxes right now than at any time in the '50s.


GERGEN: When people vote...


BELCHER: The government is actually shrinking right now.


GERGEN: I'm sorry. When people go to the polls and vote in the numbers they did for the opposition party, you normally -- and most fair interpretations are that's a rejection of what -- the direction in which the governing party is taking us. That's what politics is all about.


FLEISCHER: And you have to understand the magnitude.

Again, Cornell talked about how this was like 2006. Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006. This is more -- this is more than 60 seats.


COOPER: It's also state legislatures which have gone over in record numbers.


FLEISCHER: And gubernatorial races. This was, across the board, a repudiation of Democrat ideology. Forget messaging. Whether they could have tweaked it or not is immaterial.

BELCHER: I do not...


FLEISCHER: This is a substantive election, economics, economics.

And it even goes back to 2009 when Republicans focused in on spending won Democratic governorships in Virginia and New Jersey. Barack Obama missed the boat on the core issues about spending, and now it's come back to bite... (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: James, I'm going to give you the final thought. We have got to move on.

CARVILLE: No. I mean, look, this -- this was a tough night for the president, the public -- public expressing pretty serious reservations here.


BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: You know, and, today, he looked like a guy who lost an election...

BORGER: Right.

CARVILLE: ... I mean, no more, no less. That's what happened.

I just believed they were going to lose seats. I believe they went out with the wrong message. Would they still have lost seats? Yes.

COOPER: Our panel is going to stick around. We're going to have more with them in a moment.

Let us know what you think at home. The live chat is up -- up and running,

Ahead in the hour: who voted and how that differs from just two years ago.

Coming up next: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, my attempt to get her to be specific about how she would actually cut the deficit. That's what she campaigned on. My first question was, was she -- would she be open to cuts in Medicare? Here's how she answered it.


COOPER: Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: Well, I think we know that, just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him.


COOPER: Two hundred million dollars a day? Where did she get those facts? And she have the facts to back up the allegation? Did she ever get around to actually answering that question? Find out in just a moment, "Keeping Them Honest."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party Republican, won reelection last night. And today now she wants to assume a leadership position in the House, chairing the House GOP Conference.

Now, we wanted to talk to her tonight about specific cuts that she would make to balance the budget. Republicans have been very unspecific about what big cuts they actually would make during the campaigns.

So, here's some of the problem -- promises we have heard over the last few months.


ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN-ELECT: There's a couple of agencies up there that, I will tell you, have got to go.


WEST: I say the first one would be the Department of Energy.

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATOR-ELECT: If we can do what I have proposed, which is get rid of the Department of Education.

PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR-ELECT: Let's not tax corporations.

PAUL: Let's keep taxes low and let's cut spending.

TOOMEY: I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether.

PAUL: Get the EPA out of our coal business down here. Get OSHA out of our small businesses.



BACHMANN: I think all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on.


COOPER: That was Michele Bachmann talking about subpoenas.

But her biggest issues have been cutting taxes, cutting the deficit, and cutting spending. Again, she hasn't been very specific, so we figured, let's start tonight.

In President Obama's proposed $3.8 trillion budget next year, if you take defense, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, interest on the debt, unemployment insurance, food stamps, and federal pensions off the table, there's only about 15 percent chunk left over to actually make cuts to. And cutting from just that 15 percent of the pie will not save enough money to really make a serious dent in the more than $1 trillion deficit. So, "Keeping Them Honest," we wanted to know what specifically would Congresswoman Bachmann now that her party controls the House?

I talked to her earlier.


COOPER: Congresswoman Bachmann, congratulations on your -- on your big victory last night.

You have campaigned on -- on cutting the deficit, cutting spending, not raising taxes, like a lot of Republicans, a lot of Tea Party candidates. There haven't been a lot of specifics, though, about what programs you would want to cut to really get the kind of savings that we need.

Republican Paul Ryan has suggested sharp cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Are you willing to make cuts there?

BACHMANN: Well, I think we know that, just within a day or so, the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He's taking 2,000 people with him.

He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It's a very small example, Anderson.


COOPER: But don't all presidents take overseas trips and stay in hotels where there's security?

BACHMANN: Not -- not -- not at this level. We have never seen this sort of an entourage going with the president before.

And I think this is an example of the massive overspending that we have seen, not only just in the last two years, really in the last four. That's what we saw at the ballot box last evening.

COOPER: But the -- excuse me -- the...

BACHMANN: The American people are asking us to take a look at this, and not have the sort of extravagant spending anymore.

COOPER: The White House is saying that idea that this is a $200 million, you know, boondoggle is just -- is completely overstated, that the -- that number, it's wildly inflated, those -- those numbers.

BACHMANN: And -- and that may be what the White House is stating. But, again, we have never seen a trip at this level before, of this level of excess.

COOPER: How -- how...

BACHMANN: And I think it's not a good signal to send to the American people, when the American people are, quite frankly, struggling right now with high job losses.

COOPER: But how -- but you know the president needs security overseas. You wouldn't begrudge...

BACHMANN: Certainly.

COOPER: ... begrudge any president that. And, frankly, they...

BACHMANN: Of course not.

COOPER: No one -- no one really knows the cost, because, for security reasons, they don't disclose the cost. So, this idea that it's, you know, $200 million or whatever is simply made up.

BACHMANN: Well, these are the numbers that have been coming out in the press. And, of course, those are the numbers that I have to...


COOPER: Do you believe what you read in the press?

BACHMANN: ... the numbers that are being -- well, should I listen -- well, should I believe what you say, Anderson? That's really the question.

COOPER: Well, I'm not reporting this -- this $200 million figure.

I guess I'm just -- it just seems odd -- I mean, under President Bush, did you ever talk about extravagant trips overseas, that there were too many people traveling with the president overseas?

BACHMANN: The issue here is really government excess and government government -- government excess and spending.

If it's that difficult and that expensive, maybe we should use videoconferencing for these meetings to have meetings between our two government leaders, or invite...

COOPER: So, you don't want the president traveling overseas?

BACHMANN: ... or inviting them to come to the United States.

Not at all.

What I'm suggesting is that we need to rein in the spending at all levels. And we need to take a look at all of the decisions that are being made.

COOPER: In terms, though, of actually cutting the deficit and, you know, cutting spending, you're going to have to make very specific -- you're going to have to come up with some specifics. BACHMANN: Where we need to begin, quite frankly, is with the general budget.

And we saw a huge expansion. President Obama increased spending at the federal level almost 25 percent. That's an amazing expansion by the government.

COOPER: OK. So you're not willing to say whether you would cut Medicare or -- or Social Security? You're not willing to say whether you would entertain that?

BACHMANN: Well, what -- what we need -- what we need to do is reform the system, because, this year, we're spending more on Social Security than what we're taking in, six years ahead of the projects on when that would occur.

So, we -- for the sake of the most vulnerable people in this country, we have to reform Social Security, so it's solvent.

COOPER: So, you are willing to look at cuts in Medicare, cuts in Social Security?

BACHMANN: Well, for cuts, we need to begin with the general budget. We need to reform Social Security, so that it can stand on his own -- on its own, and so that it can stand on its own with Medicare.

We -- we can't be about scaring senior citizens right now. What we need to do is lay out the facts on the table and make sure that those who are truly in need, who are vulnerable are taken care of.

COOPER: But extending the Bush tax cuts will mean, in order to offset the costs of extending the Bush tax cuts, you have to come up with $700 billion just in spending cuts alone just to offset that cost.

If you acknowledge that that is true, I mean, what are three things you would cut immediately to help offset those costs?

BACHMANN: Well, it's always considered a cost when people are allowed to keep their own money. I don't think that it's a cost when people get to keep their own money.

Right now, the current tax policy is -- in my mind, it's actually too high, the taxes right now. If we don't extend these tax cuts, for instance, in my district in Minnesota, we will see $1.6 billion -- $1.2 billion taken out of the pockets of my constituents and taken out of my local community, where it will be spent.

Instead, 1.2 additional dollars will be sent to Washington, D.C., sucked into that hole.

COOPER: Right. But, nationwide, that's still -- but, nationwide, that's still accounts for $700 billion in income that the U.S. government's not going to be getting that they're going to have to either cut spending, get from somewhere else or cut spending on. I assume you want it to be from cutting spending. Can you tell me just three things you would do to make up for $700 billion in lost revenue for the government?

BACHMANN: I think we need to cut the spending back to the 2000, 2008 levels.

COOPER: But a specific program, three specific programs.

BACHMANN: Well, and I -- and I'm -- and I'm trying to answer that.

I think we need to look at eligibility levels. Eligibility levels may be too high. We may need to cut them down by a percentage or two. We can solve this problem. We can cut back on the spending.


COOPER: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Now, after the interview, we did some checking on -- on the claim that President Obama's trip to India is costing $200 million a day, which seemed like a lot when she brought it up. Congresswoman Bachmann said it's in news report. It may be on the Internet. That doesn't actually make it true, though.

It turns out the source of this unsubstantiated claim is not from Politico. It's from an Indian news report. And the original report is actually from an anonymous Indian source, allegedly an Indian provincial official. How he would know how much President Obama's trip is costing, I'm not sure.

After the interview, we went back, asked the White House for further details. They said -- quote -- "The numbers reported in this article have no basis to reality. Due to security concerns, we're unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it's safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated."

As for how inflated, we can get some idea from Bill Clinton's similar Asian trip as president, which is widely considered the most expensive ever. The estimated bottom line for that trip, $50 million, and not per day, but for the entire trip.

So, still ahead: the voters behind the midterm makeover. Which ones defected from the Democratic ticket and shifted the balance of Congress? John King breaks down the numbers.

And, later, our political team tells us why Democrats lost crucial voters and what it might mean for the 2012 presidential election.


COOPER: Well, tonight, we're getting a much better picture of how the votes broke down for every party yesterday, who voted for whom and why. And what we're seeing is a shift in some crucial voting blocs.

John King has been crunching the numbers -- John.


JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": Anderson, all this flashing red around me in the CNN Matrix represents much more than just a stunning Republican takeover of the House.

The ingredients in these GOP victories, while they vary from place to place, but they include this constant: the fraying and, in some places, the collapse, of the coalition that helped Democrats to their big wins in 2006 and President Obama to his landslide just two years ago.

Remember, when we began the night last night, in these 100 most competitive House races across the country, 91 of them were blue districts. Now more than 60 are Republican red. And the geographic and the generational scope of the Republican victory is stunning.

Let's take a closer look across the country at some of the things the Democrats are worried about. Let's start with this district right here, Pennsylvania 8. It's in the Philadelphia suburbs. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, he won in 2006. He was defeated yesterday. One of the things that worries the Democrats, have they lost their support among independent voters in the suburbs?

Let's move over to another part of the country. You come over here, and you see the Midwest, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa. The president lost seats, including in his own home state. Phil Hare lost his seat in Congress, despite the fact that two years ago, Barack Obama carried that district with 56 percent of the vote.

If you watch as we go through some of these races, and you see them flashing red, you see Indiana, you see Ohio, you see Virginia, all across the Democratic coalition, a bit of a collapse. How did the Republicans make such huge gains? Not only in the House but in the Senate, the governor's races, the state legislative campaigns. Yes, their own Republican base was energized, in part because of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party helped make all these lights flashing red, especially in small-town America.

But the Democrats also had critically important defections. The Republicans, for example, had their best performance among union households since 1984, the year of the 49-state Reagan landslide. That lower union support for the Democrats just part of a blue-collar shift in the Republican direction, again, largely across the Midwest and small-town America.

The GOP also improved its standing among women, dramatically so among independents. And the result, these near historic gains here.

The bottom line? A third consecutive election, where voters demanded change, the pendulum swinging to the red side, the Republican side, this time. Because the president and his party didn't satisfy the voters who gave them all that energy in 2006 and 2008, Anderson. COOPER: John, thanks very much.

Our political panel joins us again, and adding into the mix, Erick Erickson from, a CNN contributor also now.

So Ari, obviously, the Tea Party was a big story in this election cycle. Take a look at some of these numbers on the board. Looking at the breakdown of people's votes, whether their vote for House meant to send a message in favor of the Tea Party, 22 percent said they were sending a message in favor of the Tea Party. Seventeen percent said it was meant to show they were against the Tea Party.

What do you make of that?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a meaningless question, because most people were sending a signal that Barack Obama and spending and bigger things than the Tea Party. The Democrat Party and the Republican Party. So it's the wrong question to measure.

COOPER: Most people didn't say they were sending a message to Barack Obama.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Thirty-seven percent said they were sending a message about Barack Obama. So again, it's -- it goes -- the Tea Party was a factor in the Republican primaries. We all concede that basically the Republican Party, they didn't expand it. It's all about independent voters. Independent voters shifted again from Democrats to Republicans. And that's why you saw this massive shift. It wasn't about the Tea Party shifted; it was the independent voters who shifted.

FLEISCHER: One other point about the Tea Party, though. They were successful in the general election in Florida and in Kentucky, and they were wildly unsuccessful in Delaware and Nevada where we should have won.

BELCHER: And probably Colorado.

FLEISCHER: Tea Party's got good ideas, but they need to come up with better candidates. It's going to be a real issue for them in the future. They cannot do this, divide the public, and then lose.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would disagree with you slightly, only in that I think some of these Tea Party candidates were reactions to the national Republican Senatorial committee and would not have happened but for reaction to the NRC.

Once the NRC went into Florida with Crist, and then they -- look at what happened with the NRCC and Scozzafava. Once they got beaned (ph) there by the voters, they stood back and said, "You know what? You guys pick your own candidates."

BORGER: Can I just say...

COOPER: We have -- we had Tea Party people that we were talking to when Christine O'Donnell won the primary. And they said, "Look, if we lose, fine. It's important to stand on principle."

BORGER: And maybe next time they'll have more experienced candidates who actually know how to run races. These candidates really didn't know how to run races.

And by the way, in defense of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, which I know you do not like, just think back to when they were recruiting candidates.

When Barack Obama walked on water, popularity 62 percent, Republican Party needed to show that it had a pulse. And so they went out and they recruited well-known -- yes, establishment, but well- known -- Republican candidates like Crist. And yes, they all got defeated and all got...

COOPER: So what does President Obama do now? I mean, what happens now, for the next two years to actually get stuff done? He talked today about working with Republicans, but a lot of these Republicans got voted in saying, "Look, no compromise, no compromise."

GERGEN: I don't think he made a sufficient pivot to the center today. He has to do that, I think, through policies and through personnel.

COOPER: Like Bill Clinton did in '94?

GERGEN: Absolutely like Bill Clinton did.

I think one of the issues -- Michele Bachmann wouldn't tackle it will tonight, but Social Security. If President Obama says, "I am serious about Social Security reform, and I'm even willing to look at Medicare reform," as he told the commission -- deficit commission he was willing to do, then I think, in taking on his base on those issues, it would -- you cannot cut this deficit sufficiently unless you...

COOPER: But wasn't that one of the things Republicans attacked him for, on the health care -- on his health-care plan, is that they were saying that this was going to hurt Medicare down the road? This was going to hurt seniors down the road?

ERICKSON: Just, but look at what they did to do this. They took money out of Medicare that was there and, frankly, cut back some of the privatization programs that the Republicans implemented that were liked to be able to fund health care.

COOPER: Any more specifics from Republicans right now? What they actually will cut?

BELCHER: Here's where it gets fun. Because, you know, Ari, this is where it gets fun. You've had fun for the last two years because you could attack us. And here's where it gets fun. But just putting on my political hat, just totally political hat, now...

BORGER: Wait a minute. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, I'll go rogue against the White House. Now the Michele Bachmanns of the world have to come up with specifics about how they're cutting. And Ari, you know as well as I do, I'm going to poll test that.


BORGER: The White House said to them, "I've go to do my budget. How about you guys come up with something..."

BELCHER: Give me your budget.

FLEISCHER: They both do. And that's the lesson of the Clinton years. When Bill Clinton was president, he came up with ideas, and he actually got balanced budget agreement done with a Republican Congress in 1997. Both parties contributed to it and got the job done.

Republicans have already come out for a freeze on all domestic discretionary spending at 2008 levels, which is a very significant cut to spending. You're talking hundreds of billions of dollars right there.

COOPER: But is that a feasible cut? I mean, is that realistic?

FLEISCHER: I think it will pass the House, I'll be curious about the Senate and it's an important part of how to eventually bring the deficit down. It's a great start.

GERGEN: It is -- it's an extremely interesting idea, but you've got to let the public deliberate on what it actually means. I don't think anybody has an idea of what truly is meant by this. It's something that's sort of come on the radar screen in the last few days. It's been mentioned by candidates, but this is the first time the Republicans are really pushing it seriously.

COOPER: Boehner talked about it. Michele Bachmann talked about it...

BELCHER: They've been talking about it for months.

GERGEN: But they haven't -- you would have to admit, do you know what's in there for $100 billion a year? I don't know what's in there.

COOPER: I was reading about it today. It's pretty draconian cuts.

GERGEN: It is very draconian.

FLEISCHER: Back to 2008 spending levels. Two years of spending levels and people call it draconian.

BELCHER: That's when you get unpopular, you have to make the unpopular choices. And guess what? That's what campaigns turn on.

ERICKSON: There's a larger issue here. Do Republicans control one half of one house of government? And we're going to have this wonderful dynamic for the next two years where the Republicans in the House come up with generally conservative solutions. They don't get through the Senate, and so for two years we're going to see nothing with the economy probably improve, most economists would say. We're going to teeter totter for a while.

And the Republicans would say, if they would just implement our ideas, they would work, and they're not letting us. And unless they come together and figure out some way to get some different ideas passed, we're going to have this for two year.

BORGER: You're going to have a lot of scared Democrats in the Senate, and you're going to have a lot of Democrats in the Senate who are going to vote with you.

ERICKSON: The guy from West Virginia.

BORGER: The guy from West Virginia. So therefore, you may have more responsibility.

COOPER: Joe Manchin. We've got to take a quick break. The panel is going to stick around. We're going to take a look at the presidential race in 2012. A lot has changed now with the midterms over. We're already moving on to that. Whether she runs or not, Sarah Palin definitely remains a huge figure in the GOP. About to get some competition from Republican power brokers who are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just last night.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, in a conference call to his supporters today, President Obama was blunt, saying there's no way to sugar coat it; last night was tough for Democrats. He warned that they most likely face even tougher days ahead. The voting map has been dramatically redrawn, and we're likely to see the emergence of a new generation of Republican power brokers, along with current GOP leaders like Sarah Palin and others who will try to unseat the president in two years.

Back again now to John King.

KING: Anderson, you know how it works: once one election is over, everyone says what does this mean for the next one? So what does 2010 mean for 2012? Well, first, let's get a sense of the scope, the drama of the Republican victories here.

Look right up here. This is the map coming into the night last night in terms of the House of Representatives. See all the blues? That's blue House districts across the country. That's how we began the night. That's how we ended. You see all that red one more time. That's before; that's after. Sweeping, stunning Republican victories all across the country. And that's just the House.

Let's go to the Senate races. Here's how we began the night. We began the night here. Remember all this up in the Midwest, right up here, the industrial heartland right up there. Began the night, all that blue, ended the night with all that red.

The governors' races also critically important in 2012. Again, look at all this blue. Look at all the blue, especially in the big Rust Belt states. Those are critical presidential battlegrounds. There's how we began. There's where we ended.

Why does that matter to the president of the United States? Well, Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan. I could go on and on. These are all states the president carried. He also carried Florida, which kept its Republican governor.

If you're the president of the United States and you are looking at this map, the electoral map has changed so dramatically today from where it was not only yesterday, but when he won that big victory in 2008. So that is a challenge for the president.

This is based in the economy, among winning back support among independent voters and rural blue-collar white voters for which -- among which this president has always had a problem.

So what about the Republicans? Who does this map help? Well, for one, we saw Sarah Palin, she has Tea Party support. She is in a commanding position coming out of this election.

Who else? The Republican governor of Florida, the Republican governor-elect, Rick Scott. He is now a power broker in Republican politics. Watch him in the years ahead.

Right here in Ohio, John Kasich is the new governor there. He's a close friend of Newt Gingrich. We'll see if that friendship cements any 2012 presidential alliance.

And again, look at this. A Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Michigan, on and on, out in Iowa. Iowa? How about Iowa? Terry Branstad is about to be the most popular Republican in the United States of America as all the 2012 contenders try to make friends and get his endorsement.

A very different map today than when the president won in 2008 and a very troubling map if you're Barack Obama looking ahead to 2012 -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, John. It's amazing the difference two years makes.

Back again with our panel: David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Erick Erickson, Ari Fleischer, and Cornell Belcher.

It's interesting, Erick, we were talking. It does seem now all of a sudden the Republicans have a new and very deep bench.

ERICKSON: Yes, very much so. Remember that whole line we said for the past several years, Republicans can't win in New England? Guess what? The entire Maine legislature and governor is now Republican.

New Hampshire, the entire legislature in Republican. They went from almost a 50/50 split to, like, 75 percent of the New Hampshire legislature.

What's happening at the ground level in the states for the Republicans is very significant because after 1994, a lot of people went to Washington, many of whom were flukes. They really didn't deserve to be there, but they just did because the wave was so big. And the Republicans never replenished the bench at the state level.

This year they're replenishing them. The first two non-white female governors in the nation were elected last night. They're both Republican.

BORGER: You know, don't forget, you have 19 state houses that have now gone Republican. You've got redistricting coming up, and this sows the seeds for the future for the Republican Party.

COOPER: You were talking about Marco Rubio as a potential vice presidential candidate.

GERGEN: One of the real problems the Republicans have had is the people who have been circulating, speaking for the Republicans, have seemed a little stale. And I think this is going to freshen up the Republican voice.

To have someone like Rubio out there -- getting Christine O'Donnell off the screen and getting Rubio on the screen is a big step forward for the Republicans. They've got these young guns in the House who are very interesting. I think we're going to get more and more air time. And you can actually have an engaged debate in this country, which I think would be helpful for the Republican Party, and give people -- and by the way, I think it's also going to open up the ranks for the 2012 nomination.

The working conventional wisdom in politics is, Barack Obama's going to win in part because it's a weak field running against him. Apparently, but there may be new people coming under this.

BELCHER: Let me say this, I know I'm always partisan, apparently, taking off that hat.

ERICKSON: Not apparently.

GERGEN: You can take off the hat?

BELCHER: Look at what Rubio did in Florida. It becomes interesting, because he split -- I mean, he got -- he basically got among Hispanics and Latinos, in Florida what we -- what Barack Obama got. And which takes away a key Democratic sort of part of that electorate there. So splitting that up.

Given how close that race was, if he can't run with Democrats' performance, like Barack Obama did with the Latino vote in Florida, she'd be governor now. So it becomes really interesting when you look at...

COOPER: So what do Democrats do to rekindle -- I mean, how do they get young voters back? How do they get African-American voters back?

BELCHER: You put Barack Obama back on the top of the ticket. I mean, one things, one is people are comparing sort of the young vote and the black and brown vote to '08, which is false -- which is false. I mean, in the battleground states, the African-American did turn out, and the youth vote did turn out. So comparatively what it was -- is typically is in midterms.

However, when you go out -- when you go out west and when you look at sort of what do we do to win that race out west, look how he blew away with the Hispanic vote out west. Look at the ground operation that you put together. When you look at Colorado, again, we are becoming a blacker and browner country, particularly out west. And with Republicans to compete there, it becomes awfully important.


ERICKSON: This is the sixth election where the Republican death has been declared because of demographics. And yet they've gotten another reprieve.

FLEISCHER: There's one -- there's one riding issue on this, and that's to stay with the economy. If jobs don't get created and the economy stays weak, it's going to be terrible for Barack Obama and deservedly so.

If on the other hand, jobs come back, I think you're going to see also a sense, and the media's going to help, that so much of what Barack Obama did now is being vindicated, proving it's the right thing to do. That's the shape of what's to come. We all have to fasten our seat belts, not worry about 2012 yet. Focus on 2011. See what happens in the economy. That drives everything.

GERGEN: I agree. Of the last nine presidents who have been seeking re-election, three lost because unemployment was above 7.5 percent in the year they ran. And it was Carter, Bush Sr., and there was one other, oh, Gerry Ford.

Getting unemployment down, I think Ari is absolutely right. It's way too early to talk about 2012 until you know what happens in 2011. And what the performance is in the economy. And at this point it looks like it's really hard to get that unemployment rate down to 7.5.

BORGER: And both of the parties have a real stake in that for 2012. So there may be -- I don't want to be Pollyanna here, but there may be some ray of hope that in fact, because they both need to work towards that, that they can do some things to try and get it done. Although obviously, philosophically, they have differences about how you go -- how you go about it. But it's in their own self-interest.

ERICKSON: The only sure thing that I can guarantee about 2012 is the conventional wisdom between now and the end of this year...

GERGEN: Will change.

COOPER: That I agree with you on. David Gergen, thank you. Gloria Borger, Erick Erickson, Ari Fleischer, Cornell Belcher, always good.

We began the night with President Obama's take on the message of the midterms. Tonight on "Parker/Spitzer" they put Democratic strategist James Carville on the spot about what kind of message the president should be taking away from the landslide.


ELIOT SPITZER, CO-HOST, "PARKER/SPITZER": Do you think President Obama's been wrong in substance?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, obviously, people think that he's been wrong in substance.

SPITZER: I'm asking you.

CARVILLE: I don't -- I think he let the banks off way too easy. I think he -- way, way too easy when they signed off on TARP. I think they should have gone for justice. I think they should have gone after them.

SPITZER: Pitch forks.

CARVILLE: I think that what those banks did -- I think what these banks did and what -- what the greed that was exhibited there is on a level and a scale that we can't even imagine. And the fact that they just seem like they were anxious to do this, the fact that there was not anywhere close to sufficient accountability, that's what the Democratic Party exists for.


COOPER: As always, you can watch "Parker/Spitzer" every week night, 8 p.m. on CNN.

Still ahead tonight, the headlines. New information about the mysterious death of a popular professional surfer. Plus, the murder defendant known as the Hiccup Girl, remember her? Well, she hiccups in court. Is it part of her defense?

We'll be right back.


COOPER: We've got a bunch of other stories we're following. Joe Johns joins us with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a shot fired at a Coast Guard recruiting station in Virginia has been linked to four other shootings at military buildings, including the Pentagon. The FBI says ballistics tests have established the pattern. The Coast Guard office was hit yesterday. There have been no injuries in the shootings.

Shocked in the world of professional surfing, the American world champ, Andy Irons, has died at the age of 32. The "Honolulu Star- Advertiser" reports an investigation is underway to see if Irons overdosed on methadone, but his family says he was stricken with dengue fever. And an Australian newspaper reports five members of surfing's professional tour have contracted the illness that includes symptoms of severe headache and joint pain.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The defendant, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Florida, the defendant (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


JOHNS: That's Jennifer Mee, known as the Hiccup Girl, crying and hiccupping in court as her lawyer asked her to release her on bail. Mee and two others are charged with murder. The judge will rule on her bail request on Friday. Three days -- years ago she gained notoriety when she hiccuped for months.

The Federal Reserve will move to bolster the economy by purchasing $600 billion in treasury bonds over the next eight months and reinvesting up to $300 billion from other holdings. It hopes that by pumping all that money into the economy, businesses and consumers will start spending again.

And delicious news for lovers of McRib. The sandwich is back on the menu, but McDonald's says it's only for a limited time. And I've got to tell you, there's a cult following around that sandwich, but just give me a salad any day, I think.

COOPER: Yes. Sadly, I like the Big Macs, but I've never tried the McRib. But give it some time. We'll see.

Joe, thanks.

Tonight's "Shot," heavy rains cause a river in Washington state to spill over its banks. Bad news for migrating salmon, which were swept out of the river, but pretty lucky break for a dog named Honey. Take a look.

There's Honey approaching the said salmon. Honey obviously recognized an opportunity. After a couple of tries, she was able to catch a good-size salmon, which she reportedly brought home to her owner. There we go. Aw. Feel bad for the fish, but I'm happy for Honey.

All right. A lot more ahead at the top of the hour, starting with President Obama's reaction to last night's GOP blowout. And a question, does he get it? We'll be right back.