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Nancy Pelosi Holds Press Conference; White House View; The Big Issues

Aired November 08, 2006 - 12:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips.
Welcome to a special post-election edition of CNN NEWSROOM.

The balance of power shifts on Capitol Hill. The Democrats back in charge of the House. Control of the Senate still too close to call.

We're going to break it all down.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Tony Harris.

A new voice talking about the politics of change, and any minute now we will hear from California's Nancy Pelosi, who's set to become the first female speaker of the House of Representatives.


The White House reaches out in a spirit of goodwill, but will President Bush accept the vote as a mandate for change?

We'll find out.


What did the voters say about Iraq, about corruption, and about scandals?

We have some answers for you.

COLLINS: Under new management. That's the deal on Capitol Hill this morning. After 12 years of Republican rule, Democrats are now in control of the House. And as for the Senate, that's another story. And we're still actually waiting for the ending to that one.

Virginia's contest between George Allen and Jim Webb still undecided and heading to a very likely recount.

And in Montana, another Senate race too close to call. Right now Republican incumbent Conrad Burns is neck and neck with his Democratic challenger, Jon Tester.

Democrats need to win both of these states to take control of the Senate.

We have the best political team on television still out there covering the fallout from Tuesday's historic vote as we are waiting for Speaker-Elect Nancy Pelosi's news conference. But just moments ago she spoke as she arrived on Capitol Hill.

Take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I just spoke to the speaker. He was very gracious. He congratulated me, he said he offered his services and that of his staff for any needs we may have here in the transition.

I told him that despite the -- however you characterize our relationship, I considered him a friend and would appreciate any advice that he had. And I said, you know, I enjoyed so much giving him the gavel that I was looking forward to him having that pleasure himself.


COLLINS: And more now from Capitol Hill with CNN's congressional correspondent, Andrea Koppel.

A nice way to set the tone here, Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. Nancy Pelosi, out on the campaign trail, likes to describe herself at a mother and a grandmother. In fact, when I spoke with her a couple weeks ago out on the trail, she's expecting her fifth grandchild, and I asked what she was more excited about, the prospect of becoming the first woman speaker of the House or having -- becoming a grandmother again. She said, "Oh, without question" -- she said, "Becoming a grandmother."

And I said, "Why?" And she said, "Because it's the miracle of life."

So she sees very much the Democrats regaining the House as an opportunity to do good for the future for children.

PELOSI: A large number of young people, children from Queens, in grade school, middle school there, were visiting the Capitol, and when my car pulled up and -- they were very eager to say hello. And more eloquently than any politician could, they told me that they were the future, and that they were going to be somebody, and they thought that that was what our work was about in the Capitol.

Of course, our message throughout the campaign has been about the future, about making it better and the responsibility each generation has to another to make a brighter future. But I thought it was a good omen, because as I've said over and over again, God willing, if we won the election, when I receive the gavel it would be on behalf of America's children.


PELOSI: I'm not in charge of the technical arrangements, but I could use my mother of five voice!

Shall I tell you again about the children who were outside? Oh -- thank you.

You were there. You saw the children. Weren't they wonderful?

Could I ever exaggerate how exhilarating it was to be welcomed to the Capitol by these wonderful, beautiful little children who were so proud of themselves, and how they hoped that we would understand that they are the future, that they would be somebody, and that was our responsibility to help them be so. And as I said, it was part of our campaign all along that this election is about the future, about the responsibility one generation has to the next to make the future better.

So I thought it was heaven-sent, really, just a perfect, perfect way to start a new day after the election. That was this morning.

Yesterday, the beauty and the genius of our democracy, the American people spoke with their votes, and they spoke for change and they spoke in support of a new direction for all Americans. Supporting a great array of magnificent, talented Democratic candidates, they chose a Democratic majority to address the concerns of America's working families and, of course, to address the concern that the American people have about the war in Iraq.

This Democratic -- new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people. They spoke out for new direction to bring integrity, integrity back to Washington, and we will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history.

The American people spoke out for a return to civility in the Capitol, in Washington, and how Congress conducts its work. And Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here, and we pledged partnerships with the Congress, the Republicans in Congress, and with the president, and not partisanship.

And they talked about the new direction in terms of the fairness of our economy in our country. And Democrats are working for an economic that enables all Americans to participate in the economic success of our country.

But nowhere was the call for a new direction more clear from the American people than in the war in Iraq. And this is something that we must work together with the president.

We know that "stay the course" is not working. It has not made our country safer, it has not honored our commitment to our troops, and it has not brought stability to the region. We must not continue on this catastrophic path.

And so hopefully we can work with the president for a new direction. One that solves the problem in Iraq.

So with integrity, with civility, with bipartisanship that goes with that, with fiscal responsibility so we're not heaping mountains of debt on those young children that were at the foot of the steps of the Capitol this morning, we intend to go forward with our six for '06 that we talked about in the campaign: to make America safer; to make our economy fair; to make college more affordable; to make healthcare more accessible and better by promoting stem cell research; to move toward energy independence; to guarantee a dignified retirement; to do this again in a fiscally sound way with civility, integrity and bipartisanship.

That is where we are going with this. The American people with their votes yesterday placed their trust in the Democrats. We will honor that trust. We will not disappoint -- Mike.


PELOSI: It's not about the Democrats in Congress forcing the president's hand. The American people have spoken. It's important for us to work in a bipartisan way with the president, again, to solve the problem, not to stay the course.

That's not working. That's clear. And if there is anything clear in the election results, it was that the more the president campaigned on the war, the fewer votes the Republicans who supported that got, and that took its toll on the Republicans.

So the campaign is over. As I said, Democrats are ready to lead. We're prepared to govern. But that means in a bipartisan way, in a system that is self-evident.

The president is the president of the United States. I hope that he will listen to the voices of the people, and that, again, putting aside partisanship and looking to a partnership to end this war.

We've written to him in the past on the subject, Senator Harry Reid and I, the leader in the Senate, and the leadership of the committees of jurisdiction on this subject, and said that we want to work together in a bipartisan way to send a clear message to the Iraqi government and people that they must disarm the militias, they must amend their constitution, they must engage in regional diplomacy to bring more stability and reconstruction to Iraq. And that we must begin the responsible redeployment of our troops outside of Iraq.

We've said that over and over again.


PELOSI: That's right. That what we have. And we look forward to having a conversation with the president, and I hope that as respectful as we are of the results of the election, I'm certainly the president will be, too.

In fact, I spoke with the president this morning and he said -- we didn't talk about Iraq, but we both expressed our wish to work in a bipartisan way for the benefit of the American people. And I think that nowhere is that more necessary than in the problem in Iraq.


PELOSI: Well, I think that there has to be a signal of a change of direction on the part of the president. The one good place he could start is a place where not only Democrats and large numbers of the American people, but the voices of the military have spoken out, and that is to change the civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

That would signal an openness to new, fresh ideas on the subject. But again, that's not something we're going to resolve in this conversation in here. That's a conversation that will -- time will be better spent in conversation with the president.

QUESTION: Can you describe a little bit more of your conversation with the president this morning? And are Democratic leaders (INAUDIBLE) White House today or in the next couple of days?

PELOSI: It was a very brief conversation with the president. He called to congratulate me. He referred to me as "Madam Speaker- Elect". And I referred to him as "Mr. President".


PELOSI: And that took up the first part of the conversation. But seriously, I welcome the president's call as a sign of respect of the voice -- the votes of the American people and a recognition that we will be talking about issues of concern to the American people.

He expressed his intention to work in a bipartisan way. I reiterated mine as well. And as I said to him last night, I said that I wanted to work with him and the Republicans in Congress in a bipartisan way.

He then said, let us -- I think it would be important for us to get together for lunch tomorrow. And to tell you the honest truth, the call was so very, very early in the morning, that I almost thought the lunch was today. You know, he starts the day very early.

But in any event, we will -- I don't know who will be at the meeting, whether it will be bipartisan or just Democrat. It's the president's meeting, and he will invite who he invites. One way or another, we look forward to beginning the conversation...

COLLINS: And there you have Speaker-to-Be Nancy Pelosi taking some questions from the press.

And we want to go ahead and bring back in Andrea Koppel.

Andrea, what do you make of her comments so far today?

KOPPEL: I think it's what -- what you would expect in these circumstances, Heidi. The fact is that even though there have been a lot of barbs traded across the aisles in recent months in which you've had Republicans demonizing Nancy Pelosi, calling her the latte liberal from San Francisco, code word for, you don't want to elect -- you don't want to elect Democrats, because then there'll be abortion mills all over the country, and then you've had Nancy Pelosi coming right out calling President Bush incompetent and dangerous, and saying that he won't have a rubberstamp Congress anymore.

So this -- this is a time to try to put behind the -- put the cross words behind them and at least show that she is serious about wanting to work with President Bush. And quite frankly, Heidi, if they're going to get anything done, they're going to have to work with President Bush.

COLLINS: Yes. There's no question about that. Letting bygones be bygones, as far as the war of words goes, anyway.

We'll see what happens here.

Andrea Koppel, congressional correspondent.

Thanks so much for that.

HARRIS: And Heidi, let's talk more about these big changes with our chief national correspondent, John King. He joins us from New York.

John, good to talk to you.


HARRIS: You just heard the speaker-to-be call for the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history. I was surprised. I wonder if you were. And our exit polling last night indicated that this issue of ethics was so important to the voters we talked to.

KING: The issue of ethics and corruption did run pretty high. Actually, running as high or a little higher even than Iraq in the exit polls. That was a surprise to some people who thought Iraq would be number one.

And it's no -- there's no mystery to why the Democrats are saying this. They believe for the last 12 years they have been abused by the Republican majority, that the Republican majority has not reached out and listened to the Democrats, not given the Democrats any rights, any privileges.

And so, Nancy Pelosi starting by extending her hand, saying that they will have integrity, they will have openness, they will have bipartisanship. All the words, Tony, today are going to be quite conciliatory. The question is, what will the actions be?

There is deep animosity between the Democrats, who were kicked out of power 12 years ago, and the Republicans who replaced them. They simply do not get along. In many cases, they don't like each other and they don't trust each other. And America is about to get to know the woman who is now the second most powerful politician in the United States. She will be the speaker of the House in January.

You have a president many are now about to say is a lame duck. He will be out in about 45 minutes to say he most certainly not. But as Andrea just noted, these two, Madam Pelosi -- Madam Speaker Pelosi, and the president of the United States, have exchanged some pretty good hits in the campaign.

They're very different in style. They don't like each other. They don't need to. There's no -- there's a long history of speakers and presidents and other politicians who didn't get along, but they need to learn to respect each other if we're going to get anything done, whether it is domestic or when it comes to Iraq in the final two years of the Bush presidency.

And one more quick note. In response to Dana Bash's questions in that news conference, she said the president can start the goodwill by firing his defense secretary. The president of course has said he has no plans of doing that.

HARRIS: John, that turns the corner for me. You heard the speaker-to-be say, "We must not continue on this catastrophic path in Iraq." And then you heard her talk about this phased redeployment plan that the Democrats are forming. And yet, we keep in mind that the president is still the commander in chief.

KING: And he will remind us of that in about 44 minutes, Tony. You can bet the bank on that, that the president will make the case that it would be disastrous to pull out now, that the United States must send a strong signal of support to the Iraqi government, that he's willing to listen to Democrats -- the president has no choice there now.

They say he has not for six years. He has no choice but to listen to Democrats. But Democrats -- and I think Nancy Pelosi just made it pretty clear -- they can say all they want. They can't do very much in terms of the president's war-making power.

So, what they want is an olive branch to start a conversation. The most fascinating part, though, Tony, you listened to Nancy Pelosi today saying the president could build goodwill by getting rid of Donald Rumsfeld. Well, that's from the top Democrat in the United States of America right now.

The president is going to be getting that message as well from many senior Republicans. The question is, will the president take that advice? Or perhaps even the more immediate question is, will Secretary Rumsfeld try to get the president out of this pickle by doing it himself?

HARRIS: Our chief national correspondent, John King.

John, thank you -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Now for the White House view. With a different political equation in play today, what's on the president's agenda?

CNN's Kathleen Koch at the White House, where the president is getting ready to hold a news conference next hour. Of course we'll take that live.

Hey, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Certainly the president is going to be facing some very tough questions today, and as he often does at the start of a press conference, he might be making some statements. No word yet on whether that's going to happen or whether he'll make any dramatic announcement in that opening statement. But certainly there is going to be a lot of talk along the lines of what we heard from Speaker Pelosi talk about, civility, bipartisanship, reaching out.

The president realizes if he wants to accomplish anything over the next two years he has got to work with this Democratic Congress. But he's got a high hurdle to jump to overcome the animosity, the rancor from the campaign.

Over the last weeks the president has been hammering Democrats hard, saying that they were soft on terrorism, saying they had no plan for victory in Iraq, and that if they were -- they came to power in Congress, that they would raise taxes. Let's take a listen to what he said just a few days ago about incoming speaker Nancy Pelosi.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They asked the lady who thinks she's going to be the speaker -- but she's not -- about tax cuts. And she said on TV, "We love tax cuts." Well, given her record, she must be a secret admirer.


KOCH: Well, this morning President Bush was eating crow, reaching out to Nancy Pelosi as you heard her mention in the press conference, calling her and calling several other Democrats this morning, saying he was ready to work with them. Congratulating them, inviting both Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer to the White House for lunch on Thursday.

So, again, the president reaching out. He did also reach out to very disappointed Republicans, outgoing House Speaker Dennis Hastert, saying he'd done a good job, he appreciated his efforts. And saying while they came up short, he and Hastert and others are still going to have to work together to accomplish what they want to and work with Democrats over the next two years -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And Kathleen, now that the Dems take the majority, a lot of people are wondering what will happen with policy in Iraq? I mean, this is a time now, since they are the majority, there could be more investigations, more hearings, and that could change the face of strategy there.

KOCH: Well, apparently, Harry Reid, very interesting, is telling the media that in his conversation this morning with President Bush, when he was saying we've got to see some change, the president said, "Stay tuned to my press conference today."

So who knows whether or not the president is going to signal a dramatic departure in his policy, a dramatic change in his strategy on Iraq. But so far, the word from the White House has been full speed ahead, though they have dropped that phrase "stay the course."

PHILLIPS: And we'll take that speech live next hour.

Thanks, Kathleen.

KOCH: You bet.


LEMON: What was behind the vote? In other words, what were voters' motivation? We'll have the answer for you in this special edition of CNN NEWSROOM, "America Votes" coming up.

Don't go away.

HARRIS: How about another question for you. Will the outcome of the election change the national agenda?

Just ahead, Kweisi Mfume and Bob Barr give us their take on the impact of the midterms.

COLLINS: And it's all over but the counting. We're talking about control of the Senate, and everybody's watching those two key states, Montana and Virginia. We'll update both races ahead here in a special edition of the NEWSROOM.

Stay with us.


LEMON: And from Iraq to the war on terror, to the economy and political corruption, what was on voters' minds as they cast their ballots?

Let's find out from our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

Bill, I guess for voters all politics was not so local.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: No, it certainly wasn't. Voters around the country said they were voting not just for people, but for parties. And when we asked them, "What was more important when you cast your vote, national issues or local issue?," clearly the edge was given to national issues.

Sixty percent said national issues, 34 percent said local issues. That's a margin of virtually 2-1.

LEMON: And Bill, you know, we always hear about these swing voters. What about the swing voters this time around?

SCHNEIDER: They swung, or swang, or something like that. But they did swing.

They voted 57 percent for the Democrats in the House elections across the country, 39 percent Republican. That is the heaviest vote, the biggest margin for any party we've ever seen in 30 years of exit polling for Independent voters.

These voters determined the outcome of the election. You know, there's been this theory for some time that there are no Independent voters, they don't matter, they split their votes down the middle, that you have to rally the base to win the election.


SCHNEIDER: Well, both parties rallied their base, but it was those Independents who determined the outcome.

LEMON: Who actually made the outcome of the election. You're creating your own language, your own new word there.

Let's talk about -- you heard Nancy Pelosi talk about the war in Iraq. How important was that for voters?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it was one of several issues. It wasn't, interestingly, the single dominant issue.

There were a number of things on voters' minds. And we asked them, "Which issues were extremely important to you when you decided to vote?" Corruption and ethics in Congress was the number one issue at 41 percent, followed closely by terrorism. Then Iraq, and then values issues like stem cell research, same-sex marriage and abortion.

They were all very close to edge other. Just about tied, which indicates there were a number of concerns on voters' minds.

LEMON: And it's amazing.

SCHNEIDER: Iraq -- yes?

LEMON: Because we thought Iraq was going to be number one. That's what everyone was saying. When people went into the voting booth, they were going to see Iraq and that war there, but not necessarily so. It was on their minds, but it wasn't number one.

SCHNEIDER: It wasn't number one, but it did drive a lot of Democratic voters and it certainly didn't help Republicans. Because the view of the Iraq war among voters around the country was quite critical.

Fifty-seven percent of voters said that they disapproved of the war in Iraq, only 41 percent said that they approved. And it's 56 now. These numbers are changing as they're being updated. But you can see a clear majority of voters disapproved of the war in Iraq and they voted overwhelmingly for Democrats for Congress.

That is the message that Speaker-to-Be Pelosi was talking about this election sending.

LEMON: Yes. So if you're wondering what's your motivation? There it is right there. Bill Schneider, thank you so much.


HARRIS: Well, you know the tourism slogan "Virginia is for lovers"? Well, you can bet there'll be some broken hearts once all the votes are counted in this pivotal and very close Senate race.

Let's get to Kyra Phillips now, who has some breaking news for us -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, you gave me the perfect leadway there.

Democrats, obviously we've been talking about how they have taken the House. The Senate hangs on two neck-to-neck races in Montana. That's where one ever them is.

That race between Republican senator Conrad Burns and state senator Jon Tester, too close to call. Although Tester does show a razor-thin lead with 99 percent of the ballots counted. Tester leads by fewer than 2,000 votes.

He actually joins us on the phone right now from Great Falls, state senator Jon Tester.

Bring us up to date. What are you hearing right now, sir?

JON TESTER (D), MONTANA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, Kyra, I mean, we've picked up some votes. We're up over 3,000 votes now, and I think there's only like 800 votes that haven't been accounted for. And at this point in time, if Senator Burns got them all, he still wouldn't win the election.

So we feel good about winning this election. We feel good about going to Washington, D.C., and making some real exchange for the country and the state of Montana.

PHILLIPS: So are you declaring victory right now?

TESTER: Absolutely. Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: What if -- what if Senator Conrad Burns doesn't want to concede?

TESTER: Well, the vote totals are the vote totals. I mean, you know, we're -- the one who gets the highest number of votes wins, and we did.

PHILLIPS: How have the two of you been able to communicate? Do you feel that you've gotten along well? This has been a fair race? Not a nasty race?

Give me a feel for just how -- your sense of how things have gone to this point.

TESTER: Well, it's been a very challenging race, but the race is over now. Now it's time to work together and move the country forward, and do some things that are issues -- deal with issues that are critically important to the people of Montana and to this country.

PHILLIPS: Well, many voters would say that's right. State senator Jon Tester, this is what we wanted, he beat the Republican.

What does this tell us about what voters are saying?

TESTER: Well, I think they're ready for change. And I think Montana's ready for change. There's a lot of issues out there, both domestically and from a foreign policy standpoint that we need to change and really empower the middle class...

PHILLIPS: Talk to me about the issues. Give me specifics.

TESTER: Well, the issues -- the issues here revolve around, of course, the war in Iraq, and foreign policy with the war on terror. And national security.

They also revolve around healthcare. Quite frankly, here folks can't afford to get sick.

And making this country energy independent, and doing it in a fiscally responsible way, and taking Montana values back to Washington, D.C., which include respect and ethics and honesty.

PHILLIPS: The first thing you said, the issue of Iraq, do you believe that that is what brought out the majority of these voters and caused this change in the state of Montana?

TESTER: I think what brought out the majority of the voters is a number of issues, Iraq being one of them. But the fact is, is health care, energy, fiscal responsibility, all of those things, I think, hit home with different folks in different areas of the state of Montana. And I think that's what resulted in the number ever people that came out to the polls being exceptionally high, and I think That's great.

PHILLIPS: If, indeed, this does become fact, and what you are saying by declaring victory indeed is what is going to happen here between you and Conrad Burns, what is your first plan of action?

Well, I think there needs to be something down address the health care issues in this country. I mean, in the state of Montana we have one in five folks with no healthcare, and we've got a large number that have catastrophic healthcare. The fact is, we're driving businesses into bankruptcy and folks into poverty. We need to address this issue.

PHILLIPS: Once again, we just want to remind our viewers, state Senator Jon Tester, that we are not officially declaring you the winner, but you have called in. You are declaring victory. We're talking about one of the neck-to-neck races, that being in Montana. The race between you and Republican Senator Conrad Burns too close to call, although you did show a razor-thin lead, 99 percent of the ballots counted. We appreciate you joining us, and we'll continue to follow this and, of course, let our viewers know once things become official -- Heidi.

COLLINS: So we have not heard from Conrad Burns, that is true, in Montana. We also haven't heard the official outcome will be in Virginia, the other incredibly tight race. And as you know, Virginia is for lovers, but as you can bet, there will be some pretty broken hearts once all votes are finally counted in this pivotal and very close Senate race.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us live from Richmond, Virginia.

Hi, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Heidi. We got an indication a moment ago of just how close this race really is. We heard from Ed Gillespie, a senior adviser to Republican Senator George Allen, who gave these numbers. His numbers were fairly consistent with what we've gotten from state election officials. The margin now just over 7,000 votes. That's the lead that Democrat James Webb has over Republican Senator Allen. This is with, according to Mr. Gillespie, three precincts still outstanding. So they are election workers canvassing those precincts and all others in this state.

Mr. Gillespie, a moment ago in a news conference alluded to some of the problems that those canvassers may come across.


ED GILLESPIE, GEORGE ALLEN'S CAMPAIGN ADVISER: These canvases often and commonly turn up mathematical mistakes and tabulation errors, juxtapositions of numbers, numbers being written in the wrong columns attributed to the wrong candidate and the canvases correct those mistakes.


TODD: Now they've got just a few days to correct those mistakes. We're told that they have until November 14th, six days from now, to complete that canvassing. Then on November 27th is the day when the vote will be certified. At that time, either Mr. Allen or Mr. Webb can call for a recount, officially request a recount. Again, the margin very thin now. And what interesting about the news conference we just witnessed moments ago was that Mr. Gillespie and an attorney for the state Republican Party here in Virginia did not say flat out they will call for a recount or plan to, although that is expected, but they seemed to be greasing the skids for some kind of a legal action, because the attorney was saying there were all sorts of mechanical breakdowns in yesterday's vote. He talked about power failures. He talked about calibration problems. He talked about voters turned away at precincts. Didn't sound like these were the voices of people who are just going to let this count slide the way it is -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Yes, and Brian, quickly, didn't Ed Gillespie say that Senator Allen had picked up something like 1,000 votes that they had found? TODD: Now, that's a little unclear. We do know that this margin now, just over 7,000 votes, includes about 1,300 that state officials say were taken away from James Webb. Now whether they actually go to Senator Allen is unclear at this point, because we think that those votes have to be looked at again. Maybe some might go back to Webb and some might to Allen. So those are a little bit in limbo right now. We have to stress, three precincts according to Ed Gillespie, three precincts are still outstanding in the state. So all the vote hasn't even been counted yet.

COLLINS: Boy, it is certainly a complicated one, that's for sure.

CNN's Brian Todd coming to us from Richmond, Virginia. Thanks so much, Brian.

HARRIS: Two parties, two very different reactions. The two men who oversee campaign organizations in the House had this to say about last night's vote.


REP. RAHM EMANUEL (D), ILLINOIS: From every corner of the country, the American people have sent a resounding and unmistakable message of change and new direction for America!



REP. TOM REYNOLDS, NRCC CHAIRMAN: This has been from day one an uphill climb for us. What I've always said is it's a stiff wind in our face. The election really was matter of history repeating itself. Second term midterm elections are the toughest for the president's party. And the one last night is absolutely no different.


HARRIS: It is a new day in Washington. And oh, what a day it is. Republicans and Democrats are sorting through the wins and losses. So where do the parties go from here? Some Perspective now from Kweisi Mfume, former congressman and former head the NAACP.

Kweisi, good to see you.


HARRIS: And former Congressman Bob Barr. Bob, as always, good to see you.

BOB BARR, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Thank you. And it's good to be here with my good friend and former colleague.

HARRIS: How about that. That's right. Let me start with you if I could, Kweisi. You know, I was a bit surprised last night, and wonder if you were, by the exit polls done by CNN that suggested that people were just sort of fed up, fed up with corruption and ethics problems in the House and in Congress? Were you surprised by that? And take me back to your days when you were a member of the Ethics Committee?

MFUME: Well, I'm not surprised at all. I think what happened was the Mark Foley incident towards the end of this election cycle, and all the other things that happened before that, kept saying to people over and over again, our government is broken. Ethically they're not doing the right thing. Not only are they not compromising and finding consensus, but some real problems, ethical problems, that have to be addressed, and I think people resoundingly spoke about a number of things, that in the aggregate included that, and in the ultimate results, evidenced themselves in the huge turnovers that we saw.

HARRIS: And yet, Bob, how do you explain that in the closing days of the campaign, the president was talking mostly about the economy, mostly about Iraq, and didn't really mention the fact that he was going to be a part of the effort to clean up the halls of Congress?

BARR: Well, it's hard to really make that sort of claim when it's your party that has largely caused the problems and is seen, as the prime mover of those problems. Normally, ethics and these sorts of inside the beltway, so to speak, issues don't play major role, but every now and then, it rises to the level where the public cannot ignore it. And this was one of those years. There was just so many problems, beginning several years ago with the beginnings of the Abramoff scandal, moving through Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, and then of course being capped off with the Mark Foley case. There was no way the voters were going to ignore those issues, and the party that they affected was the party of whom, for which those people were members, the Republican Party.

HARRIS: Bob, did you see it coming? Did anything really surprise you last night?

BARR: The -- several of the specific races surprised me, but overall, no. I've traveled across the country a great deal, as Kweisi does, and he was probably hearing the same thing. There was deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. There was deep dissatisfaction with the lack of Republican leadership, a lack of agenda, and, really, I think regardless of what the president did at the last minute, it would have been too little too late.

HARRIS: Kweisi what did you see?

MFUME: Well, I saw a revolt, quite frankly, voters revolt against the status quo. People really wanted one thing. They want change. They want a new direction, and they want to feel like the country is moving in another direction. More than anything else, and I agree with Bob, is you travel around the country. You know, just below the radar you could sense something was going on out there that was a little different. I was in the Congress in 1994 when our party lost control to the Republicans, and it was the same sort of breeze blowing then, this breeze for change. I think more than anything else, regrettably, you know, the Republican Party came to power that year saying they were going to change Washington, and instead got changed by Washington, and hence, 12 years later, you see this change.

But Democrats ought to take note, also, and that is, that there's a lower tolerance level in this country among voters for parties. They want to really see action. They want to know there's consensus, bipartisanship and no matter the party is, if you don't do that, they're prepared to change.

HARRIS: Boy, bob, how difficult is it ultimately going to be to heal these wounds of a tough and divisive campaign and act in a bipartisan way?

BARR: It's not going to be easy, but I think it can be done. And sometimes it's simply done because each party has very pragmatic reasons for wanting to do so. I think the Democrats will be focused not just on getting their act together now and coming up with an agenda, which they have to do, but also how to consolidate their power and not backslide in two years. So I think they have a very pragmatic reason for reaching out and presenting a very sort of centrist, moderate image and agenda to the American people, and that necessitates working with the Republicans.

HARRIS: And Kweisi, would you quickly add anything to that?

MFUME: No. I think Bob is actually right on point. It will be political pragmatism that drives what happens over the next two years, that will bring this country and this Congress to some sort of consensus. Democrats know there's going to open seat for the presidency in two years. They've got to be able to say, look, this is what we've done in the short time you've given us. Now give us the presidency so that we can complete that mission.

HARRIS: Kweisi Mfume, Bob Barr, gentlemen, good to see you both.

MFUME: Thank you, Tony.

BARR: Thank you.

LEMON: And, Tony, just heard the Republican Senate candidate live here on CNN declaring victory in that race, but his Republican opponent is not conceding. What now? We'll tell you, coming up in a special edition of the CNN NEWSROOM America Votes.


LEMON: A declaration of victory just moments ago right here live on CNN. Montana's would-be Democratic senator gives us a call to say he's won the race. Ballots are still being counted, and the officials results are not in yet. And we have to say that CNN is not calling this one, but we're going to go to Big Sky Country for the latest on this. Let's talk to CNN's Chris Lawrence, who has been following this very interesting, interesting race -- Chris.

What are you hearing from Republican -- the Burns campaign? What are you hearing from them?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the problem, Don. We aren't hearing anything from the burns campaign right now. We have made multiple attempts to contact them, asking for a written response, perhaps if you could come down and address us, return a phone call, just to get some idea of where they stand on this. You know Jon Tester made that announcement live on the air with CNN declaring victory for himself, and asking Senator Conrad Burns to concede. He plans to repeat that at a press conference at the top of the hour, but so far the Burns campaign is not responding to that.

The latest numbers that we have with about 99 percent reporting, we've got about a 3,000-vote lead for Jon Tester over Conrad Burns. Now, there is the possibility of a recount, if the margin closes to less than one-half of one percent of the total.

LEMON: So obviously, Chris, they know that this poses huge implications on the race. I guess they're trying to be as careful as possible about this, but, again, as we said, Jon Tester announcing right here on the air that he says he has won. And so far, as you say, no luck with the Burns people. I guess they're waiting this one out, at least for some sort of official announcement.

What is next if they don't concede? Do you know that information? Do we have to wait it out? Is there a timeline?

LAWRENCE: Well, in are still some precincts coming in. Again, its' 99 percent; you've still got some votes coming in. And you do have some other factors at play. One of them would be the provisional ballots that are out there that still may have to be counted. Those are ballots that say someone came to the polls, perhaps didn't have proper identification, they cast a provisional ballot, and then when they show identification, that ballot is changed over. Those might still have to be accounted for. And also you have the Montana recount law. If the margin closes to less than one-half of one percent, and now you're going to put me on the spot, because I'm not that great at math, but if you figure 400,000 total voters, so one percent of that would be 4,000 votes. So half of that would be 2,000.

So I guess if it gets somewhat around 2,000 or under 2,000, Senator Conrad Burns would have the option of asking for a recount. Now, with that margin, he would have to then post a bond, and if this recount was successful that bond will be refunded to him. If it wasn't successful, obviously he would have to pay the money.

LEMON: Didn't mean to put on the spot there, but I think you handled that very well. And again, one person in the state saying that they won, the other not conceding, and Chris Lawrence keeping up to date on all of it.

Thank you very much, sir -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So who is Nancy Pelosi? She's about to become one of the most powerful players in the U.S. government. We've got her story just ahead.


PHILLIPS: Just came across -- well, she's the lady of the House. Nancy Pelosi poised to become the first female speaker, but forget about making history. She says it's time to make progress.

A closer look from CNN's David Mattingly.

A closer look from CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nancy Pelosi is what you call a rainmaker, and in this election, she made is pour. The Democrats second biggest fund-raiser next to Hillary Clinton. That success at raising money is one reason ...

PHILLIPS: Okay, we want to break away from our election coverage for just a moment. We're getting word now, this is coming across the Associated Press, just coming across the wires that Republican officials are saying that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is stepping down. The Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld we are being told through the Associated Press, Republican officials saying that he has stepped down.

As you know, the secretary of defense has been under a lot of criticism lately for his policy in Iraq and how the Iraq war is going. There have been a number of retired generals and admirals that have come forward and criticized the sect def, on how he's carrying out policy in Iraq. We're going to stay on this. Right now, we have just confirmed this. I am just being told now that we have gotten from the Associated Press, CNN has now confirmed that the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has stepped down.

You know, there's a lot of back and forth for a number of months now wondering if, indeed, that the secretary of defense would stay in office. The President of the United States coming forward, giving his support, 100 percent for the sec def. From the very beginning, when the criticism did begin, a lot of people wondering what would happen to the secretary of defense, if indeed he was pressured to come to this point, and that remains as question. You had Bob Woodward, as you know, from the famous days of Watergate, from Woodward and Bernstein, wrote a book recently talking about this tense relationship with the secretary of defense and a number of his leaders within the military, within the Pentagon. Also with his commanders there on the ground in Iraq.

And now, even with the president coming forward and a number of other military leaders, still active in the military saying that they support the secretary of defense, the feeling was that there was no way that he was going to back down, or if the president would even accept his resignation. The president being in support of him from the very beginning when that criticism came down. If you're just tuning in now, breaking news -- we are getting word, we have confirmed that the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is resigning. Not quite sure how this happened, how quickly it happened. If he contacted the president with these concerns and then devised a letter. We're still trying to figure out all the details to how this happened and how it went down. Of course, we're going to working reaction. We're going get a number of analysts on the line, our retired generals, to talk about what they think about this breaking news.

LEMON: Kyra, of course, the big concern has been with the changing in the House and possibly the Senate, that Donald Rumsfeld and the Republicans may not have been able to get over what they wanted, especially when it comes to the war in Iraq. So there was at least some thinking that he may decide to step down, especially with the Democrats being in control of the House of Representatives because of that.

PHILLIPS: Just, a few minutes ago, hearing from Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, she gave a little bit of a press conference, if you will, and she was talking about her words with President Bush. President Bush said, listen, talk about bipartisanship. Listen to my news conference coming up at 1:00 and I will making a number of announcements. Now we know that this apparently is one of them. I believe we have Candy Crowley standing by and want to go to our correspondent Candy Crowley. Candy, what do you make of it?

CROWLEY: Well, I make of it that when you have an election that was largely painted across the country as a referendum on George Bush and Iraq, the president needed to do something to, a) quiet the criticism and, b) still remain the commander in chief. The man that is, in fact, in control of what goes on with this war, what goes on in his own Pentagon. Certainly Donald Rumsfeld who has been around Washington a very long time, who understands when the handwriting is on the wall. I imagine what you will get is that he felt for the president to be able to move on, that he, Rumsfeld, had become a distraction.

I don't imagine -- there have been other times, as we know, when Donald Rumsfeld has offered his resignation and the president refused to take it. This is different this time and what's different is we've just had an election.

LEMON: This, of course, Candy, the big fallout from this. We didn't expect this to come so fast. Did we?

CROWLEY: Well I tell you, George Bush can turn on a dime when he understands that it is in his best interests to do so. We saw that a lot in his campaign. He hasn't had to turn so quickly with the Republican majority on Capitol Hill. This is very different. I mean, one of the first things Nancy Pelosi said this morning if in her news conference was, you know, Donald Rumsfeld is a problem. He's had Republicans say that. If you did it in an election, it was an admission how wrong things were going. I'm sure they fear that it would fuel the fire of the electorate to do it afterwards and do it quickly, is to stop whatever hemorrhaging is out there and to try to seize control of Iraq policy back to the White House.

PHILLIPS: Certainly a surprise there. Candy Crowley, thank you.

We want to take you now to White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. Suzanne, you have been covering this beat from the very beginning. The onset of the controversy surrounding Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, but the president, day in and day out, standing by his side, supporting him, and basically telling reporters there was no way that he was going to allow for this to happen, when all the talk and all the pressure was coming forward to try and force him out of his position.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's absolutely right, and I just spoke with a senior administration official. I'm in the East Room of the White House, who confirmed that in fact, Rumsfeld is stepping down. That he submitted his letter of resignation, the president accepting that. We expect the president will talking about that in the next couple of minutes in the East Room, and very interestingly, you have really top-level officials who have gathered here for this press conference. We look around us. There is the Department of Homeland Security, the secretary, as well as Fran Townsend, a counterterrorism adviser to the president. Many people here who are going to be listening very carefully to the president, but it was just last week that he actually denied that he would allow Rumsfeld to step down that he wanted him for remainder of his term, and White House officials, senior administration officials, very consistently have said they believed that the president would see this as some sort of signal of failure, not only internationally to allies overseas but also to the American people that if he accepted Rumsfeld's resignation, that somehow it would be conceding or acknowledging in some way that his Iraq policy and his war on terror policy was really the wrong direction of this country. So we will listen to the president and hear his explanation of why it is that he accepted Rumsfeld's resignation this time around.

LEMON: Hey, Suzanne, let me ask you ...

PHILLIPS: Actually, we got to move on to the next -- Don you were going to talk to John King I believe it is. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, we'll continue to check in with you.

LEMON: Hey John, you travel with the president and you are there at the White House. Any indication that this was going to happen? Does this come, even with all the criticism of the generals or what have you, did this come as a complete surprise today?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not a complete surprise and it's not because Nancy Pelosi, the new Democratic speaker to be, said that Rumsfeld should go. The biggest reason behind this is because not only are the Democrats calling for Secretary Rumsfeld to step down but Republicans who just suffered a shellacking in the midterm elections were prepared to go to the White House and say Mr. President you need a substantial change in the Iraq policy and we think the first step you have to take to show the country you're serious about change is to replace your defense secretary. Let me add, it's very interesting how they did this. Secretary Rumsfeld decided to submit his resignation letter, the president accepted it. We were told to look for Bob Gates, the former CIA director to perhaps be the choice to replace him. We have that from two Republican sources outside of the administration. It will be interesting to hear directly from the president himself. But they also sent word up quickly. Dana Bash reporting from Capitol Hill to Republican senators, so that they would stop talking about this. The White House trying to turn the volume down.

LEMON: All right John King, thank you very much sir.

PHILLIPS: Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr on top of the breaking news as well. If you are just tuning in -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resigning from his post. What are you hearing there from the Pentagon, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, there may be a calculation here that people aren't quite peeking into at this point. Donald Rumsfeld has always said himself that he would go if he felt he could no longer be effective. And the question since Washington woke up this morning, is whether the defense secretary could be effective with essentially a Democratic Congress at this point, although the Senate remains technically in contention at the moment.

Don Rumsfeld is the consummate politician. He understands the numbers, he understands the calculations. When he put that marker down on the table after the Abu Gharib prison scandal that he would only stay if he felt he could be effective, that was something to watch because it was clear he did not want to stay if he was going to be pummeled by the Democrats every week in hearings or that sort of thing.

Now, what's interesting is how this news came to light around here. I would say within the last half hour, that's how closely held it was. We started getting phone calls from people around the Pentagon, saying something's up. The hallways smelled different. That's a phrase around here. When you hear that the hallways smelled different, that means something is going on. And it was within the last 15 minutes or so that senior military commanders in the building here were briefed on this, that this news would be coming, so it would not catch the uniformed military by surprise of course.

But I think at the end of the day, to some extent, this decision is as much the secretary's as the president's. Again, Don Rumsfeld, a long time ago saying he could only stay if he felt he could be effective, and with these midterm election results, clearly the secretary today has come to a different view.

PHILLIPS: And no doubt the defense secretary has been the face of the U.S. war policy in Iraq, in Afghanistan as well. As you know, he's become the subject of critics worldwide for his policy there, and what's interesting, as they analysts were saying, he will not be forced out just because he faces a tougher time from Democrats owning the majority now. And this is interesting right after the election and right after this talk about hey, that pressure won't force him out. We're getting a resignation. STARR: Well, it is interesting. I have to say, some long-time Rumsfeld watchers didn't quite by the line that he wouldn't go. I think that many people felt, over the last couple of weeks, it was a question of when, not if. I think the timing is very surprising. I leave it to people with a lot better political antenna then myself, but it does seem that the president and the administration clearly heard the message that this election was about Iraq, and they decided that if they were going to make a change, it was best to do it as quickly as possible.

But what does it mean for the troops on the ground in Iraq? Perhaps not that much at the moment. As we see the president come in, the troops are still on the frontline. The troops are still risking their lives.

PHILLIPS: Let's listen to the president, Barbara. Let's listen to the president.