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Impact of Election on Obama's Presidency; Are Republicans Playing Politics Anxiety?; Some Tight Races May Take Weeks to Decide

Aired November 04, 2014 - 10:30   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

Across the U.S., the polls are open and campaigns are scrambling to capture the last of the undecided voters. You're looking at live pictures from a polling place in Altoona, Iowa. These votes may prove crucial as races remain very tight. It's not just control of the Senate that hangs in the balance. Senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns shows us ten things to watch today in the midterm races.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: For voters in Kentucky horse country and all across the nation, the final horn is sounding on the midterm races not a minute too soon. The number one thing many voters say they're looking for is an end to the incessant political ads on TV.

JACKI FUGATE, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: A think it's a lot of nonsense. A lot of the negativeness, mud slinging that I think is totally ridiculous.

JOHNS: But be warned, the number two thing to look for in this election is the possibility of more elections before control of the United States Senate is decided. Runoff elections could occur in Georgia and Louisiana if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. And the races are razor close there. Louisiana would hold its runoff if necessary on December 6.

But -- and this is number three on the list -- there's actually a possibility that control of the Senate might not be decided by the time the new congress is supposed to be sworn in next year. That's right. If it all comes down to Georgia and Georgia needs a runoff, watch out. Their runoff date is January 6, which is three days after the 114th Congress is supposed to be sworn in.

And even if there's no runoff election, there's always number four, the possibility that voting in the state of Alaska could hold things up. It could take days to get all of its returns in and the Senate race is tight there, too.

Number five, election law can get a little confusing, and with control of the Senate up for grabs, teams of lawyers for both the Democrats and the Republicans are standing by right now just in case somebody's election challenge needs to go to court. And if that's not enough, the justice department will be monitoring polling places in 18 states.

Number six, assuming Republicans actually win the Senate as many pollsters are predicting the thing to watch for is how the next Senate majority leader approaches the job. When the dust clears, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is likely to be the man of the hour. His lieutenants say he'll take measured steps, try to push through a vote on the Keystone Pipeline, maybe patent reform, tweaks to Obamacare. No revolutionary changes because the election is not expected to be the kind of blowout that gives Republicans a veto-proof majority.

Number seven, if there is a Republican-controlled Senate, how President Obama deals with them is an open question. Does he offer an olive leaf? Try to cut some deals? Or does he throw down a gauntlet?

Number eight, the race for 2016 starts tomorrow. Planning for the next election begins on Wednesday morning. For some, it's already started. The potential presidential candidates are already crisscrossing the country. If you're a political junkie, the next two years are for you.

Number nine, after 2014 there's going to be a hangover. Look for plenty of fretting about the amount of money influencing politics. What's been spent so far is just a few ticks more than the $3.6 billion spent in the last midterm in 2010 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Oh, and who's doing the spending isn't always clear since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opened the floodgate.

Number ten on the list is about obvious as it gets. The biggest thing to expect after the election is no change at all. Even if Republicans take the Senate, President Obama will still be in the White House so the recipe for gridlock that existed before the election probably won't change very much.

Joe Johns, CNN, Lexington, Kentucky.


COSTELLO: And there you have it.

Republicans may be on the verge of winning Senate control thanks in large part to a campaign of fear. If you examine the political ads that many Republican candidates have put out, they don't extol ideas, but Democrats say they do exploit fear. Take the race for the Senate in New Hampshire.


SCOTT BROWN (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: Radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country. President Obama and Senator Shaheen seem confused about the nature of the threat. Not me -- I want to secure the border, keep out the people who would do us harm and restore America's leadership in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: So let's talk about this with former RNC chair and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Welcome, sir.

HALEY BARBOUR (R), FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: Well, thank you very much, Carol.

COSTELLO: Thanks for being here, I appreciate it. The thing that stands out in Scott Brown's ad is that he offers no new way to deal with ISIS, he only says the Democrats have it wrong. Is that fair?

BARBOUR: Well, look, he's got 30 seconds so in 30 seconds he's making claims this is an issue the administration didn't take seriously at all. In fact, two issues, Ebola and ISIS. And now we've got a real problem. We're really in a rut on both of these things and it's absolutely fair game to criticize the policies and the results of those policies.

He's not calling anybody a bad person. He's not out attacking somebody's character. But he's saying something the American people know is right. These policies have failed. They were not the right policies and we need better results.

COSTELLO: Well, I think that many Americans might agree with you, but they're not quite clear on what Republicans plan to do about these problems once they get into office if they win their election.

BARBOUR: Well, one of the reasons, of course, is that the news media -- and I don't say this in a pejorative way -- the news media doesn't cover that the House of Representatives has passed literally hundreds of bills and send them the Senate where Senator Reid won't let them come up for a vote.

Now, the press doesn't cover that because they say the bill doesn't have a chance of becoming law with the Senate not considering them but the average American needs to know and it needs to be reported that the House is sending legislation.

COSTELLO: What is the Republican platform for dealing with ISIS?

BARBOUR: Well, I think Republicans very early on would have taken this seriously, would have been aggressive about putting the -- into effect what we could do to arm other people, to train other people, to put much stronger weaponry in the hands of people like the Kurds, Peshmerga to give the people them, to give the people in Kobani much heavier weapons to fight. But instead this just kind of rocked along because President Obama was so interested in being able to say politically "I've ended the war, I've ended the war." Well, the war hasn't ended, that's very clear.

COSTELLO: So what might happen? If the Republicans do take control of the Senate, what will be first on their agenda to deal with ISIS? Because much of what you said is already in place.

BARBOUR: The first thing that they will do is deal with the thing that's most on the American people's minds, that's the economy. I mean you showed earlier in the program that unemployment has dropped to 5.9 percent primarily because of people dropping out of the work force. A lot more people have quit looking for a job than have actually gotten a job.

We've got three million Americans who now have part time jobs that had full time jobs. We have a record number of Americans who -- adult Americans who are working part time and only less than 48 percent of Americans have a full-time job. That's why family incomes today are four percent below where they were when the recession ended and seven percent below where they were in 2007. That's what the American people want -- economic growth, they want job creation.

COSTELLO: But that's not what these Republican candidates are mentioning in their ads. They're focusing on ISIS and Ebola. They're not talking about the economy and ways to fix it.

BARBOUR: Well, now let's be fair. This campaign has been going on all year and huge amounts of money has been spent on economic growth, on job creation, on energy policy, on tax policy. These Ebola ads have only happened recently because this -- the public only became focused on the issues. And very frankly every candidate should be talking about in his campaign what is on the minds of the families when they sit around the kitchen table or the dinner table. And that's what you have seen the evolution toward the ads about ISIS and Ebola because it's gotten to be a real problem.

COSTELLO: But if you look at public opinion polls on Ebola, people aren't really afraid of Ebola. I mean they're concerned about it, as they should be, but they're not afraid their neighbor is going to get Ebola and bring it in their homes.

BARBOUR: Well, 80 percent of the people in Maine agreed with Governor LePage when he said a person up there that had had Ebola needed to be quarantined. Are they worried that their next door neighbor is going to get it? You're probably right. But they are very worried that this strain is going to run wild in the United States as it is doing in West Africa. And they absolutely believe that the government should do more about it and should be very, very aggressive in trying to make sure this never gets loose in the United States.

COSTELLO: Well -- do you really think there's going to be a huge Ebola crisis in the United States like there is in West Africa?

BARBOUR: Well, ma'am, I believe the American people think it's the role of the government to make sure there's not. And they don't see the government playing that role aggressively enough.

COSTELLO: But if the government -- and I guess by that I would mean President Obama because he said it, right -- he said there's not going to be a big Ebola crisis here like there is in West Africa, and if you look at things as they stand right now, he appears to be right.

BARBOUR: As I say, if the United States government puts its resources, and now they seem to be improving their plan, about three or four different times we've read on the front page of the newspaper, even seen on CNN the government's got a new strategy, the government's making some changes. I'm glad the government's making those changes. People would feel more comfortable if they'd have gotten it right to start with, but they are trying to make changes. We do have the resources, unquestionably, to prevent this from getting out of control in the U.S. but we have to be aggressive. Why would we quarantine U.S. soldiers who go to Africa to try to help and are not exposed to any Ebola patients, why do we quarantine them but we don't quarantine people who have been exposed to Ebola patients from West Africa when they come into the United States? The American people don't get that.

COSTELLO: Oh, sir, you're absolutely right about that. You're absolutely right about that.

Thank you so much for being with me, Governor Haley Barbour. I really appreciate it.

BARBOUR: Thank you, ma'am.

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: With just 40 percent of Americans expected to show up at the polls today -- and that is pathetic -- candidates are pulling out all the stops to lure voters to the ballot box. For North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan that means an 11th-hour appeal from the once poisonous leader of the Democratic Party. Watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From President Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Carolina, we need to send a message this election. If you want to make a difference, here is your chance. Vote for Democrats and Senator Kay Hagan on November 4. You know Kay Hagan has been a tireless leader, creating job opportunities here at home and supporting a higher minimum wage.


C1: Keep in mind, most Democratic candidates have been staying away from President Obama so at this late stage is it helpful to suddenly gain Barack Obama's support.

Here to talk to us about this and more Stephanie Cutter, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist: and Ron Christie, former special assistant to President George W. Bush. Welcome to both of you.



COSTELLO: Good morning. So Stephanie, I'm excited to hear what you have to say about this. Kay Hagan has distanced herself from President Obama for months. Now he shows up in a last-minute ad. What's the strategy here?

CUTTER: I think at this point in the race -- you know, it is Election Day. There are very few people who are undecided. This is all about getting your voters out to vote and the President still has that ability. He has won North Carolina once, lost it in his reelection. There is a base of support there. African-American voters, young voters, people in those suburbs.

And having the President speak to them and talk about what's at stake in this election can get them to actually come out and vote.

COSTELLO: Well Ron, she's right. President Obama still has the support of the majority of African-Americans, so could this help Kay Hagan?

CHRISTIE: It could, the question, of course, is what people feel when they go in the ballot box, Carol. Do they feel more confident right now than they felt six years ago? If you look, wages continue to fall, prices continue to rise.

You know, I don't understand the administration, as you and I were just talking a moment ago. Gas prices have fallen significantly in this country, the stock market is doing much better but yet the President and Democrats don't seem to be trumpeting what's going on around the country. I think Republicans have a vision and an opportunity today to demonstrate that, yes, we can do better than we've done the last six years.

COSTELLO: Stephanie, I have to agree with Ron. We were just talking about that $2.37 a gallon for gas. Why isn't President Obama and the rest of these Democratic candidates say see? This is what our policies have done to America. Your gas prices are below $3 a gallon. Unemployment is down. you don't hear that from the Democrats.

CUTTER: You know, I agree. I think that Democrats could be doing a better job talking about the progress this country has made over the last six years. And there has been significant progress. Millions of jobs created. You know, incomes are just starting to rise after falling for more than 15 to 20 years.

COSTELLO: So why are these Democratic candidates running from President Obama?

CUTTER: Regardless of whether they're running from Obama, they should take credit for what they've been able to do to move the country forward. Now, I do disagree with something that Ron said about a Republican vision. The one thing you're not hearing out there in this campaign cycle is any sort of a vision from Republicans and they've admitted this that they're not putting an agenda out. They're not laying out their vision, simply running against President Obama. In some states it's working but make no mistake they have not put out a vision or an agenda.

CHRISTIE: Well, I only wish that was true Stephanie. The Republicans have actually sent 300 bills in the House of Representatives to the Senate where they sat for Harry Reid to not take action on. Republicans if we have a majority in the Senate will have the opportunity to let the American people see congress working and President Obama will actually have to make a decision to veto a bill or keep it.

But you talk about the unemployment, we've lost three million jobs in this country. We have three million part-time workers, the labor force participation rate right now is at 62.7 percent, the lowest it's been since 1978. So I think people can see the Democratic vision has failed thus far and Republicans are offering a pro-growth pro sensible strategy to move us forward.

COSTELLO: Stephanie, couldn't you argue that the Democratic candidates this time around, their main message has been to say we're not President Obama? And the Republicans main message has been to say we're not President Barack Obama, either. That pretty much sums up both sides' arguments this year.

CUTTER: In a nutshell. You know I think that if you --

COSTELLO: And that's sad, actually. Because don't we want ideas from both parties?

CUTTER: I absolutely agree with you. And I think that by and large this election has been an election about nothing. But I do think if you look into these races on both sides that there is a debate happening on local issues. Minimum wage is something that's coming up all over the country and you've actually seen some Republicans move their position, despite voting against it in Congress. Tom Cotton is now supporting a minimum wage ballot initiative in his home state.

So there are some local issues that are popping up that will define this race. North Carolina, Thom Tillis' position on education cuts, drastic education cut, has really defined that race so there are instances of this happening across the country, but in terms of a national message you've pretty much summed it up. "I'm not Obama -- me neither" on both sides of the aisle.


COSTELLO: Ron Christie, I'm going to put you on the spot. What is your prediction?

CHRISTIE: My prediction is that the Republicans will gain the six seats that they need tonight and I think that the Republicans will do much better than expected in states such as Iowa and Colorado and New Hampshire.

COSTELLO: Interesting. Stephanie?

CUTTER: I think that -- I'm not going to go race by race, but I will say the Senate is going to get a whole lot tighter. Even if Republicans take the majority, it's not going to be an overwhelming majority, it's going to be very, very tight and I hope what Ron said is true, that Republicans are going to come back to Washington looking to actually govern and get things done. That has not been the case through the last six years of the Obama presidency. COSTELLO: All right. Stephanie Cutter, Ron Christie, thanks for

being with me. I appreciate it.

CHRISTIE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Still to come in the newsroom, after the campaigning and all the millions of dollars spent and all the voting we may still not know who controls the Senate by the end of the night. We'll tell you why next.


COSTELLO: Yes, it's Election Day in America and what happens at the polls today could shift the power in Washington and determine what, if anything, President Obama can get done in his final two years in office. But with so many tight races coming down to the wire, it may take days or weeks to figure out which party comes out on top.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more for you.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For all of the campaigning, all of the voting, all of the noise around this midterm, when the night is done we may yet not know who is in control of the U.S. Senate for three reasons.

The first one, Louisiana: Democrat Mary Landrieu there is in a very tough race against three other Democrats, three other Republicans, and an Independent. By state law, if no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, that automatically goes to a runoff in December.

Over in Georgia, a similar situation. There you're talking about the seat that was vacated by retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. The fight is on between Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate who's been statistically tied with David Perdue, the Republican and in the mix also, libertarian Amanda Swafford. Again, if nobody can get more than 50 percent of the vote, that automatically goes to a runoff in January.

And don't forget about Kansas in all of this. In Kansas the incumbent, Pat Roberts, the Republican, is up against an independent challenger Greg Orman. Here's what makes this tricky. If Orman wins nobody knows who he'll be voting with. He hasn't indicated whether he'll vote with the Republican or cross the aisle and vote with the Democrats.

Any one of these races if it comes down for-to-that could make it very hard for us to know which party has the upper hand in this chamber.


COSTELLO: And don't forget to get all your election night coverage right here on CNN. Special coverage begins at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN will be there until the very last vote is counted.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.