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John King, USA

Tea Party Phenomenon Examined

Aired September 15, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. You might call this "kiss and make up day" in the Republican Party, at the center of it all Christine O'Donnell. She of course is the latest Tea Party candidate to defeat a better known, better funded establishment Republican opponent. Yesterday many senior Republicans called her a nightmare.

Tonight, they're calling her their Delaware Senate nominee and most are trying, at least in public, to make nice. The Democrats know O'Donnell as the newest member of what they call "team extreme", a group of Tea Party Senate nominees the Democrats say are way out of the mainstream when it comes to issues ranging from Social Security to abortion rights. Voters, that means you, settle that one in 48 days, but the fallout today was fascinating.

O'Donnell's Republican opponent refused to endorse her, joining a long list of Republicans who say she has no prayer of winning in November. When I talked to the National Republican Party chairman today, he had a stern message for those naysayers.


MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRMAN: How can you claim defeat before you attempt victory? This makes no sense. It makes no sense, so stop it. Stop it.


KING: More from Chairman Steele in a moment. And we'll also hear from the conservative senator who has spent the primary season helping all those Tea Party candidates shock the system, Jim DeMint of South Carolina. But let's begin with these questions.

Who is Christine O'Donnell, and what does her victory mean for the Republican Party and for the midterm fight to control the Congress? A great group with us to talk it over, here in studio Gloria Borger, Roland Martin and Ed Rollins from New York, John Avlon, Erick Erickson joining us tonight from Austin, Texas.

But let's begin with Christine O'Donnell. She won last night. She gave a big speech. With not much sleep, she got up this morning, made the round of TV shows to say "don't count me out."


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: They never thought that I could win this race and I believe that we can win without them. Let me say that they also said that Ronald Reagan wasn't electable.


KING: Ed Rollins, you were among the doubters last night. You're among the doubters last night and you helped that guy, Ronald Reagan, get elected.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I did. I did. She's an unknown. Obviously, Delaware's a small state. If the party doesn't help her, she may get conservative money to at least run a decent campaign. At this point in time, you know, that race has been assumed to be ours. I don't ever believe they're ours until we win them. And I think we have to wait a little bit and see two or three weeks can she be a credible candidate? The probability is no.


ROLLINS: There are other places we could look at that we weren't looking at like West Virginia and other places, that three or four weeks ago we never thought was on the radar screen so --

KING: A big point everybody around her makes and that some Republicans who aren't so sure make is, wait a minute, you know, all of the idiots who say she can't win in November are the same idiots who said she couldn't win last night.


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First, I find it interesting that Michael Steele is making so much sense and he's now going against the same establishment that never liked him. And so what, now tea partiers are going to rally around Michael Steele? And so, this is -- what's so intriguing about this whole deal it sort of reminds me of Democrats and Alvin Greene in South Carolina. All of a sudden it's like wait a minute, where did this person even come from? What is going on here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, they know where she came from because they spent a lot of money trying to defeat her. And today, after telling all of us we're not going to give her a dime, suddenly today, right, they gave her $42,000, which was the max they're allowed. I talked to a senior Republican strategist who's doing a lot of Senate races who said, look, we're pragmatists here.

If she becomes a viable candidate, meaning in single digits, right, then we're going to give her money. But do we believe she's going to be a viable candidate? Absolutely not, but we're not stupid because what they want to do more than anything else is win control of the Senate, and that's why they're so mad at her.

KING: And another -- John and Erick hang on one second -- another thing they don't want to do is if they dump on her too much there are activists like the ones who supported her in Delaware all across the country who are important to this election.

BORGER: Right.

KING: (INAUDIBLE) I want to bring John and Erick in, but first let's take a closer look at exactly who Christine O'Donnell is. But I want to begin first, before we get into her record, into airing one of the Republican doubts comes from a very senior Republican, many you will recognize. He was called the architect in the Bush days. And he was on FOX News last night saying "I don't think so."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn't frankly impressed as her abilities as a candidate. And again, these serious questions about how does she make her living? Why did she mislead voters about her college education? How come it took her nearly two decades to pay her college bills so she could get her college degree? How does she make a living? Why --


KING: So, John Avlon, you know you talk about independent voters all the time. People in the middle might settle this race in Delaware. The Democrats I assume are going to turn to their quote, unquote, "friend" Karl Rove here, are they not?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course they are and especially in Delaware. The middle is where elections are won or lost. And Christine O'Donnell can win a close partisan primary. That's part of the story last night. Close partisan primaries can be hijacked by activists and ideologues.

But they have a real hard time connecting with the general electorate, with the independent voters who decide who wins or loses. And Christine O'Donnell is just a loser in that front because she is (INAUDIBLE) heart a social conservative activist with very -- with no crossover appeal.

And that's bad news for Republicans. Mike Castle had deep crossover appeal. That's why he looked like he could take that Biden seat and move it in the Republican column.

KING: That is -- that is, if you look at the paper and if you look at past campaigns, that certainly is a solid argument. The question is, is this year different, Erick Erickson? And as you come in, let's go through some of the positions that have gotten Christine O'Donnell in a little trouble here if I can get my friend here -- there we go -- to work.

This is what the Democrats called her extreme views. Number one, she did call President Obama anti-American back in 2008, in an interview. She opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest. She has an A-rating on gun control from the NRA. Conservatives wouldn't consider that extreme, some on the left do.

When it comes to the Constitution she says she's a constitutional conservative. And she says any legislation that Congress is Congress is considering (INAUDIBLE) has to pass a constitutional litmus test. On health care, she was a big opponent of the Obama health care law.

She says it's bad and wants it repealed. Back in 1997, she said she didn't want federal funding going to treatment for people in AIDS treatment. She thought that money should go to broader diseases like heart disease and the like. Now in the past, she's had trouble raising money.

Back on -- just August 25th, she only had $20,000 left. Her opponent, Christopher Coons, the Democrat, had nearly $1 million, although I would say today the campaign and Erick, I know you're involved in this, say they've raised over more than half million dollars so far online, so fund-raising at least in the short term will not be a problem. But when you look at that record Erick that we just went through and some of the other positions can she be painted as extreme and not acceptable to the center?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know she can be painted as extreme. Any candidate can. That's what politics is about; painting your opponent as awfully as you possibly can so that voters in the middle are turned off by them. I mean her opponent, the Democrat, can be painted as an extremist as well.

This has been going on across the country. The buzzword for Democrats this year is "extremist infringe." Their buzzword on November 3rd for most of these candidates as well is going to be "winner" because a lot of these candidates they're painting as extremists and fringe are ahead in the polls. They said the same thing about Rand Paul.

They said the same thing about Ken Buck. And remember on the Republican side, these same Republicans who said we needed to support Mike Castle are the exact same guys who supported Arlen Specter and Charlie Crist.

BORGER: But Erick, what I'm hearing Karl Rove say is not necessarily talk about her politics but talk about her ethics and --

ERICKSON: Oh, yes --

BORGER: -- what you're hearing is --

ERICKSON: That's going to be an issue she's going to have to answer for.

BORGER: -- that she's going to be ripped apart in a general election campaign on those very issues.

KING: And one of the questions in the short term when it comes to resources, especially if she's a candidate on the bubble, that's not an issue, staying on the bubble, meaning in terms of her competitive nature, she's going to need a lot of help fast. And the Republican Senatorial Committee did give her the 42,000, but they give that to everybody --

ERICKSON: That's all they're going to give her.


KING: You're probably right. The question is will people come in, will Jim DeMint raise money? Will Sarah Palin raise money? Will the national party sneak in some soft money for independent expenditures? That's the big question right now. And that's part of the reason I put the question to Chairman Steele today. I want you to listen to his exchange about what he thinks is the downside of talking down Christine O'Donnell's chances.


KING: You have made a very big point of trying to grow and re- establish the Republican big tent.


KING: As you know there are many who have been backing these Tea Party candidates who say no, I don't care. I would rather not have a majority if the majority means having Mike Castle in the United States Senate essentially a perch, a moderate or they consider liberal Republican. Is that a good idea?

STEELE: Well I think everybody -- again, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I'm not going to tell you what to think about Mike Castle or not to think about Mike Castle.

KING: So yesterday, John Cornyn who chairs the Republican Senatorial Committee said I'm worried if she wins because she can't win statewide in November. Mike Castle today said he will not endorse her --

STEELE: Right.

KING: -- because she cannot win statewide. Are they hurting the party?

STEELE: I don't know -- I don't know if she can win until we try. How can you claim defeat before you attempt victory? This makes no sense. It makes no sense. So stop it. Stop it.

KING: That's your message to them, stop it?

STEELE: That's my message, stop it. Let's get behind our nominees and win the election. Then we can have a meeting and sit down and talk about all that stuff.

KING: Do you think when they say things like that, that those establishment politicians in Washington are ignoring the message that we have seen, again, not just from Delaware, New York State did it for governor --

STEELE: Right.

KING: Florida did it for Senate, we've seen it in Colorado, in Kentucky, in Alaska and elsewhere, are they ignoring that message?

STEELE: I don't -- again, you have to ask them. I can only speak to what I'm trying to do as the national chairman. I'm not trying to throw anybody under the bus today, OK.


KING: He wouldn't name names -- not going to throw anybody under the bus. Roland and Ed, to the point where this matters, people out there can say so what, it's one race in Delaware, but when you're putting together the pieces of this puzzle this year, they need 39 to pick up the House. They need 10 to pick up the Senate, and a lot of people are thinking if we get to election night and we lose this one, the one we could have taken away from the Democrats in Delaware that that could be it.

ROLLINS: Well since the beginning of the game, which has been going on for a year now, this was the one seat we thought for sure we were going to win. Once again, we shouldn't have that premise. Now we can't put that in the win column.

I think we should still try, see how she develops. But we have to draw to an inside strength. I mean if we'd talked six months ago about any potential of us winning the Senate (INAUDIBLE) laughed. We barely could talk about winning the House. People now are talking about winning 60, 70 seats in the House. They're nuts. I've run the congressional committee. We may win 41. We may win 45. I think John Boehner is going to be the speaker, but we've got our expectations to absurd (ph) place.

MARTIN: Democrats should not stand here and try to have a money conversation. She beat money. OK, at the end of the day you can run ads, you can do all that sort of stuff, but as Ed knows, if you don't get folks to the polls you're not going to get the votes. And so that -- so for her, if she focuses on the ground game and she has these people who are enthusiastic that can spell trouble for Democrats. And so I say forget the money. If you don't have a ground game on the Democratic side, she could win in Delaware.

BORGER: She could get out the Democratic base though, don't forget.

MARTIN: She could, but she still to get them out and the enthusiasm gap is so wide right now that if Democrats don't focus on the ground game, you can have all the money in the world but they have got to come out and vote.

KING: And I think she is yet another example of something happening out there in America that we don't have a complete understanding of yet and we may not until Election Day. We may not until after Election Day. Everybody stand by.

When we come back, we're going to broaden the conversation. Christine O'Donnell is one, she's a Tea Party candidate, she's one of a half dozen Tea Party candidates who have shocked the Republican establishment. Do those candidates bring new energy, new grassroots enthusiasms to the party or as the Democrats say, are they the "extreme team"? Stay with us.


KING: You see the pictures right there, six Republican candidates for Senate, six Tea Party favorites who beat establishment Republican candidates who were favored by the establishment I should say, Ken Buck in Colorado, Rand Paul in Kentucky, Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Mike Lee in Utah, and last night's surprise winner Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. So what does this mean?

Democrats say this is a bonus for them. Republicans say tough in some races but perhaps some new energy and new ideas for their party. Let's continue the conversation with our great group. And let's look specifically at some of these candidates. Let's start with Sharron Angle out in Nevada because she's running against the highest profile Democrat in these races, Harry Reid.

Here are some of her positions the Democrats say are extreme. We'll see what the voters say. She opposes abortion in all circumstances including rape and incest. She's called for phasing out and privatizing Medicare and Social Security. She wants to dissolve some federal agencies and shift more powers back to the state.

And she says the separation of church and state does not arise out of the Constitution. Erick Erickson to you first because you're a supporter of these conservative candidates, again the Democrats will say that's extreme and you would say --

ERICKSON: I would say that they're no more extreme than trying to nationalize health care, take over GM, perpetuating TARP long past it was needed. You know the American people are going to be focused on jobs and the economy when we get to the polling. They're not going to care about Sharron Angle's position on abortion however much the Democrats want to demagogue it. And you know I would add also Marco Rubio and Pat Toomey to this list because the national Republicans opposed those guys as well.

KING: You're absolutely right. And I stopped on Sharron Angle -- I want to go through some of the details (INAUDIBLE) others, but I stopped on Sharron Angle for a reason because we have some new polling out at CNN that, "A", shows you Democrats can call them extreme all they want, Sharron Angle is still very, very competitive, and, "B", this gives you a crystal clear look at the intensity gap.

We've been talking for months Republicans have more intensity. Look at these numbers because this spells it out for you. If you poll registered voters, all registered voters in Nevada this is what you get. Harry Reid, Sharron Angle -- this is all registered voters. This one is backwards. Let me look at it (INAUDIBLE) right here.

Reid, 42 -- on my card it's backwards -- Reid, 42, Angle, 34. Harry Reid with a 12-point lead among all registered voters there but now look at this among likely voters. It's a dead heat. Sharron Angle, 42, Harry Reid, 41, so the intensity is on the Republican side and if you're the Democrats, Roland Martin, you've got a problem. MARTIN: Yes, you've got a huge problem because also what is the consistent message? You can paint Sharron Angle, you can paint any of these candidates as being extreme, but you have to still address the fact that Democrats have controlled Congress for four years. The president has been in the White House for two years.

And so what is the argument are you making to the public that what we did made a difference to get the economy back on track? You could talk about putting it "R", putting it "D", but you have to clearly explain it. And I still believe that Democrats are flailing on this. And as long as they keep trying to run away from what they've done you can't win.

ROLLINS: This is about personality. You cannot make Harry Reid into a likable candidate in Nevada. You may be able to do that nationally.


ROLLINS: They know him. He's polarized. If this race is about him, and don't think you can't knock out majority leaders, ask Tom Daschle or ask Speaker Foley.


ROLLINS: The bottom line today is Nevadans who have the highest unemployment hate this guy. If it's about him, she wins. If it's about her --


BORGER: Overall, when you look at the enthusiasm gap --


BORGER: -- you'll see that if you do registered voters versus likely voters, the Republicans do better with likely voters because those are the folks who are going to come to the polls --


ERICKSON: Register voter polls always lean to the Democrats though. I mean look at Kentucky. I mean with registered voters, it's tied. Registered voters always lean towards the Democrats. Now one thing that Sharron Angle has to worry about is registered voter polls don't lean that far to the Democrats even in Nevada. But I mean she's got headway.

KING: Let me -- John -- hang on one second because I want to bring in some of these other candidates. I want to show our viewers so they can learn more about all these Tea Party candidates. Let's look at two more. Ken Buck, he's the nominee in Colorado. He beat the establishment Republican candidate.

Here are the positions that his critics say are extreme. Again, he opposes abortion in all circumstances including rape and incest. He says Social Security is not what the founding fathers intended although now that it's in place he just wants to raise the retirement age and do some things to get the fiscal house in order.

He wants to wind down the Education Department, send those powers back to the state. Cut the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Amtrak and some other federal agencies. And one more, let's look at Rand Paul in Kentucky.

He of course was one of the big upsets that put the Tea Party on the national map. He says the federal government overreached in some ways in some civil rights legislation. He believes the American with Disabilities Act puts too much -- too many specific mandates on -- especially small -- one or two person small businesses. He wants to abolish the Energy and Education Department.

And he says Obama was at times un-American in his toughness against BP. John Avlon to you, you know these are positions that -- politics is a rough sport. You can take these positions and say these guys are way out of the mainstream or you can look at the polling after weeks of attacks saying that and say Rand Paul is ahead or at a dead heat. Ken Buck is ahead or in a dead heat. And maybe the American people want to send a few people to Washington to stir it up a bit.

AVLON: They might want to send a few and look, let's keep in mind this year is a giant Republican wave. And these folks are surfing it, some better than others. Independent voters might vote for somebody. They agree with all the Tea Party on the core ideas of bringing down the deficit, bringing the debt, thinking that's generational theft, but when you slide over into Obama derangement syndrome, when you start calling the president anti-American, un- American, when you take some of these positions that are even further out that starts alienating independent voters.

And the fact that Republicans in general have tried a no-Obama (ph) agenda rather than putting forward a positive message makes them more vulnerable. Extremes are always their own side's worst enemy. They will alienate some independent voters and Christine O'Donnell's victory last night will help make that message more credible --


BORGER: But you know these people are going to get elected and --

AVLON: Some.

BORGER: -- you know it's not unlike 1980 when with Ronald Reagan it was kind of a wave of Republican senators -- you will recall that --


BORGER: -- swept in --


BORGER: Swept in -- they were called the accidental senators if you recall. Some of them were swept right out --

ROLLINS: I didn't call them that.

BORGER: You didn't --


ROLLINS: I called them Mr. Senator, thank you.

BORGER: But my question, it's sort of going to be interesting, there are going to be there, and when they're there, what's Mitch McConnell going to do when they go to the floor of Senate and say you know what, I don't think Social Security and Medicare is such a good idea.


MARTIN: There's nothing on that list that you just read about Ken Buck that dealt with the economy. None of that stuff matters. I don't care the Department of Education that sounds like 1984. None of it matters. It is going to come down to an economic message. And if the Republicans are able to sit here and say what they have been doing is dead wrong, vote for us, they win. If Democrats cannot articulate a clear economic message let's keep coming (ph) forth they lose. It's -- we can talk about everything else, but it will not matter unless it deals with the economy and jobs.

KING: Erick, we'll bring you back into the conversation a bit later in the program. We need to take a break right now. And a lot more to cover including on this point -- Gloria just raised the point what happens if some of these guys get elected? What will the leadership say to them?

Well that will be among our topics when we come back a bit later. Just moments away from going "One-on-One" with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, he's the conservative Republican who has made many establishment Republicans angry by backing all these Tea Party candidates. Does he want purity or pragmatism in the Senate? We'll talk to him.

And when we look at tonight's headlines, we'll also take an up- close look at the tax cut debate. The president weighed in today, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill weighing in. But which party is this a wishing issue? And you know this guy, Pete Dominick he's out on the street tonight. The big primaries are all over, so Pete has some questions for me.


KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns who is right here with the latest political news you need to know right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. A senior Democratic source with knowledge of the decision tells CNN that later this week Elizabeth Warren will be named to a special advisory role in order to help set up the government's new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. A senior administration official adds the move will allow the president to lean on Warren, to help set up the agency but to bypass a potentially difficult Senate confirmation battle.

It took until this afternoon but New Hampshire officials say former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte narrowly won the Republican nomination for the United States Senate.

And a new CNN poll of likely voters in Ohio's race for governor shows Republican challenger John Kasich with a 51 to 44 percent lead over Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. And I want to ask you, you know insider or outsider for Kasich? Here's a guy who talks like an outsider but he spent a lot of years on Capitol Hill fighting those inside battles.

KING: He spent a lot of years on Capitol Hill fighting inside battles. He would argue that he balanced the budget to help reform welfare. That's how he says (INAUDIBLE), but that is one of Ted Strickland's arguments that he was you know part of that Washington that nobody likes.

He also worked for Lehman Brothers and he's ready to defend himself (INAUDIBLE). You know, Joe, they had a televised debate last night. Remember we were out in Ohio -- the show was -- last week, your home state. And they had a televised debate last night and I want to play something John Kasich said in his closing statements that sounded very familiar.


JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. CANDIDATE: Well, about a week ago, 10 days ago, I walked into a Bob Evans and as I walked through the restaurant, I saw a man and a woman, and I went over to them and they were writing numbers on a piece of paper. I said what's -- what are you doing there? They said, well, my job was downgraded. The lady said my job was downgraded. We're sitting here working on the family budget. We're trying to figure out how to make it work.


KING: Now to no surprise, Joe, you wouldn't be surprised that Democrats in the state they question just about everything he says. And one blogger in the state wrote this -- Anthony Fossaceca (ph) -- if I am saying your name wrong I'm sorry -- I apologize -- wrote, "like much of tonight's debate, the words come out of John Kasich's mouth were fiction. In fact someone please send me a photo of the Ohio couple in the Bob Evans with the napkin and I'll personally apologize to Congressman Kasich the next time I'm at his country club." Well --


KING: I was at the Bob Evans because that's where we met John Kasich to interview him when we were out in Ohio and we can show you some pictures of the couple. There they are right there --


KING: And John Kasich walked in and he was working the room before our interview and he did talk to this couple. And we listened to it. And it's not exactly the way Congressman Kasich talked about it in the debate, the language, but you can see the note pad right there on the table. And I actually talked to them outside after --

JOHNS: The question though would be are they -- is it a plant?

KING: You know, they said no and this is near his home and other people applauded when he came in. They did not applaud, but they did say that they were going to vote for him, but I did talk to them outside the restaurant. And I said what was the conversation about? And he used to build homes and he gave that up. She used to have a real estate license. She said they put that in escrow because the market was so bad out there and they're doing other things to make do. And they said they were talking about how tough it is to keep the family budget going in this tough economy, so --

JOHNS: It's incredible to actually have pictures of the thing the guy was talking about --

KING: So that conversation -- we're not here to pick sides and Congressman Kasich needs to explain himself, Governor Strickland can explain himself, but that conversation actually did happen. Little coincidental fact-checking I guess we call that one.


KING: It was an interesting meeting. When we come back, "One- on-One" with Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a leading voice in the conservative movement a Tea Party favorite, not always friends with the Republican establishment here in Washington, "One-on-One" (INAUDIBLE).


KING: Republican Senator DeMint of South Carolina has the golden touch, endorsing conservatives who in most cases have turned into winners. Christine O'Donnell being the latest example last night in Delaware. Some Republicans aren't happy. One Republican source telling CNN they're frustrated with Senator DeMint because in their view he pushes purity over the practical. Senator DeMint joins us now to go one on one. How do you answer that point among your colleagues? You've heard it throughout the primary season, that you're a guy who wants conservatives who think like you at all costs, even if, your critics would say, the nominee is someone one who can't win.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: My critics always seem to be these anonymous people that don't talk to me directly. I haven't heard that from my colleagues and I'm certainly not interested in purity in the party.

KING: Let me help our viewers understand a bit more about you because more and more people around the country are hearing about you. Is it your view, then, that Jim DeMint would rather be in the minority than to, say, elect a Mike Castle in Delaware or a Charlie Crist in Florida who you view as too prone to deal making? Would you rather be in the minority than in the majority with Republicans like that?

DEMINT: I came into the Senate with 55 Republicans. A strong majority. Majority of Republicans in the house. Bush in the white house. We spent too much. We borrowed too much. We lost the faith of the American people. And we got thrown out. So there's no need in focusing on the numbers if we don't have any principles to back it up. Again, it's not about purity. It's about pretty commonsense ideas now that I think are right at the mainstream of where America is. We can't keep spending our way into prosperity, growing the government. We can't keep taking over auto industry and the health care industry. These things have Americans alarmed. So it's not about the trivial political labels of moderate or conservative or liberal. It's about survival or bankruptcy right now in our country.

KING: I want you to listen. Hear the voice of someone who knows you well when it comes to Christine O'Donnell. Karl Rove has worked on many conservative campaigns over the years. I want you to listen to Rove's take on Christine O'Donnell.


KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: It does conservatives little good to support candidates who, at the end of the day, while they may be conservative in their public statements, do not advance the characteristics of rectitude and truthfulness and sincerity and character that the voters are looking for. And we'll see how she can answer these questions. She didn't answer them thus far.


KING: You hear Karl Rove. He thinks by helping Christine O'Donnell get the nomination you may have denied the Republicans a chance for a Senate majority.

DEMINT: Well, Christine was going to win, with or without me. I just wanted her to know I was behind her. She's saying the same things that I'm saying. I think Karl's comments are very unfortunate. Christine's been maligned by millions of dollars, a lot of ads that misrepresent who she really is. The fact is Christine has not been on the government payroll like many here in Washington. And she has struggled, like many Americans, but she is a great person. I think she's going to be a great candidate. I think the more people in Delaware get to know her, the most likely they are to vote for her.

KING: Help us understand what happens post election. Let's say several of these candidates win. What happens in the Republican conference come January, when Joe Miller, the tea party favorite coming out of Alaska, he told me a couple of weeks a look, we can't afford social security, that should be a states rights program. What happened when he says, Jim, how do I get an amendment on the floor to do away with social security for future generations? DEMINT: Social security is a promise we have to keep. As Joe has said, people have paid for it. We don't need to change anything for people, particularly those over 55. But he's saying the same thing I am. This Congress has been spending social security dollars that should be saved. And if we're going to take money from people's paycheck for their retirement, we need to save it for their retirement instead of spend it. We can work together on that. The first thing that's going to happen after this election is there's going to be a moratorium on earmarks that Republicans helped to pass. Because we cannot work for the national interest if our focus is always on self- serving parochial politics, taking bacon back home so we can get a press release. I think once we get rid of that conflict of interest, we can focus on fixing our tax code, fixing social security, repealing Obama care, and balancing our budget.

KING: Will you help Mitch McConnell if he says, Jim, I need your help convincing these guys that, yes, I know they're principled, but every now and then we got to be pragmatists?

DEMINT: Mitch is already a good leader and I support him. I just want folks that will help us move the country in the right direction. In the Senate, we tend to move to the lowest common denominator in our party. If we have four or five people voting with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, it's hard to show the country we're an alternative to that direction. So I think after this election, you're going to have some Republicans who represent mainstream America and are going to vote for those limited government ideas that America's crying out for right now.

KING: And does what you just said raises the question, what about Senate Republican incumbents, in the next cycle, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, two year, three years down the line, would you support a conservative challenger to them?

DEMINT: We need to see what happens after 2010. I want to work with all my Republican colleagues. We need to make sure that Americans have good choices of people who are focusing on our constitutional responsibilities. Frankly, I don't think we can, if most of the year we're working on 10,000 earmarks back home. So that's obviously a big priority for me. I don't think we can serve the interests of a nation this concept of limited government if every Congressman and senator thinks they need to get all of these pork barrel projects for their home state.

KING: Let me ask you lastly, a lot of people look at what you've done in the past several months, moving around the country, raising money, helping these conservative, and say if he wasn't thinking about it six months ago, there's no way DeMint is not thinking about running for president now.

DEMINT: I'm not thinking past 2010. I have no interest in running for president right now.

KING: Right now? How about in 2011, 2012?

DEMINT: I have no plans to run for president. I'm focusing on my job here and my own re-election.

KING: Senator Jim DeMint, South Carolina, we appreciate your time, sir.

DEMINT: Thank you.

KING: A quick break. When we come back an update on the top stories. The news you need to know. We'll also talk to our correspondents and analysts will talk about Jim DeMint's rising influence in the Republican Party and some tensions over these tea party victories. Please stay with us.


KING: Welcome back. Let's check in with Joe Johns for the latest political news you need to know right now.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Sarah Palin goes to Louisville, Kentucky, tomorrow, to raise money for U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul. She'll be in Iowa on Friday.

Our new poll among likely voters in Washington state shows Democrat Senator Patty Murray of Washington leads Republican Dino Rossi by nine points, 53 to 44 percent.

Late this afternoon at the white house, President Obama turned up the pressure on Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts his way.

PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: We should be able to extend them right now. Middle class tax relief on the first $250,000 of income. Which, by the way, 97 percent of Americans make less than $250,000 a year.

JOHNS: So, John, it looks like the president is at least trying to make people know he's trying to sweeten the pot right before Election Day.

KING: He's trying to make that a choice between Democrats and Republicans, but, Joe, one of his problems, everybody at the table knows it, is just today, our Congressional producer just sent this down, Dana was covering this story today on the hill, 31 house Democrats most of whom face tough re-election builds have signed a letter to Speaker Pelosi extend all the tax cults. Don't raise taxes. Because a lot of them are worried about raising tax cuts in a recession, increase the number.

I want to go back to the interview we just had with Senator Jim DeMint who is just a rising power in the Republican Party and a lot of the establishment either they don't like it or are a little nervous about it. Erick Erickson is still with us. I want you to come into the conversation because you're friends with Senator DeMint. You're an ally with DeMint. If you listened to that interview, he said, I'm going to back Mitch McConnell for the leader. I think he needs some people around him to help him. That's one of the things he said. What did he mean by that? And he also wouldn't answer directly when I said what about the main moderate, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, people like them, when they're up two years or four years from now, is he going to find a tea party challenger to go after them?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: : I think there's a gamble by a lot of the Senate conservatives and those who help them that Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe may see what's going on this year and change their voting a little bit heading into 2012. Now, on the issue of who Mitch McConnell is surrounded with, he's going to back Mitch McConnell. The issue is Lamar Alexander more than McConnell. Lamar Alexander has been making a lot of conservatives in the Senate and staffers bristle with some of his pleas for finding commonalty with the other side. So Jon Kyl might be an acceptable alternative. I doubt you'll see someone like DeMint stand up for the leadership post. I don't think he could win. But I think he can make a legitimate argument that the rest of the Senate will have to listen to, lest he run someone against them that conservatives deserve a seat at the table.

KING: He had a great record in the primary season. John Cornyn, who runs the committee that's supposed to get Republicans lee, elected, did not. I want people to listen.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: My record will be determined after November 2nd, and how many pickups we'll have. I'm not making predictions today. We do have about a dozen seats in play, and I think November the 2nd will be -- that's when my report card will get graded.

KING: He's a tad defensive there. What's the -- his mood and the broader mood when you have a shock like last night was?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's no question about it, that's why initially last night, when this news came that Christine O'Donnell won, we had some anonymous sources telling us, you know, some pretty nasty stuff about how they didn't think they were going to support her. When the sun came up, light bulbs went off and said, wait, she's a Republican, we have to get behind her. The last thing they want to do, not just in Delaware, Erick knows this, across the country, is anger these people who they need to keep that energy up against the Democrats in November.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: John, if John Avlon was here, he'd be saying about that whole comment from Jim DeMint, very simply is put some people around him to help him, which really means, we're not going to work with anybody on the other side. If I'm the Democratic Party, I'm sitting here targeting independents by saying they don't want to work with anybody. They don't want common ground. You've got to get your people out. If they're able to sway some in those independents to say who don't want to work together.

KING: There's also a reason we see independents trending Republican. Here's what will be in "The New York Times" story tomorrow in their new poll. Nearly half of all Republican voters today have a favorable view of the tea party but the view of the movement among independent voters grew more negative. Since the Time/CBS poll was conducted in April. Now 30 percent of independent voters have an unfavorable view of the tea party, 18 percent have a favorable view, more than half no opinion. So one of the battlegrounds between now and November is independents and their view of the tea party.

JOHNS: It's also a very volatile electorate. We've seen that again and again. People are shifting. But one of the things I found very interesting, you talk about Republicans running scared and confused. Democrats fascinate me with this sort of bluster. Oh, we're so happy to se these candidates winning. The thing -- you look -- I look at is 1984 or so when a lot of Democrats were walking around Capitol Hill, scoffing at the contract with America. And it looks very much like that. To me, Democrats get overconfident and they also are in a situation right now where they're not a lot of people interested in the election --

KING: Time-out, anchor-ordered time-out. We have to save time for what we need to do after this quick break. Bill Maher and Michael Steele both weighing in on the conversation that Obama has a world view.


KING: Back with our group to continue the conversation. One of the things generating a ton of buzz, was an essay by the former house speaker Newt Gingrich earlier this week. He said that to understand Barack Obama, you had to understand that he had a Kenyan anti-colonial world view. That has many of the president's supporters up in arms. Among them, Bill Maher, who was on "LARRY KING" last night. Listen.

BILL MAHER: How are they going to out fire breathe each other? I mean where this rhetoric has gone to at this point. It's only 2010 and we're having Newt Gingrich, as we were talking about before, calling him an anti-colonial loud tribesman. Loud tribesman. That's the new Kenyan, Larry. Kenyan, of course, was code for [ bleep ] but that's where they are. They can't say it out loud. But that's where this whole campaign is going to be. You asked about racism, it's all about racism. They cannot fathom this idea that there is a black president.

KING: Michael Steele is the Republican Party's first African- American chairman. It's an issue I raised with him earlier today.


KING: Former speaker of the house, a man who is moving around as if he might run for president, said the president of the United States has a Kenyan anti-colonial view of the world.


KING: Newt Gingrich.


KING: Is that an appropriate way to have this conversation, as a Republican leader and as a black man? STEELE: I don't know what being black has to do with it --

KING: You don't think saying the president has a Kenyan world view is perhaps trying to play lowest common denominator --

STEELE: No, I don't think so. How do you make that stretch? Where's his dad from?

KING: What does that --

STEELE: He's of African descent. He has an African continental, you know -- that descent. I don't understand where you're going with that.

KING: You don't think it's race --

STEELE: No, I don't, I don't see that stretch. I no probably some folks out there want to, but I don't see that. I know Newt. I know that's not his mind set on that.

MARTIN: -- debate somebody, a butt dance, they sit in a chair, they start moving around. He was doing a butt dance with that question. Michael Steele knows exactly what you were asking. He needs to stop dancing around the whole question. Answer the question. He doesn't want to criticize Newt Gingrich because he's been a big supporter of his. Here's the other deal. The president's father left them when he was around 2 or so. He didn't even know the guy. So it's not like he grew up around his dad, listening to him all the time. Also, when has been colonialism a great thing?

BASH: Talking to Democrats, I know you have, privately, we'll say, some of the anger they hear in they districts, they say there's no doubt some of it is latent racism. They can't prove it --

ERICKSON: Oh, good lord. When Republicans start talking, they scream racism. It's the last best trick of a losing Democrat, is to accuse the Republicans of racism. The issue here has nothing to do with race. The issue has to do with nobody, Republican or Democrat, has figured out what this guy's world view is. And the Republicans are starting to set the narrative for 2012 already that this guy's world view is fundamentally anti-American.

MARTIN: Erick, you're not going to sit here and say the president of the United States who is sworn to defend and protect the constitution, has an anti-American view. No what he wants to do --

ERICKSON: I think he has a view of America that views America as one of many nations and not the last best hope for mankind.

MARTIN: First, if you look at facts, Erick, we are one of many nations, so let's deal with that. When they have financial crisis taking place across the globe it also affected us, so we can't act like we're the only country out here. You will not sit here and call this president anti-American when he represents the United States of America, including you.

ERICKSON: I think his world view is an anathema to the American destiny as conservatives have viewed it and I think Newt Gingrich --

MARTIN: So what's your world view?

ERICKSON: My world view is that America is the last best hope for mankind for freedom and Obama doesn't view it that way.

MARTIN: It's President Barack Obama and he is an American and it's insulting to sit here and have Newt Gingrich talk about this Kenyan view. We know what he was saying there. It made no sense whatsoever. He should be ashamed of himself. And apologize for it. He's an American and he's a Christian just in case you were confused.

KING: I'm going to call it between Roland and Erick here. The other panelists silent during that. I appreciate the respectful debate between the two of you.

You've all heard what the experts have said tonight about what all those primaries last night meant. What's the word on the street? Our secret weapon Pete Dominick next.


KING: "RICK'S LIST" prime time coming up in a little bit, more than a minute and a half. Let's check out with Rick for a preview.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Everybody's talking about O'Donnell but the tea party sensation out of New York is Carl Paladino. Who is he? What does he really believe? You're going to find out because I asked him, and this is a pretty confrontational interview that's already going viral. You'll see it right here on "RICK'S LIST."

KING: Okay, Pete Dominick, day after the big primary, sent him out on the street. He wants to play stump the anchor. Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, OFFBEAT REPORTER: I want to try to stump you tonight. I don't know if I can. If I do, I think, like Rick Sanchez said, maybe we can go viral. So today the big story is this Christine O'Donnell win in Delaware. The liberal blogs, John, are just slaying this woman al day, showing these videos of her being anti-sex before marriage, anti-masturbation, for gay conversion. My question to you is, at what point do we take her for her word from videos ten years ago, will she be answering these questions? How are we supposed to know what she thinks?

KING: Yes, she will have to answer questions. She was part of a conservative social group that teaches abstinence. She was views on gay rights. A lot of these are on MTV shows. On Bill Maher's show back in the day. Anything on tape this day and age you'll have to answer in the ads and in the debates.

DOMINICK: The Senate this year, is it just about, will people just vote for the Senate, or will they vote for the person and their beliefs?

KING: Most person vote for the candidate and their beliefs based on the issue that matters most to them which means the economy which is why some of these candidates might not get called on some of their other position. Got to cut you off my friend. We've got to get over to "RICK'S LIST." We hope to see you tomorrow but Rick takes it away right now.