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John King, USA

Losing "Hope" Voters; Democrats in Trouble?

Aired September 24, 2010 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with some troubling numbers, new numbers for President Obama and his Democratic Party. And this is important, with the goal of better understanding just why things are taking a new shift in the Republicans favor.

Fifty-four percent of Americans disapprove of how President Obama is handling his job. That's a new low for the president in our CNN polling. Fifty-three percent of likely voters tell us they plan to vote Republican for Congress and the polling shows much, much more enthusiasm among Republicans than Democrats. Don't try telling that to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I feel confident our members are the best spokespersons for their constituents. They know how to communicate with their districts and they are doing just that and they're doing just fine.


KING: Don't believe the numbers, then how about this? Remember that, the now iconic image of hope? It's the work of artist Shepard Fairey, who told the "National Journal" of the younger voters who are inspired by Barack Obama quote, "They wanted somebody who was going to fight against the status quo and I don't think Obama has done that" -- ouch.

So what is driving voters away from President Obama, from his agenda and for now toward the opposition Republicans, "TIME" magazine political columnist Joe Klein is on a month long road trip, tonight tough duty, Las Vegas. Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Ed Rollins is with us from New York and here in Washington "National Journal" columnist and former Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.

I want to start the conversation just by walking over to the "Magic Wall" and showing this one number. We gave you the president's approval rating and we gave you the Congress numbers. We'll break those down in more detail in a minute, but I just want everyone to take a look at this. Has President Obama met your expectations?

Yes, 32 percent, exceeded nine percent, 56 percent of Americans, 56 percent of Americans, Matthew Dowd, you polled for presidential campaign and a president, that's not just the Republicans, if you're at 56 percent who think this president has not met their expectations that's a wide swath.

MATTHEW DOWD, FORMER BUSH CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Yes, he's lost Independents in droves. I mean he still has intensity among Democrats, but he's lost any Republicans he started with after his inauguration is gone and most of the Independents have now shifted their way. When you're at 42 percent job approval rating there are a lot of people out there that think you haven't met their expectations.

KING: And Joe Klein, you've been going across the country. You're out west this week. A lot of fascinating races in the west, you're in Colorado. You're in Nevada today, big Senate race and a governor's race in that state. What is driving it? I was looking at some other numbers today. I don't want to over dwell on the polling, but it tells you what people are thinking that back in June, people started to get the sense, maybe the economy was going to get better and roughly 40 percent of Americans said yes the economy will get better next year. Now that number is back down into the mid 20's, people again feeling economic pessimism. Is that what you're feeling going across the country?

JOE KLEIN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, TIME MAGAZINE: Well yes, there's a tremendous economic concern that's going on, but people really just feel the president is out of touch. They don't feel the impact of the things that he's done. You know, the big things are health care. And that mostly strikes fear in the hearts of Americans because he hasn't told them and they don't know the good parts of it.

They are totally opposed, really angry about the bank bailouts and about the power of the big bankers. They're confused about the financial reform plan and they're skeptical about the stimulus. Although I got to say you can't drive 15 minutes without hitting a road crew in this country these days.

KING: With those Joe Biden signs, right? They're out there somewhere --


KING: They're out there --


KING: I want to show one more number --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But people are angry about that too.


KING: Let me come over here. I want to take one more look. Here's a number here. Joe has been going across the country. I just want to bring everyone else on this point. You look at the president's approval rating. In the cities, he does fine. These are places where Democrats tend to hold the congressional seats in urban America. But you go out into suburban America, 59 percent disapprove in the suburbs. Fifty-eight percent approve in rural America. Ed Rollins, but if you take those numbers and you look at a map where are the suburbs well that's where the elections are won in the United States of America. Rural areas that's where some Democrats in the 2006 wave picked up some seats and in the presidential year, maybe picked up some seats. If you overlay those numbers with the map, and you're looking at Democratic races you start to think uh-oh.

ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You have to look uh-oh. First of all the last four years, when Democrats had two back-to-back, great elections both in the congressional 2006 and the presidential election of 2008, the suburbs that had been a stronghold of the Republicans we lost. We lost Independent voters in both of those elections.

Enthused Democrats are not that anymore and younger Democrats are not going to turn out. And there's no history of any of the African- American community that supported him so overwhelmingly are going to turn out at congressional races. So the battlegrounds are in these suburban areas and I think we're going to do extremely well.

Just to give you a point, the generic vote, I've not seen a generic vote like this (INAUDIBLE) since Ronald Reagan, the closing five weeks of the '84 campaign. He was at about 53, won 59 percent. But that's where that number was and I think that's a very symbolic number.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Here's the problem for the president, particularly with those suburban voters but also with people feeling that they have no confidence in Barack Obama. They think he hasn't lived up to expectations. Barack Obama had a lot of big government solutions for problems.

And what he didn't really reckon with is the fact that people don't trust government to do anything these days. So they don't trust government. He's given them these big government solutions which by the way have been decided on very partisan votes in the Congress. And that is exactly the opposite of what they wanted. So he doesn't get any credit for anything that he's done because people don't trust the government to do anything, including reform the financial system in this country.

DOWD: I agree with that, but I think there's a fundamental thing that happened, which was he got elected to change Washington. He got elected to get past the bitter divide and get past the polarization. There was a lot of issues involved, health care, the economy and all that. But fundamentally, a huge swath of voters that elected him wanted that. He did not do any of that. And matter of fact he's made it more polarized. People blame the Republicans. People blame the Democrats.


BORGER: Well Republicans have had a part in that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Matt, Matt, Matt --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that wasn't all him.

DOWD: The president is accountable.

KING: Go ahead, Joe.

KLEIN: You know that wasn't all the president. You had the Republicans acting as the party of no. And it was a smart political strategy. It worked for many of them. It was heartfelt, but it has really worked, because the solutions that he came up with are too abstract for most Americans.

ROLLINS: Well the other thing that he's lost though --


ROLLINS: Unfortunately, with all the problems he's had, the high unemployment, what have you, the American public does not perceive him as a leader. Reagan was at a similar point in '82, lost 26 House seats, but having fired the air traffic controllers, having been a strong president, having battled with the Congress and been very successful, he was viewed as a strong leader.

You may have disagreed with him, but you didn't -- this president is not viewed as a leader today even by the Congress. And so the leaders that people look at are Harry Reid, who is very unpopular, and Nancy Pelosi, who is the most unpopular. And then you have Obama as the third figure. And I think that's what is diminishing them all.

BORGER: Isn't it more in a way that they really don't know who he is? That we see more of this president than we've seen of any other president in my lifetime, but people still have a sense we don't even know who Barack Obama is. It's so odd for the great communicator of the campaign --

KING: Obama the president does not have the connection with people that Obama the candidate did.

BORGER: Right. Right.


KLEIN: But also --

KING: Go ahead, Joe.

KLEIN: You know I was listening on the radio today and I heard Obama react to Ahmadinejad's outrageous speech at the U.N. yesterday. And the president was very dignified. He said this is -- you know it was something like this is unseemly and disappointing. The guy has got to get angry at punks like Ahmadinejad because the American people expect him to be fighting for them.

DOWD: Well I think the problem with that is that's not who he is. Every time people say Barack Obama needs to be passionate.


DOWD: Barack Obama needs to connect better with voters. Barack Obama needs to be Bill Clinton. He's not that. And if he all of a sudden starts to do that, he's going to come across as totally inauthentic. So I don't think he can morph into something else. I think he has to go back and do what he said he was going to do, which is bring Republicans and Democrats --


DOWD: -- that together. Now you can blame the Republicans --

BORGER: Easier said than done.

DOWD: You can blame --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He can be a little bit more forceful than he was.

DOWD: He could at least --


DOWD: -- try it on a daily basis. He has not done that.


KLEIN: You know one thing that I'm catching out here a lot is that people know what Republicans stand for, but they don't know what Democrats stand for. And that's particularly true on the issue of jobs. They know that Republicans believe that if you lower taxes, it creates more jobs. They don't have the Democratic equivalent of that. And what I'm hearing from a lot of people, both Democrats and Republicans is that they'd like to hear the president say we're going to stop the jobs from going out, you know, to China and India.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another thing --

KLEIN: But they're not getting (INAUDIBLE) message --


ROLLINS: We've created a lot of government jobs. People don't want more government jobs. You see all these stories about the pensions and all the rest of it. People want real private sector jobs that they can go back to and they're not getting that today. They're getting more government jobs --


DOWD: The hurricane is only two miles offshore that is coming on. He can go and give 62 speeches over the next 60 days. It's not going to make any difference --

BORGER: In our polls 75 percent of the voters said that they've already made up their mind.

KING: But is it a fact that it's because it's bigger than that. It's not just about him. Joe just mentioned what he picks up on the road. And Ed just mentioned if you talk to people about this, I mean they think that you know by the time their children are in college or slightly thereafter, that China will be the world's leading economic power. So there's a force out there in this anxiety that is then driving their negativity toward a Washington and a president they view is not meeting their expectations.

DOWD: John, I think you put your finger --


DOWD: It did not exist for President Clinton. It did not exist for President Reagan, which is there is a huge swath of voters; a majority of this country do not believe their children will be better off. And back when Bill Clinton, in the early '90's, people believed their children would be better off. In the early '80's people believed their children would be better off. Today people do not necessarily believe their kids are going to be better off. And that puts him at a tremendous advantage of doing anything.

BORGER: Which is why the next presidential candidate has to be optimistic.

KING: Let's not go there yet. All right quick break.


KING: Everyone is going to stay with us -- hang on -- hang on one sec Joe. Everyone is going to stay with us. We got to sneak in a quick break here.

When we come back, someone just mentioned President Clinton. President Clinton on Sunday will be in Massachusetts -- Massachusetts campaigning for a Democrat who says he's not nervous, but then why is he calling in the former president? Stay tuned.


KING: On Sunday, the former president, Bill Clinton will be in Tontine (ph), Massachusetts campaigning for Barney Frank. Barney Frank has been in Congress for more than 25 years. He's the chairman of the House Banking Committee. And he would not be even in a year like this, you would think of anybody could be vulnerable.

Most Democrats and even most Republicans in Massachusetts say well he's probably not vulnerable. But that they used the word probably tells you a lot. If you were watching last night, you realized I was up in Massachusetts. I was up there for a fundraising event, but I also stopped in to meet an ex-Marine named Sean Bielat. He is Barney Frank's opponent. And he says the fact that Bill Clinton is coming to town tells him something. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN BIELAT (D), MASSACHUSETTS CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: He's campaigning very differently than I am, than we are. We are doing the retail stuff. We're going out. We're doing grassroots stuff. We've got volunteers in here making thousands of phone calls, hundreds of volunteers all over (INAUDIBLE) district offices, yard signs, et cetera. We're doing all that.

He's bringing in Bill Clinton. He's dumping a lot of money on TV. It's a very different way to run. But yes, he's definitely more than aware that we're here and he's worried. The poll numbers, I'm sure he's seen similar numbers, that's why he hasn't released his results and that's why Bill Clinton is on his way.


KING: Now Sean Bielat, the ex-Marine, he's never run for office before. I don't assume, and most Republicans up there think that Barney Frank will win this election. But what does it tell you that Barney Frank is on television, spending money that he could be giving, as most chairmen do, they take their money late in the race. They're not vulnerable.

They pass it off to candidates who need their help. Bill Clinton is going to spend four or six hours in Massachusetts when he could be helping say Patrick Murphy in suburban Philadelphia or Zack Space in Ohio or somebody else out there in the country. Just what does that tell you about what's in the water this year?

DOWD: Well I think -- it points to a huge thing, which is there's tremendous enthusiasm gap that you pointed to, John, at the beginning of the show that exists between where the Republicans are and the Democrats are. And when you have that big of an enthusiasm gap, people like Barney Frank and other Democrats around the country have no idea who's going to show up at the polls and so a low turnout Democratic election, which this will probably be and a high turnout Republican election, then a lot of races start getting close.

KING: Now Scott Brown won the district where Barney is. Scott Brown won that district when he won the Senate race up there. And it's striking you go up here in Newton, Massachusetts --

BORGER: Right.

KING: -- it's an upper middle class or better neighborhood, but even up there people grumble a little bit about TARP and all the financial things that Barney Frank because of the nature of his job was involved in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly right --

BORGER: He -- you know in many ways, financial reform, people were in 2008 populist. And populism was the wave in 2008. Barney Frank is very responsible for passing financial reform. He doesn't get any credit for it. Again, not to go back to the big government thing, people don't trust the government to reform the banks. And so they are mad about TARP, they're mad about everything. And Barney Frank gets absolutely no credit for all the work he's done on that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't think the government has reformed the banks is the problem.

BORGER: Well --

KLEIN: They don't see it. They don't believe it. You know we should put this in perspective. Matt said something really important before as he usually does. And that is that Obama can say 61 -- you know make 61 speeches in the next few weeks and it isn't going to turn this. But what the president has to be thinking about now is the future of his presidency.

His presidency is at risk. And he has to really rethink what he has been doing. You know it's -- and another way to put this in perspective is at 42 percent, he's sitting exactly where Ronald Reagan was at this point in his presidency. And he's sitting higher than Bill Clinton was.

KING: That's a great point. I was talking to a Republican pollster today who was giving me all these numbers who said he thinks 55, maybe 60 seats the Republicans will pick up. And I said what does this mean for Obama in 2012? He said zip.

So we'll find out what that election climate looks like after the election, but so Republicans have their "Pledge to America". And it includes repealing and replacing the health care plan. This came up in Speaker Pelosi's weekly news conference. And she essentially said fine, if you want to say you'll repeal Obama care then answer this question.


PELOSI: (INAUDIBLE) want to repeal the bill. That will cost 1.4, $1.3 trillion because that's what the savings are in the bill.


KING: Ed Rollins, should Republicans get worried if the Democrats decide to campaign on the message, take away health care, you'll raise the deficit?

ROLLINS: I welcome debate on that. Half a trillion dollars of that is Medicare cuts that they have promised to make. There's a substantial period of increase in taxes that have been added to a health care bill. I don't think the Republicans can repeal the health care bill. I think they can modify it make it better.

But I just want to go back to a point on Barney Frank. Barney Frank is the epitome of what's wrong with Congress. He's a loud mouth. He's basically been in everybody's face for the last two years. He's as unpopular as Pelosi or any of the rest of them.

He's not had a tough race since he ran against Margaret Heckler (ph) in 1982 when the two of them got thrown together (INAUDIBLE). He's a guy who's never had a real job. He's worked his entire life on government. And he's the epitome of the arrogant people that people want to throw out.

He's always had a safe district. If he gets beat this time, I'll be a little shocked, but he better realize that people aren't happy with him.

KING: I'm a little -- I'm a little vague on where you are on Barney Frank, Ed.



KLEIN: In all fairness, I've known Barney Frank since he effectively ran the city of Boston for Kevin White --


KLEIN: -- and you're being a little bit unfair here.

KING: That's when I met Barney Frank when he was Kevin White's chief of staff a long time ago and my dad was involved in a local union up there.

All right, we got to take a quick break here. You guys thanks for coming in. Ed, we'll see you a little later in the program. Matthew, Gloria, thank you.

When we do come back news update, and what does the president call offensive, hateful, inexcusable?


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

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. President Obama is back in Washington after several packed days in New York, meeting with world leaders visiting the United Nations. In a BBC interview today, he scorned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, suggesting that 9/11 was the result of an U.S. government conspiracy.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Offensive. It was hateful and particular for him to make the statement here in Manhattan just a little north of ground zero, for him to make a statement like that was inexcusable.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JOHNS: So John, they say the president isn't upset enough about it. I wonder if his handlers are telling him to scrunch up his eyebrows more or beat on the table.

KING: As you know, that's been a constant debate, should he be more emotive, should he be more angry, when it's not really who he is. It's not how he emotes his displeasure, but I -- look, you know we don't take sides here. But I think it's fair to say maybe you think he should be more animated. But let's agree on one thing. It was offensive. You can agree with that on the president on that one. Joe, thank you.

A lot more to come in the program tonight including a look at some of the interesting races out there this year, one of them is the California Senate race. Former CEO Carly Fiorina, she is running against Barbara Boxer and what she calls Washington's arrogance.

Also tonight, you are not at the movies yet I hope, but Gordon Gekko is back in theaters. Guess where else he's playing this year, Ad Man, political campaigns. You'll want to see it.

And Pete Dominick is in town today, what a treat. He got to hook up with his friend Stephen Colbert and nation, tonight's word, "truthiness".


KING: The latest field poll shows Carly Fiorina still trailing Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer but it's close. California, as you know, is an expensive place to run a campaign. So Fiorina is here in Washington among other things to raise some money and she joins us to go "One-on-One".

But let's start on that point, the fundraising point. It is an incredibly expensive state. Among those sponsoring a fundraiser you had here today is the Koch Industries PAC and the Koch brothers have become bogeymen to the Democrats this year because of the millions they have given to some of these private groups that are funding money into the campaigns. As you know the Democrats you know they call that an outrage. They think there needs to be new legislation. Does it worry you at all, all the corporate money going into campaigns like this?

CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIFORNIA SENATE CANDIDATE: Well I think money has been going into political campaigns for a very long time. And with all due respect the Democrats have a lot of bogeymen this election cycle. I think what's fascinating is how many people are playing in politics who maybe haven't played before.

And whether those are big contributions in terms of 527's or independent expenditures, and there are plenty on both sides of the aisle, or whether it's people who are getting engaged for the first time at five or 10 or $200. I think this year there's many stories this year. But I think the biggest story to me is all of the newcomers to politics and that of course includes me. I've never run for political office before. KING: Is there any downside to it when you have newcomers who don't have experience in politics, who maybe are more my way or the highway, or more ideological and don't understand that sometimes in that building that you see out there behind me you do -- sometimes you do have to compromise.

FIORINA: Well you know I think what the voters certainly in California are saying, and I think we're seeing this all across this country. People have decided that career politicians may be part of the problem, not part of the solution. You know ours was intended to be a citizen government.

It's what (INAUDIBLE) the people means, so no I don't see a downside. Look, any political movement you're going to get extremes on both ends of the spectrum. But fundamentally, I think it is always a good thing when people are engaged in the process. And when new people are brought and engaged in the process. President Obama managed to get a lot of new people engaged in the process and that was positive. And I think the Tea Party engagement is positive as well.

KING: I want you to listen -- one of the reasons you are here raising money is because California is the most expensive state in the country to run in part because of all the TV markets. I want you to listen to one of your new ads and then we'll talk about it on the other side.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: You know do me a favor. Could you say senator instead of ma'am? It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-eight years in Washington and Barbara Boxer works hard for a title. I'll really go to work to end the arrogance in Washington.


KING: What's the point of the ad?

FIORINA: The point of the ad is that nothing symbolizes stale, entrenched incumbency more than a sitting senator dressing down a general for using the wrong title. Of course "ma'am" is appellation of great respect for the military and people are tired of politicians who believe the point is their job, when the point, right now, is everyone else's job and getting government under control. Of course people think Washington is arrogant. It is.

KING: What if it's a woman who believes she has earned the title "senator" and maybe the man doesn't understand it. I ask the question in the context of these words from Carly Fiorina, a CEO in the corporate world, who wrote this in your book: "When I finally reached the top, after striving my entire career to be judged by results and accomplishments, the coverage of my gender, my appearance and the perceptions of my result would vastly outweigh everything else." And the same Carly Fiorina said this to Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes:" "I think somehow men understand other men's need for respect differently than they understand it for a woman."

Maybe Senator Boxer was asking for respect?

FIORINA: To accuse that brigadier general of sexism is outrages. He called the male senators "sir" throughout that hearing. "Ma'am" is a term of respect. That was not about sexism. And if a male senator had done what Barbara Boxer did to the general, it would have been equally outrageous. That was about a need for title and it's symptomatic of what people are tired of in Washington, D.C. and symptomatic of what people are tired of in Barbara Boxer, quite frankly.

KING: Immigration is one of the huge issues in the country, right now, and it will a huge issue if you win the election and you serve in the capitol. I want you to listen to the president of the United Farm Workers. He gave testimony at a hearing today on immigration issues about the scope of undocumented workers in the country. Let's listen.


ARTURO RODRIGUEZ, UNITED FARM WORKERS OF AMERICA: If you had a glass of Florida orange juice with your breakfast this morning, it is almost certain the oranges that went into that juice were picked by unauthorized workers. If you had milk on your cereal, it is likely that the workers who milked the cows, didn't have the right papers.


KING: You have talked in the campaign about tough border enforcement, tough crackdown on illegal practices what do we do about those workers he's just talking about who are here right now, who are working in Florida agriculture, who are working in California's enormous agriculture industry? What do you do?

FIORINA: Well, I've also been equally outspoken about the fact that we need a temporary worker program that works. And you're absolutely right, California agriculture depends upon it, the restaurants depend upon it, technology depends upon it. So, I've said I support ag jobs, I support the Dream Act. I mean, we need a temporary worker program that works. And it is the most cynical form of politics to hold either border security or the temporary work program hostage.

Barbara Boxer cast the deciding vote that killed the guest worker program in 2007. It was at the heart of a comprehensive immigration reform compromise that had been breached and when she cast that deciding vote that killed the guest worker program, she said that immigrants represented a cheap source of labor that threatens the American worker.

KING: Carly Fiorina, we appreciate you coming here with us today. Don't go away, our offbeat reporter, Pete Dominick, came here to Washington today to follow, well you might call him offbeat congressional witness, Stephen Colbert.


KING: If you are heading out to the movies this weekend, maybe you'll watch the Wall Street sequel, "Money Never Sleeps." Gordon Gekko back in the theaters. Guess what, Wall Street and, to a degree, Gordon Gekko also have a big role in the campaign this year, especially the TV ad wars. If you can't book Mr. Gekko, we've got good replacements -- two of the best political minds around, the Pennsylvania governor and former Democratic Party chairman, Ed Rendell, he is joining us from Harrisburg, tonight. And from New York, back with us, our Republican strategist and CNN political contributor, Ed Rollins.

I want to start, Governor Rendell, with an ad in your state. You know, Democrat, Joe Sestak is running in your state. He has that nomination. He's trailing right now against Republican Pat Toomey and Sestak has tried and tried and tried, even with the help of Gordon Gekko, you might say, to tie Pat Toomey to Wall Street. Let's listen.



From the people who brought you the Bush administration.


GORDON GEKKO, CHARACTER IN FILM "MONEY NEVER SLEEPS": Someone reminded me I once said, "greed is good."


And the people who deregulated Wall Street.


GEKKO: Now it seems it's legal, because everybody is drinking the same Kool-Aid.


Directed by the Club for Growth.


ANNOUNCER: Joining us now, Pat Toomey, the president of the economic organization, the Club for Growth.


Starring Congressman Pat Toomey. (END GRAPHIC)

REP PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: You know, what the definition of economics is? That's when someone explains to you something you've known your whole life in a language you don't understand.


When Wall Street needed a hero.



KING: In a way, it's a pretty good bang, bang tying Pat Toomey up to Wall Street, but if you look at the numbers, Governor Rendell, not working. Why?

GOV ED RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, you know, it's hard to say it's not working, John. That race has just begin to be joined. Pat Toomey had the airwaves all to himself during the summer and Joe's just started his campaign. I think he had a very effective ad, more effective that that one, where he uses Pat Toomey's own voice and voice saying that corporations shouldn't pay any taxes. And that's a message that I think most Pennsylvanians would find enormously distressing. And I think that's going to resonate over the course of the campaign.

But I think Pat Toomey -- look, we're all subject to our own backgrounds. Pat Toomey was executive director of the Club for Growth on Wall Street, funded mostly by Wall Street interests, I think that's a legitimate point to raise, because the question is, is Pat Toomey going to represent working Pennsylvanians or is he going to represent special interests and financial companies. And that's, I think, a legitimate point to make. To say it's not working, remember, this is week five, Joe Sestak made up 20 points in the last four weeks of the primary, so don't count Joe out by any means.

KING: All right, Government Rendell thinks it may work out. I want to bring you into the conversation, let's move one state over and listen to Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio. He's running against John Kasich. You know, John Kasich, he was a congressman here in Washington, he also worked for a Wall street firm at one point in the Columbus, Ohio office. Governor Strickland, like Congressman Sestak trying to make Wall Street a dirty word. Let's listen.


GOV TED STRICKLAND, OHIO: Ohioans are angry. Wall Street got their recovery and executives who outsourced our jobs, they got their bonuses. But, we're putting a stop to that in Ohio. I don't work for the Wall Street guys. I work for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: I was out there recently, Ed Rollins, and I saw John Kasich. He said I knew they were going to attack me on this kind of way, but his theory is the negative ads from politicians against Wall Street don't work because people dislike the politicians more than Wall Street.

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's some truth to that, but I think it's hard to tag John, who is a blue collar guy, came out of a blue collar district, was the only Republican who won in 1982 when we lost 26 seats, he beat a Democrat in a blue collar Democrat district. He's always represented the blue collar working people and I think to a certain extent, there's no credibility trying to link him to Wall Street.

Going back to the Club for Growth. The Club for Growth has spent a lot of money, including against my former candidate, Mike Huckabee, against anybody they thought was spending too much government money. So, it's hard to make them just Wall Streeters. Wall Street is a bad name and the bottom line, it's not relevant in this election. What's relevant is who can represent the values of the ordinary people out there.

KING: Help us more broadly, Governor Rendell, you're a blue collar guy, too, and right now, because your party is in charge, Democratic president, Democratic Congress, people are feeling another wave of economic anxiety and they're taking it out on the people in charge. What should the party's message on the economy be? Or maybe better put, what is the party failing to do to convince people? Because you see the numbers shifting the other way, the president's disapproval rate is up, the generic balance favoring the Republicans.

RENDELL: Sure. Well first, let me say one thing, though, John. In terms of how we got here, I think the greed on Wall Street clearly was the main factor in creating this worldwide recession. Some lack of government oversight was there, no question about it, but it was the greed on Wall Street that plummeted this nation and the world into recession and people should not be allowed to forget that.

But I think we should be looking forward, we should be talking about the positive things that the president is doing like the recently enacted small business bill which, once and for all, makes sure that small businesses have access to $30 billion in loans. It helps small businesses by front loading the way they can expense, they has created capital gains exemptions for investments in small businesses. Things that are going to put people back to work immediately. We should be focusing on the president's plans because they're good plans.

Infrastructure, the single best job creator in well paying jobs. President has a great plan on infrastructure. Those are the things we should be talking about. We should be looking forward rather than be playing the blame game.

KING: Ed, I want to ask you in closing a question about the Republican Party chairman, Mike Steele. One of our political producers, Peter Hamby, who's a great reporter, wrote a piece about this "Fire Pelosi" bus tour that's going on all round the country -- 117 cities, 106 appearances with candidates, 43, though, of those districts are not competitive districts that Michael Steele is in and some Republicans are suggesting perhaps he's taking this trip to round up support for his own reelection, should he seek it after the election.

I talked to Chairman Steele at the beginning of this bus tour and as you know, and we've talked about this in the past, he's been very controversial, people say he sometimes shoots from the lip and he hasn't been able to raise enough money. Listen to Michael Steele, then I want your opinion on the other side.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I get blamed for stuff that hasn't happened yet, and that's fine. I'm a big boy. I've been in this fight a long time. What's disappointing, to be honest with you, is when some within our party, and the leadership, lose sight of this is not about the chairman of the RNC, this is about a candidate who's putting it on the line, who's making a sacrifice with their family, to run for office. And we need to focus on that.


KING: Ed, if you're in 46 districts or so, that really don't -- 43 districts that don't really have competitive races, is it worth spending the money on this.

ROLLINS: No, it's not. But, at the end of the day, Michael is not, for a long period of time, been a real factor in this election. He didn't raise the money that he needed to raise as the party chairman. He's been an articulate spokesperson for the party and I think, to a certain extent, the game has gone on without him. I've said it on your show before and I'll say it again, him in a bus running around to districts that don't matter, don't hurt anybody. At the end of the day, he hasn't really helped very much.

KING: Ed Rendell, you had that job once. You don't get a ton of credit, you get kicked a lot, though, don't you?

RENDELL: Oh, no question about it, but keep Michael Steele, he's the gift that keeps on giving.


ROLLINS: As a compose to you, who was a great chairman. That's the -- you're one of the great falls and I had great admiration for you both as a governor, and we're glad your term is up. And we wish you a good afterlife.

RENDELL: Thanks, Ed. Thanks very much.


KING: All right, we got two (INAUDIBLE), Governor Ed Rendell, Ed Rollins, thanks, we'll see you both in the near future. Gentlemen, have a great weekend.

When we come back, this might be too much for Washington to handle. Stephen Colbert, Pete Dominick, same town, same day. You don't want to miss it.


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

Hey, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey John. Freed U.S. hiker, Sarah Shourd met with Iran's President Ahmadinejad today in New York. Her two companions are still prisoners in Iran.

An FBI terrorism task force searched homes and an office in Minneapolis and Chicago, today, and anti-war activists in the Midwest say they were the targets.

A federal judge has cleared the way for California's first execution since 2006, it's set for next Wednesday. And a Russian company wants to buy a controlling interest in one of the largest uranium mining operations in the U.S. industry observers tell CNN they don't think it would jeopardize security. That sounds like something worth testing in the news report.

KING: Very post Cold War. It will show up as some sort of Tom Clancy novel somewhere at some point.

JOHNS: Yeah, right.

KING: All right, Joe Johns, over here. Senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and the guy in the middle, is usually on the street, we let him come inside, today. Pete Dominick's indoors because one of Pete's friends, former colleague, Stephen Colbert was in town today. Yeah, uh-ha, he was up on Capitol Hill.

But, before we get to Capitol Hill, let's show you a little bit of the Stephen Colbert, the "Colbert Report" last night, where he was talking about his work. He went out and worked with the farm workers one day in the "Take Our Jobs Campaign." I hope we have some pictures of that we could show you. Those pictures are not there. All right, Stephen showed on the show last night, him packing corn and out in the field harvesting beans. He went up to testify today, this is the honest to God truth, as a witness at a hearing about immigration reform and a guest worker program and listen to him tell congress this is hard work.


STEPHEN COLBERT, THE COLBERT REPORT: I have to say this, and I do mean this sincerely, please don't make me do this again. It is really, really hard. For one thing, when you're picking beans, you have to spend all day bending over. It turns out, and I did not know this, most soil is at ground level. If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make the earth waist high? Come on, where is the funding?


KING: All right, so I see you in the back there, sitting there listening and you managed to keep a straight face.


KING: Was, you know, It was, I mean, it's kind of funny and nobody, the members of Congress not laughing.

BASH: I've never seen anything like this in all my years covering Congress and Joe just backed me up on this, because he's covered it for awhile, too. And what was really fascinating about this is Zoe Lofgren, who is the subcommittee chairwoman, who invited Stephen Colbert to come, she was very clear, I talked to her beforehand. She wanted attention, she wanted cameras there. She said, many hearings on this subject, not one camera has come. Boy, you couldn't even walk through the hallway, that changed. But, she had no idea how he was going to come. She didn't know if he was going to come in character or if he was going to come as a straight man on this issue. So, she did not know and none of the members knew that he was going to be Stephen Colbert that we all know.

KING: He was, of course, going to be Stephen Colbert, right?

PETE DOMINICK, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's hard to predict. It is. I mean, I worked at the "Colbert Report" for five years until you were so kind to hire me to work at your show, John King, and you know, it's -- he's hard to predict. But, he is the smartest, most intelligent person I've been around and I've worked on a lot of these shows.

KING: He's the second most intelligent...

DOMINICK: You however, are the most handsome. You, we found out, are the most handsome, today.


KING: So, one of the things you get asked Joe, when you go to these hearings, just like you're in a courtroom, you go to congressional hearings, are you an expert witness?


COLBERT: I like talking about people who don't have any power. And this seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who do our work, but don't have any rights as a result. And yet, we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that's an interesting contradiction to me.


KING: That was actually a relatively serious moment, there. JOHNS: Yeah, well, this was when Conyers asked him to get out and change his mind or was that at the end?

DOMINICK: No, that was Congresswoman Chu asking him about that. That, by the way, is the real Stephen Colbert, who I know very -- this is a very, very good man. He's a religious man...

BASH: This is an important issue to him.

JOHNS: Yeah, but I got to say, I'm sorry, No. 1, I'm surprised with all the stars they bring to Capitol Hill solely for the purpose of bringing attention to a particular issue, something like this really hasn't happened before. And the other thing is, while I haven't seen anything like this happen before, there are circuses on Capitol Hill, you know, I mean, literally the circus comes to Capitol Hill in March, with elephants and everything, so there's silly stuff that happens there all the time.

BASH: And when you say nothing like this happened on Capitol Hill, yes, they talked about the fact today that Republicans did actually have Elmo testify at a hearing. That is a fact, but there's never been a comedian to make jokes at and at the expense of members of Congress...

DOMINICK: There's never been a guy like Stephen Colbert.

JOHNS: They didn't swear him in, so.

BASH: OK, I just -- OK, I just want to actually tell you guys one thing. That is that you and I were there this morning. I actually tried to do my job and talked to Stephen Colbert as he was coming in and when I went up to ask him a question, it didn't go exactly as I planned. I think we have the tape.


COLBERT: Did you marry John king?

BASH: I did.

COLBERT: He's a handsome guy.

BASH: Mr. Colbert, Washington is a very serious place you can't just come in here...


DOMINICK: And later on, you'll see he said the same thing to me. The narrative today, the story should have been "About John King. Stephen Colbert thinks John King's a very handsome man."

BASH: I think he's got a thing for him. Not only did he say that to me going in, coming out, when there were all these reporters around him, everybody was trying to ask him a question about his testimony, he saw me in the crowd and said, "Tell John I said 'hi.'"

JOHNS: But was he in character?

KING: Oh, bang, bang, boom. All right. That's pretty good.

DOMINICK: How does it feel to be objectified as a sex symbol?

KING: Nation, I can live with it. We'll be right back. Everyone's going to stay put, more laughter on the other side.


KING: RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME coming up in just a couple of minutes. Let's check in with Rick Sanchez for a preview.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Hey, John, how are you?

KING: That's nice. That's nice. I like that.


SANCHEZ: You know, somebody said that yesterday you were wearing something and there was some anchor in Atlanta who said it wasn't masculine enough, so I thought I'd show that guy up by wearing the right apparel for a cooking endeavor.

KING: Master Chef Sanchez. You know, I looked just fine in my apron. We raised $300,000 for a great community health center and I had great time. and I thought I looked mighty masculine.

SANCHEZ: I'll tell you what, here's the deal. Here's the deal. I'll wear the apron and the hat if you will do the same one day and we'll see if we can get somebody to match it.

KING: Amen and we'll go cook for a good cause somewhere.

SANCHEZ: We'll do it in Miami this time, my hometown.

KING: You got it.

SANCHEZ: All right, John, good to see you, my friend.

KING: We'll see you in just a minute, there.

All right, let's continue our conversation, here, if I can focus after that. Joe Johns, Pete Dominick, Dana Bash. You have a piece I want to get to in just a second, but first a point about, at this hearing, Colbert came under attack from one of the Republicans, there.

DOMINICK: Well, listen, Stephen Colbert makes his opening remarks and he'll take the questions. Steve King implies that Stephen Colbert didn't work in the field, based on the video, he knows corn packing. Colbert took a shot at Steve King and, you know, as a corn packer, and it's going to -- he didn't plan for that. If you attack a comedian, if you heckle them, they're coming back for you with comedy. And I'll tell you, Monday night, Steve King is going to get savaged on the "Colbert Report."

KING: Really?

DOMINICK: Yeah. Watch.

KING: But, Steve King, I don't think he'll get upset at that. He's a...

BASH: Well, he actually told me before the hearing, he's never seen Comedy Central and he's never seen the show, so I don't -- that probably isn't that surprising. But, what he was trying to do, no question, is undermine the credibility of the witness and the Democrats for actually asking him to come.

KING: All right, now usually when we go to "Pete on the Street," he's done something funny for us and here we go, Friday night.


DOMINICK: Can I get my job back? Can I please? John King is killing me. Is there any way I can I get my job back? Please.

COLBERT: He's a handsome man.

DOMINICK: I'm just here -- I just came down from my job.

And you don't care about the cause whatsoever, just Colbert?


DOMINICK: If he wasn't here, would you be here?


DOMINICK: Would you ever pick anything?


DOMINICK: You have?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard work. I don't want to have to do it again.

DOMINICK: You wouldn't be here if Colbert wasn't here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would probably just watch it on C-SPAN.

DOMINICK: I'm hungry.

This apple, what are the odds that it was picked by an undocumented worker?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 80 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm telling you I didn't raise three boys for them to be farm workers, no. I want them to better themselves. REP STEVEN KING (R), IOWA: I grew up doing farm work, mostly for neighbors, and...

DOMINICK: So, you know.

S KING: Bailing hay, I remember when I weighed about 125 pounds...

DOMINICK: Your weight now?

S KING: It's classified.

DOMINICK: Would you have been here if Colbert wasn't here?


DOMINICK: So, you came here because you're a Colbert fan?


DOMINICK: And do you care about the issue?



KING: How was the apple?

DOMINICK: Delicious, and undocumented.

KING: Undocumented apple.

DOMINICK: I don't really want that job back...

JOHNS: It looked like a Macintosh. Just saying.

DOMINICK: You haven't had an apple, Joe? A Macintosh.

KING: So, we're having a laugh on a Friday night. Any impact from this?

JOHNS: Yeah, I mean, even the committee, the Democrats, I talked to them, at first, you know, they had a lot of heartburn, but at the end of the day, back behind the scenes, they were happy they got some attention thrown on this issue.

DOMINICK: It brings a lot of coverage to the important issue.

KING: And he thinks I'm handsome. RICK'S LIST PRIMETIME, right now.