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Lou Dobbs Tonight

GOP Sweeps Gubernatorial Races in New Jersey, Virginia; House Lawmakers to Vote on Health Care Legislation; Banks Hike Interest Rates on Credit Cards

Aired November 04, 2009 - 19:00   ET


LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

The White House is scrambling, trying to explain Democratic Election Day losses. Republicans sweeping gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia after the president put his political clout on the line.

What do all of these results mean, if anything? How worried should the president and his party be if they should be? We'll have all of that tonight.

And House lawmakers set to vote on Speaker Pelosi's massive ten- year, $1.2 trillion health care legislation. Election defeats may make that plan somewhat difficult for Democrats to support. We'll see.

Also, the same banks that took billions upon billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts are now sticking it to credit card holders, dramatically hiking their interest rates. What in the world is going on here?

Also tonight, our expert political panel will analyze the election votes and tell what you it really means for those Democrats and Republicans, and importantly, those independents.

ANNOUNCER: This is "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," news, debate, and analysis for Wednesday, November 4th. Live from New York, Mr. Independent, Lou Dobbs.

DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.

The White House spin machine at full throttle. A day after Republicans won key race for governor in New Jersey and Virginia, the Obama administration tonight doing its best to downplay those votes and how they reflect upon the president and his administration's agenda.

Despite making numerous campaign appearances for both Democratic candidates in New Jersey and Virginia, the White House now says those races were based on local issues that didn't involve the president.

Regardless of the spin, there is no denial that independent voters, who greatly helped elect president Obama a year ago, came out big this type for Republicans in both states, a troubling sign for both the president and his party. Dan Lothian has our report.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Recovering from a bad election hangover, the president played up his own victory a year ago.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Election Day was a day of hope. It was a day of possibility.

LOTHIAN: Senior White House aides are spinning losses by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds as local election that's, quote, "didn't involve the president." And they echo former Vice President Al Gore's assessment that the defeats will have no lasting impact.

AL GORE, (D) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think there's a danger of reading too much into it. The off years in New Jersey and Virginia often turn out to go opposite from the year before, and I wouldn't read too much into it. Of course, if it had gone differently, I would have read a lot into it.

LOTHIAN: But downplaying the election results as local stands in contrast to the president's actions. He attended events for both candidates, even parachuting in the weekend before the election to campaign vigorously for Governor Corzine.

And in previous off-year elections, Democrats have played up gubernatorial victories. Take 2005. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, then a Congressman, said "Democratic wins across the board could have a positive impact on the party's 2006 recruiting efforts."

Now, the White House and Democrats are left touting two special election victories, one in California and the other in upstate New York, where Bill Owens won in the 23rd congressional district.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: It was a race where a Republican has held a seat since the Civil War, and we won that seat.


LOTHIAN: Again, the White House doesn't see those Democratic losses as a referendum on President Obama. On the other hand, they do see that victory in upstate New York as a repudiation of a conservative candidate -- Lou?

DOBBS: So the losses mean nothing to this administration, and the House win means everything? Is that's correct?

LOTHIAN: Essentially that's what it is. They're focusing on the victory here and dismissing the losses and essentially saying there won't be any lasting impacted here.

In fact, Robert Gibbs was asked specifically if he felt there would be any impact on Capitol Hill where some conservative Democrats might not be so willing to embrace the president's priorities such as health care reform, and he says he doesn't think so.

DOBBS: A shocking conclusion coming from Mr. Gibbs, but we thank you for sharing that. Dan Lothian, thank you very much from the spin free zone there at the Obama White House.

DOBBS: Voter turnout in the two governor races lower this year than in the 2005 election. In New Jersey, early estimate show 45 percent of registered voters participated, compared with 49 percent in 2005.

In Virginia, 42 percent of registered voters last year cast their ballots, compared with 45 percent in 2005.

Independent voters who helped Barack Obama win the White House a year ago this time putting Republicans over the top by a margin of two to one and that is an extraordinary reversal from one year to the next at the polls.

Exit polls in New Jersey showing independents favoring Republican Chris Christie over Democratic Governor Jon Corzine 60 percent to 30 percent.

In Virginia, independents there voted for Republican Bob McDonnell over Democrat Creigh Deeds 66 percent to 33 percent.

And there are questions tonight about what impact these election results may have on the health care debate in Congress and next year's midterm election.

Democrats planning on bringing a massive one-year, $1.2 trillion House bill for a vote as early as this weekend. But just days after losing decisively at the polls, Democrats at that time may be thinking twice about supporting a health care plan that would make them politically vulnerable.

Dana Bash has the report.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Virginians in Democrat Gerry Connolly's district voted Republican on Tuesday. So how does the vulnerable first term congressman read those foreboding results?

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY, (D) VIRGINIA: It renews a sense of concern for Democrats that our base needs to be energized. And the way you energize your base is delivering on promises you made.

BASH: For Connelly that means passing the health care bill, not abandoning it.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: In other words, putting a gun to your head and pulling the trigger is better than just walking off the plank? I don't get it.

BASH: House Republican Leader John Boehner argues GOP wins Tuesday should lead conservative Democrats to vote no on health care. BOEHNER: I think it sends a very loud message to Democrats who have been elected, especially in the last two cycles in Republican districts, that this is political death for them.

BASH: Pennsylvania Congressman Jason Altmire is one of those Democrats, a top Republican target for 2010. He is still undecided on health care

REP. JASON ALTMIRE, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I have a district that is evenly divided.

BASH: Yet Altmire dismisses the idea that Democratic defeats for governor in New Jersey and Virginia should be a political warning for him to oppose his party's health care bill.

ALTMIRE: If we fail to deliver health care reform, I do think that that's the worst case scenario politically.

BASH: But Altmire and several other endangered Democrats tell CNN they are worried about other voter messages, like where are the jobs, and why is Washington spending so much it doesn't have?

CONNOLLY: We've got to make sure that we are deficit hawks when it comes the agenda going forward.

BASH: And that independent voters are turning away from Democrats.

REP. HEATH SHULER, (D) NORTH CAROLINA: And it was those independent voters, those moderates, those independent voters that had been, you know, getting moderates like myself elected to office.


BASH: And, Lou, you went through those statistics. When it comes to independent voters, the significant shift towards Republican candidates last night, if there was any fear in the eyes of the many vulnerable Democratic congressmen I talked to today, it was about that.

DOBBS: Yes, and yesterday's election, I mean, they made it very clear on one thing, that independents now are a force within the body politic of this country, outnumbering either the Democrats or the Republicans, and they are a force to be reckoned with at the polls, right?

BASH: Absolutely. And that is, you know, almost verbatim of what I heard from a couple congressmen. One congresswoman from the state of South Dakota, I said, what do you think? She said "independents, independents, independents." If we don't get them back, we are in big trouble.

DOBBS: Yes. And I think that's true whether it's a Republican speaking or a Democrat. And independents are interested in the center in this country. Dana, as always, thank you very much, a fascinating election discussion which we will be doing over the course of the next several days. Thanks so much, Dana Bash.

BASH: Thank you.

DOBBS: Up next, emergency measures over the swine flu outbreak. Congress now considering paying sick leave for anyone who has to miss work so as to avoid infecting colleagues.

Also, dozens of banks have been dramatically raising credit card rates, your rates, ahead of new laws to limit the increases in those rates. Now some in Congress are talking about ways to act quickly to protect American consumers.

And disturbing new details tonight in the case of that Ohio serial killer -- more victims, more mystery. We'll have the latest.


DOBBS: Democrats in Congress are trying to push through a new law that would force employers to give their workers paid sick leave. Some estimates put the number of workers in this country who don't receive sick pay at more than 50 million people.

The move is in response to the swine flu pandemic. Lawmakers are concerned that people with swine flu won't call in sick if they don't get paid.

Lisa Sylvester with our report.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you come down with the flu, you are told to stay home until you get better. That's the advice of doctors, the Centers for Disease Control, even many bosses are saying, stay away.

ANDREW CATALDO, MCGUIRE WOODS LLP: The day of being a hero by coming in sick, those days are over. The message now needs to be you're a hero if you are sick and stay home. So please don't come to work.

SYLVESTER: But according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, 57 million American workers have no paid sick leave. Missing work can mean a deep cut in a monthly paycheck or even possible a pink slip.

Congressman George Miller has introduced the H1N1 Flu Emergency Sick Leave bill. The legislation would grant five days of sick leave a year if an employer directs a sick worker to stay home or go home. It would apply to companies with 15 or more employees that do not already provide that amount of sick leave.

Part-time workers would be also eligible on a prorated basis. The emergency law would sunset after two years. But businesses would have to fit the bill. Representative Miller says it's in their interest to keep sick workers out of the workplace and away from customers.

REP. GEORGE MILLER, (D) CALIFORNIA: You have thousands and tens of thousands of workers who are working with the public every day in food service and cafeterias and school lunch programs and airports and hospitality. Those people are generators of additional infections of H1N1. So we've got to get them to get home, get well, and then go back.

SYLVESTER: According to the Centers for Disease Control, a sick worker can infect 10 percent of coworkers.


SYLVESTER: Congressman Miller has scheduled a hearing in two weeks on the bill. The legislation will have an impact on some workers in the service industry, restaurant, hotel workers, for instance, who may not currently have a sick leave policy.

And late this evening we received a comment from the American Hotel and Lodging Association. They said while most members know that it is better to let sick employees go home to recover, they are opposing this bill, saying, quote, it's nothing more than an excuse to force more paid leave on employers in an already weak economy -- Lou?

DOBBS: Wait a minute. Help me out here. This is leisure and hospitality. These are people who come in with the most intimate contact with people, the public, every day and evening in hotels and restaurants, right?

SYLVESTER: Yes, and that is precisely Representative Miller's point, that this isn't just about protecting employees that are on a work site, but it's also the customers that they come in contact with, the people at restaurants...

DOBBS: Sure. Sure. And the Service Employees' Union is trying to represent all of those folks, and they're part of the Obama administration. And Andy Stern who runs it is a good buddy of George Miller. So why are they having this little disagreement?

SYLVESTER: I think they're going to have to sit down and talk.

DOBBS: All right. Lisa, thank you very much, Lisa Sylvester.

The House of Representatives today voting to crack down on banking jacking up interest rates on credit cards. Some of those interest rates are -- are you ready -- 33 percent.

President Obama signed a consumer protection law to stop that practice but it doesn't go into effect until next year. The delay will give banks several months to keep hiking those interest rates, but today lawmakers tried to hike up the bill to next month. Kitty Pilgrim is going to tell us whose going to win this race against those higher rates. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, 16 percent, 18 percent, 22 percent, 33 percent, how high can credit card interest rates and fees go? The president signed a law last spring to protect consumers from unfair rates. The new rules were supposed to start in February.

But some charge lenders quickly raised interest rates to take advantage of the grace period.

To put a stop on that the House passed legislation to move up the new law's effective date December 1st.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY, (D) NEW YORK: The card companies said they needed more time in order to put in systems and get ready for the new reforms. But what we've seen is they've used this time not for the new systems but to get under the wire to implement quickly new, outrageous increases on consumers for no reason at all.

PILGRIM: According to a recent Pew study on unfair or deceptive credit card practices, 99.7 percent of lenders jacked up interest rate without any notice to or say-so to the customer.

Since December of last year, the study found, bank interest rates climbed more than 20 percent. And lenders are moving from fixed rates to variable rates.

NICK BOURKE, PEW, "SAFE CREDIT CARD PROJECT": Our data was collected in July. And since then, we've been spot-checking the market, and we have been seeing even higher interest rates and some other changes.

PILGRIM: Credit card companies defend the move, saying they need to stay profitable. This from Chase Card Services -- "When necessary, we make changes to pricing, terms, or credit lines based on borrower risk, market conditions, and the cost to us of making loans."

Citi says "We understand that customers don't like price increases, especially in difficult economic times. However, these actions are necessary given the doubling of credit card losses across the industry from customers not paying back loans."

Kitty Pilgrim, CNN.


PILGRIM: Now, the bill to move up the deadline for consumer protection to December 1 now goes to the Senate. The consumer protection legislation limits what lenders can charge you on the current and past balances.

But rate increases can still happen on future balances, although the new legislation does have some rules on how interest rates...

DOBBS: I got the small print -- 33 percent. What does this consumer protection that President Obama signed into effect, what does it limit rates to?

PILGRIM: Well, there's not a limit on rates.

DOBBS: Not a limit on rates. So how are they going to stop this outrageous behavior on the part of the credit card companies and banks?

PILGRIM: It really doesn't fully do that, as you know.

DOBBS: Excuse me, what you're saying is the consumer continues to be screwed?

PILGRIM: They have to notify the consumer. There are certain measures that go to help stop this, but, of course, it does not clear this up completely. In fact, the new wrinkle is that they encourage you to use your debit card, and the overdraft on debit cards are extremely high.

So there are still many, many abuses that have not been addressed yet.

DOBBS: And what is the cost of money to commercial banks right now in this country?

PILGRIM: I don't know.

DOBBS: Zero -- zero would be the number. Zero to a quarter basis point, 25 basis points.

What in the world is going on here? You can get money for 30 years for 5 percent. What is going on?

PILGRIM: Lou, it's an abysmal situation. The consumer is not in good shape when they're dealing with credit cards.

DOBBS: This president and this Congress said they were here to take care of the consumer. They have said it over and over. Where are they? We're going to find out, I guess.

All right, Kitty, thanks a lot. Kitty Pilgrim, great report.

To hear my thoughts on this issue, and if you haven't got a sense of those thoughts, join me on the radio tomorrow, or all around the country. Go to to get the listing for my show in your area. Subscribe to our daily podcast while you're there.

And of course, you can follow me on Lou Dobbs news on I'm a social kind of fellow.

Up next here, we'll have more from the fallout from last night's defeats in New Jersey and Virginia for the Democrats. And we'll tell you about their victory up north in New York, where the results are a reflection of the policies of President Obama and the public rejection thereto, or was it just not so much?

That's the subject of our face-off debate tonight. Another body found in a Cleveland house. Is the suspect responsible for more crimes? One would suggest that the evidence is fairly -- well, indicative. We'll have that special report. Stay with us.


DOBBS: There are new developments in the Ohio serial killer case. Police in Cleveland today announced that they found the skull of an 11th victim in the suspect's home. Police say the remains of ten other victims were also found in the home of 50-year-old Anthony Sowell.

Investigators will now execute a search warrant to collect DNA from Sowell to determine whether he committed other crimes as well. Susan Candiotti with our report.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The shock waves are hitting even veteran judges.

JUDGE RONALD ADRINE, CLEVELAND MUNICIPAL COURT: With 28 years of being on the bench, this is without question the most serious allegations that I've ever faced.

CANDIOTTI: But how in the world could suspect Anthony Sowell or anyone allegedly murder so many victims, hiding at least 11 bodies in the middle of a busy neighborhood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wouldn't nobody know it. Everybody seen him walking, scrapping, picking up cans, just chilling like a normal person.

CANDIOTTI: But could a normal person invite women in only to have them vanish without anyone noticing? All but one of the woman dug up from the backyard and found inside the house are nameless. And until there's a DNA match, no one yet know who they are or where they came from.

The one identified victim is 52 years old from a town outside of Cleveland, reported missing by her family a year ago.

Sowell is an ex-marine, a registered sex offender who spent 15 years in jail and landed in his family's home, living alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For him to have went to these extremes is just messed up, because, you know, people don't deserve to have to die like that.

CANDIOTTI: It's not that neighbors didn't smell something awful. A city councilman said even he got a call about it in 2007.

ZACH REED, CITY COUNCILMAN: We received a phone call from a resident that said "Councilman, there's a foul odor that's coming from across the street, and it smells like a dead person." Not dead meat. Not dead animal. Dead person.

CANDIOTTI: But the house is next door to a sausage plant, a smelly sausage plant. A criminal profiler says the killer got lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So they should have gone knocking and they should have gone into that home to see if perhaps something was amiss there.

CANDIOTTI: Police said they only investigated two calls at the house, one two years ago, and the one that led to the discovery of the first bodies. They deny they dropped the ball.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're starting from the point that we got to that house on October 30th. And we are working backwards. We're going to keep from the time he was in prison, before that, it's going to be a slows process.


CANDIOTTI: And Lou, authorities are intending to get another search warrant to go back inside the house, rip it apart from top to bottom, to see whether they can find anything more inside the walls, underneath the floors, in the ceilings, you name it.

Tonight also we spoke with the mother of the 52-year-old victim, the only victim who has been identified so far. This mother has said in the past that she's not been happy with what police did to try to find her daughter. But at least, she says, she is now relieved that she knows what happened to her.

Police do say that this was a woman who had a drug problem. Back to you, Lou.

DOBBS: Susan, this is extraordinary. They have to get another search warrant to go back into that house? They don't have -- they assume that it wouldn't be necessary? How is that coming to be?

CANDIOTTI: Well, Lou, I've been trying to get more information about what it is, what kind of a second search warrant they needed that they didn't have the first time with probable cause. So far I've been unable to get those details.

But I did learn that they're trying to be very careful with this next one. And, clearly, they have to so as not to jeopardize this case.

DOBBS: Yes, do we have any idea how many of these missing persons may be victims at the hands of Sowell?

CANDIOTTI: Well, precisely they are in the process of trying to get some linkage here, DNA of the victims and try to link them up to him.

But, remember, a lot of these bodies have been very badly decomposed. We don't know precisely what Sowell has said to authorities. We know he was talking to the police in the very beginning. Has he confessed? We do not know.

But we do know that he is no longer talking and he now of course has a lawyer who has ordered a psychiatric evaluation, and the court has agreed to.

DOBBS: One would think. All right, thank you very much, Susan Candiotti in Cleveland.

Well, Anthony Sowell isn't the only serial killer to come out of Ohio. Elliott Ness of untouchables fame was named Cleveland's safety director during the infamous torso murders of the 1930s. The so called Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run killed 12 people. But Ness never solved those Cleveland murders.

And Jeffrey Dahmer, one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, committed his first murder in Ohio in 1978. By 1991 Dahmer had confessed to killing 17 people. He admitted to dismembering some of his victims and eating others.

Up next here, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carla Fiorina says she could be the next Republican senator for the state of California. What are her chances?

And what do the Republican election wins say about President Obama, his administration's agenda, and the views of independent voters all across the country? That's the subject of our face-off debate here tonight.


DOBBS: And tonight's face-off, the debate over the president's politics, the performance, the results of last night's elections. Tonight, the white house says the Republican wins in both New Jersey and Virginia aren't a reflection on the president's policies. President Obama was not on any ballot last night, certainly, and he may have been, however, in the minds some of voters.

Our guests for tonight's face-off debate, Matt Lewis who writes for and for Good to have you with us, Matt; and Mark Halperin, editor at large, senior political analyst for "Time" magazine. Mark, good to have you with us.

Let me just quote if I may gentlemen House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One of my favorite people to quote, "From my perspective, we won last night. And we had one race that we were engaged in." What do you think, Matt?

MATT LEWIS, POLITICSDAILY.COM: Well, tentatively speaking, she is right, as the speaker of the house, there was one congressional race that was focused on. And they won it. But I think it would be a mistake to overplay the significance of the national impact. But I think it's also a mistake to underplay it.

DOBBS: Finding that balance is so difficult, isn't it?

LEWIS: And I'm not surprised that Democrats would try to spin you.

DOBBS: Democrats spin me?

LEWIS: By the way, congratulations, you are Mr. Independent. And independents were the big story yesterday.

DOBBS: As I would have predicted had I been given the opportunity. Mark, what are your thoughts?

MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, look, I think the white house is being a little hand-handed and trying to make a big deal about the congressional race in upstate New York. I think the lessons there are not the way it's being spun for a variety of reasons which we can get into. It was a bad day for incumbents. It was a bad day for Democrats who want to have a lock on independents but they didn't. I agree we don't want to make too much or too little. But I think every four years, we make too big of a deal of this day. I don't think this tells you much of the state of the health of the president and I don't think it tells you anything that happens next November.

DOBBS: All right. In following in that vein, let's talk about the role of independents here. Independents flipped, precisely, from 2008, in their support for President Obama in both New Jersey and Virginia. And I haven't seen any exit polls from district 23 in New York. But this was -- this was an obvious, major shift on the part of independents who played a major role, if not the major role in electing Barack Obama president.

LEWIS: Absolutely. First of all, it's astonishing numbers like 66 percent of independents in Virginia went to McDonnell. I have to take issue with mark, I think if it was just Bob McDonnell winning in Virginia, the Republican, then maybe it's nature a big deal. But not only did the governor win. The lieutenant governor won, the attorney general won. And the Republicans in the state house shellac the Democrats. We have a deep blue state New Jersey with Governor Corzine you know pouring in millions and millions of his own dollars getting beat. I think it's really hard to overlook the fact that something big is happening out there. I don't want to call it a '93, you know, analogy, but --

DOBBS: '93, a prelude to '94. What would you call it, Mark?

HALPERIN: You might have to switch me over to the web if I'm going to give the full answer. But just in brief, in terms of New Jersey --

DOBBS: This ingenuous lack of knowledge for the media you're in right now.

HALPERIN: No, the only type of person who's less -- held in less regard than a former Goldman Sachs executive would be a current Goldman Sachs executive. You got Jon Corzine with his own personal problems. High taxes, property taxes. And the state having Democratic administration for a long time. Local issue. In Virginia, one thing that's important to remember is --

LEWIS: I think it's --

HALPERIN: Of course it is, but, look, it was true before Jon Corzine lost is true now. Which is if the economy's in bad shape a year ago from now, you bet it's going to be bad for Barack Obama. But that doesn't have anything to do with Jon Corzine.

LEWIS: But it does have something to do with Barack Obama, though.

HALPERIN: You have remember, a lot of people calling themselves independents, are not registered independents, they might be registered Republicans. No doubt a shift, of a year ago, were calling themselves maybe Democrats, maybe Republicans, they weren't independents, but that makes the independent shift look a lot bigger.

DOBBS: Whoa, whoa, Mark. Independent registrations outnumber either Republicans or Democrats. We are seeing precisely the new trend around the country. You're quite right that Republicans or Democrats might describe themselves as independents, but we have no basis to assume that would be any different than one year ago.

HALPERIN: I think we do have a basis, Lou, which is look at the number of people who say they're Republican. That number has come down most places as the Republican Party has shrunk.

DOBBS: And as the Democratic Party itself is shrinking. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are avoiding a decline in their registrations, and what is explained is the ascension of independents as that number moves high. Is there a direct correlation? Unfortunately, the data is neither discrete or specific to give a good answer. Both Democrats and Republicans in the country, their registrations are declining and independents are rising.

LEWIS: This is one thing we did learn, Barack Obama you whether or not he's the blame, his popularity is not transferable, and his coattails are not long enough to lift bad candidates. Hey, Chris Christie was not exactly Ronald Reagan either.

DOBBS: If the economy is booming next fall. If health care has been defeated if cap and trade is a distant memory and the world is feeling pretty good about the world, I mean, Americans, how do you think Democrats will do?

LEWIS: First of all, I think there's immediate implications on health care right now. But right now, you're right, it's the environment that matters.

DOBBS: Mark?

HALPERIN: I totally disagree about health care. I agree with what he said about Obama not having the magic power to tap others to get them elected but I can't imagine that anybody thought that was true, except maybe Kool-Aid drinkers in his own camp.

DOBBS: I can't imagine there would be any Kool-Aid drinkers that camp or any other in this country. Thank you both for being here. Matt, thank you very much. Mark, thank you.

Up next, a controversial Republican taking on a three-term Democrat in California. While the challenger may have some baggage for voters to sort through. It's all about jobs. And by the way, the person we're talking about once said something about jobs I'll be reminding that person of here next. Stay with us.


DOBBS: The day after Republicans captured two state houses, two governors' offices, another prominent Republican is entering race for the United States senate next year. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is the latest to challenge three term Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer. Proponents say Fiorina presided over massive layoffs and the transfer of jobs to Asia. Casey Wian has the report.


CARLY FIORINA (R), CALIF. SENATE CANDIDATE: Today, I am announcing my candidacy to serve you as U.S. senator.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina confirms what has been known in California for months. She wants Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer's job.

FIORINA: She has always taken the low road to high office. So get ready, but it's okay. I can take a punch, and I can throw a punch.

WIAN: From day one of her Republican primary campaign, the breast cancer survivor is displaying the tough style they was famous, some would say she was infamous for at HP. She oversaw layoffs of thousands of workers and the transfer of jobs to India and China. She was heavily criticized in 2004 after declaring, quote there is no job that is America's god-given right anymore. Now, Fiorina says creating American jobs will be her priority if elected to the senate along with controlling government spending.

FIORINA: Let's not give congress any more of your money until they demonstrate that they can spend that money wisely and well.

WIAN: The Democratic senatorial campaign committee released a statement saying, "The hallmark of Carly Fiorina's resume is her tenure at Hewlett-Packard where she laid off 28,000 Americans while shipping jobs overseas, just before taking a $21 million golden parachute. Given that record, the United States Senate is the last place Carly Fiorina should go next." Other vulnerabilities include a rocky tenure with Senator John McCain's presidential campaign and her record of voting in just 6 of 14 elections since 2000. Even her pre- campaign website and its tag line "Carly-Fornia Dreaming" has received some ridicules from bloggers on the left and right.

Her Republican primary challenger is state assemblyman Chuck Devor. His campaign said in a statement, "Fiorina's arrival means Republican voters have a clear choice in the primary, between an establishment-picked, big-government moderate with lots of cash but little experience in some public life and a volunteer supported, proven conservative with a long record of civic engagement."


WIAN: A field poll in October found that 21 percent of California Republicans favored Fiorina to 20 percent for Devor but 59 percent were undecided. The same poll gave Boxer a lead in the next election.

DOBBS: I'm sure that neither candidate, or perspective candidate is concerned about the double-digit lead. What is interesting, Devor has a long history of civic engagement. Is that another word for being a professional politician?

WIAN: I suppose you could read it that way. And the one thing that both of these candidates on the Republican side are going to have to overcome is lack of recognition. 70 percent to 80 percent of Californians don't know either Republican candidate, Lou.

DOBBS: Well, I'm sure that they want to change all of that as quickly as possible. Casey, thanks a lot, Casey Wian.

In our financial report tonight, the Federal Reserve upped the key interest rate at near zero, the benchmark to set the rates on business loans. And the senate overwhelmingly voted on extending the tax credit to first-time home buyers. The $8,000 tax credit set to expire the 30th of this month was extended to the end of April. More signs that the car industry is beginning to stabilize. Sales rebounded 12 percent from the sharp decline in September.

Coming up next, what the results of those elections in Virginia and New Jersey say about the president's policies. That is next with the political panel.


DOBBS: Joining me now, Ron Christie, president of Christie Strategies, former special assistant to President Bush, and Miguel Perez, syndicated columnist, professor at Lehman College and CNN contributor, and Joe Conason columnist, James Taranto, editor Good to have you all with us.

Let's begin the order of the day seems some gloating on the part of Republicans and denial on the part of Democrats. Anything surprising about those two reactions?

JAMES TARANTO, EDITOR, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: No, not at all. I think it's hard -- Republicans shouldn't gloat, though, it's hard to take this as a ringing endorsement of the Republican Party. It was the independents who switched, as you say. It was suburbanites. It was a more sweeping victory than New Jersey and Virginia. Republicans did well in suburban, New York in Westchester and Nassau Counties. They did well in Connecticut mayor races. They did well in Pennsylvania state wide judicial races. So it's more than just a couple of races. But I think it's more reasonable to take it as a rebuke to the Democratic Party which is in power in the age of Obama, than as an endorsement for the Republicans who people, I think, still aren't that crazy about.

DOBBS: With the world all atwitter as it were what we're up against?

MIGUEL PEREZ, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's not a reflection on Obama, necessarily.

DOBBS: Then it's an embrace.

PEREZ: Not necessarily. These are local races in Virginia and New Jersey with a lot of local issues. That's what people voted for. Obama wasn't on the ballot in those states. If there's one race where there might be a referendum of sort, it's the 23rd district in upstate New York. I really believe that may say something about what may happen in the midterm elections next year.

DOBBS: What do you think, Joe?

JOE CONASON, COLUMNIST, SALON: I don't think there was a referendum among anything except the candidates in the races. Even in the New York 23 where the right wing tried to make it into a national race by descending on the district with money and personalities such as Sarah Palin. But it was really an issue of the Republican Party being divided up there, the unusual circumstances of having a conservative party candidate which is a New York phenomenon and a conservative party candidate who didn't turn out to be that attractive for the voters in that district. And who was disendorsed by the Republican who endorsed the Democrats. That's not going to happen very much next.

DOBBS: That was screw ball, I think, Ron Christie, I think you would agree in the 23rd district even with Republican standards.

RON CHRISTIE, PRESIDENT, CHRISTIE STRATEGIES: I think there was a lot of dissatisfaction in the Republican Party with the party elders selecting who the candidate was going to be. I think the real indication is going to be next year.

DOBBS: A little bit of a cry?

CHRISTIE: Let me disagree with my colleagues here. Of course this, was about Obama yesterday. Obama had a 20-point switch in New Jersey. In other words, last year Obama carried New Jersey by 15 points. Christie carried it by five yesterday. I think people are very tired.

DOBBS: That doesn't include the presence of another Democratic candidate, Chris Daggett who took pot.

CHRISTIE: Correct and I would say to that Lou, of course also it was about Obama because many of the signs I saw, it was Obama/Corzine. People are tired of high taxes, people are tired of intrusive government. They're tired of what they're seeing in Washington. This was a repudiation of the president.

CONASON: Can I ask you what the exit polls say about Obama? In both Virginia and New Jersey, the exit polls said very clearly Obama's approval ratings are still high even though the Democrats lost in those states. It's not a switch in votes for Obama. It's a switch in votes for the Democratic candidate.

DOBBS: President Obama's holding a 50 percent approval rating or higher.

PEREZ: And the economy seems to be still the strongest issue people are worried about. So if Obama next year hasn't solved our economic problems, Obama is in trouble. So in that way, maybe it is reflective of what could happen.

DOBBS: Same goes, but we'll all be in trouble.

TARANTO: Absolutely. But also, one other point, this is the first good election night the Republicans have had in five years, since 2004. Right?

DOBBS: That's a good point.

TARANTO: What that tells me is that the George W. Bush stigma is gone. People are no longer voting against George W. Bush. That's become irrelevant because he's a private citizen in Dallas. But I think that there is a message here for President Obama who has been whining for months about the mess he inherited. It's time for him to stop whining and start doing his job.

DOBBS: And I want Joe Conason to respond to that right after we come back because I can only imagine what he's got to say. We'll be right back.


DOBBS: Very quickly, the Conason response, if we may, Joe?

CONASON: Well, I don't disagree that you can't spend your term as president complaining about the last guy. That's not going to get you very far. You need to perform. As I was saying a second ago while we were off the air, the president at the very least got two more votes for health care reform last night in the house, which is going to make it marginally easier, even if there are Democrats who are more frightened by what happened in Virginia and New Jersey. I think you know they're going to have a couple more votes. And the truth is those were not the issues that were decided yesterday. The president needs to pass health care reform, and then as Miguel suggested and as everybody, I think, agrees, they have to push the economy forward.

DOBBS: Do you agree that this president has to pass health care? Nancy Pelosi insists on pushing a 2,032 page piece of legislation through to vote by 6 p.m. Saturday.

CHRISTIE: It's crazy. I think what we've seen from the election yesterday is that people around this country are very concerned about the economy and jobs. What's congress focused on? Global climate change and health care. The disconnect with what's going on out in the real world ...

DOBBS: Which 85 percent of Americans approve of, by the way.

CHRISTIE: Right but my point here is they don't have the vote to try to get this through the senate right now. The majority leader has indicated that they're not --

CONASON: So you're telling me they're not going to attack Obama if he doesn't pass health care?

CHRISTIE: What I'm saying, the president's leadership is in very serious peril right now because he said to the American people, I'm going to get health care. It's going to be done by the end of the year. The senate doesn't have the votes to pass it this year and the president is going to be very weakened politically heading into his domestic agenda if he can't get the ...

DOBBS: Is there a deal to be worked here, because Joe Conason basically implied if the Republicans would foreswear mentioning health care --

CONASON: You'd be silly to trust them, Lou.

TARANTO: Politically, the Republicans are better off if they do pass his monstrosity. But I hope that they don't because the country would be much worse off.

DOBBS: Miguel, we've got several things happening. Now, we've got Senator Reid saying we're not likely to see, and a white house aide also confirming, not likely to see a bill this year in health care. Cap and trade has stalled, and there's great trouble surrounding it. Here comes comprehensive immigration reform. What happened to that?

PEREZ: They weren't able to get to it next year. They keep saying they have this small window of opportunity, maybe the end of February at the beginning of March, by that time if they get over energy, health care, energy, banking regulations, all of the things competing with that, it's going to be impossible.

DOBBS: We've decided that yesterday's results don't influence the outcome of either the president's agenda this year or next and will have little impact on the mid-term elections, is that what we're concluding, gentlemen?

TARANTO: I think this side could very well kill health care which I think was in trouble already. And it also could very well precede what happens next year. It's too early to say.

CHRISTIE: I agree with that entirely. I think the president's domestic agenda is in serious peril. You're going to have a lot of Democrats who don't want to walk the plank. They don't want to vote for climate change.

PEREZ: If health care dies, so does the Democratic Party --

DOBBS: Do you really believe that?

TARANTO: Why does Nancy Pelosi say she's willing to lose seats to pass it?

PEREZ: If they don't have some kind of health care reform.

TARANTO: And it will be a worse disaster per they do.

DOBBS: We've got just a moment, Afghanistan, we're now weeks away, according to the white house, from the president's decision on the strategy in Afghanistan. How difficult is this decision? What do you expect the president to do?

CHRISTIE: I think as the commander in chief, he has to look to make sure our men and women over there can complete the job. I think we'll get more troops over there.


CONASON: He'll probably send more troops, perhaps not as many as General McChrystal wants.

PEREZ: If he was waiting for a runoff election, they've decided already. There is no runoff election. Where is the decision?

TARANTO: I agree with all three of my co-panelists.

DOBBS: So you believe there will be more troops?

PEREZ: No, I think he's waiting for a way to get out. And he still may surprise us with some new plan, a new strategy. I don't agree with my commanders on the field because we have a new way of getting out of this.

DOBBS: Because they're related to previous commanders, perhaps, on the field, the general's staff, at least. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Thank you for being with us tonight. For all of us here, we thank you for watching.

Good night from New York.

Up next, Campbell Brown.