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CNN Larry King Live

Off-Year Election Results & Analysis

Aired November 03, 2009 - 23:59   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Thank you, Anderson.

Good evening or good morning.

On this election night, the Republicans have swept Virginia. New Jersey also has a new Republican governor. And billionaire Michael Bloomberg wins a third term in New York City, but pretty close.

Before we meet our panel, let's go to our man, Wolf Blitzer, and get the latest on the count in Jersey, Virginia, New York's 23rd District and the main referendum on gay marriage -- Wolf, what's the latest?

WOLF KING, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Larry, thanks very much.

This is what we know so far and we'll put it up here on the wall.

In New Jersey, a dramatic win for Chris Christie, the former prosecutor, defeating the incumbent, Jon Corzine. Jon Corzine running for re-election, but look at this -- 99 percent of the precincts have now reported -- 49 percent for Chris Christie, 45 percent for Jon Corzine -- Corzine; 6 percent for Chris Daggett. He was the third party Independent candidate.

But the big winner the Republican, Chris Christie.

From New Jersey, let's go to Virginia. And take a look at this, a huge landslide for Bob McDonnell, the former -- the current attorney general. He's about to become the next governor of Virginia, the Republican. He crushes Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate, 59 percent to 41 percent. Ninety-nine percent of the votes in.

In fact, the Republicans sweep all the major contests in Virginia, lieutenant governor, attorney general, as well. A big night for the GOP in Virginia and in New Jersey.

Let's take a look at the New York City mayoral race right now. The winner for the third term, Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire businessman, spent tens of millions of his own dollars to get re- elected. It was supposed to be a bigger win than this, the Independent, Bloomberg, getting 51 percent. Bill, Thompson, the Democratic candidate, did relatively well, 46 percent -- a lot closer than a lot of people thought it would be. But Bloomberg does go on to capture a third term.

Let's go from Downstate New York to Upstate New York, the 23rd Congressional District. That's in the northern part of New York State, not far from the Canadian border.

It's close up there, Bill Owens the Democratic candidate, he's got 49 percent of the vote so far, to Doug Hoffman, the conservative candidate, 45 percent; 87 percent of the precincts reporting.

Dede Scozzafava, she was the official Republican candidate. She took her name off the -- she withdrew last weekend. She said she'll vote for the Democrat, Bill Owens. She's still getting about 6,700 votes so far. That could be a difference, depending on what happens, how close it winds up. There are still several thousand -- maybe 10,000 or 11,000 absentee ballots. So we won't know, maybe, until tomorrow, who the official winner is in New York.

Finally, Larry, as you pointed out, this initiative to repeal the gay marriage law in the State of Maine. The Associated Press reporting about 37 percent of the precincts in. It couldn't be much closer than this -- 50 percent say they want to repeal the gay marriage law in Maine; 50 percent say they don't. But there's still a lot of other ballots still to be counted. We probably won't know this final result, Larry, until tomorrow, as well. But

all in all, just to put it in some perspective, a big night for the Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey.

We'll see what happens in Upstate New York.

Mayor Bloomberg pulls out a victory in New York City -- Larry.

Reform Party: Thank you, Wolf.

Thanks very much.

Great job all day long.

Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's SITUATION ROOM, CNN's chief political anchor.

Let's meet our panel.

Our guest, returning from our 9:00 show earlier, Jesse Ventura, the former Independent and Reform Party governor of Minnesota. His new TV show, "Conspiracy Theory," premieres on truTV on December 2nd.

Also with us, John King, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" and CNN's national correspondent.

Jeff Johnson, BET News host and author, "Everything I'm Not Made Me Everything I Am."

And David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst. David served as adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.

Let's this time start with Mr. Gergen.

We're pending results there in Upstate New York in that Congressional race -- in the main Congressional race. How big a night is this nationally for the Republicans?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It's an important night for them, Larry. It doesn't -- it doesn't predict the future, but what it does say is that after taking a pasting in three straight elections, all the way back to 2005, 2006 and in 2008, and -- and really getting mauled in 2006 and 2008, Republicans may be on the comeback trail.

This is going to energize the conservative base of the Republican Party in particular. It's going to give them a sense that they may be able to take this back. And very importantly, Larry, it may give pause to some moderate and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, whom the president is counting on with regard to health care, the environmental legislation called cap and trade and a whole host of other things. They may be running a little more scared tonight than they were this morning.

Reform Party: Jesse Ventura, what's your read?

JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR, MINNESOTA: Well, in following on what David said, the thing that troubles me is why do these people stick their finger up to the political wind to figure out where they should stand?

They should have a position. They should take that position...

Reform Party: You're talking about others who might be affected by this vote?

VENTURA: Exactly. The point is, is that what you're at here is the quintessential career politician. He doesn't stand for anything, he stands for whatever will allow him to win and keep his job, which, to me, is the essence of what the problem is that we have in this country today.

Reform Party: Jeff Johnson, what's your view as to what has occurred this evening?

JEFF JOHNSON, NEWS HOST, BET: Well, I -- I think it's been said. I mean, clearly there -- there has always seems to be a referendum against the ruling party. We saw it, I think it's been mentioned, with the Republicans in 2006. We're seeing the same thing happening with the Democrats now.

I think the one thing that I haven't heard mentioned is that there has been a steady and extremely aggressive move from the right through not just Fox News, but through conservative radio, attacking, messaging over and over and over again. This -- this election today is not just the byproduct of those candidates in those local areas, it's, I think, a connection to an onslaught by a right-wing machine that has been very effective in calling into question not just President Obama, but the Democrats as a whole.

Reform Party: But the biggest -- John King, the biggest effort they put was in that Congressional race in Upstate New York. And as of now, they may lose that, right?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry, we'll show you the latest on that race. Let me pop it up on the map here and let me go over the House races and I'll show you.

This is a district that's right up here on the Canadian border. And right now, you do have the Democratic candidate, Mr. Owens, with 49 percent and the conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, with 45 percent.

This is the Republican who dropped out, the Republican nominee. But Dede Scozzafava is still getting just shy of 7,000 votes right now. And that could make the difference in that district, Larry. It's been more than 100 years since the Democrats had this race. This is a special election to replace the congressman that President Obama made the secretary of the Army.

So whatever happens here tonight, we will get a new congressman from this district.

But guess what, this district will be right back on our radar screens when we get the regular election next year, in the mid-terms. Remember, this is a special election to finish that term.

Reform Party: Good point.

And we'll be right back with this outstanding panel.

We'll try to get an update on that situation in Maine, too.

Don't go away.


Reform Party: We're back with our panel.

We'll go -- this time, we'll start a round with Jeff Johnson.

Are you surprised at Bloomberg running such a close race in New York?

JOHNSON: Definitely surprised. I mean I -- I don't think that anyone would have thought that being outspent 10 to 1, especially with the TV dollars being $33 million to $2.2 million, that we'd see Thompson so close. But I think, again, I mean we -- we heard over and over again tonight, one, I think that voter turnout was low. Two, I think people were satisfied with Bloomberg's job, but somewhat dissatisfied about the fact that he went for a third term.

And then there's also that caveat that when, with these numbers being this close, it really becomes more of an issue with many in the African-American community speaking to Calvin Butts, one of the -- one of the large ministers in New York, switching his support from Thompson to Bloomberg very late in the race, as a result of what many are saying is a contribution from Bloomberg. Which really goes back to, did he buy this race?

And would African-American support that, in many cases, people are saying had shifted because of these kind of donations, would that have made a difference in such a close race?

Reform Party: Jesse, I know you'll probably be ticked at this.

Can you buy an election in America?

VENTURA: Absolutely, you can buy an election in America. It's been proven time and time again. The majority of elections aren't run on ideas, they're run on money.

You know what makes me laugh, Larry?

Bloomberg spends $100 million to become the mayor of New York City. I ran for governor in Minnesota and only spent $300,000. $100 million to $300,000. I don't get it.

Reform Party: Apples and oranges -- John King, we haven't heard -- what happened in that Houston mayor's race?

Do we know, John?

That's where that -- the lady who was a lesbian, a longstanding official in Houston, was running to be the mayor.

Do we know what happened there?

J. KING: I don't have those results, Larry. Somebody else might in the system. But those are not races that feed into the wall here and I don't have access to the other computers right now, so I'm not sure on that one.

Reform Party: David Gergen, what about Bloomberg?

Should he take a -- take a listen -- a little lesson from this?

Would he govern differently?

GERGEN: We'll, look, I -- I think he did govern pretty doggone well so far. I don't know why he would have to govern differently. The schools in New York, working with Chancellor Joe -- Joel Klein, are significantly better than they had been before. The crime rate is down. This is a healthier city financially. He's been a very responsible mayor.

You know, I -- was he -- the voters saw him as heavy-handed and high-handed and, you know, breaking his pledge to be -- you know, serve just two terms. I think that probably came back to haunt him.

I -- I think it's -- I just -- I -- I know Calvin Butts. Not well. I'd be shocked if -- if -- if he took money in order to change his views. But I want to tell you something, Larry. I think that history is going to be very kind to Mike Bloomberg and we'll say to that we've had a...

Reform Party: Yes.

GERGEN: We've had -- New York has been a graveyard for a lot of mayors. He's one who's really stood up to it and I think he will be well remembered when this is all over.

Reform Party: John, what's the latest in Maine on the gay vote?

J. KING: Well, Larry, let's take a peek up there. We don't have any live feed, so I'm going to pull this up here. We might have a graphic. I'll write it up on the wall and if you guys can cover me up with a graphic, be my guest.

To vote yes on question one is to repeal the law in Maine that allows same-sex marriage. We are told right now that that is winning. Fifty-two percent are now voting to repeal the same-sex marriage law, to 48 percent. And we're now closer to 70 percent of the vote in, Larry. You see it up on your screen right now.

Sixty-nine percent of the vote is counting. Voting yes would repeal same-sex marriage in the State of Maine. And it is winning right now, 52 percent to 48 percent. So that would be a setback for supporters of same-sex marriage, if those numbers hold, as we count the final 30 percent of the vote up in the State of Maine.

Reform Party: And that vote -- that vote, John, is similar -- a few percentage points less than California's vote, right?

J. KING: That's absolutely right. And California, of course, when Prop 8 passed, when they repealed same-sex marriage out in California, that is one of the things that generated this moving of people on both sides of that issue deciding to go back to the ballot. And, as you know, in California, many people wanted to take a little time to organize, supporters of same-sex marriage.

But if you see this Maine vote now and again -- let's watch it play out. But right now, the anti-gay marriage -- those who oppose same-sex marriage are winning in the State of Maine, with about 30 percent more of the vote to count, though. And Maine is the state where in some those faraway rural counties. We may not have all of that in, Larry, until the morning.

Reform Party: You're shaking your head, Jesse.

VENTURA: Well, it just shows a great example that there's not a separation of church and state, is there?

I mean my position is this. You can't put a civil rights issue on the ballot and let the people decide. You have to have elected officials who have courage, Larry, to make the right decisions.

Reform Party: The legislature did pass this. VENTURA: Exactly. But now they're putting it up to the vote of the people. I've got news for you, if you put it up to a vote of the people, we'd have slavery again, depending on how you worded it.

Reform Party: Wolf Blitzer, anything new?

BLITZER: Yes, Larry. We have a dramatic development, CNN now projects a winner in that Upstate New York Congressional special election. And we project that the Democrat, Bill Owens, will carry this district -- the first time in more than 100 years a Democrat will go to Washington, to go to Capitol Hill, representing this district from this 23rd District in Upstate New York.

And we've also just learned that the conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, who ran a strong race, 46 percent to 49 percent for Bill Owens, with 88 percent of the precincts reporting, Doug Hoffman has now called Bill Owens, the Democratic candidate, to concede.

So Bill Owens, the Democrat, will represent this normally Republican district in Washington, at least for the next year -- this special election going forward.

Dede Scozzafava, she was the official Republican candidate. But over the weekend, Larry, as you know -- and as all of our viewers by now know -- she dropped out. She said she was going to support the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, and not the conservative, Doug Hoffman. A lot of conservatives really were fighting for Doug Hoffman. In fact, many had come in -- Sarah Palin had endorsed him over the official Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor and potential Republican presidential candidate.

But in the end, Larry, it's Bill Owens, the Democrat, who will represent this district here in Washington.

Reform Party: That may be the first defeat for the far right tonight.

By the way, you can find complete election results and analysis at

We'll be back in 60 seconds.


Reform Party: We're back.

John King has left us after a well-deserved night and day of work. And you'll be seeing John King throughout the day tomorrow with election analysis and, of course, on "STATE OF THE UNION" on Sunday morning.

David Gergen, what do you -- if there is a defeat tonight for the conservatives, it's in Upstate New York.

What do you make of that Bill Owens victory?

GERGEN: Well, it's a surprise, isn't it?

I -- you know, I -- I do not understand what's happening on the ground up there, so it's really hard to make large pronouncements. But I will tell you that it's going to -- for Democrats who got wounded tonight, this will be salve on the wounds and it will be helpful. And I would think, although you can't predict this. I would think it might cause some conversation within the Republican Party about whether it's a good idea to try to purge the -- the party of these moderate candidates when they run and to have them sort of knocked off by the conservatives.

You know, there's a -- there's a whole Dick Armey effort now. There's -- there's talk now that they're going to try to go after 12 rather prominent moderates in -- in races from Florida around the country, like, say Charlie Crist, who's the sitting governor there, very popular, who's going to run for the Senate seat and now they're going to run a conservative against him and -- and try to knock him off.

And, you know, you just have to ask whether Republicans think that's going to be healthy if they want to build a new majority.

Reform Party: And Jeff Johnson, what's your read on the Owens' victory?

JOHNSON: I really agree with David. I mean I think that this is going to be a real wakeup call for the Republican Party to talk about strategy -- who is really -- who is really controlling the party?

Is that controlling demographic going to be able to run roughshod or do they need to be more strategic so that at the end of the day, they're not losing seats?

I mean this is going to be a real issue as they go into 2010, on how to ensure that there is not this ideological debate within the party, but they determine whether or not they're going to be able to win seats, which, at the end of the day, I think is -- is what the party is concerned with.

Reform Party: We thank Jeff Johnson and David Gergen and John King for being with us.

Jesse Ventura will remain.

And we'll be joined by Ben Stein, Anna Marie Cox and Amanda Carpenter. And those two may go at it.

By the way, we have an exclusive blog from Jeff Johnson on the future of black politics. It's a great read. Check it out at

We'll be right back.


Reform Party: Joining us now -- and, by the way, I mentioned that he would be leaving. Jeff Johnson will be returning later.

Joining us now, Ben Stein, the economist and former presidential speechwriter. Ben is also a columnist for "Fortune" magazine.

Anna Marie Cox is here, national correspondent for Air America Media.

And Amanda Carpenter, reporter and blogger for "The Washington Times."

And, of course, Jesse Ventura remains.

All right, Ana Marie Cox, I guess from the standpoint (INAUDIBLE) that Upstate race in New York, this was a tough night for your side, right?

ANA MARIE COX, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, AIR AMERICA MEDIA: OK. I'll take that as my side. Yes, it -- it doesn't look good. I would caution my -- my companion on the right here, Amanda, to not take too much good cheer from what's happening for her side, though. While it's not a great night for Democrats, it's also not a great night for Republicans, not only looking at New York 23. I think it -- it's going to be tempting to over read some of the results in Virginia and New Jersey, although I know from having spoken to Amanda in the past that she is not going to fall into that trap of over reading those results.

AMANDA CARPENTER, REPORTER & BLOGGER, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": Well, I think the -- the race in New York, even though the conservatives did lose there...

Reform Party: OK, Amanda?

CARPENTER: Even though the conservatives did lose there, they will see a victory because they have forced the national Republican establishment groups to take the Tea Party movement seriously. They have proven that you need us on board in order to win in future elections. And if the RNC had to pick which races to win, they would surely pick the executive races in New Jersey and Virginia. And two out of three isn't bad.

COX: To which I just say, I -- I wholeheartedly endorse the idea that the group should take the Tea Party movement seriously. Please do.

Reform Party: Ben Stein, as a Republican, as a mod -- I guess you'd call you a moderate Republican, a thoughtful in the middle kind of person.

What do you make of the Tea Party element to the party?

BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHWRITER, COLUMNIST, "FORTUNE": Well, a lot of them are kind of nutty. And I mean, I hear them, I get texts from them. They have a lot of nutty ideas. But they have some very, very basic ideas, such as obey the Constitution. That is an idea that is so basic and that is the key to the whole Tea Party movement. It's not fringe. It's not far right. It's basically American. And it's a great movement.

And I don't see what the Democrats are so excited for about this race in Upstate New York. Look, they had a Republican candidate actively sabotaging the Republican Party. Small wonder the Republicans lost. They had a Republican Party candidate who was actively a traitor to the party.

Reform Party: But Bern...

STEIN: Why would we -- should we be surprised if the Republicans lost?

Reform Party: But, the right -- the right-wing of the party sabotaged her, didn't they?

STEIN: Well, that -- that's right. But if she were a loyal person, she would have said, I'm resigning. Obviously, the people I'm -- on our GOP column don't support me and I endorsed the Republican. Instead, she resigned and -- and -- and endorsed a Democrat. That's unheard of. That's incredibly disloyal. It's shockingly disloyal. And small wonder the Republicans lost...

Reform Party: Jesse...

STEIN: ...with that kind of woman on the ticket.

Reform Party: ...what do -- what do you -- Jesse, what do you make of the fragmenting of the Republicans?

VENTURA: I love it. I -- I couldn't be happier, because that gives us moderates in the middle -- the commonsense middle -- possibly the opportunity that we'll see a third party rise up. So the more the Republicans go out on the fringe to the right and the more the Democrats head out to the left fringe, that leaves all of us in the center, who are always made to pick the lesser of two evils.

And as the late great Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead once said, if you're made to pick the lesser of two evils, it means you're still picking evil.

Well, maybe we'll see the rise, then, of a third party movement again, which would be healthy in this country, to get us away from the fringe two parties that control the country and its elected system.

You know, it's just like pro-wrestling, Larry. It's -- in this aspect. In front of the world, they pretend they're all arch enemies, the Democrats and the Republicans. But behind the scenes, they're all going out to dinner together, they're making deals together and they're controlling the status quo, what they're comfortable with.

So anything that takes away their comfort level is a good thing.

Reform Party: I'll let Ben comment...


Reform Party: ...and the ladies comment on that, as well, when we come right back.

I've got to take a break and then you can go, Ben. You're chomping at the bit.

Don't go away.


Reform Party: By the way, we've got some news in that Houston mayoral race. Openly gay candidate, Annise Parker, is in the lead, with 31 percent of the vote, with her challenging having 23 percent, according to the Associated Press. That's 90 percent reporting, probably heading for a runoff. You need 50 percent plus one, so there probably will be a runoff in Houston. But she is the leader the first go round.

All right, Ben, you were chomping at the bit on what Jesse said. Go.

STEIN: I have no idea why the people in the mainstream media and why Jesse, who I know is a very sensible and intelligent man, would be calling the winners, the Republican winners tonight far-right people. What is far right about the new governor-elect of Virginia? What is far right about Bloomberg? What is far-right about the new governor- elect of New Jersey?

They're Republicans. So automatically some people call them far right. They're Republicans. They're in the mainstream of political thought. They're not that different from any other person running for office.

VENTURA: First, Ben -- Ben, let's make a correction. Isn't Mayor Bloomberg calling himself an independent now, doesn't he?

KING: He does.

VENTURA: Why are you calling him a Republican when he calls himself an independent?

STEIN: OK, Jesse, for gosh sakes, is that your answer? Do you consider the Democrat -- do you consider the Republican of Virginia far-right candidate? Do you consider the Republican of New Jersey a far-right person? What are their far-right stands?

KING: Amanda Carpenter, since the far right did get into that race in upstate New York, is this a legitimate defeat for them tonight?

CARPENTER: No. As I argued before, I think that hey are going to feel that this reaffirms the fact that the national Republican establishment groups need to take these people seriously.

And I challenge Jesse's assertion that this is the far right. Because what I see them demanding attention on is fiscal responsibility. And this is the overriding theme in all the elections tonight, whether it's Virginia and job creation, up in New Jersey or New York.

People are upset with spending. This is the uniting theme that people are using to challenge the Democrats on across the board. And that is not a far-right position.

STEIN: It's only far right -- if a Republican wins, you're far right.

VENTURA: ... you're not calling it -- yes, right. OK. I stand corrected then. They're not -- but let's go back and really look at it. Who did the first bailout? Far-right George Bush.

CARPENTER: And I think...

STEIN: He's not far right. He wasn't far right.

VENTURA: That was the first bailout.

STEIN: He wasn't far right at all. The bailout was a perfectly centrist position. That's not a far-right position. George Bush was not a far-right politician. He was a politician.

VENTURA: The point I'm making is -- the point I'm making is, Ben, Ben, the point I'm making is this. They vote for their party, regardless of what it is. These two parties put their parties first, ahead of the country. They don't put the country first. They put their parties first.


CARPENTER: No, they didn't, because if you look...

KING: Hold on, hold on.

VENTURA: That's exactly what's happening. George Bush brought forward a bailout. Republicans voted for it. Then when Barack Obama brings forward essentially the same bailout, Republicans now vote against it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not only is Washington...

KING: All right, hold on. One at a time. You want to get in?

COX: I want to rescue Jesse a little bit here. Maybe the only time in my life I'm going to be able to. Which is to say that I actually think the metaphor we should be looking at here, that he mentioned, is the idea that this is all professional wrestling here in Washington and that we fight in public and then go behind the scenes and kiss and, you know -- and make up or at least have dinner with each other.

The physical image of, you know, Nancy Pelosi in tights is not an appealing one. But I do think what we are seeing is something that results in the two parties being closer together than they -- than they appear in rhetoric, which is where I think Jesse was right. In rhetoric, they scream and fight and throw things at each other. But when it comes to actually passing bills, we have an incredibly incrementalist administration, and we have a Congress who's not willing to take many chances either.

And I think, you know, when Amanda and I talk, we do, not on televisions sometimes. We both are -- feel frustrated with our parties. I mean, from a progressive point of view and from a conservative point of view. That when our respective parties got into power, they're not using that power in any sensible way, in the way that we as voters want them to use it.

I think she felt that frustration during the Bush administration, and I'm feeling it now during the Obama administration. You can look at the ballot issue...

VENTURA: What do you do if -- what if you're an economic conservative and a social liberal? Where do you fit then?

COX: You don't.

CARPENTER: The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) part is demanding that...

VENTURA: Yes, you don't, exactly. Which is the majority of Americans.

COX: It's true. And I think that's why you have the majority of Americans being independent. Or more and more Americans being independent voters, and they pick and choose. And that's one reason why I think I have to caution all the parties, and especially, I hope, my fellow Democrats to take caution when they look at these statewide races.

KING: Hold on.

COX: I just think we can't...

KING: In fact, Ben, you're a social liberal and economic conservative, aren't you?

STEIN: Very much so. Very, very much so. More than -- more than you'll ever know.

But I'm very -- but I don't think the great majority of this country is becoming independent or any majority at all. A tiny -- a small plurality, no, not even that, is independent.

Look, these politicians are not evil people. They're trying to do what's best for their country. They're also trying to do what's best for themselves. They're people.

And if you want to talk about the unifying theme between the two parties, it's that Wall Street really has extraordinary control over all of them. And it's an amazing thing that Wall Street has so much power, has cost the American taxpayers so much money. It's cost so much turmoil in the economy, has been bailed out by taxpayers so many times, and yet keeps getting richer and richer and richer. That to me is...

KING: All right. I've got to get a break. Hold it.

STEIN: yes, sir.

KING: We're all over the place. Hold it, Jesse. Hold it.

VENTURA: Ben, I agree with you. Ben and I agree.

KING: More -- we'll be back. More election results. Taking your calls, too, when we come back. Don't go away.


KING: If you're listening on the radio you don't know what we just showed but that's life. Let's go on to take a call.

Newport, Washington. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Yes, I'd like to thank Governor Ventura for trying to explain the difference between a career politician and a human.

But my question is for the conservative member of your panel. Is how do you justify the conservative part of your party latching on, taking over control, throwing out your Republican representative, and costing the people in that community the Republican running of it, that's been going on for over 100 years.

KING: Amanda, the question is why would the -- why would you throw out a moderate Republican, you wind up with a more liberal Democrat representing a conservative district?

CARPENTER: Sure. I think the people on the ground working that race with the Hoffman side would argue in a compelling way that someone like Dede Scozzafava essentially tarnishes the Republican brand in a way that hurts the party nationally.

I mean, she's not Republican on very many issues. She said that she would support the Employee Free Choice Act, which as Bob McDonnell, when he won his campaign, he made a big deal out of his opposition to that bill, because he said it would kill jobs.

She also -- it wasn't clear where she was on abortion. So people didn't really know where she was at. So the argument was, if we sent her to Washington, she would not be a Republican. And she proved them right by endorsing the Democrat in that race.

KING: All right. Ben, do you see the far right, as evidenced by -- we all know who they are -- as a threat to your party?

STEIN: Not at all. Not in the slightest. I think you're talking about people like my wonderful friend Ann Coulter and my wonderful friend Rush Limbaugh. I think those people are activating the party. They are keeping the party alive while it doesn't have, really, a national political leader. I think they're -- they're fine people. Sometimes they go off the he deep end, but they're really wonderful people. And I don't think they're -- I don't think they're that far right. I mean, they're a lot farther right than I am on many issues. But they're not that far right. They are people who are trying to keep the Constitution alive. It's really all about protecting the Constitution.

COX: I just want to say I second the...

KING: Or their interpretation of it.

COX: I second his endorsement of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as leaders of the Republican Party. I'm all for that. Go.

CARPENTER: I don't think he said that they're leaders of the Republican Party.

KING: If (ph) Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are leading the party, the party ain't going to win many national elections.

CARPENTER: I think that's probably the case.

VENTURA: A question, Larry. If these are -- if these are people that he's talking about that follow the Constitution, then why was the Constitution violated in the Terri Schiavo case? The Constitution clearly states you cannot pass a law for one person. And yet the Republican -- the Republican president did it, as well as the Republican Congress at the time.

KING: That's another issue.


VENTURA: I don't buy this stuff.

Stein: The Constitution says you cannot pass a bill of attainter, which means a bill which attaints a family or person. They didn't attaint anyone. They were trying to save someone's life. It's not an attaint.

KING: OK, we'll be -- we'll...

VENTURA: Use a big word, but we know what they did.

KING: Never thought Terri Schiavo would come up tonight.

STEIN: Saving a life.

KING: Back with more, right after this.


KING: Republicans in upstate New York, tough was (ph). In that race, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fred Thompson all went in on that race. All strongly supported Mr. Hoffman, who was defeated in a Republican district.

STEIN: I agree. But on the other hand...

KING: Didn't that say something?

STEIN: It says -- it does say something, I agree. But on the ground, the facts on the ground was that the local woman, whose name I cannot pronounce, even though Jesse gives me credit for using big words. I can't pronounce her name. Even though she was the main factor on the ground, she totally turned against her own party. And I think that was key.

But let's remember that the Republican, titular Republican, the Republican (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the conservative together did get more votes than the Democrat. And that's a trivial thing, compared to the chief executive of two very good-sized states.

KING: All right. Ana, the -- Ana and then Amanda. Is this a national story, Ana? Tonight the victories for the Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey? We'll start with Ana and then Amanda. Ana, is it a national story?

COX: We can, by talking about it, make them national. And that's, of course, what's going to happen over the next few days.

But I was just thinking when Ben was talking about New York 23 how we really, really need to be careful about expanding these. These are all very local races.

In Virginia, McDonnell succeed largely because he was able to talk about local issues, and he had a message for Virginians that had to do with jobs and the economy, which was a message that Creigh Deeds was not getting out. He ran a terrible campaign. It's, you know, widely recognized now. But what made it bad was his lack of a message to Virginians.

KING: All right -- Amanda.

COX: And then in New Jersey, I think you have to look at Corzine's connections to Wall Street. Which is something we've all been talking about a little bit tonight.

CARPENTER: I would say that Virginia and New Jersey are certainly reflections of the Democrats' mismanagement of the economy. But the fun story that's coming out of New York 23 will be examined in future elections, Republican primaries in Florida and California, where you have the moderate candidate, Charlie Crist, opposing the conservative Mark Rubio.

And then in California, Carly Fiorina is expected to make an announcement soon against Chuck Debord (ph) with -- in the Senate candidacy against Barbara Boxer.

KING: Election results are continuing to still come in. We'll stay with CNN and And we'll be right back.


KING: And we're back and looking at some up-to-the-minute results. As you know, in Jersey, Governor-elect Christie is the new governor, defeating incumbent Corzine by 4 percentage points. Daggett, the independent, with a meager 6 percent in that race.

And the big race in Maine, the question of overturning Maine's law allowing same-sex marriage, the vote is 52 percent to 48 percent to overturn that law, similar to California's recent vote. California was a little larger than 52 percent to 48 percent.

Jeff Johnson of BET News has rejoined us. He's the author of "Everything I'm Not Made Me Everything I Am." Our panel remains.

Jeff, as a, say, progressive Democrat, I might assume that that's where you are, has Obama been a disappointment to you?

JEFF JOHNSON, BET NEWS: I wouldn't say I'm a progressive Democrat. I'd say I'm a free-thinking independent.

But I think that the expectations were so high for President Obama. He attempted coming in to measure some of those expectations by telling people it was going to take potentially longer than a year to really begin to see progress.

But I think people, one, understood the needs, whether it was jobs, fixing the economy, dealing with the war, pushing forward health care. They understood these were things that they not only felt needed to happen but wanted to happen immediately.

And as much as the president attempted to measure expectations, those expectations weren't measured. So I think that there are many on the left who are disappointed that there were things that the president could do very quickly, whether it was Guantanamo or whether it was pushing forward with some very -- I think Roland Martin mentioned earlier, some low-hanging fruit that the president did not push forward on in the name of health care.

And so, so much of what his success is or is not going to be is all now hinging upon health care.

KING: Do you buy any of Jesse Ventura's theory that there's little difference in both parties?

JOHNSON: I think in many cases we're looking at a two-party system that's really a one-party system that's schizophrenic. And I think we hear "third party" regularly, but even the notion of a third party implies there are only two parties that matter.

I mean, as somebody that travels all around the world, I would love to see us at least explore the opportunity of being more like European nations that understand the necessity of a multiparty system, that ultimately begins to see people who are not in the middle having their representatives in public office without having to nearly kill somebody to get there.

KING: Ben, do you tend to agree? Why are we just a two-party system?

STEIN: Well, actually, most of the great old-time parliamentary countries that are English speaking are two-party systems. So we're not really at all unusual in that.

And the parties are alike in many ways, but most parties are alike in many ways. In many countries; laborites and conservatives are alike in Britain, the left and right are alike in Australia, somewhat alike; somewhat alike in Canada. It's not that unusual a situation at all.

But Larry, may I respectfully go back to the question you asked a moment ago. Which is the big story tonight: 23rd district in New York or Virginia and New Jersey. Well, let's see. A Republican win in states with about 20 million people, or a narrow Democratic win in a district with a couple of hundred thousand. I think we know which is a big story.

KING: All right, Ana Maria, back to you. Do you agree with Ben that Virginia and New Jersey is a bigger story than upstate New York?

COX: Yes. Regretfully, I do have to admit that they're definitely bigger stories. Again, I caution my colleagues on the right from drawing too many lessons from them.

And you know, sort of cynically I would love them for to draw lots and lots of lessons from New York 23. I would love for them to allow national leaders to -- to pick the conservative candidates in congressional districts across the country. I think that would work out really well for them.

KING: Are you going to -- Amanda, is there a conservative coup against moderate Republicans?

CARPENTER: I don't -- I'm not necessarily that there is one under way. But I think there is a willingness to entertain a third party candidate like Doug Hoffman, when an unfavorable Republican candidate who isn't really that Republican at all presents itself, as it did in New York 23.

But again, the big story really is here the executive wins in Virginia and New York. And I think this goes back to spending, spending, spending.

Corzine had a 2-1 Democratic voter registration advantage in his state. Christie pulled off a win in a Democratic state where Obama personally went there to try to activate people for get-out-the-vote efforts. And he couldn't do it in Virginia. He couldn't do it in New Jersey.

I'm not sure that's a referendum on him, but it shows that the energy is diminished and people have really strong reservations about his spending policies.

COX: If I can make a point about that, whether or not these races were a referendum on Obama. I think that Amanda is very smart to point out that they aren't. I think there's a referendum about how much energy there is for him.

I also would like to bring some attention back to the race in Maine, where it looks like the anti-marriage equality forces are going to win. That's a -- that is an issue where Obama could have made a huge, huge difference. At least, you know, not four points of a difference, which would have been enough. There would be some of a difference. And he didn't use his political capital to do that.

Instead, he used political capital in Virginia and in New Jersey, where it wound up not making much of a difference at all. And he doesn't get any credit for it from the rest of his supporters.

KING: Good point.

COX: He would have gotten a lot of credit nationally from progressives...

KING: We've got to get a break.

COX: Right. If he's gone to Maine.

KING: But he's -- he's opposed to gay marriage. So why would he go in on that issue?

We'll be right back after this. Don't go away.


KING: By the way, I pointed out that the vote in Maine tonight, of 52 percent against gay marriage, 48 percent for it, is almost identical, percentage-wise, to the way California voted on the same issue with Proposition 8.

Let's get in a call. Jacksonville, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'd like to ask Jesse Ventura what his answer is to health care.

VENTURA: What my answer is to health care?

KING: Yes. Do you favor...

VENTURA: What's interesting about health care is this. I can't believe that we have protests in the streets over people going to see a doctor, and we're not protesting over these two wars we're involved in.

But having said that, let me state this. Are we screwing over the military? Because the military has had government-run health care for almost a hundred years now. So if it's terribly run health care, why are we sticking it to the military then? Or if it's good health care, why does the military get what the rest of us can't?

KING: Are you opposed to public health care, Ben? Are you opposed to that? STEIN: No. Not at all. And I've said to you, Larry, and I'll say it again, that I think what we should do is just give indigent people, people who cannot afford health insurance, a check for them to go to Aetna or Prudential or Blue Cross or whoever the heck it is, and buy a health insurance plan from them. I'd rather them do that than have the government sticking its big feet into every decision.

And by the way, I was spending...

VENTURA: What about the military?

STEIN: I think the military deserves that treatment. They risk their lives.

KING: Jeff Johnson -- hold on.

VENTURA: Yes, but wait a minute. That's government-run health care, man.

KING: Jeff -- Jeff, do you think you're going to get a health- care bill this year?

JOHNSON: I don't think there's going to be a health-care bill this year. I think they're going to attempt to continue to squabble back and forth, but I don't think there will be anything that will -- we will not get -- America will not get that as a Christmas gift, no.

KING: All right, Ana Marie, won't that hurt Democrats next year?

COX: I think it probably will. I think it will probably hurt a lot (ph). It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I think that progressive will definitely get to be disappointed. I think there will be independents who are disappointed.

I think that, if you look at the exit polls that are coming out of the statewide elections, health care has jumped up to a double- digit priority for a lot of people.

Now, we don't know what direction that goes in, but it definitely -- you see people want some kind of action. And I think the lack of, you know -- of a tangible plan is really frustrating people. People who maybe they don't know what they want yet, if they don't know exactly what a public option is, if they don't know what the co-op is, if they don't know what an opt out is. They want to be -- they want someone to explain to them what -- what is being offered.

And right now, really there's a big block as far as that. And we have the entire Senate running around to try to please a few conservative moderates.

KING: Amanda, do you think there will be a health-care bill this year?

CARPENTER: I don't think there will be. And one of the things that I'll be looking for in this week, to see how House Democratic leadership interprets the wins that Republicans had in New Jersey and Virginia. Either, you know, they're going to make the calculation that "A," we need to rush a vote on this bill to blunt the Republican momentum or "B," this is a warning sign and we really need to slow down.

KING: All right. We've only got about a minute left. Jeff, what does the president say tomorrow morning? What's the spin?

JOHNSON: I think clearly he's able to speak to the fact that this is, in many cases, a win for Republicans. But there clearly is much left to do. I think he'll spin it back on health care and attempt to get the people to focus on what it is they're trying to do next.

But I also think it will be some rebuilding opportunity for Democrats to really focus in on those key races where they need to begin standing for something, where they know that they have to push in order to not lose ground.

And I think that the spin for them will be what is the positioning going to be for health care; how can they begin to maximize and build energy, new energy? Because if they're not going to pass something before the end of the year, they're going to have to find a way to encourage their base to continue to stay with them.

KING: We're out of time. Thanks to all of you for a heck of a two hours tonight: earlier a live show and later a live show.

And don't forget, a one-on-one interview with Mariah Carey tomorrow night. And now, stay tuned for CNN's continuing election coverage.