Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

America Votes 2006; Interview With Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean

Aired November 07, 2006 - 20:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And they have decided to keep the polls in Pennsylvania open for an extra -- an extra hour in two counties. And, as a -- not in all of the state -- in two counties, where there were some problems.
As a result, we're not going to project any winner in Pennsylvania until 9:00 p.m. on the East Coast, at the earliest, because we don't want to interfere with the voting in those two counties in Pennsylvania, where there were some earlier problems, requiring them to go ahead and keep the polls open for an extra hour.

We're ready, though, to take a look at the board over here and make some projections. It's 8:00 p.m.

And let's start over here in the state of Maine -- no great surprise, Olympia Snowe reelected senator from Maine.

In Florida, Bill Nelson beating Katherine Harris, reelected in Florida, another Democratic win.

Ted Kennedy, a lot of people didn't even know that he was up for reelection. We can project, Ted Kennedy will be reelected the United States senator from Massachusetts.

Take a look at these other Senate races, though, where we are unable, at this point, to project a winner: in Maryland, between Michael Steele and Ben Cardin; in Tennessee, Bob Corker, Harold Ford Jr., cannot project a winner; Jim Talent or Claire McCaskill in Missouri, can't do it there either; or in New Jersey, for that matter, between Tom Kean Jr. or Bob Menendez, the incumbent Democrat.

We are going to have to wait to see the actual results that come in. We will be able to weigh that with the exit poll numbers that we receive.

But, in these four battleground states, as well as in Connecticut, by the way, at this point, we cannot project a winner yet. Joe Lieberman is the incumbent, the Democrat-turned-independent -- precincts coming in, now that the -- the state is closed. But Ned Lamont is the Democratic calender -- challenger -- Alan Schlesinger not much of a factor, according to all of the polls.

I want to update our viewers now on what is happening in the Commonwealth of Virginia right now.

With 23 percent of the vote now in, take a look at this. Jim Webb has 50 percent of the vote to George Allen, the incumbent Republican, with 49 percent of the vote -- almost a quarter of the precincts now reporting -- Jim Webb slightly -- slightly -- ahead of George Allen. But it's still very early. These numbers are constantly changing right now -- right now, 50 percent for Webb, 49 percent for Allen, with some 23 percent of the precincts reporting.

And we're going to be showing you these numbers. It was billed as a very, very close race in Virginia. And, by all accounts, it's emerging as about as close as it possibly can be.

We don't know -- and I want to caution our viewers, we don't know -- the 23 percent of the precincts that have reported in Virginia, we don't know if that's from the northern part, the southern part, what part of the state that's coming from, because, clearly, there's a greater tradition, especially in the recent years, of Democratic strength in the northern -- Arlington County, Alexandria, the suburbs of Washington, D.C. -- as opposed to the southern part of the state, where it's more traditionally conservative and Republican.

Anderson, this race in Virginia emerging as -- exactly as billed.


And, Candy, you pointing out, it's very possible that some of the city precincts reporting, the fact that Jim Webb now has just popped up.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it -- it jumped pretty substantially from 16 percent to about 23 percent of that. So, that...

COOPER: Twenty-four, right.

CROWLEY: ... says that, you know, you have got a -- a large amount of votes there, which says to me, city.

COOPER: Let's talk about the -- the race in Missouri, Jim Talent, Claire McCaskill, another race which has been very closely watched, has been very close, and -- and, at this point, the last several days, too close to call, really.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think we are going to be counting that one into the night.

It's -- it's a bellwether state. And we call it that for a reason. It has just about everything you look for. It has the urban vote in Saint Louis and Kansas City. It has farm country. It has the Bible Belt in the southern part of the state.

This could be one of the states there was a lot of talk about how the president could not go to a lot of the most competitive races. He wasn't invited to some of the most competitive races. Well, he was invited to this one in the end. He went to Springfield and to Joplin down in the conservative Bible Belt areas. If Senator Talent can pull this out, and win reelection, he might owe a thank-you to the president of the United States. It might be one place where he has an impact.

COOPER: Both these candidates have a history of very close races.


Missouri has a -- has a history of close races. And, so, neither one of them were very bothered by it. We loved it, because we love close races...


CROWLEY: ... smack dab in the middle of the country in a bellwether state. I mean, you know, it's -- it's something we sort of live for.

What -- what's been interesting here, again, is the rural vote, because McCaskill, when you talk to her about it -- and we -- several of us were out there over the course of the last six months -- has been going into these rural areas the Democrats have ignored for years, thinking, ah, it's Republican territory. Let's go back to the cities and the -- and the close-in suburbs.

She has been down in those rural areas.

And I said: What did you talk about?

And she said kitchen-table issues. They want to know how their kid's going to get to college. She said: Look, Iraq is an issue, but these are economy questions inside the rural areas.

So, she has made a real play there. It will be interesting to see if she can pull some out.

COOPER: And, yet, the issue of embryonic stem cell research has certainly gotten a lot of attention in this race -- Claire McCaskill supporting the ballot initiative that is on -- in the state to allow embryonic stem cell research in -- in Missouri -- Jim Talent saying, though, he supports adult stem cell research, doesn't support embryonic stem cell research.

MARCUS MABRY, CHIEF OF CORRESPONDENTS, "NEWSWEEK": This is -- this is why -- other than the closeness and the tightness of this race, this is why the national media, and, in fact, the international media, have been watching this state this year.

And it has to do with the fact that this was the stem cell research state. This was where Michael J. Fox and Rush Limbaugh got into, you know, a virtual fisticuffs over that issue, where Rush Limbaugh implied that Michael J. Fox was actually imitating his illnesses from -- symptoms from Parkinson's in order to help Claire McCaskill.

It was a nasty, nasty race in that degree. The interesting thing is, this was one of the few races where it was not the candidates who were being nasty. COOPER: I want to talk to some of our analysts over here about the issue of embryonic stem cell research, how it's playing nationally.

Bill Bennett, is this enough -- is this enough to bring people out to the polls in...


COOPER: ... in Missouri?

BENNETT: It is. It is in Missouri. And we -- we understand it's very close, about as close as the Senate race.

And it is a very complicated initiative. Michael J. Fox confessed he had not actually read it. Many people who have read think it is about cloning, clearly about cloning. And, so, people feel very strongly about it, not to -- not to beg the question, but just to say that this issue is tied into a Senate race about as intimately, I think, as any issue is in any Senate race. This is part and parcel with it.

COOPER: After admitting that he hadn't read it on George Stephanopoulos's show, days later, he said in an interview with me that he had actually read it, and he did support it, but, initially, he had not read it.

BENNETT: You could always turn the paper in late when I was a professor. That's right.


COOPER: Do you think -- do you think it's likely we're going to see more and more of this issue in ballots across the states?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I will tell you what. You're surely going to have people think through it before they put it on the ballot, because I think the Democrats understand they would put it on the ballot, thinking that would drive their vote. And, again, it ended up driving Republican votes as well, because both...

COOPER: It became an issue in Maryland as well.

WATTS: Exactly.

Both sides are pretty intense on that issue, just like Iraq. And, so, I think it -- it might have backfired on -- on the Democrats in that case, because, in the end, it could maybe help Jim Talent.

COOPER: Very briefly, you think it backfired?


That's as brief as I can be. No.

COOPER: Well, you can... (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: But, no, here's why.

COOPER: You can elaborate a little bit.

BEGALA: OK, because look at the theatrics of it.

There are principled reasons to oppose embryonic stem cell research. There are principled Americans who do. Bill Bennett is one of them.

But Bill Bennett was not the face and the voice of the anti- embryonic-stem-cell-research debate. It became Rush Limbaugh, a drug- addled gasbag who is self-discredited. That's good for Claire McCaskill. And I just talked to her campaign manager, Richard Martin. He says that the turnout in the cities is very high. They're very encouraged that in the kind of Anglo suburbs of eastern Jackson County, which traditionally is pretty Democratic, and should really care about stem cell research, he thinks turnout is going to be something like 70 percent.

So, they think the stem cell thing is working big for them.

COOPER: Bill, do you want to...

BENNETT: Well, that's a nasty comment about Rush. It's his personal opinion. That's fine.

Rush happens to be a very popular person. Rush also said he would apologize if he were wrong. Rush is also a native of the state of Missouri. And a lot of people listen to him and take him seriously in his good moments and his not-so-good moments.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I talked to -- to -- to Republicans. And I talked to people that, really, in the Republican National Committee. They -- and they think the turnout in rural Missouri is very high.

Paul talked to Richard, who is a heck of a campaign manager. I think what you're going to see all across Missouri, there's going to be extraordinarily high turnout. But I expect that everywhere, even where stem cell is not on the ballot. I think -- I think we're -- we're -- we're in an election of really high turnout.

And I think, later on tonight, we're going to be saying, this is really a remarkable election. I have -- I have heard stories all around the country about high turnout.

In Rhode Island, there was a casino initiative, and they spent a lot, a lot of money getting the vote out in some Democratic areas. So, some Rhode Island Democrats that I have talked to seem to be very encouraged about that -- that turnout. So, I'm getting reports from all around. And -- and all of it says, on both sides, high turnout.

COOPER: Jim Carville, thank you very much. Lou Dobbs has been talking to correspondents who are deployed all throughout the country. Let's go back to him -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Anderson.

One name dominated for two weeks, at least, this campaign, this midterm campaign -- and that, of course, the name of Mark Foley.

And we're going to turn to Susan Roesgen, who is at Joe Negron headquarters, who is running against Tim Mahoney, the Democrat in that race.

And I'm going to turn to you, if I may, Susan, first, because you have the -- the -- the punch Mark Foley for Joe Negron issue there, and a race. And, as we're looking at these numbers that are just changing, this race looks -- looks pretty tight. We have only got about 13 percent of the -- the precincts reporting at this point.

Give us your sense of what's happening there from Negron headquarters.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it is expected to be a very close race, especially when the candidate himself, Joe Negron, is not even listed here on the official Florida ballot.

His campaign had to try to encourage voters to punch Foley for Negron, to hold their noses, if they would, and vote for Joe Negron, otherwise, so that their vote would not be wasted.

It's a heavily Republican district, Lou, but the Democratic challenger, Tim Mahoney, has run a very great race. It's expected to be a very close night here. So, we will just have to see if enough voters did indeed punch Foley for Negron.


And, as you can see on the board there, Foley and Mahoney -- Foley, because of -- had to withdraw so quickly before the election, unable to print Joe Negron's name.

Tim Mahoney obviously not too concerned about that, right, John Zarrella?


Well, you know, Tim Mahoney, a businessman, this is his first election, never run for public office before, he's been running for about a year-and-a-half. And, up until six weeks ago, when the Mark Foley scandal broke, no one knew who he was. Suddenly, he was catapulted into the lead. People felt like he might cruise to victory. He never thought that -- a heavily Republican district here.

For the last quarter-century, they have voted Republican in this district. He knew it was going to be a dogfight right down to the end, that the numbers would tighten up. And, in fact, they certainly have.

We don't expect to have a clear answer on how this race is going to turn until very late tonight. This is going to be one of those -- hate to use that cliche, Lou -- but certainly a nail-biter -- Lou.

DOBBS: All right, thank you very much, John Zarrella, from Mahoney headquarters, Susan Roesgen from Negron headquarters.

We will back with you, I'm sure, often, and, as John says, into the wee hours tonight.

We're going to take a quick break here.

Coming right up: Howard Dean.

"America Votes 2006" continues in just one moment. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN election headquarters in New York.

Take a look at this. The Virginia race, these are actual precincts reporting. Thirty-two percent of the precincts have now reported -- George Allen, the incumbent Republican, with 50 percent; Jim Webb, the Democratic challenger, the former Navy secretary, during the Reagan administration, with 49 percent. Only a few hundred votes separate Allen and Webb. This is about as close as it gets -- 32 percent of the precincts reporting.

We're going to watch this throughout the night.

We're also watching exit polls, especially in Florida right now.

Paula's standing by with Bill.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Wolf.

And, earlier, you projected that the incumbent Democrat Senator Bill Nelson was reelected with 56 percent of the vote. But what we're seeing emerge tonight is the tail of two Bushes.

And it seems that voters are telling us tonight they like the governor a whole lot better than they like his brother, the president. Take a look at what voters told us as they left the polls today from precincts all over the country. Fifty-five percent disapprove of the president's handling of his job. Forty-four percent approve.

Now, look -- let's look at how they measure his brother, the governor. And the numbers are quite striking. Sixty-six percent approve. Thirty-three percent -- or, actually, 32 percent -- disapprove.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Now, look at this. These are both Florida voters: 44 percent approval for George Bush. Here is something interesting. How do they feel about the war in Iraq? Forty-four percent support it. Fifty-five percent oppose it. Clearly, the war is dragging him down.

Jeb Bush -- 66 percent approval. I mean, his brother must be talking to Jeb and saying: How do you do that?

A good economy helps. I was in Florida for about a week in this election. And the voters down there were talking about how good the economy is -- no war, a good economy. But Jeb Bush has got to try to make sure -- he can't run again -- that the Republican candidate for governor is elected to succeed him. And, right now -- that's Charlie Crist -- right now, we haven't called that race. It looks very close.

ZAHN: And it seemed like Charlie Crist was running away from the president yesterday. As...


ZAHN: ... the president came to town to campaign on his behalf, he went AWOL.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. But he might be running towards Governor Jeb Bush, who obviously is very popular in Florida.

ZAHN: And another fascinating thing, Lou, here is that, in spite of some minor scanning problems reported in various precincts today, and some delays, that 83 percent of the voters said that they were confident that their vote would be tabulated accurately, 16 percent not.

How things have changed from the 2000 election, no?

DOBBS: Absolutely. Let's hope they have, in fact, changed.

And we want to turn now to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean at Democratic headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Good to see you.

How do you feel at this early point in this, what appears to be the onset of a long election night?

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, one of the things that we think is terrific is, there's a huge turnout.

There have been some election-year election funny business, you know, in Maryland particularly, which I know has gotten in the papers, about some dirty tricks.

But seeing all those people come out to vote is a really good thing for the country, and makes us optimistic, because people -- we know people want change, and it looks like they're acting on it tonight.

DOBBS: Acting on it -- and the turnout, as you suggest, pretty high across every state that we have been able to judge at this point.

We are also seeing from these exit polls a striking statement that Iraq is important, as we knew, but so is the economy, and so is corruption, putting, if you will, at least a pause, if -- if not the lie to the idea that this would be dominated by one issue, and that is Iraq.

DEAN: I think that's true.

I think the issue of corruption is an issue that the Democrats have pushed very, very hard on. We -- we simply have too much corruption in our government, too much corruption in Washington.

One of the things that Nancy Pelosi has said, should she become speaker, is that she will, within the first 100 hours, have a real ethics legislation that will -- will put a stop to some of these Republican scandals. I think that's going to be a very big help. And I think that motivated people.

You know, nobody likes dishonesty and corruption, not Republicans, not Democrats, not conservatives, not liberals. So, it's not surprising to me that corruption is one of the top issues. We have seen that in our polling for about a year now.

DOBBS: And I know that you're hesitant to make forecasts, but give us at least a sense of where you think the direction is headed. Is it headed in your way, or is it headed in the Republicans'? Is it in that -- in that direction for both the House and the Senate, or -- or what?

DEAN: Well, I just got off the phone with Rahm Emanuel, and he and I agree that you do not make forecasts and predictions until all the votes are in.

So, you know, I think there's a lot of great work been done. The DSCC, the DCCC has done terrific -- done -- done really good work, all the state parties, the coordinating campaign.

We have tried as hard as we can. We think we have reached the American voters. But now they get to say. Certainly, the early indications look good, but I think we're all prepared to stay up all night and watch to make sure.

DOBBS: And -- and it looks like, in a number of -- number of states, that we're going to be doing exactly that, staying up all night.

There's one other aspect in these exit polls. To the degree that you can ever trust these exit polls -- and -- and you can certainly overanalyze and over-conjecture -- but the idea that, on the issue of the economy, that we are -- those polls suggesting that just about evenly split amongst voters who say the economy is worse for them and those who say it is better, but just about double that amount, the great center saying it is about the same as it was two years ago...

DEAN: Mmm-hmm. DOBBS: ... any surprise for Democrats on that?

DEAN: Yes.

I -- I think that most Americans, we have been saying, have not felt the impact of the Dow Jones industrial average going up on corporate earnings, because the president has skewed our policy towards helping the folks at the top, who really, frankly, don't need all that much help.

And I think one thing you are going to see, should -- should we become successful tonight in taking back the House and the Senate, I think you will see a reorientation of government policy to help middle-class people, middle-class people's kids to go to college, working-class people to get ahead.

I think we have lost that in the last six years, and we want that back again.

You know, America is a great country, but it only works when everybody benefits from -- from a good economy, not just -- not just the folks that are giving to the Republicans.

DOBBS: My colleague John King has a question for you as well -- John.

KING: Governor Dean, good to see you.


DEAN: Thanks, John.

KING: Just the fact you're talking to Rahm Emanuel, I think, is progress in the discourse of the country tonight.


KING: But I want to...


DEAN: Well, those guys have done a good job. You have got to take your hat off to them.

KING: I want to move to the question of Iraq.

If the Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress, they will be in responsibility. They can't just say: The president has the wrong plan. We need a new plan.

Should the Democrats try to cut off funding for the mission in Iraq? Should they try to set specific timetables?

DEAN: I think it's far too early to even think about that.

I mean, we -- we don't even have a majority yet. I think we're -- you know, we're not even going to have any discussions like that. And there -- there will be discussions about what to do about Iraq, because, clearly, the American public is voting not to stay the course. They're not -- don't agree with the president.

But it's a long way, and we got a long way to go here. And I think it would be a little premature to start talking about public policy before -- we don't even have a majority yet.

KING: But do you worry you will disappoint the voters, if they turn out for Democrats, thinking they're going to get a change? The president's still the commander in chief. There's not much you can do, even if you have both chambers of Congress.

DEAN: That's -- that's true to a certain extent. There's not a lot we can do to -- actually to force the president to leave Iraq.

But, ultimately, we can have some influence, and I think you will see, certainly, an attempt by Democrats to change the direction.

Look, despite the Republican propaganda, none of us believe -- or very few of us believe -- we need to leave Iraq tomorrow. We do believe we shouldn't be in Iraq. We think it was a mistake to go there, but we don't believe that we ought to cut and run, as the president was so fond of saying. We believe that we need to stabilize the situation, and -- and leave in a thoughtful, gradual way.

So, I think you will see the Democrats moving to do that, but there will have to be some -- some disagreement and some strong impetus toward some kind of compromise with the president, because the president seems determined to do what he wants, whether -- no matter what the voters say. And we clearly think that's a bad idea.

DOBBS: If I may, Governor, I want to bring it back to this evening, and that is, what are you -- if you won't make a forecast, tell us what you are looking for as the best bellwether for the -- the Democrats' chances in this election tonight.

DEAN: Well, there are two very, very important states that we have to win in order to get the majority. One is Virginia, and the other is Missouri. And they're both very close.

In the House, it's a little more complicated, because there are so many races in such flux. My own personal belief is, if we were to take three in Indiana, we would certainly win, I think, the whole thing. If we were to take two out of three, then, we would have to wait for a while, but that would be a good indication.

But, again, you have got to look at the collar counties around Philadelphia.

DOBBS: Right.

DEAN: And, then, you have got to go out West. There's -- there's two or three seats in Arizona. In New Mexico, we believe that Patricia Madrid is going to win that seat, even though it's going to be very, very close. So, again, all over the country, there's -- there -- these races are close. Nobody should be making any predictions right now. But we're hopeful.

DOBBS: OK, Howard Dean, thank you very much, and living up to your own advice, not making any kind of prediction.


DOBBS: Thank you very much.

DEAN: Thank you.

DOBBS: Wolf, over to you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

We're ready to make a projection in the House of Representatives in the state of Indiana. In the 8th Congressional District, the challenger, Brad Ellsworth, we project, will be elected the next United States congressman from Indiana, the 8th Congressional District, beating the incumbent Republican, John Hostettler. This is the first of 15 pickups that the Democrats would need if they're going to be the majority in the House of Representatives. This is number one for the Democrats.

This would be 14 to go, Jeff Greenfield.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: That's right. And this was -- this can't be counted as a surprise. As I mentioned earlier, Hostettler was regarded as one of the two or three most vulnerable Republicans anywhere in the country.

His opponent, Brad Ellsworth, is the kind of Democrat that we may see more of, particularly when you move away from the coasts, in the interior, a county sheriff, a self-acknowledged social conservative.

And it's one -- one down and 14 to go for the Democrats.

BLITZER: And with 39 percent of the precincts reporting now, 62 percent for Ellsworth, 38 percent for Hostettler. We project Ellsworth will be elected to the United States Congress, a pickup for the Democrats, one pickup.

Remember, they needed 15. They have 14 to go.

We're going to continue our special coverage from CNN election headquarters here in New York -- lots more coming up.

We will update you on what's happening in Virginia, where it's a very, very close race.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: As of 8:28 p.m. here on the East Coast, CNN projects, Democrats have now picked up their first seat in the House of Representatives -- CNN now projecting that, in Indiana's 8th Congressional District, Democratic challenger Ellsworth has defeated the Republican incumbent, Congressman John Hostettler.

Democrats will need at least 15 seats to gain control of the chamber. They have got one of those. Assuming they don't lose any of their own seats, they would need 14 more. That is the first.

CNN projecting, also, right now that Democrat Deval Patrick will win the governor's race in Massachusetts, defeating the Republican lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, succeeding the Republican governor, Mitt Romney -- Deval Patrick becoming only the second African-American governor elected in the United States.

Deval Patrick, we project, will win the governor's race in the state of Massachusetts -- Anderson.

COOPER: Well, let's talk about this race.

Brad Ellsworth, a -- a surprise?

KING: Not a surprise, because Hostettler had a -- a tough district anyway. Brad Ellsworth is a different kind of Democrat, you might say.

It's very -- going to be interesting to see these conservative Democrats come to Washington, if Nancy Pelosi becomes their leader and becomes the speaker, because this is somebody who is anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, wants to balance the budget. So, you're going to have a -- a different Democratic caucus.

If they become the majority, it's going to be because candidates like Ellsworth are winning across the country. And it will be a test of her leadership. She is a liberal from San Francisco, though she has said that -- what she says is, the Republicans don't listen to the diversity in their caucus, and that she promises to listen to hers. But it's a big challenge.

COOPER: It seems, Candy, that there are an awful lot of conservative Democrats who have suddenly come to the fore.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, there's a lot of them now testing out sort of the template that has worked out in the South.

I mean, Southern Democrats have been, in general, on these social issues, conservative, on abortion, on same-sex marriage. Interior West is another place where conservative social values, combined with progressive economic policy, has really worked.

And -- and John is absolutely right, because the fact of the matter is that these are the new Democrats. They're kind of like the old Democrats.


CROWLEY: And then there was a time when they became something else.

COOPER: Everything old is new again.

CROWLEY: Yes, exactly.


So, you know, now these are the neo-Democrats or whatever you want to call them, who have returned. And they are going to be a force to be listened to here, because guess what? They're winning elections.

COOPER: Mark, it was in your magazine, "Newsweek" which had the cover of Harold Ford, Jr., which said, I think, "Not Your Daddy's Democrat."

MARCUS MABRY, "NEWSWEEK": That's right. "Not your Daddy's Democrat." I mean, this is an interesting question here. You know, we always can have a tendency sometime when we overpundify, perhaps, on election night to talk about the what -- how the sweep of the nation has changed. That's a bit of a danger.

But, I've got to tell you, it's exciting to think about, depending on what these numbers look like by the end of the night, could we see another refocusing or reshifting of the coalitions that make up the Republican coalition and the Democratic coalition? And this is the old Democratic coalition, and it will be really interesting to see if it's coming back together, getting the old band back together again.

COOPER: Let's talk to some of our brain trusts, some of our analysts over here. I don't know if you guys are old Democrats or new Democrats or daddy's Democrats...

BEGALA: Aging rapidly.

CARVILLE: A lot older now.

COOPER: Is this what the Democratic Party needs to do in order to get elected?

CARVILLE: Yes, what we're going to see tomorrow morning when we wake up, the percentage of the moderates in the Democratic Party is going to be much, much higher than the percentage of moderates in the Republican Party. I suspect by the time the night is over, Mike Castle will be a caucus of one Republican moderate in the entire House of Representatives.

The big -- I want to point out when people are watching this, watch this Kentucky three, this Anne Northup-Yarmuth race. If the Democrats pick this up, that's a key to a big night. That's one we've been trying to get for a long time. She's a very good candidate and that might be the first sign that you have a wave coming. Watch the crawl on the Kentucky...

COOPER: Anne Northup has tried to distance herself from President Bush as much as possible, and just in the last week, called for Secretary Rumsfeld to step down.


BEGALA: What did Joe Lewis say, he can run but he can't hide? You know, it doesn't work to run away from the president of your own party, and it doesn't work to embrace them. I mean, you just take your lumps when you have a year like this.

I saw this when I was advising Bill Clinton in 1994. You know, he was desperately unpopular. Our policies were unpopular. We lost over 50 House seats. But I think James' point about moderates versus conservatives and liberals is a pretty interesting one.

When the Republicans took the Congress in '94, it was with very conservative -- they called themselves the shock troops. You know, very -- and they help pull their party to the right. If Nancy Pelosi becomes the speaker, it will be with moderate and conservative Democrats who would tend to pull my party to the center.

COOPER: Very briefly, J.C.?

WATTS: Well, I think Nancy's going to have the same challenge that the president has. He's a drag on Northeast Republicans. Nancy will be a drag on southern Democrats. And that's going to be very interesting how she, in a very sensitive way, manages that.

BENNETT: Well, for your purposes of your question, aging Republican, but former Democrat, and the reason I left the party is if you look at the leadership of the Democratic Party today, you'll find out, it's much closer to Brad Ellsworth. What happens when these new Democrats come in and meet the leadership, who's going to give?

COOPER: We've got to go over to Lou who is going to be talking to Senator Bill Frist -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Anderson.

The man who is the majority leader of the Senate, obviously, and the man also retiring, making Bob Corker and Harold Ford Jr.'s lives very interesting tonight, Senator Bill Frist, good to have you with us.

SEN. BILL FIRST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Hey, Lou, great to be with you tonight.

DOBBS: With -- it's very early, as the saying goes. Four percent, it doesn't get much earlier than that, but Corker right now is stepping out in front of Harold Ford Jr. What is your sense of the direction this race is headed?

FRIST: Lou, well, it's interesting. I've traveled around to a lot of the different states, a lot of the contested races, and what's unusual about this particular race and this particular state, is that the contrast is crystal clear, and a lot of the national issues did not come and resonate right here.

We have this choice between Bob Corker, mainstream Tennessee, American dream, right here, versus Harold Ford, a career politician, went to high school, college outside of the state. So you see a clear-cut contrast.

On the economic issues, Bob Corker strong on keeping taxes low, Harold Ford, who voted against the president's tax cuts. So the clear-cut contrast, I believe, is why Bob Corker ultimately will win tonight.

DOBBS: The exit polls are suggesting to us, as they're coming into us from around the country, that this was a nationalized election, that the Democratic strategy certainly did work in making this a referendum, focusing the national attention on the war in Iraq, corruption in Congress, if you will, across the board, national issues. Any of that surprise you?

FRIST: No, it doesn't surprise me and I agree with that to a certain extent. But again, the contrast here, you had Harold Ford, who, again, was on the side of the Democrats against the missile defense, against the Terrorist Surveillance Act, against the Patriot Act, versus a candidate who very much is fighting this war on terrorism with all of the tools that are there, Bob Corker.

So that is the way the issue played here in Tennessee and Tennesseans are speaking loud and clear and that's why they'll have Bob Corker as their next United States senator.

DOBBS: Senator Frist, I'd like to -- if you would excuse me just for a second here, I'd like to continue with how the folks in Tennessee are speaking tonight.

And I'll turn and let you know that here at CNN election headquarters, we are now able to project in New Jersey that Senator Bob Menendez is the likely winner over Tom Kean Jr., his Republican opponent. Bob Menendez, the incumbent senator, appointed by Jon Corzine, the governor of New Jersey. Menendez, we now project, as the winner in that race.

Let's turn back, Senator Frist, to Tennessee for a second here. I understand your enthusiasm for Bob Corker. Again, early lead for him in this race. Let's turn to what you think will be the determinant issue in this election. Harold Ford Jr. has a reputation of being an extremely strong, young, energetic campaigner and candidate. What's determinant?

FRIST: I think that it's a good question here, because Harold Ford is very charismatic, really a smooth talker and a very good candidate. And from that standpoint, both candidates are very attractive.

Ultimately, it's going to come down to Bob Corker being mainstream, Tennessee values, the American dream, created his business here, made a payroll. And Harold Ford is a full-time politician, career politician, grew up in a family of politics.

And his history of citizen legislator out of Tennessee, like me, like Fred Thompson, is something that Tennessee expects. And that's what Tennesseans deserve, and I think that's the way they're going to vote tonight.

DOBBS: And the issue of race in this campaign, certainly creating some ugly moments. To what degree do you think it plays a role?

FRIST: You know, I'll tell you what I heard coming out of sort of the media in Washington and New York and even out in Atlanta, is that race was a big issue here, for the most part because of one ad that should have been condemned. But when you got on the ground here, this simply never came up.

You know, it's just not the issue that the national pundits made it to be. And I say that very honestly, asking reporters, is race an issue? Are people moving it in that direction? And I think after it's over with, Harold Ford will also say the same thing that Bob Corker is, that race was not a dominant issue here in any way in Tennessee.

DOBBS: Senator Bill Frist, we thank you very much. Look forward to talking to you later in the evening. Thank you, Senator.

FRIST: Thanks, Lou, good to be with you.

DOBBS: "America Votes 2006" continues in just one moment. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN Election Headquarters in New York. We're watching very, very closely, the race in Virginia right now with 55 percent of the precincts reporting. It's about as close as it gets. George Allen with 50 percent, Jim Webb 49 percent. Only a few thousand votes separate these guys. It's been back and forth throughout the night.

We have projected a winner in New Jersey, Bob Menendez the incumbent Democrat will be re-elected. We're going to go over to the board, Jeff Greenfield, and talk about Bob Menendez beating Tom Kean Jr., the son of a very popular former Republican governor of New Jersey. This is a seat that the Democrats absolutely, positively had to go ahead and win.

GREENFIELD: And when you look at the nine key seats that we've been talking about for weeks, the Democrats were very worried about what this was going to happen here. John Corzine, when he left the Senate to become governor, appointed then Congressman Menendez to take his place. There were people, Chuck Schumer one of them, the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, who was pushing Corzine to name another more popular Democrat.

There were reasons within the state why Corzine picked him. This was one of the nastier races you've ever seen. It was filled with Kean commercials playing audio tapes implying corruption on the part of Menendez. But I believe we're going to find the key to this race was George W. Bush. Menendez's campaign targeted Tom Kean as wrong on Iraq, a rubber stamp for Bush. It was the overwhelming message.

And in New Jersey, which has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972, it is as blue a state as you can get when it comes to the Senate. I believe that argument became decisive. And the Democrats have held one of the two most vulnerable seats of theirs.

The other being Maryland, which we can't talk about yet, because we don't know. But it is a major sigh of relief we've just heard coming from Democratic headquarters.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, 33 Senate seats are up for election this time around, a third of the Senate. If the Democrats are going to be in the majority, they need to capture six and not lose any of their own. They're a little bit of the way there, because they didn't lose in New Jersey. But they still have to hold Maryland. They still have to then go ahead and capture six Republican-held seats.

GREENFIELD: There are seven Republican seats that are considered to be vulnerable. And the Democrats have to do six of seven. There's been a competition among the journalists to find the right cliche. They have to draw to an inside straight, they have to run the table, they have to hole out the 18th in three. You and I should probably figure out which cliche is best. But it is a hard road to hoe.

But at least with New Jersey in the Democratic column, they know that they at least captured or kept what they had to keep, at least one of those two seats.

BLITZER: And here's the actual vote, Jeff. Only five percent of the vote now, the precincts now reporting. Actually, Tom Kean Jr. had 52/47 percent. But we projected that Menendez wins these five percent of the precincts that probably are very Republican-dominated precincts. That's why there is this distortion.

But based on the exit polls, based on the hard numbers, based on all of the other information, we are receiving, we project that Bob Menendez, the incumbent Democrat, will remain in the United States Senate.

Anderson, it gets a little confusing from time to time, but that's the nature of politics.

COOPER: It certainly is. Let's talk to some of our analysts about this race in New Jersey, about what they have seen, about any surprises?

BEGALA: It's a blue state. It always closes blue for the Democrats. It's a little bit like Lucy and Charlie Brown with football. The Republicans put about $4 million into it in the end as they did in the presidential race a couple of years ago. And at the end, it always closes for the Dems. So it's a very blue state. It's not going to tip the balance for anything.

COOPER: And do you agree James Carville, with Jeff Greenfield, that it was really about Iraq, that Bob Menendez effectively hammered that?

CARVILLE: Yes. And if you look at the last governor's race and this race, Democrats just win New Jersey by big margins. That's one of the shifts in American politics. That was not true. I think George H.W. Bush carried New Jersey in 1988. It is decidedly a blue state now.


WATTS: No surprises. That was not a seat that Republicans felt like they were going to pick up at the end of the day. That was not a suit that was counted on to keep Republicans in the majority. So nothing new. It was going to remain blue and we thought it would and it did.

COOPER: And certainly if it hadn't remained blue, it would have been a big defeat for the Democrats.

BENNETT: Big shock, more about blue than Iraq. But can I say something about Virginia?


BENNETT: I heard about some exit polls in Virginia, about inroads. Apparently 35, 40 percent of people who are voting for Webb declare themselves to be Christian Evangelicals, are opposed to the same-sex marriage amendment.

And are going to Webb -- that's inroads. I don't know if -- it's way too early to call anything. But with this Ellsworth thing and this, and the opinion of these guys, may be something real genuine conservative movement in the Democrat Party. What did we say, the end of Kerry-ism? The end of McGovern-ism, anyway. It is an interesting trend. It does seem to be moving back toward the center. And again, I think that raises interesting questions about what happens when these new conservative Democrats, whether they meet they have a majority or not, meet their leadership.

WATTS: And Anderson, could I add something to that?

COOPER: Let me just tell other audience, Schumer is addressing the DNCC and we're just going to be showing that -- let's dip in briefly and let's continue this conversation in a moment.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Bob Menendez, and New Jersey is in our corner, too.


And we are, right now, biting our nails about Virginia, which is neck and neck. But I've been told by someone pretty authoritative that a lot of the northern parts of Virginia, where we're going to do very well, have not yet been counted.


So let us hope.

So let me just say, we're not going to speak for too long here, but we really care about taking our country back.


About giving, about changing the course in Iraq, overseas, about helping average people pay the bills, the tuition bills and the prescription drug bills and the health care bills and the energy bills.


And that is why we are so passionate and so concerned about this election.

We want to thank all of you. We're not breaking out the champagne bottles yet. It's going to be a long night. But, so far, so good.


COOPER: You've been listening to Charles Schumer addressing the DNCC. We want to continue our conversation with Bill Bennett and J.C. Watts. Bill Bennett, right before that pointing out that some 36 percent in one exit poll, that he has been hearing 36 percent of the people who call themselves Evangelical or born-again Christian are voting for Webb.

WATTS: Well, and that's a high number. But it's not a number that totally surprises me. I think there is a conservative vote out there in the Evangelical community that, Anderson, they're saying, because of our faith, we do think that people should be able to eat.

We are concerned about poverty. We are concerned about AIDS in Africa. We are concerned about health care issues. Now, we can have a discussion, a debate about the models that we use to address those issues. But I am concerned about poverty because of my faith, not because of my Republican Party affiliation.

COOPER: Is it an expansion of what it means to be Evangelical?

WATTS: I think what it's saying is that that candidate, Republican or Democrat, that says we are Evangelical candidates, when they are talking about those issues, they will catch the ear of many Evangelical voters.

BENNETT: You say candidate. Webb here is too many of the people as they just described a more congenial figure than, say, Chuck Schumer is. They would identify more with him. The military service, the conservative background. And that's the kind of thing that can really change power. WATTS: Ellsworth in Indiana, I think is a great example.

COOPER: Do you see an intentional strategy on the part of the Democrats to appeal to the Evangelical voters?

BENNETT: I would defer this. I don't know, it's smart obviously. And I think it's better for the country for that party to move to the center. But I can't tell you that's what's actually happening.

BEGALA: There's a poverty issue that J.C. talked about that Democrats use to appeal to Christian Evangelicals. Issues in the environment. The Evangelical community is becoming very, very green community. And if Bill's exit poll is right and Jim Webb is getting 36 percent of the Evangelical vote, in Virginia, the home of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, that's extraordinary.

John Kerry nationwide only got 21 percent of Christian Evangelicals. So if Webb is going to double that almost in one of the most conservative states in the country, he's going to win.

CARVILLE: You know, Evangelicals...

COOPER: I'm sorry, we've just got to do a quick projection. CNN is now projecting Sherrod Brown is the winner in Ohio. That would be a Senate pickup obviously from the Democrats.

Bill Bennett, what do you make of that?

BENNETT: Well, I talked to Mike DeWine today -- yesterday. Ohio's tough. Ohio's tough for Republicans all around. He didn't have strong support from the base, either. He was part of this gang of 14. You remember this, in the Supreme Court nominations, so a lot of conservatives were unhappy with him. Some of the NRA people were unhappy with him. And he just got caught in the crosshairs.

Brown, I would have to say if I'm advancing the thesis of conservative Democrats, here they come. Sherrod Brown ain't one of them.

BEGALA: No, he's a populist. I mean, he ran on these meat and potato economic issues, which in Ohio is a pretty smart thing to do. You know, he had the wind at his back because of corruption that did not involve Senator DeWine, but it involved his party. And so I think Brown capitalized on that. But he is a meat and potatoes, minimum wage, health care kind of Democrat, a populist.

CARVILLE: I'm sorry, Anderson, there's an elephant in the room, Iraq. And we talk around it like it doesn't exist. There's a horribly unpopular war here, and that's the impetus for a lot of this. And we can -- an evangelicals are concerned about this, and green voters are concerned about this.

And to have this discussion without Iraq is -- we're missing what I think is the driving point of this election. This is a horribly unpopular war that's not going very well. And this is why you're seeing these Democrats take these seats.

And Jim Webb's campaign, as much as anything else, more than any other single thing, has been about Iraq. It is the elephant in the room. It is what is driving this election.

COOPER: And we're going to continue to talk about Iraq in just a moment. Obviously, we're going to be talking about it an awful lot tonight, as the voters are clearly talking about it tonight, and have been for months now.

We'll take a quick break. Our election continues in a moment.


BLITZER: We're only about five and a half minutes away from the top of the hour. Polls will be closing in several states. We'll be making some projections at that time.

But this hour CNN is projecting that Democrats have picked up their first seat in the United States Senate. CNN projects that Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown has also defeated an incumbent Republican, Senator Mike DeWine in Ohio.

CNN projecting that New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez will be reelected, defeating Republican challenger Tom Kean, Jr.

CNN also projecting that Democrats so far have picked up one seat in the House and Indian's Eight Congressional District. CNN projecting Democrat Brad Ellsworth has defeated Republican incumbent Congressman John Hostettler.

Democrats will still need to pick up at least 15 seats to win control of the House. But with this race, with Ellsworth winning, Jeff Greenfield, that's 14, assuming they don't lose any of their own.

But this is very significant. Sherrod Brown, the challenger to Mike DeWine, defeating the incumbent Republican. This is the first of six seats the Democrats need to be the majority in the Senate, assuming they don't lose any of their own seats.

GREENFIELD: Right. A couple of keys to this. Mike DeWine was an enormously popular senator. He was reelected six years ago with 60 percent of the vote. Apart from the scandals that hit Ohio, apart from Iraq, Sherrod Brown went into small towns and rural parts of Ohio, the places where George W. Bush rolled up huge majorities in '04.

And his message was a basic economic populist message: anti-free trade, or at least the way it's been done, sounds a little like Lou Dobbs, the middle class has been sold out by the elites, and he has taken this seat.

It is one of the six, and it's one of the ones that Republicans were most worried about. But the fact that their vaunted turnout machine, which delivered Ohio to Bush in '04, didn't deliver for Mike DeWine, suggests that there may be trouble ahead. BLITZER: So that's one down, five to go for the Democrats. And the reason it's five to go is in part because Bob Menendez has been reelected as the Democratic senator, we can project, in New Jersey.

GREENFIELD: That's right. It is an inherently blue state. Actually, this is one state where Democrats tend to do better on election day than the polls suggest. Democrats came home. And when we get to...

BLITZER: We're going to talk about that in a little while. I want to bring back Lou, though for the time being -- Lou.

DOBBS: I'm still here.

And if you would, Wolf, tell Mr. Greenfield that it sounded like Lou Dobbs on any other night but this.

Thank you, Jeff. Thank you, Wolf.

We're going to go to Mike DeWine's campaign headquarters, where our colleague Bob Franken is standing by in Columbus, Ohio.

This has to be something of a surprise for the DeWine camp, to see the Sherrod Brown projection by CNN. What's the sense there?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the sense is that they are holding steady. They are not planning immediately to come down and have their candidate come down.

But in terms of the result of the election, although Mike DeWine has insisted for the last several days that the polls did not really mean anything, they were closing. And that there's tremendous "get out the vote" effort that the Republicans have been able to mount in the state, would rescue DeWine, and the other Congressional people who are in trouble.

Well, it has not rescued Mike DeWine. The projections are pretty consistent with what the polls have shown. Now the focus turns to those four or five Congressional seats of the 22 in Ohio that are competitive or are really leaning Republican, because of the current climate.

So Ohio could, as everybody expects, be the bellwether state, could really give a strong indication of how things are going to go. But the Mike DeWine result is following the script that the polls have written --Lou.

DOBBS: thank you very much. Bob Franken reporting from DeWine headquarters.

And we have, of course, projected Sherrod Brown -- Congressman Sherrod Brown as the winner of the seat now held by Senator Mike DeWine.

We're going to continue and we're going to turn to my colleague, Wolf Blitzer, for more -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thank you, Lou.

And we're only about a minute away or so from the top of the hour, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, Jeff. We're looking at four questions.

GREENFIELD: Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. Her presidential campaign, or the speculations will begin probably in about two and a half hours. Did she win by enough in New York to make her credible? It's a foolish question, but everyone will be asking it.

Question two: a moderate GOP road. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island -- many Republican moderates in New York State in the House who may be threatened. This may produce an endangered species problem for moderate Republicans even more than now.

Third question: the immigration factor. In Arizona, in Colorado there are Republicans running with very strong anti-immigration messages. If they prevail -- they're tough races, it may be tricky.

And lastly: how big a loss? If we see, for instance, Republicans beginning to fall as the votes come in, we're going to find out that this is going to be, to go back to the 7:00 question, whether it's a trickle or a rout.

BLITZER: And just to recap for our viewers, the Democrats need to gain six seats, six of those Republican held seats in order to become the majority. They've already, according to our projection, taken one of those seats in Ohio. Five more needed, assuming they hold on to the state of Maryland because that race, still in doubt at this time. We have projected that New Jersey remains in the Democratic column.

Let's take a look. It's 9:00 p.m. on the East Coast. We have some projections to make right now.