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The Situation Room

Is the Tea Party for Real?; What's Ahead in Election 2010?

Aired September 15, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, Rick.

Happening now, Obama Democrats can hardly contain their enthusiasm after a bombshell Senate primary win for the Tea Party movement. We just heard from the president of the United States, kicking off the final sprint to election day.

Is his party misreading the results from Delaware and the divisions within the GOP?

If any Democrat should be afraid of the Tea Party, it might be the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. This hour, we unveil our remarkable new poll on Reid's reelection bid.

And could the filmmaker, Michael Moore, be the next White House chief of staff?

I'll talk to him about his unusual offer and his love-hate relationship with the Democratic Party.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We just saw President Obama front and center in the Rose Garden over at the White House. He faced reporters just as Democrats are clinging to new hope that they'll hold onto their majority in the United States Senate. The Tea Party movement's candidate's stunning win in the Delaware Republican primary has delivered a powerful new blow to the GOP establishment.

The president set the stage for the end game this fall, talking about the issue voters care about most -- the U.S. economy. He again accused Republicans of standing in the way.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We don't have time for anymore games. I understand there's an election coming up, but the American people didn't send us here to just think about our jobs, they sent us here to think about theirs. They sent us here to think about their lives and their children's lives and to be responsible and to be serious about the challenges we face as a nation.

That's what members of both parties have now done with this small business jobs bill. And I hope we can work together to do the same thing on middle class tax relief in the weeks to come.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian -- Dan, the president, he came out very forceful saying, yes, there may be a deal on some tax breaks for businesses -- small businesses, but -- but there's a big battle brewing over tax rates overall for the American public.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this is nothing new that we heard today in -- in that sense, because, over the past couple of weeks, this is what the White House has been pushing very hard on. And they've been going after Representative John Boehner, the House minority leader, who they've been holding up as a symbol of this contrast between Republicans and Democrats, that Republicans are obstructionists, that they are pushing to help the wealthiest of Americans and holding the middle class hostage to this.

And so they believe that they're making progress on this, one administration official telling me that it feels good to be on the offensive. And so that's why you saw the president go out and add this to his schedule late today, to talk about jobs and the economy, pointing out where progress is being made and also keeping the pressure up on Capitol Hill, because they believe that this is starting to resonate with Americans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the reaction, over at the White House, to Christine O'Donnell's surprise win in Delaware?

LOTHIAN: Well, they're -- they're obviously smiling over here, Wolf, because the establishment Republican candidate was expected to win this seat that was held by Vice President Biden for so many years and now this big surprise.

But what White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs says is that this rate -- race, rather, and this win exposes this -- this rift within the Republican Party.

Take a listen.


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think last night showed that there is a very vociferous debate going on inside the Republican Party for the hearts and minds of Republican voters. I think if you look at what people like Karl Rove or people like the state GOP chairmen have said, the Republicans in Delaware nominated somebody that they don't believe can win -- I think in the words of the state party chair, couldn't be elected dogcatcher.


LOTHIAN: And so Democrats really feel that they have the advantage now there in Delaware. But one senior administration official telling me that they're not taking anything for granted. Obviously, it's up to the voters, ultimately. So while they feel now they have the upper hand, they're not gloating too much -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan. Thank you.

Now to the fallout within the Republican Party from the Tea Party movement's victory in Delaware. Some of the biggest, biggest names in the GOP establishment begrudgingly offering some words of support today for the Senate nominee, Christine O'Donnell. The man she defeated, the popular congressman, former governor, Mike Castle, says there's zero -- zero chance he will endorse O'Donnell.

There's more anger and second-guessing than ever after a series of losses by Republican establishment candidates, including in some key races in Alaska, Kentucky and Colorado.

Let's go to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

You're getting reaction from some of those GOP establishment leaders.

What are they saying -- Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, make no mistake, privately, Republican leadership sources here say that they are still saying very upset about the outcome last night. But the sources, who let their raw emotion really get the best of them and let that out publicly last night, sort of saw the light, so to speak, when the sun came up this morning. And they have -- they're saying things very differently today. They realize that they have to get behind this Republican candidate for many reasons, most importantly, they want those forces that elected her to stay energized, not just in Delaware, but across the country.

Yesterday, I talked to John Cornyn, who was the senator in charge of electing Republicans here. He said he thought that -- he has concerns about O'Donnell's electability. And today, he was singing a different tune.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX), REPUBLICAN SENATE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, I mean, it's a blue state. But my motto after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts was if it can happen in deep blue Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere. And I think what Ms. O'Donnell demonstrated is sort of the -- the intensity of the rage and the anger that people are feeling against Washington.


BLITZER: Is there, Dana, some anger toward Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina?

He was an early supporter of Christine O'Donnell over the GOP establishment favorite, Mike Castle.

BASH: There is. Again, just like last night we did see that spill out into the public. But just like everything else, they're trying to squash that today.

But there definitely are some hard feelings toward him for supporting her and lots of other candidates that the establishment just did not think could win as easily as other candidates that they back.

I interviewed Senator DeMint in his office today and I asked him about what some sources said, is that they are -- that he is saying that purity is more important than actually getting the majority. He rejected that.


SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The GOP establishment is out. And what we're going to do is help the American people take back their government. And I hope the Republican Party will be the party that carries that banner.


BASH: Now, even DeMint, though, Wolf, he admitted that O'Donnell is going to have a tough time getting elected in November in the state of Delaware. But he said the most important thing in that state, like others, is that Republican voters especially are sending the message that, in his words, the kind of mushy candidates that have been elected in the past, that won't stand. They want somebody who -- people who are really going to take charge of -- of the voters, who think that people here in Washington just aren't doing their job.

BLITZER: -- Dana Bash up on Capitol Hill for us.

Thank you.

When Christine O'Donnell woke up this morning, she sounded fully prepared to campaign for the general election without the support of the state or national Republican Party.


CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, we will reach out to them. But I'm confident that if they choose not to get behind this race, we will get the support that we need and we can win in November.


BLITZER: Let's dig deeper with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Only yesterday some top national Republican leaders were saying if she won, she could forget about getting some national money from the Republican Party. Today, we hearing a little big different tune.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Today, they pledged her $42,000 from the Campaign Committee, which is all they're already to give her right now. And I think what we're seeing, Wolf, is kind of Republicans who are going through the stages of grief. Dana talked about the anger. Now, there's a little bit of acceptance -- OK, she's our candidate.

But I sat down today with a top Republican Senate strategist who said, look, we're pragmatic here. All we care about is viability. All we want to do is win back control of the Senate. So if, down the road, O'Donnell looks like a viable candidate, which to them means that she's within single digits of her opponent, then they'll reassess. And they might just give her some money, because they want to get this seat.

They've got a point coming up where they can give some coordinated campaign money, about $180,000 max. Then, of course, down the road, those independent expenditures, which help -- which fund campaign ads.

So he didn't rule it out, Wolf. But I wouldn't hold my breath because they believe that she is going to stay way behind in a state like Delaware. And they also, quite frankly, don't think she's a credible candidate and they don't think it's the right way for conservatives or even -- either Tea Party folks to introduce themselves to the American people, particularly those Independent voters.

BLITZER: But she just defeated one of these most popular...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: -- politicians in the State of Delaware, someone who has won statewide over and over and over again. That's pretty impressive.

BORGER: It is -- it is -- it is impressive. But, you know, what he was pointing out to me is, look, these primary race are very different from general election campaigns. She's going to have to stand up to a lot more scrutiny from her Democratic opponents, even though Castle -- even though Castle was pretty tough, Wolf. They're saying they're not sure she's going to be able to withstand that -- that scrutiny.

But in the end, Wolf, Republicans, who now run the Senate are going to have to live with a bunch of Tea Party candidates that they didn't like at the beginning of this election cycle. And, you know, that's happened before, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan whooshed in a whole bunch of Republican senators, who -- some of whom were one term wonders. But Republicans had a hard time adjusting to them, too. This may be the case now.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Gloria.

New Hampshire voters are stealing some of the Tea Party's thunder. Just a few hours ago, the Republican establishment candidate, as she's called, Kelly Ayotte, was declared the winner of the Senate primary. Ayotte, who also had Sarah Palin's support, narrowly defeated the Tea Party's pick, Ovide Lamontagne.

The big question now, will he demand a recount?

He faces a deadline this hour to decide.

Here in the nation's capital, the anti-incumbent trend does have some legs. Mayor Fenty lost the Democratic primary to city councilman chairman, Vincent Gray. Gray is likely to win the general election in mostly Democratic DC.

The big question now, will Gray undo Fenty's aggressive and controversial package of school reforms?

In New York, the long time power broker of Harlem politics, Congressman Charlie Rangel, defeated five primary challengers decisively, despite the ethics cloud hanging over him. Rangel is considered a shoe-in to win on November 2nd.

The big question now, how will his upcoming trial on ethics charges play out?

We'll watch it with you.

Whether or not the Democrats keep control of the Senate, will Harry Reid be the majority leader?

We have some new powerful poll numbers just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM to show you about Reid's race for reelection in Nevada.

And a threat to burn Korans here in the United States sparks deadly new violence overseas.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, there's a school of thought on yesterday's primary that goes like this, the Tea Party movement might be the best thing that ever happened to the Democrats, raising questions about internal divisions among Republicans.

As you've heard, to Tea Party favorites beat more mainstream Republicans in yesterday's primaries. In Delaware, Christine O'Donnell walked all over nine-time U.S. Congressman Mike Castle in the Senate primary -- Castle! They were talking about whether she is a viable candidate, Castle had held elected office in Delaware for more than 40 years and had the entire national republican establishment behind him. O'Donnell was endorsed by Sarah Palin.

Many think O'Donnell's win now means the Democrats have an unexpected chance to hold on to the Delaware Senate seat once held by Joe Biden. It would be embarrassing if they lost it, Joe Biden's old Senate seat, to somebody from the Tea Party, just like when the Democrats lost Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts. One Republican strategist called the Delaware primary results -- I love this, this is a quote -- "straight out of Harry Reid's dream journal."

Meanwhile, another Tea Party victory came here in New York. Carl Paladino defeated Rick Lazio in the primary for governor. Paladino will run against and get killed by the heavily favored Democrat, Andrew Cuomo, however.

Although some question about the ability of Tea Party candidates to win in the general election exists, others insist it's one of the more powerful movements in recent American history. A piece in "The Washington Examiner" called, "One Nation Under Revolt" says that while many have ignored or belittled the Tea Party movement, it has only grown stronger showing an unprecedented level of activism and enthusiasm.

Part of the reason for that is this, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows that only one in four Americans say they trust our government to do what's right always or most of the time. Twenty- five percent, that's it.

So here's the question -- Is the Tea Party for real? Go to post a comment on my blog. We've got over a thousand emails on this before the show ever went on the air, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is the Tea Party for real? I guess you better believe it certainly is. It's got a lot of enthusiasm behind it.

CAFFERTY: Whether it's for real or not, it's going to make a much better show going into these midterms than we're used to having in the off-year elections. Not since Gingrich and his band of thieves rode in and swiped the Congress back in -- what was it, '94?


CAFFERTY: -- have the midterms potentially offered this much interest.

BLITZER: It's going to be exciting indeed. And exciting ride for all of us.

Jack, thank you.

CAFFERTY: I can hardly wait, as you can.

BLITZER: I know, I love this kind of stuff.

We have some new eye-popping poll numbers on the U.S. Senate race in Nevada. CNN and "Time" magazine are teaming up to bring you new snapshots on the big races across the nation. Every Wednesday, we will releasing these numbers.

Look at this one we're unveiling right now that which the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, neck and neck with his republican opponent Sharron Angle who has the support of the Tea Party movement. Forty-two percent of likely voters in Nevada back Angle, 41 percent of likely voters support Reid in this new CNN/"Time" Opinion research Corporation poll. We'll have more on that coming up later. We have other poll numbers coming in from Washington state and Ohio as well. But let's discuss with our senior political analyst David Gergen, who's trying to digest like all of us this stunning upset yesterday in Delaware.

David, How does this change the national environment?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, we certainly know that the rebellion is for real when a state, a liberal state like Delaware a woman comes out of -- basically, out of nowhere in the polls and is able to pull off this kind of upset. The level of anger, frustration, disgust with the status quo I think is evident now all over the country. The Tea Party is clearly for real.

Now, what this means in the near term -- and I think by the way, we aunt to be very respectful of voters who are speaking, because one thing has been very clear, is the elites don't understand the grass roots very well in this country right now. So those of us who are not down in the trenches in the way some of these voters are, I think, have to say, wait a minute, we need to respect them and listen to what they have to say.

That on the table -- I just want to say, in terms of the Republicans, there's no question the chances of taking the Senate have been diminished by the upset in Delaware.

BLITZER: I was going to say, maybe we shouldn't have been so surprised if you take a look at the way the republican establishment candidates -- I was just making a list in front of me -- Alaska, Nevada, Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Utah and now Delaware, maybe we shouldn't have been all that surprised.

But what is really interesting is that not just Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell now, but women are really becoming a force in this Tea Party movement.

GERGEN: They certainly are. And as we saw with Christine O'Donnell in Delaware last night, and we're going to wind up now, the Republicans have five women who are running for the Senate, Senate nominees. This is unusually high number for them. Had they won in Alaska where the woman lost, Lisa Murkowski, had they won in Colorado, they would actually have seven.

But I think, for the Republican Party, this is healthy. It's partly the Sarah Palin affect. She has been galvanizing, she's been a model and there are people who think that Christine O'Donnell in Delaware is sort of Sarah Palin's clone.

So this is a -- we're in new times. Just as the economy, there's a new normal in the economy that's emerging, it looks like there's a new normal emerging in politics. We don't know what it's all going to mean.

I think if you look at the totality of the season, you'd have to say that the Republicans come out of the whole election season in strong shape, good shape to take the House, less good shape last night to take the Senate, overall been good. But right at the end here, we have got a new storyline that's developing about are the extremists taking over the Republican Party, that could suppress the vote and some of the enthusiasm for even being in the House. We'll have to wait and see how that plays out, Wolf, in the generic of poll numbers in the next few days.

BLITZER: I wouldn't sell that enthusiasm level short, though, by any means.

CAFFERTY: I agree.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

All right, we're following other top stories as well. Are cost- cutting measures to blame for that massive Gulf oil spill? BP's outgoing chief executive now speaking out.

And are you looking for a job? We're going to show you one place where employment right now is on the rise.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Kate, what's going on?


Well, embattled outgoing BP chief Tony Hayward, he is denying that cost saving is the reason his company put only one blowout preventer on the well that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Hayward, who has been heavily criticized for his public response to this bill, is testifying before a British parliamentary committee today. When asked about that, he said there are, quote, "many things (he) would do differently."

And the controversy over a Florida pastor threatening to burn copies of the Koran on the September 11th anniversary is sparking new violence in Afghanistan. Fiery protests denouncing the United States erupted in the capital, Kabul. Two demonstrators were shot and five police officers were injured. The pastor ultimately never followed through with the burnings.

And if you're looking for a job, you might think about coming right here to Washington. Employment in the District is up 3 percent this year, that's higher than every state in the country. And according to one website, many of the full-time positions available pay more than $40,000 a year. The unemployment rate, though, is 9.8 percent, that's slightly higher than the national average, but not a bad advertisement for the District, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's because the government is getting bigger, and so they're hiring more people. That's what's going on.

BOLDUAN: Hiring, hiring, hiring. BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

We heard President Obama just a short while ago once again accusing Republicans of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage. Just ahead, I'll ask two of those so-called young guns of the GOP if they'll insist on trying to keep tax cuts for the wealthy.

And it could call come down to turnout, turnout, turnout. Democrats seem to be having a hard time getting their voters all fired up and out to the polls.


BLITZER: President Obama's returning today to one of his favorite lines of attack against Republicans. We heard him just a short while ago in the Rose Garden over at the White House accusing the GOP of holding middle-class tax cuts hostage because they want to extend Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

And joining us now from Capitol Hill, two members of Congress. Eric Cantor, he's the number two Republican in the House of Representatives, and Kevin McCarthy, he's a Republican of California. They are two of the three authors of a brand new book entitled "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders." The third author, Paul Ryan, unfortunately, couldn't be with us. We'll talk to him on another occasion.

Congressmen, thanks very much for coming in. Congressman Cantor, I want to start with you. In the end, if it comes down to getting the tax rates continued, the current tax rates for the middle class, for about 97 or 98 percent of the American people, those earning less than $250,000 a year, and not able to continue to the tax rates for the richer Americans, will you, like John Boehner, go along with that proposal?

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), PARTY WHIP: Wolf, the situation here in Washington in the U.S. House is this. We have a bipartisan majority in support of the position that says we ought not be raising taxes on anybody, especially in a recession.

I mean, we need jobs right now. We know that over two-thirds of the jobs come from small businesses. The problem with allowing taxes to go up right now is you're going to tax the very people that were expecting to put their money to work to create jobs.

The House Democrats, Wolf, have continued to say that they're going to look to the Senate to go first on this bill. We know as well, yesterday, senators Lieberman and Webb joined Senator Conrad, senators Bayh and Nelson, saying, we don't think we ought to raise taxes on anybody.

They joined the president's former budget director, Peter Orszag, saying, now is not a time to raise taxes.

So I think what we can see again is a bipartisan majority saying, Speaker Pelosi, bring a bill to the floor that staves off tax increases period until we can get the economy back on track.

BLITZER: But under the hypothetical possibility, and it's a very real possibility if you speak to folks at the White House, the president could veto that and he could say, you know what, I'm sticking by my guns and I only want the tax rates to continue for the middle class, not for the wealthy, Congressman McCarthy, what do you do in a situation like that?

Do you allow taxes to go up for everyone?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, the president is wrong. What happens in that situation, he is taxing small business. He's taxing every individual, especially when it comes to dividends, think about those who are living on fixed income.

The president is wrong with the idea that he puts a new health care tax on, he has cap and trade looming out there, and then he goes out and raises the taxes on small businesses and he wonders why people aren't being hired. That's the difference. It doesn't have to be that way.

You've got a bipartisan -- you have three Democrats that are sitting in the House that's writing a letter telling the president he's wrong and asking others to join with us. We can have a bipartisan bill sent to the president that puts this country and doesn't increase taxes in a recession and actually turns around the tide to actually start it being -- people be hired.

BLITZER: But what if he doesn't blink and he holds firm, Congressman McCarthy, what are you going to do? Will you do what your leader, John Boehner, said on Sunday he would do?

MCCARTHY: I think the president would be wrong. What we would do is send the president a bill that doesn't raise taxes on anyone. It makes sure you do not raise taxes on small business in recession where unemployment is so high.

Remember, this is the president who told us if we pass the stimulus, unemployment would never go above 8 percent. Well, you know what, it's almost at 10. More Americans believe Elvis Presley is still alive than the stimulus actually created jobs.

I think the president ought to reacquaint (ph) this situation and listen to the bipartisan group that's in Washington to not raise taxes in a recession.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see who blinks on this issue first.

Let me move on to what happened in Delaware. Congressman Cantor, I'll get your response. Mike Castle, a longtime Republican member of the House, a man you know quite well, all of a sudden he loses to a tea party favorite, Kathleen (sic) O'Donnell. How shocked were you by that?

CANTOR: Wolf, I think this primary election that occurred last night in Delaware is not too much different than a lot of what the electorate has been demonstrating over the past almost year.

And that is the electorate is fed up. It's fed up with the spending. It's fed up with people who what to continue to expand government. And, frankly, they want people focusing on sustaining the promises that they make.

And I do think that that's what caused the outcome in the election last night.

BLITZER: Well, her win -- Christine O'Donnell, I should say, her win shows that a lot of voters out there, a lot of Republican conservative voters are fed up with Republicans.

CANTOR: Well, it's not just Republicans. It's the independents out there who are feeling the same frustration. People are tired of spending money we don't have. People are tired of the fact that, as Kevin points out, the spending stuff in the stimulus plan just hasn't worked. And yet there is no admission on the part of the White House or the Democratic majority that the programs don't work.

I mean, let's get down to it. People in American don't think spending more money in Washington are going to get people back to work. And I think that's the message that has been sent last night in Delaware and across the country.

BLITZER: So were you surprised, Congressman McCarthy, by Mike Castle's defeat? You know this congressman.

MCCARTHY: I know this congressman well. I wasn't surprised when you saw the momentum, any time somebody has the momentum, if you looked at the latest polls within there.

Remember, this is the seventh incumbent that, when you look through the different states, Utah and others, that have gone down, this is an unusual year. And this is a year that people are trying to fight to take this country back, take this city back from a couple of different perspectives.

Yes, they're mad. It's an anti-incumbent year. That is a difficult time for incumbents when you're going through a Republican primary. But take that experience and put it to the Democrats when it comes to November. Because that is a frustration.

The tea party is stronger today than they were before. And the tea party's main focus is about spending. They would go to all of those rallies trying to make -- change people's opinion, and these elected officials have ignored them.

BLITZER: Is there no room, Congressman Cantor, for moderates in the Republican Party? Mike Castle being a moderate?

CANTOR: You know, Wolf, of course there are. I mean, let's go again and say what this election and the primary was about yesterday in Delaware. It is just the same and it is about pretty much everywhere right now. It's about too much spending. It's about people not delivering on promise they make. And it's about a commitment to make sure we get Washington out of so much of our -- every aspect of our lives.

That's what that was about. It's not about moderate or conservative. It is about common-sense fiscal discipline, and getting this country back on track. That's what the voters are feeling right now.

And, you know, look, Kevin and I and Paul wrote a new book. It's called "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders." And what we're trying to do is say, look, we're the Republican Party that learned from our mistakes in the past.

We also are learning from all of the errors being committed by this administration and the Democratic majority in Congress. And we believe very strongly that if we stick to the principles of free enterprise, of limited government, of making sure that we understand that power comes from the people and let them keep more of their money they earn, that we can get this economy on track and get people back to work.

That's what we're about. We have unbelievable candidates out there running across the country who believe in a new inclusive Republican Party that stands for opportunity first.

BLITZER: Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, two of the three authors of the new book "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders." We'll have Paul Ryan on by himself, guys. He'll be here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.

Thanks very much. Good luck with the book.

MCCARTHY: Thanks for having us.

CANTOR: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll have a check on some of the day's other top stories, we'll tell you about Arnold Schwarzenegger's mission overseas. We'll tell you what happens when a vulture and a helicopter collide.


BLITZER: Kate Bolduan is monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What else is going on Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is visiting South Korea, it's part of a week long trade tour of Asia that includes stops in China and Japan. The governor is calling on the U.S. congress to pass a free trade agreement with the country.

And a new hope, literally, for one of the 33 miners trapped hundreds of feet underground in Chile. His wife has given birth to a little girl. He suggested the name Esperanza, Spanish meaning hope. He suggested the name through a handwritten letter delivered through a four inch in the ground. It's been 40 days now since that mine collapsed.

And a close encounter of an unusual kind. Look at the shattered window here of this medical helicopter. A three-person crew was flying over Arizona when a vulture smashed through the glass hitting the pilot square in the chest. Despite the surprise, he was able to safely land the helicopter. No one was hurt. The vulture wasn't so lucky. I guess that's one more reason why I will not be getting my pilot's license.

BLITZER: OK. Thanks Kate.

Are Democrats underestimating the power of Sarah Palin and the tea party movement? Just ahead a reality check on what could be some premature high-fives.


BLITZER: Let's get right to our strategy session. Joining us now are CNN political contributors Roland Martin and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. Guys thanks very much for coming in. I remember back when in 1980, you were a little boy at the time Roland so you might not remember, there was a president named Jimmy Carter, the Democrats were in the white house. A lot of those guys, when they heard that Ronald Reagan, an actor from Hollywood was the Republican nominee, they were going around high-fiving, they were thrilled. How could the president of the United States lose to this Hollywood actor? Is the same phenomenon going on right now when all these Democrats are looking at these tea party candidates and saying there's no way we can lose?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think more so the media are making those kinds of statements as it relates to the tea party candidates winning because Republicans are also saying look, they have some serious issues, but you cannot ignore the ground game. Who cares about endorsements, who cares about money. They beat them in the primaries, but you can't ignore what happened in the general election. It's all up for grabs, the conventional wisdom should be out the window.

BLITZER: These tea party candidates like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware yesterday, she beat one of the most popular politicians in the history of the state of Delaware.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yeah, and I think the message, Wolf, here is that this is an anti-establishment election. People look at Washington, Republican and Democrat and say, all you experts qualified people, you know, you have spent the country into bankruptcy and debt I can never pay. There's a new generation I think of Republicans out there that's part of this wave, the tea party is part of it, but so are Scott Brown, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. These anti-establishment candidates just ate the old Republican establishment for a snack. They're coming in November for dinner.

BLITZER: And Roland, you talk about the ground game, getting out to vote which is going to be decisive on November 2. Look at this study, the American University Center Study of the American Electorate. A study that came out and said this, "Republican turnout in their state wide primaries exceed Democratic turnout in theirs by more than 4 million votes. The average percentage of eligible citizens who is voted in Democratic primaries was the lowest ever. The average percentage of citizens who is voted in the GOP state wide primaries was the highest since 1970." The Republicans, the conservatives, they're enthusiastic, the Democrats not so much.

MARTIN: That is no shock because again American voters whether you're white, black, Hispanic, Asian, folks operate on emotion. If you look at 2006, 2008, Democrats, all of those groups, they were fired up when it came to the war and the economy and it was anybody but Bush. Republicans, even when Senator John McCain was a nominee, who said I'm not really enthused about the guy. What the Democrats have to defense the next 50-something odd days, they have to do a better job of framing the opponent, but also making clear, this is what we accomplished. They have made a major mistake by dancing around, we're not sure. If you can't explain what you have done to help this country, yes they will throw you out because they all say you did nothing for us.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen something this late in the game 57 days before the election something like that happen?

CASTELLANOS: It's an incredibly powerful wave that's out there. In Florida they just had a senate primary, both sides Democratic and Republicans, Democratic side, contested primary, hot, Kendrick Meek, 936,000 people, very close, he came from behind to win. 936,000 Democrat came out to vote. On the Republican side, the race was over, Marco Rubio got 34 percent. 1.25 Republicans came out. 34,000 more. That's how big the wave is. The reason the wave is big is because of the Reagan effect. Reagan said, look, we don't have faith in Washington, Washington is broken, but the American people can do anything, and that's the message this election -- the president is on the wrong side of that.

BLITZER: Can the president change the game between now and November 2?

MARTIN: He can do some things, but it's really not his job. The question is when it comes to the Democratic senatorial campaign committee and the house, how much are they putting into the ground game as it relates to African-Americans and Hispanics and women and young voters? How are they driving those people there? They're looking at their PDAs talking to all these political scientists by saying we'll just drop an ad out that will get them out. No, you need to drag them out of houses and say if you don't come out to vote, this is going to be the net effect.

CASTELLANOS: The president is stuck in a royalist elite message that says Washington has all the answers. Send us all your money. I have never seen anything as fundamentally dishonest by the way as what the president did today by the way saying if I don't take money out of your pocket and put it in my pocket, you're costing me money. Reagan won because his message was I have faith in the American people. The Democratic message in this election is we don't have faith in the American people. Send us your money to Washington.

MARTIN: Independents and Democrats, when they want the economy fixed, when they want education fixed, who do they look to? They're not looking to their next door neighbor. They're looking to government. The question is are they getting what they want out of government? So people on both sides like it when government gets involved, when times are happy, they don't want anymore government.

CASTELLANOS: The establishment is cooked.

BLITZER: On the Republican and the Democratic side?

CASTELLANOS: We have both seen them have the Republican establishment for a snack, dinner time's coming.


MARTIN: That's going to be the key, the ground game.

BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is asking is the tea party for real, he'll be back in just a moment. And the latest word coming in from Craigslist on its adult services ad section, CNN following up on its investigation of underaged girls being sold for sex online.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "the Cafferty file," Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is the tea party for real?

Eric in New York writes, "What is real is the frustration ordinary Americans feel that the world's seemingly spinning out of control. The tea party has just taken advantage of that frustration and the caliber of their candidates is a reflection of the angry, mean spirited divisive nature of the time.

Mike writes, "The tea party is merely the nutty wing of the Republican Party, rebranded to sound cool."

Ken writes, "The Democrats can feel smug about the tea party victories in the primaries because they see it as a dismantling of the GOP, but in actuality, we the people are not looking at which party holds an office but rather which person will be a statesman and not a politician when the general election is over. Our voices will be heard one way or another. There's no longer a mute button and the politicians had better start listening."

David writes, "I think the tea party is doing the United States a big favor. My father once told me, every once in a while you need to get drunk in order to appreciate sobriety."

Joe writes, "Complete U.S. insanity is not far away now."

Stephen writes, "Real? Maybe yes, maybe no. What's real is the contempt that most of us have for the way our elected officials feed at the public trough and put their interests party first ahead of ours."

S.J. writes from Honolulu, "No, the tea party victories are the result of all the lies and propaganda the Republican Party has been pushing out over the last couple of years. Now they have pushed their base so far to the right as to alienate most moderates and independents. We can only hope that the chickens come home to roost in November."

Mark writes, "You bet you."

And Harold in Alaska writes, "It's not the Boston tea party, it's more like the Mad Hatter's tea party, with Sarah in wonderland presiding."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on the blog,

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty thank you. Don't go far away.

The Centers for Disease Control calls it an alarming insurgence. Just ahead, an inside look at what the government is now doing to fight bed bugs. Plus she managed a heavyweight defeat against her own party but could Christine O'Donnell's win cost Republicans a senate majority in November.


BLITZER: They're becoming a serious and growing problem around the United States. We're talking about bed bugs. Now new action is being taken to stop them. Kate Bolduan is here, she's monitoring the story for us and it seems to be getting worse.

BOLDUAN: It seems to be getting worse. It's not a topic anyone likes to talk about but it's important. Bed bugs were virtually eradicated from the U.S. following World War II, but due to increased international travel, banning of certain pesticides and developing resistance to others bed bugs are back and the federal government's jumping in for the fight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feed them once a week.

BOLDUAN: So you're one of the rare people who wants healthy bed bugs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want healthy bed bugs to test.

BOLDUAN: The sight of them, even the thought of them can make anyone's skin crawl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would qualify as a lot of bed bugs.

BOLDUAN: Bed bugs are making a big come back. According to a survey by the National Pest Management Association, 95 percent of pest control companies have faced bed bug infestations in the past year, that's up from 25 percent in the year 2000. And Mark Feldlaufer is at the forefront of the federal government's attempt to take on the pests. His mission, find the chemical that consistently kills the blood suckers.

MARK FELDLAUFER, USDA AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE: At first, we looked at compounds that the bed bugs produced themselves to see if that could be used. But as the problem has gotten larger and larger, we have looked at new chemistries which are synthesized by our in- house chemists and we're even starting to examine existing chemistries.

BOLDUAN: In a quiet lab just outside Washington, Feldlaufer has been studying bed bugs for two years for the scientific research arm of the USDA. The pest control industry welcomes the help from Washington, saying a widespread coordinated effort is need to wipe them out.

JASON GUY: Two years ago, we probably get five calls a year. Today we're probably getting five calls a day.

BOLDUAN: Jason Guy is on the front lines, an exterminator in the Washington region.

GUY: I have seen them in the best hotels. I have seen them in the worst hotels. I have seen them in cruise ships and in homes and in any neighborhood we have in D.C.

BOLDUAN: Last year the Environmental Protection Agency hosted a bed bugs summit. Along with the EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted an alarming insurgent in bed bugs. Back in the Dr. Feldlaufer's lab, the painstaking search for a solution continues.

FELDLAUFER: I would much prefer giving an interview saying this is what you want to use than, you know, we're right in the middle of it right now.


BOLDUAN: So where are the biggest bed bug problems? Take a look here, here's a map of the most bed bug infested cities in the country. This is according to a survey by Terminix. New York and Philadelphia top the list, Washington, D.C. is also on the list. And note there are three Ohio cities in the top ten. Ohio's governor has made an urgent plea to the EPA to approve a pesticide to combat infestations that's currently banned for indoor use. They say it's effective. There are studies that show it works.

BLITZER: The federal government now on the case. Thanks for the story.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now a stunning tea party primary win sends Republicans into disarray and leaving Democrats cheering. We're taking a closer look at the Delaware outsider to took on the GOP establishment.