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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

GOP Wins Virginia, New Jersey Gubernatorial Races

Aired November 3, 2009 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They are counting the votes tonight, and so are we -- state and local races getting big national attention.

President Obama not on the ballot, of course, but some of those races will be interpreted as the first real test of his coattails. Can he get other Democrats elected?

It's also a battle for the future of the Republican Party. Are moderates still welcome? And what impact are Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others on the right having on the voting today?

With us tonight, the whole team is assembled. Wolf Blitzer will be calling key races for us. Already, we know there has been a GOP blowout tonight in Virginia, in the governor's race there, still too close to call in New Jersey, where President Obama has campaigned hard.

John King is at the magic wall with a wider view throughout these two hours. Soledad O'Brien has new polling on the mood of the country, some surprising results there. Also, Randi Kaye is focusing on a same-sex marriage vote in Maine that is drawing national attention and millions of dollars from across the country. And, speaking of money, Jason Carroll is looking at races, including billionaire Mike Bloomberg's here in New York, featuring bigwigs spending big bucks.

First up tonight: surprising developments in the key race in Upstate New York, District 23, that drew some major national Republican names into the campaign, more "Raw Politics," what we know right now from John King at the magic wall -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, how you are?

We're looking at the results, watching them come in. New York 23, we want the results there to see if the Conservative won. I'm going to bring us back to the governorships for now.

And Virginia is the big governor's race, as you noted, a blowout. I want to show you something. This is the big Republican race right now, 59 percent for the Republicans, 95 percent of the vote in. Look at this red. Remember all this red, because I want to go back in time. I want to show you President Obama's victory in Virginia in 2008. We will come back over here and bring it up.

Look at the difference here. President Obama won big up here in the Washington suburbs, won big here in central Virginia, won big down here as well. Let me circle it this way to show you the emphasis, blue for Obama, blue for Obama, blue for Obama down here and down here.

Now, remember, inside all of those circles is blue. Let's come fast-forward now to this, tonight's race here for Virginia governor. Look at how much red is in these areas where Barack Obama won big.

Now, is this a referendum on the president? No. But is it a proof that the president's direct appeal, let's do this again, let's recreate the movement of 2008, did not work in the state of Virginia.

So, Democrats will be trying to figure out what went wrong there. Of course, they're saying it's mostly the case that their candidate didn't run a great election. But they didn't get significant African- American turnout. And, significantly, they lost the independent vote hugely in Virginia tonight.

Here's New Jersey, as the map fills in, in the race for governor, right now, Chris Christie, the Republican, at 50 percent, the Democratic incumbent, Jon Corzine, at 44 percent, the independent candidate running about 6 percent, beginning to fill in.

Here's some significant here. Bergen County, this is a significant suburb of New York City, pretty even right there, 49-48. Again, I want to go back in time, just for perspective. Look at Bergen County. We go back to the general election in 2000 (sic). President Obama won big.

So, the Republican candidate in New Jersey, as we look at these key counties, at the moment, running stronger than the president did in a big Democratic state. But New Jersey, we have still got to watch, Anderson, a lot more to go there.

COOPER: John, I want to come back to you in a moment.

But I want to go right now to Wolf Blitzer with some surprising developments in New York's 23rd Congressional District.

Wolf, what have we learned?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, take a look at this.

In the 23rd in New York's congressional district, almost 20 percent of the precincts have now reported, and the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, is slightly ahead, 51 percent, 44 percent for the Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, over here.

You can see that Dede Scozzafava, she was the official Republican candidate, but her name is still on the ballot, even though she withdrew over the weekend. She's getting 5 percent, 1,500 votes. So, you see that some people still voting for her, some Republicans. That potentially could hurt, I think, Doug Hoffman, even though Dede Scozzafava went ahead and endorsed Bill Owens. We're watching that race closely. Take a look at this New York City mayoral race, Anderson. With almost 50 percent of the precincts now in, you can see Michael Bloomberg with 49 percent. But Bill Thompson, the Democratic candidate, the challenger, the comptroller of New York City, with 48 percent. There's only a difference of about 4,300 votes or so, with almost half of the precincts in.

This is looking a lot closer than a lot of people thought would be the case. They thought Michael Bloomberg was going to have it relatively easy. Not yet, Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Wolf, we will come back you to. We will come back to John King as well.

Let's dig deeper now, beyond the numbers, beyond tonight, with our political panel. Senior political analyst David Gergen is here, who has revised presidents, Republican and Democratic. Former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer joins us, also political contributor and Democratic strategist James Carville, and Pamela Gentry, senior political analyst for BET.

Let's just talk first about what is happening big picture tonight.

James, what you are watching? What's the most significant thing tonight?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I was watching the Daggett vote in New Jersey, which is a little small for my liking. I'm -- I have got a pit in my stomach. I hope I'm wrong. I would be glad -- I would be glad to admit that I'm wrong about that.

This thing -- there are two things that are -- the thing in Upstate New York is interesting. We don't know. It's 25, 20 percent of the vote in. The thing in New York City with 50 percent in, 49-48, I like fell out the back of my chair.

COOPER: With the amount of money that Mike Bloomberg put into this, you would expect him to be far more...

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: I was reading the paper today at lunch. We're in New York. And the poll in one of the papers said, it was 50 percent to 38 percent. And I said, gee, this thing could be closer, because incumbents poll about what they get.

I didn't realize that -- and who knows -- who knows where the other 50 percent are coming from. But I think, all three -- you could just see everybody did a collective, you know, whoa, look at this.

COOPER: Ari, for you, what are the big headlines so far, and what are you expecting in the next two hours?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Anderson, I think the big thing is the sweep of time, at least in the last several years.

In 2005, 2006, 2008, election night was a great year to be a Democrat. And now that three-year cycle, especially the '06 and '08 cycle, which were big, booming years for Democrats, has ground to a halt. It's too early to know what that means to 2010 yet. But it certainly is a very encouraging night, because it had been an overwhelmingly Democratic shift.

COOPER: And you're basing this right now on Virginia, the sweep there for Republicans?

FLEISCHER: Well, and, certainly, in 2005, the Democrats did take Virginia. They did take New Jersey. 2006, of course, they won the House, won the Senate. In 2008, they added to their margins there.

So, the last three cycles of election nights have been bad for Republicans. They broke the trend. They broke the pattern. And it's a real significant check on Barack Obama's first year in office. I don't think anybody can minimize what it means to the president. Too early to say what it means to 2010, but it is a check on President Obama.

COOPER: David Gergen, quick thought from you?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: How striking that how many of these races are moving against the party that held the seat, against the incumbents? It's a -- it's a vote against the way the country is going. People are not -- obviously not very happy.

COOPER: We are going to have a lot more from Pamela Gentry and our other panelists all throughout this -- these two hours that we're going to be on the air.

Let us know what is on your mind right now on this election night. You can join Erica Hill and I in the live chat, which is now under way at AC360.com.

Up next: a new look at the country's mood, some new poll numbers just out. How real is the anger out there? How real is the fear about where the country's going? We have all seen the protests. Well, we have some surprising results and new polling tonight.

Also, is President Obama keeping his promises to the country, to all of us? We will compare his campaign rhetoric to White House realities, "Keeping Them Honest" on 360 tonight.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Digging Deeper" into election results tonight, their implications for President Obama, the Republican Party, and the big midterm elections a year from now.

We can already call the Virginia governor's race, Bob McDonnell, the Republican, taking it from Democrat Creigh Deeds, upholding a Virginia tradition of doing the opposite what it did in the prior presidential election, blue in '08, red in '09.

New Jersey, though, still too close to call, Republican Chris Christie leading Democratic Governor Jon Corzine by about 6 percentage points, with about 71 percent of precincts reporting.

Back now with our panel, David Gergen, Ari Fleischer, James Carville, and Pamela Gentry.

Pamela, your thoughts on what you have seen so far tonight in Virginia and elsewhere and what you expect over the next two hours.

PAMELA GENTRY, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, BET: Well, I think, right now, it's a clear sign that, if this is -- whether this is a referendum on the president or not is really not as important as it is that he moves whatever he is going to move on his agenda forward quickly, before he is really faced with the -- with the midterm elections, because, if, in fact, he does lose both -- if tonight, they lose Virginia, and I think they're -- probably, it's going to be very close to call, I mean, late into the night in New Jersey -- then I think that they're -- he is going to have problems with some of the conservative Democrats on the Hill supporting some of the initiatives that he's been trying to move forward.

So, it's going to make it harder for him to work on health care. It's going to make him -- difficult to get -- make decisions and consensus on what to do in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, I think he's going to have to look at tonight and say what does this tell him about he is -- positions himself, before -- before everything comes to a full stop.

COOPER: David Gergen, it also becomes more important now, this news out just a few hours ago that, according to Harry Reid, they may not be able to get a health care bill this year.

GERGEN: I think that took everybody by surprise, Anderson. There were actually two surprises. One is, the Senate may have to wait and the House may have to wait until after the 1st of the year. That's not good news for the White House. They wanted to get...

COOPER: Why? Why is that so significant?

GERGEN: Well, because they had the momentum. And it looked like they were going to lock it up.

And, to go to Pamela's point, if these races go badly for the Democrats tonight, say, in New Jersey -- and it has gone badly in Virginia -- that's going to give a lot of moderate and conservative Democrats pause on the health care bill.

And this whole thing could start to unravel on them, if they're not careful. You want to -- with something this big, and with this kind of momentum, you want to go ahead and shove it on through, if they could. So, I think it's going to -- I think that that is not helpful for them. But the other big surprise today, Anderson, frankly, was your CNN poll about people thought the president was handling health care. He only had a 42 percent approval of how he is handling health care, 57 percent disapproval. That suggests that the -- you know, the tides have moved out again on health care.

If that poll is accurate, he doesn't have the support he needs to get a massive, big bill through.

FLEISCHER: And one of the leaders of the Blue Dogs, on the -- the conservative Democrats in the House, is a Congressman Altmire from Pennsylvania.

And he was quoted a couple days ago as saying, if the Democrats lose tonight in these states, it's going create a lot of problems for the Blue Dogs, particularly on the health care legislation and other items of the Obama agenda.

And that's why I think they also wanted to get health care passed before the August recess, if you remember. That's when they were trying to get it done, when President Obama was more popular and had more momentum. It's diminishing now.

COOPER: James.

CARVILLE: I can't tell you what will happen if they pass health care, but I can tell what you will happen if they don't.

GERGEN: Right.

CARVILLE: They will get slaughtered. And maybe one of the reasons...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: They meaning?

CARVILLE: The Democrats.

FLEISCHER: Yes.

CARVILLE: The Democrats.

When we -- that's the one thing. If people think that you're in power and you can't govern, they will really take it out on you. Maybe one of the reasons that his health care approval is at 42 percent is people are saying, why -- he hasn't got anything done yet.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: They had this vote. It could...

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: And one of the things we saw tonight was, there wasn't much energy among Democratic voters. CARVILLE: Right.

GERGEN: And if -- and if they don't get health care, then the energy is really going to go down.

CARVILLE: Oh, boy.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And they are seeing energy among Republican voters, among conservative voters, perhaps more importantly, on the ground in Virginia.

(CROSSTALK)

CARVILLE: Sure saw it in Virginia. Sure did.

FLEISCHER: I think we're also at the point with -- on the health care bill, it's turning into a lose-lose for the Democrats.

You're 100 percent right. If they don't get it done, it really diminishes in base turnout. But if they do get it done, I think don't think it has enough in there that the liberal base of the Democratic Party gets excited about. It's not a particularly robust public option. And there are lots of different issues in there that don't get done what they always wanted.

CARVILLE: You know, if they pass it -- if they pass it, it will be reported that this is the first time this is done. Plenty of people have tried.

I can guarantee on this. Don't pass it, and we could lose both chambers.

COOPER: And, Pamela...

CARVILLE: That's almost -- that's almost a cinch.

GENTRY: But, you know, there...

COOPER: Pamela, this is certainly something that the White House has been promising, essentially, that they will have something done by the end of the year on this.

GENTRY: I think -- and I think that they're concentrating on trying to get something by the end of the year.

And I was really surprised to hear that as well. They also -- there was another story today that Congressman (sic) Lieberman is saying that he won't be an obstacle in the way, that if the -- that if Harry Reid gets enough votes, and gets this bill moving in the Senate, that he won't be someone who will -- he won't be the person -- he will side with the Democrats.

But, you know, the other thing that we haven't talked a lot about in this race is for Virginia. I mean, we have mentioned it. In Virginia and in New Jersey, talking about motivating voters, there are two big constituencies that didn't show up.

Yes, it was the young people. But African-Americans, I bet the numbers are going to be very low turnouts in both of those states. And I think the Latino vote, I don't think that they were motivated to come out. And these numbers reflect that.

COOPER: Does that say something about President Obama, the fact that, I mean, he was able to mobilize large numbers of African- American voters, large number of young voters just for his election, and, yet, they haven't come out this time, though it is an off-year election?

GENTRY: It just confirms they weren't coming out -- they were coming out for President Obama. But I don't think they were coming out in these -- in these state races.

COOPER: All right. We're going to take a quick break.

Pamela Gentry, Ari Fleischer, James Carville, David Gergen are going to be with us throughout the evening.

Soledad O'Brien is going to be us with as well.

Tonight's races may have been decided mainly on local issues. They took place against a strong national backdrop, the economy, two wars, the health care battle. And we have all seen the protests, the anger at town hall meetings. But is that really a representation of the population at large? How much anger and fear is there out there?

We have got results tonight, some new polling on the country's mood. Soledad O'Brien has that.

Soledad, what are -- what are people feeling across the country?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what's interesting? And you mentioned them. The economy, health care, the wars, that's front-page news every day. And we see that reflected in the polling.

When you look at the numbers, you ask people, how do you feel things are going, 37 percent say they think things are going well. Sixty-three percent say they think things are going badly. You might look at these numbers, say, that's terrible.

But, actually, there's a silver lining in this, which is, this is the highest level in two years, this number right here. This is up seven points since August. And, also, for me, at least, this is one of the biggest surprises we have out of our telephone polling is this graph right here.

This is actually kind of a good number. You might not feel like rejoicing, but it's much better than it was. Back in December, people who were saying very badly, things are going very badly, was 40 percent. That number is now 22 percent.

So, there is a positive to read in that. When you talk about anger, though, look at these numbers here, people who say that they're feeling angry now 64 percent, back in October of 2008, 75 percent. So, you can see a significant drop right there. We see similar things, by the, way Anderson when you ask the question, are you scared? About a 11-point drop from what there was. It was 65 percent say they're scared today. It was 76 percent pre-election.

So, you're seeing some kind of improvement.

I think the key thing, Anderson, is this expectation question about, you know, where is the country going? And this could be the problem. You know, Obama's folks were saying that he was going to watch the game. He wasn't going to follow election results. He might actually want to follow election results, because, for people who say how things will be a year from now, 63 percent say they think it's going to be better. Things will be going well a year from now. You might say, well, that's sort of good news, except if you're in charge and you don't think -- make things better a year from now.

This could be a big problem for Obama's people, if they can't actually turn things around, because high expectations, lowish badly number, people are expecting a lot to happen in the next year. This could be a big, big problem for him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

We are going to have a lot more from Soledad throughout these next two hours and our entire panel. We are here until midnight -- late election results, including a tight New Jersey governor's race. We may have results on that quite soon, billionaire Mike Bloomberg's try for a third term as New York's mayor as well.

Also, the issue of same-sex marriage in Maine, we're following a hotly contested battle there. John King is going to have that for us.

Also, new revelations about what really happened that night John McCain and Sarah Palin lost. Did the McCain folks worry she was going to go rogue live on stage? Details ahead and how her influence is being felt tonight.

And, next, some other big stories from around the country, including a grim new discovery at the home of an alleged mass murder -- more bodies.

We're right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Back now covering the big races tonight, the big questions surrounding them about President Obama and -- Obama, his popularity, and the opposition, namely, what kind of party the Republicans are becoming.

We have some late results to bring you to you.

Let's check in with Wolf.

Wolf, what are we learning?

BLITZER: Anderson, in New Jersey right now, it's still pretty close. Eighty percent of the precincts have now reported, but Chris Christie, the Republican challenger, with 50 percent, Jon Corzine, the Democratic incumbent, 44 percent, Chris Daggett, the third-party independent, with 6 percent of the vote.

Eighty percent of the precincts are in, almost 100,000 votes ahead for Chris Christie. He's looking pretty good, but it's not over with yet. We're going to continue to count these ballots before we project a winner.

In New York State, there are two races we're covering very closely right now. Let's go to the mayoral race in New York City. Seventy-three percent of the precincts have now reported, 50 percent for Michael Bloomberg, the independent incumbent, with 389,000 votes, 372,000 for Bill Thompson, 47 percent, relatively close. A lot of people thought it wouldn't be that close, but 73 percent of the precincts in.

In New York's 23rd congressional District, the special election, Bill Owens, the Democrat, is slightly ahead of Doug Hoffman, the conservative, 51-44 percent. But Dede Scozzafava, she has got 5 percent of the vote, even though she was the -- was the official Republican candidate. She took her name off the -- she -- she withdrew over the weekend, but her name remains on the ballot. Some people are still voting for her.

That 5 percent, if it's really close, could make a difference. So, we're still watching this, 33 percent of the precincts in New York's -- Upstate New York now reporting in -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, a lot of people watching that race very closely. We will continue to follow it.

We're also following other important stories tonight.

Erica Hill joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, Anderson, we begin in Cleveland, where investigators today discovered four more bodies and a skull at the home of the convicted rapist. They have found now a total of 10 bodies on the property since last week. Fifty-year-old Anthony Sowell is charged with five counts of aggravated murder, rape, felonious assault, and kidnapping. He will be arraigned tomorrow.

The longtime accountant of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff pleading guilty to multiple charges in connection with Madoff's decades-long Ponzi scheme. David Friehling expressed remorse in court today, but maintains he committed the crimes as an independent auditor, and was unaware he was involved in Madoff's far-reaching $50 billion scam.

A 360 follow -- the Louisiana justice of the peace who refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial company has now resigned. We have been following this story closely for you on A.C. 360. Anderson, of course, interviewed Beth Humphrey, the bride to be who was turned away by Keith Bardwell.

Humphrey and her husband did obtain a marriage license from a different justice of the peace. They filed a lawsuit weeks ago.

Celebrities, it turns out, may be different from the rest of us, but the swine flu really doesn't care. Shawn Stockman of R&B group Boyz II Men has been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, forcing him to miss the taping of the 2009 Soul Train Awards. He joins a growing list of stars who have come down with the virus, including the Backstreet Boys' Brian Littrell and "Harry Potter" star Rupert Grint, who I believe is redheaded Ron Weasley.

COOPER: To me, the headline on that story is that Boyz II Men still exists.

HILL: That's what I thought, too.

COOPER: And so does the Backstreet Boys.

HILL: I had no idea they were still around.

COOPER: Yes, nor did I.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: All right.

We're going to be able -- we're going to be able to project something in New Jersey.

Let's go to Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much.

CNN now project that the Republican challenger, Chris Christie, will win the election for governor of New Jersey. Jon Corzine will lose. Chris Christie, the former prosecutor, he goes ahead. Eighty- one percent of the vote has now been counted. He has got 50 percent, to 44 percent for Jon Corzine.

But this is another pickup for the Republicans. They had won the gubernatorial election in Virginia. Now the other major gubernatorial contests in New Jersey goes to the Republican as well.

So, this is a big, big win for the GOP tonight, Anderson. It's something they wanted, they wanted desperately. And you know what? It looks like they're going to get it.

COOPER: Wolf Blitzer, thanks. We will continue to check in with you.

Pamela Gentry joining us from Washington.

Pamela, obviously, a big blow to President Obama and the Democratic Party from the results in New Jersey. President Obama had campaigned for Corzine, as had other big-name Democrats.

GENTRY: Yes. And I think he went maybe three -- three or four times. And, so, he did -- he did put his face on that campaign, probably more than the one in Virginia.

But, I mean, New Jersey to go to a Republican governor is -- is -- is startling. But what it shows me is what I was saying earlier. With both of these states now going Republican, it's going to send, I think, the message to the very conservative Democrats that have been really giving him a little bit of difficulty in Congress thus far on some of these really big-ticket items that they may -- they may pull back now.

And I think that it's going to be a little bit more difficult for him to push some of these -- his agenda forward, if he's -- depending on these conservatives.

COOPER: You're looking at pictures from the Christie campaign headquarters, obviously, a lot of excitement there, music playing.

David Gergen, the meaning of all this in New Jersey?

GERGEN: Well, Anderson, I think the critical thing is that the wind has now started blowing a different direction from what it has been in the American public for the last four or five years.

You know, 2006 was a blowout for Democrats. 2008 was another blowout for Democrats. Taking two pastings in a row like that, the Republicans look like they're really in trouble. They still don't have leadership at the national level. The brand has been hurt. The number of people who call themselves Republicans is down, you know, down to 20 percent, 17 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But isn't the number of people...

GERGEN: And here they come. They come -- with all of those handicaps, and they come, boom. And they win these two big races.

COOPER: Well, doesn't that sort of, Ari, kind of fly in the face of the narrative that you hear in a lot of the media, and particularly liberal media, saying that, well, the Republican Party, there's civil war going on, they are internally divided, and, in fact, that by -- by appealing to the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, they're breaking up the party?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think what you have seen in New Jersey, frankly, is a state that President Obama took by 20 points, and now a Republican is winning by about five points.

So, these stories about the extinct Republican Party in the Northeast are very, very exaggerated.

Now, I think you -- New Jersey is big, very big, Anderson. And New Jersey was the state that was like Charlie Brown and Lucy, where Lucy always held the football.

(LAUGHTER)

FLEISCHER: Republicans always thought, we can get it. We can kick that ball.

And we kept losing in New Jersey. Big change in New Jersey tonight, and that does have power to send a different signal to the Northeast, which is a key part of 2010.

COOPER: Roland, I see skepticism in your eyes.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Christie Whitman, was she not a Republican? Did she not win the governor of New Jersey?

Look, you had...

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: A decade ago.

GERGEN: Some years ago.

MARTIN: No, no, I understand that.

But you had an individual in Corzine who, even before the 2008 election, was not a popular governor. He had issues coming in. This summer, this guy was down 15, 18, 20 points. He was fighting all the way back.

Now, there's no doubt the White House put a lot of emphasis on this particular race. The economy in that state, horrible, high property taxes. He made promises, didn't keep them.

What you're also seeing here, there is a difference between the power of President Obama in terms of when he was running, and that is folks getting behind his campaign, as opposed to being able to create the kind of movement you need to bring other Democrats along.

And, so, what he has to then do is go back and say, wait a minute. From a national party standpoint, what -- what -- what must we do to take what we did in the campaign to apply it to the DNC? How are you going to get your same coalition out, young voters, minority voters, how are you going to get those independent voters to get behind the people down-ballot?

Even -- even in 2008, there were issues down-ballot, even though he was at the top of the ticket. The Democrats must be concerned about that. If you don't pay attention to the governor's races and the statehouse races and those smaller races, then you are going to go to lose...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I have got to go to break, but, David Gergen, very quickly GERGEN: I just -- that is one interpretation of what he must do.

MARTIN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

GERGEN: But, Roland, there is also a question of whether he's gone for so much government, that people are rebelling against that, whether he's applied it on the stimulus, to health care, to all the -- the automobile, automobiles, and whether there's a reaction to that.

COOPER: Too much.

We have got to -- we have got to take a quick break.

Still ahead: The promises made on the campaign trail last year, there were a lot of them, from the economy to gays in the military. So, how many has President Obama kept? How many is he ignoring? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.

Also tonight, "Raw Politics": an epidemic of nastiness on both sides of the political aisle. Are civility and respect heading for extinction? What's behind all the extreme speech on both sides of the aisle?

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still no results in for the New York 23rd District, closely watched race there, certainly with national implications, but a big night for Republicans in Virginia in the governor's race, also in the governor's race in New Jersey.

John King is at the magic wall.

John, what are we seeing in New Jersey?

KING: I want to show you something, Anderson. We are going to play this by the colors. Here are the results in New Jersey right now, 83 percent of the vote in. Republican Chris Christie. That's a narrow lead, 49 to 45.

First, let me show you Governor Corzine's one hope. He has to hope that right in here in the Newark area, Essex County, a little shy of 10 percent of the population. It's a Democratic county. He's getting 66 percent of the voluntary. But look at that. Even just during the last commercial break it went up from the mid-80s to 91 percent. So time is running out for Governor Corzine in places where there are Democratic votes.

I want to give you the big picture. Again, just look at this map. This is the state of New Jersey tonight. Look at all that red. Red is Republican. I'm going to go back first to President Obama. This is President Obama in the state of New Jersey. Look at all this blue for President Obama. Again, now want to come back to tonight, and the race for governor, look at all this red. We're going to go look at the last. Governor Corzine won four years ago. This red is Doug Christie. Here's Governor Corzine four years ago in the race for governor. Look at all this blue.

So you have a Democratic incumbent in a bad economy with high unemployment running way below where he ran four years ago in this race.

And you have a Republican. This is Corzine in Bergen County, big suburb, suburban county, New York City. Corzine wins it big four years ago. Fast forward to 2009, the race for governor, the Republican candidate winning there. In the suburbs and in the excerpts tonight, just one night, but they're both in New Jersey and in Virginia.

Republicans are running much better this year than they did last year. Does that automatically project to next year? No, it doesn't. But if you're the Democrats, you're looking at these numbers, and you're looking at all this red in a very Democratic state. You're a bit nervous.

COOPER: Republican Chris Christie we are predicting as the winner of the governor's race in New Jersey.

John, what's happening in the state of Maine? A referendum on gay marriage is on the ballot. The legislature there, the first time a state legislature has passed a gay marriage, not something that was ordered by the courts. Now there's a referendum on whether or not to overturn what the legislature did. What are we seeing?

KING: We're not getting -- we're not getting live data from Maine, so we're going to do this the out-fashioned way. Here is the state of Maine. The question on the ballot is should they repeal that same-sex marriage? The question, if you're voting yes, you're voting to repeal the right for same-sex couples to get married. The Associated Press is getting up the results.

Here's what we know. We have about 37 percent voting yes. Yes would be to repeal. Fifty-three percent voting no. If that number holds up that, that means same-sex marriage will stay in Maine as a right for same-sex couples to marry. Only about 12 to 15 percent of the vote in so far. But right now, the effort to appeal is falling well short of the majority. We'll keep tracking those numbers, Anderson.

COOPER: And the key is where that vote is coming from. Do we know at this point where that 13 or 14 percent of the votes are coming from, whether it's big cities or rural areas?

KING: That we do not. We're getting results through the Associated Press. We'll move them on you to as fast as we can. But the preliminary results, it's only 12 percent. But 47 percent yes to the effort to repeal. We'll keep track and see if that number moves.

COOPER: All right, we're joined by David Gergen, Ari Fleischer, CNN political analysts, Roland Martin, all here in New York.

The effort in Maine, interesting. We're hearing reports of high voter turnout. It had been anticipated about 35 percent on the ground, anecdotally. Some folks are saying as high as 50 percent.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's one of these interesting things. You know, the gay community was very demoralized by what happened in California with Prop 8 when they -- when they voted against gay marriage.

But they -- it's a very resilient movement. And they're fighting back, and they're energized. I think it may show that. That it could be the beginning of the trend. I mean, Jeff Toobin was watching this very closely and thought that it may go this way. You'd see other states.

This is the first time this really -- that the voters of the state may actually come out in favor of gay marriage. And that could be -- that could be...

COOPER: Right. In other states it's been judged who have passed this, and then legislation has followed. This is the first one from a legislature itself. How do you see this thing going?

ARI FLEISHER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I look at the sweep of time on these issues. I remember 1984 in a campaign I worked on. The Democratic incumbent received a check from a gay group and became a very hot controversial issues.

And our society has really changed. Now, I don't believe in gay marriage for individuals. It's not what I believe in. But I think that our society, what changes that allow these types of issues to happen right now? And I think that change actually continues because of the younger votes. Younger voters increasingly feel that way.

COOPER: President Obama has received some criticism from gay rights groups for not being vocal in talking about Maine. Even Eric Holder, the attorney general, when asked about it passed and said he didn't know enough information to comment.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Also, they're his -- frankly, his political apparatus. They also are not full force in terms of this particular initiative.

The reality is he understands that he is still running a national campaign. The president is on the record as saying that he personally does not believe in gay marriage. But he has said in the past also that he was not going to intervene in any of sort of the state efforts to strike it down. So it's not surprising he will stay away from this. Because he understands that the political hot potato.

But the problem is you may set up promises. The question is, will you keep them as president? That's going to be the troubling issue for us.

COOPER: I see you shaking your head, David. GERGEN: Well, it's just -- it's pretty fundamental to this campaign. He made a group around -- that is pretty important on principle. And I don't know why, if it's really a matter of principle, you don't push ahead with it. Such as I'm surprised they haven't done more already.

I just thought that don't ask don't tell would be gone by then. And it's -- I think they're very patient. I can tell you, he can't wait much longer.

MARTIN: A lot of communities who backed President Obama will be extremely patient. There are a lot of people saying that patience is running out. So that has gained a number of different...

GERGEN: This is the straight -- here's what I'm for. And I think a lot of people in the gay community are voting for with enthusiasm, because they thought he had his -- they had his support.

COOPER: Got to leave it there.

Stick around, everyone. Coming up, the Sarah Palin factor. According to conservatives, blasting moderates, is she leading a revolt within the GOP? Our panel weighs in on that.

And later, boiling over. The rising political rhetoric. Has it ever been this bad before? Well, probably yes. But Tom Foreman looks at mudslinging on both sides tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: All right. Back on this election night. Following the latest on the contests that some believe could signal political change and the direction of this country.

Sarah Palin is counting on it. She's taking a very active role in trying to make the Republican Party more conservative. As she looks ahead, we're learning new behind-the-scenes details involving Palin and Senator John McCain from last year's election night.

A new book says the two were in a, quote, "all-out civil war" after losing the race. The book alleges Palin wanted to give a concession speech, but the McCain camp was so against the idea they turned the lights off when she and her family went back onstage. That was a year ago.

Tonight, Palin is still in the spotlight, campaigning for Conservative Party candidate in New York against a Republican while possibly setting her sights on the White House in '12. She argued that the Republican wasn't truly Republican. Anyway, let's talk more about it, the Palin factor.

With us again for tonight's strategy session, David Gergen, Ari Fleischer and Roland Martin.

Ari, what do you make about what is happening in the congressional district in 23 and the role Sarah Palin's playing? FLEISCHER: No. 1, forget the role Palin played for just a moment. I welcome a Republican Party that is reenergized on economic issues. And I think...

COOPER: And you think that's at the core of this?

FLEISCHER: Absolutely. So much of the media reported this wrong. They said it was about gay rights and about abortion issues. It was not a social issue rebellion in upstate New York.

COOPER: Because previously had been for abortion rights and...

FLEISCHER: And that's not disqualifying the big-tent Republican Party, especially in the northeast. But the problem was -- that led to the conservative rebellion was their economic records.

She voted for spending increases with the Democrats in Albany. She was for card checks. She demurred on whether she even supported John Boehner as the speaker of the House of Representatives. Up and down on the economic issues, which are now the bread and butter worries that Republicans have. She was the wrong candidate.

COOPER: You use the term "big tent" for the Republican Party. And you don't hear that as much as you used to hear it from -- from Republicans. Is the Republican Party still a big tent? Do they want to be at this point?

FLEISCHER: They're a big tent with a boost of tonight, and here's why. Take a look at the independent voters and how they align.

Independents went for President Obama in New Jersey by one point -- in Virginia by one point last year. Today they went 25 points for the Republican.

Last year they went for President Obama four points in New Jersey. Today, they went for Chris Christie, a Republican, by 27 points.

Independents, massive shift to Republicans. That's the definition of a big tent. Tonight, the stakes are back up in the big tent. At least in these two states. And that's a huge issue.

GERGEN: I don't understand, Ari. Do you think that when local Republicans nominate somebody for office, and the conservatives decide they're going to purge that person, that it then becomes a free for all, and Sarah Palin and others...

FLEISCHER: The purge in upstate New York came from the voters of those 11 counties. It was the county chairman who initially supported Scozzafava. They wouldn't have been able to have their will imposed, had it not been the conservative rebellion at the grassroots.

GERGEN: The general proposition is -- there's now an effort -- Dick Armey and these other folks are watching -- to go up against 12 leading moderates in the race. And the conservatives want to knock them off. Do you think that's a good idea for... FLEISCHER: If the issue is economic, yes. Because the biggest problem this country has is too much debt and too much spending. But...

GERGEN: ... tried (ph) for the Democrat?

FLEISCHER: I think if the issue is spending and the issue is debt, that's the bread and butter of the Republican Party, and that's where conservative rebellion is going to actually bring out more votes for Republicans than less.

MARTIN: I get how Ari wants to spin it. But you cannot deny how the social issues played an impact in the criticism against that Republican candidate. That was a leading issue, as well.

And not only that, what got me in this race was amazing, Anderson. You have Hoffman, who admitted he knew nothing about the local issues. Nothing. When Mary Snow even asked him, what was the No. 1 local issue, he -- "Uh -- uh, well, we'll sort it out by election day."

He went to "The Watertown Daily Times." They said, "Hey," asked him three critical questions. He said, "I don't know. If you gave me the questions beforehand, I would have the answers." They printed them in yesterday's newspaper.

Dick Armey stands up and says these are parochial issues. This was about the social agenda of the Republican Party. Some folks, yes, about fiscal issues. But you can not divorce the social issues, as well.

And look, this is going to extend now to Florida. Now you have Charlie Crist, governor there. Folks are saying, "You're not conservative enough. Rubio is more conservative. You have" -- Armey said earlier tonight on CNN, if they are looking it -- they want to make it clear who is more conservative. We're seeing this all across the country. We're seeing it in California, as well.

COOPER: OK. But to that point, if they're driving out moderates, how come, then, independents are voting overwhelmingly for Republicans this time around?

MARTIN: Absolutely. The fiscal issues are the critical issues.

FLEISCHER: Exactly.

MARTIN: But you can not deny the social aspect of it, as well. So the question then comes in, what happens when you have strong candidates in terms of in those particular local races? When you have a strong Democrat against a strong Republican. It's going to come down to that. But you cannot deny the social reality exists.

COOPER: There has all this media hand-wringing about the future of the Republican Party. Whether or not the media is really concerned about the Republican Party, I don't know. But there's been a lot of talk about it. Is that all just misplaced? I mean, if independents are going this time around for Republicans?

PAMELA GENTRY, SENIOR POLITICAL ACTIVIST, BET: Well, I was just listening to this. Right now you have less than 20 percent of people are identifying, self-identifying as Republicans. And that's because I think that they have become -- they've now become independents.

And so that's what we're seeing. We're seeing them now take on the mantle of registering and voting as an independent. And these are people who have left the Republican Party.

I still think there's a very small number of conservatives that are that conservative. The moderates are now calling themselves -- the moderates are now calling themselves

COOPER: David, to her point, if they're still voting Republican, isn't that all that matters?

GERGEN: I think it's what -- I need to go back to Ari's point. It does seem to me that one of the reasons that there was such a big shift of independents to the Republicans in Virginia, which I think you're right is a critical stay here tonight. Is that McDonnell ran a campaign that appeared to the middle as well as to the right.

He ran up to the Mississippi campaign. And he didn't...

COOPER: We've got to take a break before you answer that. Sorry.

We'll be back with David and Ari and Roland Martin and Pamela Gentry. A lot of people reading many more different things as the result tonight. You can go to AC360.com, see one view of why the Virginia race gives Republicans a blueprint for success in years to come, according to this author.

A special program note, also, to let you know about a 360 special investigation premiering one week from tonight. We've uncovered new information, a case of a murder on the battlefield. The case raises extremely difficult questions, questions that we leave it up to our viewers to decide.

The answers to the scene of the crime is a canal in Baghdad where, execution-style, three U.S. Army sergeants killed four Iraqis in their custody. We obtained 23 and a half hours of Army interrogation videotapes, tapes you'll only see on CNN.

In this one, Sergeant Michael Leahy, who was eventually convicted of premeditated murder, confesses to firing a man in the mouth (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. MICHAEL LEAHY, U.S. ARMY: I fired twice. I fired like I said this other guy fell back on me, and when he fell back on me, I don't know why I fired again. It wasn't at him. Like my arm went up to the -- to the right and I fired again. I'm pretty sure it didn't hit anybody but I'm not going to say that because I don't know for sure. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No reasonable person is going to believe that you shot and then this guy fell back on you, and then your arm went at this angle. If you shot this dude, just say you shot him.

LEAHY: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just be honest about it.

LEAHY: It is true. This guy did fall and my arm...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't doubt that this guy fell on you, but if you purposely shot this guy, Mike, just say it. You've already manned up. You've already shown that's what you're made of. I know it's hard, but I know that's what happened, dude. You wouldn't have so much question in your mind right now if you didn't know what happened. And I know it's hard.

LEAHY: You're right. And it...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just tell us what happened, Mike.

LEAHY: I'm like 80 percent sure, yes, I turned and shot this guy, but I'm not 100 percent sure I turned and shot this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not a killer. You are not a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) murderer. You acted way out of character and shot somebody, something that you would have never, ever done and something you'll never do again. And you would have never done it without that influence. That's something that's extraordinary in your life. It's something that you're never going to forget.

LEAHY: I say, yes, I shot. I shot the other guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Sergeant Leahy went on to tell Army investigators that his bullets killed one of the men but not the other. This is all part of our investigation, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes," a four- part series starting next Tuesday on 360.

Up next, though, tonight more election results and new numbers coming in. We'll have the latest for you.

And he's not watching tonight's election, allegedly, but President Obama is playing a very big role in the contest. What will the outcome say about him and his administration? What does it mean for the future of health-care reform? We'll talk about that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: See some tight races tonight, some potential surprises. In New York, we've got both: two big races getting national attention. One of the most out-of-the-way part of the state city, the other in New York City. Wolf Blitzer is following both for us. He has the projection.

Wolf, what did we learn?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Michael Bloomberg, Anderson, he will be re-elected for a third term as the mayor of New York City. Ninety- six percent of the votes have now been counted. Bloomberg with 51 percent to Bill Thompson, the Democrat, 46 percent.

Michael Bloomberg once was a Democrat, became an Republican, now an independent. He will be re-elected as the mayor of New York City. Spent a lot of his own money to do that.

In New York's special election, in the congressional district, the 23rd district with 54 percent of the precincts now reporting, the Democrat, Bill Owens, is slightly ahead of the conservative, Doug Hoffman, 49 percent to 46 percent. He's ahead by 2,300 votes.

Look at Dede Scozzafava. She was the Republican candidate. Although her name is still on the ballot, even though she dropped out over the weekend. She's got about 4,300 votes so far. She could make a difference if this is really, really close, as it's shaping up to be.

There hasn't been a Democrat elected in this district in more than 100 years. But Bill Owens right now with 54 percent, slightly ahead of the conservative, Doug Hoffman.

So we're watching all these races, Anderson. We'll get back to you once we know more.

COOPER: All right, Wolf. Let's go to John King right now, the magic wall. John, how much of a surprise so far are the numbers that the lead the Democrat had is closing in the last couple of minutes?

KING: As Wolf just noted, it's been more than 100 years. And just if anyone wants to know where this district is, it's right up here in upstate New York, right along the Canadian border. Twenty- three percent of the state's population.

And here are the latest numbers up here, Anderson. You see the conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman, 46 percent, as Wolf just noted. The Democrat, Bill Owens, 49. And even though she dropped out of the race, Dede Scozzafava still gathering some votes, and that could make the difference up in upstate New York. We'll continue to watch that one.

COOPER: Do we know how that would make a difference? I mean, is she taking votes away from -- from the conservative, or would she be giving votes -- I mean, I know she pledged her support to the Democrat.

KING: Lacking the exit polls up there, it's almost impossible to answer that question. On the one hand, you might say, well, she's the moderate Republican. She's getting moderate Republican votes. But we simply don't know that. COOPER: All right. John, we'll be right back. Up next, tonight's other headlines. Up to 1,000 pieces of luggage stolen from an airport. Two suspects in custody. A lot of victims. We'll tell you where the accused baggage bandits struck.

And later, big night for Republicans, bad night for Democrats so far. What about President Obama? What may it say about his agenda and leadership and health-care reform? Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Coming up, we have more election results from across the country. We're also keeping track of tonight's other stories. Let's check in with Erica Hill and a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, a 20-year-old woman from Iraq has died in an Arizona hospital just two weeks after police say her father ran over the woman with his car because she had become, quote, "too westernized." The father is now behind bars in Arizona, where he was facing charges of aggravated assault. But that will now be upgraded because his daughter died.

A seventh suspect arrested in the gang rape of a 15-year-old girl at a California high school. It happened at a homecoming dance last month. Police say up to ten people were involved in the attack. Another ten people watched without calling 911.

Two people arrested in Phoenix accused of stealing up to 1,000 pieces of luggage from baggage claim at San Arbor Airport. Now investigators say they found hundreds of bags, along with clothing and other items, scattered around the suspect's home. If you're hoping to get something back, though, good luck. Apparently, police say the luggage tags have been removed.

And there's a new winner in the battle of world's sexiest accent. Apparently, there's more to this than just personal opinion. Anderson, any ideas on which one may have come out on top in this survey at OnePool.com (ph)?

COOPER: Nope.

HILL: It's not New York. The sexiest accent is Irish. Irish.

COOPER: Wow, really?

HILL: Which I wouldn't even admit (ph). Roland Martin is floored by that. Italian, Scottish and French come next. American came in at number ten.

COOPER: Americans don't have an accent. I didn't know we had one.

HILL: Maybe that's why we came in at ten. There's no accent.

COOPER: All right. So for tonight's "Shot," Erica, the worst possible nightmare for vodka lovers. Got this clip from YouTube. It is security footage of a packed Russian warehouse, stocked with boxes of vodka. In Russia, this is known as heaven. Everywhere -- the forklift operator rams into one of the shelves. He accidentally triggers a domino effect.

HILL: Is he still under there under all that vodka?

COOPER: Look at the size of the warehouse. Vodka comes crashing down. It didn't stop raining until practically all of it was on the ground. The mishap cost the company more than $150,000 in booze.

HILL: I would have thought more.

COOPER: Driver suffered minor injuries. No word if he was given a breathalyzer test. Although I don't think it would be effective, because he probably reeks of vodka.

HILL: Yes. And by the way, does he have a job, really?

COOPER: He could wring out his shoes and drink them, probably.

HILL: Exactly. All right. Submit your "Shots" at AC360.com.

Our special election night coverage continues at the top of the hour. The latest results, more vodka.

And what tonight means for President Obama. Was it judgment day on his policies? A way to measure his political mojo or just local races decided on local issues? We'll talk about it, ahead.