Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Election Day in America

Aired November 3, 2009 - 18:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Many Americans right now, they're casting their ballots across the country, even without a marquee presidential race to draw them in -- this hour, the message they're sending to local leaders and to the White House.

We're counting down to the first poll closings in one hour. And the best political team on television is right here.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

On this Election Day in America, state and local officials are being chosen in over half of the country right now. It's an important test of the political climate one year after President Obama's historic win.

Three contests in particular could tell us if the Democratic sweep of 2008 is holding or fading. We're closely watching the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey and the special election in New York's 23rd District. That's a congressional election.

Polls close in Virginia in under one hour, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Voting ends in New Jersey at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and in New York State at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

President Obama carried both those states and New York's 23rd District one year ago. The big question this hour, will Republicans reclaim that turf later tonight?

Our Jessica Yellin is standing by in Virginia.

But let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New Jersey covering this race involving an incumbent governor and a strong Republican challenger.

Set the scene for us, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, with two hours to go, there are some pockets here in New Jersey that could give early clues into how this race is going, considered a tossup coming into an Election Day.

For Democrat incumbent Governor Jon Corzine, who has been struggling to get reelected, some of the areas being watched, Newark, Camden. Those are the two urban areas where Jon Corzine campaigned with President Obama on Sunday. The message of the Corzine campaign was keep it going, trying to get out the Obama supporters who helped elect President Obama last year. We're getting some mixed reports in terms of turnout so far, in Newark, one county official saying there -- it has been steady. There are some pockets of strong turnout.

Now, on the Republican side, Christopher Christie, a former prosecutor, one key thing to watch is some of the suburban areas. And among them is Bergen County, because Republicans have traditionally taken that county before going on to win the governorship in New Jersey. The last time in fact a Republican won here in New Jersey in a gubernatorial race was 12 years ago.

One report from a county official there, election officials saying that it has been slow so far, but these are key hours right now that we're entering for New Jersey in terms of voter turnout -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we will see how this third-party candidate, Chris Daggett, the independent candidate, how that plays out as well.

Let's go to Virginia right now.

Jessica Yellin is standing by.

Lots at stake in Virginia tonight as -- as well, Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf,.

Even Democrats have acknowledged that Republicans in this state seem far more energized, and so Democrats are relying on big turnout in the key area of this state that could deliver the state for Deeds, many people asking tonight what kind of effect the president has had on this race, what it will say for the Obama.

And while a loss here for the Democrats will no doubt sting for the president, sting for the White House -- it's right in their backyard -- President Obama fought hard to change history, win this state as a Democrat, wanted to hold it -- Wolf, you cannot ignore some of the local factors, specifically some of the challenges in Deeds own campaign.

Democrats here have said that he failed to reach out to key constituencies early, that he has run a campaign that was largely negative, while the Republican in this race has done quite a successful job of campaigning as a conservative to conservative voters and as a moderate to independents.

Many of the people I have spoken with as they go in today tell me the bottom line is they were voting for these two men on their own merits. They were not taking the president into account.

Overwhelmingly, though, the one exception to that are die-hard Republicans, who are telling me that their vote for a Republican candidate was a repudiation of the Obama administration. So, with the exception of those folks, largely, this is about the local issues here in Virginia.

Like everywhere else, it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs. We will see how it turns out. Polls close here in one hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But a lot of people have suggested that Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate, has been playing down his views on some of the sensitive social issues, like abortion rights, gay rights.

YELLIN: That's right. And he also was quite successful at downplaying a controversial conservative message he conveyed in an essay he wrote, a thesis he wrote many years ago, when he said working women should stay home.

He confronted challenges about some of those social issues head on, saying he is a changed man, he is a moderate, he believes, in the modern era, that women should work and that people should be allowed to have a lot more freedom in their lives.

And, so, as I say, he's been quite successful marketing himself as a moderate to the independent voters who are so key to success in this state -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, stand by. We're going to be checking back with you as well.

It's a monumental task, apparently even more so than congressional leaders and the White House anticipated.

Let's go to Capitol Hill.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by.

Dana, there's a potentially very significant development. Tell our viewers what's going on.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, we have reported that at the White House and here on Capitol Hill, Democrats want to pass health care reform by the end of this year.

But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, was asked point-blank whether he thinks that can happen, and the answer was not yes. Instead, he simply said, we're not going to be bound by any timelines. And then he went on to say, we need to do the best job we can for the American people.

Not saying affirmatively that they will do this, this year is in a way certainly significant, because this is something that the White House wants, but it is not a surprise when you look at what's going on behind the scenes here. They're having problems getting the determination from the Congressional Budget Office on what the Senate bill that Harry Reid wants to even start with will cost.

And, more importantly, they're having major issues still trying to figure out if they even have the votes from within the Democratic Caucus here to even begin the debate. So, all of those complications I think really caused Senator Reid to give us a little moment of candor today when he spoke to reporters. It is not good news for the White House.

They're still saying their hope is to do this by the end of the year, but he didn't make a promise to that.

BLITZER: That would be a huge setback for the president, because he has repeatedly said he wants it done this year. I think they're afraid, if folks go on Christmas, New Year's break and hear from constituents, it might become more difficult.

BASH: That's one issue.

There's another issue. And that is, what is next year? It is officially the election year for members of Congress. And that is something that, especially over at the White House, they have wanted to avoid, big-time, having this debate bleed into the election year.

They wanted to have sort of a clean cut, have this finished and have Democrats be able to try to go out and campaign all year next year on this very-much-needed success in the health care bill. If this does bleed into next year, it will bleed in even further into the congressional elections, the congressional debate, and that's not what Democrats want.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much for that.

Let's go right to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: While Al Gore warns about the dire consequences of global warming, apparently one of those consequences is that he is filling his pockets, big-time.

"The New York Times" reports that few stand to profit as much from the green energy revolution as the former vice president. Critics say he would become the world's first carbon billionaire, with a B. They suggest Gore is profiteering by promoting government policies that will drive billions of dollars into companies that he's heavily invested in.

Some say he's fattening his wallet by what they call alarmism and exaggerations about global warming. Gore insists, he's just putting his money where his mouth is. He says his investments are consistent with what he's been advocating for years. "The Times" reports Gore has invested millions of dollars in environmentally friendly energy ventures, things like carbon trading markets, solar power, electric automobiles, and waterless urinals.

Actually, we could probably do without this. You know what I mean?

The former vice president has also given away millions to a nonprofit that he started and to another group focused on climate change. Plus, he's invested in areas like technology and media with no ties to the environment whatsoever. The bottom line here, Al Gore is not a lobbyist. He's never asked the government for funding or a specific law that would directly benefit one of his investments. But he has advocated relentlessly for policies that would get the country off using coal and oil, while investing in companies that could make this happen.

So, here's the question: What do you think Al Gore's real motive is when it comes to global warming? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He has made a lot of money, a lot of money, since leaving office, too, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Huge. Huge.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Nothing wrong with that, but just reporting the facts.

Very soon, we're going to get the first results of this election night. In less than an hour, the polls will close in Virginia. One side will win. One side will lose, but who will lose the war of political spin?

Once the results are in, how might Democrats spin them if they lose? What might Republicans say if they lose? I will speak with two of the best political strategists, Republican Mary Matalin and Democrat Donna Brazile. They're part of the best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This certainly isn't an election year like last year, but it doesn't mean there isn't anything at stake. What if the Democratic candidate ends decades of Republican dominance in Upstate New York? What if Democrats lose two key races for governor?

To discuss all of this, we're bringing in the best political team on television, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and Republican strategist Mary Matalin -- they're both CNN contributors -- and our senior political analyst, David Gergen.

Mary Matalin, if the Democratic candidate in Upstate New York, Bill Owens, wins this race, how would the Republicans -- how will the Republicans sort of spin this?

MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, they will say -- and, of course, it's an occupational hazard if you believe your own spin -- if they say this, they won't believe it, but they will say that Obama won the district by five points, that Hillary won the district, that Schumer won the district, that it's a moderate Republican, not a conservative district, the Republicans have held it, that Dede's voters were confused. The Republicans that might have voted for the Conservative candidate had already voted by absentee ballot or didn't know where to go. And you cannot deny that it's confusing.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The Democrats will point out that there hasn't been a Democratic winner in that district in more than 100 years. And they will say this is a huge celebration.

Donna, if the Democrats, though, wind up losing that contest in Upstate New York and the two governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey, how will the Democrats spin that?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we will say the same thing the Republicans said in 2001, when they lost those races. We will say that this is a reflection on the local candidates, on the local issues. It has no bearing on the president. It's not a referendum on President Obama. Rather, it's a referendum on the mood of the country and the conditions that those voters find themselves in those particular states.

So, now, that's what we will say. Now, I do believe that tonight is also going to be a wakeup call for Democrats, Republicans, because the real issue tonight, Wolf, is -- are the independents. They're the ones who are driving the electorate this cycle. And we need to pay attention to them, because they are the majority now across the country.

And they clearly want change. And that's why the Democrats must deliver on health care in order to be credible next year, when 2010 comes up.

BLITZER: David Gergen, there's no doubt the independents will play a critical role tonight and next year.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely.

And we're going to have a lot of interpretations at the end of this. Everybody's got their own Kool-Aid to drink at the end of the evening, Wolf. But I think that all of us are looking for, is this a pushback against President Obama, after his enormous victory last year, and against the big Democratic victory in 2006, or is the country still divided?

Are there going to be signs tonight of a pushback, which will encourage Republicans, will not have any guarantee value, have no predictive value for next year, but will be -- for interpretive purposes and for money-raising purposes and momentum within a party, it's going to have a lot of impact on both parties.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Because, Gloria, I was going to say, if the Republicans have a clean sweep in these three contests tonight, that will encourage the Republicans, and they will probably get better candidates to go out and run next year, in terms of recruiting. GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. Sure. They will be able to better recruit candidates. They will probably be able to raise a lot more money.

But if you look at that Upstate New York congressional district, Wolf, you also have to look at what's going on inside the Republican Party. We're going to be talking a lot about President Obama and whether his voters are less enthusiastic and independent voters and all the rest.

But we also should look inside the Republican Party, because what we see going on in Upstate New York is a revolt in the Republican Party against the establishment Republicans, and, in fact, maybe sort of a pox on all your houses that we might see in some of these -- in some of these races tonight. So, I think every member of Congress has to kind of look at these as well.

BLITZER: Mary Matalin, the president's job approval number in our brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll still pretty good -- 54 percent of the American public think he's doing a good job. That should have some benefit for him, shouldn't it?

MATALIN: Well, it's a -- the polls are indicating they still like this president the man. And the strategy of the White House has always been to use his personal popularity to sell unpopular policies.

What's happening in these districts and in these states is that health care is in that -- in CNN poll that I looked at, by double digits, people do not like this health care proposal, which they associate with the president.

And not only do they not like it in double-digit numbers more than those who support it; those who oppose it do so with twice the intensity as those who support it. So, there's a lot of underlying dynamics, which may or may not be predictive long-term, but they will be interpretive.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You know, Donna, Mary is absolutely right. They may like the president personally, 54 percent job approval, but when it comes to policies like health care, only 42 percent approve of the job he's doing; 57 percent disapprove. When it comes to his handling of the war in Afghanistan, only 42 percent approve of the job he's doing; 56 percent disapprove.

Those are troubling numbers for the president.

BRAZILE: That's because people can feel it in their wallet and see it at their kitchen table. It's about jobs. It's about making sure that the president and the majority party, the Democrats, deliver for the American people.

They are tired of hearing about bailing out Wall Street, bailing out the banks, bailing out the automobile companies. They want this country and this economy to work for them. And, until they began to see results, they're not going to give anyone high marks right now.

BORGER: Wolf, and the number that I saw in our poll that just jumped out at me was that 60 percent of the voters disapprove of the way the president's handling the deficit.

The budget deficit has become a very, very big issue out there, particularly given health care reform, particularly given the fact that we may be on the verge of sending more troops into Afghanistan, and this is a problem that is a big one for this White House.

GERGEN: Yes, Wolf, let me pick up on both what Gloria said and what Mary said.

I found these numbers coming out of these polls today really surprising. I had not -- I thought that the number on health care would be much more divided. Coming out of September, the president rallied people. It seemed that the country was very divided.

To have a 42 percent approval for health care, the way he's handling health care, and 57 percent disapproval, to go to Mary's point, if the Republicans were to score big victories tonight, along with that number, that could threaten the prospects for getting a health care done bill when this is all said and done.

Even today, there is talk that the health care bill on its current track -- we thought there was a lot of momentum behind it -- would get passed before the end of the year. And there's some talk now about pushing it over into next year.

If this is a bad night for Democrats, I think you have to look at those health care numbers and say, I wonder what's going to happen next?

BLITZER: And that may explain, guys, why Harry Reid, as you point out and as Dana Bash reported, is now saying not a done deal that the Senate will pass health care reform this year. It could slip into next year. We're watching this closely.

Guys, don't go away. We have a lot more to discuss.

Are we looking at a civil war in the Republican Party? In just a matter of moments, we will see who won in the 23rd Congressional District of New York. Actually, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, that's when the polls close in New York. That's where a Republican candidate was forced out by backers of a more conservative opponent.

We're going to go to the 23rd District in New York. Our Deborah Feyerick is on the scene for us.

And, remember, in about 40 minutes, the first polls close in Virginia. We will let you know what we know as soon as we know it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're standing by for some exit poll results that are just coming in THE SITUATION ROOM. Soledad O'Brien has those. Stand by. We will go to her shortly.

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: The tea party movement flexes its muscle -- muscles, and helps push a conservative candidate over a moderate one in Upstate New York away. What does it mean for moderate Republicans and for Democrats in next year's midterm election? Our John King is standing by over at his magic wall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Today is a political D-Day, and you are the deciders. Right now, voters in over half the country have cast or are still casting their votes in about 30 state and local elections, the first poll closings about 30 minutes or so from now in Virginia.

As we have said, one race we're especially watching pretty closely could determine if moderates have a future in the Republican Party or if they will be run off the road by conservatives.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is watching the race in New York's 23rd Congressional District. She's in Saranac Lake, New York.

This race really has emerged as a race between Republicans, Deb. What is going on? Explain to our viewers.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf.

Well, you know, this was a special election to replace Republican John McHugh, who was appointed secretary of the Army. It became special in another way, because instead of being a race really between the Democrats and the Republicans, it became a race between moderate Republicans and conservative Republicans.

Now, political watchers I spoke with say that, when Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party essentially backed a moderate Republican, Dede Scozzafava, that, basically, they goofed, because, even though she was a moderate Republican, she had a liberal record.

Well, in comes conservative businessman Doug Hoffman. Conservatives flocked to him, including Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson, and talk show hosts Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh. And it really underscores shows a real division, a rift, as it were, in the Republican Party between the moderates and the conservatives.

Political watchers say it's OK to be a moderate if your voting record is conservative, it's not OK to be a moderate if your voting record is liberal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So that -- so Dede Scozzafava, who had been the Republican -- the official Republican candidate -- she backs the -- the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. The vice president, Joe Biden, he goes up there to campaign for the Democratic candidate.

So what does all this mean in terms of -- of votes for each side? FEYERICK: Well, and that was what was so interesting. Dede Scozzafava really became sort of the target of relentless attacks because of her positions on abortion and gay rights. That's why she backed the Democrats.

If Democrats win here, it really would give the Obama administration some backing. It would sort of bolster them, especially given all the debate that's going on over health care. But if the Republicans win, effectively what it's done is it's sent a message to anyone who wants to run as a Republican, that in order to get the backing of conservatives, they must have a conservative voting record -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. And we're going to check back with Deb Feyerick. She's up in Saranac Lake, New York, in the 23rd District -- a big race. The polls in New York State, by the way, close at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Stand by for election results here on CNN throughout the night.

Let's bring in John King.

He's over at the Magic Map right now -- John, a lot of people are focused on this 23rd District in New York. But It could be having some sort of echo in Florida right now, where the moderate governor, Charlie Crist, wants to become the next senator and a more conservative candidate is challenging him.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. There are a handful of races, including that Florida Senate race, where what we could see is conservatives emboldened by what happened in the New York 23.

You mentioned Florida, so we'll start down there. What you have here is an incumbent governor, Charlie Crist. He wants to run for the Senate. He's being opposed by the former house speaker, Marco Rubio, a conservative who says that Charlie Crist, because of his support of the Obama stimulus plan, because of his prominence in the McCain campaign, he believes he is not conservative enough. And that's just one of the races.

Hold on there. We'll move down the map and go all the way over to the West Coast. Here's another one where you see it playing out.

I'll move Governor Crist and Mr. Rubio over here.

Carly Fiorini -- you remember her, Wolf. She's the high tech executive, a former CEO, was prominent in the McCain campaign. Well, state assemblyman Chuck DeVore is running against her, saying she's not conservative enough to be the Republican nominee against Senator Barbara Boxer next year.

So a conservative challenge to a moderate in California, a conservative challenge in to a moderate in Florida.

And, also, here in the State of Utah, the long time Republican senator, Bob Bennett, who was a supporter of President Bush and John McCain's immigration plan. Well, the state attorney general, Mark Shurtleff, getting conservative support in his primary challenge against Senator Bennett.

This is three of about a handful of races, Wolf, where you have conservatives challenging the more establishment Republicans, saying they don't deserve the party's backing and if the party backs them, they will try to essentially -- as happened in New York -- stage a conservative revolt against them.

So here are three of the few. And I'll give you one more, as we pull back in the map a little bit.

I am told by some conservative sources that Dick Armey, the former majority leader, will be going up to the State of Connecticut next week. Chris Dodd is up for re-election next year, the Democrat. He's viewed as vulnerable. Former Congressman Rob Simmons is viewed as the Republican candidate right now. But I'm told Dick Armey will go up to meet with conservatives -- some conservatives up in Connecticut who think Mr. Simmons is too moderate to be their nominee there.

So we're seeing this effect spread across the country, as conservatives see what happened in New York 23. They already were doing these races, by the way. We shouldn't -- we can't attribute these directly to New York 23. But they are emboldened by what happened in New York, Wolf. And they are looking around the country for other races where they can challenge Republicans who they do not believe are conservative enough to carry the party's mantle in the 2010 mid-terms.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, John, getting back to Florida right now, the challenger to Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio, he's already got a picture that he's posted on his Web site. Take a look at this -- a picture of Charlie Crist, the governor who wants to be senator, and the president with the caption, "Get the Picture?"

I -- I believe a lot of Democrats -- at least that's what they're saying to me, John. They are looking at this battle among Republicans and they're sort of salivating, thinking that if the real conservatives win these contests, that's going to turn out, in the general election, to be good for them.

But should they be salivating this early?

KING: It's very hard to tell a year out, Wolf, what the climate will be next year, what will the economy be, will they pass a health care bill; if they do, what will voters think about it. Republicans say the Democrats are overstating their glee, if you will, saying the more conservative the nominee, say, in a state like Florida, the better the Democratic chances.

What the Republicans say is that they're going to have these races. They believe if they have the intensity and drive up turnout, it will actually help their party. And there are many who believe if you have a good, contested primary, in the end, it actually helps your party.

The Democrats are hoping what happens is that it divides the party, that it causes a Republican civil war along moderate and conservative lines. It's a -- these are all quite interesting to watch.

And you mentioned Mr. Rubio. Not only does he have that picture of Governor Crist on his Web site with President Obama, he's using his Twitter account today, Wolf, to urge people to what he says finish the job in New York 23. He says elect conservative Doug Hoffman up there to prove, he says, this would send a message that we don't need "two Democratic parties."

BLITZER: John King, thanks very much.

Don't go away because we've got a long night ahead of us and we're going to be watching all these results coming in. We're only about 25 minutes away from the polls closing in Virginia.

We're standing by for some more exit polls, as well, that will be coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

We already know many of the central themes of this election -- will the president turn out to be an asset or a liability for Democrats?

Should Republicans embrace or reject conservative activists, like some of those Tea Party protesters?

We'll discuss what's at stake in tonight's contests with two Congressmen who played key leadership roles in their party.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're only about 21, 22 minutes away from the first poll closing in the State of Virginia, but we're already getting some early exit poll information -- hints of what the voters are thinking as they went to the polls today.

Our special correspondent, Soledad O'Brien, is keeping tabs on the numbers.

What are we learning from these exit polls, Soledad?

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, polarization.

Let's take a look at Virginia. You remember, a year ago, candidate Obama was talking about change -- the platform of change, reaching -- reaching out across the aisle. You don't see that at all in the State of Virginia. In fact, there's a lot of politicization. Let's show what the Democratic voters -- Democrats are voting for -- Creigh Deeds, the Democrat, 94 percent; 6 percent for the Republican, Robert McDonnell.

The same story, the Republican side, just flipped. Republicans voting for, 95 percent, the Republican candidate, McDonnell; 5 percent, only, reporting for Deeds.

And so I think what's going to be critical here, Wolf, are the Independents in the State of Virginia. And, in fact, they're so critical, we can't tell you at this point, how they're voting until we have the polls closing.

President Obama talked about sort of a -- ushering in a new era of bipartisanship. You certainly do not see that today and certainly not in the State of Virginia -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Soledad.

Stand by.

We'll get more results and check back with you.

We're waiting for the official results to start coming in. As I say, in about 20 minutes, they'll be coming in from Virginia.

Let's get a preview, though, of what all this could mean. Two Congressmen from the two major parties are walking into THE SITUATION ROOM now, the Democratic congressman, Chris van Holland, of Maryland. He is the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority deputy whip.

Congressmen, to both of you, thanks very much for coming in.

If you're politics and you're political news junkies, like I know all of us are, it's a big night and we'll watch it very closely.

How worried are you, Congressman van Holland, that some of these moderate, conservative Blue Dog Democrats who are watching the results tonight, if the Democrats were to lose in New Jersey and Virginia and in Upstate New York, they'll get cold feet and they'll say to Nancy Pelosi, you know, on health care reform, we're out of here?

REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND, CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Well, I'm not worried and here's why. The Obama agenda is not on the ballot in New Jersey. It's a governor's race. It has its own set of state issues. The Obama agenda is not on the ballot in Virginia. So these have local flavor to them. There's a lot going on in each state with the governors and the legislature.

So I don't think tonight's results can be seen as somehow a referendum on the Obama agenda. Now, a year from now, when you have midterm Congressional elections, it will be. And that will be a true test.

BLITZER: If the conservative candidate wins in Upstate New York -- and he pushed the official Republican candidate out of that race -- that will presumably embolden some of these others who support the Tea Party Express and -- and other more conservative elements of your party.

How worried are you Congressman, that moderate Republicans and Independents will be turned off by this?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm not worried because New York is much different. New York was picked by 11 people in a back room.

What it meant was you didn't have a primary. You didn't have Republicans be able to select who their nominee is.

What you're finding is the momentum and the excitement is with the Republicans. And I disagree with Chris. I like him a lot, but this is a night that is the first report card on the president. And the number one issue you find in these exit polls are about jobs and where the economy is going. And...

BLITZER: So you're pretty upbeat about what -- how the Republicans are going to do tonight?

MCCARTHY: Look, I'll quote what Rahm Emanuel said in 2005. When you have big elections about big things, big things happen. This is the indication here. These are all districts that Obama won a year ago. And it's a fundamental shift in change.

BLITZER: He did win New Jersey. He did win Virginia. And he did carry that Upstate New York district, even though a Republican has carried the seat for about 100 years.

VAN HOLLEN: Right. But what -- what's different is that his agenda is not on the ballots in -- certainly it's not in -- in Virginia or New Jersey. Up in Upstate New York, look, this is a seat Republicans have held for 100 years where we have a chance of getting it. They spent $800,000 on their candidate, who tanked. And the message they sent was no moderates need apply in the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Is that the message you sent?

(CROSSTALK)

VAN HOLLEN: I've got to give Kevin credit, because he's made a lot of statements over the last months as part of his strategy, saying that they need to appeal to a more (INAUDIBLE) people.

BLITZER: You had originally supported Dede -- Dede Scozzafava.

MCCARTHY: She was the only Republican nominee. The difficulty is they didn't...

BLITZER: Some other Republicans were supporting the conservative third party candidate.

MCCARTHY: But they didn't -- they didn't have the primary. If you had a primary, this would all be taken care of, the process.

But the one thing you have to look is, if this wasn't Obama on the ticket, then why was he campaigning in all these places?

Why was he cutting ads? Why was the vice president there twice and just last night?

Because they can't get the turnout. Why did the White House put a full court press. And I applaud you. You went after the Republican candidate. You got attorney general of New York. You got the chief of staff to the White House twisting arms to get her to endorse the other way. But the election still won't turn out with what they want. They selected the nominee to be the secretary -- the under secretary of the Army based upon the idea that they could win this seat.

I mean this is going against the Democrats. This is a...

BLITZER: All right (INAUDIBLE)...

MCCARTHY: ...referendum on...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, let's let Congressman Van Hollen respond.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, the fact that Obama was in New Jersey campaigning, the fact the vice president was up in New York is an indication that their favorable ratings are high. In fact, when you poll for Obama in New Jersey, his favorable ratings are very high. The same in New York 23, where he -- he carried it by a small amount. He's actually much higher in terms of his popularity ratings today.

The difference is his agenda is not on -- on the table right now. So the fact that he has high favorable ratings indicates very clearly that people are not upset with his agenda. They like his agenda, but they don't see this particular election as a referendum on his election.

MCCARTHY: But if the number one issue happens to be jobs -- and you take the exit polls, 85 percent in Virginia, 90 percent in New Jersey worried about the way the economy is going. The president came out, had a stimulus bill, was more concerned about the date he had it and said, if you pass this bill, unemployment will never be above 8.5 percent. Well, come Friday, it might be 9.9 or maybe 10.

I disagree. This is the biggest indication. And it's not just the election tonight. Look across the country. Look at Oklahoma. Look at the Albuquerque, New Mexico...

BLITZER: Take a look at these polls that we just have -- our Opinion Research Corporation polls.

Are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year, in 2010?

Republicans say -- 46 percent of them say they are; Democrats 39 percent. It looks like the Republicans are more enthusiastic right now than Democrats are.

MCCARTHY: Well, there's no doubt, Wolf, that by next year, all those voters will need to understand that the Obama agenda is on the table, because if the president loses a substantial number in the Congress, it will make it much more difficult for his...

BLITZER: But...

MCCARTHY: So, yes, if that were an indication of what was going to happen two years from now, there would be cause for concern.

BLITZER: One year.

MCCARTHY: One year from now, there would be cause for concern.

BLITZER: You're...

MCCARTHY: But the fact of the matter is, these are -- these are very local issues at stake in this election.

BLITZER: Here -- here's another poll in our CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. We asked, are you more likely to support a candidate who, A, supports Obama -- 54 percent said they would; opposes Obama, 41 percent. He's still very popular, 54 percent job approval numbers right now.

MCCARTHY: But look at those approval ratings a year ago. They probably went 70 percent. Look how fast it's dropped down. This is not just the election tonight. You look across the country, we've seen these indications -- Albuquerque, New Mexico mayor, a Republican won. We took the seat in Tennessee. We took the seat in Oklahoma.

These are the same indications you found before the '94 takeover, the same indications you found in 2005, before the Democrats got the majority. This is an indication of where the country is going.

BLITZER: What did you...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I don't know if you heard Dana Bash, our senior Congressional correspondent, report just a little while ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is now saying, guess what, there may not be a Senate vote on health care reform this year. It might have to slip into next year.

They don't want to rush it. They want to do it right. That would be a huge setback to the Democrats, including the president, who says this has got to get done this year.

VAN HOLLEN: Well, it would unfortunate. It would be unfortunate if that date slips. We've said our target is to get it done by the end of the year.

But I think there's something very important here in the numbers you talked about, where Obama's numbers continue to be high. And this is not 1994 all over again. The fact of the matter is all the polls show that people's support and confidence in the Republican Party is at an all-time low -- lower than it was last November, when Obama won and Republicans lost. They have gone down in the polls, because they have not been a party of the solutions. They've said no to everything. They're not on the playing field.

And so to say that people's concerns about where we are at a particular point in time translates into (INAUDIBLE) Republicans...

BLITZER: We're out of time. But only 20 percent of those polled say they...

VAN HOLLEN: ...doesn't (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: ...they identify with the Republican Party right now.

MCCARTHY: OK. Watch tonight. The majority of people will have voted against the Democrats and the Pelosi plan and the Obama plan. If you look at Virginia, we'll win. You look at New Jersey, regardless of the fact we'll either win or the majority will vote against (INAUDIBLE). You look at New York, that is a grassroots uprising that you can't slow down and talk against.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCARTHY: His own -- his own writing to his members says he's going to lose.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's bad news for your guys around the country is (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He's pretty confident.

All right, guys.

Thanks very much for coming in.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll have you back.

Let's check in with Lou to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

I think I know -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": You've got it. We're going to be talking about the election. The first polls closing in just moments from now. Democrats are bracing for losses in races for Congress and governor -- governorships. We'll also have complete election coverage and we'll be projecting at least one set of winners.

And one year removed from President Obama's White House victory, Democratic candidates are struggling in states that the president last year carried easily.

Is this president's agenda being rejected? Also, candidate Obama promised change that you could believe in. President Obama hasn't delivered. We will be going through the long list of campaign promises.

How many of those promises have been broken?

Also, some of the sharpest political and economic minds join me tonight to analyze what all of this means for the country, for those with jobs and for those without.

Join us for that and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

Thanks very much.

And remember, as Lou just said, polls start closing in Virginia in only about 11-and-a-half minutes or so. We're going to bring the results as soon as we get them. Stand by for that.

Also, this -- is former Vice President Al Gore investing for the good of the planet or profiteering from the green energy revolution?

That's Jack's question in The Cafferty File, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Eight minutes until the first polls close in Virginia.

Stand by.

In the meantime, let's go to Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: But who's counting, right, Wolf?

BLITZER: I am.

CAFFERTY: Well, you are.

BLITZER: I am.

CAFFERTY: Yes, you are.

The question this hour -- what is Al Gore's real motive when it comes to the issue of global warming?

Josh writes: "Better to profit from improving the environment than to profit from destroying people's retirements the way some financial organizations have. And Gore's been fighting for the cause for decades before it ever seemed that it could be profitable. As far as I'm concerned, he deserves those bucks."

Hans in Alabama: "Jack, you disappoint me. First, virtually all serious scientists agree on global warming. Secondly, evidence of the harm of global warming mounts everyday. Al Gore is someone who has worked hard and tirelessly to warn us about the issue. It's a huge problem. It requires urgent, significant action. He's trying to advance the cause by investing in companies that could bring us solutions. He could lose it all or he could make a fortune. What are you doing about the problem?"

Rick in Florida writes: "I'm really amazed "The Times" finally realized this, even more amazed they actually reported on it. As with most controversial issues, the old adage, 'follow the money,' is usually a very good starting point in determining the real intent. If Al Gore were being truly altruistic in his concern for global warming, he wouldn't live in a McMansion and cruise the world in a Learjet."

Mike says: "Al Gore is a prevent citizen. He's also, like our society, a capitalist. He's making money? What kind of criticism is that. At least he's making money on something that will benefit our national security."

John in Michigan: "I'm here in Michigan having endured two colder winters than usual in a row, as well as two cooler than usual summers in a row. October averaged 10 degrees below normal. I'd have to say Al Gore's motivation is a different kind of green -- cold, hard cash."

And Annie in Atlanta: "I think the guy actually cares about global warming. It makes sense that he invests his money in what will be the wave of the future, if we can clean up our act in time to actually have one."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can check my blog. You'll find it at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf, those polls are closing in a little less than five minutes.

BLITZER: I can't wait. It's so exciting.

Jack, stand by.

I know you want to see what's going on.

Also, the forecaster-in-chief, CNN's Jeanne Moos, takes a Moost Unusual look at the Web site where you can get the weather from President Obama.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at today's Hot Shots.

In Texas, a husband and wife head to the polls early in the morning.

In Ohio, this man proudly displayed his "I voted" sticker.

In Virginia, this voter takes her young daughter voting at Alexandria City Hall.

And in Arlington, Virginia, stickers are prepared for voters. Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

As if -- as if it wasn't enough to be in charge of the executive branch of the government, the commander-in-chief of the military and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, now President Obama is expected to predict the weather?

CNN's Jeanne Moos finds it most unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): We've seen him in rain, in sun, in cold, in heat. Now meet the forecaster-in-chief.

Who needs meteorologists?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then tonight, cha, cha, cha chilly.

MOOS (on camera): Are you tired of rooting around your closet trying to figure out how to dress, whether or not you need to bring an umbrella?

(voice-over): Don't stick your hand out a window. Go to obama- weather.com. Type in your location, watch the five day forecast pop up, with the president demonstrating what to wear based on actual weather data from Weather.com.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WEATHER.COM)

JEN CARFAGNO: I'm meteorologist Jen Carfagno (ph) with your national forecast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: Yes, well, he's Barack Obama forecasting temperatures in the 80s in Miami, wearing flip-flops, shorts and tank tops; dressed in a parka in Antarctica; stripped down in India; carrying an umbrella when rain is predicted, wearing an Obama t-shirt in L.A.

(on camera): Now, what did you do?

Did you do anything here?

What did you do?

NATALIA TELMACHOVA: I picked some clothes and...

MOOS: Oh, you picked some of the outfits?

TELMACHOVA: Yes.

MOOS: Natalia Telmachova (ph) lives in New York. Her brother and a friend living in the former Soviet republic of Belarus created the Web site because they thought having a charismatic world leader give the weather would be fun. They're computer programmers.

TELMACHOVA: (INAUDIBLE) absolutely genius.

MOOS: If you don't like getting your weather from the president, you can choose to have it delivered by Angelina Jolie or the character Bender from "Futurama".

But why have a weatherman tell you how to dress...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WABC)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So I would take the bigger, heavier coat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MOOS: ...when you can have the president show you?

While most politicians are braving the elements...

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is going to be a short speech.

MOOS: ...he's predicting them the next best thing to AccuWeather -- ObamaWeather, even if he is a little foggy at times.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. We're only seconds away from the top of the hour.

Let's go to Lou Dobbs.

He's going to be picking up our coverage.