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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Election Night in America; Palin's Influence on Midterms; Harry Reid Gives Victory Address

Aired November 3, 2010 - 01:00   ET

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


JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: So there should be some self-analysis about whether or not some of these more extreme candidates who won these close partisan primaries represented the Republican Party best.

But I wanted to take one second and talk about Lincoln Chafee because this is extraordinary for Independent voters. You know the nearly 40 percent of us in America, this is the first Independent governor we've had since the 1990s and in a state where Independents outnumber Democrats or Republicans, so this is a big deal and in Maine the Independent nominee for governor, Independent candidate for governor is going neck and neck so that's an extraordinary thing and I think it speaks to the Independent shift that's going on --

(CROSSTALK)

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I talked to one Republican strategist tonight who -- he's admittedly an establishment -- a strategist, who said what the lesson of this election is particularly in the Senate is that no matter what else you still have to put out good candidates who pass the test of reasonableness with the voters particularly if the voters are just now being introduced to them. So they say that's the reason why Republicans haven't done as well in the Senate as they have in the House.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's also an issue of experience, which is kind of interesting, because so many of these candidates had absolutely no political experience. We thought Barack Obama didn't have a lot of experience before he became president but if you had any political experience you put it on your resume it was suddenly a negative and so the candidate -- it worked against you and so the candidates that you saw that lost were bad candidates.

They didn't know how to run. And their campaigns didn't know how to organize and they were running against some Democrats who actually, like Harry Reid, for example, who had labor, who knew how to get out the vote and who got out the vote.

(CROSSTALK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And tremendous Latino support. Harry Reid in a state that has 26 percent Latinos, Harry Reid was able to count on the Latino vote because Sharron Angle did a couple of things wrong. One supporting SB-1070, which is a big no-no with Latino voters and even more outside of the state of Arizona than inside the state of Arizona. And then she also starting running that ad about how Latinos were going to -- what did she say, something like --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- waves of illegal aliens will be stalking you down at night and I'm paraphrasing but something like that with like dark- skinned people running through the streets and it sent people over the edge. It was that issue that motivated Latinos to go to the polls and when they would do a poll, one of the Latino polling groups said, when they would ask Latinos, why are you voting? The number one answer was, in order to give voice to our community. The number two answer was to support the Democratic candidate. The number three answer was to support the Republican candidate. That means Latinos felt attacked and wanted to get out there and show their voice.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There are a couple of issues on this one. Number one when you look at a lot of the Republican candidates who -- there will be recriminations and things like that. But I keep going back to the scene and polling number because it's been the thing that astounded me all year long that more Republicans have disliked the Republican Party than Independents and when it's the Republicans voting in Republican primaries they're not going to go for the people who -- the people they dislike are saying you should go for these guys.

And they're not. Rightly or wrongly, they were perfectly happy many of them to sacrifice Delaware. Because they not like the NRFC (ph) saying this is the guy you should go to. You know what and again it's -- Ed Rollins has said before -- I mean we're talking about the voters in a state saying you know what, you people shouldn't have picked the guy you picked in your Democratic vote, which is somewhat of a silly argument (INAUDIBLE). Now to the point of Latinos in Nevada, I would say that I talked to the Sharron Angle campaign last month and they pretty much wrote off the Latino vote last month and their attacks on Harry Reid. In fact, if we look at what we're seeing coming out of Nevada, they actually are getting a higher percentage of the Latino vote than they thought they were going to get and had other issues.

(CROSSTALK)

ERICKSON: They really thought they were going to get about five percent and it looks like they're going to get more than that.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: -- with the Asian vote. So --

(CROSSTALK)

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I now understand my inexplicable love for Chinese food after all these years but let's keep this in perspective tonight. Only a third of the Senate is up, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. CASTELLANOS: And when you look at say seven possible Republican pickups that's 21 percent. In the House we're talking about a 60-seat sweep -- seat swing, that's only about 14 percent. It actually is very impressive gains in the Senate tonight historically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

(CROSSTALK)

ED ROLLINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: For the record, Reagan won 12 in '80 in a landslide. Eight is a big number when you go back in the last 60, 70 years, either side winning seven or eight Senate seats is a big, big pickup.

ELIOT SPITZER, PARKER SPITZER CO-HOST: I'm just trying to figure out how they're going to get business done in the Senate as gridlocked as it was before when they had 15, 16 and 59 (ph). Now you've got 51, 52 including some like Joe Manchin who are so conservative they're going to be more likely to vote with the Republican agenda. It's going to be dicey to get anything through the Senate at all.

(CROSSTALK)

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's an important big picture point though because there is this sort of general sense while the Republicans have taken over Washington now, but when you have a gridlocked Senate and the Republicans in charge of the House, it is very difficult for the Congress to set the agenda. Because no matter how much the House tries to pass their legislation and push it through, getting it stuck in the Senate is quite -- is you know, likely -- beyond belief.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then it's up to the president essentially to respond in control and I think that's what you're going --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the Republican --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But the Republicans --

ROLLINS: -- and 53 Republicans in the Senate and he set an agenda for a couple of years.

BORGER: Well I think the Republicans now have a responsibility. Because people judge you when you're a governing party very differently from when you're an opposing party. And if you run the House and President Obama comes up with a budget you now have to come up with an alternative budget. We were talking before about specifics and across-the-board cuts and all of the rest, Republicans will have to deliver a specific alternative.

And then people can see, OK, what are they cutting? How do they want to do it? And maybe they end up as Erick says, shutting the government down. Because they don't want to vote to extend the debt ceiling (ph) and then you have another issue, and Obama can run against that.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we haven't heard much about social issues tonight or we haven't talked much about social issues tonight. We saw a little bit about the Prop 19 loss there. You, Jeffrey, you've been looking at what's happened to the Supreme Court justices in the state of Iowa.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The state of Iowa. As I'm sure many people remember, last year the Supreme Court ruled unanimously, all seven justices voted that same-sex marriage was a right guaranteed under the Iowa Constitution. Under the Iowa law, three of those justices were up for what's called retention elections, three of the seven.

It appears all three have lost in the Republican conservative landslide in Iowa and I think as much as we're talking about budget and tax issues, the ascendancy of conservative candidates also will be on social issues. You are going to see "don't ask, don't tell" probably survive now in the Congress. Same-sex marriage is going to fall off the agenda for a lot of elected officials now. So gay rights has suffered a major defeat today and that's what happens when conservatives --

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: -- January on some this stuff. I mean there's a lame-duck session and there -- it's possible that you're going to have another Republican senator sworn in, in a couple of weeks who could sort of change the math in the Senate immediately on gay marriage when it's attached to the defense bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Don't ask, don't tell".

JOHNS: Right, "don't ask, don't tell", I'm sorry --

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: On the social issues it's important to see it in perspective. Six of the Republican Senate candidates this year were opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest. Now contrast that with only three Senate candidates who are Republican candidates who are pro-choice. That's a very significant shift. On the other side for Republicans though in a positive direction you know they now have four governors who are -- are minority. Two -- it looks like in New Mexico and I think Nevada, Brian Sandoval (ph) and then the Indian Americans in Nikki Haley and Bobby Jindal. That is a sea change as well in terms of much greater diversity for Republicans, in fact greater diversity for Republican governors than Democrats.

O'BRIEN: But if you look at the number of openly gay candidates this year, a new record. Who are running -- 123. Last year that number was 111. You know that's a big increase. Now we have to go back and crunch numbers. See exactly who won where.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: But still I mean that's a big increase in running over last year.

COOPER: We've got -- we're following a number of close races. Still we're going -- our coverage continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: All right, let's take a look at some very, very close races we're watching right now. We have not been able to project winners in Colorado, 73 percent of the vote has been counted. Look at how close it is between the incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet and the Republican challenger Ken Buck, 47.2 percent for Michael Bennet, 47.5 percent for Ken Buck. There's been 1,200,000 votes counted already.

The difference between these two candidates, look at this, 4,039 votes. They still have 27 percent of the vote to count, but it's very, very close in Colorado. In Washington State, also very, very close right now. Patty Murray the incumbent Democrat with 50.6 percent. Dino Rossi the Republican challenger, 49.4 percent. Patty Murray's ahead right now by 16,535 votes out of about 1.3 -- 1.3 million votes that have already been counted.

It's very close in Washington State. We have not been able to project a winner. Let's take a look at some governors' races right now as well, and I'll start in Illinois right now. Look at this, it's 93 percent of the vote is in. Look at how close it is, between the Democrat Pat Quinn, the incumbent, and Bill Brady, the Republican challenger, 46.5 percent to 46.3 percent. More than three million votes have been counted already and the difference, Pat Quinn is ahead by 7,576 votes.

Every vote counts, look at how close it is in Illinois right now. The Democrats slightly ahead and in Florida, it's very close as well. Look at this, 89 percent of the vote has been counted. Rick Scott, the Republican, has 48.9 percent. Alex Sink, the Democrat, she has 47.7 percent. Scott is ahead by 57,342 votes, 11 percent of the votes still need to be counted. Very, very close.

Let me go to Anderson. Anderson, there could be some recounts, they're going to have to wait for some absentee ballots, military ballots. It looks like it's close in these races and these are important races. COOPER: In a little later while we're going to talk to legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin about some of the rules on these recounts if that in fact is what we see in Florida and Illinois. Before we do that, though, Ted Rowlands is in California where we have been following Proposition 19, which is a ballot initiative, which has been defeated which would have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. Ted explain what exactly the ballot initiative called for.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well basically, Anderson, it would have legalized marijuana in the state of California for recreational use. And voters came out and said no to it. The poll was -- the polling was going back and forth really over the last couple of months and then just in the last three or four days, the no on Proposition 19 started to pick up steam and then tonight we saw that indeed California was not ready to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

We're at Oaksterdam (ph) University in Oakland which is basically a school that trains people to work in the cannabis industry, the medical marijuana industry and there's been a party here all night long. It's starting to thin out right now. You can see a lot of empty chairs. A lot of people have moved on because of the defeat. Stephen Gotwilly (ph) is part of the pro-19 group that put together this. Your reaction. It seemed to be a lot of momentum but in the end California was not ready to legalize marijuana.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we always knew that this would be an uphill battle, particularly in a midterm election cycle with a smaller, older, more conservative electorate but even in defeat, Proposition 19 has clearly moved marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politic.

ROWLANDS: But has it -- did it bring it into the mainstream and did the mainstream spit it back out and say no way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so. I think that you're going to see in 2012 a very big presidential election year. A number of prop 19s in a couple of states that are going to be determined in the next year. Probably western states and California is definitely in the mix.

ROWLANDS: So it'll be back on the ballot here and in other states, at least that's the plan, Anderson, but right now at least Californians are saying, no, to legalizing pot for everybody, of course, medical marijuana's still legal here.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Ted, we should point out the White House put out a statement saying that they're happy about this -- about this election choice made by the voters in California. Saying that it wouldn't make Californians healthier and it wouldn't solve the budget problems, but Ted, was that person with lasagna standing next to you or -- that was the weirdest live shot I've ever seen.

ROWLANDS: No, that was --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What was that --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Are they pot brownies? What is that?

ROWLANDS: That was a -- that's baklava (ph). Look this is a marijuana-based baklava (ph) for your enjoyment. I don't know how good it looks but they're passing it out as sort of a party favor here, a treat for folks here. There's been a lot of smoking as well as you might imagine, but that is baklava (ph) or a version of it.

COOPER: There had been a talk -- there had been talk about a high youth turnout especially in the area of where you are, Ted, but clearly that wasn't enough to get this thing passed.

ROWLANDS: Yes, that was the big strategy or at least the focus of the campaign. They went to universities across the state and early on today there were stories that the University of San Diego, they had run out of provisional ballots and the students had overrun the polling places, but obviously that didn't turn out.

They didn't come out in the numbers that would had been needed to get this passed. Exit polling did show a tremendous divide, older people against Prop 19. Younger people overwhelmingly for 19.

COOPER: Ted Rowlands, appreciate it, Ted. Thanks very much. Enjoy the baklava (ph) or not, I don't know. I'm not sure. I wasn't quite clear if that was pot baklava (ph) or not or --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know that was on the menu --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I don't know how that works.

TOOBIN: Brownies was the customary -- it was the customary way to serve marijuana.

COOPER: Do you think that the man who supports the 19 there was right that this has kind of entered this into the national conversation in a way that it's not going to go away.

TOOBIN: Well it has but it really -- this is a big defeat. This was a substantial defeat and California if any state was going to -- was going to legalize pot or try to legalize pot. Remember, the Obama administration like the Bush administration before it, had said even if this passed, they would continue to enforce federal law against marijuana use. So I think, yes, it put it on the agenda, but it is a long way from legalization or even decriminalization at the federal level. There is no substantial movement, particularly in this new Congress, to legalize marijuana.

JOHNS: It just had the potential to make a mess, though, didn't it? If it had been --

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: It could and remember marijuana is legal for medical use in California now. And medical use there is very broadly defined. A lot of people get prescriptions for pot in marijuana -- in California. And that doesn't seem to have had a tremendously disruptive effect. I mean, but as for full-scale legalization where it sold like lucky strikes that's many years away I think.

COOPER: Have you been able to look at some of the recount issues?

TOOBIN: Yes. In Colorado --

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: -- races in Illinois, in Florida, elsewhere.

TOOBIN: Well, Colorado, where there's now a very close Senate race, it's an automatic recount if the margin is less than half a percent. And clearly, currently, the margin is less than half a percent. Washington, where the other -- where the -- Patty Murray/Rossi race is very close, that's a more complicated rule. I think the simplest way to say it is if the margin is under 2,000, there's a recount there. But remember Washington often takes long to count its ballots because it's very heavily a mail-in state, and anything postmarked today or earlier gets counted and obviously if something is postmarked today it means that they haven't even received it yet. So I think we'll be -- they're going to be counting votes. I can't imagine there's any way we're going to call the Washington race tonight. But it's 2,000 votes or closer.

COOPER: All right, and obviously also the polls are closed in Alaska but we're still waiting results on that, probably it is going to be quite some time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Waiting.

COOPER: Waiting -- all right, I'm being told we can actually see some votes now in Alaska. Wolf, do you want to take it?

BLITZER: Let's take a closer look, Anderson. In Alaska right now 26 percent of the vote has actually been counted in Alaska, and take a look at this. Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator from Alaska, she's actually ahead. They've got to write her name in 27,000 votes, 142. She got 40 percent.

Joe Miller, he is the Republican nominee with 34 percent. Scott McAdams, the Democratic nominee, 25 percent. But Lisa Murkowski, with the write-ins is ahead by -- by 3,638 votes in Alaska, once again these are only 26 percent of the votes are in. But she's -- but she's ahead. It's a little complicated out there but we're going to take a quick break. Hold on, one second. Let's take a quick break. You see Murkowski's headquarters over there. We'll assess what's going on in Alaska when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right, the polls have closed in Alaska. And I want to update our viewers on what we know right now. Twenty-six percent of the vote in Alaska has been counted. And look at this. The write-ins are winning right now with 40 percent of the votes. These are all the write-in ballots. Most of them presumably for Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator in Alaska, but there are a few other write-in candidates.

We assume she got most of these 27,142 write-in ballots. Joe Miller, the Republican nominee with 34 percent. Scott McAdams, the Democrat, with 25 percent. If Joe Miller, for example, were to get more than the write-ins, they wouldn't necessarily even have to open up the write-ins because all of those write-ins wouldn't necessarily even be specifically counted. But if the write-ins come in first, then they're going to go through.

They're going to read all of the write-ins to see who got those write- ins and then they'll have a sense (ph) of who the next senator from Alaska's going to be, whether Lisa Murkowski is going to be re- elected. Let's go to Murkowski headquarters in Anchorage right now. Drew Griffin is there for us. We see Lisa Murkowski in that shot, Drew. But this is 26 percent of the vote that is in, and the write- ins, including mostly for Lisa Murkowski, the write-ins are doing very well.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes and let me tell you why they're so happy in this room. The inside baseball here is that anything that says write-ins are getting 35 percent and above, they feel will force them to read the ballots. Anything that is 40 percent or above for write-ins, the Murkowski folks think they will win this race, so although it's early, although now we have 34 percent of the vote in and they're hanging about 39.66 percent, they are very happy. They think, not only will they get the votes counted, but at this point, they think they may had actually done it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we see her back to the camera right there. She's wearing the pink jacket. Are there any other serious write-in candidates that have a significant number of votes, do you think, Drew, besides Lisa Murkowski?

GRIFFIN: There really aren't. You know the question is, would anybody of those 161 write-in names, a lot of them just kind of got in to muddy the waters, create any kind of a serious dent in the write- ins. You know the fact of the matter is, Wolf, honestly, we will not know until they actually open the ballots, see them filled out correctly and see Lisa Murkowski's name but the feeling again in this room is that the write-in's ahead and the write-in's near or at 40 percent. They feel Murkowski is going to be the winner and anything 35 percent or above at least gets those ballots counted, so that's why you see a smile on her face right now.

BLITZER: Yes, she looks pretty happy and what's the final ruling in Alaska on how precise, Drew, those write-ins have to be? Do they have to spell Murkowski perfectly correct or could they misspell it, can they put Lisa Murk? What is the ruling over there, at least as of now?

GRIFFIN: You know, we're all waiting to see what that ruling will be, and most likely if it's close it's going to be challenged. But there's been a lot of speculation. If you just get close, if the intent is there, if you fill it out correctly, I think anything with three syllables that begin with the letter "m" is probably going to count, especially if it's filled in correctly, but we're just go have to wait and see.

And you know earlier, earlier Candy said you know we may not know until Christmas, but we certainly may not know until Thanksgiving because they're not going to do this write-in ballot count until November 18th. That is according to the Alaska Division of Elections. November 18th before they even see what's on those write-in ballots.

BLITZER: All right, Drew, thanks very much. We'll check back with you. And just to be precise, Lisa Murkowski, even though she didn't win the Republican nomination, she says she is a Republican. She will caucus with the Republicans, if in fact, she's re-elected. She's running now as an Independent. Joe Miller has got the Republican nomination, but this presumably, assuming she wins, or if Joe Miller wins, it won't be a change for the Democrat Scott McAdams at least as of now coming in third. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're taking a closer look at Sarah Palin right now, the former governor of Alaska, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee. She was very busy in this campaign, campaigning for Republicans across the country.

We've put up some of her wins and some of her losses for people that she campaigned for. In New Hampshire, the Senate race, among her wins, Kelly Ayotte will be the next U.S. senator from -- from New Hampshire.

Rand Paul wins in Kentucky. Mary Fallon's going to be the next governor of Oklahoma. Sarah Palin campaigned for her. Nikki Haley will be the next governor from South Carolina. Susana Martinez, the next governor from New Mexico. And Rick Perry reelected in Texas. She campaigned for all them.

Among some her losses, though, we know that she campaigned for Christine O'Donnell for the Delaware U.S. Senate seat. Sharron Angle in Nevada. Sharron Angle lost to Harry Reid. Carly Fiorina in California, she lost to Barbara Boxer.

So some wins and some losses for Sarah -- for Sarah Palin.

Let's bring in Ali Velshi right now. You know, it's never too early, Ali, for those of us who are political news junkies...

VELSHI: For the next presidential election.

BLITZER: ... to start looking at 2012. Because you know when that 2000 [SIC] race for the White House begins?

VELSHI: Right about now?

BLITZER: Go ahead.

VELSHI: You're talking about Palin wins, Palin losses. We went to -- we're talking to people in early primary and early caucus states about what they are going to do in 2012. How these candidates are doing.

Let's take a look at Iowa, which is the first caucus state right there. Former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, and former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, are tied at 21 percent amongst voters who cast their ballots today. That's who they are looking at voting for in 2012. 2011-2012 when that thing starts.

Governor -- former Alaska governor, Sarah Palin pulling in a second, or third, depending on how you want to look at it, 18 percent. And Newt Gingrich only polling 7 percent in Iowa.

Let's take it over to New Hampshire. Now you were just talking about a new governor, a new senator in New Hampshire, who got Sarah Palin's support. In New Hampshire, Mitt Romney, a neighboring state to where he was governor, is polling 39 percent for 2012. Sarah Palin coming in at 18 percent against, same as in Iowa. Mike Huckabee polling 11 percent. Newt Gingrich, again, bringing up the rear at 8 percent amongst decided voters in -- in New Hampshire.

Let me take a look at South Carolina. That'll be the first southern primary in there. Sarah Palin doing well in -- in South Carolina. She's polling at 25 percent. Huckabee following at 24 percent. Mitt Romney coming in at 20 percent. And finally, Newt Gingrich, again, bringing up the rear at 10 percent.

So these are going to be early primary states in 2012. Hard to know at this point how this is going to play out. But we asked those questions in the exit polls, and this is what people are telling us. When you look at those Palin wins and Palin losses some of this may actually come back to help her in 2012 because she's got more wins than losses, more people who might turn their support toward her.

BLITZER: And these are the first three Republican contests...

VELSHI: That's right.

BLITZER: ... in the presidential race from the Republican nomination. These were Republicans who voted today and expressed their opinion as they emerged...

VELSHI: That's right.

BLITZER: ... from the voting booth.

VELSHI: Who they would like to see in those contests.

BLITZER: Very interesting stuff. All right. Thanks very much. Let's go to Anderson. You saw, Anderson, she's doing well, Sarah Palin, among those Republicans in these three critical states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

COOPER: And among her Senate picks, three losses, two wins in the Senate. Hilary Rosen, you said you didn't think this was a good night for Sarah Palin.

ROSEN: Yes. Well, West Virginia, I guess, isn't up there, too. She's endorsed Raese, right? Against Manchin. But look, you know, we could argue about whether these endorsements mean something.

MARTIN: They don't.

ROSEN: When we look at where she really spent a lot of time, she spent a lot of time with Carly Fiorina in -- in California. She spent a lot of visible energy with Christine O'Donnell.

You know, so the good news for the Republicans, I think, that is that there are actually a lot of new women on the -- on the horizon. And I think that they've done a good job actually recruiting women in this cycle. That doesn't mean that Sarah Palin's not the front-runner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah Palin...

PALIN: But women -- but are there other people who now are going to...

LOUIS: Sorry, Anderson. She did a lot of good for conservative candidates who are in already conservative states, getting a conservative governor of Oklahoma who happens to be her choice, that's one thing. But it shows that she couldn't flip seats, you know, in California, in Delaware, in West Virginia, where there was a Democrat. She wasn't able to sort of put forward a Tea Party candidate who could flip the switch.

(CROSSTALK)

GILLESPIE: Let me tell you what she did do. She dominated one more time. Every week we've been on this show we've been talking about Sarah Palin. She's going to -- you know, wherever she was, we're talking about Sarah Palin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute.

GILLESPIE: And she's a factor if she chooses to be. She's not basically made that decision yet, but if she wants to be, starting in Iowa.

CASTELLANOS: That energy that captured 60 Republican House seats. A lot of that came from her. But for the first time, you know, Republicans have always turned to the last guy, right? Whoever was the runner up in the last election. That may not be the case this time. There's a brand-new crowd of Republican candidates: lots of women, lots of fresh faces, lots of new conservatives. There once was this young state senator that came out of nowhere on the Democratic side who's president now. This may be the time that happens on the Republican side.

MARTIN: She's dominating the conversation because we're sitting saying here this is what she did. That list means nothing. Where's the Mitt Romney list? He endorsed a ton of people, as well. Have we broken down who he divorced?

Reality is, if you win, you ran. You sat here, went out and got the votes, OK? Sarah Palin, had nothing to do with Rick Perry winning in Texas, OK? Nothing. So you try to credit her with that, but it makes no sense. She -- she gets elevated, because we sit here -- sit here and put her above everybody else, but there were other Republicans who were out there endorsing. Where was Pawlenty? Where was Romney?

And so that's what it boils down to. Endorsements mean nothing.

ERICKSON: Exactly why Christine O'Donnell is legitimately, honestly my hero for this election season, because we have been forced since September to talk about nothing but Christine O'Donnell.

MARTIN (ph): Who was down 20 points.

ERICKSON: Because she's dominated the news. Never mind Al Green -- Alvin Green in South Carolina, but because we've spent so much time talking about Christine O'Donnell, there are a lot of candidates tonight who were elected because they didn't get any air time. They didn't get the vetting that Christine O'Donnell did.

PARKER: No, no, no.

ERICKSON: I actually think so.

PARKER: I think that's probably true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

CROWLEY: Because we're not talking -- I mean a difference between the national media, I can assure you that in Nevada, they were talking about Sharron Angle. I can assure you in California, they were talking about Meg Whitman. And just because we're talking about Sarah Palin, in those states...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: But if we're talking about somebody who is down 20 points in the polls but then when you look at a Pennsylvania race that was tight, the Washington state race that was tight.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No talk about that.

MARTIN: No, no, no. You can't even remotely compare the amount of coverage of the national media to O'Donnell's race and all of the other races combined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we get back to Sarah Palin?

MARTIN: She's down 20 points.

CROWLEY: Can we get back to Sarah Palin?

BORGER: And lost by 16.

Can we get back to Sarah Palin, because we're talking about Christine O'Donnell again, which she lost, right? Sarah Palin has positioned herself brilliantly, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

BORGER: She has become the kingmaker here. She is somebody who has set herself up as the antiestablishment candidate for, what? We don't -- we don't know. Maybe nothing. Maybe just to rule the world among antiestablishment people.

But she's the one who said tonight, you know, "We've got to try to figure out a way to work with the Republican establishment." But when somebody's going to hold Republicans and Congress accountable for whether they cut the budget or whether they shutdown the government, as Erick seems to think they ought to do, it's going to be Sarah Palin.

COOPER: Is Sarah Palin, then, to blame for not winning the Senate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question.

GILLESPIE: That is not -- that is not -- that is not fair. I promise you, if Sarah Palin the first meeting of the Republican conference, if she was the guest, she would get a standing ovation, and every single one of those guys would want to line her up for fund-raising.

TOOBIN: This was a day of incredible Republican triumph.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.

TOOBIN: And Sarah Palin is the most prominent Republican in the United States. So the idea that she deserves blame for anything or there should be recriminations for anything I think it is preposterous. This is a day of Republican celebration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

TOOBIN: And I think she is the symbol of the contemporary Republican Party.

BORGER: But they're afraid of her. Privately they don't like her.

TOOBIN: And just a bunch of people...

BORGER: Afraid of her power.

TOOBIN: ... at the Palm in Washington are afraid of her. Who cares what they think?

JOHNS: I don't know if they're afraid of her. They don't like her.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Hold on sorry. I'm sorry, Erick, what?

ERICKSON: There are a lot of people scared of Sarah Palin and who hate Sarah Palin, because they're all previously affiliated to future 2012 candidates not named Sarah Palin.

ROSEN: Can we just all agree, though, that this election was not won by Republicans? It was won by independents, shifting their...

ERICKSON: No, no, no, no.

ROSEN: Shifting their loyalty from Democrats in 2008.

ERICKSON: The Democrats lost and the independents won it.

ROSEN: Maybe that, too. We lost -- we lost a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side. Turnout was a lot lower than people expected. But independents shifted here. And I think it's pretty important to think about Sarah Palin, as Ed talks about her, which is, she is a Republican. She will continue to help lead Republicans.

And where people are really going to be held accountable to Gloria's point, I think, is it's the independents. It's the dissatisfied, unemployed voter who is -- doesn't care about either party, who is going to hold the Congress accountable.

CASTELLANOS: Remember what -- where Sarah Palin was a year ago after the McCain campaign. Her base in Alaska was crumbling. She was under investigation. She was on the governor's salary. Her political fortunes were going downhill.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Still is.

CASTELLANOS: She's had a brilliant political year. She's now the power behind a thousand thrones instead of sitting on one. She's the biggest fish in the pond. She energizes the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without a political organization.

CASTELLANOS: And like a consultant friend of mine once said, "I'm occasionally responsive but never responsible." She now has power without responsibility. It's a great job. It's a great job. It all ends if she runs for president. But it also ends if she ever says she won't run for president.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think that... ERICKSON: ... in that the Republicans spent this entire year campaigning against Nancy Pelosi. Democrats spent a whole lot of time talking about Sarah Palin, a woman who doesn't do anything in Washington. And are they going to continue for the next two years talking about Sarah Palin, as opposed to John Boehner or a Mitch McConnell?

AVLON: It's amazing to me that we're spending a night of huge election in which Republicans have made historic gains in the House talking about someone who's not on the ballot.

Sarah Palin -- Sarah Palin is a powerful figure in the Republican base. She is popular among populist conservatives. She has negative capability when it comes to independents but she's not -- she is a media fascination. She's a celebrity. She's a power broker with conservative populists, but she is not on the ballot. She's not the story tonight.

MARTIN: Give the people credit.

COOPER: So then let's stop talking. Take a quick break. Our coverage continues. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: It's an extremely, extremely close race for the U.S. Senate from Colorado right now. These are the latest numbers, with 77 percent of the vote now in. Michael Bennet is the incumbent senator, he was appointed -- he's got 47.2 percent. To Ken Buck, the Republican challenger, 47.5 percent.

As of right now, Buck is ahead by nearly 5,000 votes out of 1.3 million votes that have already been counted. It's very, very close in Colorado right now. Still 27 percent of the vote needs to be counted.

CNN's Mary Snow's over at Buck headquarters in Colorado, watching all of this right now.

It's been going back and forth, Mary, but it's about as close as it gets rights now, and we're certainly not ready to make any projection.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, we're approaching five hours since the polls closed here in Colorado, Wolf. You could see behind me the crowd still hanging in.

A little bit of drama in the past hour. Republicans here thought that there -- they had been pulling ahead. But it turned out that it was a mistake in the polling. But the crowd has really come to life in this past hour just as this race has tightened.

You know, we had talked to Ken Buck, the Republican backed by the Tea Party. He had been predicting that he would win by a comfortable lead. The Democrats have been saying these past couple of days, they thought that this was going to be a razor-thin margin in this race. And Democrats had been preparing for the possibility of a potential recount.

Republicans say they don't -- they're not looking at that possibility right now, just hanging in. Ken Buck is upstairs watching these returns with his family -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A long night in Colorado right now. Mary, thanks very much.

Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, we've projected that he has won his bid for re-election. There is Harry Reid's headquarters out in Las Vegas right now. He's about to speak to some of his supporters. They're very excited. It was a close race with Sharron Angle, but in the end Harry Reid wins.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you, everybody.

BLITZER: Let's listen in briefly.

REID: Thank you.

BLITZER: To the Senate majority leader.

REID: Thank you, everybody. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Yes, we did. Today Nevada chose hope over fear. Nevada chose to move forward, not backwards. Nevada made this choice, because we know it's not about us versus them. It's about every Nevadan, all of us, in this together. Today you made possible what many called impossible. And I'm grateful you did. Not for me, but for the future we all share as Nevadans.

First, let me thank my wife. My wife and my best friend. I wanted you by my side since the first time I saw you. And you've been there ever since, every step of the way.

To my family, my tireless staff, and all my generous volunteers -- I wish my voice could convey what's in my heart. That's "thank you, thank you, thank you." You never gave up. You never gave up. Because you know Nevadans never give up. I know how hard you worked. And I appreciate each minute you spent, each hour, days, weeks, months and years.

And I thank the people of Nevada. It's always been my honor to represent the state, to serve the state, and to fight for the state and to fight for each of you. And friends, I'm not finished fighting. In fact, tonight, I'm more determined than ever.

You see, I've been in some pretty tough fights in my day, they've been in the street, they've been in a boxing ring and they've been in the United States Senate. But I have to admit, this has been one of the toughest.

But it's nothing compared to the fights families are facing all over Nevada right now. This race's been called, but the fight is far from over. The bell that just rang isn't the end of the fight; it's the start of the next round. I know a lot of Nevadans feel like they've been counted out. But you know I know what that's like. I've taken on powerful forces. No one dared to challenge them. And I've ran in some tough elections that no one thought that I could win. So I know what it's like to have the odds stacked against you. I know what it's like to take a punch. I've taken a few. But more importantly, I know what it's like to get back on your feet.

My story, my story and this night proved that difficult isn't synonymous with impossible. And we're proof that a test is tough only if you're not tough.

My career and in campaign have been driven by a simple belief. If a poor kid from Searchlight can make it, anybody can make it. Everyone in Nevada deserves a chance; everyone in America deserves a chance.

Nevada's going to recover. Nevada's going to recover. Nevada's going to prosper, and Nevada's going to lead. We're going to bounce back stronger than ever. I've never accounted Nevada out, and I'm not about to start right now.

I think you know that about me. You also know the balloons and ballrooms aren't my style. They're not my thing. So everybody enjoy tonight. But remember -- but remember tomorrow, it's back to work for the people of Nevada.

You see, you see, tomorrow morning there will still be too few jobs for too many people. There will still be too many foreclosure signs in too many front yards. There will still be too many kids in crowded classrooms and too many students wondering how can they afford college?

But your hard work, and it's been really hard, has given Nevada the chance to believe again that tomorrow isn't impossible.

So before I finish here tonight, I want to invite on stage just a handful of those who made tonight possible. My family -- my friends, my friends, my staff. They all made tonight possible. Because of you, because of you tonight -- because of you we didn't just make history; we made a better a lot of futures. Because of you we did it. Thank you!

BLITZER: All right, so -- so you could see Harry Reid obviously relieved, very excited. Very happy that he won in his home state of Nevada. He's the majority leader.

Sharron Angle, who put up a very, very strong fight, loses in Nevada.

The Democrats will retain the majority, probably just barely in the U.S. Senate. They're going to go down from their significant majority, 59 seats. We don't know exactly. There's still some outstanding races out there that are very close, but Harry Reid comes back for another six years in Washington. There you see him celebrating with his family and his friends, his staff. Harry Reid wins in -- in Nevada. Let's go back to CNN's John King. He's over at our Election Matrix. Huge night, huge night for the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. At least a net gain of 60 seats in the House of Representatives.

KING: It is remarkable when you look at this. You know, in 2006 and 2008, it was blue that represented change in America. Democrats gaining more of these districts, turning blue. More states turning blue.

Look at all this red tonight. And if they're flashing, that means that they have changed tonight. Look at all these states. We go back through the class of 2006, the class of 2008. These two classes are most significant, because it was that 2006 class that made Nancy Pelosi the speaker. The 2008 class of Democrats that came in on the presidential coattails tonight.

As you can see, significant numbers of those Democrats being washed out.

We started tonight in the CNN 100 with 91 Democrats in the 100 most contested House races across the country. And you are seeing them lose by the dozens here, as you see all this red come through. In 2008, 2006, back to 2004, look at all the red. There was so much blue here when we began the night. We're not quite done yet. We expected more.

Wolf, it started mostly 2006 and 2008. But look when you go back in time. It's not just the new Democrats. There are Democrats who have been in Washington for years, for 15 years, 20 years or more, losing tonight. All flashing red.

Look at this. That's Tennessee and Mississippi there. We'll go back this way here: Texas, Michigan, North Dakota. You see them holding one in Rhode Island but Arkansas going red. Kansas going red. Just all control the country. North, south, east and west, liberal Democrats losing, moderate Democrats losing. It is just stunning the sweep of this.

We now say the House Republicans will win at least 60 seats. At least 60 seats. They needed 39. They are building on that, and it started in the east when the polls closed earlier. And when you look, if you go down the map, if you don't mind step down here for just one second, just to show you what this looks like.

Again, we talked about America going blue in 2006 and 2008. Here's how we started the night. Look at this map and look at all this blue in these House districts. Every one of these lines is a House district.

Look at this, where we are. Look at how much red in America tonight. That's where we started. That's where we're going, and we're not completely done counting out in the mountain West and the West Coast. But we started here. We got there.