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THE SITUATION ROOM
Seismic Shift on Capitol Hill; Lame Duck Congress Headed to Town; Tea Party Tidal Wave; Write-In Upset Rocks Senate Race; GOP Eyes Health Reform Law
Aired November 3, 2010 - 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: As the dust settles after the midterm election earthquake, it's clear that there will be a seismic shift on Capitol Hill where Republicans pick up at least, at least 60 seats in the House of Representatives.
When the GOP takes over, it'll be out with the old, in with the new. The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be replaced by the GOP leader John Boehner. Steny Hoyer will no longer be the majority leader in the House. GOP's Eric Cantor plans to seek that post.
And James Clyburn won't be the majority whip. That title likely to go to the GOP's Kevin McCarthy.
President Obama today tried to reach out to the newly empowered Republican leaders. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), EXPECTED TO BE NEXT HOUSE SPEAKER: The president and I had a very pleasant conversation. We agreed that we needed to listen to the American people. We needed to work together on behalf of the American people. And I look forward to having the opportunity to talk with him about those areas where we can move together.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's working the story for us.
John Boehner sounded like the Republicans are in fact ready to seek some sort of working arrangement with this president. How far are they likely to go in compromise?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, he also said, Wolf, that he talked to the president about working with Republicans on smaller, less costly, more accountable government. So if you listen to Republicans and Democrats, it was really fascinating today, because even on the issue of coming together, working together, there was confrontation, almost like they were talking past each other.
The Democrats say they got to message and the message was we've got to work together, but that means Republicans can't say no all the time. And Mitch McConnell who was with John Boehner at a big opening press conference this morning said if that's the message Democrats are getting, they don't get it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: They missed the message somewhat. I get the impression their thinking -- their view is that we haven't cooperated enough.
I think what the American people were saying yesterday is that they appreciated us saying no to the things that the American people indicated that they were not in favor of.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now McConnell was a lot more sharp than Boehner, I should make that clear, and Boehner who will of course actually lead the House of Representatives, unlike Mitch McConnell who is going to have a lot more numbers in the Senate. He just sort of again talked in generalities about the goals that they set out during the campaign of smaller government, of cutting spending.
And he also made clear that they do want to keep pushing to get rid of that health care plan. He also said something interesting that is probably making them shake a little bit, the White House, he said that they want to have rock solid oversight of the executive branch -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That means subpoenas and investigators and all sorts of committee hearings.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, what does she do now? Does she stay on as the minority leader in the House? Or does she just give up that position? Does she stay in Congress? Does she retire? What's going on?
BASH: The answer is we don't know yet. In fact, as we speak, I am down the hall from her office. She is still in the office that says "Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi" over it. She is there right now. She had meetings with staff today. She did an interview today. But those of us who cover her here on Capitol Hill, she avoided us.
It was an interesting game of cat and mouse trying to -- we're trying to ask her that question, is she going to stay, is she going to go, what is she going to do. Finally after a little bit of that, she said that she'll let us know soon. We understand that she hasn't even made clear to her own staff what she's going to do yet -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We'll wait and see. Dana, thanks very much.
In the Senate, the Republicans gained strength but failed to gain control. Democrats held the line in some key races including Nevada where the Majority Leader Harry Reid overcame the Tea Party Republican challenger Sharron Angle. Today, Harry Reid says congressional Republicans have so far refused to cooperate with the Obama administration, but he is taking a bipartisan tone.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: They simply weren't willing to work with us. That was where they came with the designation of the party of no.
I have always felt that my job is to build consensus, to work out legislation. It's not a bad word to suggest that legislation is the art of compromise. That's what it is. So I am going to do everything I can to do that.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin is in Nevada right now. She was in Las Vegas at that news conference.
Jessica, what are you learning about what Harry Reid's new strategy is going to be now that he's been re-elected?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, Harry Reid said he got a message from last night, and that is voters want both sides to work together. But I asked him three times in three different ways what would you do differently?
Would you take on board new Republican ideas? Do you think you should move to the right? Each time he said it's the Republicans who say no, and they have to come to the table. So it seems there could be a bit of a stalemate and something has to shift.
There were two other very memorable points he brought up. One, he's credited a lot of his victory to Hispanic, Latino, I should say, voters here in Nevada. A historic 17 percent turnout for Latino voters which for the Democratic Party they think is a very good sign about their future.
And a final point, Wolf, you know, when we asked, what was it that enabled you to win such a close race in the end, he really took off and went after us, the media, and said the problem was us, that we have been relying on polls that he called misleading, inaccurate and he said that we gobbled him up like they're sweet pastries and repeat them.
He said his polling showed all along that he was going to be ahead. So Harry Reid, a little bit testy with the media and going back armed for some battle but a smile for Republicans -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, I think he's just relieved that he got himself reelected right now. Let's see what happens next.
Jessica Yellin in Las Vegas for us.
The president of the United States had a one-hour news conference over at the White House today. He was sad, he was clearly disappointed in what happened. He spoke of a shellacking that he personally took. He accepted some responsibility. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating. Some are humbling, but every election, regardless of who wins and who loses, is a reminder that in our democracy power rests not with those of us in elected office, but with the people we have the privilege to serve.
It feels bad. You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore. At least in the short term. And the amount of courage that they showed and conviction that they showed is something that I admire so much. I can't overstate it.
And so there's not only sadness about seeing them go, but there is also a lot of questioning on my part in terms of could I have done something differently or done something more so that those folks would still be here.
It's hard. And I take responsibility for it in a lot of ways.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama over at the White House today.
Let's walk over to CNN's John King. He's taking a look at the map. It was a lot -- there was a lot of blue in those districts as of yesterday, but all of a sudden the blue in many of those districts became red.
JOHN KING, HOST, CNN'S "JOHN KING, USA": Wolf, you heard the president several times use the word sad. He would be politically, I think, more worried if he pays close attention to the maps.
And let's look at it. Here's where we started the night last night. I want to highlight a few areas. Look at all the blue in here. These are House races as of last night. Look at all the blue up here. Look at the blue out there. Those are Democratic congressional districts.
This is where we started the night last night. Watch this. Blue is Democratic, red is Republican. That's where we ended it. Look at that again. Before and after. And that's just the House. That is that new Republican majority right there.
Let's blank this and let's take a look at the Senate races. And again we'll start with where we began the night. These were all the Senate races on the ballot last night. The states with no colors, those Senate elections are not being held last night.
We began this way and we end it this way. And again, look at the part of the country that changed so much. Out in Middle America, before and after. Those are key states. One more thing we want to look at, Wolf, is governorships. Again, here's where we began the night. Look up here. Look at all this in these big industrial battleground states up here. Those are all Democratic governors in big states. Almost all of them states carried by President Obama in the presidential election.
Look now. This is what is stunning to the White House. If you look -- let's clear this out a little bit, and come back at it. If you're the president of the United States and you're thinking about 2012, Florida, battleground state, now has a Republican governor. Pennsylvania, you carried that big, now it has a Republican governor.
Ohio, always a bellwether, the president carried it, a Republican governor. Michigan, he carried it big, a new Republican governor. On and on we go. And you go over to Wisconsin as well. Wisconsin.
And now you look through here, Wolf. You're looking not only at the challenges for the president, look at these states and these governors in 2012, Democratic senator up for reelection in Florida, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio, in Michigan, in Wisconsin. Also in Minnesota. Also in Montana and in Virginia.
So it's just the president looking at this dramatically more red map, it's all the other Democrats facing 2012. That is why what the president said today was important, even more important, how does he try to reposition the Democratic Party?
We had two big elections of change in 2006 and 2008, blue was the color then. Red is the new face of change.
BLITZER: John Tester or a Jim Webb or Claire McCaskill in the next two years.
KING: That's another one --
BLITZER: They're looking ahead in 2012.
KING: Right there. Yes.
BLITZER: They may not necessarily the automatic yes votes for the president.
KING: They know what happened in their states last night. If they weren't on the ballot, they know what happened in the House races, in the 500 seats in the state legislature changed hands last night. They know what happened in their states, and they want to move.
BLITZER: All right, John is going to have much more coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING, USA." We'll certainly be watching.
Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File." Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Despite the fact that those Democrats got their butts kicked pretty good yesterday, the Democratic-led Congress is going to be back in Washington for a lame duck session.
Heavy emphasis on the word lame. Because this Congress allowed so much unfinished business to pile up before they took off to campaign, there is no shortage of things to do should they actually decide to tackle some of the people's business.
There are the Bush tax cuts which are set to expire at the end of the year. If nothing is done, the biggest tax increase in American history will land on our doorsteps January 1st. There is the issue of expiring unemployment insurance for 2 million Americans.
And don't forget about the budget. Congress, they didn't bother to pass one. But lawmakers have to either pass another temporary stop-gap budget resolution to keep the government running or pass the remaining spending bills for fiscal year 2011. The second won't happen, the first has to.
Other pending issues include the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax. Don't hold your breath on any of this. Congress will only be in session for a few weeks and then of course it'll be time for their Christmas break.
Besides, insiders say the lame duck session could be more unpredictable than most because the balance of power is shifting. They say Republicans could spend at least a week figuring out who's going to take the leadership roles when the next session of Congress convenes in January.
More importantly, it's very likely the Republicans will not be in the mood to do much cooperating. Not that that's any big switch from where they've been, but they are going to be running an increasingly larger piece of the show come January.
So here's the question. What should be the lame duck session of Congress' first order of business?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and tell us. Wolf.
BLITZER: Getting ready for Thanksgiving break before Christmas break? You think that's a good issue?
CAFFERTY: Thanksgiving. Did they get off -- they get off for that, too, right?
BLITZER: Of course. Thanksgiving then Christmas.
CAFFERTY: Are they going to take off, like, before Thanksgiving and then remain away until --
BLITZER: No, they'll come back. They'll come back. They've got to come back. Stuff to do.
CAFFERTY: Something to look forward to.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.
It's one of the most talked about players in the election, but what happens when the Tea Party candidates take office? Can they really bring change to Washington?
BLITZER: Nine Republican Senate candidates were endorsed or supported by Tea Party organizers. Five of them were winners including Florida's Marco Rubio and Rand Paul in Kentucky. But three Tea Party candidates wound up losing, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware in a squeaker, Ken Buck in Colorado, and Sharron Angle, as you know, in Nevada.
The fate of another is still unresolved. We're talking about Joe Miller in Alaska.
Tea Party candidates were strong campaigners, but it remains to be seen how they'll actually do when it comes to governing in Washington.
Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look. He's got a little reality check. He's up on Capitol Hill.
What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you said on balance, an impressive showing for the Tea Party especially since the movement is only about 20 months' old and this was its first major election.
Now of course the tough part.
TODD (voice-over): With the energy of a high octane rock band, they propelled the Republicans to historic wins.
RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATOR-ELECT: Tonight there is a Tea Party tidal wave and we're sending a message to them.
TODD: Rand Paul headlines a slate of conservative Tea Party- backed candidates who are partying after victories.
I asked Benjamin Sarlin who's covered the movement for the "Daily Beast" to rate the scorecard.
(On camera): Did the movement do as well as some had projected?
BENJAMIN SARLIN, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, you can't say it was a bad night when you took a bunch of Senate and won the House, but there's no doubt they faltered in a few key races that a lot of their critics are going to say they could have otherwise won.
TODD (voice-over): Cases in point, he says, Tea Party defeats on the Senate side, Christine O'Donnell's in Delaware and Sharron Angle's loss to the man some called the world's most endangered incumbent, Harry Reid.
Still with new high wattage leaders like Paul and Marco Rubio in the Senate, and nearly a dozen in the House, the movement has clearly impressed in its first major election.
But now reality. Tea Partiers have to channel that energy into pushing their agendas through in a town where that's pretty tough.
(On camera): Do you have a plan for really getting something accomplished? A tangible plan?
JENNY BETH MARTIN, TEA PARTY PATRIOTS: We do. Immediately, we are going to -- we're going to have an orientation for the incoming freshmen for both parties so THAT they understand what the local coordinators expect of them.
TODD (voice-over): Jenny Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, says they'll, quote, "melt the phones," of Tea Partiers who don't stay on message. They'll push them to cut taxes and spending, even to repeal the health care overhaul. But Sarlin says this about how the Tea Partiers' distaste for compromise will play in Washington.
SARLIN: Saying as Rand Paul has that he will vote for nothing less than a completely balanced budget is basically saying you're never going to vote for a budget ever. I mean it all -- it basically removes you from any serious discussion of actually deficit-reducing measures, at least as they pertain to a final budget.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Sarlin says that freshmen Tea Partiers like Rand Paul don't compromise, they can still have an effect on the debate. Paul, he says, can use his credibility with the Tea Party movement to demagogue against Republicans who cross over to the other side on various issues. That will at least give him some symbolic strength -- Wolf.
BLITZER: In your conversation with these Tea Party leaders, Brian, are you getting any indication who they might like for the Republican nomination for president in 2012?
TODD: The Tea Party leaders themselves are being pretty cagey about that right now, but you talk to people who follow the movement and some of the obvious names come up. Sarah Palin is the first one that everybody talks about.
But also Mike Pence, the congressman from Indiana who's supported by the Tea Party. He is talked about as a potential teammate for the Tea Party in 2012.
And here's a name down the line to look out for. Marco Rubio. And 2012 may be too soon for him to run, but analysts say down the line, he and the Tea Party could make a formidable team for a presidential run.
BLITZER: Remember there was a junior senator from Illinois --
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: After two years in the Senate decided to run for president, and he wound up in the White House.
BLITZER: I suspect Marco Rubio is going to take a closer look at that example and see what he can do.
Thanks very much, Brian, up on Capitol Hill.
The Senate race in Alaska could be resolved sooner than expected. We're going live to Anchorage for the latest.
BLITZER: The election still isn't over in two closely watched Senate races. In Washington state, the Democratic incumbent Patty Murray is tied with Republican challenger Dino Rossi, each with 50 percent of the vote.
We're counting votes, seeing what's going on.
Alaska's Senate race may be decided sooner rather than later we now believe after a stunning comeback by the Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski. She ran as a write-in candidate after losing the primary to the Tea Party-backed Republican Joe Miller.
She's now leading -- at least the write-in votes are now leading 41 percent to 34 percent. The state has just announced it will count those ballots next Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA WRITE-IN CANDIDATE: They said that -- they said, you can't do it. You can't win a write-in campaign. Not in Alaska, not anywhere.
They said we can't do it. Do they know Alaska? Do they know Alaska? Yes, we can.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Yes, we can.
MURKOWSKI: How do we do it? How do we do it?
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's go to Anchorage, Alaska right now. CNN's Drew Griffin is standing by. Drew, there were a lot of write-in candidates, but we assume that most of the write-in vote went for Lisa Murkowski. She was obviously the best known.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's certainly what the Murkowski camp is counting on, and it's certainly would make sense in this race.
But you're right, there's a 161 various names on the ballot, most of them considered Joe candidates who jumped in at the last minute. But we did just get off the phone with Lieutenant Governor's Office. They have moved up the time that they're going to basically end this race.
Absentee ballots will be counted on the 9th of November, and then they'll begin, Wolf, counting those write-in ballots and looking at the names on those ballots beginning November 10th. It should take three days and after that we should know who won this race.
Now Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate, absolutely saying that this campaign is not over. In fact he released a statement this morning saying, in part, as in with any write-in campaign, the burden of execution rests with the candidate whose name is not on the ballot. Candidates who mount a write-in campaign opt for an uphill battle and at this point, without a single write-in ballot counted, Lisa Murkowski has no claim on a victory.
That's from Joe Miller this morning.
Obviously Lisa Murkowski feeling, though, very good. The percentage and just the sheer vote count they seem to say favors her.
And I had a candid moment with her father last night, Wolf. Senator -- the former senator, and governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski, who basically -- well, he did. He appointed his daughter, Lisa Murkowski, to his Senate seat.
Basically a proud moment for this dad as he looked upon his daughter staging this historical comeback potential win here. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: So you must be awful proud?
FRANK MURKOWSKI, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: I am awful proud. Awful proud.
GRIFFIN: Have you had to win an election this way?
F. MURKOWSKI: Not this way. Not rolling uphill with a write-in.
GRIFFIN: I think this is the only time she was sorry she had your name.
F. MURKOWSKI: Well, you know, people learned to spell her name, and I learned to spell -- what was it the write-in was so much criticism for? Nepotism.
F. MURKOWSKI: OK? So it's kind of a push.
GRIFFIN: Congratulation, Governor. Take care.
F. MURKOWSKI: All right. Thank you.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Frank Miller referring to the cloud of inheritance that Lisa Murkowski has had since he appointed her as governor. But I think if she pulls this one out, the dad is going to say, she earned it this time -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. The former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin strongly supported Joe Miller. No love lost between her and Lisa Murkowski. We'll stay in close touch with you, Drew, who's up in Alaska for us. Thank you.
A Slurpee summit? What's going on? We're going to tell you how a sugary slush could bring the president and next House speaker together.
BLITZER: While the president and the likely House Speaker John Boehner may not necessarily agree on much, they may share a taste for a certain frozen concoction. During the campaign the president often spoke of Democrats working to dig the car out of the ditch, while the Republicans sat back and, quote, "started sipping on a Slurpee."
So listen to this from today's White House news conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to ask if you're going to have John Boehner over for a Slurpee but I actually got a serious question.
OBAMA: I might serve -- they're delicious drinks.
OBAMA: The Slurpee summit, that's good, Chuck. All right.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A Boehner's spokesman says, and I'm quoting now, "Let's hope the president will be willing to work with us to cut spending, stop the tax hikes and get our economy working again. Then we can all get Slurpee's together."
A very nice statement. With the exception of winning candidates themselves, Michael Steele may be the happiest man in Washington right now. The Republican Party chairman is joining us now from the GOP headquarters in Washington.
Mr. Chairman, congratulations to you and your party. You obviously did very well yesterday.
MICHAEL STEELE, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, Wolf, thank you very much. And it was actually in many respects a very humbling moment, because when you think about where we were just over a year ago where the cover of "TIME" magazine screamed endangered species in reference to the GOP to what happened last night, it is quite an amazing turnaround.
And I think a number of things are the reason for it. One, we had to knowledge first our own past missteps as we moved away from principles like the Contract with America and tried the do Democrat- light or big government Republicanism. It's spawned to what we saw emerged last year in the Tea Party movement, to growing and grooming candidates who were able to go out and reconnect us to our base, reconnect us to our principles, and articulate policies that the American people wanted to hear.
BLITZER: All right. Are the Republicans ready to sit down and cooperate, compromise, have some Slurpees with the president?
STEELE: Yes, I think they are. You know -- you know, look, I think that the president said that he wants to do that, and I know that the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate has said from the very beginning that's something they wanted to do when talking about health care and talking about a finance reform.
So I fully expect that, when the new leadership emerges in January, they're going to be more than willing to come down to the White House, sit at the table and have a few Slurpees but most importantly, talk about the people's business and making sure that we're not growing the debt, spending dollars that American people don't have, and infusing government into the lives of everyday folks.
BLITZER: But you realize you don't have the ability to repeal health-care reform if the president wants to use his veto pen.
STEELE: That's very true, and again, that is why building a consensus towards what works and what doesn't work in this current monstrosity of a health-care Bill, a Bill that most members, many of whom lost their jobs last night, had never read, but fought for, why it's going to be so important to go back through.
For example, the president himself today acknowledged he had this whole, you know, IRS 1099, the $600, you know, expense piece. That's a little bit much. We can probably deal with that and get it out of there.
But as Mitch McConnell and others have said, there's more to it than that piece. And I think that's where the grand discussion is going to begin in January.
BLITZER: There seemed to be some competition, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, between you and the RNC on the one hand and Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, their American Crossroads operation, on the other hand. It seemed to be a little bit competitive there. Who was more important in getting Republicans elected?
STEELE: We're all important, because this is a team effort. You can't do it one without another.
Look, I was very happy for American Crossroads. It's about time to have a Republican 527 out there that can go and compete with the big boys that are on the other side. We've been ten years out of the loop on that.
The Supreme Court's ruling allowed for the creation of these types of entities, and it was very refreshing to have them there. We are the Marines; we do the ground game. We're able to put the buildings in place, the building blocks in place for voter turnout, get out the vote, phones and those types of thing. Those dollars that they can raise, which are basically corporate money, large dollar donations which I can't take here at the RNC. They are able to do it. They can then put that into independent expenditures to run TV ads and the like.
BLITZER: Do you talk to Karl Rove?
STEELE: Yes, I mean, Karl and I see each other from time to time. You know, gosh, you know, you're running the circuit, but, yes, I do run into Karl from time to time. Not in the context...
BLITZER: Is there a coordinated strategy?
STEELE: No! I was about to say, good question. No. No, no, no. Not at all. Not in the context of what we're doing politically, but in terms of our families and, you know, our hopes for the country, yes. But in terms of what American Crossroads does and what we do, absolutely not. The law prohibits.
BLITZER: Are you ready to tell our viewers right now whether or not you want another two years as chairman of the party?
BLITZER: Why not?
STEELE: Because I'm not ready. I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet.
BLITZER: When are you going to decide?
STEELE: Probably in a few days or weeks. I don't know. I want to savor the moment here, Wolf. This is -- this is precious time here after -- after all the hard work.
You know, look, I want to thank our state chairmen and our national committeemen and -women out there who helped us build this ground game. This was not something that was done in isolation. And so those -- those folks who have had the most to contribute to this win, you know, let's savor that moment. Let's all of us enjoy the hard work. We know there's much more work to do, and we'll get to that, but right now, last night was special. It took a lot of effort to go from the ash heaps of '06 and '08 to the victory we saw last night.
Sixty-one seats in the House is unprecedented; hasn't happened since 1938, and we're just glad here at the RNC to have played a part in making it happen.
BLITZER: A very modest Michael Steele. Appreciate it, Mr. Chairman. Thanks very much.
STEELE: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll stay in close touch.
STEELE: You got it, friend.
BLITZER: All right. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party.
They all took a midterm drubbing, but how else does President Obama compare to George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, for that matter? The Best Political Team on Television is standing by to weigh in.
BLITZER: A wave of bombing across Baghdad right now. Kate Bolduan is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Kate, what do you have?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Wolf, well, those bombings, well, they have killed at least 64 people and wounded more than 300. Car bombs, roadside bombs and mortars detonated in some 17 mostly Shiite neighborhoods in the city. A U.S. military spokesman says the attacks look like the work of al Qaeda in Iraq.
And there is now officially a fifth shooting in a spree targeting military facilities in the Washington area. The FBI says ballistics tests have linked an incident yesterday at a Coast Guard recruiting office in Virginia to four other shootings. Since mid-October shots have been fired at the Pentagon, a Marine Corps museum, and a Marine recruiting station that was hit twice. No one, fortunately, has been injured.
And for all those Titanic fans out there, some relics from the Titanic that have never been seen before by the public will go on display this Friday in London. The Titanic artifacts exhibition includes more than 300 pieces, and it also tells the story of some of the passengers who were on the ill-fated ship. Little trivia: as you probably remember, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in -- when? -- April 1912. Of the more than 2,000 people on board, only 709 survived.
And an unusual election outcome in Long Beach, California. An incumbent state senator won, even though she died last month because of a blood cot. Democrat Jenny Oropeza, her name -- that's her name -- and her name appeared on the ballot, because she passed away two weeks before election day. She beat her Republican opponent by more than 20 percentage points. Her seat is now declared vacant, and a special election will be held early next year.
Speaking of unusual elections, Wolf, what a wild night. How are you holding up?
BLITZER: Good. I feel pretty good, you know. I exercised. I got some sleep, not a whole lot, but probably more than a lot of other people. It's exciting to do this.
BOLDUAN: Only you would exercise on, like, two hours of sleep.
BLITZER: Well, I feel good.
BLITZER: See you back in Washington tomorrow.
BLITZER: Thank you.
After the election earthquake, can President Obama turn things around the way President Clinton did after his midterm debacle? Stand by. We're going to hear from the Best Political Team on Television.
And Jeanne Moos looks at those "Most Unusual" election-night follies. You'll want to see this. The baseball bat, and Carl Paladino. What was going on?
BLITZER: President Obama calls the Democrats' midterm election experience yesterday humbling. That's his word. Take a look at this: how he and his predecessors reacted to their political setbacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night. You know, I'm sure that there are easier ways to learn these lessons, but I do think that, you know, this is a growth process and an evolution.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I mean, look, this is a close election. The -- if you look at race by race, it was close. The cumulative effect, however, was not too close; it was a thumping. But nevertheless, the people expect us to work together. That's what they expect.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With the Democrats in control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable yesterday, and I accept my share of the responsibility and the result of the elections.
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BLITZER: Now, let's bring in our contributors, members of the Best Political Team on Television, Alex Castellanos, Gloria Borger, and Roland Martin.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He got it right!
BLITZER: How could we forget...
MARTIN: There you go!
BLITZER: ... our good friend Roland Martin.
Roland, what does this president need to do right now to pivot to get his mojo back?
MARTIN: You know what? Before he even pivots in terms of policy, he has to define who he is. I believe one of the fundamental issues has been that the Republicans have made it perfectly clear this is who we think he is. This is what change is; this is what hope is. They have not done that. And the struggle, I believe, from a communications standpoint, from an understanding standpoint is the country still has to understand who he is. What are his principles? What does he stand for?
You can talk about Reagan being the transformative figure in the primaries in Nevada, but we understood who Reagan was. I think that is what still is difficult for some people: who is the president and what are his principles in terms of leadership?
BLITZER: Does he need to shake himself up or his staff?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Both. I think he needs to do both. And I think he'll see, I think you'll see that happen. Look, we've had three change elections in a row, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And there -- there are going to continue to be change elections until the people see that the politicians get it right.
And so what I think you're going to see Obama do, from talking to people today, is he's going to say, "OK. People want us to work together. How about this idea? What if I come up with a budget? I've got to send my budget up to Capitol Hill. I know you folks in the Republican Party are going to call it dead on arrival. Why not give me your proposals for budget cuts, early on, so I can incorporate it into my budget, and that way we can speed up the process, call the Republicans out, see where they are, and then work together. What does that sound like to you?"
MARTIN: Prop 19 supporters would love that.
BORGER: Yes, right. Well, it's a way, at least -- it's a way, at least, for Obama to get the ball rolling and get it on the table.
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, as part of the process, a lot of this, though, is even bigger than the process. Candidate Obama was so much better than President Obama. One reason: optimism. The vision. Yes, we can. I think, you know, he's going to be advised over the next month, return to that. Yes, America can.
We saw a little hint of it today when he was talking about America competing globally. That's very different than, you know, Wall Street is bad. You're good. It was all of us together need to go do a big mission and succeed economically. I think you're going to see him go there.
But the one thing he didn't do today was accept responsibility for his policy. It was -- he said he hadn't been out of Washington enough; he was in the bubble. He said that this happens to every president. He said it was the economy, but he didn't say, "Look, maybe I spent little too much."
MARTIN: Well, he did use -- he did use a phrase, accept the responsibility when he talked about speaking to some of the people who lost.
CASTELLANOS: But not for the policy.
BLITZER: But what was interesting, he did say, Roland, that he does want to work to strengthen his ties with big business and Wall Street.
MARTIN: Of course.
BLITZER: He knows that's been a problem.
MARTIN: First of all, he knows it's been a problem, but what I also find very interesting is we also look at the reality in terms of how -- where we were on Wall Street a year ago, where these companies were a year ago, and the doom and gloom.
All of a sudden now, in terms of profits, in terms of how the Dow is going, I'm just simply saying, but he was criticized last year, saying you caused the problem, but then a year later, they're doing better. But they say, "We don't like what you're doing."
BORGER: Well, I see it more as a process problem than a policy problem. I mean, you can't expect him right away to say, "Oh, by the way..."
MARTIN: ... Democrats.
CASTELLANOS: Well, 60 Republicans, and that is policy.
BORGER: Of course, he defended health-care reform.
MARTIN: Of course.
BLITZER: Hold your thoughts, guys, because we're going to leave it right there. But you know what? We've got plenty of time here. This is...
BORGER: We do.
MARTIN: I'll be back with John King.
BLITZER: I know you will.
MARTIN: So see you in about 30 minutes.
BLITZER: What should be the first order of business for the lame-duck session of this Congress? Jack Cafferty is standing by with your e-mail.
Then, the humor, the tears and the just plain weird. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the election-night moments none of us will forget.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is what should the lame-duck session of Congress' first order of business be when they return?
Rich in Texas writes, "Tax cuts. As a small business owner who will be penalized for being successful, I won't be buying any new equipment or hiring any new employees until I know what the cost of growth is going to be. Most businesses are not the bad guys. Nor are we greedy, but we do deserve the benefit of our hard work and risk if we are lucky enough to make a profit. And don't even get me started on health care."
Peter writes, "The lame-duck Congress ought to pass a major jobs bill, as they should have done two years ago. Monetary policy has shown its limitations with -- what is it now? Three jobless recoveries in a row? We need some good, hard demand stimulation to kick the economy into gear."
Ray writes, "What they ought to do is come back to D.C., cancel their holidays, and get to work. Just like anyone else who's afraid of losing his job."
Gordon writes, "Let the Bush tax cuts expire and try to pass legislation that removes the income cap on Social Security deductions."
Melissa says, "Welcome to being totally screwed. We all thought it was bad before. It's going to be much worse now. Nothing will get done for the next two years." Arnold in Michigan: "Hold a joint session of Congress and resign."
Dennis in Pennsylvania: "Their first order of business ought to be to go to the supermarket, get some boxes, and start packing. There's a reason they're going home, and they ought to start that journey as quickly as possible."
And Bev in Colorado: "Put on munchkin costumes and wait for Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell to lead them through the corridors of the Capitol, singing 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road'."
If you want to read more, you'll find it on my blog. And if you don't, I don't know what to tell you. Yes.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thanks very much.
Jeanne Moos coming up next.
BLITZER: Election night follies. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a "Most Unusual" look.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you didn't manage to catch every confetti drop, let us help you catch up with a few of our favorite moments.
SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: It is a big darn deal.
JERRY BROWN (D), GOVERNOR-ELECT OF CALIFORNIA: People are looking for something new, but I'm a little something old.
CARL PALADINO (R), NEW YORK SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You have not heard the last of Carl Paladino.
MOOS: And that was his concession speech, wielding a bat he'd promised to use to knock sense into Albany if elected New York governor.
But the oddest post-election comments came from another losing candidate, Alvin Green.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For some people who said your campaign was a joke, was it a joke?
ALVIN GREENE (D), SOUTH CAROLINA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: No, no, no, no. Hey, seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to run again?
GREENE: Run for what?
MOOS: Run from the press. GREENE: Check this out. Check this out.
MOOS: Our favorite unscripted TV moment came when Chris Matthews was interviewing Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann. Check out the parody cover being held up behind her back.
MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: One second after midnight...
MOOS: It's a parody of Sarah Palin's book, "Going Rogue," switched to "Going Crazy." It lasted 15 seconds, and then this happened.
BACHMANN: People have been saying...
MOOS: But seconds later, a bigger sign appeared, saying, "How's the tingle, Chris?" A reference to Chris Matthews once saying he felt a thrill up his leg listening to Barack Obama speak about America. Representative Bachmann wasn't really answering Matthews' questions.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Are you hypnotized? Has someone put you under a trance tonight? You give me the same answer, no matter what question I put to you.
BACHMANN: I imagine that thrill is probably maybe not quite so tingly on your leg any more.
MATTHEWS: I know. Your sign holder has already raised that issue..
MOOS: And what would an election be without a few tears shed?
For instance, from House speaker to be, John Boehner...
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Chasing the American dream.
MOOS: And his team won.
Christine O'Donnell lost, but she didn't cry. Her brother did.
DAN O'DONNELL, BROTHER OF CHRISTINE O'DONNELL: I couldn't be prouder of my little sister.
MOOS: O'Donnell comforted her brother, then mentioned he's a Democrat.
D. O'DONNELL: And we had arguments. You know, you know, particularly about the mice with the human brains and stuff, you know. Oh, sorry.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Human brain cells!
MOOS: Talk about arguments.
CASTELLANOS: There's a dead body on the ground.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You say listen to the people?
CASTELLANOS: Excuse me.
BRAZILE: No, I'm not finished.
CASTELLANOS: Actually, you were.
BRAZILE: Let the lady talk.
MOOS: And while the human pundits occasionally snapped...
(on camera) ... how did the puppy pundits do at prognosticating?
JIMMY FALLON, HOST, HOST, NBC'S "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": Release the puppies! Let's see who they're going to go for.
MOOS (voice-over): On election eve, Jimmy Fallon used two dishes of dog food to make the pups pick between Paladino and Cuomo for New York governor.
FALLON: The puppies have voted!
MOOS: The pups picked Paladino 3-2, and turned out to be wrong. But pups don't mind eating anything, even crow.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's all the time I have. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now -- John.