Video: Roundtable examines elections’ impact

  1. Transcript of: Roundtable examines elections’ impact

    GREGORY: Let me move on to talk about politics. And because it's so heavily impacted by the healthcare debate, also by jobs, which I'll get to in just a minute, but let's talk about what happened this week and the results of this election . One thing that, that struck me was something that you mentioned in your column, E.J. , and that is on terms of what happened, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg saying this: "There are two things happening. One is fear. The other is punishment. Voters fear for themselves and their families, and they want to punish anyone who got them into this condition." The change election of 2008 seems to be the change election of 2009 .

    MR. DIONNE: Well, I think you've got to divide these elections in two. You've got the governors' races and you've got the congressional races. There were two House races, including that one in the 23rd district where the right-wing candidate lost. Democrats held those seats. And the Republicans keep losing these special House elections; so if they're in such great shape, why are they losing those House elections? If this were a pure anti- government mood, there were two tax limitation referenda on the ballot in Maine and Washington state that were overwhelmingly rejected. So if there's a big anti- government mood, why didn't one of those pass? New Jersey and Virginia are warnings, particularly to incumbent governors on the ballot next year. I think New Jersey was a very personal thing about Corzine . It's amazing, given his low popularity ratings, that he got as many votes as he did. Virginia is, I think, the one which has substantive lessons. The Obama constituency was asleep; the electorate that voted on Election Day favored John McCain by eight points in a state that Barack Obama carried by seven points. If Democrats can't turn out those folks who supported Obama , particularly the young, they are in trouble.

    GREGORY: And, Ed Gillespie , you have so much experience in Virginia politics . Is the lesson for Republicans nationally, is the model for elections Bob McDonnell , the, the, the elected governor now, because you had a social conservative running as not quite a moderate, but certainly a more pragmatic, middle of the road candidate than a social conservative ? Is that the lesson?

    MR. GILLESPIE: Really, what Bob McDonnell did -- in full disclosure , I volunteered as general chairman of his campaign -- is he translated conservative principles into practical policies and then talked about how they improved quality of life for Virginians. It was a very smart model. I hope that Republicans across the country take a look at that, do idea-driven campaigns and appeal to those centrist voters in the middle.

    MS. MADDOW: Ed...

    MR. GILLESPIE: Independents voted overwhelmingly for both Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie . That is the warning sign for Democrats , by the way.

    MS. MADDOW: I think that if, if Republicans could choose to have anything to extrapolate from the, from the Bob McDonnell race, it would be to have as an opponent Creigh Deeds . If they could pick anything that they wanted. I mean, Creigh Deeds was a, was a marketably ineffective Democratic candidate, essentially running away from the president, running from everything popular in the Democratic agenda and doing it in a stylistically poor way. So I'm sure he's a very nice guy ; he was a very bad candidate.

    MR. GILLESPIE: Mm-hmm.

    MS. MADDOW: And Bob McDonnell , I think, benefited as much from that as he did from his own record.

    GREGORY: Let me just get your thoughts on the election .

    MR. BROOKS: We saw the same trends in New Jersey and Virginia and Nassau County , Westchester County and Pennsylvania , across the country, and those trends were these: One, liberals stayed home because they think Obama 's going too slow. But more importantly, independents switched parties. The independents took a look at the Republicans in 2008 and said -- looked at Katrina , thought, "These guys can't run anything. I'll try the Democrats ." They took a look at the Democrats right now, too much spending, a little nervous making because of all the activist government , they shifted back. And we know that because for the past four months there's been a whole series of polls, and the polls have said the same thing, there's been a shift towards the right. Is government getting too big? Is spending too big? Are labor's too -- are labor unions too powerful? There's been a noticeable shift in poll after poll. There's sort of a retraction caused by anxiety because of perceived activism in Washington .

    GREGORY: Let...

    MR. DIONNE: I don't think it's a shift towards the right. I think there is great concern about 10.2 percent unemployment.

    GREGORY: Right.

    MR. DIONNE: Which is what Senator Lautenberg was talking about.

    GREGORY: Let me just...

    MR. GILLESPIE: ...concerned that the Democratic policies aren't, aren't addressing it, that the policies of this administration, this Congress are not making it better.

    GREGORY: Let me just pick up E.J. 's point. E.J. always leads us to the next discussion point, which is job -- which is his official role here on the program. Let's look at 10.2 percent

    unemployment for October. Here's the trend line since the inauguration, and we can show it to our viewers here to see where it was on Inauguration Day : 7.2 percent, 10.2 percent now. It's up 42 percent. David Axelrod was on this program touting the effect of the stimulus , $800 billion, and whether it would prevent this spike in unemployment. This is what he said back in February.

    GREGORY: Will this stimulus pan -- plan prevent unemployment from reaching 10 percent, do you think?

    MR. DAVID AXELROD: Well, that's our hope. That's our hope. There's no doubt that without it that's what -- that's where we were looking, double-digit unemployment. And that's what we're trying to forestall. We want to turn this thing around , and we think that this will, will happen. That's why the president had such a sense of urgency of acting now.

    GREGORY: The bottom line , Rachel Maddow , is what went wrong?

    MS. MADDOW: Well, or what could have gone more wrong?

    GREGORY: Right.

    MS. MADDOW: I mean, I'm sure is the way that they would put it. Obviously, job numbers are the holy grail for the next election , as the governors who were just on previously were, were articulating. And if -- I, I think that whatever Democrats do, they're going to be accused of overspending. No matter what they do, if they don't spend another dime between now and 2010 , they're going to be accused of it. And so if they're getting shy about the second stimulus , it's not going to make conservatives back off and say, "Oh, Democrats are the party of fiscal moderation." They're going to get slammed as overspenders anyway, and their choice is whether they're going to do it with intractable double-digit unemployment and a, and a, and an appearance that they're not doing enough to stop it, or whether they're going to be aggressive. And they need to not be shy about a second stimulus .

    GREGORY: See, and, and on that point, that is what I think is such a big issue right now, which is -- and Marc Ambinder refers to this -- which is Republicans have a, have a strong message in these -- in this election , which is less government , less spending; as opposed to Democrats , who want to spend their way further, expand government to get out of the recession. It seems to me Democrats have to own the idea of big government as the solution at this point. There is no alternative for Democrats at this point.

    MR. BROOKS: Oh, I hope so. But let me tell you, there -- 40 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 40 percent call themselves moderates and 20 percent call yourself liberal. So if you want that 20 percent, fine, be the party of big government . But I'd try to be a lot more subtle about it, the way Barack Obama was. What have we learned about the stimulus ? We've learned that government spending does save jobs in education and in state employment. That stuff has worked. What have we learned that doesn't work so far, which is trying to create a multiplier effect , trying to gin up private investment and spending. Because you can pump a lot

    of money into that sector, but if people are nervous they just won't invest and create jobs. So that part of the stimulus does not seem to have worked, and we ought to learn that lesson.

    MR. DIONNE: The problem is the stimulus was too small, and they compromised it down and so you had less effect. I mean, the fact is these numbers would be a lot worse without the stimulus . But for politicians, the slogan "Vote for us, things could be a whole lot worse" is not a very good slogan at election time. And I think that Democrats have to say straight up, "Hey, wait a minute. Yes, government does good things."

    GREGORY: Right.

    MR. DIONNE: I think that vote last night on health care was their bet that in the end voters would say, "We don't like government in the abstract"...


    MR. DIONNE: ..."but we want help on health care ."

    GREGORY: Ed , you have about 10 seconds for a final thought.

    MR. GILLESPIE: All right. When they passed this, they said, "We have to pass this now or unemployment will get above 8 percent. We have to stop that."

    GREGORY: The stimulus , you're talking about.

    MR. GILLESPIE: It's at 10.2 -- the stimulus -- and we've lost 3 million jobs since, and they're talking about doing more of the same. This healthcare bill is going to stifle job creation , what they're talking about on cap and tax and on other issues going to stifle job creation . This -- that's part of the problem, this administration's policies.

By Associated Press Writer
updated 11/8/2009 2:27:18 PM ET 2009-11-08T19:27:18

After Mayor Michael Bloomberg was nearly unseated by his little-known challenger, the ever-confident billionaire declared it a "great week" and threw a ticker-tape parade.

Granted, the over-the-top celebration was for the Yankees, who had just won the World Series for the first time in Bloomberg's eight years.

But it might as well have been a bash for the 67-year-old mayor, who associates say has not been even slightly humbled by the closer-than-expected finish to his re-election bid Tuesday, and has no qualms about governing the way he pleases.

The associates say that Bloomberg believes that once you win, people expect you to lead whether you got there by 5 points, as he did this year, or 3 points or nearly 20 points, as he did in his first two elections.

"This is New York — people might not like your attitude, but what New Yorkers will not accept is a mayor who is gazing at his navel and wondering about how he got where he is," said Bill Cunningham, a former Bloomberg adviser. "They expect leadership."

Record-setting spending
The founder of Bloomberg LP, whose fortune is estimated at $17.5 billion, is likely to have poured more than $100 million into his bid for a third term, when all the expenses come in. That's more than 10 times what his Democratic challenger, William Thompson Jr., was able to spend, relying on a mix of donations and public matching funds.

Bloomberg's record-setting spending — more than any other self-financed bid for office in U.S. history — only got him a five-point win, a difference of about 50,000 votes. While close re-elections can sometimes cause the winners to second-guess themselves and do some soul-searching about how to go forward, the mayor is not that type.

"I am who I am, I say what I believe," Bloomberg said this week. "My only focus is to try to make this city better."

Bloomberg has never really believed that he needed overwhelming support to get things done. Sometimes that instinct has been right; other times it has bred overconfidence and led to failure.

The Bloomberg administration has had a reputation over the years for doing whatever it wants, sometimes strong-arming legislators and potential opponents to accomplish projects on the mayor's agenda.

The former CEO was first elected in 2001 by just a three-point margin. He set about pursuing a set of aggressive policies, including winning control of the city school system and banning smoking in bars and restaurants. One of his most ambitious dreams — building a football stadium on Manhattan's West Side with the goal of wooing the 2012 summer Olympics to New York City — was never realized.

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He and his aides raised hackles in Albany when they tried to forge ahead with the football stadium plan without spending enough time courting lawmakers and community groups. State leaders who were unimpressed with the approach ultimately dashed those hopes.

Toll plan died in state Legislature
When he tried to impose tolls on vehicles entering Manhattan's most congested areas as a way to get more cars off the streets and raise money for mass transit, councilmembers said he and his aides twisted arms to get the vote to go their way. They prevailed, but the plan died later in the state Legislature.

Councilmembers complained about being forcefully pressured by the administration in a "you're either for us or you're against us" way last year when Bloomberg was seeking to change the city's term-limits law so that he could run a third time. He won that battle, too.

Many of the city's Democratic leaders have said the margin of victory Tuesday should be a wakeup call for Bloomberg to change the way he works.

But this mayor, who built his multibillion-dollar company from the ground up, is not particularly concerned with anyone else's opinion. New Yorkers shouldn't expect much to be different in his third term, except some of the faces around him. Some aides — many of whom have been with him for his entire eight years — are expected to leave, and he has also promised a shakeup of some agency heads.

The day before the election, when polls had him up by double-digits, he was already saying the margin wouldn't matter.

"A win is a win, but you'd always like to have more," he said. "Nobody's going to remember two days later how much you won by. They're only going to remember who's going to be mayor for the next four years."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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