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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Wisconsin Recall Effort Fails

Aired June 5, 2012 - 22:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John King, in for Anderson Cooper. Let's go with the breaking news on 360 tonight: CNN now projecting Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, will withstand a recall challenge from the Milwaukee mayor, Tom Barrett, the Republican winning in a hotly contested, nationally watched recall election.

The big issue at the beginning, Governor Walker's efforts to curtain the rights of public employees union, that in the middle of a big budget crisis, tens of millions of dollars spent on this recall election. You're looking at the early results right there.

With about 27 percent of the vote in, Governor Walker leading by 60 percent to 40 percent -- our exit poll shows the race to be a little bit closer than that.

But let's take a break down to the magic wall to show why we're able to project now that Scott Walker will keep his job as the Republican governor of Wisconsin. You look at the state map here. Number one, it's obvious. Red is Republican. You see a lot of red.

But let's break is down even closer. Dane County here, this is the key county for Democrats in the state. It's about 8 percent of the population. Democrats say their turnout operation worked well there today. But look at this, at the moment, Tom Barrett, the Democrat, getting 60 percent, Scott Walker getting 40 percent right there.

Tom Barrett needs to be at about 70 percent. He needs to be up at around 70 percent in this key county right there. Let's come back to the map here a little bit and come over here to the Milwaukee suburbs.

This is Waukesha County. This is the key county for Republicans in this state, 75 percent -- Scott Walker got just over 70 percent last time. He's overperforming. So what we're seeing as we go from county to county, in all of the key counties, come up here, Brown County, where Green Bay is, Walker getting 60 percent with 75 percent of the vote in. That's an improvement from two years ago.

You can pick your key county across the state. Everything we see so far, the Republican incumbent, Scott Walker, overperforming, the Democratic challenger, Mayor Barrett, underperforming.

We have got our full team ready to break this down, what it means for the state tonight, what it means for the election come November. Dana Bash is at Governor Scott Walker's headquarters tonight. Also joining us, CNN political contributor, the former White House Press for George W. Bush Ari Fleischer, plus contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. He's also an adviser, we should note, for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. Senior political analyst David Gergen also with us.

Let's go straight to the ground.

Dana, you're at Walker headquarters. This was a hot fight. Earlier today, they got a bit nervous. The Democrats thought they might beat them on the ground. Scott Walker now projected to be the winner. What's the reaction right there?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it is absolutely intense.

The minute that the local station here called the race for Scott Walker, this place erupted like I haven't heard or seen any election night, really even during the presidential primaries, the Republican primaries that I was covering earlier this year.

This is a fired-up crowd and it really speaks to the intensity, John, the real intensity that has been going on, on the ground here in Wisconsin for months and months and months. As I mentioned earlier I think to you, the fact of the matter is that people here, I'm told by one Republican strategist, very true, people here would walk across coals for Scott Walker, but then the same intensity is on the other side.

They would walk across coals to vote against him. But at the end of the day, people for Scott Walker clearly won. The fact is that he did have unbelievable money coming in here, but it really was the intensity and the ground game at the end of the day that helped the governor stay in office and fight this recall.

KING: Dana, stay with us. We will continue the conversation.

I want to bring Ari Fleischer in.

Now, Ari, I can already hear it. Democrats are going to say, well, we were outspent 7-1. Money came in from all these outside groups. It wasn't a fair fight. Outside interests bought this election. What do you say?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Both sides had more than enough money and resources in Wisconsin.

I think when you count all that organized labor can do with the number of people they can bring into the state, the number of resources, phone banks, et cetera, that doesn't show up in those numbers, both sides have nothing to complain about. They both were well-funded.

The Republicans I'm talking to, John, it's euphoria. At the Republican National Committee, people are pointing out to me how much coordination they did, the number of offices that were open, the aggressive absentee ballot program they had, four million voters they say, which is more than the Republicans had in 2008.

They look at this as a crucial test run for Wisconsin in November, and I think that's probably right. The real issue here, at least politically, for the presidency, is the 2012 landscape more like 2010 or more like 2008? At least in the snapshot of this one recall in Wisconsin, it looks like 2010.

KING: Paul Begala, I want to bring you into the conversation and remind our viewers on the right side of your screen there, you're seeing Scott Walker headquarters.

He is the incumbent Republican governor. He has withstood the challenge tonight, CNN now projecting he will continue in office. The recall election has failed.

Paul, you just heard Ari make the case that this is a key barometer, a key benchmark, if you will, as to what will happen 154 days from now, when Wisconsin votes for president. And yet, before I bring you into conversation, I just want to -- not to contest Ari, but to just show Wisconsin voters were asked today, and even as they kept their Republican governor in office, 53 percent of Wisconsin voters today said they would vote for President Obama in November; 42 percent said they'd vote for Governor Romney.

So, Paul, that's a margin right there that is roughly equal to the McCain/Obama margin, with Obama on top back in 2008. Ari is optimistic. Are you nervous when you see these results?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first off, let me just -- uncharacteristically perhaps for me -- show some good manners.

Scott Walker, Governor Walker and his crew are to be congratulated. They have done a remarkable thing. This is the most powerful anti-incumbent tide all around the world that I think we have seen in decades, maybe in my lifetime, you know, dominant party turned out in France, turned out in Greece, turned out in Britain at the local level.

Every incumbent running should be running scared. Governor Walker got a scare, but he hung on, and his team is to be congratulated.

Now, having said that, does this have anything to do with the election in five months? No. Five months ago, Newt Gingrich was surging to the lead in the national polls for the Republican Party. Five months ago, Kim Jong Il was still the dictator in North Korea. Five months ago, we didn't know who was going to win the Super Bowl.

And it just -- this is -- Wisconsin, it's a really interesting state. This is an important election for the people who live there and it's important for the two parties. But it has no predictive capacity for November. Come on. The last Republican to carry Wisconsin in a presidential election was Ronald Reagan. And if anybody thinks Mitt Romney is another Ronald Reagan, I want a case of what you're drinking.

KING: Well, and yet, David Gergen, join the conversation...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Ari, I will let you back in, in a minute.

But, as Paul makes that case, David, he certainly make that case. Five months is an eternity. The last Republican was Ronald Reagan. And yet, we do know in key demographic groups, especially white blue- collar workers, downscale workers, that the Midwest in particular, older voters also, a key constituency in Wisconsin, they are trending to Republicans in national elections, so the question is, is it trending fast enough for Mitt Romney come November? I think that's an open question tonight.

But I would challenge Paul's analysis just a tad, even though I know he's quite smart.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I agree with you, John.

Listen, I think there are two implications to this tonight. One is what it does for November. And I think that any serious observer would have to say that a state that looked like it was leaning toward Obama now must be counted as undecided, that anything can happen in Wisconsin and perhaps even in Michigan.

But there's a second part of this we haven't talked about at all. This election was centrally about the power of public employee unions. Scott Walker tried to cut -- curtail those unions, and in the name of trying to balance a budget. And that's when this huge eruption occurred against him.

He's one of the Republican governors who has been out on the point on this issue about whether there are excesses in public employee unions in terms of their pension plans or health care plans and so forth. This is a very, very hot issue from New York to California and from New Jersey to Indiana to Ohio to Wisconsin.

And this election tonight was well-regarded long before by both sides as the second most important election of the year. And here Scott Walker, I must say, to a surprise, given a year ago, it looked like he was going to lose this, tonight, to win is a substantial defeat for labor, for public employee unions, and a substantial defeat -- a substantial victory for those who have been trying to curb them.

KING: David, you make a key point. So, I want to show our exit poll data on this question, the defining question that started this whole recall debate.

In the end, there were other debates about ethics, debates about jobs, debates about unemployment. But what started this was Governor Walker's efforts, successful efforts, as David noted, to restrict collective bargaining rights and to make public employees pay more for their health care, pay more for their pensions. Look at this electoral today. This is fascinating; 38 percent strongly approve of what the governor did, eliminating those benefits. And watch what happened; 96 percent of those voters voted for their -- to keep their Republican governor; 37 percent strongly disapprove. You see the polarized electorate here. And watch this; 97 percent of those voters voted for the Democratic challenger.

So, this election was decided, as most are, in the middle. And I will say in this polarized climate, it's a small middle. Somewhat approve, 12 percent. You watch what happens here. Governor Walker that won by a big margin there. That is critical. You get to somewhat disapprove, 12 percent here, and here you have Mayor Barrett winning in that constituency.

So, you have this sharply polarized electorate.

Dana Bash, let me go out to you on the ground first.

Does the Walker campaign -- as we wait to hear the governor himself speak, I assume they will read this as a mandate, even though we expect the final result to be relatively close, as a mandate to continue just what they're doing.

BASH: Oh, there's no question about it.

I think, to be honest with you, no matter how this turned out, they would consider this a mandate to continue doing just what they're doing. That's just the way things are on the ground here. People who are so emphatic against Scott Walker, they're going to keep being that way.

But the interesting point that you were talking about with David Gergen, John, is that, yes, this whole issue started, all the problems for Scott Walker politically, perhaps, maybe the benefits for him as well, back when he -- about union issues and about collective bargaining rights about 16 months ago.

But in recent days and weeks, that has not been the conversation between these candidates. It has not been the conversation on the ground. It's been more specific information about general issues.

KING: Want everybody to stand by for just one second as we prepare to make another projection.

CNN can now project -- you see it there -- Rebecca Kleefisch, she is the Republican lieutenant governor. She also was on the recall ballot. She had a separate election with a Democratic challenger as well. She, we now project, will keep her job as well. So, you have the Republican governor and the Republican lieutenant governor now surviving the recall challenge, CNN projects, as we watch the results continue in.

Is Gloria Borger ready to join our conversation? Is she with us yet?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I am. KING: So, Gloria, you have here all this money spent. You have the Democrats, especially labor, saying this was a test run, this was a key test of labor's credibility. And the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saying it was a test run for November. Safe to say they flunked the test?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Yes, it is safe to say.

Look, this is a measure of intensity and enthusiasm among Democrats and also among independent voters and it's a measure of the strength of the labor party movement. And I would have to say that when you look at this and you can say, OK, what are the concrete results that this is going to tell us about November, this is a psychological boost for the Republican Party.

They're going to say it's a lot more, but at the very least it's a psychological boost. I mean, you were talking earlier about President Obama's numbers. And in these exit polls that you were talking about, he is up 11 points over Mitt Romney in the state of Wisconsin.

Who's better able to manage the economy? Barack Obama is up over Mitt Romney in the state of Wisconsin by eight points, and also by about a dozen points these voters said that President Obama cares more about the middle class. But what this tells you is that Republicans organized at the grassroots level in the state of Wisconsin.

They outspent Democrats by more than 2-1. And when they do that, and when they organize and they have a lot of money behind them, they can win.

KING: Gloria, thanks. Dana, Ari, Paul, Gloria, everybody, stick around. Much more ahead from Wisconsin, including we're waiting right there -- you see the picture on your screen.

Scott Walker is the winner. He will remain the governor of Wisconsin, the Republican governor expected to speak any moment. We will have that.

When we come, we will also discuss what this might mean looking ahead. We will look at Wisconsin tonight. We will look at the electoral map ahead to November, a big win for the Republicans tonight in Wisconsin, the Republican governor and his lieutenant governor surviving a recall election.

We will back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Back to the breaking news we're following in Wisconsin tonight, CNN now projecting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will win the recall vote. That means he gets to keep his job. We are waiting for him to speak -- you see his event right there -- at any moment. CNN also projects his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, will win her recall election. Walker's challenger was Democrat Tom Barrett. He is the mayor of Milwaukee. This race is being watched closely for what it might mean for the presidential election come November.

Let's take a look. First, we're going to look at what happened tonight in Wisconsin. Then we will take a look at the electoral map and play out some scenarios.

You see right now with 41 percent of the vote counted, Scott Walker winning by 19 points right now. The exit polls showed a narrow win. We will see if that narrows as more Democratic votes come in. But if you look state again, mostly red. That tells you one thing right there. The Republican is winning.

And here's another reason. In the main Democratic areas, Dane County, right, that's about 8 percent of the state population. Governor -- Barrett is getting 63 percent here. You might think that's great. I just want to go back in time just to demonstrate for you. Let's go back to this election, the governor's election in 2010. Same race, he's up at 68 percent.

So, he's underperforming at least the moment where he was two years ago. Let's come back to 2012 and we will go over here and we will show you some Republican counties. This is the biggest one for Republicans. This is the Milwaukee suburbs, Waukesha County, Governor Walker right now overperforming by a small margin what he did two years ago.

So, there's one test of what is happening tonight, Republicans on the ground turning out their voters and overperforming, while the Democrats are underperforming.

Let's bring up an electoral projection right now as we get back to our panel. Here's the map as CNN projects it right now, President Obama at 247 electoral votes. Those are the solid blue and light blue states, solid Democrat or leaning Democrat. Governor Romney at 206, the dark red solid to light red leaning Romney.

As you see, we have Wisconsin tonight as leaning Obama. In the exit polls tonight, Ari Fleischer, the voters say they are inclined, at least if the election were today, President Obama would have won among those turned out by a decent margin. Do we keep this light blue in your view or do you say, no, move it?

FLEISCHER: Well, John, Wisconsin always was going to be a battleground state.

Paul is right. Wisconsin last went Republican in 1984. But in 2000, George Bush lost it by only 5,000 votes. It was really a tie among 2.5 million votes cast. And in 2004, he lost by 11,000 votes among almost three million votes cast. So Wisconsin is an extraordinarily close battleground state.

I have a hard time seeing big labor returning to Wisconsin this fall to put in a lot of effort for President Obama since he didn't show up there for them this year.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Such a great point. Ari ,forgive me for interrupting. But that's such a great point.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Go ahead.

FLEISCHER: One other issue. I think we have to throw out those exit polls about Obama/Romney because this exit poll doesn't even seem to be right about Walker/Barrett.

We have to see what the final result is, of course, in the actual tally. But it looks like the exit poll top-line numbers are way off.

KING: The exit poll top-line numbers do appear to be off. We will wait to see the final results. Sometimes, things change.

But Ari raises a key point there.

So, Paul, on our map for now, I'm going to make Wisconsin a tossup. That makes it a closer race. Ari makes a fascinating point about whether labor will do unto President Obama you might say as he just did unto them.

Did the president make a mistake? He's the leader of the party. Maybe he was worried this would damage him in November. Maybe he was worried he would have his fingerprints on an embarrassing loss. But as the leader of the Democratic Party, did he owe it to the voters of Wisconsin to go out there and try to turn out the vote?

BEGALA: Certainly, of course. And he owed it to Tom Barrett. Barrett was the mayor of Milwaukee. He came out in the primaries and endorsed then Senator Obama against Senator Clinton.

He also owes it to himself and to everybody else he is going to have to deal with. This was a mistake, I have to say. The president should have been out there. I don't think it would have made the difference, OK? Let me be clear about that. But it's kind of like Thanksgiving at your in-laws.

OK, if you go, it doesn't guarantee it is going to be fun, but if you don't go, there is hell to pay. And that's the situation the president is in. I know he loves his mother-in-law, and she lives in the White House with him, but you know what I mean.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Yes, keep them close. I will just leave it at that as we go.

(LAUGHTER) KING: So, David Gergen, if you look at the map, if we make -- and I don't think we're quite ready to do this yet. We want to look at more data.

But if we do for a hypothetical tonight move Wisconsin to the tossup column, we will study it more. Then if we do it hypothetically tonight, then you have a narrow gap here. My question is if Wisconsin is in play, what we're seeing in the Rust Belt is Republicans proving they can get the key constituencies and they have a turnout operation in the ground, does that mean we should rethink Michigan and Pennsylvania, or is it just Wisconsin?

GERGEN: That's a very good question, John.

I would think, at the very minimum, you would have to rethink Michigan. And, you know, President Obama's strength has been in the East, on the East Coast, on the West Coast, and in the Upper Midwest. And tonight's results do put into play the question of whether the Upper Midwest is actually more vulnerable than it looks.

To go back to both Paul and Ari's points, I would assume, if you're sitting there in Obama's chair and you're running his campaign, you have to believe now that you are going to have to spend some money in Wisconsin to protect yourself, that -- I think Paul Begala was right. If the president had gone in and been loyal to labor, I think labor would be more loyal to him.

Whether he can count on them under these circumstances, I'm not sure.

KING: And, Dana, as we await for Governor Walker at that event, Reince Priebus, who happens to be a Wisconsin Republican, who at the moment is chairman of the Republican National Committee, he has to be a very happy chairman tonight.

The question is, does he believe, does he believe what happened tonight translates into November? I'm sure it's personal to him, that he would love to be the Republican chairman who put his state back in the Republican column for the first time since 1984.

BASH: I asked him that -- excuse me -- that very question just a few minutes ago when he was here.

And, of course, the answer was yes. He does believe that this puts Republicans back in play in his home state of Wisconsin, if nothing else, as we talked about earlier, because of infrastructure. The fact of the matter is that Republicans, because of this recall, have built a pretty impressive infrastructure here. They have had 25 so-called victory states -- centers across the state.

They generally have something along those lines by the time you get to the fall. But now it's in place in the early summer. That really, really helps the Republicans, also with just voter I.D. We talked about all the money spent and the fact that there wasn't a lot of money focused on undecideds, but there wasn't very many. That money was spent on identifying voters, making sure that they know exactly how to get to potential Republican voters. That will help them. Again, whether that is going to translate into passion for Mitt Romney or against Barack Obama, the way the passion has been really, really fiery here for and against Scott Walker, that's another question.

KING: Passion behind you in the room as they wait for Governor Walker.

Gloria, Paul made an excellent point earlier. Now, the Democrats will say they were outspent 7-1, but Paul made a very important point about look around the world, not just around the United States. This is a tough time to be an incumbent when you have a tough economy. Governor Walker survives this. We can debate about what might happen 154 days from now in the presidential election, but what happens in the next days and weeks when politicians, whether it's a governor or the United States Congress, start to deal with these tough budget issues?

BORGER: Right.

KING: Do they get a lesson out of this?

BORGER: Well, you know, if you're someone like Governor John Kasich of Ohio, you might be breathing a little easier tonight, because he dealt with a collective bargaining issue in his state.

And I think all governors are going to have to take a look at this and say, how dangerous is this for me as I take a look at paring down my state budget? But don't forget, you're also in an election year. Unions, while defeated, while labor was defeated in the state of Wisconsin, it doesn't mean they're going to be defeated everywhere.

But I do think this is a lesson in ground organizing and money, two things that are so important to win campaigns. And I think what you saw the Republicans in the state of Wisconsin do is raise a lot of money, take a huge amount of outside money. I mean, there was $62 million spent in this state. Most of it came from outside the state, because people were looking at this as a test case.

But when you have money and when you have organization, you might be able to do just about anything. And I think Walker at one point was really down in the polls, and you saw him have a comeback here because he had the support of the Republican Party.

And to Paul's point, President Obama decided for whatever reason not to come into this state any more than with a tweet, right? He tweeted his support for Barrett, but did little more than that.

KING: A tweet not the same as a personal appearance.

I just wanted to, before we break, look at the latest vote; 47 percent of the vote now in, Governor Walker with 58 percent, his challenger with 41 percent, almost to the halfway point. CNN is now projecting though that Governor Walker will keep his job, along with his Republican lieutenant governor.

Dana Bash, Paul Begala, Ari Fleischer, Gloria Borger, and David Gergen, our full team, out on this big night.

Stick around. We're awaiting for Governor Scott Walker to speak at any time, a very excited crowd waiting for him, you see them there, at his election event in Waukesha, Wisconsin. We will bring it to you live when it happens.

Stay with 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Scott Walker will keep his job as the Republican governor of Wisconsin. We're waiting for the governor to take the stage. We will bring his victory speech to you live just ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're seeing live pictures there. That's Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin.

That's his event's campaign headquarters tonight in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He has won. CNN now projects he will win. And as we await Governor Walker speaking, we will carry that event live, we have reaction tonight from the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney.

Let me look down -- excuse me for looking down -- to read his statement.

"I congratulate Scott Walker on his victory in Wisconsin. Governor Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around. And I believe that in November voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same results in Washington, D.C." -- so Governor Romney saying there that he believes tonight is a message to the voters, not only in Wisconsin, but nationally.

You look at the results right there. I can show them to you here. With 52 percent of the vote counted, Scott Walker, the incumbent governor, getting 58 percent, Tom Barrett, who is the mayor of Milwaukee, at 41 percent right now.

Exit polls showed a closer race. We will see if the race gets closer as it comes in.

And as I prepare to bring back in our panel, I just want to show something fascinating from the exit polls. As we bring down these exit polls, tens of millions of dollars spent, now, some of it was on the turnout operation, but a lot of it was on campaign ads.

Yet, only 4 percent of the voters said they decided today, only four more said in the last few days; 5 percent decided in the month of May.

So this is when you see the late campaign ads. Right? About 13 percent of the electorate. Eighty-six percent of the electorate decided even before the month of May. And that's how they broke: 54 percent for the incumbent, 46 percent for the Democratic challenger.

Let's go back to our panel: Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush; Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who's also an adviser for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. Also with us, political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

Paul, I want to start with you first. I know you're going to say that Democrats were outspent seven to one, that was a part in this. You're working with a super PAC yourself. When you look at these numbers and nearly 90 percent, nearly 90 percent decided weeks ago, does that change the strategy about spending money?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. No. I mean, Napoleon said God is on the side of the big battalions. And you know what? God is usually on the side of the big budgets.

No, you have to -- look, most elections -- the middle is slightly smaller today, the undecided. But most elections in America or most states come down to that last 10 percent or so who make up their minds in the last month. You know, 40, 45 percent of us go to each of our partisan corners right away. Then we fight over the last 10 percent to 20 percent. That's what happened in Wisconsin.

It may mean if that 10 keeps shrinking that you have to spend your money on turning out your base, which I think both parties did in this case, as well. But you know, it's -- you cannot unilaterally disarm. Democrats were outspent seven to one. Democrats lost. I think there's a connection.

KING: David Gergen, I want you to help me with this as we look at more of the exit polls here, OK? Vote by income. This is a race that started about union collective bargaining.

In the end, the Democrat said Governor Walker not only was wrong on unions, they said he was wrong on jobs. They tried to make it about even more, campaigning. And yet, look at this. Middle-class voters, 50,000 to $75,000 a year, 25 percent of the electorate. The incumbent wins. Narrowly, but the incumbent wins along the middle class.

Over here, more downscale voters, $30,000 to $50,000. It's 20 percent of the electorate. But look at this: again, a split in a piece of the electorate that should go for the Democratic mayor, Tom Barrett. Scott Walker splits. Just badly trailing there.

And you go to the higher income, Governor Walker winning convincingly. A traditional Republican constituency. But when you look at the middle class, David, these voters here, the incumbent did so well when the campaign was about unions and jobs. What does that tell you?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's very, very important. Yes, money counts. Yes, ground game counts. Both Paul and Gloria are right about that. But so do fundamental ideas. They matter in politics. That's how a conservative like Ronald Reagan got elected.

And conservatives have been battling here, arguing that the public employee unions have engaged in excesses that need to be cut back.

I was out in Wisconsin, spent a couple of days out there a couple of weeks ago, John. And I can tell you a lot of people, small business people in particular, were talking about that these unions are costing too much money. And it was not about the ads. It was not about the ground game. It was people just deciding they couldn't afford it.

And that's really been at stake here and, I think, in this election. And it's -- it's an important set of controversies that are going on in many states around the country.

And I don't deny that money and ground game matter. But I really think that the ideas and what -- and how people feel about what's going on in their lives and in their states matters a lot, too.

KING: Critical point from David Gergen.

Everybody just stand by. We're going to continue the conversation. We're also waiting to hear from the big winner tonight, Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

But as we wait, let's get to some other stories we're following tonight. Isha Sesay joins us now with a "360 Bulletin."

Hi there.

ISHA SESAY, CNNI ANCHOR: John, the White House says al Qaeda's No. 2 man is dead. U.S. officials say Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed by CIA drone strike in Pakistan. Al-Libi frequently appeared in videos on Jihadist Web sites and played a critical role in the group's planning against the west.

The Syrian government says it will allow the United Nations into the country to deliver humanitarian aid. But Bashar al-Assad's government also announced it's expelling diplomats from 11 countries. Those nations expelled Syrian officials last week in response to the massacre in Houla. Residents there say regime forces have cut off the town from basic necessities.

Nigerian officials have suspended Dana Air's license in the wake of Sunday's deadly plane crash. The State Department says seven U.S. citizens were killed in the crash, including the pilot.

And a once-in-a-lifetime event in the solar system happening tonight. It's called a transit of Venus, when the planet crosses between the Earth and the sun, appearing as a black dot, as you see on the screen. And it won't happen again until 2117. So if you can see it, get out there with some eye protection.

KING: Isha, we'll both be back when it comes back in a hundred years. We'll be there, right? SESAY: Possibly.

KING: Possibly, yes. Lower case "P" on that possibly. Isha, thanks.

We're still waiting to hear from Scott Walker. He's the Republican governor of Wisconsin, and he's the big winner tonight. THREE-SIXTY continues. More of our conversation about the results, what they mean for Wisconsin and the nation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: CNN projects Governor Scott Walker will keep his job in Wisconsin. He just received a congratulatory phone call from the Republican nominee, the presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney. He's expected to speak at any moment. We'll bring you that ahead here on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're waiting to hear from Scott Walker. He's the big winner tonight. The Republican governor of Wisconsin surviving a recall challenge. His Republican lieutenant governor surviving, as well. You see the Republican celebration right there. We're waiting for Scott Walker to speak at any moment.

Let's take a look at the results as they come in: 59 percent of the vote now counted. Governor Walker, again, the Republican incumbent, with 57 percent. Tom Barrett -- he's the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee. He's at 42 percent.

If you look at the map as it's filling in, it's filling in red big-time. The Republicans doing what they need to do. In the key Republican counties, Governor Walker above 70 percent. Critical there.

The key Democratic counties right here in the middle of the state. Madison is the capital, Dane County, 65 percent for Mayor Barrett. You would think that's a good result. He needs to be about 70 percent there in a close statewide election. So at the moment, it's 62 percent in that county. And he's underperforming, which is why we project the Republican, Scott Walker, will win.

Ted Rowlands is getting reaction to Governor Walker's win tonight. Ted, what are you hearing?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, a little different story here than what you're seeing in Milwaukee. People here are very upset, as you could imagine here. A lot of people have poured their lives into this recall effort over the past 16 months. Some people are a little angry. But we have seen some people crying, as well.

We interviewed one gentleman who said that he's been working for the entire 16 months, and he broke down and cried.

Right now, you can see it's a bit of a festive atmosphere. But also a bit of anger here. And people saying they're angry, because it feels like this -- it feels like this election was bought, bought by out-of-state money.

I don't know if you can hear me, but you can hear a lot of people still milling around the capital here. Knowing that their efforts came up short. Scott Walker is still the governor of Wisconsin.

KING: Ted, I'm smiling here. And I don't mean to smile at you being uncomfortable. That is democracy in action. We would like, even if they protest, to get a chance to hear from you.

We understand you spoke just moments ago to a voter. Do we have that? Can we play that for our viewers?

We don't have it. All right, we'll get to that later. Ted Rowlands, as you can see, in a feisty crowd right there.

Let's bring back our panel: Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary to George W. Bush; Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who is an adviser to that pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action. Political analysts Gloria Borger, David Gergen also with us.

I want to make a point as we look at the map. This is a key question. All this money goes in. I want to go back in time. I just want to ask and then go to Gloria first on this one.

Going back, this is the 2010 election. You come over to the governor's election. And Gloria, Dane County is the big one here. Remember, 68 percent. I'm going to write that on the map here. Sixty-eight percent in that county for the Democrats.

Then I want to come back down here, and this -- I want to pick another county. Eau Claire County. Democrats carrying this. It's a small county, 50 to 49. That's a swing county in the state. Right? Remember, the Democrats carried this one two years ago.

Now we'll come back again, and I just want to pick one more -- two more. I'm going to pick this, Brown County, near Green Bay. Fifty-six percent is what Governor Walker is getting tonight. Let's write that in here.

And then we'll come down here. One last one. Thank you for your patience, folks. Come down here. Waukesha County just outside of Wisconsin. Let's remember, 72 percent Governor Walker got two years ago.

So the question is, when you have a rematch -- and that's what we had tonight. Walker was the candidate two years ago. Barrett was the challenger. You come back out, you fast forward to 2012. You come back to the state. Let's look at what happened.

This was a Democratic county. This was a swing county. It was a Democratic county. With 29 percent of the vote in, the Republican is winning tonight. That's one reason Scott Walker has won reelection. He is more competitive here. Sixty-eight percent for the Democrats here when they lost narrowly before. They're underperforming in this key county with 62 percent of the vote in. That's why you lose again, because you're underperforming.

Come up here to Brown County in Green Bay. Fifty-six percent for the Republicans two years ago, 59 percent this year. This is how you win an election, folks. You turn out more people and you build on your performance.

And again, the biggest county for Republicans, Waukesha County, 72 percent two years ago, 73 percent now.

Gloria Borger, if you're a Republican and you're saying this was a test run for your technology, this was a test run for your new turnout plan, those numbers have you smiling.

BORGER: Those numbers have you smiling, because it worked.

I mean, look, at a macro level, this tells you that at a state level, people are more receptive to an aggressive conservatism that cuts for budget cutting, that calls for taking on collective bargaining when it comes to public employee unions. That's the big picture.

The small picture here is that, when it comes to organizing, Republicans learned how to do it in the state of Wisconsin. They coordinated.

The Republican Governors' Association, for example, which has a great stake in the outcome of this, given the amount of conservative governors who are trying to do the same thing that Scott Walker did, they poured in $9 million into this campaign alone. They coordinated with other Republican groups. And they organized.

And that is what President Obama's campaign is known for, which is organizing at the grassroots level. And that's what Republicans did here. And that's one of the lessons to take away from it.

I agree with David Gergen that there's a big picture here. But there's also an important small picture here, which is turning out voters is what really matters.

KING: All right, Gloria Borger.

And you see the Republican governor (UNINTELLIGIBLE) spoke just moments again. We're waiting to hear from the big winner tonight, Republican Governor Scott Walker. As we do, Ted Rowlands was drowned out by those disappointed demonstrators moments ago, but just before we brought Ted on, he interviewed a voter who underscored his disappointment tonight. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: Mike volunteered for Barrett; voted today. You say you're very disappointed. A lot of folks here outside the capitol sharing your opinion tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not just disappointed. This is the end of democracy. We just got outspent $34 million to $4 million.

This was -- this was the biggest election in America. And I hope you keep me on tonight, because this hurts us all. Every single one of you out there in the nation, if you're watching, democracy died tonight.

ROWLANDS: Very emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very emotional because we all had a lot invested in this. This was it. If we didn't win tonight, the end of the USA as we know it just happened. This is it.

We just got outspent 34 million to $4 million. And we don't have any other resource left but the people you see here behind me. And if the people you see here behind me can't get it done tonight, it's done. Democracy is dead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Emotional testimony there, reaction from that blue-collar voter with Ted Rowlands.

I want to go back to our panel. Paul Begala, I want to get your reaction as a Democrat and someone who is involved in the spending, that Democrats were outspent big-time tonight.

And as I do so, I want to show you something else in the exit polls. Remember, we think our exit polls may have undercounted the Republican vote a bit, because they showed the race to be closer than it appears to be right now.

And yet, even with that qualifier, Paul, if you look at "There's someone in your household who's a union member," 67 percent, so two- thirds said no, no union members. And let's try to get this to come out here. You see the Republican candidate, the Republican winner, Scott Walker. That's no surprise, the non-union households there.

But here's what surprised me. If you look at -- "Is someone in your household a union member," remember, this all started because of the collective bargaining dispute. There it is there. Governor Walker getting more than a third. 36 percent of the union household vote. What does that tell you if a number of blue-collar union voters, more than a third of the them, in a big dispute that was about collective bargaining, are voting for the Republican governor?

BEGALA: That's a remarkable thing. And you're exactly right to pull it out, John, and highlight it.

You know, a union member who votes for Scott Walker is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders. OK? He did not mislead anybody about his agenda. He wanted to take away. He wanted to take away -- he, in fact, succeeded in taking away the right to collective bargaining. Not just cutting the pensions and their pay, which the unions agreed to. But he took away their right to collective bargain. And he has now succeeded.

I think in part because of this mindset we have now in our national dialogue. You see, it's OK to scapegoat public employees or to Bash teachers and cops and firefighters and public servants.

But if you turn and criticize, oh, say, Mitt Romney and millionaires, who buy companies, loot the pensions and lay people off, that's class warfare.

You see, it ought to go both ways. If people are -- we're not in this ditch because of teachers, cops and firefighters. It's not unions that bankrupted America. But if people say that, that's called class warfare.

But we can Bash the public employees all we want, and that's OK. And that's just kind of, I think, what we're seeing in the results here.

KING: I think we're going to see a divide like this; 154 days to election day. We'll be right back with more from our panel. We're also waiting for the big winner tonight. You see the pictures. Republican Governor Scott Walker expected to speak at any moment. THREE-SIXTY, back in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to 360. Live pictures there of the victory party. That's in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The Republican governor, Scott Walker, due to speak momentarily. He has won a big win tonight, defeating his Democratic rival in a recall election. That means Governor Walker will get to complete this term.

Let's look at the results we now have, 65 percent of the vote counted. Governor Walker with 58 percent of the vote. The Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, with 41 percent of the vote. Again, that's with 65 percent of the vote in.

This was a rematch of a race two years ago. Governor Walker won narrowly them. At the moment, he's winning by a bigger margin now.

And so the question is, as we bring back our panel, what does what happened in Wisconsin tonight mean for the election as we head on to November? As I bring up the Electoral College map, let's go back to our political panel. Dana Bash, right there at Walker headquarters in Wisconsin. Also joining us, Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush. Democratic strategist Paul Begala, an advisor for the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action. Also with us, out political analysts Gloria Borger and David Gergen.

So Dana, I want to go to you on the scene first, in the sense that if you look at an electoral map that we start with President Obama at 247 and Governor Romney at 206, the question has been is this the final map. These yellow states are our toss-ups, or are there chinks in anybody's armor? I think we would say tonight that at least for the moment it is possible we have found a chink in the Democratic armor there. As you talk to Republicans, do they think yes, this puts Wisconsin in play? I know Republicans want to say that tonight. But do they think outside of Wisconsin it means anything in like-minded states along the Rust Belt?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, the honest answer that they will give is they're not sure. But they hope so.

And I think a lot of it is for the reason that David Gergen was just talking about when we talked about the issues. They are very much hoping that this is a harbinger of November when it comes to people really care about and are upset about -- very much like we saw in 2010, about the big spending, and about the battle of ideas, slashing government spending versus Democrats who are, many of them, concerned that the cuts are too deep, which is effectively the debate that we saw here.

If Republicans can make the argument that you need to keep the Republican ideals in check, then that is definitely going to prevail in other states.

But states like Michigan, which as you were talking about, has been really reliably Democrat in the past several presidential elections, unclear. I think it's a state to look at when you talk about that question, is the state of Ohio. And whether or not this in terms of the Rust Belt kind of voter, means something for Ohio.

KING: And so David Gergen, you were talking earlier about yes, there's a lot of money here, everything else involved, but in the end politics is about policy.

If ideas were a big factor in the equation tonight, what should Governor Romney learn when he goes back to Wisconsin next time, when he goes to Ohio, when he goes to Michigan, when he goes to Pennsylvania or anywhere else? Is there a lesson for Mitt Romney? Is there something in his message that he should and could change because of what happened tonight in Wisconsin?

GERGEN: Well, I think he can certainly give voice to a lot of the restlessness and resentments and that sort of thing that are stirring against some of the excesses in labor unions, but what I hope he does not do is declare war on public employee unions. I think that would be a terrible mistake. There are some things that need to be fixed, but we don't need a war. I happen to believe in collective bargaining.

But I just want to point this back out to Paul and others with regard to the union members, those 36 percent who said that they -- you know, they went for Walker.

Since this law was passed, these reforms were passed, these laws said that, if a union represents your unit in government, you don't -- you no longer have to belong to the union and you no longer have to pay dues to that union. And it's been reported by "The Wall Street Journal" that over half of the members of the second largest union in Wisconsin -- and that is the federal and state and local employees -- they have left their union since these laws were passed.

There is something out there that goes beyond money and organization. There is something stirring in the country about what's happening at the state and local level. I think we have to take account of it.

KING: Ari Fleischer, as the Republican in the group, if you're the Romney campaign and you're scrubbing this tonight trying to figure out what's the lesson, what is it?

FLEISCHER: Well, a couple of things. If you go back to when President Obama was elected, really on the anti-Bush, anti-Iraq mood of the country and a surge for President Obama. He has not had any good domestic election results since.

2009, both Virginia and New Jersey went from Democrat governor to Republican.

2010, of course, Scott Brown took Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts.

2010, congressional election, the biggest Republican midterm win in 78 years. Even Anthony Weiner's seat, overwhelmingly Democratic House seat in Queens, New York, went Republican.

And now this. Very bad string of political news for President Obama on the domestic front. Election after election, year after year.

One other thing, John, I want to point out on the...

KING: I've got to jump in. We're about out of time. Sorry, I have to jump in tonight, but we'll continue the conversation. A hundred and fifty-four days until the election. Dana Bash, Ari Fleischer, Paul and Gloria, David Gergen, as well. Thanks.

That does it, though, for this edition of "360." Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" up next.