This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 2, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
BRET BAIER, HOST OF “SPECIAL REPORT”: Let's take a look now at some of the exit polls we brought yo u earlier in the show and talk about with the panel.
First question -- has this election been in effect a referendum on the president's policies? And 38 percent of voters said their congressional vote today showed their opposition to Barack Obama, 24 percent said they were showing support, 36 percent said the president was not a factor.
Another question, many Americans have had it with the federal government, and 26 percent said they're angry, 47 percent dissatisfied. That is nearly three quarters of Americans unhappy with the federal government. And 21 percent satisfied, three percent said enthusiastic.
And there is a lot of anger and dissatisfaction with the healthcare law passed by Democrats as well. What should the new Congress do? And 48 percent said repeal it, 31 percent said expand it, 16 percent said leave it as is.
What about all of this and what we’re seeing early? Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Kirsten Powers, columnist for the New York Post, Fox News contributor Juan Williams, and Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst. Brit, let's start with you.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In addition to those questions that you see the answers to in the exit polling which is pretty consistent with what we have been seeing in the polling all through this fall, the big question tonight it seems to me is whether you are going to have a solid Republican night, likely takeover of the House, less likely takeover over the Senate, and possibly an election that can be written off as just about the economy and not much else.
Those results don't suggest that. But what we're beginning to see in the exit polling around the country suggested that this could amount in the end to a big washout for the Democrats.
For example, 18 percent of the electorate two years ago that elected Barack Obama, young people. That is down to nine percent in the exit polling so far. The African-American vote, which was up 13 to 14 percent of electorate, is down to around 10 percent.
The broadly speaking independents, they've been polling independents all day, and there's an enormous, double-digit spread in favor of the Republicans among independent voters. If that holds through the night, and we won't know the answer to this for some time, but we could have a great big Republican night that Mr. Gallup was forecasting yesterday and Scott Rasmussen was forecasting as well.
BAIER: Juan, it's an important caveat to tell everyone we are talking about exit polls here. We have been burned by the exit polling in the past and they're not complete. There are different waves of exit polls as voting continues throughout the night. As you look at the numbers, the first wave, what do you see?
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: First and foremost, if you look at who is turning out to vote, it looks like a good omen for Republicans. I will say this just as a caution to the viewers that if you look at the black vote right now, Hispanic vote, it's on average with any midterm election. It's not specific to this one.
BAIER: To compare against 2008 would be fair.
WILLIAMS: With young people however, it is fair. And there you do see a diminution in terms of the enthusiasm coming from the younger voters.
Now, when you look at the referendum issue on President Obama that you cited as the first poll I think what's interesting here is you only get 36 percent saying he was not a factor. And overwhelmingly 38 percent oppose, 24 percent support.
If you break it down and go inside the numbers you will find that people who strongly oppose President Obama have an even higher, strongly want a Republican takeover of the House, have an event stronger aversion to president Obama. It's not quite as strong as the aversion to President Bush back in '06 when Democrats gained control over the war issue, but it takes to us the heart and soul of the election. It's becoming a hallmark - - the economy and jobs and the sense that he wasn't doing enough there.
If you look at the healthcare issue, if you look at the tax issue, it doesn't seem to be driving the voters in the way that jobs are driving the voters. And they’re making this the referendum on Obama that the Democrats don't want.
BAIER: Although, Kirsten, nearly three in four voters express dissatisfaction with Congress, six in ten say they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. That's beyond just the economy.
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: But I still think the economy is still the main issue.
If you look at healthcare, 47 percent say expand or leave it as it is. That's even split in the country on healthcare. When you look at the message for Obama, you’ve got 60 percent saying support or not a factor. For the same thing with Bush tax cuts, 52 percent want to let them expire for top earners.
It's not really showing what I have heard a lot of Republicans saying, frankly, where Americans are. I think it is a lot of dissatisfaction, and if what we're seeing on independents is accurate, then the White House has a major problem, because independents are swinging away in a really major way.
They tend to care about the economy and care a lot about the deficits. Something is going to have to be done about that, and they will have to address them. And I think probably the White House is waiting to see before they determine what they are going to do tomorrow.
STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think anybody would dispute the idea that the economy is the important backdrop here. But it only tells part of the story. It's not, I think, the single most important issue.
And you can see that. I think that's born out in the numbers of independents who have expressed opposition to the president. You have seen that in the polling on healthcare. I think healthcare, the fact that nearly half of the country wants to repeal healthcare at this point, as indicated in these exit polls, is tremendously significant.
Now, whether that alone drove them to the polls, I don't think so. I think it's a bigger question about the big issue that people deal with in politics -- the size and scope of government, what’s the responsibility of the federal government.
BAIER: Brit, since we're dealing with so many candidates across the spectrum of the country, each individual race is different. You see national trends, but when it comes down to the local races, there could be big differences and a lot of surprises out there tonight.
HUME: Yes, you bet there could be. We have more than the usual number of Senate races, 37, which is higher than the normal, you know, off- year election, and all 435 House seats. Of course, we're talking about there being 100 house seats in play, give or take. That's less than a fourth of the whole place. So it's a big number as it is, it's only a subset of that.
And even so, there is a vast diversion in all those races across the country.
Having said that, I got to say that if you get a massive swing in double digits for one party over the other in an election like this, it will filter down to every race in some way, and it will result for a big party that is favored.
BAIER: And if, Juan, Republicans are able to pick up a lot of House seats, does it translate to some of the competitive Senate races?
WILLIAMS: Not necessarily. People from what we're seeing in the exit polls so far seem to be taking a different posture with regard to the local races and their national Senate race, the statewide Senate races. We don't know how it has played out yet, but it seems to indicate you could have a different result there.
But let me just quickly add that where you will see in the local races good results for Democrats is where Democrats, picking up on what Brit Hume was saying, are able to separate themselves out from the national trend and able to say, you know what, I've done a good job for you. This is a local race. Here is the evidence. And my opposition, the Republican, is too extreme.
So that in terms of where the Democrats are able to gain traction is the whole ball of wax right now if they have any hope in many of the races given that independents are swinging strongly for Republicans.
BAIER: OK, panel, stand by. You can vote one more time today. Logon to our homepage at FOXnews.com/SpecialReport. Tell us what most motivated your vote.
Up next, the president prepares to move forward, and walks back a controversial comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: If Latinos sit out the election and say we're going to punish our enemies and reward our friends who stand with us, if they don't see the upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's going to be harder.
JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER R-OHIO: I have a word to describe those people, those people who have the audacity to speak up against the big government. And Mr. President, that word isn't "enemies." They're patriots.
OBAMA: I did also say if you are going to punish somebody, punish your enemies. I probably should have used the word "opponent" instead of "enemies."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: The president walking back that "punish your enemies" phrase used in a radio interview. Now he is going to hold a news conference on Wednesday. What will he say? What does he need to say? We're back with the panel. Steve, obviously, we don't know the results yet. But he is going to talk tomorrow to reporters.
HAYES: If the results are coming in the way most of us expect them to come in, the question is how does the White House spin the unspinnable? There is no way to put a happy face on losing the house and losing the house with the tremendous numbers and making the Senate even close.
I think the real question is will President Obama eat some crow? Will he accept responsibility for some of the election results? You saw this when Bill Clinton gave his post election news conference in 1994. He said "I accept the responsibility for these elections." I don't expect President Obama will do the same.
BAIER: Kirsten, you don't think so?
POWERS: At this point based on what I heard, the White House does not see this in any way as a rejection of the president. Maybe if it ends up being one of these spectacular 70-seat things they might reconsider that.
But at this point, what I've at least heard is that the Obama will come out and say something along the lines of, OK, we all need to work together now. Here are things we need to work on. But nothing like what you described or maybe the way Bush was in 2006.
BAIER: Juan, if polls are accurate and people are not grabbing onto Republicans saying we are in favor of Republicans, and yet they're sending a dissatisfaction message to the Obama administration, isn't it more of a repudiation and wouldn't the president be more inclined to say I get it?
WILLIAMS: I just don't think he gets it. Right now, what his aides are saying today is that the president feels that you don't play poker by showing your hand. That you don't say to the opponent, oh, yes, whatever you guys want, you know, it's OK with me.
What you say is, here is what we stand for, and that's a reminder to your base, you're president and have the veto pen. They're not going to repeal healthcare. There will be no extension of any tax cuts unless you want to go along.
And I think you show strength in order to begin bargaining process. But he has to pick up on the walking back that you mentioned earlier. He has got to say this is not about enemies, because that hurts him with most of the swing voters who value bipartisanship.
BAIER: Brit, with a swing in independents, that would be interesting take.
HUME: Tomorrow is a new day. The president should have, I'll be astonished if he doesn't have a different tone, and quite possibly a substantively quite different message.
If he doesn't get it, as Juan suggested, he needs to act as if he does, and he needs in some way to say the electorate has spoken and has said something quite distinct, and I know what it is and I plan to be responsive to it.
And then if he is wise he will say there are ways in which I can work with the new Congress, both Democrats and Republicans alike, to get the people's business done. We have major challenges that have to do with spending and the deficit and the national debt that we need to attack. These are things he was planning to do anyway apparently, and say we ought to go in this together.
The public will applaud that and think that's good. The president will make a good first step away from where he's been. And that would be the smart way to play this tomorrow. And I suspect that is what he will probably do.
BAIER: And emboldened, will Republican leaders go, do they agree?
HUME: It was interesting to hear what Sarah Palin said to you earlier tonight. If there was anybody was expected to say no compromising with this guy, not after this election, it would have been she. She didn't say that, however. She said something quite different. She said, no, no, I would encourage the new members of Congress to work with the president to try to get things done for the country.
That's what everybody normally says anyway. And the reason they normally say it is it makes political sense to say that. And I suspect that's what everybody will be saying. And then after awhile we'll get down to cases to see what actually can be done, and things are likely to get rough.
WILLIAMS: A little different than more power to the right wing, which is what she was saying earlier. I think John Boehner is a compromise, deal-making leader if he, in fact, becomes speaker of the House. So I think you are going to see the attitude play out.
It's just a matter of some of the new people coming in who may be insistent that change be very evident in terms of the Republican attitude. And there you see a fracture among the Republicans. But I think Boehner is willing to play ball.
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