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Debate Analysis

Aired October 22, 2012 - 23:59   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The third and final presidential debate of 2012 is now over and our exclusive poll shows President Obama won but former Governor Mitt Romney also scored important points with voters. Forty-eight percent of debate watchers we surveyed say President Obama won compared to 40 percent who say Governor Romney won.

Fifty-nine percent say President Obama did better than expected, 15 percent say he did worse, 23 percent say he -- he did about the same as expected. As for Governor Romney, 44 percent say he did better, 26 percent say he did worse, 26 percent say he did about the same as expected.

These debates, all three of the presidential debates certainly will play an important role in what happens on November 6th. So will ad spending in these remaining two weeks.

Let's walk over to CNN's John King over at the magic wall.

Ad spending, I guess there is still a lot of money to be spent -- the next two weeks.

KING: There's a lot of money to be spent in the next two weeks, Wolf, but there are -- with the days running out, a fine number of days, the candidates have to make very tough decisions. Now the first one you're going to see here, this one is a little pretty confusing when you look at it. Let me bring up the ad spending for you here at the end. You just look at TV ad counts, and that looks pretty confusing, right?

But let me try to explain this by pulling up the state of Florida. The dark blue is the Obama campaign. The dark red is the Romney campaign. Light blue, pro-Obama super PACs. The light red pro-Romney super PACs. So just look at this right here in the Orlando market in Florida. About half of the TV ad spending, just shy of half, is being done by the Obama campaign, money out of President Obama's campaign fund. Romney has a smaller slice.

Now that's important because he's getting more help from Republican super PACs. But Florida has been trending Romney's way. The strategic calculation the Obama campaign has to make. Do we keep spending as much as $5 million a week for the final two weeks just to hold our own? That's money coming out of the Obama campaign. Or do they decide to reduce spending in Florida, they won't give it up completely. Remember, both campaigns not accepting public financing. We're in a new world of much more freer spending. But does the Obama campaign want to spend all that money or do they want to decide we need to build a firewall here in Ohio? Because you see the same thing happening. Half the ad spending in the Cleveland market by the Obama campaign, a much smaller slice, you see it underneath the Youngstown market, by the Romney campaign, Romney again getting help from the Republican super PACs, the president getting less help in terms of ad counts from the Democratic super PACs.

So when the president looks at this map and Governor looks at this map, the president is going to have to make decisions. Again in a state of, like, Colorado, you're spending about half from the Obama campaign fund, getting less help from the Democratic super PACs. So you will look at this map and decide what are we getting for that money? Are we moving the polls with the money in Florida or we're just holding our own?

If you're just holding your own, maybe you cut back the spending there and move it up here into the Midwest where this race is going to be decided. Because I want to switch this map before I go back into the discussion. Here's the state of play right now. And again, does the president keep spending so much money from his campaign down here? If you believe that state ultimately is trending in that direction, two weeks ago you do that to keep it in play.

Now when you're looking at the race to 270, you have to make strategic decisions. So assume the president might cut back here. He might cut back here. Not pull out completely, but cut back here because they seem to be trending red, the question is then, where do you pick to draw the line? We know, we know the Obama campaign views this as ground in the election. We know they view this as a source of strength where they are slightly ahead of these two battleground states.

These are the probably two strongest Obama states right now. Ohio right behind it. Governor Romney doing well out in the west. But the question heading into the last two weeks is, you've got only so many days left. So where do you drop the planes down? Meaning where does the president and vice president, where does Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan go? But then just as important, if perhaps even more important, campaigns have to make decisions and the Obama campaign recently borrowed $15 million. So you're getting into an environment where money isn't scarce, Anderson.

COOPER: Right.

KING: These guys have raised a boatload of money. Again, they're not taking public financing so they're not subject to any caps or anything. But you're at a point where you have to make some very consequential decisions and every decision now is make or break. And you're talking to Democrats, we'll see what -- we'll wait and see what happens in the 48 hours, does this debate move the numbers at all.

But if the answer is no, and Florida and North Carolina are moving Governor Romney's way, the smart thing for the Obama campaign to do is scale back and try to build a firewall in the Midwest. COOPER: I'm curious, Alex, you have done commercials for candidates. How does it work just logistically? I mean how often are candidates polling and how much communication is there between the ad people and the poll people to determine are our ads working?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Sometimes the ad people would tell you way too much communication with the polling people.


Because they -- the ad guys often want to go by field, the pollsters just want to do the math. And actually like all good science, it's a little bit of both, but this time they're polling around the clock. They're tracking every single night, dropping a night a few days ago, adding current days. They are focus grouping everything that goes out. And --

COOPER: So every day they're getting new polls?

CASTELLANOS: Every day -- all the time.


CASTELLANOS: Yes. You're betting -- you're betting the future of the leadership of the free world and it may sound like we're spending a lot on this presidential election, two billion bucks. We spent that much -- we'll spend that much on Halloween candy this year in the United States. It's kind of important.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: How much of this do they pretest of what they're going to say in the debate? Do they pretest a lot of the lines these days?

CASTELLANOS: You know, it depends really on the nature of the campaign. The closer you get to the candidate and who he is and what he believes the less you test. Some of this stuff you can test the sincerity and the strength right out of it. So I'd be very surprised if for example the Romney campaign -- I can speak to that one more than I can certainly the Obama campaign. If they were testing lines tonight, I think they've tested probably spot copy, they've tested, you know, speech concepts and things like that. But for a debate like this, you probably don't focus group.


COOPER: Look, but a decision on something like not to go after Benghazi -- for Governor Romney went on the campaign trail, they've been talking about this for weeks, is that something that they would --

CASTELLANOS: That's a strategic decision you would do without a poll because there's no poll that will tell you, you know, how to lead the country. It's just --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: But not to go on the attack is a decision. CASTELLANOS: Not to --

BORGER: And maybe that is in regards to women voters, for example, to talk about education on the president's part is talking about women voters.

CASTELLANOS: Gloria, I think that's right.


CASTELLANOS: One of the big decisions tonight for Romney was to hug Obama. Why did he do that? A couple of reasons. One is, you try to hug, it's like boxing. You want to hug your opponent where you're weak and you want to punch where you're strong. And Barack Obama has actually been much like George Bush in many aspects of his foreign policies, where independents and Republicans find Obama more acceptable.

Bob Gates was George Bush's defense secretary. It's easy to embrace.


BORGER: And he also has stature as commander-in-chief.

CASTELLANOS: So hugging --

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: The other interpretation is you don't --

CASTELLANOS: Make yourself safe.

JONES: You don't actually have any core beliefs. And part of the problem --

CASTELLANOS: Are you speaking of the president?

JONES: That's because --

CASTELLANOS: I was trying to explain the political strategy.


GERGEN: Yes, but Van has got a point. I do think that the Democrats and Obama -- President Obama have a legitimate argument, a guy who came into these debates was not the candidate we saw in the primaries.

COOPER: Right.

GERGEN: And we go back to the Etch-A-Sketch.


KING: Most Americans just tuning they were watching him, though.

BORGER: In the primaries --

GERGEN: It may -- I think --


JONES: I got a score card.

CASTELLANOS: Foreign policy is the one area where Republicans and President Obama's administration probably have more agreement than on anything else, certainly on social issues --

JONES: Well, then why all the attacks? Why all the attacks?

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: My question to you is, you know, because this has now been --

JONES: Why all the attacks?

ZAKARIA: This has been three debates and Romney has very methodically, systematically moved to the center to an extent that this one was actually quite startling, as I said. The surge in Afghanistan worked. He is the peace candidate, he wants to fund civil society in Egypt. He thinks Obama just thinks he can shoot his way against al Qaeda.

I'm wondering, is there any disquiet in the Republican base or are they so determined to beat Obama?


ZAKARIA: That -- I mean, I'm just wondering to -- at what point do people say, this is what we fear all along, this guy is a liberal moderate from Massachusetts --


COOPER: Even in the Egypt revolution, weren't they previously attacking the Obama administration for dropping Mubarak too early or too quick?


COOPER: Tonight Governor Romney said it was the right thing to do.

JONES: Listen, it's not just that. He said in Syria before he said there should be a no drive zone, we should impose, now he says, no troops on the ground. You go through with Iran, he says there should be no bilateral talks, now there should be talks. You look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Now you can say --

GERGEN: He didn't say there should be bilateral talks.

BORGER: Tonight.

JONES: He preclude it, preclude it. And so -- and so -- but you look at that and then you can say, well, that proves that maybe that's a good thing.


COOPER: Alex, I want you to get in then we've got to go to Candy.

CASTELLANOS: Then I guess we should disqualify Barack Obama because he was against rendition of terror suspects before he was for it. He was going to close Guantanamo, but he didn't. Look, most of these guys have been --


CASTELLANOS: I am some -- I am getting some e-mails tonight --

BORGER: I am getting e-mail from --

CASTELLANOS: -- from Republicans who are disquieted a little bit from seeing Mitt Romney go to the middle.

BORGER: I am, too.

CASTELLANOS: But by the way, this is the primary process. You start on the wings on both sides in primaries.


BORGER: But this is the Romney they were worried about.

JONES: Which one is he?

BORGER: This is the Romney they were worried about. Is this the real Romney? That's the question.

GERGEN: Is this -- which one is the real Romney?

CASTELLANOS: Yes. And here's why. Because there is a Mitt Romney who's a very conservative animal. He's a business guy whose faith and family informed his ideological core.

BORGER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: There's also a very practical problem solving businessman. We both have -- you know, most of us have two hands.

JONES: We are two weeks from the election. We have to guess who the president of the United States is?


CASTELLANOS: Is he a core --

JONES: This is unbelievable.

CASTELLANOS: Yes, we do. We really don't know who -- we don't know who Barack Obama is and what his core beliefs are. JONES: For four years, he has been consistent going after al Qaeda.

COOPER: OK. Let's check in with Candy and I will come back to our panel. Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. Still sitting here as always with --


I just want you to know that. All right. Let's --

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think they're getting ready for a class in here.

CROWLEY: Let's pay it forward, move it forward, whatever you want to say. What are you looking for? And we come out here, let's say this is a wash, and the polls are still, you know, basically 49- 49, 47-47. What are you looking for?

FLEISCHER: This is a lace from the beginning as really focused on the economy and we've got the two big data reports we talked about earlier. Growth numbers are coming out this Friday and the final Friday before the election we're going to get unemployment reports. So those are the two substantive external events that I'm looking for. They could either be washes because they won't have much change in the data, or there could be another sign of weakness in the economy. Perhaps it will be growth, we don't know.

The second thing I'm going to be looking for is the battlefield. Will it change? Are we are still talking about the same essential seven, eight, nine states? Will Pennsylvania come in play? Will Michigan come into play? Or are those too far a reach for Mitt Romney?

Those are the only really things that matter, other than a flub.

CROWLEY: Some big gap in the final. I have -- I don't imagine neither one of them will have one in the last couple of weeks. So if Michigan and Pennsylvania come into play?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Then Obama is a goner for fall.



CARVILLE: If he's tied in Michigan and Pennsylvania, he's going to lose. The idea that Michigan and Pennsylvania come into play, then you're not going to miss out. I don't think that's going to happen. I see -- I see probably five or six state tracking polls every day, people call me, I've got national polls, I digest every kind of thing.

Look, I'm a political guy, I'm on the phone all the time, parsing this, parsing that. I don't think we're going to see big changes. What I did find interesting tonight in sort of a new strategy is you beat a guy by agreement. I don't remember the great Reagan beating Carter by agreement. The whole idea was that you thought of disagreement on one hand, Obama has weakened America, he's the worst president we ever had, and on the other hand, he agrees with him tonight somewhere like 10 different times.

I thought it was -- from the strategic point, I did think it was interesting, I do, and I agree with Alex. There's going to be some pushback and they'll still vote for him. But there's going to be some pushback on the right. You're not supposed to agree with this guy. He's acting like a bad guy.

CROWLEY: But isn't the governor's ace in the hole here with conservatives who might think he was just a little too agreeable tonight that the alternative is President Obama?



FLEISCHER: Well, the truth is, his goal tonight was credential himself as commander-in-chief. He was able to do that in this debate. The second is, it's a reflection, I think, on the reality of how complicated foreign policy is. Maybe the divisions between us, they're there, and Mitt Romney pointed them out, but there are not disagreements on everything. And so we can argue about nuances.

CARVILLE: But, you know, it seems as though at least in Mitt Romney's view that the worst president in history has actually been pretty good on the (INAUDIBLE).


And I think that, and I think people see that and they'll take that. I just think it's interesting and I think it's -- the reaction to this is going to be interesting. It certainly was somewhat of a different strategy. And so much invested in Benghazi. It's a little surprising. And now the issue is gone because all that the president can say is look, you had a chance to ask me about it to my face and now you're doing this on television, and I think he -- Romney almost precluded himself from doing it by his lack of bringing it up or question the president when he was up there. I thought it was an interesting thing but we'll see.

CROWLEY: So you've all been complaining that he attacking the president on foreign policy, it all -- you know, at the water's edge. You should be happy.


CARVILLE: I am. Yes, I am. You know? Yes. He attacked, you think the president has been pretty good on foreign policy.

FLEISCHER: You know, the polls did show that the people thought the president attacked 68 percent, Romney, 21 percent. CARVILLE: Who would look at -- what's a 21 percent?

FLEISCHER: My point here -- my point is going to be, I want to see what the difference that's going to have on women. Women traditionally don't like to see the attack, attack, attack. We'll see if that changes any of the numbers because that's what one of Mitt Romney's weaknesses as he gets down on this --

CROWLEY: They both actually came out -- I think there was just one point, Anderson, correct me on this, but I think there was just one point between them on who was the most likeable. And that has been a sore spot for Mitt Romney. So that's pretty good coming out of --

CARVILLE: Who's the 21 percent that Romney --


CARVILLE: I have no idea. Of course Obama attacked. Absolutely.

CROWLEY: OK. Anderson, take --


COOPER: Candy, we'll see you. Thanks.

Our Tom Foreman is standing by with a reality check on getting tough with China and what it would mean for the U.S. economy. In a few minutes, we'll be able to see the debate again in its entirety. Grab a beer, have some popcorn, and watch it all again. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: China's economic club came up late in the debate. Mitt Romney once again said he'd label the Chinese as currency manipulators if he became president.

Tom Foreman joining us now with a reality check -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, hi, Wolf. Both men talked about China as an important trading partner, but they've also suggested that China has stolen American jobs through unfair trade practices. Listen.


OBAMA: We are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else.

ROMNEY: In part by holding down artificially the value of their currency it holds down the prices of their goods. It means our goods aren't as competitive and we lose jobs. That's got to end.

(END VIDEO CLIP) FOREMAN: The promise from each man is pretty simple and direct. I will crack down on China. But can they really do that and do they have their facts right?

Listen to the numbers first because that does seem to be correct. In fact we've lost about a million -- two and three quarter million jobs to China over the past dozen years or so. Most of them have been manufacturing jobs.

The Economic Policy Institute has helped put together this map which shows you where they have been lost. It hasn't been even. All of the darker orange, states where they've lost the most, places like Texas, Oregon and California over here. Look at this. Over the past dozen years or so, they've lost about 3 percent of their jobs to Chinese competition.

The candidates say this is largely because while we base our value of the dollar on the free market and that determines how much is your labor costs. The Chinese are currency manipulators. At least that's the accusations Mitt Romney raised there. The idea is that they take the yuan, their currency, and they manipulate it so that it keeps it low so labor stays inexpensive and more people want to work there.

You cannot really have a one-to-one comparison. Let me bring us some tools here to talk about this on. Because U.S. productivity is much higher than Chinese productivity. Nonetheless, as close as we can get to it, we'll try this. If you went to a U.S. factory and you want to put somebody on the line, and you want that person to create a product in a manufacturing environment, once you pay all the wages and all the benefits, that's going to come out to about $34 an hour.

If you did the same thing in a Chinese company, that's going to be more like $2 an hour. So the Chinese government has structured their infrastructure and everything else around this idea of saying let's take advantage of all of this labor out there and try to get more companies to move here, and put a lot of products on the market all around the world that are inexpensive, that can outcompete other products.

And boy, has it worked. Take a look at this graph about what's happened since 1985. This is where we were in 1985 in terms of how much we were importing to this country from China. How much they're sending us here to buy. And look what's happened since. It has gone up and up and up and up and up. That's the recession. That little notch right there. And it hit a peak here. It has dropped some now, but still it is way up from where it used to be.

And now look at the change in what we've sent to them. We were about equal in 1985 and we have not risen nearly as much in terms of the products that we send to China. So what can the president really do about this? Well, you put some kind of a trade barrier in place and say, we're not going to accept all these Chinese products, there's going to be some kind of tariff imposed. But if you do that, China can do the same and that would hurt manufacturers here. You can say maybe that U.S. companies will be blocked from going over there to use the cheap labor and keep the jobs here, but that makes them less competitive on the world market. On top of which, there's a whole issue of China buying so much U.S. debt. If China said it didn't want to do that, that can make it harder for the American government to borrow money and keep operating.

So the bottom line is, when you listen to these men say that they will really crack down on China, you can take them at their word. The president has just taken steps to do that, Mitt Romney says he'll take steps. This is true. The real question is, though, what impact will it have? China has been a tough competitor. It looks like they will continue to be. So even if they mean what they say here, Wolf, that will not be the last word on U.S.-China trade.

BLITZER: Don't forget almost all Apple products are manufactured in China whether iPods, iPads, iPhones. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese are manufacturing those products sold in the United States and around the world.

One footnote to an earlier reality check segment. You may recall that President Obama said tonight that the U.S. intervention in Libya cost less than two weeks of the war in Iraq. It turns out the president was right. When we checked the math, we found that two weeks of the war in Iraq costs about $5 billion at its height and the Libya intervention cost less than $1 billion. Mostly cruise missiles that were launched at various targets in Libya -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's check back with Fareed Zakaria.

It was interesting to hear both candidates talking tough about China tonight. The question is what they can actually do down the road?

ZAKARIA: Well, it's interesting to get a sense of the Chinese reaction. I've talked to a bunch of Chinese people with various levels. And they had always thought going into this campaign that they were going to like Romney. There's three things they love. He's an American business and they generally -- admire the American business. He's a Republican and in general over the last 30 or 40 years, the Chinese have thought the Republicans were the party of business, trade, generally more free trade. And three, he organized the Olympics and the Chinese, you know, think that they also went through this Olympics. So it has been a rude surprise to them that Romney has been so tough.

And even in this debate, what you notice in this -- in this version, Obama kept saying look, they could be a partner, they, you know, we want to cooperate with them, but Romney hammered away for the most part. Even though -- this was the place where he softened his stone least. In most of the other areas, Benghazi, he -- you know, it was almost a complete reversal. On China, he was softer but still pretty tough. So I imagine in Beijing very reluctantly they're coming to the conclusion that whatever America may want, they want continuity, not change. COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. The debate is generating obviously tons of buzz in social media. Some unusual words are getting mentioned the most. Stand by also for a replay of the debate in its entirety. That's in about six minutes from now. We'll take a short break. Our coverage continues. DEBATE NIGHT IN AMERICA.


BLITZER: Before tonight's debate, who would have guessed that the words "bayonet" -- I should say bayonets -- and "whopper" would make the biggest splash on Facebook. Bayonet had an enormous spike after President Obama gave this response to Mitt Romney's complaint that the U.S. Navy has too few ships.


OBAMA: I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example. And that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916.

Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them.


COOPER: The other term spiking on Facebook is whopper, Burger King is probably going to be happy about this. President Obama used it to describe Mitt Romney's charge that he went on a world tour, apologizing for the United States. Watch.


OBAMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true. Starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign.


BLITZER: A whopping jumping mentions of the word whopper on Facebook, too, as a result of that.

COOPER: Yes. Barack Obama made history during tonight's debate. He tied George W. Bush for the most appearances in presidential debate. Six debates each. And just looking at the years have changed him, you see how Senator Obama looked at his first presidential debate.



BLITZER: His hair was much darker. Look at that.

COOPER: Yes. That was in 2008.


COOPER: And his last one there on the right. He isn't the only one who looks -- whose look have kind of changed.


COOPER: Here's a certain TV anchorman from 2007.


COOPER: And 2012. Wow.

BLITZER: I think I look the same except for the glasses.

COOPER: You're wearing the same suit, dude.



COOPER: Yes. Pretty much. I think.

BLITZER: Really?


BLITZER: It's a nice suit, though. What do you think?

COOPER: It works.

BLITZER: You got a nice suit yourself.


Barbara Walters says women in television do not age. They just get blonder. Apparently men just get darker glasses.

BLITZER: You look excellent, too. Yes, but your hair was not as gray from four years ago.

COOPER: I was a little -- a little more pepper in my hair. Now it's all just salt.

BLITZER: Yes, it looks a little -- but it's still as short as it always is.

COOPER: Well, you know.


COOPER: It's the toupee.

BLITZER: You look --

COOPER: It's not a toupee.

BLITZER: Two weeks from tomorrow, you know what? Election day.

COOPER: Election, incredible.

BLITZER: You'll be back here at the CNN Election --

COOPER: We all will be.

BLITZER: It's early Tuesday morning right now. The election now just two weeks away.

COOPER: Here's more of the debate.