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THE SITUATION ROOM
Ohio Critical for Both Candidates; Mitt Romney Campaigning in Colorado
Aired November 3, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Don, thanks very much. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, countdown to election night in America. President Obama and Mitt Romney holding dueling campaign rallies this hour where we are going hear from both candidates live.
Also, huge turnout for the final day of early voting. Reports of lines up to four hours long in some places.
And as life begins to return to normal in Manhattan, new pleas for help from another hard-hit New York city borough. We're talking about Queens.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
We are now just three days from the presidential election and the race for the White House is reaching a fever pitch. Both campaigns are making a final push for the candidates. Their wives, the former president Bill Clinton, the house speaker John Boehner all campaigning down to the wire.
CNN is covering their every move. Our correspondents are in key locations in critical states. Any one of which could ultimately decide who will be the next president of the United States.
We are going to -- let's go to Colorado right now. Mitt Romney is speaking there but Jim Acosta is on the scene for us setting the stage.
Jim Acosta, tell us what's going on.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney just arrived here at this aircraft hangar in Colorado's Springs, Colorado just a few moments ago. He has been delivering his closing argument to the crowd that is gathered here. And he has been doing that all day long. Waking up in New Hampshire, moving on to Iowa and here in Colorado for two stops. He has been going after the president on that new unemployment data that shows the jobless rate to top to 7.9 percent.
He has also been talking about what he would do if he's elected president. Talking about cutting the budget, eliminating the president's health care law and tapping into domestic energy resources.
But Wolf, I have to tell you. The one message that they have been hitting hard in the last final days of this campaign, they have been going after the president on this issue of bipartisanship. Mitt Romney is making the case that the president has forgotten his mandate to be a uniter (ph) in this country. And he has been going after some of the president said people yesterday in Ohio when the president said that people should be voting because it is the best revenge. Mitt Romney has been telling crowds all day long that people should be voting out of what they think is best for the country in their heart. So that is the message that they've been delivering all day long, Wolf.
I can also tell you that the front of the campaign plane, we have seen a higher number of top campaign advisers flying with the GOP nominee including former Utah governor Michael Levitt who has been leading the pre-transition activities for this campaign, the readiness project, as they call it.
I talked to governor Levitt for just a few brief moments in Iowa and he said what they have been doing in recent days, Wolf, is building a ship, he called it, that they hope will set sail and we'll find out whether that will happen on Tuesday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tuesday night, we should know. Maybe, maybe not.
All right, I want to listen in briefly to Mitt Romney. He has got an enthusiastic crowd there in Colorado springs. It is a key battle ground state. Let's listen.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have almost forgotten what a real recovery looks like. What Americans could achieve when we limit government instead of limiting the dreams of our fellow Americans.
And the people of America, they're going to be able to choose the future, because they need -- they know what they need to know to know what the future will look like. They can stay in the path of the last four years, or they can choose real change.
Now, you know, you know that if the president were to be re- elected, he would still be unable to work with members of Congress. He's ignored them. He's attacked them. He's blamed them. And of course the debt ceiling is going to come up again and then there would be a threat of shutdown or default and that of course chills the economy, puts more people out of work.
The president was right when he said he can't change Washington from the inside. You can take him at his word. That's why we're going to send him outside. All right?
ROMNEY: When I'm elected I'm going to work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress. I'm going to meet regularly with their leaders. I'm going to endeavor to find those good men and women on both sides of the aisle who care more about the country than they do about politics.
ROMNEY: And together, we're going to put the nation back on track to a balanced budget and to reform our tax code and to finally reaffirm our commitment to financial responsibility.
ROMNEY: Now, if the president were to be re-elected, he would continue his war on coal and oil and natural gas. He would send billions more to his favorite friends in the solar and the wind world and all of this means higher gasoline prices and fewer jobs.
Today, gasoline costs twice what it did when President Obama took office. And when I'm elected, we're going to change the course of energy entirely. I know just how much energy means to middle class families in this country. We can help hold down prices in the pump and grow new energy jobs and new manufacturing jobs with my policies.
And by the way, if the president were to be re-elected, he's going to continue to promote government and demote businesses. You know -- you know, he put together his own jobs council. Did you know that? Business leaders he brought from all over the country. And there are people he picked. You know, it's been nine months since he's been willing to meet with his own jobs council?
Now, you see, I see free enterprise as a means for people to fulfill their dreams. Yesterday I met with a woman named Rhoda Elliot (ph) in Richmond, Virginia. She's been running her family restaurants, Bill's Barbecue for years. It's a business in her family for 82 years. At its high point she employed 200people. She just closed it down.
She told me that the regulations, the taxes, the cost of Obama care, the Obama era economy put her out of business much and she tear- up as she was telling me her story. It wasn't about the money. This was about the future for her family and for her family of employees.
I want to help the hundreds of thousands of dreamers like Rhoda, and I will.
ROMNEY: And you know if the president were to get re-elected, he's going to say every good thing he can about education. But in the final analysis, what he's going to do is what his largest campaign supporters insist upon, and that's the public sector unions, and your kids would have the same schools and the same results.
When I'm president, I will be the voice of the children and their parents, because there is no union for the PTA.
ROMNEY: I'm going is to make sure that the parents get the information they need about how their school is doing and whether it's failing or succeeding and they get the choice they need to pick the school where their child has the best chance for success.
BLITZER: All right. So Mitt Romney, he's speaking right now in Colorado. We are watching him closely. We will continue to monitor what he has to say. By the way, the president is scheduled to speak live later this hour as well. We will have live coverage of that. He is on a whirl wind swing during these final 72 hours. Right now he's in Dubuque, Iowa, as I said, we're getting ready to hear from him later this hour.
Our chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is traveling with the president during his final three days before the election.
First of all, Jessica, what does his itinerary today reveal?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Surprise focus on Wisconsin in the closing days of the campaign is what I see on his itinerary, Wolf. He is on his way from Wisconsin right now to Iowa which is across the river from Wisconsin. So, there is almost count as a two for a stop in Iowa and also bleed over into some of the Wisconsin media market. And he is visiting Wisconsin three times in the closing days of this race. That's a state that's traditionally a blue state. A state he should haven't have to be fighting for but the campaign manager, Jim Messina, says they're taking nothing for granted. They have learned from the past and as you know this is the home state of Paul Ryan. Precious time to be expending on a traditional blue state at the end.
But, the president's overall schedule, take a look at this, cross crossing the nation going is from Ohio to Virginia to Florida to Colorado back and forth across the battleground states in the final hours. And part of the message, Wolf, the president is delivering - it is countering the message you hear from Romney. That Governor Romney says he will bring big change, the president arguing he is the only one who can carry that banner. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You may not agree with every decision I have made. Sometimes you may have been frustrated by the pace of change. But, you know where I stand. You know what I believe. You know I mean what I say and I say what I mean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: And Wolf, part of his argument there as well as he's an honest person that voters can trust. Now, something interesting I'll tell you, you might be able to tell over my shoulder, a comparatively small crowd here. They have been mixing it up. Some of his crowd, the one in Wisconsin 20,000 people, according to law enforcement officials there. This one significantly smaller. Where ever I've been, they ask for a show of hands how many people have early voted, at most of the president's events I have attended, the majority already voted. They early voted. And the campaigns are emphasizing that's something that's a plus for them. A lot of these people, they've gotten them to turn out. They say that makes it a much heavier left for governor Romney come Election Day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What do they say, Jessica, about the size of these crowds. Because four years ago, during the final week, I remember those crowds, there were tens and thousands of people showing up, waiting in long lines. And you are saying right now, in Dubuque, Iowa, it's a relatively small crowd that shows up?
YELLIN: The argument, and I'll point out again that 20,000 at an event in Wisconsin and reportedly will be tens of thousands tonight in Virginia, we'll see. But yes, I've been to only groups where there have been a few thousand for the few past events in Ohio, too. The campaign says that's by design.
The logic, Wolf, is if they're trying, this is the campaign's logic, what they're focused on is getting people out to the polls to vote. They are not trying to build crowds to go to campaign events. They are trying to get people to vote.
And so, if you are focus is on voting not on crowd building, that might make sense. But, let's be honest, you compared to 2008, they didn't need to crowd build to get people to come see President Obama. But you know, after all this economic trouble, it's been a different four years and he's a different candidate this time around.
BLITZER: Yes. You really can't compare the enthusiasm that the Democrats, the Obama supporters were showing then compared to now. We'll see how that translates on Tuesday.
Thanks very much Jessica Yellin.
And once again, once the president starts speaking, we will have live coverage of that in Dubuque, Iowa as well.
Our campaign coverage continues throughout the weekend. Please be sure to join us tomorrow night for a CNN special. Countdown to election night in America. 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 p.m. Pacific right here on CNN. Anderson Cooper and I will co-anchor that special.
It's one thing that will seal a victory for Mitt Romney according to his campaign. We have details of an internal memo that has been obtained by CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our conviction is even stronger. Confidence that we are on --.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: These are live pictures you are seeing. Mitt Romney just wrapped up a speech in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A key battleground state. He was enthusiastic as he has been throughout the day and will be tomorrow, as well as Monday, getting ready for Tuesday's election.
With Romney though, facing some questions about how to pull off a win in the key battleground state of Ohio and break through President Obama's so-called Midwestern firewall. His campaign is assuring Republicans allies that there is still a clear path to victory.
First on CNN, our political reporter Peter Hamby got his hands on an internal memo from the Romney campaign. He is joining us now from Columbus, Ohio.
Peter, tell us about this memo. What is it say?
PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. I mean, you are right. The Romney campaign is facing serious questions about the electoral college math. People in Ohio here generally think Obama has a slight lead also in Wisconsin and Iowa and Nevada. Three of those four would give Obama the presidency.
So the Romney campaign knows they're going to have to answer questions about this on the Sunday shows tomorrow and on the final days of the race. They circulated a confidential memo to top Republican leaders and surrogates. We got our hands on it. This is what they're saying.
They're saying they're putting the Obama campaign on defense. Quote, "Mitt Romney is up or tied with Obama in every key battleground state forcing Obama on defense in states he won by double digits in 2008 like Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. With the campaigns even on the ground and in early vote, GOP enthusiasm is going to carry Romney to victory."
So, the argument what they are basically telling to the Republicans team here, Wolf, with just a few days ago, is that the energy is on their side and look where Obama, the Democrats, are campaigning. Pennsylvania, Minnesota. However, the reality here is just because the Obama campaign is playing defense in some of the states, that still doesn't mean they are going to lose those states. And now, you can play defense and still win, Wolf. So this is what the Romney campaign is talking about today, Wolf.
BLITZER: What are both campaigns saying about their chances in Ohio during these final few days?
HAMBY: Wolf, you know, our poll yesterday, our CNN/ORC poll showed Obama leading Romney by three points here in Ohio and Marist/NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows Obama winning by six points. I interviewed governor John Kasich and senator Rob Portman this morning. They were over the Romney tailgate over the Ohio state came earlier. Both of them were dismissing public polling saying, you know, our models show that the turnout is going to favor Republicans. Republicans are more enthusiastic. Romney is winning independents. These are all trend lines that Romney campaign, Wolf.
But look, I went out this morning with some AFL-CIO organizers. You know, I talked to Kasich and Portman about the ground game. That's what people are talking about here, is turnout. People right here in Ohio, knocking on doors. The Obama campaign says they have contacted over 120 million voters in all these battleground states. They are doing that in neighborhoods here. They have a larger and more sophisticated ground operation.
So that's what going on in the end. It's going to come down to turnout. I know that it is a ridiculous cliche, but this is a base election. And that's what both campaigns are doing right now is getting their people to vote early, you know, either the Obama campaign is doing their famous souls to the polls push tomorrow morning after churches. So, that's what we're looking at now.
BLITZER: All right, Peter. Peter is doing some good reporting for us in Columbus, Ohio. Still to come, we have a lot more on the race for the White House where our John King is standing by. Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley, Dana Bash. We've got a lot more on the race for the White House.
We are also following the aftermath of the super storm Sandy, four days in a shelter with no shower, just add. We are going to take you to one part of a devastated region in New York City where storm victims, get this, they are still desperate for food, water and power.
Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We will get back to the race for the White House shortly. The president of the United States getting ready to speak in Iowa. We will have live coverage.
Meanwhile, millions are still suffering in the wake of super storm Sandy. Power is beginning to trickle back on, but more than two million customers are still in the dark. New York transit authorities are reporting that subway service is 80 percent restored. One area still waiting for the lights and the heat to come back, the Rockaways section of Queens. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg toured the heavy devastation there today.
CNN's national correspondent Susan Candiotti is on the ground. She is talking to some of the hardest hit victims.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The water came up to where in your apartment?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The water came all the way up to where we were. We were knee deep. We couldn't get out. 911 wouldn't answer. We were stuck. We had to stay there. We were totally scared. And the devastation after the storm is what you see. There's children with no food. There are people without water. Nobody has power. People can't cook. And nobody is -- the only people that are out here are people from Rockaway that are donating stuff. And Rockaway park, just like everyone else, needs help.
CANDIOTTI: You feel like you've been left out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like we need help out here. We need the city to step in. We need FEMA to come and place people in housing. Because you have children who lost everything. You have parents who are deaf state who are sitting in shelters. I was in a hurricane shelter, IS-217. There were no showers and we were there for four days.
CANDIOTTI: You got your teenaged son out of here before the storm hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. I got him out because I didn't want him to be here in the devastation.
CANDIOTTI: And see all of this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And see all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Susan also tells us the community groups are on the ground handing out hot food, water, and clothing to help the storm victims in need. We continue to watch that devastation.
It's the final three-day push to the finish line. We are waiting right now for President Obama to take to the stage in Dubuque, Iowa. You are looking at live pictures from the event in Iowa. We will hear from the president.
We are also going to hear shortly from one of the president's biggest supporters, his former White House chief of staff and Chicago mayor, Rohm Emanuel. He just spoke with our own, Candy Crowley.
BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures from Dubuque, Iowa. The president of the United States will be speaking there. he has got a rally going. We are going to go there live to hear from the president. Stand by for that.
Mitt Romney and the president are making their final three-day push to the finish line. Supporters on both sides, they are fanning out across the country. They are making the case for their respective candidate.
Let's bring in our chief political correspondent Candy Crowley and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
Candy, you just taped an interview for tomorrow's "STATE OF THE UNION" with the Chicago mayor Rohm Emanuel, the former chief of staff for the president at the White House. I got a little clip. Let me play it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The vice president Joe Biden has been tough to Pennsylvania doing a couple of early weekend stops. You had Bill Clinton is one of your biggest assets as you know, is being used in Pennsylvania on Monday. It tells me that you all are a little worried about that or worried about the race in general. Are you saying no?
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: No. I think, look. I think, Candy. Ready? It's a close election. B, you nail everything down. And c, I think Pennsylvania is secure but you don't take anything for granted. And that means, there's going to be a lot of people going back to Ohio in the next 96 hours. Multiple times they'll go to Pennsylvania. But Pennsylvania is going to be on both the Philadelphia, the surrounding counties around Philadelphia and then in Pittsburgh and in Harrisburg, that's where you have a Democratic vote and you do go to secure it. But that doesn't mean it's flipping. It just means the natural tiding of a race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, bring in Candy.
Candy, if they are spending a lot of time in Pennsylvania at this late stage, it suggests to me they're worried about Pennsylvania.
CROWLEY: Well, It did to me and that's about the fourth time I put this question to him because he veers off nicely into talking points. But, the fact is that the Romney people went in there for a couple of reasons. One, they said listen, Mitt Romney hasn't been beaten about the head in Pennsylvania on the air as he has in so many of these other states. Two, it's down to a four-point race according to some of these polls. And three, they have got as much up in some of these swing states as they possibly can put up in terms of ads. They have got the ground game covered, they figured. And they took a look at Pennsylvanians and realized that over 90 percent of Pennsylvanians will vote on Election Day.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. I mean, I talked with the senior Romney adviser about this yesterday and I said wait a minute, Pennsylvania, what are you doing in Pennsylvania?
And look, if they didn't feel they were covered in every other state, that they spent all the money that they could spent, you know, we are used to campaigns sort of allocating resources saying we're running out of money. That's not the case this time. There are extra resources.
So if you look at their, at internal polls which show the race sort of three to five points somewhere, it would be malpractice if they didn't actually just go in and -- as someone said, it's like buying a lottery ticket, right?
BORGER: You might as well and see.
BLITZER: Look at where they're spending. Both of these candidates tomorrow and Monday. Obama is going to New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio again, Iowa. Romney going to Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. I guess where they are underscores what they need to do.
BORGER: Sure. It doesn't exactly look like your summer vacation, does it? They're all in Ohio multiple times.
CROWLEY: And that one extra hour we will get tonight, they will probably go to Ohio. Let's face it.
But Obama needs -- they both need Ohio. Let's stipulate that. But he's got the sort of Midwestern strategy. If he can do Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, he believes he could put it away. Romney of course Ohio. But he needs Virginia and Florida. Needs, if he is going to get his path to 270 and that's why you see him in these two states.
BLITZER: You know, one thing I mentioned this to Jessica Yellin earlier, they point out all the people for the Obama crowds in these final few days are nowhere near where they were four years ago. They were huge four years ago. I don't know if that's a concern to them or not. They got this notion out here. But the crowns, they only want to get votes coming out. I don't necessarily buy that. I think they would love to have tens of thousands of people show up as they did four years ago. That's not happening.
CROWLEY: Right. I think you will see it in the final, final day. I think probably Monday or maybe even Sunday night. But the fact is, remember how four years ago it was all about the movement. If this was a movement and then all these throngs of people would come in. This is now about governance. This has been a hard slug. It takes some work to get tens of thousands of people into an arena after four years of governing because that's reality as opposed to hope and change.
BORGER: Now they're focusing on trying to get their people to the polls. They say that they have contacted 125 million voters, and that the Romney campaign has only contacted 50 million and so there's a huge disparity there. What they would say they're more interested in that than in the crowds. I think they would like to have both.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much.
This programming note for our viewers. You can see Candy's full interview with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel tomorrow morning a special edition of "STATE OF THE UNION" beginning at 9:0 a.m. Eastern.
Once again, we are standing by to hear from the president of the United States. He is campaigning in Iowa. You are looking at live pictures. There is the word "forward!" with the exclamation point. They added the exclamation point, this is just be a theory, but they got an exclamation point now. It's been like that for the last several days. We will hear from the president. We are going to Iowa when we come back.
BLITZER: And let's take a closer look right now in the race to 270 electoral votes. John King is over here at the magic wall.
On this day, with three days to go, it's going to be complicated.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know it's close and we have to say advantage to the president. But how big of the advantage, that's the open question. It depends on the ground here.
But, we start, Wolf, the final weekend 237 electoral votes strong or leaning the president's way. Those are the blue states, light and dark, 206 stronger leaning governor Romney's way. Those are the red states, light and dark. The race of course is to 270.
The president is ending with rallies in Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio. Why is he ending there, Wolf? Because that's his easiest path to 270. Look at this. If the president can take Iowa, can take Wisconsin and can take Ohio, it's game over. If nothing else changed on the map, that would get the president to 271 and it would be game over. That's why the president is ending his campaign right here in the heartland. Places where he can talk about the auto bailout. We think that is the bid plus there. So, that's one way. That's the president's quickest way. I won't say it's the easiest, but it's his easiest, not an easy way to 20.
So, what does it mean? It means that governor Romney has to take the state of Ohio. let's take this back and make them process and show you. That was the president's fastest way. How does governor Romney get there? He has to win the state of Florida. Non- negotiable. Governor Romney needs Florida. He needs those 29 electoral votes. He has to take North Carolina. We already had him leaning that way and he has to take Virginia as well. That is 13 more. That would get governor Romney there.
Then the governor Romney's most reasonable scenario is to take Ohio. No Republican has ever won without it. If governor Romney can get those electoral votes plus Virginia and North Carolina and Ohio, what it does do? That would get him to 266. Over here in the east, he would need just one more. Any one of the remaining states, if governor Romney can do Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, any one of the remaining states would put him over the top. That's what makes this one so, so important.
So if he does that, then he's got a pretty interesting terrain. He's competitive in Colorado, he is nine there. He is competitive in Iowa, six. This one tends to be leaning Democratic. The Romney campaign says it's competitive, Wolf. But, I'm going to give that one to the president, consistent public polling showing the president leaning in Wisconsin. So, we will give him that one.
This one here, again, Romney campaign says it's competitive, bid Latino turnout vote. Let's for hypothetical let's say that's a more, that is a safer pick to give that one to the president. So, as we game this out, I'm going to take this back and just going to take it back and make it a tossup state again. Let's game this out. I was in Colorado recently. This is a true toss-up. Public polling is a tie. Let's, for the sake of argument, hypothetical, say governor Romney gets that. Then you're out here in the east again, 253, 257. This could be a huge take. It is six right now. Public polling the president to add, that is for the sake of argument give that to the president, you're at 259, 257.
Who wins New Hampshire? That's only four. Governor Romney is going to end his campaign in the state of New Hampshire. That could be a critical one there. But, this is the biggest one of all. It is the biggest one of all. Again, Governor Romney has to win it. If he does in this scenario and he won Colorado, he's over the top. If he does you could potentially have a scenario like this, 266, 259. Somewhere in that poll part, with a state like Colorado and a state like New Hampshire deciding it at the end. But, if there's one place to watch, and it is the reason the president sending this campaign out here in the Midwest, that is the biggest of the battlegrounds heading into the final days.
BLITZER: So, you can't overestimate how important Ohio is to both of those candidates, not just Romney.
KING: Not just Romney. And I know, Republicans, everyone without it. So, it is obviously, more important to get. I can give you more reasonable Obama 270 scenarios without Ohio. But what makes this interesting in going into the final days, Wolf, is you have strategies on Republican side saying we need it. You have strategists in the Democratic side, not so sure about the west. Not so sure about New Hampshire and Iowa saying, you know what, we probably need it too.
BLITZER: John King over at the magic wall for us.
The president is getting ready to be introduced over there in Dubuque, Iowa right now. There is the crowd there waiting to hear from the president. We are going to hear what he has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So vote and get everyone you know --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This may be the most closely watched election in history. Not just in terms of media coverage, but also in terms of observers and monitors from both sides. And now, we know that there's been a change in New Jersey in the wake of hurricane Sandy.
CNN's Joe Johns is joining us now and he's got more of what's going on.
What is going on, John?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, in response to the super storm, governor Christie in New Jersey has issued a directive that says displaced voters can submit ballot applications either by e-mail or by fax to their county clerk. They have to return the ballot by 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, an unusual situation. It's a case of states changing the rules on the fly for an emergency. The type of thing poll watchers are already looking out for as we close in on Election Day.
JOHNS (voice-over): Long lines in south Florida and in Cincinnati, Ohio as early voting comes to a close. And those aren't the only crowds this hotly contested election has attracted.
ERIC MARSHALL, ELECTION PROTECTION: Ten thousands in grass roots (INAUDIBLE) volunteer across the country on Election Day.
CHRISTIAN ADAMS, TRUE THE VOTE: Everywhere. They've trained people in 50 states to legally poll watch.
JOHNS: Lawyers and poll watchers of all political stripes descending on Ohio and across the country in search of any issues that need to be challenged.
MARSHALL: We're looking for long lines that might be the result of machines breaking down, poll workers that might be asking the wrong questions, asking for id when they shouldn't be.
JOHNS: Groups like the left leaning election protection have been training for weeks so they're ready to respond to any problems at the polls in real time.
ANDREW SCHLICHTER, ELECTION PROTECTION VOLUNTEER: With all the changes nationally in the voting laws, I think, you know, we are prepared for there to be a significant amount of confusion on Election Day.
JOHNS: But controversy over some of how the organizations do their job. Poll watching has become a partisan business. What do you think of the election protection people?
ADAMS: Look. They have problems.
JOHNS: Former justice department lawyer Christian Adams now represents True The Vote, a tea party-affiliated group with a simple goal.
ADAMS: Free and fair elections. True Vote stands for election integrity. Follow the law, period.
JOHNS: But True The Vote has real critics of their own from the left.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: True The Vote has consistently challenged the voting rights of legitimate voters. We must address anybody who dries to deny anybody that right to vote. I consider it criminal. I consider it unpatriotic and highly offensive.
JOHNS: A claim Adams does not take lightly.
ADAMS: They're liars. They are bearing false witness against law abiding citizens who will do no more than observing the process and they should be ashamed of themselves.
JOHNS: Whatever the election watchers find it may be up to super lawyers like Ted Olson to determine whether to go to court. Also, in the Romney advisor, led Republicans to victory in the Supreme Court battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.
THEODORE OLSON, 2000 BUSH CAMPAIGN LAWYER: I'm clearing my calendar just in case I need to be ready for the next five weeks.
JOHNS: He says if election officials want to avoid litigation, they shouldn't change direction in the middle of the game.
OLSON: If you follow the rules that were in place on Election Day with respect to counting the ballots, then the presumptive outcome will be expected when the electorate tally votes are coming.
JOHNS: But the truth is there could be other changes to the rules, especially as states affected by the storm get ready for the election. We will be looking for them as I am sure lawyers well as will, Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe Johns, thanks for that report.
The president is now speaking in Dubuque, Iowa. He's really getting into his speech. Let's listen in.
OBAMA: It's a choice between going back to the top-down economics that crashed our economy, or embracing a future where we're building a strong and growing middle class. You know, as Americans, we honor the strivers and the dreamers, the small businessmen and women, the entrepreneurs, the risk takers. The free enterprise system, that is the greatest engine of prosperity that the world has ever known. But we also know that our markets work best.
The free enterprise system works best when everybody is participating. When we make sure that everybody's got a good education, and everybody can learn new skills. When we support research into medical breakthroughs or clean energy technology. We think that America is stronger when everybody can count on affordable health care and Medicare and Social Security in their retirement. We think the market work better when there are rules in place to protect our kids from toxic dumping, to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous credit card companies or mortgage lenders.
We don't want government doing everything we think that we can do most things ourselves. But there are times we can come together but we certainly don't want government getting involved in the wrong things. For example, we think we don't need politicians, especially mostly male politicians to try and control health care choices that women are perfectly capable of making themselves.
Now, for eight years we had a president we shared these believes. His name is Bill Clinton.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: His economic plan, like mine, asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more so we could reduce our deficit, invest in the skills of our people, invest in the ideas that we need to succeed in a new economy. And, at the time, back in the '90s, the Republican Congress and a Senate candidate by the name of Mitt Romney said Bill Clinton's program would hurt the economy and kill jobs. Sound familiar? Turns out, his math back then was just as bad as it is now. Because, by the end of president Clinton's second term, we created 23 million new jobs, incomes were up, poverty was down. Our deficits became the biggest surplus investment.
So, Iowa, we know our ideas work. We have put them to the test. We also know that their ideas don't work because they have been tested, also. In the eight years before I came into office, we've tried what they were selling. We have tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans. We tried giving insurance companies in all companies in Wall Street, a free license to do what they please. Here's what we got. Fallen incomes, record deficits, slows growth in jobs in half a century, and an economic crisis we are still cleaning up after.
So we know what works. We know what not. Now, governor Romney, he's a very talented salesman. And, in this campaign, he's been working overtime to try to repackage the old, bad ideas that didn't work and try to sell them to you as new ideas. He's trying to say that they're changed. But here's the things. Iowa, we know what change looks like.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: And what he's selling is not change. Giving more power to the biggest banks? That's not change. Another $5 trillion tax cut that favors the wealthy? Not change. Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policy until after the election? That's definitely not changing. Politicians do that all of the time. Ruling out compromise, pledging the rubber stamp, the tea party agenda in Congress? That's not change. That's what we need to change. That's why I'm running for a second term. Changing the facts when they're inconvenient to your campaign, that is definitely not change.
So what he's selling, we tried it. It didn't work. We're not going back. Those are the attitudes in Washington we need to change. And that raises something about the choice you have to make, Iowa. You know, a lot of choosing a president is about trust. You know, Iowa, I started my presidential journey right here in this state. After two years of campaigning and after four years as president, you know me by now. You may not agree with every decision I've made. You may have sometimes been frustrated with the pace of change. But you know, you know that I say what I mean. And I mean what I say. You know what I believe. You know where I stand. When I said I ended the war in Iraq, I ended the war in Iraq.
BLITZER: All right. So the president of the United States, he's getting into it. He's going to do several more before Tuesday. We will continue to monitor what he is saying in the battleground state for Iowa.
UP next, the battle for power at the United States Senate. Here's a question, Republicans may have a tough time winning the majority in the Senate. Why?
Dana Bash is standing by.
OBAMA: We've doubled clean energy production in this country.
BLITZER: And our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here in the SITUATION ROOM.
Dana, the balance of power in the Senate is pretty tight right now. It could be different, maybe not, after the dust settles on November 6th.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a real nail-biter. Let's show our viewers where we are starting first of all. Republicans currently hold 47 seats, Democrats hold 51 if you add the two independent senators in caucus with them actually equals 53. But 47 is the magic number because math is pretty simple. In order to get to 51, they need to net four seats.
BLITZER: Unless Romney wins the White House and then they only need three.
BASH: Then, they only need three. But for comfort reasons, they will need for. So, we will stick with that for now. But look at this, Wolf, 13 competitive races across the map. And this is a huge number. Republican that is have to defend their seats, Democrat that is have to defend their seats as well. That's a big problem for Republicans that you see these red states right here because they have to hold onto these and, also, capture the democratic seats. And the problem is if you look up in New England, Maine and Massachusetts, Republicans at this point, they're likely to lose those seats.
BLITZER: They think that's Scott Brown will lose to Elizabeth Warren?
BASH: They do. They do. That in a number of polls, internal Republican polls, they are very pessimistic as that they are going to actually pull that off. And then in the state of Maine, Olympia, as we know, is retiring. They think that seat is going to be gone to the independent former governor, I should say (INAUDIBLE). So, let's just look back at the map. I said that they need four to pick up a net four. Take away those two, 45 they currently would have. So they need to get six, then, six of the blue states, the competitive, democratically-held states. And let's look at the map to show our viewers that we are talking about there.
There are a number of them across the country. Montana, neck-in- neck. North Dakota, neck-in-neck, as well. Those are Democratically held seats. Virginia, all of these pretty much have race polls that are just too close to call. Republicans have to pretty much run the board because they need six out of eight in order to take control of the Senate. And they are not entirely optimistic at all that they are going to do that. It's a huge question mark.
BLITZER: Let's look at some of the states. How close is Virginia? George Allen (ph), Tim Cane (ph). It's about as close as can be:
BASH: It sure is. It sure is. And another interesting tidbit that Republicans were strategizing are trying to win back the Senate tell us, is that they believe now, looking at the number, that really, the only way they can do that is if Mitt Romney wins the White House to pull the Senate candidates down on his coat (INAUDIBLE).
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. And the reason they would only need three if Romney were to win is the vice president, as the president of the Senate, he would break the tie. You have 50 Republicans, that would be the majority with vice president being -- :
BASH: And that's happened before.
BLITZER: It certainly has. Dana, thanks very much.
BASH: Thank you.
BLITZER: And our campaign coverage will continue throughout the weekend. Please be sure to join Anderson Cooper and me, tomorrow night for a CNN special, "Countdown to Election Night in America" 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 5:00 Pacific, Sunday.
Thanks for watching. The news continues next on CNN.