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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Latest Polls Show Dead Heat in Battle for White House; Razor Thin Margins on Election Eve
Aired November 5, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks very much.
Good evening, everyone. You might have heard there is an election tomorrow. You might have even heard it is straight from the candidates' mouths. They are everywhere today, the candidates. At least everywhere there's even the slightest doubt about tomorrow's outcome.
The president in Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Governor Romney in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. Running mates and surrogates also dotting the swing state map. Governor Romney's got Kid Rock, Bruce Springsteen is campaigning with the president, but in the end, it is down to the candidates and often to the candidates' last vocal chord.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now's the time to keep pushing forward. To educate our kids and train all our workers. Create new jobs. Bring our troops home. Care for our veterans. Broaden opportunity. Grow our middle class. Restore our democracy and make sure that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter how you started out, no matter what your last name is, you can make it here in America if you try.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Wisconsin, that's why I need your vote. And if you're willing to work with me again and knock on some doors with me, make some phone calls for me, turn out for me, we'll win Wisconsin. We'll win this election.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He can't change Washington from the inside, only from the outside. We're going to give him that chance in a day or two.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, millions of people have already voted for one candidate or the other. Early voting, though, has been a blessing and a curse. In Ohio, in Florida, limited hours made for long lines over the weekend, could make for post-election legal battles if either state is pivotal and close. A very real possibility.
There is a lot of excitement out there, though, tonight. We are just hours away from the final day of this election, of this campaign. It's up to you now, the voters, to decide. We are going to try to bring you all the excitement and the energy that is out there tonight with live remarks from the presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates as they make them. Tonight in the hour ahead and again when we're live at 10:00.
The polling remains close enough that the Romney campaign has secured two rallies for tomorrow, election day, one in Cleveland, Ohio. The other interesting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Cleveland, you'd expect, given the polling. Pittsburgh, not so much. We'll talk about that. Here are the latest on the map. The numbers, all the pieces of the puzzle, chief national correspondent, John King -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a lot of question marks the eve of the election. And parallel universes if you talk to the campaigns. The Obama campaign says we're going to win most if not all of the battleground states. The Romney campaign says oh no, you won't.
Here's one thing you don't get. You don't get much of an argument from the Republicans when you say the president will carry Nevada. Some Republicans push back but let's give Nevada to the president. So hypothetical here, folks. That would put the president at 243 to 206. You need 270 to win. Let's switch the map and see if Governor Romney can find the magic to get to 270 from there.
Let's start here. Small battleground state but the state of Iowa, the president is going to end there. That's his final rally, 47 to 42 in the latest public poll. That's the "Des Moines Register." The president with a lead there. It's small. The Romney campaign says it's still in play but the president has consistently led by a small margin. And you'll see more and more of that if you go across the Midwest.
Let's go over. You mentioned Governor Romney going to Cleveland tomorrow. Let's look at the latest polling in Ohio. No Republican ever won the White House without it. Mathematically can he get there without it, yes. Is it probable, no.
Here's the latest poll of polls. CNN putting together the average of several public polls, 50-47. So a very competitive race but again the president has consistently been ahead by a couple in Ohio. Governor Romney needs to win on the ground and win big on the ground tomorrow to carry that state.
In a close election like this, sometimes the little guys matter. New Hampshire is one of the little guys. Only four electoral votes. Here's a new poll out by WNUR at the University of New Hampshire today, a three-point race in New Hampshire. This one actually could be decisive.
I know it's only four but we might be watching tiny New Hampshire tomorrow night as we go. The only way we will be watching, though, is if Governor Romney can somehow find the magic in Virginia. He has to win this one. A new poll out today has it at 48-47, that's a statistical tie.
Watch the Washington suburbs early tomorrow night, if Governor Romney can do better than John McCain in this part of the state right here, that means he could be in play because McCain and Obama tied in the rest of the state last year. This part is key.
Then you move down here to the state of Florida. Again, Governor Romney has to have it. Let's look here. You see here's one recent poll, 49-47. That's the "Wall Street Journal"/Marist poll with the president on top by two points. That's a statistical tie but if president's on top yet. Mason-Dixon poll has Governor Romney on top, 51-45, so 29 electoral votes, Anderson, down there in Florida.
Governor Romney has to have Florida. He has to have Virginia. We didn't talk about Colorado. That's another one that's in his mix.
Wisconsin, another battleground state. The president, you have to say has the edge because he has been consistently a little ahead in most of the battleground states but the Romney campaign says it has the enthusiasm on its side and can change things tomorrow. In 24 hours we're going to start to find out.
COOPER: We certainly will. John, thanks.
I want to bring in the rest of the panel. Political analyst David Gergen, Gloria Borger, also Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," moderator of the second presidential debate.
David, you heard what John just laid out. Does it make sense to you? What do you -- what's your gut tell you?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, my gut tells me that, Anderson, contrary to what we normally see -- normally in a final weekend, the electorate starts to break slightly towards the challenger. This weekend, it seems to be breaking for President Obama.
COOPER: So you think that's storm related?
GERGEN: I think -- it think there's a hurricane lift, yes, I do. And I thought last week was a very good one for him. He's gained a little bit of an edge. That means he's favored, but Romney can still pull off this upset. It is so very much within his power. He's got a lot of enthusiasm on the ground.
COOPER: I hear from a lot of Romney people who say look, they just don't buy the polls. That they think that there's enthusiasm out there, that there's energy out there.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they say that their internal polls are much more accurate than our polls and they say that they're tighter, that states where we might show President Obama up by a couple of points, Anderson, they show it absolutely a dead heat, such as Ohio would be -- would be one of those examples.
And you know, on these -- we at CNN have had some calls with the campaigns today. The Obama campaign, it's so clear, has this down, this get-out-the-vote effort to an absolute science. It's very clear to me that while the Romney people are better than the McCain people were, they're much more relying on emotion and enthusiasm than they are on the absolute science of getting out the vote. Although as I say, they're spending a lot of money doing that as well.
COOPER: Candy, Governor Romney is going to be voting tomorrow, Belmont, Massachusetts. It's not far obviously from where you are in Boston. He'll also campaign after that in Ohio and Pennsylvania, a state that hasn't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since George Bush, Senior back in '88.
What does that tell you? I mean is that a hail Mary backup in case he loses Ohio or just worth a try since he's in the neighborhood or does he think he really has a chance?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It depends on who you ask, Anderson. Clearly the polls have tightened up in Pennsylvania. They took a look at it, when you talk to the folks in the Romney campaign they said listen, we are -- we have spent the money we need to spend in all these battleground states that John was talking about. All of our resources that we can put in there are there. We are up on the air as much as we can be. There's no more room for ads on TV in all these battleground states and they took a look at Pennsylvania and they said -- well, first of all, it's right next door to Ohio so it's not like they have to go across the country to go there.
Plus more than 90 percent of Pennsylvanians will vote on election day. There's no early voting in Pennsylvania. Absentees, you have to meet a certain criteria so the vast majority of Pennsylvanians will vote on election day. What a quaint notion. So they looked at that, they looked at the polls going in, and they also realized that in Pennsylvania, Mitt Romney has not been so defined by the Obama campaign as he has in Ohio and all the other swing states.
That they haven't had that kind of advertising so they thought it was worth, you know, a throw. Do they -- do they think they're going to win it, they talk awfully optimistically but this is more hey, let's go here, let's take a flyer here. You know, there's nothing wrong with looking for a backup.
COOPER: Stay with us, everyone. Joining me right now from Boston is Romney communications director, Gail Gitcho.
Gail, appreciate you being with us. Governor needs to win nearly all the swing states in play to have a shot at the White House. The president only needs -- seems to win one or two. Is Governor Romney the underdog, in your opinion?
GAIL GITCHO, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT: Well, look, we want to do well wherever our name is on the ballot and of course we believe that we can do well in all the swing states. The fact is that this is going to be a very close race. And I can tell you that the enthusiasm that we're seeing on the trail not only at our events in the states but also at our victory centers across the country. They're just brimming with volunteers who are excited to help Governor Romney get his message out and get people to the polls tomorrow.
You know, Anderson, one thing I just heard your panel talking about is the get-out-the-vote effort that the Obama campaign has, and I heard one of your panelists suggest that ours is not as sophisticated. I would respectfully disagree with that, of course.
What we have in our campaign is a very sophisticated get-out-the- vote effort that we will be moving with tomorrow. In Boston we will have 800 volunteers in a war room who will be taking incoming information from 34,000 volunteers that are out in the states and these people are going to be at the precincts, at the polls, and they will be gathering this very important data so that we can see where we are overperforming, where we are underperforming. And that's not so that we can see what the outcome of the race is going to be, if so that we can make adjustments and make sure that the people in our strong areas get out and go to the polls to support Mitt Romney.
COOPER: Gail, I want to bring in John King at the magic wall, too, because I know he's got some questions for you as well -- John.
KING: Well, Gail, let's look at the map. I want to bring up the electoral map. And I just want you to rank them for me. Every campaign, you know, you mentioned all those volunteers. You mentioned -- I have been traveling and I agree with you, if you go to the campaign victory centers in a place like Colorado, in a place like Ohio, where I have been in the last week, there is no question there's a lot more energy now than there was in 2008, in the final days of the McCain campaign.
But if you had to rank them, most Democrats and even most Republicans in Nevada think the president will get that one. If you want to argue with me, please do. Tell me why. But when you look at the map, you go from Colorado, nine electoral votes. Iowa, six electoral votes.
You know, let's just start there. In Iowa, it's a close state. Republicans have improved their registration dramatically in the last couple of years yet the president has consistently led by two to three, four, five points. How does Governor Romney -- it's only six but it could be an important six -- get Iowa?
GITCHO: Well, let me tell you, let me just give you some numbers. The first one is 23 million. That's the number of people in this country who are still struggling to find work. The next one is 7.9. Unemployment in this country is higher today than when President Obama took office --
COOPER: The question was about Iowa. The question was about Iowa. (CROSSTALK)
GITCHO: I understand what the question -- I understand what the question was, but it goes to message. The reason that Governor Romney is going to win in these states and ultimately become the next president is because he has a positive optimistic vision for the future and he's been explaining that.
President Obama doesn't. He's been campaigning on small ideas and petty attacks and he's encouraging his voters to get out for revenge. Governor Romney is encouraging his -- our voters to get out for love of country. And he wants to bring people together --
COOPER: Can we -- can we just avoid the talking points at this point? Because we're one day before the election. And John asked a very specific question about Iowa.
GITCHO: Well, Anderson, there's --
COOPER: If you want to answer, that'd be great.
GITCHO: Well, they're not talking points, Anderson. I would disagree with that. This is exactly what the campaign is going to come down to. It's what this message is going to come down to, whether we want four more years of the last four years --
COOPER: OK. You don't want to talk about Iowa?
GITCHO: What's your question about Iowa?
KING: The question was, Republicans have come up to parity in registration yet the president, and I can show you the numbers again if you want. This is one of those Midwestern states that despite all the activity in the campaigns, the president has managed somehow to keep usually it's three, four, five points. The latest "Des Moines Register" poll, five points.
Do you really think -- in some states you can overcome one or two points on election day. If it's five, can you overcome that on the ground in a state like Iowa on election day?
GITCHO: I think so. We feel optimistic about Iowa just like we do Ohio. And I think that when -- we did get the "Des Moines Register" endorsement, you saw that.
GITCHO: That was a good get for us. But I think that tomorrow as we continue this get-out-the-vote effort, you're going to see us overperform in those areas that are very strong and President Obama continue to underperform in the areas where he has traditionally been strong. So at the end of the day we feel very good about Iowa. And I would say the same thing about Ohio and Colorado, in fact.
And I heard you mentioned earlier that we're going to be campaigning in Ohio tomorrow, a very important state, but also Pennsylvania, a new state that's on your map, John.
COOPER: Gail and John, appreciate it. Gail -- let's bring in our partisan pros. On the right, Ari Fleischer and Erick Erickson. Ari is an occasional unpaid communications adviser to the Romney campaign, Erick is the editor-in-chief for Redstate.com.
On the left, Obama 2012 pollster Cornell Belcher and Paul Begala, a senior adviser to leading pro-Obama super PAC.
Paul, let's start with you. I mean everybody is focused on Ohio. Do you see a road map for Mitt Romney if he does not win Ohio?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: No. No. Romney has -- I'm not a big fan of the electoral college but the founding fathers gave it to us. Romney has a much, much tougher map. If you begin, as you should, presuming he'll carry every state John McCain did, then he still needs Indiana, which he'll almost -- he's very strong in, very likely to win. North Carolina which is easier than many of the other swing states but not in the bag. Then it gets hard. And he's got to have Ohio. Then even if he gets Ohio, get this, he's got to still win Virginia or Florida -- and Florida, Colorado.
It's so hard for him to get to 270. And without Ohio, it's almost impossible.
COOPER: Do you -- Cornell, do you see this boiling down to the electoral college versus the popular vote?
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it is going to be electoral college. And I think one of the interesting things, as I think you'll see a tighter race state by state. I mean, look, on average, we won the battleground states by seven or eight points last time around in 2008. Well, we won't win by those on average, you know, eight or seven points this time around.
So you'll see closer races in each of these states but as they line up, the president has leads in all these states. The structure of this election has been fairly solid with him leading in all these states. So I think you'll see close state by state races. But the electoral college I think will be a decisive victory for the president.
COOPER: Ari, are you one of these folks who says, you know, there's polling, there's polling, but your gut is telling you Romney based on enthusiasm on the ground?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, listen to the polling, we might as well cancel the election tomorrow. Romney can't get to 270. And he can't get there without Ohio.
BEGALA: Romney can get there (INAUDIBLE), don't worry.
FLEISCHER: Here's the other way to look at the same country that Paul was looking at. McCain numbers for Romney gets 179 electoral votes, 22 states. Throw in Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, which I think Romney's got Florida, Virginia, that's the close one right there, and don't forget Nebraska is one. Obama got one in Nebraska. That goes McCain and that goes Romney. That's 248.
After 248, if he gets Colorado, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, he's the next president of the United States. Of course, if he gets Ohio, it's even a bigger margin.
BELCHER: Yes --
FLEISCHER: And all those states are absolutely possible.
FLEISCHER: Everyone of those states is possible.
COOPER: Did you just say if your aunt had a mustache we'd call her your uncle?
BEGALA: Yes. Well, you know --
COOPER: I got to think about that.
COOPER: I want to bring it --
FLEISCHER: I don't get it.
COOPER: Quickly, from Erick Erickson, your gut?
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, and my gut says Pepto-Bismol. I don't know.
ERICKSON: I mean I don't believe what either side is saying, and I don't think anybody else knows either right now, it's so freaking close. You look at Ohio, Republicans typically go two percentage points over what the polls say, Democrats typically go a point behind what the polls say. That puts them at 49-49 in Ohio. So then it comes down to the ground game.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. We're going to have a lot more with our panelist in this hour, also in the 10:00 hour. Take a break. Try to figure what Paul's -- whether Paul's aunt is his uncle.
COOPER: Follow me at Twitter, @Andersoncooper. I'll be tweeting tonight.
A lot of -- really want to bring you the energy of what's happening out there right now. President Obama back in the state that really launched his first presidential campaign, Iowa. He's counting on it again to close out his last campaign with a win. Details ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: If you're willing to work with me again. Knock on some doors with me and make some phone calls and turn out. We will win Ohio. We'll win this election. We'll finish what we started. We'll renew those ties that bind us together and reaffirm the spirit that makes the United States of America the greatest nation on earth.
God bless you, Ohio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: President Obama earlier today in Columbus, Ohio, at a rally with Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z. Also Mitt Romney stopping in Columbus just a few hours later. Paul Ryan is in Vienna, Ohio, later tonight. Governor Romney is in Cleveland tomorrow and Pittsburgh. President Obama is appearing tonight in Des Moines, Iowa.
Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter joins us right now. And John King is going to get in on this as well.
Stephanie, your team keeps saying that the governor is in Pennsylvania now out of desperation but if he's got no shot there, why has your campaign been sending President Clinton to Pennsylvania in the home stretch? I mean if the state not in play, couldn't that time be put to better use somewhere else?
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OBAMA 2012: Well, President Clinton has traveled through every single battleground state for us. We are enormously thankful. But we're not -- we're not taking anything for granted, Anderson. You know, Pennsylvania has tightened, absolutely. You know, if I were working on the Romney campaign I'd probably be giving it a shot, too. Plus the fact is --
COOPER: So you don't think it's desperation for the Romney campaign to go there?
CUTTER: Well, I think that -- well, you know, I did notice that their super PAC admitted yesterday that the reason that they went in there is because they didn't have anywhere else to spend money. So they don't have a route to 270 through Ohio. They're behind in Ohio. We have a significant early vote program. We're beating them by two to one in the early vote. And we're ahead in the polls.
So they don't have a route to 270 so they are now sending out lifelines to Pennsylvania and Minnesota. We'll see if they can get there. I don't think --
COOPER: Let me ask you about that early vote. Let me ask you about that early vote because Republicans are saying look, back in 2008, Democrats had huge early voting leads. Republicans made up a lot of the difference on election day. This time, the early vote advantage for Democrats is much smaller. Republicans are saying it's small enough that if they just do as well tomorrow as they did on election day back in 2008, they win. Do they have a point?
CUTTER: No. Because they're not looking at accurate numbers. We do have a significant margin in the -- particularly the Ohio early vote. And you know, we're not running a 2008 campaign. We're running a 2012 campaign. And we're running against Mitt Romney.
COOPER: Do you wish you were running a 2008 campaign? Because you did pretty well.
CUTTER: Well, yes. But that's four years ago. And we're a day out from election day so here we are in 2012. And you know, we've invested heavily in the early vote and we are beating Mitt Romney with pretty high margins. You know, according to some public polls, just looking at the public data that's out there, he'll have to turn out a six to 10-point advantage on election day. That's going to be really tough for him. That's a Herculean effort.
CUTTER: And look, you know, the bottom line is this is going to be a close race. We're not taking anything for granted.
COOPER: I want to bring in John King because he's much smarter than I am and has that magic wall -- John.
KING: Let's stick -- let's stick with the honesty. You said you'd rather be running 2008. If you talked to Democrats, in your campaign, outside your campaign, you look at these eight toss-up battleground states, they say the president should be and is most confident about Nevada, because of the Latino vote, union support.
KING: So I'm going to give you Nevada, Stephanie, as your best of the battleground states. What's your worst? What are you most worried about?
CUTTER: OK. Well, you know, John, somebody was quoted yesterday as saying that's like choosing between our children. But I -- you know, look. (LAUGHTER)
KING: So choose.
CUTTER: We are tied or -- I'm not going to do that. We're tied or ahead in every single battleground state. Now certainly some of them are tighter than others. North Carolina is extremely tight. But we're pleased with where we are going into election day. We have advantage on the early vote. We've done significant work with voter registration in that state.
We're close in Florida. Again, significant advantage on early vote. And done a lot of work on voter registration. So --
KING: Can I run that --
CUTTER: Look, I'm starting --
KING: Can I run that through the universal political translator and say you're most worried about North Carolina and Florida?
CUTTER: Those are your words.
COOPER: Hey, let me bring in David Gergen, because he's also got a question -- David.
GERGEN: Stephanie, it's good to see you.
GERGEN: Tell us what three things we should be looking for tomorrow night as a sense of which way it's going. What are you going to be looking for?
CUTTER: Well, you know, it's important to understand that because there has been so much early voting, you know, some states, half of the vote is in. And Colorado will probably be about 80 percent, that the early exit polls are not going to accurately reflect where the vote is. So everybody should stay calm throughout the day, let the day go on and get to those late early -- late exit polls and take a look at where we are there. You know --
GERGEN: So the first exit polls you should -- shouldn't take it seriously as the latter ones?
GERGEN: We have seen that before, right? OK.
CUTTER: Yes. Yes, we --
(LAUGHTER) Yes, we have. And, you know, of course, we know how things work going from east to west. You know, Virginia will be one of the early ones. Ohio, you will have a sense of what's happening in Ohio early tomorrow evening. So, you know, I would be looking at, you know, what's happening in those states. Certainly if we win Virginia, then that's a very good sign moving west. But you know, I think it's probably going to be a late night.
COOPER: Yes. No doubt about that.
Stephanie, appreciate you joining us.
Chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is traveling with the president. She joins us now.
Jessica, the president's wrapping up his campaign in Iowa. Which is only six electoral votes but there's a nostalgic reason for this last stop. Explain that.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson. Yes. And back in Iowa where I spent many a night talking to you four years ago, freezing here because President Obama slugged it out with then Senator Hillary Clinton day after day in a primary that the Obama campaign says is where it all started. And so he's wrapping it up here for not only the last event of this presidential election, but really, the last campaign event of his career, of his life.
And he is going to rally here in front of -- you can't really see it but it is the Obama 2008 headquarters is to my left and he will be speaking in front of it, and they say it's where it all started.
Now this also happens to be a battleground state and a state that you just heard Stephanie Cutter say the campaign feels they're ahead but that they do have to win and every little state counts as John was saying earlier.
So the president campaigning, four important votes, but I will point out that not only will he be here, he'll also be with Bruce Springsteen and Mrs. Obama, and he will be with some old, sort of the old band getting back together, some old campaign hands who dropped off out of the White House, are back with him for this last event, and none of them are shaving. They're all growing their beards out because it was the campaign tradition last time around -- Anderson.
COOPER: How do we know if the early vote theory holds?
YELLIN: Yes. You were all talking about that. You know, one of the things I think you can watch for tomorrow that I'll be watching for is North Carolina and Florida. Those are two states where polling is shown that Governor Romney is either ahead or tied with the president.
In Florida, there are some states -- polls that show the president is ahead but where early vote totals show the president ahead in the early vote, even though the polling shows Governor Romney should win the states. Now if the vote totals are showing that it's sort of a dead heat between the two of them, we can look at that vote total and see that actually, the Obama campaign's early vote theory is holding through the night and maybe we can extrapolate that to the rest of the theory.
If the early numbers are showing that Governor Romney's pulling ahead in North Carolina and Florida, that could be an indication that this whole early vote theory ain't going to hold so much water in the end -- Anderson.
COSTELLO: All right.
YELLIN: Something to watch for maybe.
COOPER: Yes, Jessica. Thanks very much.
Up next, not just swing states but swing counties. Could make all the difference tonight. Oh, yes, we're going to talk about counties. John King maps it out for us ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I need your vote. I need your work. Walk with me. Let's walk together. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow. God bless each of you. Thank you so very much. Virginia is going to help me become the next President of the United States. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Mitt Romney there, speaking at a very enthusiastic rally in Fairfax, Virginia earlier today.
In battleground states like Virginia, Ohio, Florida, states that are going to decide this election, we have to get down to what's happening county by county to really get a sense of what's at play. John King is at the magic wall with that.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And, Anderson, where you just showed Governor Romney tells us a lot about this election. If Ohio is Ground Zero, Virginia might be Ground Subzero, if you will. If Romney doesn't win Virginia, probably doesn't matter what happens in Ohio.
And where was he? He was right here in the northern Virginia suburbs. You see Fairfax right there.
When President Obama carried the state last time, four years ago, he won it by 234,000 votes. Guess what his margin was in these three counties right up here closest to Washington, D.C.? 234,000 votes. John McCain and President Obama tied in the rest of Virginia. Northern Virginia makes the difference in the close-in suburbs. Let me take this out and show you why.
Prince William County, for example, Governor Romney was here in Fairfax County. Prince William County, a little more conservative, a little more exurban out here, 58 percent to 42 percent. Four years ago, let's go back to when George W. Bush carried the state. He won that county. If you came into Fairfax County eight years ago, George W. Bush lost the county but look at the margin.
A much bigger margin for President Obama. These close-in northern Virginia suburbs where the people are, that's where most of the population growth is. Governor Romney doesn't have to win them; he just has to get much closer -- much closer -- than John McCain did four years ago. That's in the state of Virginia.
Now let's pick another one. We talk about how busy and important Ohio is going to be. If you want to look at a couple of places in Ohio, I'm going to circle them for you. There are a lot. I could show you several countries, but let's take two. One's in the northeast corner, one's in the southwest corner.
What's in the northeast corner? Lake County just outside of Cleveland. This is the suburbs. Close presidential elections are won in the suburbs in America. In Lake County, it's like 2 percent of the population but there are people like this throughout this battleground state. You see the president with a very narrow victory when George W. Bush carried the state; he had a very narrow victory here.
You win the close ones in the suburbs; that's in the northeast corner. Now look down here -- 2004, Hamilton County. That's where you find Cincinnati. African-Americans in the city, more suburban and exurban as you head out this way. You see that? That's blue.
In 2004, George W. Bush wins Hamilton County, he wins Ohio. That's 2008. It's blue -- I said it was blue before. George W. Bush, it was red in 2004, it was blue in 2008.
Watch Hamilton County and watch Lake County, a few others we'll get to tomorrow in the state of Ohio.
Now let's just go west. We'll give you one more example. When you come out to this battleground here, you look again -- I'm going to make the same point. Here's Denver, it's the major population center. Just below Denver, you have Arapahoe County, right there, more than 11 percent of the population. It's the suburbs.
You come over here to Jefferson County, another 12 percent of the population right here. So the major suburbs and exurbs just around the Denver area, you're looking here at 2008, there you're looking at 2004.
That's where the elections are won, close presidential elections. Yes, Governor Romney needs to win big in rural areas. The president needs to win big in urban areas. All things being equal, if that happens, the president gets the urban areas, Governor Romney gets the rural areas, then the suburbs will win this election and we'll watch the counties all night long.
COOPER: Hey, John, just as a programming note since we we're going to be looking at Ohio so closely so people want to plan out their viewing schedule and/or drinking schedule, historically, when do we start to get results from some of these important counties in Ohio? When do you think we can get a sense of what's happening in Ohio?
KING: They tend to come in pretty quickly, actually. Now there can always be glitches on election nights but a lot of these places where you've had heavy early voting -- I was just out in Colorado, for example, and in Ohio as well, a lot of these places where you've had heavy early voting, in Colorado they've actually started counting the votes. They don't hit the tabulate button until tomorrow.
But they count them. They scan them into the computer.
In Ohio they start that counting on Election Day and so some of those results come in pretty quickly. And then you go from there. Look, we have been through this before.
One of the things that almost always happens in close Ohio elections is you're waiting for Cuyahoga County. You're waiting for a lot of results to come in there. That's urban, that's Cleveland. That will be telling.
I say watch the suburbs. Of course, if African-American turnout is way down in Cleveland, then Governor Romney doesn't need as much in the suburbs. So results tend to come in, this state closes early. Ohio closes very early, 7:30. Then the 8 o'clock states on the East Coast, Virginia being most important among them, I would argue, will start to get some results pretty quickly.
The question is, if it's very close, we'll have to see where we don't have votes. Sometimes the biggest challenge on election night is not to find out where the votes you have, it's to find the votes you don't have.
COOPER: Right. John, stay with us.
Want to bring our analyst, nonpartisans, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley is also with us on remote and our partisans, Paul Begala and Cornell Belcher on the left; Eric Erickson, Ari Fleischer on the right.
Ari, you were talking about early voting and some of the stuff you've been looking at.
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY FOR U.S. PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, and the best way to know who's going to win is the enthusiasm. There's no question that's what we have to measure on Tuesday night. It's down for the president. The question is how much.
Let's go to Ohio. Mitt Romney has got 100,000 more early votes than John McCain did at this point. President Obama has 150,000 fewer votes than he did at this point four years ago. That's a net 250,000 pickup for Romney in a state that the president won by 260,000 votes.
Florida: a 270,000 change in the direction of Romney and the Republicans because of the increase for Romney over McCain, decrease for Obama in early voting, 270,000 change in a state that Obama won by 236,000.
This is what it comes down to. And this is why it is so real that there's a path to 270 for Mitt Romney. It's because of that decline in enthusiasm compared to four years ago.
And I also say the polls continue, you look at poll after poll, in Ohio we talked about earlier, to oversample Republicans. There was a PPP poll in Iowa that just came out showing the president is up by two points or by one point. It's because they oversampled Democrats by two.
COOPER: Cornell, Paul, do you guys buy that?
CORNELL BELCHER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, no, I don't buy that. I think there's a lot of back and forth about Ohio. And it's tough in the states where you actually don't have voter registration. You know, we can make an argument, but let's go out west, and let's take a state like Nevada where we actually can look at registration.
Right now the president has twice as many voters already banked in a state like Nevada than he did last time around. So I don't buy the enthusiasm gap because actually if it was an enthusiasm gap, you would see it in states where you'd actually -- clear-cut, no registration (inaudible) --
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: (Inaudible) Ari just said, which was quite interesting. How do you respond to what he actually said about Ohio and Florida -- ?
BELCHER: My point about Ohio is, we can argue back and forth about Ohio, but there's no actual prior registration. So if you look at the counties where sort of the president has done well versus the counties that they have done well, it -- that -- his numbers don't add up. So where there's not registration, it is harder to look at; becomes more of an art than a science.
Where we know there is registration like Nevada, the president has twice as many --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) the Republicans --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Ohio is publicly recorded data by the number of requests for early ballots that came in from Ds and Rs. They do have that.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: (Inaudible) enthusiasm now for the president matches what it was in 2008 --
BELCHER: Enthusiasm for no one is ever going to match what it was in 2008. BORGER: Right. OK.
FLEISCHER: But it is in the polls, Cornell. That's the key issue. All the polls keep showing the Democrats are turning out six, seven, eight points over Republicans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, why you want to talk about (inaudible)?
FLEISCHER: It averages out.
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: First of all, enthusiasm does matter. It really does. But arithmetic matters more. In other words, if you have fewer voters but they're really, really, really fired up, you still lose.
And I think that's what's going on here. When you've had -- they're narrow leads but they have been so stable for so long, they all can't be wrong. It's close but it's not too close to call.
When Democracy Corps' Stan Greenberg, Clinton's old pollster and my partner, James Carville, released a poll today, showed a national poll, showed the president ahead by four. It's hard to measure enthusiasm but the thing I looked for in that poll was young voters. That's where enthusiasm matters the most to me.
I've seen no data or anecdotes that suggest African-Americans are going to drop off in enthusiasm or that Latinos will.
But young people, that's my worry on enthusiasm. In Greenberg's poll, he only had young people as 15 percent of the electorate, 17 percent in 2008 and he still has the president up by four. So you'll have some diminution if you're a Democrat, you're worried about (inaudible) diminution of that youth vote. That's enthusiasm that I'm most worried about.
COOPER: We got to -- let's take a quick break. And we got a lot ahead. We are trying to follow any candidates who are making speeches in this hour or in our 10 o'clock hour. We will bring those to you live, Republicans, Democrats; vice presidents, candidates as well. Thanks everyone.
One of the wild cards that could have an impact on the election is superstorm Sandy. Will voters in ravaged areas be able to even cast ballots tomorrow? New Jersey, New York officials, they are scrambling to try to make it easier. We'll take a look at that ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To me this election's fairly simple. Who's more likely to restore the middle class, to give poor people a chance to work their way into it, to build a 21st century American economy with the good jobs of tomorrow? I think it's the candidate that got off the campaign trail and went to work on Hurricane Sandy with Republicans and Democrats alike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Former president Bill Clinton earlier today in Pittsburgh, just one stop he made on a whirlwind day of campaigning. Late word tonight that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will visit Nassau County, New York -- that's on New York's Long Island -- tomorrow to assess storm response and recovery efforts and to meet with state and local officials.
There's been a lot of criticism about the response out on Long Island. One week ago when the storm was unleashing its wrath on the northeast we didn't yet know how bad the damage would be. Tonight, about 1 million people in the region still without power.
Thousands have been displaced from their homes. Tens of thousands, the loss in damage Sandy left in its wake is immense. Its impact still really unfolding. Voter turnout in a presidential election tomorrow could be affected. Storm-ravaged areas are obviously responding in a variety of different ways.
In New Jersey, you have got storm victims who are going to be allowed to vote by e-mail or fax. The first time the state's allowed that to happen, by the way. New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is signing an executive order, allowing people displaced by the storm to go to "any approximate polling place" -- those are their words -- sign an affidavit and be able to vote by ballot from that location.
Despite that scramble, to try to make it easier to vote, an obvious question remains: in areas that are so hard-hit can voters even focus on the election? Will they actually go out and vote when you don't have a home left?
Deborah Feyerick joins me now from Staten Island, which took a huge hit from the storm.
Deb, you have been in some of the most devastated parts of New York state today. How is it ever going to help victims, especially as thousands are homeless and temperatures, they're really plummeting and you've got this other storm on the way?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, that is really the big question, Anderson, because we were driving all along this part of Staten Island. What we can tell you is that home after home, it's completely ruined. They are being gutted now. That's the only thing that residents can do.
Imagine losing the entire first floor of all your possessions, all your belongings, not just the couches, not just the rugs, not just the clothing and the shoes but also the floorboards and the walls. People are gutting it because for three days they had water that was really over my head in their homes and there is so much -- mold is going to be such a problem that now all they can do is gut it. The volunteers are coming to help people basically clear out their homes. And, Anderson, I want to tell you something, that sanitation trucks, garbage trucks from New York City, actually working 24 hours around the clock. On some blocks we saw eight sanitation trucks. And that's how many are needed, block by block, because there is so much garbage and so much debris, as you know.
We see here a lot of people are coming, they're bringing clothing to help people. Others are taking that clothing, they're taking clothing, they're taking blankets, they're taking coats, especially, because it is just so cold.
Whether somebody is going to be able to vote, some people are saying yes. Of course, they are going to vote. Others are saying they're so overwhelmed that, even if they could find their polling place, chances are, they're not going to get there. And of course, as you know, if 25 percent of the voting public doesn't show up, they may extend voting in these areas for another day, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Deb Feyerick, appreciate that. It's so tough right now in Staten Island and elsewhere, as we said, in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island.
When it comes to the election, there's a legal storm brewing that I got to tell you about tonight. The first lawsuits already have been filed. You probably know in Ohio, over how provisional ballots will be counted. And in Florida, over the deadline for early voting. Two states obviously where the polls show a very close race and that could end up being a legal mine field. I think everyone is hoping we don't see a repeat of what happened in Florida back in 2000.
Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
So it seems like if anyplace has the potential to be a repeat of Florida, it's Ohio. The polls are obviously closed and if the margin of votes is narrow enough, it comes down to provisional ballots. And right now, that seems ripe for a legal challenge. Explain.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, provisional ballots are what voters fill out if, when they go to vote, their registration is off. There's some problem. They don't have the right ID; they're not in the right district.
So the voting authorities, they give them what's called a provisional ballot. They fill it out and then that's put in an envelope.
Four years ago, there were 200,000 provisional ballots. There are expected to be at least that many this year. If, in a close race, the provisional ballots could spell the difference -- listen to this, Anderson -- it's 10 days until they open the provisional ballots.
During those 10 days, the individuals who cast the provisional ballots can go to the voting places and say, look, here's my ID, here's why my vote is legitimate.
Imagine both campaigns organizing thousands of provisional ballot voters to go to the polling places over the next 10 days.
I'm not standing in this room for 10 days. I'm just saying that right now. I'm just putting that out there. But let's be honest. I mean, the lawyers are ready. If the election in 2000 taught campaigns anything, it's to be ready for a legal fight, right? I mean, they must have van loads of lawyers already just circling.
TOOBIN: Seriously, Anderson, it's in the thousands. One of the things that --
COOPER: Thousands of lawyers already.
TOOBIN: Thousands. No, I mean, talk about a frightening sight -- the thought, in and of itself. But the -- in 2000 it was sort of a big improvisation. Neither side was ready. James Baker for the Republicans, Warren Christopher for the Democrats, were sort of brought in at the last minute. Not this time.
They are both locked and loaded with lawyers, guns and money and it is really -- I mean, it could happen tomorrow that we start seeing lawsuits about keeping ballots frozen. And you know, they're ready to go.
COOPER: Jeff, we'll be in close contact with you. Thank you very much, Jeff.
Tonight, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are making their final push through battleground states, a final night of campaigning before the polls open. We'll tell you where they are now and how they're trying to close the deal for their candidates, ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, GOP VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: That is the kind of leadership we need right now: common sense leadership, get things done, stop blaming people and don't try to transform this country into something it was never intended to be.
That's who we are. That's why we need your help. That's why we have momentum. That's why we're going to win and that's why we only have one more day before we get us on the right track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Paul Ryan obviously today making the case. Joe Biden spoke earlier tonight in Richmond, Virginia.
I want to go back to our panelists, partisan and nonpartisan alike. We've got Republican Ari Fleischer and our Eric Erickson; Democrats Cornell Belcher, Paul Begala. We've got John King, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, Candy Crowley. I got to bring up something which has sort of emerged over the last day or so. CBS' "60 Minutes" did an interview, which is a program I worked for, did an interview with President Obama that aired weeks ago.
A piece of it which they never aired, Steve Cross asked him directly about the attacks in Benghazi. This was just hours after his Rose Garden speech, just days after the attack. I want to play this sound bite, which they just released yesterday, CBS News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CROSS, CBS NEWS HOST: Mr. President, this morning you went out of your way to avoid the use of the word terrorist in connection with the Libya attack.
CROSS: Do you believe that this was a terrorist attack?
OBAMA: Well, it's too early to know exactly how this came about, what group was involved, but obviously, it was an attack on Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's obviously a lot of questions about why this -- why this wasn't released earlier, even if it happened, do you think it makes any difference? Because you can look at that, just as people looked at the Rose Garden speech, and you can say, well, he didn't answer it directly; he didn't say this wasn't a terrorist attack, but he also didn't say it was. So how do you read that, Ari?
FLEISCHER: It is too late. And I think that's why it's been released now.
What's shocking about this, that interview was September 12th. It was the same day that the president went to the Rose Garden, as was the big issue in the second debate, did he or did he not say specifically what took place in Benghazi was terrorist?
Why is CBS' "60 Minutes" only releasing this now? Why did they sit on it? Why didn't they release it the morning after the second debate, when it was topical, when it was relevant, when it would have been significant news? To me, this is journalistic malpractice. They sat on the news.
COOPER: Cornell? Paul? What do you guys think?
BEGALA: Well, first up, the premise of the question is factually flawed. He said, you went out of your way not to call it terrorism. The president was either too polite or too distracted, or too tired, I don't know.
But in the debate he corrected the record right away when Romney said you didn't call it terror. He jumped him, because he did. And when Mr. Cross asked him that, (inaudible). I would say you have to correct it right there. And I have no idea why -- "60 Minutes" should have released it. It's not too late. We're not starting to vote till tomorrow. People should see that. I have a hard time seeing that swinging anybody's vote.
And the people who will see that, they should see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just got to say, here's my problem with this -- the whole Benghazi thing.
Whether the president knew or did not know, I've just got to say, if George Bush had gotten on a plane and gone to a campaign event in Las Vegas, Nevada, that morning as the corpse of the ambassador being dragged through the streets of Benghazi, I think most of the major American media would have crucified George W. Bush and it didn't happen with Barack Obama.
And I think that is an example of media bias.
COOPER: I want to bring in Candy Crowley, because, Candy, obviously you were involved in the debate where this was -- became a huge issue. Were you surprised that this tape wasn't released after that debate, after it was a huge issue?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: You know, I don't know, because I don't know what their rationale was. I'm assuming it didn't -- I mean, I read that it did not play in the portions that they put out there.
Did they -- you know, sometimes when we do interviews, we put the whole interview up on the website. I'm assuming that's what happened in this case. Since it was so relevant --
COOPER: That's not the case (inaudible).
CROWLEY: -- you know, one would think they would put it up. I don't know whether they do put it up in general. And I just am not privy at all to CBS' thinking on it.
You guys? David, what do you think?
GERGEN: Look, I echo to some degree Ari's view. They clearly should have put it out the day after the debate. Let the voters decide what it means. We don't have to. We don't have to litigate that question, but voters deserve to know that when it was relevant.
BORGER: But the interesting thing about the debates, where this did come up, is that Mitt Romney, who was expected to aggressively go after the president on the issue of Benghazi and what happened and what he knew and when he knew it and whether he was honest with the American people, Mitt Romney did not do that, for whatever reason.
BORGER: I know. I know. But I'm talking about the campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's changing the subject.
COOPER: Let's -- we still got a lot more to cover. We're going to see most of you again at 10 o'clock, our panelists.
I hope you join us again at 10:00. We'll be right back. There will be more coverage ahead.
COOPER: Hey, that does it for this 8 o'clock edition of 360. We'll see you again one hour from now, 10:00 pm Eastern. Thanks for watching. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.