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Election Coverage; CNN Projects Results in Vermont, West Virginia

Aired November 6, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So get ready, right now.

And CNN projects President Obama will carry Vermont and its three electoral votes. The president of the United States carries that New England state. CNN projects Mitt Romney will carry Kentucky and eight electoral votes neither one of these two states, a big surprise. This is fully expected.

We are not, repeat, not, able to make projections at this point in these states, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and the battleground state of Virginia, even though all polls and all four states have closed. We are not yet ready to make a projection in any of those four states.

Right now, on the race to 270, Mitt Romney has eight electoral votes, based on our projection, three Vermont for the president of the United States. As we wait for more real votes to come in that will help us make projections, we want to share what our exit polls are revealing.

But remember, these are estimates. They're based on interviews with a sampling of voters as they left select polling stations.

We have exit poll results in Indiana, first of all. This is what the exit polls shows as estimates, 55 percent for Mitt Romney, 43 percent for the president of the United States. The president carried Indiana four years ago. This is a preliminary estimate exit polls.

In Virginia, take a look at this. The exit poll shows a tie, 49 percent to 49 percent in Virginia, doesn't get much closer than that. Again, though, these are estimates, based on our survey of voters leaving select polling places.

The final outcome may be different. We want to let you know, we use these exit polls to make projections, only, repeat only in non- competitive races in battleground states like Virginia, for example. The exit polls show us that the contest we expected to be close are indeed close.

We're going to share more exit poll data like this throughout the night as polling places close in critical swing states. Here's why. We want to be fully transparent with all of our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We want to make sure our viewers get the same information we have, that it's accurate and that they hear it directly from us -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We want to be checking in with some of our correspondents all throughout the region. Let's check in with Jessica Yellin who is over at Obama headquarters in Chicago.

Also checking with Candy Crowley who is in Boston at Mitt Romney headquarters. First we go to Jessica. Jessica, the state of Virginia, how confident does the Obama campaign feel about their position in Virginia?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I've been talking to them throughout the day, Anderson, and they feel incredibly bullish about Virginia. As you know, this is one of those states, if they -- you know, if Governor Romney does not win Virginia, his path to 270 is very difficult.

And they like in particular, they say in the data the African- American turnout that they are seeing there. They say it is beating what they saw in 2008 better than the turnout in 2008. If that does hold up, if that proves to be true, that would be very good news for the president, indeed.

This is based on their internal numbers, and that's what they're telling me. But if that proves to be true in the actual vote totals, it would be a good night for the president, indeed -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, let's check in with Candy. Candy, what are you hearing about Virginia? I also want to talk to you about Ohio and Peter Hamby just reported, but what are you hearing from the Romney campaign about Virginia?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you this. When I asked him about three states, Florida, Virginia and Ohio, they were bullish about Florida. They said great.

They said OK when I asked about how they thought things were going in Ohio and Virginia. They are going on the same numbers. They do get, obviously, reports from certain key counties. But they see this coming in, they say we knew it was going to be fight, but they still feel good about Virginia.

And it would be awfully difficult for Mitt Romney to put together 270 if you drop Virginia sort of right away. So you can imagine when that first result came up with Kentucky, there was applause from this room.

So they are still gearing up here, in fact, for a victory celebration. Mitt Romney and his family watching this from their hotel room, not far from here -- Anderson.

COOPER: And for our viewers who just joined, Candy, just remind us what Peter Hamby was reporting at the end of the last hour.

CROWLEY: Peter reported that he had gotten a hold of the polling from the Romney campaign's internal pollster, which showed Mitt Romney down in Ohio by five points on Sunday. Now, I'm getting some blowback about that, and I need some time to kind of check this out. But Peter, you know, got this from a very good source of his, he says, and it showed them down five points in Ohio.

Now, that would explain this last-minute going back to Ohio on Election Day and it also sort of undercuts the public confidence that they seem to have over the past couple days -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, we'll continue checking that, Candy working her sources. Let's check in with John King who's getting new information from the exit polls in Virginia that we couldn't reveal to you until now. What is it, John?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we are going to break it down now. It shows a very close, competitive, actually a fascinating race in the state of Virginia. We have talked about this in the days leading up to the election.

Most important part for Governor Romney is do well in the D.C. suburbs in the Northern Virginia excerpts. You see the D.C. suburbs, it's shaded blue. Think about this all night long.

If we show you a region, a demographic, a breakdown, and you see the shading, blue means Obama carried it. Red means Romney carried it. In the D.C. suburbs, President Obama is getting 61 percent of the vote to 38 percent for Governor Romney.

Now that's a big win for the president in the closest in D.C. suburbs. But Governor Romney is actually doing better than John McCain, a little better than John McCain in those closest in suburbs. Just over the river, just across the river from Washington, D.C.

The next big challenge is the northern Virginia excerpts. When you move further out from Washington, D.C., Governor Romney winning the vote there by a narrow margin, but again, that's an area where John McCain struggled four years ago.

So Governor Romney is in play. He is more competitive, if you will, in the close areas than John McCain was four years ago. Richmond area, big African-American vote down near the central part of the state where the capital is, 23 percent of the electorate statewide, the president winning in the Richmond area.

You have an African-American center in Richmond then you get out into the suburban areas, Governor Romney holding his own as you get away from the capital city. This adds up to a competitive race in the sits of Virginia. Let's move the other way, look more at what's happening here. This is the defining issue in the election.

And it is the defining issue in the state of Virginia, who would better handle the economy? Fifty two percent of Virginia voters said Governor Romney would. You see that section shaded red. That's because he carried those voters.

Voters who said Governor Romney would do a better job, 95 percent of them, an overwhelming win among those voters. But not surprising, among the nearly half voters who said the president would do a better job with the economy, 99 percent for him.

So how you viewed economy and who would better handle it is a huge driving force in the vote in Virginia today. Let's come over here, another big question.

I don't even need to break down the chart for you, 49 percent of voters said yes, repeal the health care law, they voted for Governor Romney, 46 percent said no, stuck with the president, pretty evenly divided there.

The most important issue facing the country, 62 percent as I noted up top say the economy that's by far. Look at the difference in the size, big chunk of the electorate voting for that, and 57 percent of those, 42 percent for the president, Anderson going for Governor Romney, a very close, very competitive race in battleground Virginia.

COOPER: And checking again with our analyst, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, it is amazing how close this is.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And on the economic issues, what -- mirrors what John is talking about in the state of Virginia meaning best case Mitt Romney had to make to the American public is that he would be better on handling the economy, period.

That's it. That was the case everyone had to buy into. When you look at the exit polls that I'm looking at, the president's job approval rating is over 50 percent. So far in early exits and on the deficit, Romney does better by -- just by four points.

And on who is better able to handle the economy, Mitt Romney does better. But just by a few points. He really needs to get those numbers up on handling the economy, because that's what people are voting for.

COOPER: Again, we need huge assaults on the early exit polls.

BORGER: Exactly.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We absolutely have to have a grain of salt. But the news out of Virginia is not good for Mitt Romney. When you're 49-49 in Virginia, a state he must carry, a state I think many people assumed he would carry, carry North Carolina, carry Florida, I -- Alex is shaking his head, but I really do believe those states are essential.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: They are.

GERGEN: If you look at the data in the Midwest, president is doing very well in the Midwest and Romney has got to get those three --

COOPER: And Alex, you're shaking your head because what, early hours?

CASTELLANOS: David is right if the exit polls turn out to reflect what actually happens with people vote. It's like Alan Simpson used to say, the problem with democracy, we have to let these damn people vote.

And they're going to vote. But I do think this -- we should wait and see if the same thing happens to Mitt Romney that happened to George Bush running against John Kerry. That is that there is a little bump that is not reflected here.

GERGEN: I agree.

CASTELLANOS: If so, then Virginia might be OK. If so then some of these states that look tight --

BORGER: What about economic numbers?

CASTELLANOS: Gloria's point on the economy, though, I think is dead on. Here is Mitt Romney, business guy, running against a guy who has, you know -- unemployment is higher when -- today than the day he was sworn into office. The economy is a mess and guess what? Mitt Romney hasn't quite been able -- to separate himself.

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL OBAMA ADVISOR: One thing that hasn't been reported on well yet, in Virginia, Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP made a huge effort to get African-Americans to vote and you'll see a bigger bump out of the black community.

COOPER: We'll check in with Wolf.

BLITZER: We want to show our viewers the actual numbers from two states, Florida and Indiana right now. Let's start with Florida. The polls have closed and most of the state not necessarily in all of the panhandle, but in most of the state releasing these numbers. Let's show what we have.

With 4 percent of the vote now in, in the state of Florida, the president has 55 percent, Governor Romney 45 percent. There's about a 32,795 advantage for the president in Florida right now, 29 electoral votes at stake. The president is ahead right now.

But it's very early, only 4 percent of the vote is in. In Indiana, 6 percent of the vote is in. Mitt Romney has an impressive lead so far, 58 percent to 40 percent, but it's still very early.

Those 11 electoral votes in Indiana still up in the air. We have not made a projection in Indiana. Let's bring in some of our reporters in the battleground states.

Brian Todd is in Nashua, New Hampshire. Kyung Lah is in Littleton, Colorado. Brian, first to you. What's going on over there?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, big story here in New Hampshire, voter registration, same-day voters. Look at the line here in Nashua, precinct 3. This line goes all the way out the door. They want to prevent people from waiting in the cold. It goes all the way down the hall here.

Same-day registration voters, it's gotten so big here as far as the wait here and in Salem and Manchester, they have had to at least in Nashua, I'm told by the city clerk, they have had to deputize volunteers from both campaigns to help process people through.

And, again, these aren't people who are already registered much these are people here who are registering for the first time to vote in this precinct or registering to vote for the first time ever in their lives, big excitement here in Nashua, New Hampshire.

This is where the line goes. But we are told that people will be able to vote if they're in line when the polls close, Wolf. So that's the good news. People are sticking it out. They want to vote for the first time, some of them.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a key battleground state in New Hampshire. Let's go to Kyung Lah in Colorado. Kyung, what are you seeing there?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Votes are counted in a battleground county. This is Arapahoe County within this battleground, and we're expecting the pace to pick up. What you're seeing over here, this is the absentee ballots just pulled of a van that came in.

And over this way, those ballots then head over here. They're scanned by that machine and then from there, they have to signature verify everything and then they get pulled out of the envelope by these people.

Something I found interesting, one Republican, one Democrat at every single table to make sure that this is absolutely fair. Turnout has been very robust, 1.9 million so far, according to the Colorado secretary of state. Two million is how many they had turn out in 2008.

We were just talking about the early voting. So right now, turnout very high, very robust. Republicans are slightly edging the Democrats by 35,000 votes here in the state of Colorado, Wolf. Republicans say that gives them the advantage here.

BLITZER: Kyung Lah in Colorado, Brian Todd in New Hampshire, guys, thanks very much.

Let's go over to John King right now. Florida, want to take a closer look at what's going on because some of the results are coming in from various parts of the state, not the panhandle.

KING: It's early in the night, Wolf. This is our 2012 map, four years ago when it was all filled in, the big Obama victory. Here's where we are now, the results are early, just coming in, so when we click in, Virginia blue, Florida blue, Kentucky and Indiana red.

They're red now because that candidate, blue for Obama, red for Romney is leading. Let's go in battleground Florida, 29 electoral votes. Now you see what I'm talking about. Just 4 percent of the vote in, 55-45. But where is the vote?

One of the reasons the president is winning is because some of the early vote is coming in it from Orlando, 61-38. Let's go back and do a historical check, 59-41 last time when the president won Florida. He won Florida statewide if you want to come back and look.

President won statewide last time 51-48 and won here in Orange County 59-41. Again, these are preliminary results at the moment, he's running a little bit of ahead of his totals from there. That's one of the things we watch as the night goes on.

Is he overperforming or underperforming where he was before? The top up here, Nassau County, tiny rural county, this is one of the counties where Governor Romney has to rack up the numbers. It's 100 percent in as you see not a lot of votes.

But Governor Romney needs to do this in almost every state he's competitive in, in small, rural communities, needs to rack up numbers to offset the president's margin. So looking at this with 4 percent of the vote in doesn't tell you much.

It tells you the president is doing well where he's supposed to do well and Governor Romney where he's supposed to do well. More is coming in here, this is more interesting, but as you see, 1 percent of the vote.

And again, what does it tell you? We do know this. We know this state will be decided right around in here. The northern Virginia suburbs and the excerpts, Governor Romney must run better and stronger than John McCain.

This is where the population growth is in Virginia. This is where you have the suburban voters, college educated women. Governor Romney has to do better than John McCain if you go back, again, four years ago. You'll see what I'm talking about.

All blue in here. Governor Romney doesn't have to win all these counties, but he's got to be more competitive if he can make the map look more like that, that's how George W. Bush won Virginia a few years back.

Those are the battleground states that you're starting to see results already come into play and again, we need to watch them. Just one footnote, I told you earlier there's a county here in Western Indiana, Vigo county.

It's been right every -- all but twice. The last time it was wrong was 1952, since 1888, the winner of this county has won the presidency except in two presidential elections. What kind of night are we in for?

BLITZER: It's 78 percent of the vote in. Look at the difference, 14,282 to 14,036. I want you to watch that county for us and see what happens there. Maybe it's a bellwether, maybe it's an indicator, maybe not.

KING: Like the country, it seems to be not so sure at the moment. Let's keep counting.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch. Anderson, who would have thought?

COOPER: Let's check in with our contributor, James Carville. You've been looking at the numbers.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have. I want show our viewers one thing. We don't know. We're not in the position of some secret thing that we manipulate and know what it's about. But we're going to tease you.

COOPER: People are actually going to have to --

CARVILLE: They have to vote. I want to be clear to our viewers about that. But what we do know is this and this is indisputable. We know these critical states are close, Virginia and North Carolina, Florida, OK?

If Governor Romney loses any one of them, he's out. He's got to keep -- as Alex just said, he's like a guy at the blackjack table, if he wins one, he's got to double down on the next one.

COOPER: You're saying without Ohio he can't win?

CARVILLE: If he loses Virginia, it's going to be very hard.

CASTELLANOS: On the other hand, if Obama loses any of those states, then his '08 coalition is coming apart except for Florida.

CARVILLE: Right. Sorry, if President Obama loses North Carolina, this coalition is not coming apart. He barely won North Carolina. He won by 14,000 votes.

CASTELLANOS: James, you can yell later. My point is, he can still win tactically in Ohio, but his big strategic -- there's this brand- new world with all these different voters and old Republican parties. It didn't work for --

CARVILLE: If -- he carried it by 14,000, he loses it by 14,000, this coalition is not coming apart. Let's don't --

CASTELLANOS: If he doesn't win Virginia, if he doesn't win North Carolina?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: What we know, though, the president has --

CASTELLANOS: It was in '08, James. That's the way it is.

CARVILLE: He won in 7.3 in '08.

HOOVER: Here's what we know --

CASTELLANOS: If Romney falls a point short then his world is totally different. But if Obama falls a point short, nothing changes. I got it.

CARVILLE: A 7 percent margin. Can I explain? He won by 7.3. He is not going to replicate that. He carried Virginia by 6.3. He's not going carry it --

HOOVER: James --

CARVILLE: But if he carries it by six votes, he's probably going to be the next president.

HOOVER: Did the president run a play to the base strategy?

CARVILLE: Look, he ran a strategy -- according to them, they have this vaunted turnout operation. We're going to know what happens here in a couple, three hours. We've just got to wait, but I'm just making a point. -- I'm looking at these numbers. I'm telling our viewers, we don't know for sure. We just are going to have to wait.

CASTELLANOS: Well, you're right about Romney has to win -- Romney is -- this is like the NCAA playoffs. Romney has got to win every game to make it to the finals.

CARVILLE: Right. That's true.

JONES: Well, I just -- the point that you're making is that there was a hope that we would be able to do well in the south, as well as the west, as well as the east. And that is in danger.

You could be -- I agree with you, you could be in a situation where we are unable to pull that off. But I don't agree that it means the entire vision collapses, because you are going to see, I think, an extraordinary success in places like Colorado.

COOPER: I want to continue this discussion. But Wolf, you have some new numbers in Florida?

BLITZER: Take a look at this, guys. Florida. Look at this, 50-50, 5 percent of the vote is now in, in the state of Florida. The president of the United States has 50 percent, Mitt Romney has 50 percent.

Romney is ahead by 712 votes right now. It's still early. Only 5 percent of the vote is in. But this is as close as you get in Florida. Anderson, a lot of us remember what happened in 2000.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly does. But again, 5 percent of the vote, still very early hours here.

GERGEN: It does. But it's really, really close. But you have to come back to this. I actually support what James is saying. So far, president Obama looks very strong in the Midwest. He looks like he's holding.

The only way Romney gets there, he's got to take Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and then he is competitive. He can break through somewhere else. But if he starts losing one of those three states and Obama also holds the Midwest, it's hard --

BOERGER: That's -- you know, that's his firewall. That's completely firewall. If he gets it --

COOPER: We are counting down to the state that could decide the presidency. Ohio, once the polls closed, our correspondents on the ground are going to get a briefing from the secretary of state on early voting, that should be interesting and also absentee ballots.

We'll be watching for any reaction at the candidates' headquarters when the results come in. Stay tuned for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We can make a projection right now that Mitt Romney will win the state of Indiana, and its 11 electoral votes. Mitt Romney winning a state the president won four years ago. Right now with 8 percent of the vote in, Romney has 57 percent to President Obama's 41 percent.

A win for Mitt Romney in Indiana. Let's show where the tally stands now on the road to 270. Romney up to 19, the president of the United States with three electoral votes, we projected a win for him earlier in Vermont.

We're live, by the way at election parties in the home cities of the presidential candidates. And Mitt Romney's Boston and President Obama's Chicago. Both candidates' supporters are eagerly awaiting the first results from the all-important battleground state of Ohio.

We want to welcome back our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the CNN Election Center. Just moments from now, the polls close in three more states, North Carolina, as well as Ohio and neighboring West Virginia.

Together those states account for 38 of the 270 electoral votes need to win the White House. Let's check the anxiety level over at the candidates' headquarters.

Candy Crowley is with the Romney campaign in Boston. Jessica Yellin is with the president in Chicago. Candy, let's go to you first.

CROWLEY: It's pretty quiet right here now, Wolf. As you know, the candidate is back in Boston after last-minute swing today through both Pennsylvania and Ohio. We are seeing people beginning to trickle in, still an upbeat group, still, you know, big cheer when they won Kentucky although they know that's one they were supposed to get.

So there's still an air of optimism here. They are looking at the same kind of things we are, although they're getting added reports from their folks at the polls who have been checking, you know, which Romney supporters are showing up and which haven't. But they still are feeling pretty good about it here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's go to Jessica. How are they feeling in Chicago?

YELLIN: Hi, Wolf. They are liking what they're seeing. It is also quiet still here. The president is at home at his own home in Chicago, where he's having dinner with some family and friends. The girls, Sasha and Malia flew in from the White House.

They landed this afternoon and he's going to sit down and eat with them there before to watch the returns with staff at the hotel in town. They like especially what they're seeing in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that's where Cleveland is.

It's a Democratic stronghold and it was the turnout in Cuyahoga that helped him carry the state in 2008. They're looking for it again tonight -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We'll be checking back with both of you, but let's check in with Anderson right now.

COOPER: Yes, Wolf, thanks very much. We are obviously checking in with our reporters counting down the first results from Ohio which could be the decider in this election.

As you know, no Republican has been elected president without winning the state of Ohio. We've got correspondents across the state. First, let's check in with Erin Burnett in Columbus -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I'm here and what really could be the king maker state. I'm standing outside the state house here in Columbus, Ohio.

The question is will we know the winner tonight? In a few moments, the polls are going to close and we'll get our furs briefing from the secretary of state here in Ohio who some say could be the most important man tonight, collection night.

Jon Husted, will he be the man that ends up deciding this election? We have reporters across the state. I want to start with Don Lemon. He is in Cincinnati -- Don.

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, heavily Republican. But I'm being told by an election official it's going to come down to this, these provisional ballots. They said they have issued more than usual.

And if that happens, of course, they can't be counted until ten days after the election, 20,000 or more provisional ballots it could come down to. And if it's any indication, we'll be here for a while and the rest of the state could go the same way -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Don, of course, you just heard Jessica Yellin talking about the importance of Cuyahoga County to both candidates, but particularly to the president. Martin Savidge is in Cleveland there -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Erin. Cleveland likes to call itself the best location in the nation. It was certainly that today for both campaigns. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, they were both here, they went to the east side.

And then literally dropping out of the sky, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden with a surprise visit lands in Cleveland, goes to a restaurant and then is gone, Ohio, Ohio, Ohio -- Erin.

BURNETT: That's what it's all about. Anderson, back to you in Washington. COOPER: Yes, you just heard Jessica Yellin talking about Cuyahoga County. As the votes start coming in, it's really important to pay close attention to exactly what part of the states they're coming in from. That tells us a lot. John King is at the magic wall with that -- John.

KING: Anderson, it is the ultimate bellwether. No Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. Ohio has been right in every presidential election since 1964, meaning the winner of Ohio has gone on to win the White House.

Who is voting today in Ohio? Prior to the election when you saw the polls, more Democratic sample in the polls some Republicans would complain. But look, 39 percent of the electorate says they're Democrats, 30 percent say they're Republicans, 31 say they are independents.

These independents assuming Democrats vote Obama, Republicans vote Romney, the independents will be decisive in Ohio today. Now this is a big question in Ohio, do you approve or disapprove of the federal government's aid to automakers?

Second to Michigan Ohio is in terms of the U.S. auto industry impact on the economy. This should be encouraging news for the Democratic incumbent, 6 in 10 voters in Ohio today say they approve of the federal government's aid to automakers.

This has been a huge issue in this campaign, especially in battle ground Ohio, 36 percent disapprove of the aid. Let's watch as this as it plays out. The economic questions dominating Ohio and here is another key one.

Ohio is one of the battleground states and some unemployment situation is worse since the president took office. In Ohio, the unemployment rate has improved. Republicans say it's their governor, John Kasich, who should get the credit.

But 37 percent of the voters in Ohio today say things are getting better. That tends to help an incumbent, 33 percent say they're getting worse, 29 percent say things are about the same.

So that's an interesting split on the economy. But the fact that more people are getting optimistic about the economy, generally helps an incumbent. We'll watch that play out.

And there's a more personal take on the same question. Is your family's financial situation getting better worse or the same? A plurality, 31 percent say worse, 26 percent say better so a test of economic optimism. A test of who has the better plan for the future. And Wolf, the auto bailout question, potentially decisive in battleground Ohio.

BLITZER: We're getting more -- ready for more projections right now.

And we can make this projection right now at 7:30 p.m. on the East Coast. West Virginia, we project, will be won by Mitt Romney, all five electoral votes will be going for Mitt Romney in West Virginia. West Virginia will be won, we project, by Mitt Romney.

We cannot make projections right now, even though the polls have closed in North Carolina and Ohio, both key battleground states. We cannot make projections, at least not yet in both of those states.

On the race to 270, Mitt Romney right now has 24 Electoral College votes compared to three for the president of the United States.

We're watching this very closely. And as we wait for more real votes to come in, we want to share with you what our exit polls are revealing.

Remember, these are estimates. They're based on interviews, a sampling of voters as they actually left select polling stations.

All right. Here are the exit poll results we can share with you. First, in North Carolina, wow! Look at how close it is -- 49 percent to 49 percent in North Carolina. This is the state the president barely won four years ago, usually in a presidential election, it goes for a Republican. The exit polls showing 49 to 49.

In Ohio, right now, the key battleground state, maybe the most important battleground state, our exit poll estimates shows 51 percent for the president, 48 percent for Mitt Romney.

Again, these are estimates that reflect the votes of the people we interviewed at select polling places. It may not necessarily reflect the actual outcome in a particular state. Once we get the final vote tallies, what we're watching very closely.

Let's take a look at some actual votes that are coming in right now. And they're coming in from Florida.

Almost a quarter of the vote in Florida is now in, 23 percent. The president of the United States has a slight advantage, 52 percent to 48 percent. He's almost 90,000 votes ahead in Florida as of right now.

In Virginia, much smaller percentage of the vote has actually been counted, only 2 percent. Mitt Romney has a lead, 58 percent to 40 percent. He's got a lead of 11,000 votes. Very, very early in Virginia right now.

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

I'll tell you, in Florida it's close, very close. In Virginia, based on these exit poll results. But in Florida, we're getting some significant numbers.

KING: Let's start in Florida. You start to see the numbers fill in. One of the most significant parts in the state of Florida, Wolf, is right across here, that's the I-4 corridor from Tampa, St. Pete, across to Orlando, over to the coast. If you look there, the president is starting to fill in here.

Let's just get a little historical perspective. In 2008, he won the Tampa area. He won the Orlando area, the rural areas go red. So he's tracking his performance there at the moment right now.

You expect the Republican to do very well up here. You know the old saying about Florida, the further south you go, the further north you get. These are a lot of transplants, retirees from New York and elsewhere in the Northeast. These are the three most Democratic counties, two of them filling in blue so far.

One of the questions as we get down here will be the margin. A lot of Jewish voters down here, Governor Romney tried to stress the president's relationship with Jewish voters by talking about his relationship with Israel, the Iran nuclear crisis.

Let's just look, very early results. Very early results in Palm Beach County, the president getting 66 percent. That's 61 percent four years ago. So the president is going to be happy with those early results. We'll see if that stands up in battleground Florida as the map slowly begins to fill in.

Let's come on up the coast a little bit as we watch Florida fill in. If that stays blue all night long, that's the end of Mitt Romney's path to 270. He needs the 29 from Florida to get there.

You see Virginia at the moment, it is lit up red at the moment. But 2 percent of the vote. Just 2 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney 59. President Obama, this is one of the reasons why we don't have much here.

The most important part of the state is right here.

BLITZER: Hold on one second.

I want to go to Kate Bolduan. She's in Virginia right now. That's one of the key battleground states.

You're getting some fresh, updated numbers, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're getting our first results coming in from our first precinct here in Prince William County, Virginia. I'm going to go over to the vice chairman of the county board elections, Rick Hendricks. He took the first call. Rick, tell us the results you got and where you got it?

RICK HENDRICKS, PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, VIRGINIA ELECTORAL BOARD VICE CHAIRMAN: Piney Branch precinct in Bristow went 799 for Mitt Romney, 966 for Barack Obama. If you know northern Virginia, Jiffy Lube Live convert venue, that's where the precinct is.

BOLDUAN: And you told me earlier that this is a new precinct. But tell me about the historically what this area would -- how this went in 2008.

HENDRICKS: It used to be part of Victory precinct and in 2008, Obama did carry Victory precincts.

BOLDUAN: All right. So there's our first reporting out of Prince William County, Virginia. We're watching the calls as they come in, and we'll have more coming in very shortly, we hope. Back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Kate. Thank you.

John, what do you think? Virginia is obviously the northern part, the suburbs of Washington. The president has to do well there.

KING: The president has to do well. Governor Romney has to narrow the gap, though. I want to show -- this is the current map. We don't have the results filled in yet. This is county Kate is talking about, Prince William County. I was just out there a couple weeks ago.

BLITZER: We're the first ones, by the way, to get these results. They haven't officially come in yet.

As the election official noted, President Obama carried this county four years ago, Prince William County. Here is Washington, D.C. Here's your close in suburbs just across the river. As you move out there to the suburbs here, now you're getting into the excerpts here.

This is it traditionally Republican territory, meaning when George Bush won the state in 2004, this was red. Governor Romney to be competitive needs to turn it red tonight. Could this be blue at the end of the night like it was in 2008 and Romney still win Virginia? Yes, it could be. But the margins would have to be much, much smaller.

If you look at the 2008 margin, this is just Prince William County, 58 to 42. There is no way Governor Romney could be competitive elsewhere in the state if he's losing by that much in Prince William County.

So, we'll have to watch as this comes in. He hopes this is red. If nothing else, he has to do a better job. He has to run closer in the suburbs.

If you look at 2008, see all this out here? See all this red? Well, guess what? Because of the population up here, the president won Virginia by 234,000 votes.

The president won northern Virginia by 234,000 votes. They tied. And the rest of the state, you see all this red, you think this is John McCain. You think John McCain has to be running up huge numbers here. But these are tiny counties, 0.5 percent of the state population, 0.3 percent of the state population.

So the president tends to win in the population centers, Norfolk, Richmond and the suburbs here. And the Republicans run up huge numbers in the rural areas. But they have to get more. Governor Romney needs turnout to be up out here, without a doubt. But he also needs to cut into the margins in the suburban areas as you go forward, as you come into 2012. As we watch it fill in, this filling in as you would expect. The question is, what happens up here, and that's what we'll be watching.

And again, like Florida, this one crucial -- capital C for the Romney --

BLITZER: We don't have any results yet from Fairfax, some of the counties outside Washington, D.C. We'll be watching those closely.

Anderson, back to you.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We've got brand new information on the absentee balloting in Florida and some of the key precincts that have already closed, our battleground reporters are standing by for that.

We're awaiting poll closings also in a large number of states at the top of the hour, including the swings state of New Hampshire. The last open polls in Florida will close, as well. And, of course, we'll get results from Massachusetts where Boston's historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace where they're showing election results live on CNN.

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BLITZER: We have another projection we can make right now. Take a look at this. South Carolina, we project, will be won by Mitt Romney. There it is, the check right there. One percent of the vote is in. It shows President Obama way ahead. But based on information we're getting, exit polls and other real numbers coming in, South Carolina, we project will go for Mitt Romney, as fully expected.

Let's see where the tally stands right now with South Carolina. Red -- Mitt Romney has 33 electoral votes. We project compared to three so far for the president of the United States. Two hundred seventy needed to win the presidency.

Let's take a look at Florida right now. We have real votes coming in from Florida. I want to update you on what we know, 28 percent of the vote is in. The president maintaining a slight advantage, 51 percent to 48 percent, 63,000 vote advantage for the president. He's got a 1,200,000 to 1,100,000-plus for Mitt Romney.

We have reporters standing by in that battleground state of Florida: Drew Griffin and John Zarrella.

Let me go to John Zarrella first.

John, tell us what are you seeing in Riviera Beach?

I'm not sure John is hearing me. We'll go back to Drew Griffin.

What are you seeing in Jacksonville? DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Duval County, traditionally a Republican County, Wolf. And let me give you some background. In 2000, Bush beat Gore by 17 percent. 2004, Bush beats Kerry by 16 percent. In 2008, John McCain won here, but won by less than 1 percent.

Now, tonight, we have 44 percent of the votes in. That's early voting, and absentee ballots that have been counted. And it is razor- thin close. It is 50.4 for Mitt Romney to 48.83 for Barack Obama. Now, that is a razor-thin margin. Somewhat similar to what they had in the final results in the last election.

But, again, this is 44 percent of the hard vote in this Duval County -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Drew, thanks very much.

I hope we can get connected with John Zarrella right now. He's also in Florida. What's going on, John? Can you hear me right now?

If not, let's go to Gary Tuchman first in Virginia.

Gary, Virginia a key battleground states. You've got some numbers coming in from there, as well?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. We're in Henrico County, which is a battleground county in this battleground state, very important, each candidate desperately wants to win this county, which is just north of Richmond. And they trust me enough here, the election officials, to give me the raw numbers for some of the precincts. There are 93 precincts, a handful have now reported.

And I want to analyze it a little bit with the two top bosses. This is Mark Coakley. He's the general registrar here and Anne Marie Middlesworth, the deputy.

And what's interesting about these numbers, they're similar to 2008 numbers when Barack Obama won here. For example, here in this precinct, Mitt Romney, 1,096 votes. Barack Obama, 824 votes. This is the west end precinct. How does that compare to 2008?

MARK COAKLEY, GENERAL REGISTRAR, HENRICO COUNT, VA: had 1,078 votes for Obama and 746 votes for -- sorry, for Obama, and 1,058 for McCain.

TUCHMAN: OK. So almost exactly similar percentage. I actually calculated it before.

And there's other precinct called Laburnum. Barack Obama, 941 votes today, Mitt Romney, 340 votes. So Barack Obama won that precinct very big. What was it in 2008 between Obama and McCain?

COAKLEY: McCain had 1,059 --

TUCHMAN: This is Laburnum. COAKLEY: I'm sorry.

TUCHMAN: Let's go to the other one.

COAKLEY: OK. Laburnum was 421, McCain, to 1,065, Obama.

TUCHMAN: OK. So almost the same percentage. This time, 941 to 310.

We have one more here. And remember, these are the real numbers, numbers counted to help determine who the president of the United States is. This is Oak View. Oak View, Mitt Romney -- this is small. Mitt Romney, 68, Barack Obama 48 tonight.

What was it in 2008?

COAKLEY: Obama 50, McCain 66.

TUCHMAN: Sixty-six to 50 Republican four years ago, 68 to 40 Republican today. Almost exactly similar.

The reason that possibly -- I emphasize possibly -- may bode well so far for Barack Obama is because Barack Obama won this county four years ago. It was the first time since 1964 that a Democrat won in this county, just like the state of Virginia as a whole -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Gary, thanks very much.

All right. Let's try to make some sense of what's going on. Those are indicators you're seeing. You see those numbers, compare them to 2008. What's the bottom line?

KING: Well, the bottom line is, we're starting to slowly fill in. The red states, again, we've got to be careful. You're looking at these states, we have this one -- we've already called it. South Carolina, the early results show the president leading. So, beware of glancing at the wall, looking at early results. Sometimes they're misleading.

But as you start to fill in Florida, for example, where Drew was, he's right here. He's in Duval County -- it's 5 percent of the state population. So, that starts to add up.

And we look at the numbers here, Mitt Romney 51, President Obama 49. Early part of the vote, but sometimes you just want to take a peek. And as Drew said, very competitive.

The question is, one of the things we're going to watch as we start to get more results in, is Governor Romney over-performing John McCain and is President Obama underperforming his 2008 performance? Up there right now, that's pretty much a dead heat.

This as we talked about before, a very important area of the state. Hillsborough County, 6 percent of the state population, president slightly ahead right now. We're going to watch this, Wolf, as we come all the way across the I-4 corridor. BLITZER: We're getting some votes in Ohio that are coming in right now -- crucial battleground state, still relatively early. But these are votes that are coming in.

KING: Early votes. I'm going to tap it. Before I do, I'm going to say early results obviously show red. Get used to the color as we go to the night.

So, Governor Romney leading. But Ohio is a pretty big state. It's not going to be 8,000 or 5,000 by the time we're done. These votes are coming right now in pretty small, rural areas. If you look at the state, this matters, this matters, this matters and this matters. We've got a lot to wait for in Ohio.

BLITZER: Yes, he carried Ohio last time because he carried those areas, including down Hamilton County around Cincinnati as well.

KING: Fifty-two percent last time. The fact that was blue last time was part of the difference. If that's blue this time, Governor Romney is in trouble.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly.

Anderson is with Dana Bash for a little update on the balance of power in Congress -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, we're closely watching a number of Senate races obviously right now. What do we -- what do know at this point?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We can make our first projections of the evening.

CNN is projecting that West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is going on to win another term, actually his first full term.

And Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, is also winning re-election. He caucuses with the Democrat.

So those are the two calls that we're going to make. But really the drama is in so many of these critical competitive races.

And look at this. Indiana, that is really -- look at that. Look how close it is, 47 to 47, only 16 percent reporting.

Here's the key on this race. This is going to be an early bellwether as to whether or not Republicans can retake control of Congress. Why? Because it's a Republican seat, it's an open Republican seat.

Remember, Richard Mourdock, he was the one who made those comments about rape and pregnancy recently. That has hurt him in the polls. Republicans I'm talking to tonight say he has to over-perform Romney by 10 percent in order to win. So we're really watching closely.

And Virginia, another neck and neck race. We've been talking about the presidential being too close to call. Same with Virginia. George Allen, the Republican ahead by almost 35,000 points but it's very early in that state.

COOPER: And obviously one of the things we're watching, of course, is the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

BASH: Exactly. And let's take a look at that at this hour, very early in the night. But right now, a Republican you see here, 37 seats. Democrats have 31. If you add that one independent that I just talked about, Bernie Sanders, that's 32.

But it's very early in the night. All of those white seats in the middle, those are all the seats that are up for re-election. And we should remind our viewers, that that's 33 seats on this day that are up for re-election. Of course, 51 needed to have control, outright control of the Senate.

COOPER: Dana, thanks very much. We'll continue to check in.

Let's check in with some of our analysts with David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

Are there Senate races that you're particularly watching tonight?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm looking at the Mourdock race. I'm looking at Missouri --

COOPER: Which should not have been as close as it seems to be right now. He was far ahead in the polls until he started making --

BORGER: Right. And I'm looking at Todd Akin -- I'm looking at Todd Akin in Missouri and what I'm thinking about in a larger picture is -- has the Tea Party really hurt the Republican chances in the last two elections to take control of the Senate? You can argue that perhaps by the end of the evening, would have cost them half a dozen seats since 2010. And they might have been able to have control of the Senate if they had nominated different kinds of candidates. If perhaps Dick Lugar were up there instead of Mourdock, for example.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Gloria is right on both points. I would point out in the exit poll, Barack is losing. And I think you may see Akin go down in the exit polls, as well. Let's wait and see on that.

But the larger point here, Anderson, how frequently the results we're seeing do mirror the public polls coming into the day. And that is good news for the Democrats keeping the Senate, it's good news for the Democrats winning the presidency. It's good news for Republicans keeping the House.

But it's a very interesting that the public polls so far have been pretty close.

COOPER: Right. And again, we'll continue to watch that, as well -- Wolf. BLITZER: We're getting, Anderson, the first early results, early results coming in from the battleground state of Florida where many polling places already close.

Take a look at this: 34 percent, more than a third of the vote has been counted. The president maintaining a lead, 52 percent to 47 percent -- 52 percent to 48 percent now. It has just changed of the 3 million votes that have already been counted. He's ahead, the president, by about 130,000-plus votes. So the president maintaining his lead in Florida.

By the way, at the top of the hour, the last Florida polls out in the Pensacola, in the Panhandle will close. We might be able, maybe, we'll see, if we can make a projection. It's part of a huge wave of results that we'll be getting in just a matter of a few minutes.

Polls are also about to close in Illinois. Crowds are gathered at the president's hometown of Chicago. They are watching the results.

We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: Anticipation is building at the candidates' campaign headquarters. We're live with the Romney camp in Boston, the Obama camp in Chicago as we get closer to the top of the hour and another round of poll closings and projections.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We're only moments away from tonight's biggest wave of poll closings. In Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts. The polls also will be closing at the top of the hour in Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

Get this: together, these states and D.C., they carry 172 electoral votes. That's a huge chunk of the 270 needed to win.

Both presidential campaigns know it's crunch time.

Jessica Yellin is with the Obama campaign. Candy Crowley is with the Romney campaign.

Let's go to Jessica first.

Jessica, what's going on over there?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

Well, we are waiting here and I hear from the Obama campaign that they do feel good about one of the upcoming states that's closing, Pennsylvania. They like the African-American turnout that they have seen at that state. You know, Governor Romney made a late stop through there but they are predicting to me that President Obama will carry Pennsylvania and they might even see a higher African-American turnout than we saw four years ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: From Chicago, let's go to Boston and Candy Crowley.

What's happening in Boston, Candy?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, inside this room, very chill, Wolf. They have been playing jazz music, people sort of gradually coming in. They cheer when they see a state go for Mitt Romney.

But let's face it, these are sort of white knuckle times in that hotel room suite for the Romney campaign. When you look at Virginia, when you look at Florida, when you look at North Carolina, when you look at Ohio, just hard to see how Mitt Romney goes unless he picks up most of those states.

So white knuckle time but down here, very chill as they await some of these results.

BLITZER: A lot of nervous tension in Boston and in Chicago, dare I say.

Let's go to Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. We are moments away as Wolf just mentioned from a huge wave of results, but from Florida and New Hampshire, they're the only states in this round that are considered key battleground states. We've got correspondents in both states right now.

First to Florida, that's been so decisive in past elections. John Zarrella is on the ground for us right now in Riviera Beach -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESOPNDENT: Anderson, what we're seeing now early on in the absentee balloting and the early balloting, the president's running up very big numbers in three key counties, Miami- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, heavily Democratic counties. He did very, very well in 2008. He has to do just as well this time around if he has a chance to take Florida -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Drew Griffin is in Jacksonville for us -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: Yes, Duval County right now. Romney up by just a little under 2 percent in the early and absentees. But you know, the voting is still going on even though the polls have closed. If you're in line at 7:00, you continue to vote and will cast your vote. We should see precincts coming in about 8:00, just a few minutes from now, Anderson.

COOPER: And Brian Todd is standing by in Nashua, New Hampshire -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, here is the line, here is the clock. The polls close here in about five minutes. A fresh wave of voters just came in. Secretary of state here projecting a record turnout in Nashua, Manchester and elsewhere in the state. Nashua and Manchester downtown areas lean Democratic. Some other rural areas lean Republican.

It will be a tight race here. Polls closing in about four minutes, Anderson.

COOPER: We'll check in back with you. We've got correspondents in -- more correspondents in battleground states than anyone else.

Our John King is also back at the magic wall -- John.

KING: Anderson, we know Florida, we know New Hampshire battleground states. The big question, did Governor Romney's late push put Pennsylvania in play?

In Florida today, look at the even divide of the electorate, 35 percent of the voters in battleground Florida, Democrats, 32 percent, Republicans, 33 percent, independents. More and more Americans saying they are independents. They will decide who wins the key battleground state of Florida.

Here's a huge question here, and we're seeing this state after state after state -- 62 percent of Floridians say the economy, issue number one. We'll see how that breaks in the election here.

This is another big issue in the state, obviously. Florida one of the older states in the country. Half of the voters today say President Obama would do a better job handling Medicare, just shy of that, 46 percent say Governor Romney. So competitive here.

It will be interesting to see and how this affects the senior vote, a key constituency especially for Governor Romney. Republicans need an edge among seniors.

Let's move up to New Hampshire. Also, look at this -- 43 percent of those in the live free or die state describe themselves as independent, 29 percent as Republicans, 29 percent as Democrat. So, an even partisan divide.

Independents will decide who gets the four electoral votes out of the state of New Hampshire. It's only four but it could be decisive. Let's move past this one for now and look over here.

The opinion of Mitt Romney, he owns a vacation home in the state. He was the governor of Massachusetts. New Hampshire voters split on Governor Romney today as we watch that one play out and obviously slightly more a favorable opinion of the president.

One quick look at the state of Pennsylvania. Who would better handle Medicare? Another older state, 49-47, a slight advantage for the president. Wolf, we're going to watch this one play out.

Florida, New Hampshire, we know are battlegrounds. Mark me down as slightly dubious the blue DNA in presidential politics of Pennsylvania will shift this time.

BLITZER: We're getting ready for a huge number of states to close. All of their polling right at the top of the hour. We're only seconds away right now from making some major projections. So get ready and watch.