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Early Voters; Stonewalling on Libya; Dirty Politics

Aired October 19, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next, Election Day, three weeks away, but could the election already be decided by early voters? And who won? Plus, new details about who knew what and when about the attack in Libya. We keep asking and asking. Does what the Obama administration says add up?

And an OUTFRONT investigation into a rising star in the Democratic Party and his connections to a South Korean company. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. On this Friday OUTFRONT tonight, could the election already be over? We are 18 days out. Presidential debate is still ahead and yet, more than two million people in this country have cast their ballots already. That's because 34 states, plus Washington, D.C., now allow early voting. Nineteen of them have already started, including the battleground states of North Carolina, Ohio and Iowa. And eight more get underway on Monday including crucial Colorado.

Now, early voting historically favors Democrats and this year, it looks like it's going that way. In Iowa, nearly half a million ballots have already been requested, 45 percent from registered Democrats. Only 30 percent from Republicans and in Ohio, and we all know it gets no more important than Ohio, it is closer, but Democrats are still handily ahead. Thirty-six percent of ballots so far registered Democrats, 29 percent that have been requested are for Republicans.

Now, just to give you an anecdote that underlines how significant this can be, in 2008 in North Carolina, early voting won it for the president. Based on votes cast only on Election Day, he lost the state to John McCain. John McCain got 58 percent of the votes cast on Election Day. That's an overwhelming margin, right? But Obama won the state. He had built up such a big lead in early voting that he won.

It was the first time a Democrat had won in the state of North Carolina in 32 years. There's a statistic today on North Carolina where early voting started yesterday that's going to shock you and I've got that to share with James Carville, political contributor and Democratic strategist and Erick Erickson, CNN contributor and editor of OK, great to see you. So Erick, let me start with you,, interesting especially since we're talking about North Carolina. These numbers have got to scare you.

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know to a degree, they do, although again, Democrats typically do, do well in early voting overall, but when you look at some of the margins, for example, in Ohio, Green County (ph) outside of Dayton, Ohio has seen this shift from Democrat to Republican. Montgomery County (ph) where Dayton, Ohio is I believe, that one has actually drawn very closer to the Republicans. So they're drawing closer to where it was in 2004, when it was Bush versus Kerry, although the law has changed somewhat since then. They've been able to narrow it down from where Obama was. Then you look at Colorado where the Republicans are a little bit ahead of Democrats right now. So yes, Democrats typically are ahead in early voting, but I don't think it's as significant this year. It won't be a case like in North Carolina I don't think, where early voting was deciding these elections.

BURNETT: All right, well I'm saving my amazing North Carolina statistic for a moment because it's a real bomb and I'm not going to drop it on you yet. I want to bring James in. So James, you know anecdotal evidence of course does --


BURNETT: -- that early voting favors Democrats. They often are more working class. They don't have the flexible working hours, so early voting enables them to go out and have their voice, but you think the effect could be overstated?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it could be easily overstated because you don't know if people who voted early would have voted on Election Day anyway. It's not like you have two different people, a person may be in a hurry to vote. The early vote may be a highly motivated voter. That voter would have voted if it was on Election Day, so it's easy to over estimate this. One of the things if you noted that Democrats tend to do better with registered voters as opposed to likely voters, the Obama field operation (INAUDIBLE) is at a level of sophistication that we've never seen.


CARVILLE: My guess is, is that they're targeting these non- habitual voters to get them to early vote, but that's a pretty educated guess I would say.

BURNETT: I will take an educated guess from James Carville as--


BURNETT: -- close to fact, OK.

CARVILLE: I think that's what they're --

BURNETT: All right. I think -- I think we understand what you're saying, Erick, which brings me to why it seems you might need to be worried. In North Carolina, where they started early voting yesterday, where you said we couldn't see a repeat of last time, more ballots were actually cast yesterday on the first day of early voting than on the first day four years ago, 150,000 versus 117,000. Last time obviously this favored -- this was the big "O". This favored Obama. So now, you've got the Romney campaign saying we're pulling North Carolina on ads. We're so confident we're going to win and yet we have this record on early voting. I mean is this going to be a smart decision?

ERICKSON: Yes, you know I don't know that it will. When you actually look at the data in North Carolina it's interesting to see where the candidates are and Barack Obama, for example, hasn't gone to North Carolina, which I think if they really consider this a state seriously in play where by the way he only won by about 20,000 votes I think it was in 2008. I'm not necessarily sure that it's something Republicans should worry about --

BURNETT: Fourteen thousand I think.

ERICKSON: It might be for Democrats. You just don't -- OK yes you just don't know on these sorts of things early. One thing that Mitt Romney should be worried about though is that a number of states started voting early before the first presidential debate and I would guess there was an uptick of Republican voters after that. In fact people on the ground in the swing states tell me there was. But how many people voted before the first presidential debate versus after is a question -- I don't have that data handy and it's something the Romney campaign has to take into account.

BURNETT: James, what do they do when they want to get people to vote who might not vote otherwise, either campaign? You try to get them to go out and how appropriate is it? I mean providing bus and letting them get on the bus (INAUDIBLE) polling is that all OK?


CARVILLE: Well sure. It's OK to pay media to run a television spot. Why isn't it OK to pay a bus driver to take people to polls? Of course it's OK. What's illegal is to pay people to vote. You can do anything you want like that. You know for God sakes (INAUDIBLE) been in every campaign I've worked in we have drivers and people can call headquarters and request a driver and you'll send them out there. That's --

BURNETT: It's got financial value though.


BURNETT: It's got financial value doesn't it?

CARVILLE: Again, it has financial value to CNN if somebody buys an ad or not. If somebody wants a ride to the polls somebody -- a volunteer can go pick them up and take them to the polls. I mean I can't imagine that there's anything untold or illegal or even (INAUDIBLE). It's everything good about it.

BURNETT: All right, so let me ask you --

CARVILLE: And I'm sure that --

BURNETT: Let me ask you about Florida, James, because this is a state that certainly appears to be very tied right now, at least in terms of request for early ballots from Republicans and Democrats, tied at least according --


BURNETT: -- the absentee ballots that we have -- we understand here at CNN and the new poll from CNN obviously has Romney ahead by one point, well within the margin of error. But is it possible Florida could come back to, you know, Bush v. Gore?

CARVILLE: It could. I mean look if our poll is 49-48 and if you look among registered voters, Obama's actually up by seven. The Obama field operation and voter contact thing is very, very, very sophisticated. And as I said a little bit earlier in the show and I think it's something to watch, I suspect that they're talking -- what they would refer to as non-habitual voters in this early voting. But remember in -- the Republicans have traditionally been very good at this. They've always been very good at absentee ballot. They're a very organized party and I'm sure that they have efforts to get their people out here, too, and I go back to my original point. What we don't know is if that -- is an early voter -- would that same voter have voted on Election Day and that's the real question that's unanswerable here.

BURNETT: Right. Quickly to both of you -- Erick, why do we even have early voting? And why not just -- I mean I'll throw this out there -- get rid of voting on a Tuesday when people have to work, put it on a weekend, have it on one day. Stop with this early voting business. Have it on a day everybody can vote or even a Saturday and a Sunday.

ERICKSON: Oh, that goes all the way back to the founding of the country and the need to put it on a Tuesday given people's schedules and traveling and abilities to travel. Oregon now has it by mail. The one thing I have -- I was an election lawyer for a number of years and I've always had a concern with when you make it too general and too broad and too vote anytime you want, then suddenly it becomes less of a civic, national commitment. By the way, one point on those vans and carpooling people, one of the things reporters are going to start doing on Monday is calling around to rental car agencies in the swing states and seeing who's got the rental cars, who's got the vans, who's got the 15-passenger vans. That tells you a lot about ground game operation.


ERICKSON: Those rental contracts have already been signed.

BURNETT: And a quick final word, James, should we move it from a Tuesday here?

CARVILLE: You can't. In a federal election for a president of the Congress it is set in the Constitution as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. So, it is impossible. You could change state elections or other elections any date that you wanted to, but I don't know why -- I'm kind of with Erick here a little bit. I don't know if early voting has obviously declared constitutional, but that's not -- Election Day is set out in the Constitution.

BURNETT: Well, you know what I'm for, constitutional amendment here. I finally found one that I can support. All right thanks to both of you and I appreciate it.

Still to come, the new poll that I mentioned from the battleground state of Florida, the lead on this changes the race yet again. We're going to be joined by the top official on that. Plus, it's been 10 days since a group of senators sent the administration a letter asking what the administration knew about the Libya attacks and when it knew it and there's still no reply. Why? And the dirty side of politics.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a liar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just a pretty remarkable thing for a young man to say or for a man of any age to say.


BURNETT: Our second story, OUTFRONT, stonewalling on Libya. That's how vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan describes the president's response to the attack in Benghazi.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They refuse to answer the basic questions about what happened. You know, and so, his response has been inconsistent. It's been misleading and more than a month later we still have more questions than answers.


BURNETT: Now, that came as Republican lawmakers pressed the nation's top intelligence officials in a letter that reads -- I quote it -- "Our questions should not be hard to answer. The American people have a right to learn what our intelligence communities knew."

OUTFRONT tonight, Peter Brookes, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, and Nic Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Good to see both of you gentlemen again. Nic, let me start with you. Senator John McCain, Senator Graham, Senator Ayotte were the ones who sent that letter 10 days ago to the administration. CIA Director Petraeus was on it. James Clapper was on it. The assistant to the president for homeland security James -- John Brennan was on it and they asked who knew what and when did they know it? Is it fair to say that they're stonewalling?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: I don't think it's fair to say that at all. You know I think it is legitimate to ask what happened that night. Why did -- you know why did we lose four great American public service including Ambassador Chris Stevens. What lessons must we learn from that and how do we protect our diplomats going forward. That's the question -- Secretary Clinton, as you know, has ordered an investigation and a review of that entire process led by one of the most respected people in Washington, Ambassador Tom Pickering, retired ambassador, and that process should not be politicized. That committee needs to take the time and the care to give us the right answers and to give a complete investigation and you know I think what's happening is this entire process has been politicized because we're in the middle of an election campaign. And we ought to put our emphasis on finding out what happened and frankly we ought to put our emphasis in going after the terrorists who killed our ambassador and his three colleagues and I think that's where this debate should be.

BURNETT: All right, well -- and I want to talk about that point more in a moment. An interesting "New York Times" headline today saying that the man that the U.S. suspects being behind the attacks is literally snubbing the U.S. and walking around without being questioned on the streets of Libya right now. But let me ask you first, Peter, this. Earlier today State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was asked if the State Department was made aware of what the intelligence community knew within 24 hours of the attacks. That is that extremists led the attack and of course in contrast to what Susan Rice said on the Sunday talk shows, it was not spontaneous. Here's the exchange when that question was asked of Victoria Nuland.


VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We never talk about intelligence issues from this podium at all, so I'm not in a position to comment on that here today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a second. That's not true.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You talk about intelligence issues when you want to talk about them and when it's in your interest to do so.

NULAND: That's fair.


BURNETT: All right, it was sort of a funny moment. There was a laugh after that, but obviously --


BURNETT: -- this is a woman who in the days after the attack herself was asked whether it was a terrorist attack and said that it was not, so obviously they did talk about it at that time. Why the difficulty here answering this question of what the intelligence community we now know knew within 24 hours and why that did not end up in the public domain? PETER BROOKES, SENIOR FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well I mean I think candidate Ryan had it right, you know stonewalling. At a minimum they're slow rolling this. I mean there's no reason these answers should not be provided to the Congress. That's their duty as oversight of the executive branch. We have four dead Americans, tragically dead Americans and we deserve answers about this. I mean this is an issue of transparency. This is an issue of accountability and I think the American people deserve a lot better of this from the current government.

BURNETT: Nic, who would have made the decision to put Susan Rice on the Sunday talk show to make her the face and voice of the administration on this? Do you know?

BURNS: I don't know who made that decision, but what I do know is this. I think we've had -- I think we've had you know the -- some legitimate questions asked here. The president will have to answer some more of those questions on Monday night in the third debate and the questions will range from what happened, was there a security breakdown. Why did that happen and what are you going to do about it. But the other questions that I was suggesting I hope will be asked as well as to what we can now do to reduce the threat to our diplomats. I do think, Erin, as I said -- as I've said before on your program, it seems reasonable to me that you can't always trust the first reports that come in.


BURNS: The administration obviously felt that -- they believed that these -- that the attack had been inspired by the video. They changed their opinion when more information came in --

BURNETT: But they knew that within 24 hours --

BURNS: To me --

BURNETT: -- is what I still don't understand. Why didn't that end up in the public domain --


BURNETT: -- for so long? I mean isn't that a fair question to ask?

BURNS: But here -- but it's a fair question to ask. I think it is a fair question, but you know here's the problem. We now have a report about some information made available within 24 hours, but we don't know what other information was colliding with that because we on the outside of the government are not privy to everything the administration was being told. And I'd just like to stress this. On a nonpartisan basis, I think these are very honorable people, President Obama, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Rice. I am convinced they would never mislead the American people and I really think they need to be given a little bit of a break on that particular question.

BURNETT: All right, Nic, Peter, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Going to be a big topic on the debate Monday.

And still OUTFRONT, name calling, physical contact -- that is happening today in American politics this season. It's disgusting and yet somehow delectable (ph) and you're going to love seeing the tape of it and that's next. And Julian Castro (ph) hit the national spotlight with that speech at the Democratic Convention, the rising star, said he believes in shared prosperity, but is he sharing it with the wrong country -- an OUTFRONT investigation.


BURNETT: Our third story, OURFRONT, down and dirty. I know I can't resist smiling because there's something just wonderful about this. It's not just the presidential candidates. This election season has seen some of the nastiest battles for Congress ever. Here's Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison (ph), a Democrat, slamming his Republican opponent Chris Fields (ph) after the two started talking about their personal lives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about the fact --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are only paid $500 for child support.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talk about that.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You used that money to hurt my ex-wife --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a low life scum bag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- who I still love.


BURNETT: Also in the battleground state of Ohio, State Treasurer Josh Mandel called Senator Sherrod Brown a liar during their debate last night.


TREASURER JOSH MANDEL (R), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: You are a liar. You are lying to the people of the state of Ohio. You're falsely attacking me and I won't stand for it. You might want to try to push people around in Washington, but you're not going to push me around.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: It's just a pretty remarkable thing for a young man to say or for a man of any age to say in a political debate.


BURNETT: John Avlon assures me he's not as young as he looks. You can't be running when you're in high school -- all right. All right, it's got a little physical, too though. This is security stepping in during last week's debate between California House Democrats Brad Sherman and Howard Berman. I mean look at this. Look at this. You kind of almost rooting for the fight --


BURNETT: I mean -- yes -- OK that -- I mean, John Avlon -- John Avlon (INAUDIBLE) just want to play this video out because I love it. I mean what is causing this -- this anger? You know we -- we all like to play when I think it was in Russia or in Egypt, you know they come --


BURNETT: -- and we say oh and this is such an entertaining video. OK, it's happening right here.

AVLON: If we're not careful, it could happen right here. I mean, look part of this is the intensity of the final weeks, things get ugly and you're seeing that right now. There's a sense of desperation in some campaigns. People are fighting for their political lives and it gets personal. And one of the things about our politics in recent years, Erin, as you know, is that we've really forgotten that our political opponents aren't our personal enemies. We demonize people we disagree with and that can bleed over real quick into something ugly.

BURNETT: And I mean at the presidential level -- I mean it was interesting Candy Crowley said Oh I don't -- they didn't seem like they personally disliked each other, but some of those moments you see between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, it sure feels that way.

AVLON: Absolutely. No I mean tone comes from the top and the presidential debates didn't set a much higher standard than we're seeing in the congressional debates and I think we've got a clip of that, you know, they're really just intense interruptions and it almost looked like it was going to get physical for a second.



MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Governor Romney, here's what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies --

ROMNEY: No, I had a question --

(CROSSTALK) ROMNEY: -- and the question was how much did you cut them by --

OBAMA: You want me to answer a question --

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: I'm happy to answer the question.

ROMNEY: All right and it is?

OBAMA: Here's what happened.


AVLON: I mean politics ain't bean bag. We get it. This is tough stuff.


AVLON: But the stakes are higher in a presidential year and that's one of the reasons for the increased anxiety. I think there's also been a disrespect of the office. You know not just the interruption in that debate. That's a fairly mild form of it, but unfortunately you know we saw in the late Bush years with Bush derangement syndrome, the folks on the far left getting very over heated and certainly Obama derangement syndrome on the far right in this cycle, where so many of the civic and policy debates we should be having which can be great debates, get distorted by this demonization (ph) and frankly hate directed at the president, so that distorts the debates big time, too and leads to this kind of instability.

BURNETT: All right. Well thanks very much to John Avlon. Pretty amazing to find all that footage of pretty disturbing moments. As I said, disgusting, but yet delectable to watch.

Next, it's reportedly been more than a month since anyone has seen or heard from the beautiful and mysterious wife of North Korea's new leader. Where is she? Was she punished for being disloyal? Plus, the new poll and a new leader in Florida.


BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting from the front lines.

And we start with the stock market. It had a lousy day. All three of the major indices closed lower. The Dow was down 205 points, NASDAQ, 65. One of the big reasons was disappointing reports for the quarter from McDonald's, G.E. and Microsoft -- three big companies in this country.

And a doctor once the team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers has been arrested on charges of conspiracy to illegally distribute anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and painkillers to his patients. Richard Rydze faces a 185-count indictment for allegedly dispensing the drugs. Authorities declined to comment on whether or not to prescribe those drugs to the players. But in a statement, the U.S. attorney in charge of the case said Dr. Rydze is accused of using his prescription pad like a personal ATM.

Well, international and regional leaders met in Mali's capital Bamako today to discuss plans for ousting the al Qaeda rebels who are in control of the north of the country. The chairman of the regional group, it's called ECOWAS, said Mali needs an immediate deployment of international troops. The U.N. deputy secretary general said the organization is sending military planners to the area. E.U. leaders also addressed the crisis in Mali, saying the situation poses an immediate threat to North Africa and to Europe. Prime minister of Mali recently told me the country didn't have enough guns for its troops to fight the rebels and they needed guns from the United States, which so far has not done so.

Where is the North Korea's first lady? Ri Sol Ju is the singer who married North Korea's Kim Jong-un. She's not been seen in more than a month.

Now, some media reports claim she has angered elder leaders by wearing a brooch. Just look at her in these pictures, you can see the brooch on this outfit. All North Koreans are required to wear a specific badge that honors the nation's founder and she doesn't wear it. She wears other brooches.

Now, others say it may not be this at all. She could be pregnant. Gordon Chang is author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World," and tells OUTFRONT it could actually be both. His guess is that she is both with child and in trouble politically for failing to show sufficient respect. He says the pregnancy would not account for disappearance from public view.

He says that is more likely due to turmoil within the regime involving Kim Jung-un and other things she apparently did that angered some people was we saw her outfit there with the green dress. She often dresses in very pretty, colorful clothes, which is not the standard apparently for the first lady in North Korea.

It's been 442 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, sales of previously owned homes fell in September. Now, that may not sound great to you, but economists we spoke with say the decline makes sense because it was a bigger than expected gain in August. So, don't get depressed.

Now, our fourth story OUTFRONT -- the Florida sunshine. Well, today, it looked like it was shining down on Mitt Romney. A brand new CNN poll shows the Republican candidate ahead in the Sunshine State. It is perhaps the most crucial of the swing states, home to 29 electoral votes.

Now, the lead is within the margin of error. Romney is only ahead by a point over the president. Our last poll, though, back in August had the president ahead by four. So, it's the swing that the political team at CNN draws attention to, the four-point swing.

Among women voters, 53 percent of the electorate in 2008, the president is ahead. But his support has dropped dramatically. In August, the president was leading by 12 points and now he is ahead among that group by just two points. And that, of course, is within the margin of error.

And as for the 50-plus crowd, they make up about half of the Florida voting population. And right now, they are leaning towards Mitt Romney, 56 percent to 43 percent.

And there was some more good news for Romney in Florida, and this was because the largest newspaper in central Florida, "The Orlando Sentinel", which covers a key battleground area, endorsed the Republican candidate. Four years ago, that same paper had endorsed President Obama.

And today, the editorial board wrote, "While the nation's economy is still sputtering nearly four years after Obama took office, the federal government is more than $5 trillion deeper in debt. It just racked up its fourth straight 13-figure shortfall. We have little confidence that Obama would be more successful managing the economy and budget in the next four years."

All right. So, why has the president lost ground in this state? That is the key question tonight and joining us to talk about it is Democratic congresswoman from California, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Great to see you, Congresswoman. It's always a pleasure.


BURNETT: Let me -- let me your state chose President Obama 51 percent to 48 percent over John McCain. Obviously, that was a crucial victory for him. But now, according to this latest poll -- and I know they're up and down and all over the map -- but there was a big swing in this, trailing Mitt Romney.

What happened?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, look, Florida is always, always a very close race in the presidential election. This year will be no exception.

I think that one thing that's important to keep in mind is that Florida has gone with the incumbent president in every election since 1984. But the key thing is if you look at polls in the last 18 days, the Obama campaign began our building of our grassroots ground operation back in the beginning of the 2008 campaign and we have never left Florida.

We have a ground game that is superior to the Romney campaign and if you look at our turnout operation when it comes to early voting, we've actually, when it comes to absentee balloting, which Republicans usually have a big advantage of, we have actually closed that gap in their advantage by more than two-thirds this time. And we have our vote now program. So, we have a very serious and significant ground operation that we expect is going to make sure that President Obama will win this state again.

And --



BURNETT: And I know a lot of people have given you credit for that ground game and having a lot more offices on the ground. I mean, there's no doubt about it.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: A hundred and nine across the state of Florida.

BURNETT: Yes, that's a fact. But what about some of the issues, as this breaks down, not just the elderly voters split that we just showed in our poll, but among women voters. Fifty-three percent of the electorate in 2008. In August, in our poll, women voters, it was a 12-point spread in favor of the president. Now, a two-point spread.

I mean, that's a dramatic plunge. You're a woman who's passionate about the president. That's got to frighten you a little bit, doesn't it?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, no, what frightens me is that Mitt Romney's total lack of commitments to making sure that when it comes to insuring that women have equal pay for equal work, that he's actually committed to that. He wouldn't even answer the question in the debate the other night when asked point-black whether he would sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

He's got Romnesia which is a new affliction only suffered by Mitt Romney who seems to have forgotten anything that he said during the Republican primary. Like that he would have vetoed the DREAM Act. It's a big deal in Florida. We have a lot of young dreamers who, thanks to President Obama's deferred action program, are now able to stay in this country. Mitt Romney would have vetoed the DREAM Act and believes in saying to the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country that they should just self-deport.

In Florida, the issues the election will come down to -- the economy, Medicare, Social Security, immigration and the issues important to women. That's why President Obama will win Florida.

BURNETT: All right. Although again, with those voters over 50, Mitt Romney, again, in our poll leading now 56 to 43, which, you know, may surprise some who think that Medicare push on that ticket was something older people wouldn't like. It doesn't seem to be the case. What about this endorsement from "The Orlando Sentinel"?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Overwhelming though, Erin -- overwhelmingly, Erin, when seniors are asked whether they think that -- like Mitt Romney's proposal that we should turn Medicare into a voucher system or if we should continue to make sure that that health care safety net is there, they overwhelmingly oppose Mitt Romney's plan and we're continuing make sure we educate seniors about that and think that they will support President Obama.

On "The Orlando Sentinel" or any other newspaper, you know, newspaper endorsements are important. There are a large number of significant newspapers across the country. I expect President Obama will ultimately be endorsed by most of them as he was in 2008.

BURNETT: But this one was a switch.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The ground game though is really --

BURNETT: But this paper endorsed the president in 2008. And you know, you heard the quote we said, $5 trillion deeper into debt, fourth straight 13th figure shortfall. We have little confidence he could manage the economy better in the next four years.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the bottom line is, I think the last thing that Florida voters want is to go back to failed policies that Mitt Romney embraces that would take us back to a time when we focused our tax policy on millionaires and billionaires. Mitt Romney's proposed $5 trillion in tax cuts skewed towards the wealthy and all of the economic objective analysis --

BURNETT: But what he says is --


WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It will increase taxes on the middle class.

BURNETT: To be fair, to be fair, what he said is he wants an overhaul on tax policy. He wants to close loopholes and lower rates.

I understand your point. You're going to say which loopholes, so it's hard to get a number. I totally get your point.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, even when asked the point blank question.

BURNETT: But it's not fair to say that he doesn't want an overhaul in tax policy. He's not just saying --

WASSERMAN SCHUTLZ: I'm sorry, what he's saying is that he's going to put $5 trillion in tax cuts in plan skewed towards the wealthy, he's going to cut education, cut health care, he's going to increase spending in the Pentagon, in defense spending by $2 trillion, which they haven't asked for and they don't need and not tell us which deductions he's going to eliminate, and then add some, too, and how does that add up? It's just ridiculous.


BURNETT: I know you're right, a lot of people (INAUDIBLE). But "The Washington Post" said today that Mitt Romney's plan on defense was much better for this country than Barack Obama's. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Look, at the end of the day, we need to make sure we have a balanced approach. We -- President Obama understands and has put forward a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan that would ensure that we can -- make sure that we can continue to make the kinds of investments we need in education and health care, so we can out- educate and outcompete the rest of the world, make sure that we keep our nation safe. He ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home as he promised.

Now, we need to take at least half of that money and invest it in making sure that we can continue to rebuild our economy for the middle class out. That's the best way to move us forward.

BURNETT: Well, thank you very much. Good to see you and appreciate your taking the time tonight.

And OUTFRONT, a rising star in the Democratic awards a multimillion contract to a South Korean company instead of an American one. Critics say that deal doesn't add up.

And the presidential candidates stop attacking each other so they can roast each other.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Earlier today, I went shopping at some stores in midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.




BURNETT: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And we begin in Beirut where state media reports a top intelligence official known for his anti-Syria stance was assassinated in a massive car bomb attack today. At least two others were also killed.

Nick Paton Walsh was there and I asked him who did it.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, there's been no claim in responsibility yet, and police continuing to investigate. But already, those allies are the pro-Western coalition of Mr. Wissam al-Hassan was close to has stepped forward and blamed the Syrian regime and its allies here inside Lebanon for the attack. That's something, of course, that Syria has denied, condemning this attack itself.

But really, as this blame game continues, and it will in the days ahead, the fear is that will spur reprisals, retaliation across the country. We've seen already tires set alight; blocking streets here in the capital, shots exchanged in the northern city of Tripoli capital, on a well-established sectarian fault lines, the fear really being this assassination could spark dark days ahead here in Lebanon -- Erin.


BURNETT: And thanks to Nick Paton Walsh.

Now to the U.K. where the Pakistani teenager was shot by the Taliban for promoting girls education is being treated. And today, doctors released the first photos of Malala since she arrived at the hospital on Sunday.

Dan Rivers is in London and I asked how she's doing.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, some really encouraging signs from the hospital where Malala Yousufzai is being treated. A new photo showing that she's out of a coma now. Doctors saying he's able to write, she's able to stand, that she has thanked people for their support and interest in her case -- stressing she's not out of the woods yet, but it all does go very well.

They're still yet to hear whether she can speak, because she has achieved in (INAUDIBLE) to help her breath. Hopefully over the next few days, they'll know that. But it's a remarkable recovery so far, given that she arrived in the U.K. just a few days ago -- Erin.


BURNETT: Thanks so Dan.

And now, let's check in with John King. He's in for Anderson Cooper, with the look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".

Hey, good Friday night, John.


We're keeping them honest next on "360".

New information in connection with that attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi, including the U.S. ambassador. Significant details ahead on who knew what and when. I'm joined from Benghazi by David Kirkpatrick of "The New York Times" who interviewed one of the suspected ring leaders of the attack, as well with us tonight, CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend and former CIA officer Bob Baer.

Also, secret files hidden for decades finally released by the Boy Scouts of America, detailing more than 1,200 scout leaders and volunteers banned from the organization after being accused of inappropriate contact with boys. Scout leaders themselves dubbed these records the perversion files. Gary Tuchman went to Boy Scouts headquarters looking for answers. His report ahead.

We'll also bring you the latest poll numbers out of Florida and what they mean ahead of Monday's third and final presidential debate.

It's all at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. See you in just a few moments, John.

And now, our fifth story OUTFRONT: questions tonight from a rising star in the Democratic Party.

Mayor Julian Castro's city, San Antonio, has awarded a contract worth several hundred million dollars to a solar power company. Not a solar power company in the United States, whereas we've reported, some of those that have been subsidized recently under the stimulus have gone bankrupt. No, one in South Korea, beating out those American companies on their own home turf. Critics say this deal does not add up.

And Ted Rowlands went to find the story in tonight's OUTFRONT investigation.



TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro talked about investing in the American people. But his city, the home of the Alamo and the Riverwalk, has decided to send hundreds of millions of dollars in profits from a 25-year solar energy deal to South Korea.

It is the largest public utility solar project in American history. And American solar companies are upset that they didn't get it.

SANDY FARDI, OWNER, 1SOLTECH: It was San Antonio's choice and it's just important for us to move beyond the disappointment.

ROWLANDS: Sandy Fardi owns Dallas-based 1SolTech, a solar power company that partnered with a group of other U.S. companies on a San Antonio bid. They believed they had not only the experience need to pull off the project, but also the financial backing.

FARDI: Our consortium was really a combination of all size companies, all kinds of experience.

ROWLANDS: And they thought they'd either win the deal or lose to another group with similar backing and experience.

(on camera): But the winner was called OCI, a relative unknown, because they had never produced a single megawatt of solar power. UCILIA WANG, JOURNALIST: It was surprising to hear of OCI winning that contract because there are other better known project developers in the U.S.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): Ucilia Wong writes about the solar power industry for and "Forbes". She says South Korean companies with help from the Korean government had been pushing hard to win a larger share of the solar market.

WANG: It was just unusual, I guess, for San Antonio, to pick a company that does not have the experience.

ROWLANDS: Not only did OCI have limited experience, but their bid came in at a higher price. According to multiple sources familiar with the bids, OCI offered to sell San Antonio power for 11 cents per kilowatt hour. One of the U.S. consortiums with more solar experience was offering a price of 9.8 cents.

And according to the utility's bid rules, price was the highest factor for consideration given a weight of 40 percent. The utility says their agreement with OCI prohibits them from releasing details on pricing.

Mayor Castro sits on the board of the city's public utility, CPS, and along with the rest of the board, voted to OK the contract with OCI.

On October 10th of last year, three months before the deal was announced, Castro traveled to South Korea with a trade delegation from San Antonio. On October 12th, he cut his trip short and flew to Washington to attend a state dinner at the White House in honor of South Korean's president, Lee Myung-bak. Castro had a seat at the head table with Presidents Obama and Lee.

We asked the White House why the mayor of San Antonio was invited to sit at the head table with the Korean president but were not given a response.

(on camera): We asked repeatedly for an interview with Mayor Castro but were told he was too busy to talk to us. But his office did issue us a written statement.

(voice-over): It says, "At no time did Mayor Castro meet with officials of OCI Solar during the selection process -- not during the vetting process, not in Korea, not in Washington."

The utility says the Koreans simply had the best proposal.

LISA LEWIS, CPS ENERGY: I would say actually there were companies that were bidding on this or consortiums that were bidding on this that were competitive. Ultimately, it just came down to OCI Solar put together a better package.

ROWLANDS: OCI declined our request for an interview. Since they won the San Antonio contract, they have launched several other solar projects. As for the fact that San Antonio residents will be sending hundreds of millions of American dollars to Korea for energy over the next 25 years --

LEWIS: I honestly don't think we looked at it that way. We looked at it as bringing jobs to San Antonio and as far as we're concerned, those are American jobs. And frankly, the energy industry itself is pretty international.

ROWLANDS: At 1SolTech, they say despite disappointment over losing the San Antonio job, they are optimistic about the future.

FARDI: I think every one of us here thinks the future is bright to manufacturing in the U.S.

ROWLANDS: Ted Rowlands, CNN, San Antonio.


BURNETT: And please, we welcome your feedback on that excellent report by Ted Rowlands.

And OUTFRONT next, who knew that Barack and Mitt are funny?


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I've already seen early reports from tonight's dinner. Headline, "Obama embraced by Catholics. Romney dines with rich people."




BURNETT: For a change, the nastiness between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney was all in good fun. The two candidates shared the same stage last night at the Al Smith Charity Dinner in New York and exchanged -- yes, not punches or anger -- one- liners and laughs.


ROMNEY: I'm glad to be able to join in this venerable tradition. Of course I'm pleased that the president's here. We were chatting pleasantly this evening as if Tuesday night never happened.


I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening, because he'll laugh at anything.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everyone, please take your seats. Otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them.


It's been four years since I was last at the Al Smith Dinner and I have to admit some things have changed since then. I've heard some people say, "Barack, you're not as young as you used to be. Where's that golden smile? Where's that pep in your step?" And I say, "Settle down, Joe, I'm trying to run a cabinet meeting here."


ROMNEY: The campaign can require a lot of wardrobe changes. Blue jeans in the morning, perhaps, suits for a lunch fund-raiser, sport coat for dinner, but it's nice to finally relax and to wear what Ann and I wear around the house.


OBAMA: Tonight's not about the disagreements governor Romney and I may have. It's what we have in common, beginning with our unusual names. Actually, Mitt is his middle name. I wish I could use my middle name.


ROMNEY: People seem to be very curious as to how we prepare for the debates. Let me tell you what I do. First, refrain from alcohol for 65 years before the debate.


Second, find the biggest available straw man and then just mercilessly attack it. Big Bird didn't even see it coming.


And by the way, in the spirit of "Sesame Street", the president's remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter "O" and the number 16 trillion.


OBAMA: This is the third time that Governor Romney and I have met recently. As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well-rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate.


ROMNEY: I've already seen early reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: "Obama embraced by Catholic Catholics. Romney dines with rich people."


OBAMA: I'm still making the most of my time in the city. Earlier today, I went shopping at some stores in midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in midtown.



BURNETT: We don't even know. It looks like some of those jokes were, you know, written and created by the men themselves.

Fun way to leave it on the Friday night. Have a wonderful weekend. See you back here on Monday.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.