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Obama, Romney Set for Final Debate; Interview With Florida Senator Marco Rubio; Interview with Stephanie Cutter

Aired October 22, 2012 - 18:00   ET



RONALD REAGAN, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

MICHAEL DUKAKIS, DEMOCRAT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is this the time to unleash our one liners?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That answer was about as clear as Boston Harbor. Now --

BILL CLINTON, DEMOCRAT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are in the grip of a failed economic theory and this decision better be about what kind of economic theory you want.


Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot leave (ph).

BARACK OBAMA, DEMOCRAT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.



BLITZER: The final face-off of the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney and President Obama debating foreign policy tonight.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": With the race tied and election just two weeks from tomorrow, the stakes for both men tonight are extremely high. Good evening, everyone. I'm Anderson Cooper.

BLITZER: And I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're now less than three hours from the third and final debate of this presidential campaign. * WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're now less than three hours from the third and final debate of this presidential campaign, this one at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. And as we learned from the first two face-offs, these contests can have a huge impact on the race for the White House.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They certainly have so far.

Mitt Romney's strong showing in the first debate helped him catch up to the president in the polls and President Obama's aggressive debate in the second debate left us with a race that's a dead heat tonight.

Let's get a preview of tonight's battle and Mitt Romney's game plan with CNN national political correspondent Jim Acosta, who is in Boca Raton, Florida -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson and Wolf, Democratic and Republican operatives here in the debate spin room are expecting another fiery debate tonight between President Obama and Mitt Romney. And in the words of one top Romney adviser, the GOP nominee's campaign expects the president to come out swinging.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For Mitt Romney, debate night may be shaping up to be another fight night with President Obama. While both men will be seated at a round table, a setting engineered for a more subdued discussion on foreign policy, the candidates will be sitting near one another.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Have you looked at your pension?


ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

ACOSTA: So, if things get testy, Romney and the president won't have to cross a stage to invade each other's personal space as they did at the last debate in New York. They may already be too close for comfort.

Sources tell CNN Romney's sparring partner, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, has been trying to get under the GOP nominee's skin in debate practice sessions to prepare him for what may be another fiery night.

A senior Romney adviser tells CNN the campaign expects the president won't come out like a lamb, something Vice President Joe Biden may have telegraphed with his own body language today in Ohio.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I realize that maybe looked more symbolic than it is.

ACOSTA: Among the night's flash points, an article in "The New York Times" stating the U.S. and Iran may begin direct talks about that nation's nuclear program. A reporter tried to ask Romney about the story before a flag football game between his staff and traveling press corps.

QUESTION: As president, would you be open to one-on-one talks with Iran?


ROMNEY: ... one-on-one talks with the president.

ACOSTA: Romney may also try to press the president on the U.S. Consulate attack in Libya, as he did at the last debate.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

ACOSTA: But after that moment did not go as planned for Romney, he dropped that line of attack from his stump speech.

ROMNEY: The Obama campaign has become the incredible shrinking campaign.

OBAMA: This is the moment when the rise of the oceans begin to flow and our planet began to heal.

ACOSTA: The Romney campaign released a Web video teasing the president for his comments to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. But the Obama campaign says it's ready for that, noting what Romney told CNN earlier this year

ROMNEY: This is without question our number one geopolitical foe.


ACOSTA: One thing worth noting in the debate spin room before this debate even gets started, the last two losing presidential candidates, John McCain and John Kerry, have both been furiously spinning here in the spin room.

John McCain a couple of hours ago accusing the president of having a policy that he called abject failure in the Middle East and John Kerry just a few moments ago to a group of reporters here saying that Mitt Romney cannot Etch A Sketch his way through foreign policy.

It's always getting started, Wolf and Anderson.

BLITZER: Getting ugly already. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

Let's dig a little bit deeper, let's get a little bit more on what the president's planning to do tonight.

Joining us now is his deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter. She's joining us also from Boca Raton.

Stephanie, thanks very much for coming in.

You know that Mitt Romney, one of his attack lines for a long time, has been he is sick and tired of hearing the president apologize for America. How's the president going to answer that tonight?

STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, let's see if Mitt Romney brings it up because it's been fact-checked numerous times, in fact, fact-checked false.

If he brings it up, I think the president will be ready to talk about his strong and steady leadership over four years as president and keeping the country safe, restoring our standing in the world, but also ending the war in Iraq, bringing to a end war in Afghanistan, breaking the back of al Qaeda, bringing bin Laden to justice, holding China accountable for unfair trade practices. There's a long litany of accomplishments from this president and strong and steady leadership as the commander in chief.

You know, we're looking forward to tonight. We would love to contrast the president's record with Mitt Romney's record. He doesn't have much of a record. He's given six foreign policy speeches with zero policy in it. The only thing we know about Mitt Romney's foreign policies are a series of blunders and lots of bluster. Blunders on the world stage. We remember his foreign trip, Wolf, where he insulted our greatest allies, and bluster on Iran, Afghanistan, you name it.

So this should be a good debate tonight.

BLITZER: Here's a little clip from a new Romney ad going after the president.


NARRATOR: Most Americans believe we're heading in the wrong direction. Higher deficits. Chronic unemployment. A president who admits he can't work with Congress.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can't change Washington from the inside.

NARRATOR: But he says he's only had four years. That's all Mitt Romney needed. He turned Massachusetts around, cut unemployment, turned the deficit he inherited into a rainy day fund all with an 85 percent Democratic legislature. Some can't live up to their promises. Others find a way.


BLITZER: All right. The basic point he's making is that this president has not been able to really work with Republicans during these nearly four years. What do you say about that?

CUTTER: Well, first I want to address Mitt Romney's record. You know, Wolf, I'm from Massachusetts. I know what Mitt Romney's record is in terms of reaching across the aisle. There isn't one. You know, he cornered himself off in the statehouse from every other legislature.


BLITZER: He did get health care reform passed in Massachusetts with the Democrats in the majority.


CUTTER: He did, but as you know, Wolf -- he did and the train had left that station by the time he got on board. We all know that.

You know I worked with Ted Kennedy. I'm very familiar with that. In terms of his record in Massachusetts, I just listened to that ad, he did not reduce the deficit. He left a deficit for his successor, Deval Patrick.


CUTTER: He left that state in debt, the largest per capita debt of any governor in the country. That's the real record.

BLITZER: Why hasn't the president been able to work with Republicans to pass important legislation over these four years?

CUTTER: Well, Wolf, he has, actually, payroll tax cuts, trade deals, a number of pieces of legislation.

But you know what's been going on in Washington. You're aware of what Mitch McConnell said years ago when the president was first being inaugurated, that his number one goal to make the president a one-term president. We now know that Republicans were conspiring on the night of the president's inaugural to block anything from getting through so the president wouldn't have a record.

Well, he does have a record, through his own initiative, through executive actions to move this country forward. He has also passed monumental legislation, whether it's holding Wall Street accountable, making sure they play by the same rules as Main Street, historic health care reform. After 70 years of trying, we have historic health care reform now.

People all over the country benefiting from it, tax cuts. On average, middle-class families' taxes are $3,600 less than they were when we took office. This is a real record of accomplishment. The president turned the economy around. We have more work to do. He has an agenda to do that. We do need willing partners. He has always talked about this election as breaking the fever.

The reason we don't have a deficit reduction deal, the reason why we're dealing with sequesters is because Republicans won't give an inch, won't give another nickel of taxes from those at the top. You know, that's part of what this election is about and the president's said we hope that this breaks the fever. We hope that Republicans will finally come to the table and want real progress for this country, rather than just partisan politics.

BLITZER: Stephanie Cutter, thanks for joining us.

CUTTER: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: Well, you just heard from Stephanie Cutter with the Obama campaign. Our panel weighs in next. We will be right back.


COOPER: Welcome to debate night in America.

Let's talk to our panelists. CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us, CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," also former Obama special adviser Van Jones, and CNN political contributor and Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.

Fareed, let's talk about tonight's debate. It's on foreign policy, but on a lot of issues, there's not a lot of daylight between these two men. What is tonight really about?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Foreign policy debates are different from domestic policy debates.

In domestic policy you look to see whether the candidates agrees with your general world view, your policies. What would he do about various issues from the economy to abortion? Foreign policy is really more about character.

The American people don't get into the details. It's really what kind of a person is this? In some ways, I would say -- I know this is contrary to conventional wisdom -- it's almost more important because it's really about the big thing that people care about.

COOPER: And about -- whether it's on whatever the issue, it's projecting your character on the international stage?

ZAKARIA: What kind of a leader are you? What kind of values, what kind of judgment do you bring?

Yesterday, actually, October 21, 1960, was the fourth and final Nixon-Kennedy debate and it was on foreign policy and it was all about Cuba. Kennedy was able to hold his own with Nixon and that mattered a lot at the end.

COOPER: If you're President Obama, David Gergen, Gloria, what do you try to do tonight? Do you try to get specifics out of Mitt Romney?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that there's a trap that the president may have in store for Mitt Romney and that's basically he will lay out his position and basically and then ask him, OK, when's your alternative?

And Romney either has to say I agree with you on Iran, for example, or I agree with you Syria, or he will go the right of him and then President Obama can say, ah, yes, you sound like George W. Bush. You want to take us back to war. I think Obama wants to run tonight as the peace candidate appealing to women voters, trying to be reassuring, giving a sense, I will provide security. I got bin Laden, but I'm going to also keep us out of war. How about you, Mr. Romney?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's been a lot of discussion inside the Romney campaign about how you deal with the question of assertiveness without seeming to bellicose, because you don't want to push those women voters away.

You have a war-weary nation you're dealing with and so you want to say, I want to be more assertive. Do I want to let the generals on the ground make the final determination of Afghanistan? To an American public, that sounds like you don't want to withdraw in 2014.

So it's a very delicate balance Mitt Romney has to strike because you're right. The president will pounce on him and say, when would you then get out of Afghanistan?

COOPER: We have heard from Mitt Romney over the campaign about the apology tour. Do you expect to hear that again tonight?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think you are going to hear him challenge the president on, as Fareed was saying, presidential strength, that this president has wavered, that this president has apologized for the country instead of held up what is exceptional about it and that this country won't be respected in the world unless we're able to project American strength.

COOPER: But just on the facts, he's not been getting around apologizing saying I'm sorry about this. There was an apology over the burning of Korans.

But Mitt Romney, I don't know that he has a different position on it.

CASTELLANOS: There's a certain poetic license that's allowed in politics, and I think Romney is taking advantage of that.

COOPER: That's one way to put it.


CASTELLANOS: He's taking advantage of that, but the president did go abroad and say that -- and point the finger at America as being a country that's at times overreached, been hard to work with and understandably trying to earn credibility to open new lines of dialogue with the world, fine.

But one thing this president has not done in many ways is project American strength. He's...


COOPER: Except with drone strikes in Pakistan. CASTELLANOS: Well, drone strikes and bin Laden. Good for him.


CASTELLANOS: But on the other hand, we have also seen this president cuddle up to Medvedev and say I will be more flexible on missile defense after the election.


BORGER: Is that cuddling?


COOPER: Van Jones?


COOPER: What are you anticipating this evening?

VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER FOR GREEN JOBS, ENTERPRISE AND INNOVATION, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY: Well, first of all, I think President Obama has done an extraordinary job and everybody knows it.

First of all, it's not just bin Laden. It's not bin Laden. He's eliminated and wiped out half of the leadership of al Qaeda. That is an extraordinary achievement. When you talk about Libya, which I'm sure we're going to about all night, let's not forget about what happened to Ambassador Stevens, who I knew, was a reaction to his success of Libya at getting a democratic process to happen there without losing a single American soldier.

He's a towering figure in his achievements on foreign policy. And part of the reason I think you see Republicans wanting to say these things about him that just are not is they want to diminish him. I think Fareed is right. This is about his character. And on the world stage, he has been able to be a steady hand, he's not been a cowboy and we have benefited as a country from it.

CASTELLANOS: This is a president who says he's supported Mubarak before he undermined Mubarak. He has -- the world has seen an indeterminate president on much foreign policy.

COOPER: Well, we will talk about that a lot tonight.

He is the one person who is always by Mitt Romney's side, even took this picture of the governor eating dinner tonight. Now Romney's body man as they call him is spilling some secrets to CNN -- ahead, what frustrates him the most about this campaign and what's in Romney's fridge. Details on that ahead.



COOPER: We are counting down to tonight's final presidential debate.

Up next: how President Obama's preparing.

Plus, one of Mitt Romney's key supporters is being called slippery, evasive, and vague. We're talking about Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and he's here live. We will talk to him ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back.

We are counting down to tonight's final presidential debate, this one at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.

CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is there with details of the Obama game plan.

Jessica, the campaign released a new ad today. What does it tell you about the president's strategy tonight?


It tells us a little bit about his two-pronged approach tonight. First, it's to establish the little bit of the commander in chief test for Governor Romney and secondly to press Governor Romney on what he would differently than the president has in office. Take a look at this ad.


NARRATOR: President Obama ended the Iraq war. Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops there and called bringing them home tragic.


YELLIN: The ad goes on to press the same point about Iraq and the fact that Governor Romney has suggested leaving troops there as well.

You could expect the president to bring up the following three points which were released in a memo written by Senator Kerry, who, Anderson, as you know, has been playing Governor Romney in debate prep.

He asks, for example, how exactly would you, Governor Romney, finish the job against al Qaeda and what would you do differently than the president has done? This is a memo from the Obama campaign released today. How would you end the war in Afghanistan? What will you do differently to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

You see a theme here, Anderson. The idea is, you can expect the president to be on the offensive to the extent he can be pressing Governor Romney tonight to explain his differences. And one of the themes is, if he's not going to back the president's policy, the president is going to argue in a number of cases that the governor is -- that Governor Romney is looking for more military action in a number of places around the world.

So endless war vs. more of the same could be the way you see the president frame this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you.

His name was widely floated as a potential Romney running mate and even though he didn't get the nod, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida remains one of the GOP's rising stars and certainly a major Romney supporter.

Senator Rubio is joining us now from Boca Raton.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure by now you saw that really sharp attack on you in Sunday's "New York Times" by the columnist Frank Rooney, who wrote, among other things, he said, you present rosy assumptions and slippery generalizations. You're -- quote -- "maddeningly evasive. Politicians sell us low-tax, no-pain fantasies. They traffic in vagueness, treat us like toddlers. Rubio certainly did."

He was talking about a briefing you gave some journalists in New York about how Romney would pay for the across-the-board tax cuts that he is proposing.

I wonder if you -- A., if you read the article and you want to respond to that columnist.

RUBIO: I'm actually a subscriber, but I have must have missed that one.

Not surprising that I would have some negative write-up in "The New York Times."

But, look, the bottom line is there's some folks that believe that the economy's a limited thing and the job of government is to go and divide it up among us by raising taxes on some and not raising it on others. I just don't believe that. And I think many of us in the limited government movement don't believe that.

We think the economy can always grow bigger. We believe that everyone can be better off, that you don't have to leave anybody else worse off in order to help other people be better off. And I think history proves that possible, especially in America's dynamic 20th century of economic growth.

I think we can exceed that in the 21st century. Now, we are going to have some difficult and important decisions to make, politically difficult decisions to make on things like Medicare. But the sooner we do those things, the better off we are all going to be, the less disruptive they're going to be. And I have been campaigning on that in Florida since I ran for the Senate in 2010.


BLITZER: I want to get to Medicare, but what specific deductions do you think the people in Florida should be anticipating if Mitt Romney's elected and he has this 20 percent across-the-board budget cut? Their home mortgage deductions? Their charitable deductions? Their child care deductions? Which deductions do you want to see go away?

RUBIO: Look, there's all kinds of deductions. Look, I can identify a bunch of deductions right now that you would look at and say, well, they don't make a lot of sense. And we should have a debate about those.

BLITZER: Tell us which ones.


RUBIO: Well, for example, a yacht. You can have a yacht as a second home and take that as a second home deduction. There's all kinds of things.

Members of Congress get a deduction for their living expenses up to a certain amount in Washington, D.C. We can go through all of them. That's not the point.

The point is what Governor Romney has outlined here is a plan. And his plan is this. He's going to lower corporate and personal rates and he's going to make up the difference by reexamining the tax code and getting rid of exemptions that do no longer make sense.

There has to be a process to do that. And that's what he is saying. He's going to work with Congress to identify which are the ones that don't make sense. That's how you get things done in a bipartisan way. That's why he was successful in Massachusetts. The opposite approach is to come in...


BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting. The criticism that he's getting and you got in that column in "The New York Times" is you're telling the voters, just wait. We will tell you -- we will give you the bad news later...


BLITZER: ... which deductions we're eliminating. Right now, we're only going to give you the good news. There's going to be a 20 percent tax cut.

RUBIO: But there isn't going to be any bad news. That's my point.

My point is that if you are going to lower people's rates, if you're going to lower their rates, that's going to replace the -- the exemptions that are going to be -- that are going to be taken out. That's the whole point of tax reform. The whole point of tax reform is not to raise people's taxes. It's to simplify the tax code. But what some are asking for is which specific exemptions are you going to take out. And my answer is, you know, I can identify some I think don't make a lot of sense, but you're going to have to do that through a process working with the entire Congress. You're going to have to get that passed out of both chambers.

And I don't think the right approach for Mitt Romney is to go in saying, "These are the specific deductions, one through 80, and either you do it my way or no way at all." That's just not the way you get things done.

BLITZER: And you think the eliminations...

RUBIO: You give an outline of what to do.

BLITZER: You think the elimination of the deductions, the loopholes, the tax credits, whatever, that's going to add up to the $5 trillion or whatever the reduction in tax revenues would be that Mitt Romney's proposing?

RUBIO: Yes. Yes, that's exactly his point. His point is that those deductions are going to match up, that he's not going to add to the deficit by going through tax reform. And I think that's possible.

And when you add into that, when you add into that, by the way, the growth element of it, because we believe, as I think history bears out, as John F. Kennedy believed, that if you lower tax rates you incentivize economic activity that grows the economy, which generates more revenue for government.

Look at the last decade. People criticized the left, especially the Bush tax cuts, but during the last decade, we had historic increases in revenue for government, despite the Bush tax cuts. Unfortunately, we also had historic increases in spending that offset the increases in revenue. Economic growth creates revenue for government.

BLITZER: The other big issue in Florida right now -- and you know this more than anyone, since you're a politician from Florida, there's a lot of concern among Florida's seniors that -- that Romney is going to go ahead and create this voucher system for Medicare. You say Medicare is the best system right now. So here's the question. Why tinker with something that's working?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, Medicare is working for people that are current beneficiaries, and it's not going to change for current beneficiaries. And I always use the example of my mother, who's a beneficiary of Medicare. I will never support anything that undermines that program for her.

But I understand that people in my generation, 20, 30 years away from retirement, if we continue doing what we're doing now, there isn't going to be a Medicare for us. And so my generation is going to have to accept that our Medicare may very well be very different than the one our parents had. It will be the best thing in the world. It will still function very well, but it will be different.

For example, wealthier seniors are going to have to pay a little bit more for their Medicare in the future. The way the program is delivered, we may have choices, we may be able to have a premium support every month where we can go out and shop for Medicare plan of our own, like we do now for some seniors in Medicare Advantage.

And I think the sooner we start making those changes, again, for future beneficiaries, the less disruptive those changes are going to be, and the less of a need there's going to be -- the elimination of the need there's going to be to do anything to current beneficiaries right now. There's not going to be any changes for them.

BLITZER: All right. Senator, unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. Senator Rubio down in Boca Raton. Beautiful Boca Raton, Florida. Getting ready for the big debate tonight. Appreciate it.

It's easy for candidates to make promises during a campaign. Not always so easy to keep those promises. John King is -- he's over at the Magic Wall. He's getting ready to break down some of the big debate pledges. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Debate hall at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, getting ready for the big debate, final debate tonight between the president of the United States and the Republican nominee.

We certainly can expect to hear a lot of promises at tonight's debate about how the candidates will handle foreign policy, but those promises are often very hard to keep.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is over at the Magic Wall taking a closer look. It's one thing to make a promise when you're a candidate. Another thing to deliver when you're in office.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And every president goes through this. President Obama tonight will have the experience he didn't have four years ago. He's been the commander in chief. He was the senator then. He made some promises. Bill Clinton.

Go back to any first-time candidate for president, the challengers always say things. Let's go back to 2000. George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, talked about rebuilding alliances right here in this hemisphere, and he said overseas he would have a humble foreign policy.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. We're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war.


KING: Fight and win war, said President George -- Governor Bush in this 2000 debate. Of course, he went on to be the president that started the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, America's two longest wars, and many would argue a lot of money and a lot of nation building in both of those places, whether you think successes or failures.

This is one President Obama will remember. Candidate Obama in the debates. This is the Democratic primary debate four years ago.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll lead by shutting down Guantanamo and restoring habeas corpus in this country, so that we offer them an example.


KING: Guantanamo, Gitmo, the terrorist detention center in Cuba still open. Now president promised -- the president promised to close it in his first year in office. Still open today.

And this one, Wolf, you'll remember this very well. This is from this campaign, Governor Romney on a topic we know will come up tonight.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The right course in America is to stand up to Iran with crippling sanctions, indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Geneva -- the genocide convention, put in place the kind of crippling sanctions that stop their economy. I know it's going to make gasoline more expensive. There's no price which is worth an Iranian nuclear weapon.


KING: Interesting comment there. Gas prices would go up, no price he wouldn't pay, Wolf. You'll remember this. Bill Clinton said he wouldn't deal with the butchers in Beijing, or the dictators in Damascus. He had pretty steady relations with Beijing and the old Hapa al-Azan (ph) in those days.

So every candidate goes through this transformation. They have to step over the credibility threshold, but if you're President Obama you remember some promises you couldn't keep. If you're Governor Romney, hopefully, you're mindful of history.

BLITZER: President Nixon opened the door to China, as we all remember. That was an historic moment, indeed. You see how young President Obama looked over four years ago? George W. Bush back in 2000. Youthful.

COOPER: Yes. It's always startling. Wait until you see how old we look by the end of this evening. As much as this is about foreign policy, do you guys have any doubt that we're also going to be hearing a lot about the economy, that they're going to try to bring up the economy as much as possible?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I think both of them will try to do that, and President Obama has been pivoting on that subject ever since these debates have started and even before. He has the line, he says the nation building I want to do is the nation building right here at home in the United States.

I also think that is what Americans want to hear. If you look at polls, Anderson, over the last year and a half or so, there's been a dramatic falloff, even among Republicans, hard-core Republicans. You know, they don't want an assertive foreign policy. They essentially want no foreign policy. They want the United States and the president, in particular, to devote his attentions to the U.S. economy.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What they don't want to do is spend money on wars, period. It becomes a budget issue, the green eye shades. We saw that all during the primaries. Ron Paul was getting applause during these primary debates.

One way that the president can turn foreign policy into domestic policy is to say that what Mitt Romney wants to do is take you back to the George W. Bush years, not only on intervention but also on economics. And, you know, that's a -- that's a pretty good construct, because last time I checked, George W. Bush is not that popular and neither are the wars.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Anderson, this is only ostensibly a debate about foreign policy. This is really the last opportunity both candidates have to address the public to make their closing arguments to try to close the deal. And for that purpose, they will try to go through foreign policy, as Fareed suggested, to get to the economy, for example. That's particularly what Mitt Romney wants to do tonight: to reinforce his economic argument.

I think Barack Obama particularly wants to go through these foreign policy issues in order to reach out to women.

COOPER: Just by holding his own, though, can Mitt Romney win or can Mitt -- by holding his own, is that all Mitt Romney needs to do?

BORGER: He needs to be credible. He has to be presidential which is why some of the Romney people today were saying to me don't expect the rat-a-tat-tat, the finger pointing, et cetera, that we saw at the last debate, although you never know. What they do say to Mitt Romney before he goes out on the stage, I was told, is kind of slow down, because he had this tendency to get kind of revved up, and they don't want that to happen tonight.

GERGEN: That's interesting. Because I do think that we'll talk about this more, but I think there's a tentative quality about Mitt Romney. We just saw it in the clip. When he gets on foreign policy, he's just not as smooth. ZAKARIA: But I think Gloria's right. There is a fundamental -- there's a philosophical problem here.

Romney wants to be -- wants to attack and attack hard and attack Obama hard, but he can't come across to a warmonger to a public that is really very war weary. So if you look at his Virginia Military Institute speech, there's a lot of bluster about how, you know, he'd do this better and he'd be tougher.

But if you ask yourself on specific foreign policy issues, where does he disagree with the Obama administration, one thing, which is he would try to get the Saudis and the Qatars to arm those Syrian rebels we can be sure are not Jihadis. Well, good luck. I mean, that's the big foreign policy divide, you know.

BORGER: And also on Afghanistan, he said in that same speech that he would evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the advice of the military commanders.

COOPER: Well, on Iran, there is the slight difference of not just having the capability -- I mean, he'll say for a capability of a nuclear...

ZAKARIA: He walked that back in the Virginia speech. He went back to the bright line being Iran not having nuclear weapons. You're right, that he had, prior to that, said nuclear weapons capability. And these things are carefully constructed, so obviously, he doesn't want to come across as too belligerent.

BORGER: But I think it reflects the tensions within the Republican Party on foreign policy. There's two sides of Mitt Romney's brain on this.

One is a lot of George W. Bush advisers who are talking to him, who are sort of invested in the policies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The other part is some of the Romney-ites, if you will, who are sort of saying, "No, no. You've got to distance yourself, because you are speaking to a war-weary public."

GERGEN: I think Romney's success in the first debate came because he stopped worrying about the tensions in the Republican Party.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: And he spoke to the electorate as a whole, and that -- propelled him forward.

COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. You're going to meet, coming up, the man who sees Mitt Romney in his most unguarded moments. We'll meet the candidate's body man and learn some secrets of Romney's life on the campaign trail. A lot more coverage ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: These days he sees more of Mitt Romney than the candidate's own wife. We're talking about his personal assistant or Romney's body man as he calls himself. He shares unguarded moments of life out there on the campaign trail. He's tweeting candid pictures of the candidate, and he reveals some secrets to CNN's national political correspondent Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each time Mitt Romney walks out on stage, there's a young, 25-year-old campaign aide who is never far away.

GARRETT JACKSON, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN AIDE: Great crowd tonight! Going to be fun.

ACOSTA: His name is Garrett Jackson, or as he's known on Twitter, Mitt's body man. That means he's the candidate's personal assistant.

JACKSON: I feel like I have one of the coolest jobs in the world.

ACOSTA: On and off and on the campaign plane, Jackson rarely leaves Romney's side.

JACKSON: You use this one.

ACOSTA: At campaign rallies, he makes sure the mike is working and the press is a safe distance away.

Jackson is also busy snapping photos to supply his Twitter followers with behind-the-scenes glimpses of Romney's White House run. Here's Romney getting miked up before the town-hall debate, sharing a hug with his wife Ann before strolling out on stage and sharing a laugh with President Obama before last week's Al Smith benefit dinner in New York.

(on camera) How did they get along?

JACKSON: Great. You know? It's really great they can put politics aside and come together for a great cause like that so...

ACOSTA: You didn't sense any tension?

JACKSON: No, not at all, not at all.

ACOSTA: Maybe a little?

JACKSON: Maybe when they were dinging one other out there but no.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Right before the dinner, Jackson posed with the Romneys and joked he was their chaperons.

(on camera) Who is Mitt Romney? JACKSON: You know, I think the American people are finally getting to see him for the person he really is. You know, the portrait that was painted of him before now was just so inaccurate. It was always so frustrating.

ACOSTA: You would get frustrated?

JACKSON: So frustrated.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Jackson also sees Romney in his most unguarded moments: at a staff flag football game on the beach, watching his Patriots play the New York Jets.

Often on the trail Romney and Jackson are the last people to see each other at midnight and first to say good morning at 5 a.m.

JACKSON: Usually in the morning, we'll enjoy a bowl of cereal together. Honey Nut Cheerios, Honey Nut Chex, Cocoa Puffs.

ACOSTA (on camera): Cocoa Puffs?

JACKSON: Cocoa Puffs.

ACOSTA: The governor eats Cocoa Puffs?

JACKSON: He loves all the sugary kids' cereals. It's hilarious. I'm embarrassed at 25 to eat them, you know. He's 65.

ACOSTA (voice-over): On the campaign bus, CNN got to take a peek at Romney's stash of snack food.

JACKSON: This is where the gov spends all his time. This is...

ACOSTA (on camera): By the food?

JACKSON: By the food. The guy is constantly eating. I don't know how he's in such good shape.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Peanuts are a staple.

JACKSON: The peanut M&M's. We live off this. And, of course, the peanut butter and honey sandwiches. He likes chunky peanut butter.

ACOSTA (on camera): Can't be creamy?

JACKSON: I mean, he'll eat creamy.

ACOSTA: He'll eat creamy?

JACKSON: He's not that picky, but he prefers chunky.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Next, we checked the fridge, where we find the boss's favorite, Cherry Coke Zero.

JACKSON: We're got the Cherry Cokes. ACOSTA: Cherry Cokes.

JACKSON: It's kind of a mess. We usually have water.

ACOSTA (voice-over): And a few surprises. There's beer for his traveling press secretary.

JACKSON: A Miller lite for Rick Gorka.

ACOSTA (on camera): There's a whole case there, I noticed.

ROMNEY: You guys are going to help get us elected.

ACOSTA (voice-over): after this stop in Florida, Romney works the rope line, something Jackson says the GOP nominee insists on doing with each visit.

JACKSON: We're really touching some -- you know, some people that come up to him sometimes, just in tears. You know, telling him the story. It just -- it gets him emotional, too.

ACOSTA (on camera): People come up to him crying?


ACOSTA: Is there one person that you remember that stuck in your head, "I remember this person."

JACKSON: There are a few that jump out at me. One in South Carolina, where a lady was in tears. And he just embraced her for a solid minute as she cried on his shoulder. And, you know, I don't know all that was said, and he didn't want to share it. You know, he said this was a personal moment for her.

ACOSTA (voice-over): While there are obvious boundaries between a candidate and his body man, the two remain close.

(on camera) What is it?

JACKSON: You know, I...

ACOSTA: What is it? Is this a friendship?

JACKSON: I've described in the past, it's like a -- you know, uncle and adoring nephew type relationship. And I've been so fortunate.

ACOSTA: Uncle Mitt.

JACKSON: Uncle Mitt, exactly.

ACOSTA: Hours before the final presidential debate, Garrett Jackson picked up a few more photos for his Twitter followers. There are pictures of himself and Romney sitting at the round table during the GOP nominee's debate walk-through. It appears he has one of the best seats in the house, sitting where the president will be -- Wolf. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

You know, he really does love those peanut butter -- you know, honey jelly sandwiches. I think when I was on the bus with him about a year ago, he had a glass of milk, a little peanut butter and jelly. He had it with chocolate milk.

COOPER: It's like we're going on MTV "Cribs." When you open the refrigerator and there would be Cristal there.

BLITZER: It was cereal. What do you -- you like Honey Nuts? What do you -- in the morning, what do you eat?

COOPER: I have a shake, actually.

I want to know how you get that job.

BLITZER: Twenty-five years old.


BLITZER: I know some of the assistants from other presidents. They've all gone on to do huge, huge things.


BLITZER: It looks good on a resume.

COOPER: Well, tonight's debate...

BLITZER: Get into a good -- get into a good graduate school.

COOPER: You get into another line of work? Is that what you're saying?

BLITZER: Good job.

COOPER: All right. Tonight's debate is likely to produce a couple more catch phrases. You know, those candidates' remarks, intentional or not, that seem to immediately go viral or make it onto late-night TV. Jeanne Moos is keeping track.


BLITZER: This presidential campaign has already produced a bunch of buzz words and slogans that have quickly gone viral and taken on a life of their own. CNN's Jeanne Moos, of course, has been keeping track.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just in case you've missed the entire presidential campaign so far...

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With all due respect, that's a bunch of malarkey.

MOOS: ... let us catch you up with Catch Phrases 2012.


ROMNEY: I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

OBAMA: The private sector's doing fine.

ROMNEY: I love Big Bird.


MOOS: Sure, they may make you want to scream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations! Big time...

ROMNEY: Corporations are people, my friend.

MOOS: Most of them were delivered off the cuff then took on a life of their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Corporations are people's my motto.

ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS SENATE CANDIDATE: No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts.

MOOS: They are quips that just won't quit. For instance, when President Obama accused Mitt Romney of playing Robin Hood in reverse.

OBAMA: It's Romney Hood.

ROMNEY: And if I were to coin a term, it would be Obamaloney.

MOOS: Obamaloney? Romney Hood? What's next?

OBAMA: I think it's called Romnesia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's very cute, Mr. President, but what are you going to do for the future?

MOOS: Actually, don't give the president and his speechwriters all the credit. The term suggesting Governor Romney has forgotten his previous positions...

OBAMA: You've probably got Romnesia.

MOOS: ... the Obama campaign may have caught "Romnesia" from Twitter. Politico reports the term was first tweeted months ago.

But most catch phrases just come tumbling out.

ROMNEY: And he brought us whole binders full of women.

MOOS: And the next thing you know...

BIDEN: He started talking about binders.

MOOS: ... the opposition is brandishing a visual aid.

Take when a senior Romney adviser described moving from the primaries to the general election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's almost like an Etch-a-Sketch. That had Stephen Colbert reaching for the Etch-a-Sketch, shaking it up in an empty paint can, pulling a rabbit out of it.

(on camera) But you know who the Etch-a-Sketch comment was really good for? The makers of Etch-a-Sketch. Right after the comment, sales of these things spiked about 1,000 percent.

(voice-over) Catch phrases get etched on T-shirts. They get turned into viral videos.

OBAMA: You didn't build that.

MOOS: Even an empty chair.

CLINT EASTWOOD, ACTOR: What do you mean, shut up?

MOOS: Can become a catch phrase. In this case, aimed at President Obama when he blew the first debate.

The good news is that a year or so after the election...

OBAMA: We might have a case of Romnesia.

MOOS: ... we're all going to have Obamaromnesia, a condition which erases all 2012 catch phrases.

ROMNEY: And mom, you did build that!

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

OBAMA: Man, you've definitely got Romnesia.

MOOS: ... New York.



RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

MICHAEL DUKAKIS, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Is this the time to unleash our one-liners?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That answer was about as clear as Boston Harbor. Now... BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're in the grip of a failed economic theory, and this decision better be about what kind of economic theory you want.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got to answer this. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifice. You cannot lead.

OBAMA: I do not understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.