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Senate Candidate Under Fire for Controversial Rape Remarks; Libya Investigation Continues

Aired October 24, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A GOP Senate candidate suggest pregnancies from rape are God's will.

Off-the-record comments by President Obama made public on who he will have to thank if he wins a second term.

And new ammunition for critics of the president's response to the Benghazi attack in e-mails obtained by CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The presidential candidates are racing around the country today trying to cover as much ground as possible in battleground states with only 13 days until the election. President Obama has rallies in Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada. He wraps up with a late-night rally in Las Vegas.

Mitt Romney is heading in the opposite direction, beginning in Nevada, then flying to Iowa, finishing up in Ohio. Our correspondents are out in full force and they're covering the candidates and they're talking to voters.

This hour, we begin with Mitt Romney's day out there on the campaign trail and his campaign's response to a Senate candidate's controversial remarks about abortion and rape.

Our senior national correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with Governor Romney.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with so few days left before the election, this is no time for a distraction, but just as Democrats are hammering Mitt Romney on women's issues, one of the GOP nominee's own endorsements for a strict anti-abortion candidate has come back to haunt him.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In what's now a horse race to the finish, Mitt Romney was rounding up votes in Nevada and trying to stay on message on the economy.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The president doesn't understand what it takes to get this economy going. He doesn't have a plan to get jobs for Americans. I do. And that's why I'm going to win. ACOSTA: Romney's in the midst of a swing state blitz, flying from Colorado to Nevada to Iowa to Ohio, then back to Iowa, back to Ohio and then onto Florida and Virginia.

But a new distraction cropped up in Indiana, where Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate, made jaws drop with his comments on why abortion should be outlawed in the case of rape.

RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I came to realize life is that gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.

ROMNEY: This fall, I'm supporting Richard Mourdock for Senate.

ACOSTA: The problem for Romney, he'd already taped this endorsement ad for Mourdock. A Democratic super PAC pounced, churning out its own Web video, tying Romney's appearance in the spot to other controversial statements made by Mourdock.

MOURDOCK: It's by partisanship that's taken us to the brink of bankruptcy. We don't need bipartisanship.

ROMNEY: I hope you will join me in supporting Richard Mourdock.

Senator Kelly Ayotte.



ACOSTA: It didn't take long for some top Republicans to start distancing themselves from Mourdock's comments. Romney surrogate and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte canceled an appearance with Mourdock.

MOURDOCK: The comments were made. The comments have been misunderstood.

ACOSTA: Soon after that, Mourdock held a news conference to apologize.

MOURDOCK: I don't think God wants rape. I don't think he wants that at all because rape is evil. I abhor evil.

ACOSTA: Despite the controversy, the Romney campaign said it's not calling on Mourdock to pull the endorsement ad. The Romney campaign released a statement saying he disagrees with Mr. Mourdock and Mr. Mourdock's comments do not reflect Governor Romney's views. "We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest, but still support him."

On a conference call with supporters, a Democratic Party official said that's not far enough.

BRAD WOODHOUSE, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: He should go further and demand that the ad featuring him speaking directly to camera on Mourdock's behalf be taken off the air.

ACOSTA: Democrats say the controversy should serve as an election warning to women voters who were upset by Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments on abortion over the summer.

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

ACOSTA: In his own appeal to women, Romney says the election boils down to who can best help families.

ROMNEY: This election is about your family and families across this country, and the choice we make will have an enormous impact on your family.


ACOSTA: Romney's continued support for Mourdock is a sign of just how close the race has become come. Were he to withdrawal that endorsement, he might alienate social conservatives. And that could be costly in an election in an election that will likely come down to which campaign does the best job of turning its base -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you.

A reminder of what's at stake in Nevada, six electoral votes up for grabs. President Obama won the state four years ago. But the race now is tight. The latest polling showing the president holding a two-point advantage.

Now to Colorado, one of the states that the president is visiting today as well and it has nine electoral votes and it went for President Obama in 2008. A Colorado poll taken early this month, early this month shows another very, very tight race.

President Obama wrapped up his rally in Colorado just a little ago.

Kate Bolduan is here. She has got more on that and some other important news.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Another battleground state, Colorado, Wolf.

The president says he's going to pull an all-nighter just to stay on schedule. He is calling his two-day battleground state tour a campaign marathon extravaganza, but he is also getting attention for an interview he did with an Iowa newspaper.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is on the road with President Obama, and she's joining us now from Denver.

Jessica, let's talk about his schedule in a second, but first, let's talk about that interview he did with that Iowa newspaper, and that awkwardness over the interview with "The Des Moines Register."


That's right. The president granted an off-the-record interview to "The Des Moines Register" in order to try to win their endorsement. And the publisher went public with a blog post expressing their frustrations it was off the record.

After that was posted, the White House let them put it on the record. So we now know a little bit about what the president is planning in his second term. He said, among other things, that he thinks this fiscal cliff crisis will be resolved within six months if he is reelected, and there will be $4 trillion worth of deficit reduction in it.

And he also said he believes he will get an immigration reform bill done in a first year. One of the things he is quoted saying is the following -- quote -- "Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. So I'm fairly confident that they, meaning the Republicans, are going to have a deep interest in getting that, meaning immigration reform, done."

One of the assumptions by the Obama team, Kate, is that if they win, and they believe they will, it will be with the help of Latinos that would break heavily in the Democrats' favor -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: A very growing group of voters, that's for sure.

Jessica, the president has quite a travel schedule ahead, which you will be following. Where is he headed and what's the message?

YELLIN: So, we already have done today -- we were in Iowa first, now we're in Denver.

The president is now flying off to Los Angeles, where he will tape the Jay Leno show, and he has an overnight stop for a rally in Las Vegas, and then he is flying overnight into Florida which is where we head.

One of the themes he is hitting he's taking this Romnesia message that we have heard him talk about and say it really translates into a matter of trust, that Romney is somebody that changes his positions, but that the president is somebody who doesn't. Listen to this.


OBAMA: We joke about Romnesia. But all this speaks to something that is essentially your choice and that is trust. When you choose a president, you don't know what is going to come up.

When I was running in 2008, we didn't know necessarily that we would see the financial system completely implode. We didn't know that the auto industry might go under. We didn't understand what might be happening in terms of an Arab spring. But what you were voting on is somebody who you felt you could trust to work for you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: And, Kate, you might ask why he is doing a campaign blitz this far before Election Day? Because the early vote is so important to this campaign. And we're visiting states where early voting has already begun or is beginning.

And I will wrap with this mention. During the rally, they pointed out they have vans waiting outside the rally to take folks gathered here to cast their early ballots.

BOLDUAN: It's all about getting them to vote, and that -- they are trying very hard to do that.

Jessica Yellin on the road for us, thank you so much, Jessica.

BLITZER: We will follow up on what Jessica was just reporting.

We have some very sensitive questions to ask about President Obama's support among white voters.

Also, we have obtained government e-mails sent right after the attack on the U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. The president's critics, they are pounding.


BLITZER: We're staying on top of the controversy dogging President Obama surrounding the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya.

BOLDUAN: That's absolutely right.

CNN has now obtained a government e-mail that shows the administration was notified soon after the attack that an Islamic group was claiming credit.

Let's bring in CNN intelligence correspondent Suzanne Kelly for more on this.

Put this all in perspective for us, Suzanne.


Well, Wolf and Kate, the release of the e-mails certainly has provided more ammunition for critics, who say the administration has not been forthcoming with what they knew about the Benghazi investigation, but they also highlight a growing frustration among those in the administration who are saying, enough already, let's get on with bringing those responsible to justice.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have said it and I will say it one more time. No one wants to find out what happened more than I do. KELLY (voice-over): Secretary Hillary Clinton came out firing today after e-mails obtained by CNN made clear that shortly after the attack began the State Department notified officials from the White House, the top intelligence agency, the Pentagon and FBI that an attack was underway and that Ambassador Stevens was in the compound.

Just two hours later, another e-mail indicated the Libyan extremist group Ansar Al Sharia was claiming responsibility for the attack on social media web sites.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: So what you saw in the e-mails in that realtime was a real description and if you noticed, there was no talk of demonstrations or other things. And it was clearly very early identified with a terrorist affiliate of AQIM.

KELLY: Clinton said, quote, "cherry picking a document does not tell the whole story. An initial claim of responsibility is not solid intelligence."

CLINTON: Posting something on Facebook is not in and of itself evidence. And I think it just underscores how fluid the reporting was at the time and continued for some time to be.

KELLY: The group denied being responsible the next day. In fact, intelligence officials do not believe this Libyan group is solely responsible.

A U.S. government official tells CNN that the latest intelligence suggests a core group of suspects that launched the initial part of the attack on the mission was somewhere between 35 and 40.

Around a dozen of them are believed to have ties to either al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Still others part to be of the group and many said to be Egyptian jihadis. Still others were looters, say officials, and unarmed.


KELLY: Now a suspect in the attack is being held in Tunisia, where the U.S. has been denied access to him, according to Senator Saxby Chambliss.

He is, of course, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee. Now, CNN has been told that suspect's name is Ali Ani al Harzi. He's a Tunisian connected to extremist groups in North Africa. The U.S. first became aware of al Harzi when he posted on social media details of the attack while it was happening.

When he left Libya for Turkey, he was detained by Turkish officials at the request of the U.S. He was later transferred to Tunisia -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much, Suzanne Kelly in New York for us.

BLITZER: Virginia has not been a presidential battleground for a long time. We're talking a closer look at the reasons why and the get-out-the-vote efforts that could tip the race one way or another.



BLITZER: One of the U.S. Senate races to watch is in Wisconsin. It pits a former governor and Bush Cabinet official against an openly gay congresswoman.

Stand by. You're going to see and hear some of the fireworks under way right now.


BLITZER: We're keeping very close watch on battleground states, including one that may -- repeat -- may be the most important of all in this election. We're talking about Ohio.

A new "TIME" magazine poll shows President Obama is leading Mitt Romney in Ohio right now 49 percent to 45 percent. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey includes likely Ohio voters and those who have already cast a ballot. The poll shows the president holds a 2-1 advantage, by the way, over Romney among those early voters.

BOLDUAN: And now to an increasingly important presidential battleground state, Virginia.

Our John King spent some time there talking to voters, pollsters and of course politicians. And he is here at the magic wall.

Hey there, John.


In 10 straight presidential elections, Virginia had been reliably red, and then 2008 came along. You see it blue for President Obama. Let's pop it up and make it a little closer, because I want to show you something. See what I just drew in, the Northern Virginia suburbs? Everywhere else in the state, John McCain and Barack Obama ran even. The president's big margin was 234,000 votes statewide and all of it came from right here.


KING (voice-over): Urgency in a place once reliably red. Mitt Romney's path to the White House runs through Virginia, and to win it, he must run strong in the fast-changing suburbs within an hour's drive of Washington.

WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: It's all about Northern Virginia. There have been so many people who have moved into Northern Virginia, particularly from the Northeast, from Democratic areas, that they turned a solid red state into a purple state.

KING: Recent polls show a dead heat. But Republican pollster Whit Ayres like the trend line.

AYRES: If you look at the dozen polls in Virginia taken before the first presidential debate on October 3, Obama was ahead in all 12. If you look at the eight polls taken after the first presidential debate, Romney was ahead in six out of the eight, and now it's a dead- even tie.

KING: To prove its 2008 win here was no fluke, team Obama knows it needs to run up a margin of 200,000 votes or more in the Northern Virginia suburbs. If it delivers, it can ruin Governor Romney's night before the polls even close in the Midwest.

REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), VIRGINIA: The epicenter of this outcome is going to be right here in Virginia.

KING: Democratic Congress Gerry Connolly knows Romney's moderate tone of late is aimed at the suburbs. He's betting it won't work.

CONNOLLY: I think there is a trust factor with that. My constituents remember the Republican primaries. They don't suffer from amnesia. And I think that's the test for Mitt Romney.

KING: A lunchtime visit to Harold and Cathy's proves the president has deep suburban support, but there are some cracks.

Mona Phillips is a registered Democrat, but says she will vote Republican for president, as she did last time.

MONA PHILLIPS, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: From the get-go, Mr. Obama promised so many things that I didn't believe he could do it. And he has proven that he couldn't do it.

KING: Robert Stevens is an independent and Obama 2008 supporter.

ROBERT STEVENS, UNDECIDED VOTER: And it was something different for the country, something that had not happened before, electing a black president. So I got caught up in that a little bit. But I think he's a disappointment.

KING (on camera): You don't like what you got, but you're not sold on the alternative?

STEVENS: Absolutely not. At this point, I don't know who I'm going to vote for.

KING (voice-over): Living in a battleground means there is no escaping the ads or the get-out-the-vote effort.

STEVENS: I kind of hang up the phone. I want to make my own independent decision. I don't want anybody shoving stuff down by throat. It's kind of scary. I thought I would have been there by now, but I'm not. But I will be by Election Day.

KING: Tense final days in a place long known for its historic battlefields, but a newcomer to the world of presidential battlegrounds. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And obviously in these final 13 days, both campaigns putting emphasis on the ground game. And both say they have what it takes to win.

Here's why Republicans say they're in better shape this year than four years ago, one million voter door knocks, they say, five million voter contacts in the past couple of months and they say improved early voting from the 2008 election. That's why Republicans say they will win Virginia, but here is why Democrats say, no way, we will keep it in the Democratic fold.

The Obama campaign has more than 60 offices statewide, Latino registration up nearly 20 percent from four years ago. The president thinks those votes will go his way. And in the last two months, 60 percent of the new voters who have registered, Wolf and Kate, under the age of 30, again a constituency the president says should be his.

BOLDUAN: John, real quick, let's talk about a state just south of Virginia, a state we have been watching very closely, North Carolina. We're shifting that, yes?

KING: We shifted it. I want to come back. Let me get these out of the way and come back first to the 2008 map, when North Carolina, like Virginia, was one of those surprise states that President Obama was able to turn from red to blue.

But we are shifting it. We had it as a tossup state this morning. In our new electoral map, we are shifting it to lean red. The Obama campaign says not so fast. They vow to still compete in North Carolina to the end, and we know they have a very effective ground operation in North Carolina.

However, in talking to both campaigns and talking to veterans in both parties in that state, we think it's safe to say now that North Carolina at that moment is leaning Governor Romney's way. What does that do when we do that? He was at 191 this morning. When you give him the votes from North Carolina, it gets him up to 206, so a bit closer to the president in the race to 270. That's just North Carolina, the rest of the gold, tossup states, crunch time.

BOLDUAN: You're watching it very, very closely.

John King at the magic wall, thanks, John.

BLITZER: We had Paul Begala told us here in THE SITUATION ROOM only a couple days ago, North Carolina, for all practical purposes, is gone from the Democrats. The president has not been there since he was at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. And that is a while ago.

Let's head to the Midwest right now and take a closer look at the lay of the political land in Wisconsin. It has ten electoral votes, and it went for President Obama in 2008. The latest polling shows the president with a six-point lead over Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, but it remains a toss-up on our CNN electoral map.

There's also a very heated U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, as well. Here is CNN'S Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in Wisconsin, it is known as the Senate race between Tammy and Tommy. It has been contentious, and it is extremely close.

(voice-over) On the right, Tommy Thompson. On the left, Tammy Baldwin. Now 70, he served four terms as Wisconsin governor and was George W. Bush's secretary of health and human services. She's 50, openly gay, and a 14-year veteran of the House of Representatives. Up for grabs is the Senate seat left open by retiring Democrat Herb Cole, which Republicans desperately want to help them win a majority.



ROWLANDS: Both sides are pouring in cash. A state record $40 million has been spent so far on this election, almost 3/4 of it coming from the money sent is being spent by groups not directly associated with the candidates but are very interested in the outcome.

DANIEL BICE, JOURNALIST: You can't turn on your TV right now without running into ads for Tammy and Tommy.

ROWLANDS: Daniel Bice has been covering Wisconsin politics for more than 20 years. This race, he says, is all about attacking the opponent.

BICE: She's trying to define Thompson as someone who was a good governor for four terms here, but no longer supports the interests of Wisconsin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tommy Thompson, he's not for you anymore.

BICE: He's trying to define her not as the nice Tammy Baldwin that you see on TV but as an extreme liberal who votes in a way that people in Wisconsin would not support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too extreme for Wisconsin.

ROWLANDS: There have been two debates, and the pundits seem to agree each candidates has a win. Polls conducted by Mark Kent Law School (ph) have shown them both ahead at times, but now...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now we're at a tied race. It's neck and neck.

ROWLANDS: The Marquette numbers show Wisconsin is extremely polarized, possibly due in part to the recent gubernatorial recall election. The presidential race is also close here. Many believe it will be very difficult for Tommy Thompson to win if Mitt Romney doesn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have as many ticket splitters as I think the Thompson campaign thought they might have had.

ROWLANDS: What you do have is a small percentage of undecideds whose votes will likely determine the winners in both the presidential and Senate races.

(on camera) And both candidates will have an opportunity to grab some of those voters on Friday when they square off for their third and final debate -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Ted Rowlands in Wisconsin for us. Thank you.

President Obama says if he wins reelection, there's one big reason why. We're going to talk about the racial and ethnic divisions in this campaign.


BLITZER: President Obama is being candid about the importance of the Latino vote in his reelection.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And we told you about the interview that he gave to "The Des Moines Register." The White House asked for it to be off the record, but after the newspaper's editor complained, the administration gave the go-ahead, and the paper released the transcript.

This paragraph jumped out to us. The president said, quote, "I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest growing demographic in the country, the Latino community."

BLITZER: Yes, when the president said that, he thought he was speaking off the record. But it became on the record.

Let's talk about the racial/ethnic divisions in this election right now. We're joined by three CNN senior analysts. Ron Brownstein is joining us, our political contributors Roland Martin and Alex Castellanos.


BLITZER: You saw the most recent NBC News/"Wall Street Journal"/Telemundo poll. Likely Latino voters' choice for president: 70 percent for President Obama, 25 percent for Mitt Romney. If it stays like that, Romney is probably not going to be elected.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It makes it tough, but fortunately, Ohio has one of the smallest Latino populations and populations of any of the important swing states. And right now Romney is pretty good shape in a lot of those other swing states.

But you know, Republicans have paid a price for the primary process that they went through. George Bush, open arms to, I think, a more open stance toward immigrants and to the Hispanic population. We haven't seen that in this Republican Party.

Now the good news, Marco Rubio, Susanna Martinez, there's another generation coming, but, it's not going to -- the cavalry's not going to arrive in time for...


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, during one of the CNN debates for the GOP primary, I will never forget a question from Twitter. The question was what will you do as candidates to attract Latinos to the GOP. That was the question, a softball. The answer was build a wall.

Did any of them actually hear the question? It was a softball question, and they all reverted to building a wall. And I e-mailed Matt Laredo (ph), the one Latino decisions, wanted to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), and he said, "What were they thinking?" It was a softball question. They couldn't even answer that question.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: One of the four dynamics of politics is the future doesn't have a vote in the room. The Republicans, the senior strategists in the party, from Alex to Karl Rove to Ed Gillespie, they all recognize they have to do better with Hispanics over the long run or else they're going to have a very hard time competing to win a national majority, largely because of the weakness of Hispanics. Mitt Romney has to get to 61 percent among whites, which means he could run as well among whites as any Republican challenger ever, as well as Eisenhower in '52, Reagan in '80 or Bush in '88, and still lose.

The problem is the current coalition is so heavily dependent on the votes of older and blue-collar whites, who are the most ambivalent and resistant, in many ways, to the demographic and racial change going on, and so there's very little leeway for the party to move in a way that most strategists believe they have to to try to court that Hispanic vote.

BOLDUAN: Alex, let me ask you just about that. Let's take a look at how President Obama's support broke down in 2008. You have among white voters, 43 percent, 55 percent for John McCain; African- American voters, 95 percent; and Latino voters, 67 percent.

BROWNSTEIN: This is a rapidly changing country.

BOLDUAN: And you even wrote in a recent column that -- that white voters is a problem, potential problem for President Obama. How big of a problem is it?

BROWNSTEIN: We have mirror image weaknesses in the parties. First of all, in 2008, Barack Obama became the first candidate ever to lose whites by double digits and win. And he was able to win because minorities are now 26 percent of the total vote, and double what they were when Bill Clinton was first election, and he won a combined 80 percent of them. If he wins a combined 80 percent of them again, which he seems to be on track to do, largely because of Hispanics, and they represent at least 26 percent of the vote, can win a national majority with only 40 percent of whites.

The problem is he may not be able to get there. In some polls, he is below 40 percent of whites. And which says that we have kind of mirror-image weaknesses in the parties. Democrats are having troubles holding whites, Republicans minorities.

MARTIN: Although, you have to examine that 40 percent.

BOLDUAN: Let's look at these numbers, while continuing this conversation, of likely voters, their choice for president. Look at the racial break-down right there.

BLITZER: This is the most recent poll we have. This is the "Washington Post"/ABC News poll. Forty percent right now white voters for President Obama, 57 percent for Mitt Romney.

There was another poll, an NBC News poll, that came out earlier in October that had President Obama, Roland, with only 37 percent of the white vote.

MARTIN: There's also where are those white voters? Because obviously, you saw with -- with the strong folks in the Tea Party coming out, largely whites, there were people in the Tea Party movement.

And so you look at where the white voters are in the battleground states. Iowa. Not many Hispanic and black folks in Iowa. I was just in Des Moines on Saturday. New Hampshire, exact same thing. But even -- people say Obama could not get blue-collar workers, but look what's happening in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And so I understand 40 percent, but in the states he needs, he is actually doing better among those white blue-collar workers...

BOLDUAN: Let me just ask this question, though. If you look at that 37 percent in one poll and 47 percent, we talk about white voters for President Obama, what is the problem, though? Even if it's not in key states.

BLITZER: Why is he getting such a relatively small percentage of the white vote?

CASTELLANOS: I think for a couple of reasons. I think it has very little to do with race. Because the country has not changed that much and neither has the race of the president in the United States in the last four years. But an economy collapses, who does it hit? It hits the white working class very hard. We've seen the men -- it hit...

BLITZER: Blacks are staying solid for Obama. And that's... BROWNSTEIN: No Democrat has won a majority of white votes since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Essentially, we have seen a generation-long process in which much of the white electorate, especially that white working class, has grown skeptical that the government will ever do anything that benefits them. For example, very dubious of the health- care plan.

As Roland correctly pointed out, the exception to the pattern right now is the critical last line of defense for President Obama in this race, which I think is running much better among working-class whites in the upper Midwest than anywhere else. And that "TIME" poll that came up today in Ohio, 42 percent among non-college whites, compared to of about 35 percent...


BROWNSTEIN: The auto bailout and the case against Bain has had more resonance with whites in the upper Midwest than anywhere else, and that right now is kind of the thin line that is keeping Barack Obama afloat.

BLITZER: A census projection that came out a little ago, that minorities now are expected to be the majority in the year 2042. Hold your thoughts for a moment. We have a lot more to talk about.

We'll talk about some of the concerns that we could see another presidential recount like we did in 2000. The Obama camp seems to be playing on those fears in a brand-new ad. Stand by.


BLITZER: As we get closer to election day, there's more talk about whether we could see another presidential recount like we did back in 2000. Let's bring back our guests: Ron Brownstein, Roland Martin, Alex Castellanos. Guys, listen to this new Obama campaign ad that has just come out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five hundred and thirty-seven. The number of votes that changed the course of American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Florida is too close to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The difference between what was, and what could have been. So this year, if you're thinking that your vote doesn't count, that it won't matter, well, back then, there were probably at least 537 people that felt the same way.


BLITZER: Roland, that's a pretty good ad.

MARTIN: That's a great ad.

BLITZER: Great ad. But you know what? There's a lot of concern that Democrats have that the base, four years ago, that was so energized, young people, and a lot of others that were working very hard for the president, then then-candidate, are not that energized right now, and that ad obviously is designed to get them going.

MARTIN: There's two ways to get folks excited to vote. That is the promise of certain things. You saw hope and change in 2008. Or you scare the hell out of them. And so it works.

And so, look, I've been to a lot of places in the country to talk about voting in different places in the country, and I say, "Look, I'm tired of people who complain about our country, who have lied (ph) about certain things. My response to those people is you either vote or shut the hell up. If you don't vote you don't get a chance to say anything at all. So if you're scared, hey, do what you've got to do.

BOLDUAN: Alex, who has the better ground game in your view? I mean, a lot of it is field offices, and there is a lot -- we've seen a few articles of people writing the number of field offices for each campaign. Obama has significantly more field offices, but who has -- who has a better ground game in general, do you think?

CASTELLANOS: You'd have to look at the ground game and say that Obama has a better ground game, because he's had five years to build that ground game. Came off with a very successful campaign last time. No primary to divide his ground game occupies.

But you'd rather -- you'd rather have, even if you have a great engine, you've got to have passion. Passion is what fuels the get- out-the-vote organization.

Obama has a great machine, but his gas is a little watered down this year. Republicans don't have as good a machine. Very close, though, but they've got a lot of passion. Anti-Obama intensity is high with Republicans.

In the early voting that we've seen in swing states, I think last numbers I saw, the more absentee and early voting, when you left them together, Democrats have 2.8 million, Republicans have 2.6. That's actually very good for Republicans. Democrats should be farther ahead than that.

BOLDUAN: And on, when it comes down to those, a lot of people talking now, almost like they're scared it's going to happy again, a repeat of 2000. How likely do you think it will get a recount plan?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, there's two different things that could -- we could be concerned about. One is a disparity between the popular vote and the Electoral College vote.


BROWNSTEIN: You know, we hadn't had that happen for 112 years, between 1888 and 2000. If we have it happen again 12 years later, I think there are going to be a lot of people who are...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: A hundred million more votes.

BROWNSTEIN: I think there's going to be a lot of anxiety.

And the second thing is the possibility that you get back to a situation, which is conceivable, where neither side gets a 270 without Ohio. And Ohio would be the one this time, not Florida. And Ohio is a state where voting has long been a very contentious, partisan, polarized process. So, you know, that would be kind of a...

BLITZER: Instead of camping out in Tallahassee, we might be camping out in Columbus.

MARTIN: President George W. Bush won by 110,000 votes, and there were a lot of Democrats who wished that Senator John Kerry had been more aggressive by having a recount in that state. So it's not like -- I've been saying 12. It's going to be much like 2004.

CASTELLANOS: If we get an Electoral College tie, of course, the House picks the president of the United States, but the Senate gets to pick the vice president. We could end up with Romney-Biden. A lot of senators like Biden. What if we could end up with Romney and Hillary? This could be the strangest political year ever.

BROWNSTEIN: In some ways, the bigger message is the third of the last four presidential elections that are virtually a photo finish. We are a country divided almost exactly in half. At the same time, the parties are utterly divergent in what they want to do. So how do you govern a country that is simultaneously deeply and closely divided? That's going to be the big challenge.

BLITZER: I spent a lot of time reading the Constitution on what happens if there's a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College.

BOLDUAN: It's not easy to sum up.

CASTELLANOS: There's a vice candidate who can bring everyone together. Where would we find one of those?

BOLDUAN: In all of politics?

MARTIN: American president or something like that. That's the only...

BOLDUAN: That's a Hollywood version.

BLITZER: It would be a major motion picture.

BROWNSTEIN: It takes more than a president to do that.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

At the top of the hour, Erin Burnett has the very latest on who in the Obama administration knew what about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in Libya. Erin joining us right now.

All right. Give us a little preview, Erin. What are you finding out?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, we're going to have the latest here. We have another e-mail that has just come in, that was sent that night from members of the State Department to other members of the administration. The Pentagon, the FBI. We're going to tell you what that e-mail says and also talk about the man who is in custody tonight that could have been involved in these attacks and exactly how the United States government found out about him. There's a very ironic twist to this.

We have that breaking news for you at the top of the hour, Wolf. Plus, we're going to be joined by Rick Santorum. We're going to talk about the path to victory, and we're going to talk about abortion.

Back to you.

BLITZER: We will see you in a few moments.

BURNETT: All right.

BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much.

We'll take a brief break. Lots more coming up.


BLITZER: The Statue of Liberty has been closed since last October for renovation work. It should fully reopen in early 2012, but some of it is reopening this Sunday. CNN got an exclusive sneak peak.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just beautiful from this side. We know you're never going to get this close.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN'S "EARLY START": I bet if you hang out the window, you'll be able to get it. Maybe just your hand hanging out the window. What do you think? Is this what you expected?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, it's more tight than I thought. Looking up, but it is just an incredible view. And, you know, to be at the top of the Statue of Liberty, one of the most famous, you know, statues in U.S. history, you know, it's just amazing. It's just great.


BLITZER: CNN's Zoraida Sambolin was inside the crown with three wounded warriors. They visited the Statue of Liberty for the first time. The full story tomorrow morning on CNN's "EARLY START."

BOLDUAN: So why would a man parade around without clothing while serenading a sandwich? CNN's Jeanne Moos has been looking into it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You'd have to be a pig not to appreciate a naked man singing the praises of a ham sandwich.

If it sounds familiar, it's because this British ham commercial is a takeoff of that old Sammy Davis, now Hammy Davis Jr. classic he sang on "Playboy After Dark."


MOOS: But one man's mouthful of splendid is another man's mouthful of offensive. When the ad ended up before Britain's ASA...

(on camera) ... the Advertising Standards Authority said it received 371 complaints, mostly from people who apparently felt they had to avert their eyes.

(voice-over): And while one advertising blog named it Turkey of the Week, the spot had lots of fans, including a gay blogger who couldn't get enough of the scruffy hottie.

The advertisers self-censored the spot, reducing cheeky shots like this to mere leg.

So how did the Advertising Authority assess the nudity complaint? Not upheld. The authority called it a lighthearted reference to the product being "as nature intended. It was not sexual in tone."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New Richmond Ham, Britain's only ham made with 100 percent natural ingredients.

MOOS: Uh-oh. Nudity didn't get the ad banned. "Britain's only ham did." The ham is actually made in Ireland. "We therefore concluded the claim was misleading."

But rather than fix the ad, the manufacturer is dropping it, saying the advertisement has run its course, leaving fans of the scruffy hottie bummed.

From now on, beware of new ham. It's more discreet to add dressing.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BOLDUAN: Jeanne Moos and her turn of phrase.

BLITZER: You saw, she did a fact check on that advertisement, as well.

BOLDUAN: We do like fact checks around here.

BLITZER: Reality check, fact check. We checked it. The advertising agency decided it's run its course.

BOLDUAN: It's still ham, though.

BLITZER: Afraid so.

BOLDUAN: There's nudity up there, so the ad was up for a while (ph).

BLITZER: All right, we've got some baseball coming up tonight, too.

BOLDUAN: I know, go Tigers. Sorry. Had to say it.

BLITZER: Remember, you can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can follow both of us on Twitter. You can tweet me, @WolfBlitzer.

BOLDUAN: You can tweet me, @Kate Bolduan. He finally let me say it.

BLITZER: Say it again.

BOLDUAN: Kate Bolduan.

BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, tweet her. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.