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Romney's Math: Still Doesn't Add Up; Obama's Ohio Firewall; New CNN Poll: Obama 50, Romney 46 In Ohio; Auto Bailout May Boost Obama To Second Term; Romney 2008 Op-Ed: "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt"; Could White Voters Cost Obama The Election?

Aired October 26, 2012 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much for watching. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, we've told you the president's plan to cut U.S. debt doesn't add up. Well today, Mitt Romney gave an economic speech and talked about the debt. So we investigated his plan and we answer, does it add up?

Plus, battleground Ohio, it's the state that could decide our next president. Tonight, a brand new poll here at CNN out of the buckeye state.

And new details on something that could mess it all up, the track and power of Sandy, a storm on a collision course for the northeast. It could knock out power for hundreds of thousands and possibly affect the balance of power in the election. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, not so fast, Mitt. Romney recognizes the grave threat posed by America's $16 trillion debt, but what is he going to do about it? Today, he made a big economic policy speech and was quick to note how devastating America's debt problem is.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Our national debt in liabilities threatened to crush our feature. Our economy struggles under the weight of government and fails to create the essential growth and employment that we need.


BURNETT: Now, during Monday's debate, he noted the immediate danger of debt, too.


ROMNEY: Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face.


BURNETT: But what would President Mitt Romney do to slash the debt? Well, given everything we know now, his plan doesn't add up. We know three big things about Romney's plan.

One, he wants to cut tax rates and pay for it by closing loopholes. Two, he wants to increase defense spending by about $2 trillion over ten years. And three, he says he'll balance the budget at the end of his second term. Let's start with the tax cuts.


ROMNEY: I want to bring down rates. Want to bring the rates down, at the same time, lower deductions, exemptions, and credits and so forth so we keep getting the revenue we need.


BURNETT: Romney's across the board tax cut of 20 percent is $5 trillion worth. Now, Romney plans to close loophole to pay for it. We just don't know which ones. So we had to take some liberties on the map here.

Congress' nonpartisan score keeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation did one test study and I have it right here. Keep in mind, this was done based on current law, which assumes the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year.

They concluded that revenue neutral tax reform, the package outlined above would permit a 4 percent decrease in all ordinary income tax rates. Now, that's not even close to 20 percent.

Now, let's get to the second thing, adding more than $2 trillion to defense spending. According to analysis conducted for CNN Money by Travis Sharp, a budget expert at the Center for New American Security.

Romney will add $2.1 trillion in defense spending over a decade. Now, as "The Washington Post" recently noted in an editorial, they think Romney's plan is better for the nation's defense needs, but he still hasn't said how he'll pay for it.

So let's just put a screen up and give everyone here the map. We have $5 trillion in tax cuts, plus $2 trillion in defense spending. That's $7 trillion in additional spending.

Now, if Romney can make that $5 trillion tax cut revenue neutral, he's still spending at least $2 trillion. Again, our debt, which is growing every minute, is about $16 trillion right now.

So, Romney has to find some massive cuts to pay for his promises before he can tackle our nation's greatest security threat. Now, to be fair, he has some ideas for cuts.

On his campaign web site, he lists repeal Obamacare savings, $95 billion. Reduce subsidies for the national endowments for the arts and humanities, the corporation for public broadcasting, that's Big Bird and the legal services corporations, savings, $600 million.

And empower states to innovate savings that's about $100 billion. Now, the list goes on, but it doesn't add up because again, Romney doesn't even say he will balance the budget never mind start cutting the deficit until the end of second term.

The bottom line is this. The two men running for the president of the United States don't seem to have plans to deal with the national security threat.

We did the math yesterday showing President Obama's deficit cutting math didn't add up either. Jim Talent is a former Republican senator from Missouri and a member of Romney's economic team.

Senator, really appreciate you taking the time. I admit we don't have the full details. We did it for President Obama because he had put out a 2013 budget proposal.

But given that the deficit is the top issue for so many voters in this country, how are they supposed to feel about the fact that your candidate is says he is not going to balance the budget until the end of his second term.

JIM TALENT (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR FROM MISSOURI: Well, first place, Erin, I can't agree with the predicate of everything that you are saying. I mean, our tax reform plan has been validated by a number of studies including Harvey Rosen out of Princeton.

Even the president's current head of the Council of Economic Advisers said in 1986 when we did similar tax reform that it will produce a lot of revenue and a lot of additional jobs.

So if you add up the growth that we're going to get, we think $7 million worth of jobs, plus what we can save by reforming the tax code, it's fully possible to make it revenue neutral.

Now, you mentioned defense spending. OK, well, we're going to ramp up defense spending, but we are going to do it at the same time as spending on overseas operations is going down.

So what he wants to do is to capture some of those what we are now spending on Afghanistan as we do the drawn down to help the military rest and reconstitute after 10 years of warfare.

BURNETT: You know, I thought it was unfair when President Obama counted the war savings and it seems unfair when you all do it too. Those wars are already slated to end and they were paid for with borrowed money. So when that money is not being spent, it isn't money that you can save to do something else with.

TALENT: Yes, but I think it's important because you talked about additional spending on defense. OK, actually the top line, if you're including those overseas expenditures we're going to be spending less as a percentage of GDP and we are going to ramp up to that as we get economic growth. If I can add one of the --

BURNETT: But you're spending more things on ships and all of that, right? I mean, you're spending more. You're just not spending on the wars.

TALENT: Sure, exactly. After 10 years of fighting, the military has to be what they call reset. I mean, they've used up a lot of this equipment.

BURNETT: What about though, I mean, you would take health care that you say you're going to repeal Obamacare. You know, by July this year, the House had voted 32 times to repeal Obamacare, but the Senate was Democratic.

It's most likely to be Democratic no matter who the president is next time around. So some of these savings I know were savings you'd like to have happen, but they may not happen.

TALENT: Well, we have to get some bipartisan cooperation and I think should the Democrats control the Senate or even if they don't, what Governor Romney will do is what he did in Massachusetts.

He'll say to them, OK, what's your plan, which is reasonable, and say put your plan on the table. Pass a budget for the first time in three years and then we'll sit down. And you know, we'll negotiate.

BURNETT: Senator, I wanted to ask you about something Bill Gross wrote today in the "Washington Post," the nation's top bond investor. He wrote an op-ed saying today that America needs to cut $1.6 trillion a year. Four times the so-called grand bargain the congress to make a deal on thus far.

I spoke to him about it today because I said Bill, is this really what you meant? Here's what he told me. Romney's plan is a plan to reduce the deficit based on higher growth, which in term results from some undisclosed plan of tax reform.

I believe under both candidates, we will see trillion dollar deficits until some type of market discipline is imposed. Either by the sale of treasuries from reserve country nations and/or a decline in the dollar, which could lead to further rating service downgrades as well as higher interest rates. That is a pretty frightening and damning indictment of both plans.

TALENT: Well, I remember in the 1990s and now the deficit was not as big then. That's true. But it was big and I remember people saying, asking me, I was in the House at the time. Well, can you balance the budget without or while you're cutting taxes or tax rates?

I said, look, I don't think we can balance the budget without cutting tax rates because that's how you get the economy moving. You've got to have growth. I think it's doable. We are going to need cooperation from the other side of the aisle, but I'm hopeful that after the election, maybe they'll sit down and we can actually talk.

BURNETT: But aren't you going to need more aggressive plan? I mean, Mitt Romney's saying he's going to balance the budget by the end of the second term. That means running deficits for the next eight years.

Never mind cutting $1.6 trillion a year. The only thing I've seen on his web site is $500 billion in cuts in the year 2016. I mean, that's not dealing with the debt at all for another four years. TALENT: If we can move faster and further, we certainly will, but he wanted to -- Governor Romney wanted to propose something that he thought we could actually do.

BURNETT: He said he wants to cut taxes by 20 percent. He is going to close loopholes to do it. You and I are both familiar with the studies that say that's not possible or tough to do.

But let's just say in order to get there. He can't cut by to 20 percent. He has to cut by 10, maybe not 4 like the Joint Committee on Taxation, but maybe 4. Would he adjust that promise?

TALENT: Well, he's certainly willing to talk. Look, when you do tax reform, what you do is you establish the basic parameters, which he's done in this proposal. You get everybody together and you knock heads.

If it's not exactly what everybody wants, is he going to say absolutely no? Well, I mean, he has laid down some red lines. He's not going to raise taxes, but if he can't get exactly the tax cut he wants, is he going to say no going in?

I don't think that's his style. So there are some things he's going to insist on, but he's going to be open to talking as well.

BURNETT: All right, Senator Talent, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us tonight.

TALENT: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, OUTFRONT next, a brand new poll from the state that could decide this election. Is President Obama losing his lead in Ohio or not?

Plus, the politics of demographics and race. Is the president's campaign diversity strategy a few years premature?

And we're tracking a super storm that could wallop the northeast. The forecast for this thing really is frankenstorm, but I could influence voting in a few key states. Chad Myers with the latest.


BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, Obama's Ohio fire wall. CNN is out tonight with a brand new poll in the state tonight with the president leading Mitt Romney 50-46 and that four-point lead is unchanged from the last CNN poll in Ohio taken just after the first presidential debate.

John King has been looking at the latest numbers. So John, when you look in this poll, what else does it tell you?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's important to look at this poll. It's a small lead. The Romney campaign said it's still in play, but that's yet another poll the president's kept that stubborn, persistent narrow lead in Ohio. You know how important as you mentioned the horse race now that the president is up a little. Here's one of the biggest factors right here. In a battleground state like this, if the president's getting the Democrats, Romney's getting a Republicans, the candidate who wins among independents is likely to win the state.

At the moment, our polling showing the president with a 5-point lead among independents. That was critical to watch in the last week 10 days to Election Day, but watch that. There's also an age divide. It's important as well because you see a huge leap for the president, 56-38, among voters under 50.

That's an important part of his constituency. Republicans need the older voters and they are carrying the older vote, 50 and older, but by just 52-46. So a six-point sway there. Governor Romney would like that to be a little bit bigger.

One more point, there's also a racial and gender gap, if you will. I want to put it this way. The president is, if he is above 40 percent in the white vote, he tends to win a state because of the demographics like Ohio.

You see them here, 41 percent of white men, 46 percent of white women. If the president can hold those numbers, Erin, between now and Election Day, it's most likely he would hold on to Ohio. So it's close, but advantage President Obama.

BURNETT: And advantage President Obama in Ohio, John, I mean, from all the math that I've seen out there. I mean, it's incredibly difficult for Mitt Romney to get to the White House without Ohio. What is his game plan if he doesn't win the buckeye state?

KING: Well, let's take a closer look at that. You know the history. No republican has ever won the White House without winning the state of Ohio.

So if we start here, the president at 237, strong or leaning, 206 strong or leaning Governor Romney's way. If the president were to take Ohio, so we'll turn that blue, that puts him on the doorstep at 255.

Number one, the president could get over the top just by winning Wisconsin and Iowa staying in the Midwest. But let's focus on Governor Romney. Can he make history, be the first Republican to win without Ohio?

Well, Erin, he would have to win Florida, no question. We would have to win Virginia. He would have to win Colorado. That would, just let me move that into the red column. That would get him at 257. Then it gets hard from there.

They say in the Romney campaign that he's in strong play in Nevada. Obama campaign disputes that because of Latino vote. But if he could win those two battlegrounds out west, that would put him in position. But still then you get here, even if he won New Hampshire, that's only four so it only gets him to 267. Somehow, even though he was losing the most Republican of the Midwestern states, Ohio, he would have to also win one of Wisconsin and/or Iowa.

So it's not impossible, but essentially if he loses the big one, he's got to almost run the board with the rest of it.

BURNETT: Wow. Wisconsin and Iowa, John, how are those right now just poll wise in your mind leaning, is that reasonable for Romney or no?

KING: That's where it gets hard because Wisconsin again has had a steady, Democratic lead. It's within reach. It's not out of play yet, but let's sign that one over to the president. It would put him at 265 or 267 at the scenario I just outlined.

Iowa, it's interesting. You could have a small state, only six electoral votes. Most of the public polling shows the president with a slight lead. The Romney campaign says it's dead even.

They are counting on a big Evangelical and conservative turn out. So even though we focus on the big ones like Ohio and Florida, if it stays this close, the little ones like Iowa and New Hampshire could decide things on election night.

BURNETT: And that is going to be fun. All right, thanks so much to John King.

KING: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, if Obama does win Ohio and the election, he may owe it to a move he made at the very beginning of his presidency, the auto bailout. One in eight jobs in Ohio can be linked to the auto industry so voters may be inclined to pay him back with a second term.

OUTFRONT tonight, John Podesta, former White House chief of staff for President Clinton and Andy Card, former White House chief of staff for President George W. Bush.

It's a perfect pairing here tonight. I'm thrilled to have you both. John, let me start with you. Dead heat nationally for the race. But the president has maintained his lead in Ohio as John King just characterized.

It's the most Republican of the Midwestern states. How much of that is due to the auto bailout?

JOHN PODESTA, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Well, I think a lot actually, Erin. I think that op-ed piece that he wrote let Detroit go bankrupt back in 2008. I think it's dogged him all along.

You know, he won Ohio just very narrowly over Rick Santorum. He won his home state of Michigan by only three points over Santorum in the primaries. So he's been weak out there I think particularly in auto country from the very beginning and I think it's showing up now in the general election as well.

BURNETT: All right, so Andy, let's get straight to that op-ed. Obviously, it was titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." And for those of you out there screaming about who wrote the title. We're going to get to that in a second. They argue about it in the debate.

So Andy, let me just play the back and forth first. Here it is.


ROMNEY: They need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they've built up. Fortunately, you can take a look --


ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed. I said that we would provide guarantees and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy.

Under no circumstances would I do anything other than help this industry get on its feet and the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry, of course not. That's the height of silliness.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor, the people of Detroit don't forget --


BURNETT: All right, obviously, contentious moment. Andy, as you know, Mitt Romney did not write that headline. The editorial board of the "New York Times" did, but the next day, 4-year-old op-ed was the most read article on "The New York Times" web site. A lot of people did check the record.

ANDY CARD, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER PRESIDENT BUSH: I think they came to realize that Mitt Romney was 100 percent accurate in describing his position. He called for a managed bankruptcy then said government had a role to step in and make the difference after they cut through it.

He did not say to abandon the automobile industry. He didn't say to shut them down. He didn't say to ship the jobs overseas. He was looking for a managed process and that's kind of what happened.

Actually, they had a negotiation to change. They went from -- there was an old GM and a new GM, so they went through kind of a managed bankruptcy even after all the bailout work was done.

BURNETT: And then there was Ford did it all on their own.

CARD: Wait, this is not true. That is not true. Ford had the timing on their side. They went and renegotiated their debt before the crisis in 2008 hit. So they happened to have an advantage of going already to Wall Street to renegotiate their borrowing authority and it was the calendar.

PODESTA: The CEO of Ford said about Mitt Romney's prescription. He said if GM and Chrysler had gone into a free fall bankruptcy, they would have taken the entire supply chain and auto industry with it. We would have gone from recession into a depression. He said that in 2010. So that's really what --

CARD: Speculation is not accurate.

PODESTA: It is accurate, Andy, because there was no way that private capital were going to keep those companies alive into Chapter 11 reorganization. They would have gone into liquidation. We would have lost not only those two companies, but the supply chain and the entire U.S. auto industry.

BURNETT: All right, let me read the quote from Mitt Romney's op- ed. OK, because what he said is, these are his words, the American auto industry is vital to our national interest as employer and as a hub for manufacturing.

A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. Ultimately, John, isn't that what happened? It was a managed bankruptcy by the U.S. government.

PODESTA: A lot of help by the U.S. government and they would have never gotten there if they had followed the path that Mitt Romney said. The auto group that was working on this said, even went to his old company and said would you put some money in this in front of the bankruptcy.

They said no. I think that the U.S. had to step in at that point and by the way, the taxpayers are going to get either all or most of their money back as a result. You know, we still own a piece of GM --

BURNETT: I don't know about GM.

PODESTA: We still own a piece of GM.

BURNETT: That is very optimistic. All right, but I know that's a separate issue whether GM pays taxpayers back. But Andy, what do you think about John's point? That he is saying, even if Mitt Romney had had his way, it still would have failed for the industry and that's perhaps what voters are reacting to.

CARD: Well, the good news is that issue is as relevant today as everybody thought it would be because the economy isn't just under water because of what happened in the automobile industry. The economy is under water right now because of what hasn't happened in leadership from the White House.

I think it could have been a lot worse if we didn't have a process that allowed for a managed change in the auto industry, but we have not turned this economy around and President Romney will change it because he knows what to do and President Obama didn't have the chance to do it.

BURNETT: I want to extend this issue of the auto bailout. Let me ask you this. The headline that Mitt Romney had proposed for that op-ed that you see below us, and this is part of the problem for the Romney camp. It's been below us now for several minutes, let Detroit go bankrupt.

He had suggested the way forward for the auto industry. That's a totally different thing to say. Should he have tried to correct President Obama and say I didn't ask? Would that have helped him if he was more aggressive in saying I never said that and here's the proof?

CARD: I thought Mitt Romney did what he had to do in the debate. He looked presidential. He didn't sound petty. He wasn't interrupting in a rude way, so I thought he did well in the debate. He demonstrated that he had the meddle to be president of the United States.

And he also knows how to negotiate and to bring something to reality. President Obama has not been a good negotiator. He has not been able to even get the Democrats in Congress on his side on a lot of these issues and a President Romney knows how to work the political process so that government can actually work.

BURNETT: Final word, John.

PODESTA: Look, I think Governor Granholm, the former governor of Michigan had it right when Detroit was down on its knees, Mitt Romney stabbed them in the back. I think people remember that and I think that's why he's underperforming in Ohio and his own state of Michigan, where his father was the governor after all.

BURNETT: Well, thanks to both of you. I would love to have you both back and I would love to talk to you about whether GM is going to make us all good and I love how you laugh and enjoy the conversation. Thanks to you both.

And that leads me to our third story OUTFRONT, demographics and the politics of race. In 2008, the president did very well with white voters and that support seems to have waned at this time.

OUTFRONT tonight, John Avlon, who's traveling the key battleground states aboard CNN's Election Express. It's been a long week for John Avlon. Tonight, he's in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

John, good to see you. All right, the president won North Carolina four years ago as we know by 14,000 votes. A lot of that had to do with early voting. In a matter of fact, it had to do with early voting. He wants to try to win again. Can it happen?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it can happen, but the trend has not been his friend in recent polls. Look, President Obama was the first Democrat to win North Carolina since 1976 and it did make a big bet on it in this cycle. Deciding to bring their convention to Charlotte, that location, no accident and also betting big on demographic trends in the state. For example, the state's grown 18 percent in urban areas primarily. That should benefit Democrats.

Big bet on a growing Latino population, student population and young professionals moving into the state, but the key question for the Obama campaign here and in many other states is whether their strategy might be more appropriate to 2016 or 2020 than where the electorate is today in 2012.

Another major factor here in North Carolina is the economy. It has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the nation and that really erodes support as well so tough climb.

Some polls show the state tightening, but generally, it's been moving more towards Romney than certainly the Obama camp would have hoped.

BURNETT: All right, what about on the race front, we look at the white and non white vote split in North Carolina. What do you see there?

AVLON: You see the president performing significantly underneath that 40 percent margin that John King took -- talked about. Look, this is difficult to talk about because you don't like seeing our politics polarized by race.

But here are the facts. Democrats have had a deficit with white voters for more than 30 years. Now, President Obama made up a lot of that ground in 2008 and Democrats have made up for it by having a significant edge when it comes to diversity, no question about it between the two parties.

But this combination of a tough economy means that the president's having a hard time getting his white support above 40 percent. That is a real issue. In the long run, Democrats have made a smart bet on diversity.

Republicans can't hope for an increasingly large share of the white vote indefinitely to bring them over the top, but this is an issue in this election and with the tough economy.

It's one indicator with huge implications that both campaigns are going to be paying a lot of attention to in the drawing days.

BURNETT: Thanks very much, John Avlon. It may be tough to talk about it, but it is important. Race does matter in this election and up next, the track of a super storm headed for millions on the east coast and millions of voters.

And breaking news on the meningitis outbreak, which has killed 25 people. Breaking news tonight on whether the company responsible for the outbreak ignored its own safety measures and knew there was something wrong with that shot.


BURNETT: Our fourth story OUTFRONT: A superstorm headed for the Northeast. Hurricane Sandy has lost some strength but forecasters warn the storm is extremely powerful. It's already left more than 20 dead across the Caribbean.

Now, states from Florida to Massachusetts are bracing for pounding wind, rain and widespread power outages. There could be snow and it could last for days.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking Sandy.

Chad, this weather system is -- I mean, literally, it's massive. Tell us how big it is, how wide the impact could be.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It will be all way from Maine to North Carolina. Every state in that area will get some type of damage. The storm now just leaving the Bahamas and it will be making its way up to the Northeast.

We don't know where it's going to go yet. The computer models are all the way from Rhode Island, all the way back to about Washington, D.C.

But I will guarantee you this, Erin, that every place in this circle will have some type of damage. Whether it's wind, whether it's trees knocked down, power lines knocked down, coastal erosion or flooding.

One of our companies that we buy things from, one of our vendors, WTT, said this may be in some spots, a 1,000-year flood. It's kind of like what we had in Vermont from Irene last year. We don't want that.

BURNETT: Oh my gosh. Is there a danger the storm could gain strength? I mean, you're talking about a storm doing all the things you just said, at a category 1 possibly. Could it get bigger?

MYERS: It probably doesn't get bigger. It may get to be 100 per hour storm. It could be a small category 2. The issue is not so much that it's a category 1 because it spins around here and stays for a long time.

Another issue is that there's a big high pressure ridge to the west of it. So, you have high pressure on one side and even a small low pressure on the other, you get a lot of wind. But we have a big low pressure and a big high pressure, so wind away from this storm, 200 miles away from the center of Sandy, could have winds of 80 to 90 miles an hour. That's tremendous. That's a widespread swath of damage.

BURNETT: And do you think it could affect early voting? I mean, from what you're describing, it would seem yes, right?

MYERS: I don't see how it doesn't affect early voting.

We are going to have hundreds of thousands if not millions of people without power. We can't get all those power lines back up all at once. It may take until Wednesday or Thursday to get that power back up.

We're going to have coastal erosion. We're going to have a million trees down from all this wind and it's widespread. It's Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts. Even if you don't get the center of the storm, the eye, you're still going to get damage.

BURNETT: Wow. Thank you very much, Chad Myers.

A pretty frightening scenario he just laid out and talking about the effect on early voting, the massive storm is also wreaking havoc on the campaign trial tonight. Governor Romney and Vice President Biden have canceled weekend events on the East Coast, where many states have already declared a state of emergency.

In addition to disrupting travel, the storm is also threatening to derail early voters. But which candidate could be more affected?

CNN contributors Reihan Salam and Roland Martin are OUTFRONT.

Good to see you both of you.

Roland, I have to say this, couldn't come at a worse time. Both candidates obviously are trying to make a push on the battleground states. The president was going to be in a lot of these states, making a big and intense push.

Does it affect one more than the other?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, it affects both and really gain this thing out. Imagine -- remember, early voting is one thing, but what do you do with if you have significant damage? If you have Americans loss of life and you still have commercials up on television, you're pounding away at each other.

The president, I think it actually helps him a little bit more because remember, he's the sitting president.


MARTIN: He gets to be presidential. He might have to tour these areas, talk to residents, declare emergencies as well. But it's going to be hard for each campaign to actually justify in North Carolina, in New Hampshire, in -- let's say -- in Virginia, running ads attacking each other while Americans are suffering due to this storm. They're going to have a tough call to make.

BURNETT: Reihan, let me ask you about that polling. The president -- you know he is the sitting president. He's going to have to tour if there are disaster areas and people who are dead. So, not only does it give him that moment, Mitt Romney can do that, too. But it does give that moment to the president.

What about all these nasty ads they're running about each other in all these states? Is it inappropriate, too? REIHAN SALAM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's a part of the spirited campaign. I think those ads are designed to draw a contrast and that's fair enough, but I think it's true that it's all about the net effect because again, both campaigns are having to cancel events, right?


SALAM: So it's really important to se and the key thing is Virginia. That's a swing state.


SALAM: But these other states, they're not. New Hampshire's a swing state. It's not clear how it's going to impact New Hampshire.

BURNETT: Virginia, the way you see John King lay out these maps, if Virginia were to feel sympathetic to the president, going through this, and him touring and being their commander-in-chief, that could turn the whole thing.

SALAM: Yes. But I think voters and their views about the candidates at this point are pretty baked in. I can't see you really want to be mindful of whether or not your voters are going to getting to polls because it's true Democratic voters tend to be early voters, but Republican voters tend to be elderly. And so, it's possible that they will be heavily impacted by a storm that actually limits their mobility and what-have-you. So, I think there's a lot to be concerned about on both sides.

MARTIN: One thing, Erin -- here's the problem for the president. He has to figure out when do I remain at the White House monitoring this whole deal? Being president of the United States while also trying to campaign.

Mitt Romney doesn't have to do that. He could still go to Ohio, go to Wisconsin. Go out west, but and they can say we'll talk down ads in Virginia, but the campaign still continues. So, that's where I think it's going to be dicey for the president, justifying being president but also being candidate Obama.

BURNETT: Right. And I guess for Romney, the flip of what you said, Roland, might be, you don't want to be in Nevada saying vote for me while the East Coast is suffering. That's a bad message, too, right.

MARTIN: It's all about the optics. You don't want people saying how callous of you. Here, Americans are suffering. They have damaged homes and they are having to rebuild their lives and you're running around spending millions of dollar on campaign ads. It's not a good look for the candidate.

BURNETT: So let's talk about early voting. Reihan, you made the case this is going to affect both, both of them. But the people that don't vote in the three or four days that this affects their state, two days, whatever it is, some might not vote at all, right? I mean, do you think these votes are still going to come out later or --

SALAM: That's a really thorny question. My guess is that those voters are going to turn out if they are intensely committed to either candidate. If they're not intensely committed, you know, that's a concern for both campaigns. They need to actually motivate those guys and that would be true whether or not we had an enormous storm.

So, I think that the question is, who is at the margin. And I think if they were that marginal, that they wouldn't show up later on, then it's possible that there are all kinds of other things that could have deterred them from turning out to vote.

BURNETT: But, Roland, I mean --

MARTIN: The problem is damage, Erin.


MARTIN: The problem is damage. I mean, again, forget just power lines being down. If you have homes destroyed, having to be rebuilt. You have folks, cars damaged or whatever, trust me, priority standpoint. You're sitting here trying to deal with your life, your children, your family, the elderly. And so, that's the real issue.

I wouldn't be surprised in those states right now where you have early voting, you're going to see massive turnout tomorrow to get ahead of this storm. I've been talking to people in North Carolina, in Ohio, even in Illinois, they say lines have been long. They've been running out of paper. And so, I'd probably say the places where they're early voting, they're going to be crashing and burning Saturday and Sunday in advance of this storm.

BURNETT: All right. It shows that they're passionate, to your point.

Thank to both. Great to see you and have a good weekend.

Still to come, a very big development in the deadly meningitis outbreak. Word that the company was aware of the danger and didn't do anything about it.

And Google under investigation. Does Google have too much power?


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: breaking news on that deadly meningitis outbreak that has spread to 18 states and killed 25.

Documents released by the FDA today show the company behind the steroid injections that led to the outbreak knew it had a problem.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining me with the latest.

And, Elizabeth, I mean, this is kind of amazing. Investigators have found some unsanitary conditions at he New England Compounding Center.

Describe what they found and what the company knew when they knew it.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, this isn't a scientific term but we showed this report to one former FDA scientist. She said it was filthy.

This report shows that they found greenish blackish growth inside dozens of vials of medicine at the New England Compounding Center. They took 50 of these vials, put it under a microscope and they found micro bacterial contamination.

And, Erin, these vials were part of lots that were actually shipped to customers. Now, you mentioned -- you know, what's incredible about this is that the NECC knew they had a problem because their own monitoring showed they had mold in bacterial levels that exceed what were acceptable.

BURNETT: So, how did this happen and what could be the punishment for this? I mean, this would shock a lot of people maybe who weren't affected, but realize this could -- this could happen to them.

COHEN: Right. And there's certainly a federal criminal investigation going on. When we showed this FDA report to this scientist, she said there are so many different places where things could have gone wrong. The materials that they use to make the medicine, those tools, those had bacterial overgrowth on them.

The material that's supposed to sterilize the medicine, the sterilization material was not clean.

And thirdly, they weren't air-conditioning the place at night in the summer. They would turn the air-conditioning off at night and we know what happens when things get warm. That's when things grow.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Elizabeth, thank you very much. Pretty disturbing development in that story.

And OUTFRONT next, does Google have too much power? The FTC is considering a move that could bring shockwaves to the tech giant.

And Microsoft has something new. Could this be the end of my love aware with my beloved?


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

And tonight, we go to Britain where we're seeing the first video of the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for promoting girls education since she arrived for treatment nearly three weeks ago.

Matthew Chance is outside the hospital and I asked him how she's doing.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, Malala Yousufzai, that 15-year-old activist from Pakistan, is now inside this hospital in Birmingham, in central England, surrounded by her family recovering from that gunshot wound in the head inflicted by the Taliban.

Latest video, the first video we've seen of the 15-year-old since she was medevaced from Pakistan this month to receive emergency treatment here. You can see her sitting the bed, sitting up. She's alert. She's awake.

Doctors say they expect her to make a full recovery, especially now that her father and her mother and her two brothers are around. They're giving her all the support that she needs.

There's been a great deal of concern, an outpouring of support from around the world for her, who's really become a symbol of bravery for what she did and for what she intends to do when she goes back. Of course, she has every attention, according to her family, of going back to Pakistan and continuing her campaigning work -- Erin.


BURNETT: She's truly is a hero. Thanks so much to Matthew.

And now, let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's coming up on "A.C. 360".



Yes. We got breaking news tonight in the program. Hurricane Sandy, already a killer storm. It could get worse. With a state of emergency declared on the East Coast. We're waiting for an update on where the storm is going to hit. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins us. He's going to explain why he thinks this could be the worst storm he's covered so far. We're going to try to avoid the hype, though, and just look at the facts. I think it's important not to hype these things too much.

Ahead in raw politics, Ohio, Ohio, Ohio. Almost every campaign trip makes a stop there with good reason. Both likely need to win the White House. John King is in the wall tonight breaking down the math, new poll numbers for that state.

I'm also joined by James Carville and Mary Matalin. Always a spirited conversation.

Also tonight, the art of the pitch. We go up-close. Breaking down the carefully chosen images and words being used in campaign ads.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" all at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to seeing you in just a few minutes.

And now, Google. All right. You know, it's part of your daily life but is it too powerful? Does it know too much about you? Is it a monopoly?

Well, a lot of its competitors say yes. After a lengthy investigation, the Federal Trade Commission is on the verge of deciding whether or not to sue Google. It's a lawsuit many say can't possibly add up.

Dan Simon has the story.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The top voice recognition software --

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a recent episode of CBS' "The Good Wife", a small software company took a giant search engine to court, alleging it was being unfairly buried in search results.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We dropped overnight, we dropped. Now you have to flip through 28 pages of search results to find us.

SIMON: That mirrors some of the real life allegations against Google. Antitrust authorities here and in Europe are investigating whether Google manipulates its search results and puts its products higher or more prominently to the detriment of competitors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've cooked it. Let's move on.

ERIC SCHMIDT, GOOGLE CHAIRMAN: Senator, Senator, may I simply say that I can assure you we've not cooked anything.

SIMON: Google's chairman Eric Schmidt faced tough questions last year while testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee.

REPORTER: The Senate seems to suggest that (INAUDIBLE) favors Google products. Is that true?

SCHMIDT: As I said, first, I disagree with that characterization. What I said over and over again was we're trying to get to the right answer.

SIMON: According to some competitors, they're serving up answers advantageous to Google. Appearing at the same hearing, Jeremy Stoppelman, a CEO of Yelp, a site that enables users to search and review local businesses, a service now also provided by Google itself.

JEREMY STOPPELMAN, CEO OF YELP: What we're most concerned about is that Google is no longer satisfied with pointing users to the best content anywhere on the web it can be found. Instead, it seems they prefer to send users to the most profitable content on the web which is naturally their own.

SIMON: Critics might point to the following example. Say you're looking for Chinese food in Washington, D.C. At the top of the page, Google lists many restaurants with links to reviews. Google reviews. Click on any one of them, and you're taken to a page on Google Plus, the company's social network. You can then read an in-depth review from Zagat, a company that happens to be owned by, you guessed it, Google.

This may not happen all the time. In fact, sometimes competitors will come up first. But the complaint is that Google often drives traffic to its many services and products, depriving other companies of a level playing field.

RORY LITTLE, HASTINGS LAW PROFESSOR: When a company begins to get a huge market share so that they seem to be able to control competition coming in and out of the field, this is something the government looks at.

SIMON: As Google points out, they're providing useful information and for free, and consumers don't seem to be complaining.

But there's a ton at stake here for Google. From lawsuits to fines to possible changes in the way it operates, all of which could be costly and time-consuming.

(on camera): Google says it just wants to create products that delight its users and that competition is just one click away.

But Google reigns supreme. Two-thirds of all web searches in the U.S. are made on the site. The question is whether the company is using its enormous advantage to stifle competition.

Dan Simon, CNN, Mountain View, California.


BURNETT: All right. The lines have been drawn. The battle has begun. Will Apple or Microsoft reign supreme this holiday? Well, we went for a test. OUTFRONT next.


BURNETT: So the iPad Mini finally went on sale today at 3:00 a.m. this morning. Apple began taking online preorders for the new 7.9 inch tablet. The Mini comes in two colors, white and black. The white model sold out in 20 minutes. Maybe they just didn't order enough.

Either way, it's just the beginning. Let's predict the Mini will be one of the hottest items in holiday season. It hits stores formally on November 2nd.

Which brings us to tonight's number: 34. That's the number of Microsoft stores that opened in the United States and Canada today. One of them was actually here. The outlets are a key part of Microsoft's holiday campaign designed to take a big bite out of Apple. The stores and kiosks have taken over malls around the country. Like the Apple stores, they offer computer access, technical support, mobile checkout, apparently, they have some really soft chairs and, you know, a white wood kind of look, very fancy.

But unlike Apple, Microsoft does have the stools. OK, they also have a tablet. The Microsoft Surface is what it's called. It hit the brand new stores today.

It's a 10.6 inch tablet and it uses a modified version of Windows 8 called RT, and apps designed for Microsoft's online store. It starts at $499 which is the same price as the Maxi Pad that Apple makes.

Now, I've got to take it for a test drive today. Now, one thing I demand in a new device is a real keyboard. The keyboard on this was actually great. According to the staff, it's also indestructible. They said you can spill coffee on it or drop it in the toilet and it would still work. Now, I haven't tested that yet.

But, you know, this is interesting. I thought it was important, you know, Word, Excel, everything seemed to work on there, not some sort of abbreviated version. It was the real deal.

What do you think? Are you team Apple, team Microsoft or something else? You know, Samsung, perhaps.

If you demand a device that is everything, everything in one, easy to carry around, light, not a big thing that you got to take out when you go through the airport screening, and something you can type on for real, like if you have to write for a living -- so if that's you like me, who do you go with?

Well, let me know. Twitter and Facebook, I'm looking for a recommendation. Going to buy one.

Thanks so much for joining us. Have a wonderful weekend. Of course, if you're on the East Coast, good luck getting ready for the big storm. Thanks for watching.

"A.C. 360" starts right now.