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Monster Storm; Battleground Ohio; Northeast U.S. Bracing for Possible Superstorm; Wanted: Women Voters; Clashes, Bombing Mar Syria Truce; Feds Investigate Taurus, Sable for Stuck Throttles; U.S. Economy Grew 2 Percent in Third Quarter; iPad Mini Shipments Pushed Back; Late Night Laughs at Politicians' Expense

Aired October 26, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the presidential contenders throwing everything they have at Ohio. Who's getting the payoff? We have brand-new poll numbers just coming in right now.

An awkward campaign moment for Mitt Romney, slamming the stimulus inside a business that benefited from it.

Plus, dire new warnings of a monster storm, monster storm, they say, potentially devastating the Northeast United States. How bad will it actually be? We will have the latest forecast.

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

We're now only 11 days -- we're now only 11 days from the presidential election, and nowhere is the campaign battle being waged more fiercely than in the battleground state of Ohio; 18 electoral votes are at stake there. President Obama took them in 2008. Our brand-new CNN/ORC poll is just coming in and it shows President Obama leading in Ohio right now 50 percent to Mitt Romney's 46 percent.

But that's within the sampling error. It's a statistical tie in other words.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is joining us. He's got more.

John, break down the numbers for us, because no state right now is more important than Ohio.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You can make that case. No state is more important than Ohio.

You mention it's within the margin of error, Wolf. But this is yet another poll showing the president with a small lead in Ohio. He's had that pretty much across the general election season. What's driving it right now? In a battleground state like Ohio, the president is getting the Democrats, Governor Romney is getting the Republicans.

The candidate who wins the independent vote on Election Day is likely to win the state and at the moment the president has a five-point edge among independents who are likely voters, President at 49 percent, Governor Romney at 44 percent. That's one of the key reasons the president has the small but still a stubborn lead in the state of Ohio.

Now let's look at this age divide, if you will, generational divide. Among younger voters the president has a big lead, 18 points among those under 50, 56-38 percent. The Republicans are leading among those 50 and older. But Governor Romney needs that number to be a little bigger. He needs a little bit of bigger gap among older voters, they tend to be more Republican. He needs to change that number a little bit. He is leading though. Shows you the Republicans are at least weathering most of the attacks on Medicare and the like.

One other key point, Wolf, Ohio is one of the states where the auto bailout plays, more in Michigan but also in Ohio. The president's standing among white men tends to be a little higher in these states that are impacted by the auto bailout; 41 percent, you would say he's losing among white men. Yes. But if the president is among 40 percent among the white vote, among 40 percent among the white men, especially given the demographics in a state like Ohio, if he can keep that number up there, very difficult for Governor Romney to turn it into a victory on Election Day.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to talk a bit more about this. John, stand by.

Mitt Romney returns to Ohio tonight after campaigning across the state yesterday. Today, he was in Iowa. That battleground state has six electoral votes. President Obama took them back in 2008. The most recent polling there has the president with an eight-point lead in Iowa.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the Romney campaign -- Jim.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, in a speech on the economy, Mitt Romney talked about the big choice facing voters and the big changes he says he would bring to Washington.

But with the GOP nominee now essentially tied with the president in many polls, the trick for Romney is to avoid any big slip-ups.

(voice-over): Mitt Romney traveled to the important battleground state of Iowa to deliver what his aides were building up as a major speech on the economy. But the speech was no big change from Romney's theme of the week, that he's now the candidate of big change.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What this requires is change, change from the course of the last four years. It requires that we put aside the small and the petty and demand the scale of change we deserve. We need real change, big change.

ACOSTA: Romney also returned to his line of attack that the president has no second-term agenda, just more stimulus spending. ROMNEY: A new stimulus, three years after the recession officially ended? That may spare government, but it won't stimulate the private sector any better than did the stimulus of four years ago.

ACOSTA: But as it turns out, the site of Romney's economic speech, Kinzler Construction Services in Iowa, has received stimulus money. According to the government Web site that tracks the program's spending, the company's owner received a small business loan through the stimulus for more than $1 million.

Romney's speech came on the same day the government announced the economy grew by 2 percent in the third quarter of this year, beating estimates, but worse than past predictions from the Obama administration.

ROMNEY: Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. That's what four years of President Obama's policies have produced.

ACOSTA: With polls showing Romney threatening to take the lead both nationally and in key swing states, his campaign hit another detour when one of his top surrogates and long-time Republican leader John Sununu suggested former Secretary of State Colin Powell had endorsed President Obama because of his race.

JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER NEW HAMPSHIRE GOVERNOR: Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you're proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.

ACOSTA: Sununu later released a statement saying he now believes Powell's endorsement is due to the president's policies. Earlier this month, Sununu raised eyebrows with this critique of Mr. Obama's first debate performance.

SUNUNU: What people saw last night I think was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is.

ACOSTA: After a long campaign that's almost reached its end, keeping the candidates straight is also a challenge, as it was for Iowa senator Charles Grassley.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: We will put America on a new path to a new day with a new president, Obama -- a new president, Romney. Pardon me.


GRASSLEY: You know, I want to forget that word.


ACOSTA (on camera): The final stretch of this race could be in for a bumpy ride, not just because of the tough campaign rhetoric, but also because of the weather. The Romney campaign was forced to reschedule an event on Sunday because of a major storm that is threatening the East Coast this weekend. In the words of one Romney adviser, we're keeping an eye on it -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Jim Acosta traveling with the Romney campaign, thanks.

Let's dig a little bit deeper now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. John's still with us as well.

They billed this, Gloria, as a major speech on the economy. But I listened to it, I read it. I didn't see any major new initiatives in that speech.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There weren't any. What it was, was mood music for independent voters, essentially saying to them, look, give me another look. He admitted -- it was interesting. He admitted that, yes, the economy was in a ditch when President Obama came into office. But he also said, you know what? I would have gotten it out faster and differently. And so you have to look at what I want to do.

And it was really just about talking to suburban voters, talking to women voters and appealing to them as a kind of more moderate Mitt Romney.

KING: And he's improved a bit on the question which candidate would better handle the economy. Governor Romney has improved in that. So when you have a strength, you try to reinforce it. That's what he's trying to do today.

BLITZER: And the fact he did it in Ames, Iowa, Iowa obviously a very important speech -- a very important location.

KING: The public polls show the president with a lead there. Most of the public polls show the lead outside the margin of error. The Romney campaign insist Iowa is a dead heat and they insist they're going to surprise us on Election Day.

One thing that's happened out there since 2008 is you have parity now, even slight Republican advantage in voter registration. We will see. Small state, but the small states might matter.

BLITZER: Small states Could matter. You're talking about getting to 270.

In our new poll, our CNN/ORC poll on Ohio , we asked likely voters their choice for president, men and women. Take a look at this, Gloria, because I want you to assess what's going on. For Obama, he gets 44 percent of the men, 56 percent of the women. That's a significant gender gap right there. Romney gets 50 percent of the men, 42 percent of the women. It looks like that gender gap has narrowed -- actually narrowed a little bit.

BORGER: Right. But you see Romney up with men and the president up with women. I think when you look at this poll, though, Romney needs to be more ahead with men than he is in this poll.

BLITZER: And 50-42 is not enough, you're saying?

BORGER: Not enough, given the gender gap with women. That's a problem for him. It might be the auto bailout that could be a problem for him with men.

BLITZER: Even in Iowa.

BORGER: But if he's got lose -- this is Ohio.

BLITZER: I mean in Ohio.

BORGER: If he's going to lose with women, he has to get that gender gap up with men beyond what it is for the president.

KING: And when you see -- you mentioned Iowa. If you look at the polls in the Midwestern states, Michigan, which nobody views in play right now, the polls have been close a couple times but the president seems comfortably ahead in Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and even Iowa, which you don't think of as an auto state.

But in those states that have had a lot of coverage about the bailout and that are impacted by the auto industry and the like, the president's standing among men, especially white men, is a little bit higher than it is elsewhere in the country.

BORGER: And let me say this. In our poll in early October, Mitt Romney was up 14 points with men, so he's lost some ground. The president at that point was up 22 points with women. So he's lost some ground on that front. He may be losing suburban women and Mitt Romney may be losing those blue-collar men.

BLITZER: You make a good point, because I keep saying if the president does win Ohio, it will be at least -- a significant factor will be saving the car industry, Chrysler and GM.

KING: There's no question. Now, there are other factors out there.

The Republican governor John Kasich would like to take some credit for the improving economy in that state. But guess what? Governors do get credit when the economy improves, and so does a president. It's one of those battleground states where in some the numbers aren't so good, but in that key state Ohio, the economy is -- people are feeling a little bit better. People are more optimistic. They like incumbents.

BORGER: Unemployment just above 7 percent.

BLITZER: Better than the national average.

BORGER: Better than the national average. Economic optimism is good. That always works in the president's favor.

BLITZER: Let's look at these other numbers. John, I will go to you first. Colorado, another key battleground state, independent likely voters' choice for president. Back in September President Obama had a significant 11-point lead 50 percent to 39 percent. Now it's narrowed to 4 percent, Obama -- 1 percent -- excuse me -- 46 percent-45 percent. I take it this must be a worrisome sign for the president.

KING: Yes. This is the impact of the first debate and the campaign since the first debate.

Governor Romney got a new look especially among independent voters. He improved in the suburbs. The first debate performance where the president simply didn't show up. Remember, people for months had seen these ads about Mitt Romney and then they saw a guy on stage that didn't seem to be that demonic guy the Obama campaign portrayed him to be. He improved his standing among independents.

That's why again why he's doing the economic speech today. He improved his standing because on the underlying questions do you think he understands you, his personal favorability rating and most importantly who would better handle the economy, Governor Romney is going up, especially and significantly among independents.

BLITZER: Pretty significant within a month.

BORGER: It is.

The president has lost ground in the suburbs. If you look deeper into this poll, he's lost ground with independent men and women. So that's very important to Mitt Romney. When you look at these numbers, you see that reflected in these numbers. So the president has to make some ground up.

KING: The question is whether it's continuing to grow for Governor Romney or if it's flatlined. If it's flatlined the president probably still has a slight advantage in the battleground to get to 270. If Governor Romney can keep it, even if it's ever so sow, if it's going in his direction, interesting.

BLITZER: The most recent polls in Colorado show it as close as could be, 48 each, right?

KING: Again, that's one of the states that the Romney campaign says the underlying dynamics have broken and they don't see them breaking back. We will see if they're right or not. The Obama campaign would not list Colorado as one of their better states.


BLITZER: I want you to do one thing. If you can go back to the wall.

KING: Sure.

BLITZER: The magic wall. Show us if Romney can win this election without Colorado.

KING: Without Colorado? Or without Ohio?

BLITZER: Without Colorado?

KING: Without Colorado, yes. Well, he would have to win Ohio in that scenario, because if you look here, if you give him Florida and you give him Virginia, I'm going to leave Ohio out of the equation for now. Let's say he wins Iowa.

If he doesn't win Colorado where the Latino vote is significant, it's hard to see him winning Nevada where the Latino vote is huge, but he would have to win Nevada. That would get him to 260. So then you have to get 11 more here.

You could do that with Wisconsin and New Hampshire. So he could win without winning Colorado or Ohio. The question is that -- I just showed you it's mathematically possible. The question is it ideologically plausible in the sense that this state here, 18, tradition of more Republican DNA when it comes to presidential politics.

It's very hard to see Mitt Romney is losing Ohio, but winning Wisconsin and Iowa. These are just more Democratic states if you will in DNA. So if President Obama is winning here, history tells you he's most likely winning one or both of these. But is it possible? Yes. Is it plausible? That...

BLITZER: All of us are going to be doing a lot of contortions looking at this magic wall.

Gloria, wrap it up for us. Where does it stand right now?


BORGER: It's hard to say. John was talking a moment ago about the question of momentum. Who's got the momentum?

We honestly don't know. Our heads are exploding with all these polls. And does momentum mean that, OK, if Mitt Romney has momentum, should he now begin -- should we be seeing him overtake the president in certain polls in certain battleground states? Or does he just have enough momentum to get him almost at parity with the president, but then does it fade there? We don't know. We still have a bunch of days. How many days is that left? That would be 11 days.


BLITZER: The president's ahead in these national polls. But as I like to say, the national polls are not all that relevant right now. What's relevant are these battleground states.

KING: Battleground states.

And if they're all this close, then it does come down, sounds like a cliche, to the turnout operation. And, remember, remember, the president did not have a primary challenge. They have spent months and millions preparing for one thing, turning out the vote.

BORGER: And Republicans will say that the voters who have not decided yet, which are also important, are likely to go to the challenger. That's the Karl Rove theory of the world. We will have to see.

BLITZER: Guys, we will be watching intensively over these next 11 days. Other news we're following, including a potential superstorm in the making right now. We're tracking two systems, including Hurricane Sandy threatening to unleash massive damage on the U.S. Northeast. We will have the latest from our severe Weather Center. That's next.


BLITZER: Let's go to Chad Myers at the severe weather center in a moment. He's got the latest on hurricane Sandy.

But there's other news we're following right now, including the fallout from Japan's nuclear disaster. It may not be over.

Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, radiation levels in fish caught near the Fukushima nuclear plant are just as high now as they were right after the disaster in March of last year. That means contamination may still be seeping into the ocean. One scientist says most of the fish are still safe to eat, but it could be decades before the seabed is clear of radiation.

And an Italian court has sentenced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to four years in prison for tax fraud. But he's expected to appeal. The Milan court found him guilty of using offshore companies to buy U.S. film rights for his media group at inflated prices. Cases in Italy must pass two appeals before the verdicts are final.

And good news for the 15-year-old Pakistani girl shot for defying the Taliban. Doctors believe Malala does not have significant brain damage. Her family visited with her for the first time since she was flown to a British hospital for treatment. Taliban gunmen shot her in the head earlier this month for her efforts to promote education for girls.

A lot of people following her case, Wolf. So happy to hear that she's doing well.

BLITZER: Yes, we wish her only, only the best. What a wonderful young woman. Thank you.

A superstorm in the making right now. Hurricane Sandy threatening to unleash massive damage on the East Coast. The latest from our severe weather center. That's next.


BLITZER: Hurricane Sandy has caused deadly damage across parts of the Caribbean. Now there are dire warnings that could become a superstorm that no one living in the United States northeast can afford to ignore. "The Washington Post" quotes a National Weather Service meteorologist as saying and I'm quoting now, "I've never seen anything like this and I'm at a loss for expletives to describe what this storm could do."

An AccuWeather meteorologist warns, once again I'm quoting, "This could be a disaster of biblical proportions, a multibillion dollar disaster." Wow.

Let's get the latest from our own severe weather expert, our meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, are these people exaggerating what's going on? Is this realistic these dire warnings?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: The potential for that certainly is there. And even last night at 11:00, I looked at some of the models that these guys were looking at and went, wow. I can't even believe -- I've never in 26 years of forecasting have ever seen anything like this.

Now, the models have backed down a little bit today. The hurricane doesn't look as good today. They're not as dire today as they were about 20 hours ago or so.

But it's still a very big storm. And, yes, the potential is there.

Here's what happened -- the storm is actually right there. That's the center of the hurricane, believe it or not. There's no convection. There's no thunderstorms around it.

A bunch of dry air from up here -- this happens in the fall because dry air gets here in the fall. You won't get dry air in Atlanta in the summer. But the dry air came down all the way to Havana and worked its way into the storm. And that ate away at the convection, ate away at the thunderstorm activity. That's why it doesn't look very good right now.

We still have tropical storm watches though from North Carolina down to Florida, and a few tropical storm warnings for the Bahamas, all the way down -- even to the east coast of Florida.

Here it goes -- it's a category one. And it stays a category one in most forecasts. There's a potential for it to be a little bit stronger, Wolf, if it heads up here, up toward New York because it will stay in the water longer.

It will be a little less strong if it comes down here and hits land sooner. This is probably an extra day in the water. And the water's still fairly warm.

So, there's potential that it still could be category two. And you know what? The issue with those dire warnings is that we kind of had those same warnings for Irene. I don't want people to go -- oh, they just say that all the time just to get our attention. But, no, there is potential for some dire stuff going on here. And we're talking about power down -- power lines down, trees down, all kinds of other things.

Finally, the computers are agreeing. And you can see a couple doing loops. If this thing does a loop right over New York or New Jersey or Pennsylvania, that means 24 to 36 hours of rain coming down an inch in an hour. Do the math. That's a couple feet of potential water.

Here we go. The potential impacts, I think the coastal in land flooding the biggest. Obviously, we saw that in Vermont from Irene. The waves will be larger than 30 feet battering Long Island, new Rhode Island, all the way to Massachusetts and into New Jersey, depending on where it lands, coastal erosion.

We could lose homes as the beach gets washed away and power outages could be in the millions taking literally maybe a week to get all those power lines back up. And that could be far enough that it could affect the election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd's working on that part of the story for us in our next hour. So those of us -- and I'm asking a parochial question, a local question. Those of us in the Washington, D.C. area, how worried should we be? We've lost power before. We've had severe damage to these kinds of severe weather incidence before. A lot of people here in the nation's capitol are very worried.

MYERS: And they should be. Worried is a good term. I want you to be prepared.

What happens if you lose power for two days? For three days? How would you feed your family? How would you get to work? How would you get the trees down that might fall in your yard?

All of these things you have to think about because the European model, one of the models we look at and done a very good job this year has it very close to moving over Baltimore. That's pretty close to Washington, D.C.

The amount of trees -- I lived in Richmond, Virginia, I lived in D.C., the big old trees, that's the big thing, that's the problem when you start losing power. These trees fall over. They're big, old. They're half rotten on the inside from termites.

And that's the thing. You can lose so many power lines, so many trees in that area simply because the wind blowing at 50 and rains a couple of feet, all of a sudden those trees are falling over.

Don't get alarmed yet. We're still three and a half days out. I'll tell you when to get alarmed. I'll be here all weekend.

But I just want you to understand that the potential is there for a catastrophic event. Yes, it is, that's a good word for it probably at this point. But we don't know if that's Massachusetts or North Carolina yet. So don't -- just keep watching TV and keep listening to your local authorities.

BLITZER: And one final question, chad, because we're going to stay in close touch. What are the chances that it could peter out, head out to sea, head out to the Atlantic ocean and not necessarily cause a disaster as we're anticipating?

MYERS: That's exactly it.

Even with Irene -- I'm going back to the same story, but Irene was a hurricane. It looked great coming out of the Bahamas. A big beautiful eye weather-wise and then it died. We thought, gosh, this thing might come back.

Let's keep -- let's keep watching. Let's keep telling people that it's going to be bad because it's going to come back. Well, it looks -- this thing right here, this thing looks terrible. Sandy looks terrible right now.

If Sandy does not come back, it will be a significantly lower storm, significantly lower threshold and obviously a lot less power outage and lot less trees down, a lot less wind. That is still there. It's not in the forecast. The computers aren't saying it, but the computers weren't saying it for Irene either.

BLITZER: We're getting a new forecast at the top of the hour. Chad will be back with us for that.

Stand by. Chad, thanks very, very much.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Up next, a controversial new political ad aiming at getting out the youth vote. Our political panel is standing by to discuss that and a lot more.


BLITZER: A new pro-Obama ad aimed at first-time voters, women voters especially is getting plenty of attention. But will it make any difference on or before Election Day? Here's a quick snapshot.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first time shouldn't be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. You can pull back the curtain, I voted for Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hasn't been enough sex in this campaign, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The more sex we talk about in this campaign series, the more insulting it is to women.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won women by 13 in 2008. There are very few polls that show him maintaining that advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Planned Parenthood, abortion, access to contraception and the health care plan pay equity are all assets that can help him bring back those numbers among women.


BLITZER: Let's get straight to Sirius XM radio host Pete Dominick and our excellent, excellent panel -- Pete.

PETE DOMINICK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Wolf Blitzer. Let's throw that question right to our panel. Everybody saw that ad. Was it inappropriate? Does sex sell when it comes to politics, Congresswoman?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS, D-MARYLAND: I probably wouldn't have seen the ad had it not actually been on the news. That's a good thing because it actually wasn't targeted to me. So I think it actually hit its target audience and people like me never would have seen it and never would have had a chance to comment.

ROSS DOUTHAT, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But it is. This is the thing. You can't actually micro-target in that way in the age of, you know, cable news --

DOMINICK: You can or cannot?

DOUTHAT: You can't. I mean, the fact that you did see the ad means that it's playing to a much broader audience than just, you know, young women who live in Bushwick or Brooklyn or something. I'm a huge fan of Lena Dunham, I should say --

DOMINICK: Who is she? I'm so proud to say I have no idea who she is.

DOUTHAT: She's the creator and star of the HBO show "Girls," which is this incredibly sort of raunchy dark look at single 20 something life in sort of the hinterlands --

DOMINICK: When is it on?

DOUTHAT: It's on HBO. We're educating the audience here.

DOMINICK: But so, I mean, the right wing is up in arms about this.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, you know what? We've got a lot more things to be indignant about than this commercial. It's meant to be light hearted. It's meant to be for young women.

You know, we can be indignant about unemployment. We can be indignant about housing. We can be indignant about lack of regulations of banking.

I mean, you know, we got a host of things that can be indignant about. Let's be a little bit light hearted about this. Let's let it go. Not give it more attention than it deserves. It is what it is.

DOMINICK: Tom, did you use sex to sell yourself when you were campaigning?


DOMINICK: Should you have?

DOUTHAT: Rolled up shirt sleeves right now. PERRIELLO: I think what Ana said is right, which is that I think young women are taking this election seriously. Everyone's taking this seriously. Using a little light hearted fun now and then can be part of communicating.

But I think the reason you see a huge gap with young people even Republicans thought they might close that this time, a gap with women is because of pay equity, access to health care, access to jobs, I think people are being serious in this election. And this is a lot safer for the media to talk about than some of those issues.

DOUTHAT: Let's just imagine that say Hillary Clinton rather than Barack Obama were the Democratic nominee for president, right, and you featured using Seth Rogan talking about -- appealing to young male voters --

EDWARDS: The reality is what's on the table has been issues related to women and to young women, and it's about their future. So I think --

DOUTHAT: I'm just asking about the appropriateness of the ad itself.

DOMINICK: That's an interesting hypothetical. But that's not what we're talking about. I think it would probably less appropriate. Can we change gears and --

NAVARRO: Is there a double standard? I think the answer is yes.

DOUTHAT: Right. I completely agree with that. I don't actually see a ton of right wing outrage about this. I see a lot of right wing bemusement about this.

DOMINICK: There has been a lot of people that are --

EDWARDS: There's been some outrage.

PERRIELLO: For the record, you talk about taking sex seriously and voting seriously, but the emphasis is on voting and getting to those issues and I think those issues are very serious.

DOMINICK: I think she's talking directly to me.

NAVARRO: At least she's got clothes on, which is more than she does most of the shows.

DOMINICK: But staying on this issue of women and women voters specifically has Mitt Romney made gains with women? Does the data bear that out and if so, why?

NAVARRO: The data absolutely bears that out. I think it was after the debate he made gains with everybody. Every demographic group, every regional group because they saw a Mitt Romney they had not seen before that.

They'd seen a Mitt Romney that had been portrayed in Obama campaign ads as a monster and all of a sudden here he was a likable acceptable alternative. Also I sometimes think the Obama campaign may be overplaying their hand on these issues because we are not monolithic.

We are not homogeneous. Women reserve the right to change their mind. We want to talk about reproductive rights, yes, we want to talk about birth control, but we also want to talk about the economy. We also want to talk about feeding our families. We also want to talk about putting gas in our cars.

EDWARDS: The reality is -- and I think you're actually dead wrong about the polls and the distance between women with Mitt Romney and women with the president. That's really bearing out.

NAVARRO: So you think the polls are dead wrong?

EDWARDS: It's actually bearing out across the board in the battleground states. And the reason is because when women have control of the reproductive health care, they're able to make decisions about their education.

They're able to make decisions about their economic status, about what kind of job they'll take, about where they'll take that job, about how they want to plan their families.

So the reason that reproductive health care and access to contraception plays out so heavily with Democratic -- with President Obama and with women is because it's central to the way that we have to organize the rest of our lives.

NAVARRO: That's a one issue group.

EDWARDS: No. In fact, I said exactly the opposite. That in fact the reason that the president I think has so much -- has gained so much with women voters is because he understands that these questions about access to health care, access to contraception, pay equity and equal pay has everything to do with women controlling the rest of their lives.

DOMINICK: Let a man get in here. Let a man get in here and talk about what his wife thinks because it is perception though. Because I think you're both right here. I mean, Mitt Romney was painted one way.

And I think he did himself a favor in the debate and said -- and people are like that's not the guy I've heard he is. But perception matters. And President Obama, you know, the husband of Michelle Obama, the father of two little girls, but he can connect with women easily.

It seems -- my wife looks at this and so many women, you see all this stuff on Facebook and all these conversations. They care deeply about their reproductive rights. This stuff really resonates.


DOUTHAT: What you've just described is that's the Democratic Party's theory of this case. But if you look at the historical data, there isn't strong evidence of a big gender gap on issues like abortion. There is evidence of a big gender gap on the economy. Women are more economically liberal than socially liberal, which is why I think it's weird, it's an interesting gamble and you may be right that it will pay off.

But it's a little weird that Obama is finishing on the social issues when women usually swing left on economic issues.

EDWARDS: Well, the reason is because in this election year you have from the Republican Party platform to the Republican candidates to the vice presidential choice and all of these candidates across the board a laundry list of Republicans who have been very anti-woman.

PERRIELLO: The situation with the gender gap issue that came up this most recently not because of anything President Obama did, but things that Republican governors and Republican congress did and it wasn't abortion, it was redefining rape, it was access to contraception --

DOUTHAT: No. That's actually completely false. It all came up because President Obama shifted the administration's policy in regard to --

DOMINICK: We'll let --

EDWARDS: Doesn't have anything to do with --

DOUTHAT: No. No. No time-out. The policy change was driven by the White House. That's all that the Republican Congress --

NAVARRO: Nobody has redefined rape.

PERRIELLO: It was an effort to do so.

DOMINICK: We'll let our viewers look --

PERRIELLO: That is a very different set of issues for women of different generations.

DOMINICK: We'll allow our viewers to look this up and think for themselves I hope and I hope they do. We will take a quick break and come back and address this and all of us will give you are unsolicited advice right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


DOMINICK: Hi. My name's Pete Dominick and I've taken Wolf Blitzer's SITUATION ROOM just for a moment because our brilliant panel that we've assembled here wants to give some unsolicited advice to some unsuspecting targets. Let's start with the "New York Times" Ross Douthat. Ross, go ahead. Who you got?

DOUTHAT: So my advice is for undecided voters in crucial states especially states that might be impacted in any way, shape or form by the monstrous hurricane currently bearing down on us. Which is when you make up your minds, whether you decide to go for Romney, go for Obama, you know, go for the libertarians, whoever you want, please make up your mind as a block.

Go all one way or all the other so that we have a nice clear outcome and so we don't have to spend three weeks picking our way out of a massive storm and doing a recount at the same time.

DOMINICK: How do they make up their mind as a block? Meet in an undecided parking lot?

DOUTHAT: I don't have a method for them.

NAVARRO: Somebody from Florida who's gone through a recount and gone through picking up after hurricanes, I absolutely agree. We cannot handle it simultaneously.

DOMINICK: Maybe we can have the undecided voters pick up the hurricane mess and they can meet at some undecided location, Congresswoman.

EDWARDS: Well, we're going to continue the theme because my undecided --

DOMINICK: Unsolicited.

EDWARDS: -- unsolicited advice is for undecided voters and it's for the voters who live in the swing states, particularly the ones impacted by Sandy. Sandy's not a hair color, it's not a beach. It's a storm.

You all should go and vote. That is it. And I think that what will happen is if people vote early, they have plenty of time to go get their toilet paper and all that other stuff.

DOMINICK: Am I missing something? This is going to be next week and the election is the week after.

EDWARDS: Recovery.

DOUTHAT: You didn't live in Washington, D.C. in the aftermath of the last storm.

DOMINICK: No, I grew up in Syracuse, New York.

DOUTHAT: In Syracuse, New York, people are tough. They are ready for these kinds of things. Here in the mid-Atlantic, you heard Wolf before, it's going to get ugly.

PERRIELLO: We're pretty tough in Virginia.

NAVARRO: A lot of dreams and they fall down, that's one of the biggest problems. You have flooding and power lines down, it becomes a problem getting around.

EDWARDS: Vote early.

DOMINICK: If you can, vote early.

EDWARDS: You can vote early in Florida.

NAVARRO: I voted already, Congresswoman.

DOMINICK: Who did you vote for by the way, Ana? OK, go ahead.

NAVARRO: My unsolicited advice is for John Sununu. John, we are tied at the polls, we are doing well. Mitt Romney may actually win. Be quiet. Lay low.

And I give the same advice to Donald Trump. And I'd say to the Romney campaign, folks, we're about to die from friendly fire. We got to get our allies to understand that we're no longer in a primary.

That we're no longer in this rattle rousing, we're trying to appeal to women, we are trying to appeal to undecided, to independents, let's get the cranky guys off TV and put some nicer guys on.

DOMINICK: I like John Sununu. I think he's honest. He has no filter. He says exactly what he means when he says Colin Powell --

NAVARRO: You like John Sununu because you want Barack Obama to win.

DOMINICK: No. I want Mitt Romney --

DOUTHAT: I'm shocked you would suggest that.

DOMINICK: No. I want Mitt Romney to lose. I'm not a huge Obama supporter.

NAVARRO: Because you're a comedian and he provides better fodder.

EDWARDS: Sununu's from New Hampshire, live free or die. He's taking the free part a little too seriously.

DOMINICK: Tom, who's your unsolicited advice for?

PERRIELLO: It's hard to follow that. Senator George Allen in Virginia has just taken the largest contribution in Virginia and taken it from out of state as closing arguments for who he tries to represent when he goes back to the Senate.

I think it's a complicated one. He may want to give an explanation to the people of Virginia of who he's planning to represent particularly when it's a gentleman who would get a $2.3 billion tax cut under the plan he would be likely to support from Mitt Romney.

DOMINICK: My unsolicited advice here on Friday is for white men. Don't be scared. Don't be scared. America is changing. In a few decades we're all going to be minorities. And I think that subconsciously and consciously they see the change.

They see this president. They see this attorney general. They see two women being appointed to Supreme Court. And we white men wonder what's going to happen to our generational advantage. We've had an advantage for generations in the history of this country in education and in wealth. But that's changing and that's a good thing. That's called progress. We are going to have to compete with blacks, Hispanics and women. And that's a good thing. And maybe in a hundred years if we're all still here, we will be one tan hairless race competing against each other.

NAVARRO: The good news -- we've got you surrounded, but we come in peace.

DOMINICK: I'm welcoming y'all in. I look forward to the competition. That's what this country's supposed to be about, I think.

All right, well, we're out of time here on Friday. Thank you all very much. Let's throw it back to the great Wolf Blitzer. It is his SITUATION ROOM. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good conversation, excellent conversation today.

There's other news we're following including from the National Hurricane Center. It is about to issue an updated forecast for Hurricane Sandy. Standby for the very latest on where this storm is heading, when it could hit.


BLITZER: Syria's fragile ceasefire is not holding up. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Very few people thought it would.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Opposition leaders say more than 70 people have been killed across Syria despite efforts to impose a temporary ceasefire for the Muslim holiday.

The deadliest attack was this car bomb that exploded in Damascus. The Syrian military had promised no operations during the four-day holiday. The government says the rebels broke cease-fire first and it was only responding to the attacks.

And federal safety regulators are investigating some older model Ford Taurus and Mercury Sables. The throttle can get stuck causing the engine to keep running. The probe affects the models from 2000 to 2003. For now there is no recall while investigators determine the extent of the problem.

The U.S. economy got a small boost thanks to consumer spending. The Gross Domestic Product increased 2 percent in the third quarter that is up from 1.3 percent in the second quarter. The number is better than economists expected, but not enough to create a strong economy and lower the unemployment rate.

And Apple's smaller iPad is a big seller. Pre-orders for the iPad mini began this morning and sold out in about 20 minutes. Some models are already showing a later delivery date. Apple will have the iPad mini available in stores in a week. But if you buy it online, you may have to wait a few more weeks after that.

So you can see this was going to be the big I think holiday seller. I think a lot of people are going to be snatching that up for a gift for the holidays.

BLITZER: Big demand for all those Apple products. Thank you.

The presidential campaigns giving late-night comedians plenty to joke about, we have lots more of where this came from.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president. The news surprised many elderly Americans who thought they were the same person.



BLITZER: The issues of course are very serious, but the presidential election also is generating plenty to laugh about. Here's a quick roundup of the best political jokes from the late-night comedy shows.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL: It is my solemn obligation as a newsman to bring you the most cutting edge baseless guesstimations of who's going to win. This much we know, folks, the election could be swung by one key voting bloc.


COLBERT: Yes. It's the ladies.

JIMMY KIMMEL: Democrats are more likely to vote early than Republicans. Most Republicans are opposed to early voting because they believe that voting starts at conception -- is that? Am I -- I may be mixing two things up.

JAY LENO: President Obama was nice enough to come to our show yesterday. Yes, that's pretty good, but we weren't the only show he did. Before he left Los Angeles he made another appearance on another show.

DAVID LETTERMAN: Top ten thoughts going through that baby's mind at this moment, number ten, make the campaigning stop says baby. Make the campaigning stop. Number three, please don't kiss me. Please don't kiss me. Number two, check my diaper for an October surprise. And the number one thought going through this baby's mind, this is worse than being circumcised.

JIMMY FALLON: Obama's been really busy. In fact, tomorrow he's going on MTV to answer questions from college students. Questions like will you legalize weed? When will you legalize weed? Anybody got any weed?

CRAIG FERGUSON: Today Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president. The news surprised many elderly Americans who thought they were the same person. (END VIDEOTAPE)