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Electoral Math: Fight To 270; Obama, Romney Fight For Ohio

Aired November 5, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Next, the final sprint. We're in Columbus, Ohio. Just hours away from Election Day. It is cold here, but people are hot, they're ready to go.

Campaigns making their last minute pitch to voters. OUTFRONT tonight, Robert Gibbs from the Obama campaign and Florida senator and Romney supporter, Marco Rubio. Why it all comes down to this state for both campaigns.

Plus, the man who's being called the most important person in this election. He joins me live right here in Ohio.

And an OUTFRONT investigation into the never ending gas lines in the northeast following Sandy. The gas lines didn't have to happen. Something could have been done to prevent them, so why wasn't it? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, dead heat. That's what we're looking at. Election Day is just five hours away and the candidates are using every last minute they've got.

Our latest CNN poll of polls today shows President Obama ahead by one point, 49 to 48 for Mitt Romney and it could all come down to this state where I am tonight, Ohio.

Both campaigns made stops here today. Mitt Romney's campaign just announced he will make a stop here tomorrow as well. Now, each man spent the day crisscrossing the United States, trying to make final pleas to voters.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: We have got to lead America to a better place. We're one day away from a fresh start.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: After all we have been through together. We can't give up on it now. We've got more work to do.


BURNETT: All of the key swing states are getting a glimpse of the candidates and their running mates today, Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Joining me here in Ohio tonight is John Avlon. He has been traveling the state aboard the CNN Election Express Bus. I'm also joined by John King in Washington, D.C. And I want to start with you, John King, the Electoral College map, how does it add up right now?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, when you talk to the two campaigns, it's as if even though it's one country, they live in parallel universes because both campaigns saying they will win tomorrow.

Let's start with the Obama campaign. You've seen the polls. The president is ahead in most of the key battleground states, maybe by just a little, but he is ahead. They are down confidence in the Obama campaign and don't get too much dispute out of the Romney campaign that they will win the state of Nevada.

So let's start there then they come to the Midwest where you are. They are most confident in the Midwest that they will carry Wisconsin again. Let's give it this hypothetical. I know Republicans watching are saying they'll prove you wrong tomorrow. Well, let's give it to the president for now.

They're saying also they are very confident about the state of Iowa. That would get the president to 259. It takes only 270 win. Erin, when you ask them about the rest of these battleground states, what are they most confident about?

They actually say they are most confidence about Ohio, where you are. The president took that game over. No Republicans won the White House without it, but let's say for the sake of argument. They're wrong about it. Let's keep it a toss-up.

If this happens, if the president won Nevada, won Iowa and won Wisconsin, could Romney get to 270? Yes, but just barely. The Romney campaign says it will win Florida. The Obama campaign says no, we actually feel good about it, but that's where they are least confident. So let's put this hypothetical, give Florida to Governor Romney.

The state of Virginia, again, the Obama campaign says we're going to carry it. Romney campaign says, no, you're not. Again, this is a hypothetical. We'll watch tomorrow when this comes in. If you give that to Romney then you're down to Colorado.

The Obama campaign says early voting makes them feel good. Romney campaign says we'll win. For the hypothetical, I'll give it to Romney. Under this scenario, if it played out this way, what would happen then?

New Hampshire, a tiny state, four electoral votes and Ohio, where you are tonight, Erin, 18, would settle the presidency because no matter who won New Hampshire under this scenario, the winner would need Ohio. You're in the right place.

BURNETT: Certainly -- it certainly feels that way and in Ohio, what are you specifically looking for? What are you going to be watching tomorrow night especially when you look at those key counties? KING: Right. The reason Ohio is such a good bellwether is because it is America. It has cities, agriculture, rural areas, small cities. It has suburbs and it has excerpts. This state of Ohio has been right in every presidential election since 1964.

Meaning whoever has won Ohio in every election since then has gone on to win the presidency. A few things I want to do. This is the '08 map. President Obama carried it 52-47, right. I want to show you a few areas.

I'm going to circle up here, Lake County. That's just outside of Cleveland. Hamilton County, down here in the southwest corner so the northeast to the southwest and then I'll circle here in the middle.

There are other places to watch as well, but let's just focus on these three. Lake County, these are the suburbs right outside of Cleveland. The president carried just barely, but the suburbs in close elections send a signal.

Go back to '04, President Bush carried them just barely so that's one place to watch. Let's bring the state back into full focus, come back the 2008.

In the Columbus area, this is where the president's second to Cleveland will get a big effort in the American turnout right here. He won 60-39 in Franklin County. The suburbs right around Columbus, also very important and then, Erin, I'll close here.

Going down to the southwest corner, I just talked to a Republican in Hamilton County, a very smart organizer there. I said in a word how do you feel tonight? Nervous was the reply.

Nervous because the president carried Hamilton County, Cincinnati and the suburbs, the president carried it by a big margin last time because of African-American vote in Cincinnati.

Some Obama supporters waited more than four hours to wait today. You see that county down there in the corner, in '04, it was red. In '08, it was blue. My guess is the color of that county is tomorrow night tells you who wins Ohio.

BURNETT: Wow. They are nervous. It's going to be a crucial 24 hours. You just heard from John King just about how crucial this state is. Really, very, very difficult to do it without Ohio and both campaigns clearly know that.

Mitt Romney has been here 42 times in this campaign. Tomorrow's visit will make it 43. The president has campaigned here 30 times. And his senior adviser, Robert Gibbs, is here in Ohio tonight, too.

And I just spoke with him moments before the show from the site of the president's last campaign stop here. I asked Robert whether it really does all come down to Ohio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERT GIBBS, SENIOR OBAMA ADVISER: I think it could very well come down to Ohio. We feel really good about where we are here. We had 15,500 screaming fans here and it was more than just for Jay-z and Bruce Springsteen.

But I will say, Erin, we feel pretty good in all of the nine battleground states. We've said we have a lot of different paths to get to 270 electoral votes. All those paths are open tonight before the election. We just have to work harder one more day than the other campaign in making sure we get our votes out.

BURNETT: And just about Ohio though, are you frustrated that sort of isn't done? Isn't a sealed deal? Obviously, the president is ahead, it's within the margin error. But does it frustrate you that it's as close as it is, especially given he won it by 5 percent last time around versus John McCain?

GIBBS: Well, look, 5 percent's a close race last time and we knew this race, A, would be closer. I will say this. We feel great about where we are based on early vote. Ahead of where we were just four years ago and look, when it comes down to it, I think Ohio understands more than any, the message that the president has.

We have to build our economy from the middle out. Not from the top down. Tax cuts like Mitt Romney wants somehow will trickle to the middle class. That failed economic theory didn't work for eight years of George Bush. It's not going to work if we go back to it now.

Look, I will say this. This is the heart of along with Michigan, the auto recovery and I think when people go to the polls, they'll know the president bet on them and they'll know that Mitt Romney was the guy who wanted to let Detroit and their jobs go bankrupt.

BURNETT: One scenario that as you well know, a lot of people think is a real one, that the president wins the electoral vote and thus is re- elected, but Mitt Romney wins the popular vote.

The president would be the first incumbent in American history to not win the popular vote and get re-election and in fact, it's only split five times in American history.

If that happens, does that worry you? That he doesn't have a mandate who wasn't elected by the majority of Americans?

GIBBS: Well, Erin, it doesn't worry me because I have a very hard time seeing how the path to 270 electoral votes, but not winning the popular, I don't see the path for that happening. I think you see we feel good about and a lot of state polling shows that we're in a good position in a lot of these battleground states.

And a lot to have the national polling is starting to look much more like the winner of this race is going to win the popular vote. I'm not that worried about that. I think we have run a solid campaign. We feel like we're in a great position. We have one more day to get our voters out. BURNETT: And can you do it without independents? You know they're that group of people, the majority of voter, at least the way people describe themselves and when you look at independent voters, they are according to the polls that we have, going for Mitt Romney. Can you do it without independent voters?

GIBBS: Well, I don't think either campaign can do it without independent voters, but I'll tell you this. I'm not seeing a poll in these battleground states that has independent voters overwhelmingly going for our opponent.

If that were the case, the president wouldn't be ahead in so many battleground states. I think we're in a very strong position with our voters being energized about returning the president to the White House for more years.

I think when it comes to independent voters in these nine battleground states and if you look at again, some of the national polling that's come out today that I don't put a lot of stock in or worry too much about national polling.

You know, we're doing just fine with independents. Plenty well to win this race. I think independents know we've been through a really tough, hard, four years economically, but we're on the right path and moving our country forward.

BURNETT: One final question, another group other than independents, veterans, members of the armed forces. They matter a lot. Here's what John McCain said this morning on CNN about that group and Benghazi.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I've been traveling all over the country and veterans are angry. They're upset. They don't trust Barack Obama. The 1.6 million of them in Florida, for example, I think they could have an impact on this election.


BURNETT: Are you worried about that?

GIBBS: No. I think veterans know that when this president came into office, he made sure that the veterans of this country who had earned their benefits on the battlefields of war in foreign countries, would be treated like they should when they got home.

That's the commitment that Barack Obama has fulfilled. I got to say this, Erin. Obviously, people have a lot of respect for somebody like John McCain. But for somebody like that to go out there and say that people in the military don't trust the commander in chief.

That's one of the more shameful comments I've heard in more than 20 years of being in politics. I don't for one minute believe it and I think it's an awful thing to say, even when your candidate is behind in a political campaign. BURNETT: Robert Gibbs, thank you very much. Good to see you, sir, and I know you won't be sleeping for a long time. So get some coffee.

GIBBS: Thanks, Erin.


BURNETT: The question is, how long a time. I mean, you know, we could get answers tomorrow night and we could get answers in several weeks if it does come down to Ohio and it comes down to the provisional ballots, which we're going to talk a whole lot more with the secretary of state in a moment.

But John Avlon, you've been here for a week. You've spent a lot of time here in your life. Your grandmother's from Ohio. What are you feeling?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think you know, Mitt Romney had been surging after that first debate, but the momentum has stalled and I think Robert Gibbs gave a really interesting outline about what the Obama campaign is feeling.

First of all, for all their path to 270, they need the path to go through the buckeye state, Ohio. Second thing, they're betting big that the auto bailout will create an enormous amount of good will for them particularly in the northern part of the state.

And you are seeing that. Voters I've spoken to particularly in Toledo, home to that jeep plant, really did not take very kindly to the Romney ad. That backfired to many voters I spoke there.

The other thing is the intersection of politics and the economy, Erin. You know this. Unemployment great in Ohio is lower than the national average for the first time in decades. So that actually is good news for Ohioans.

And it does make it tougher to run on the economy, but this is a mainstream Republican state historically. One of the amazing things that it's been so close, it's a Democratic firewall this election.

That's very unusual. This is main street Republican territory, the president having a small, but steady lead all coming down to ground -- Erin.

BURNETT: Now when you talk about unemployment rate, obviously there's been a big battle on that. Republican governors saying, well, no. It's me. My policies should take credit and independents, at least in this state and some others do seem to be leaning Mitt Romney.

Again, everything we've got is in within margin of error, but on the ground, is your feeling that that's the case or not so much?

AVLON: I think what's fascinating is you see independents having a slight edge towards Romney. President Obama winning moderates by almost 20 points. You got the sense talking to some moderate voters here that they don't want to get into debates with the hard core conservatives in this state. It's exhausting.

And so they may not have a lawn sign, but they may be more inclined to vote Obama in part because of the economy, the polarization of the politics, the negativity of the ads that they've been besiege by turning a lot of voters off.

So I mean, look, Ohio voters are smart. They're thinking about the economy. They don't like the divisiveness in Washington. Romney impressed a lot of them with that first debate, but some of if fundamentals are reasserting themselves.

And it does. If it comes down to provisional ballots, we could be here for a long, long time, but again, President Obama having that small, but steady lead in the polls.

BURNETT: And we're going to get answers on these provisional ballots in a bit. But I just want to show you, yes, the president was just here at a rally and that's Mitt Romney's plane just pulling into the Columbus airport a few moments from where we are right now.

There's a big crowd there. Senator Rob Portman, who obviously had played Barack Obama in the mock debates with Mitt Romney was just there getting the crowd ready to go and Mitt Romney will be coming out of the that plane in just a couple of moments and this is going to be an important rally for him -- John.

AVLON: It is. You know, Senator Portman, key Romney surrogate, someone who had been talked about being the VP nominee, but maybe that would have changed the Ohio map.

I spoke to him earlier in Stark County, one of the key swing counties about the get out to vote efforts. Everything so focused on early voting and that is an area we should say that the Obama campaign has an edge.

But the Romney campaigning, the Rob Portman in particular saying look, our Election Day, we're going to more than make up for that and he's been campaigning hard for the Romney team.

BURNETT: All right, we are going take a break.

Of course, we're watching this rally and still to come, Mitt Romney's, yes, tonight, he'll come out of that plane and give a rally here in Columbus, but he's also going to be in Ohio tomorrow.

Can he win without this state? Romney surrogate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio is our guest OUTFRONT next.

Plus, he's being called the most important man in the presidential election. His name is not Mitt Romney. His name is not Barack Obama or bronco Obama, whatever it might be.

He joins me live, next. And what happens if at the end of the night, we are looking at a 269-269 split? Who becomes president in the event of an electoral tie? Our Tom Foreman OUTFRONT.


BURNETT: All right, you're looking at a live picture right there of Mitt Romney, just a few minutes away at the airport in Columbus, Ohio. His plane just pulled in. He and his wife, Ann, are amidst the crowd.

It's a chilly night here in Ohio. He's making a big rally stop tonight. He'll be making another stop here in Ohio tomorrow on the final day of campaigning. He'll be campaigning.

The president is not scheduled to make any campaign stops, although he was here in Columbus just a few moments ago at a rally of his own in downtown Columbus right behind where I'm sitting tonight.

Well, our second story tonight, Romney's closing arguments. No Republican and we've said this so many times, but it's worth reminding given where we're sitting tonight, has ever won the White House without Ohio.

Could Romney be the first? Our new CNN poll of polls out today from this state shows this. This is Ohio likely voters choice for president and it is within the margin of error although the president is ahead as you can see by three points on a poll of polls.

Earlier, I spoke with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Romney supported and started by asking him about something Robert Gibbs just told us that the Obama campaign sees all its pathways to 270 electoral votes wide open, so does Marco Rubio think Mitt Romney can get there without Ohio?


SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I hope we don't try. I mean, obviously, there is a mathematical way to do it and we feel good about a lot of different places and I was in Pennsylvania last Friday, 1,000 people showed up at a rally, so we're excited about that.

We've seen some polling in Michigan as well, but I think everyone would agree that Ohio is a critical state for the Romney campaign after the Obama campaign as a result. So I think we know what the battlefield because I think both sides know what the battlefield is and we're going to find out in about 24 hours exactly what happens.

BURNETT: We are and everyone's waiting. There's not going to be a lot of sleep had by anyone including yourself I'm sure. You mentioned Pennsylvania and going there. Some are saying this is a move of desperation by Mitt Romney. The state's closer than people thought, but it's a real Hail Mary pass to try to put it into play. Is that true?

RUBIO: I don't think so. You know, a couple of things have happened. Number one is the campaign ran out of places to spend money. I mean, after a while, there's just no more TV left to buy in Ohio and Florida and Nevada.

Number two, as you look at some of this public polling and I would imagine private poll that showed the race narrowing, so it was a wise investment of time and resources as a result.

Like I said, I mean, this was a late addition to the battlefield, a welcome one. We'll see how it turns out. I don't think it's the lynch pin of a Romney victory, but I think it's interesting it has come into play.

BURNETT: Well, I want to talk about Ohio a little bit more because the possibility is that where I'm standing tonight, for weeks on end if these ballots end up determining the race. People who could have voted a absentee, then didn't and those aren't counted if the another ten days. Do you think we're going to know who wins this election tomorrow night?

RUBIO: You know, I really do. Maybe it's just the hopeful side in me. I don't think any of us is looking for a protracted, multi week process because it's not good for the country.

Ultimately, accuracy is what's best. You want the race to be right. But I'm not sure either side would want to see this thing go beyond tomorrow night or the following morning.

So, we'll see. I don't think what you're saying is going to happen. I hope the victory will be decisive for Mitt Romney, but it's one of those things that's out there tonight that makes this race so truly unpredictable.

BURNETT: There is something else I want to ask you about and you are uniquely positioned and perhaps this is why so many see you as the future of big 10 Republican Party, the Hispanic vote.

Obviously back in 2004, George W. Bush won that with 40 percent of the Hispanic vote and right now, Mitt Romney's polling around 22 percent. That's the fastest growing population in this country. Is that something that shocks and disappoints you?

RUBIO: I think Republicans -- we need to do a better job of talking about what we're for when it comes to issues like immigration. Now look, immigration is not the issue that Hispanics wake up in the morning thinking about every single day, but it is a gateway issue.

Because if you live in the Hispanic community, immigration is not a theoretical issue, not something you read about in the newspaper. It's somebody you know. It's somebody that you love.

Even though you're not in favor of illegal immigration, you're not in favor of amnesty. You know a real person that's being impacted by it. So I think and I've been saying this for a while.

Republicans, we need to do a better job of talking about what we're for. We're for legal immigration. We're for modernizing the legal immigration system and for trying to help out these kids that are here in an undocumented status.

And we can do that in a way that's not amnesty. I'm pleased that Governor Romney is committed to finding a permanent solution for them. BURNETT: And Senator, one final question. If this turns out tomorrow in what I think really is a nightmare scenario for the country and that is one person wins the popular vote, obviously right now, that would be more likely to be Mitt Romney.

And the president wins re-election via the Electoral College, would you work with him and do a grand bargain of a deal on the fiscal cliff or would that be a signal that you wouldn't need to work with him because he didn't get a mandate?

RUBIO: No, a couple of things. Look, I love being a Republican. I love the Republican Party, but I love America more. I want to fix the problems. I'll work with anybody who's serious about balancing our budget and getting our tax code fixed and our regulatory system fixed.

I hope whoever's elected president tomorrow, I believe that will be Mitt Romney and we're excited about that, is serious about that as well. There are elections, but ultimately, I think we have to understand we've reached the point now where we have to start solving problems or we're all going to pay a terrible price.

BURNETT: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you so much for your time tonight.

RUBIO: Thank you.


BURNETT: All right, as we told you, Mitt Romney is speaking right now, just a few minutes away from where I am at the Columbus airport. Let's just listen to this for a few minutes.

ROMNEY: Some of you have been successful in convincing your neighbors to vote for Paul Ryan and me and I thank you for that. And now let's make sure that everyone we know gets out to vote on Tuesday.

You know, what makes this rally and all your work so inspiring is that you're here because you care about America. This campaign is about America and about the future that we're going to leave to our children. We thank you and we ask you to stay at it all the way until victory on Tuesday night is clear.

Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow. Perhaps, some of your friends and family have not yet made up their mind of who they're going to vote for, so when you talk to them, ask them to look beyond the speeches and attacks and ads and to look at the record because you see, talk is cheap, but a record is real and it's earned.

Change can't be measured in speeches, it's measured in results. And four years ago, candidate Obama promised to do so very much, but he has fallen so very short. He promised remember to be a post partisan president, but he's been most partisan.

As a matter of fact, blaming and attacking and divides and it's not only Republicans he refused to listen to. He also doesn't listen to independent voices. Then he was going to focus on creating jobs. Instead, he focused on Obama care, which killed jobs.

He said he was going to cut the deficit in half then doubled it. He said unemployment would be at 5.2 percent. It's at 7.9. That's 9 million jobs short of where we should be now. Unemployment is higher today than when he took office.

He promised he'd propose a plan to save Social Security and Medicare. He didn't. Didn't even propose a plan and instead, cut $716 billion out of Medicare to pay for Obama care.

He said he would lower health insurance premiums for the average family by $2,500 a year this year. Did you see your premiums go down anybody? As a matter of fact, for the average family, they've gone up $3,000 a year since the president, in total, since the president became elected.

And gasoline, it's up $2,000 a family. More than it was at the time he was elected. He said he was going to work across the aisle, by the way, on the most important issues.

Do you know how long it's been since he met on the economy or on jobs or on the budget and sequestration with either the Republican leader of the House or Senate? It's been since July instead of bridging the divide in Washington, he's made it wider.

BURNETT: You can hear a lot of these things you've heard many times before. That's what the next 24 hours is going to be, that final push by each candidate to their base.

Mitt Romney is at the Columbus airport. He'll be speaking again later tonight. It's going to be a long 24 hours for both men.

OUTFRONT next though is the man that "The Washington Post" wrote I'll read you the headline, could Ohio's Jon Husted be the most important person on Election Day?

Well, guess what? He just might be. He is the secretary of state from the state of Ohio. The man that could decide which way this race goes. He's going to be our guest OUTFRONT right after this.

And then our panel, Wolf Blitzer, John King and Gloria Borger weigh in. We'll be back.


BURNETT: Our third story OUTFRONT: Lawyering up. Election Day isn't even Ohio here yet, still a few hours away. But the legal challenges are already piling up. From Florida to Iowa to Ohio, fights are brewing over everything from early voting hours to voter fraud.

In Ohio, warnings over what some are calling a, quote-unquote, "nightmare scenario". And I think I can concur. This is people who requested absentee ballots, and then try the vote in person tomorrow. They can't do that because they don't want to have them vote twice. They're going to have to fill out a provisional ballot, which won't be counted for 10 days. I said start to be counted in 10 days.

The entire election could hinge on those provisional ballots. That would be a nightmare scenario.

OUTFRONT tonight, the man who could decide the next president of the United States, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

And thank you very much for taking the time and braving the chilly night here in Columbus.


BURNETT: So, "The Washington Post" headline today says, could Jon Husted be the most important person on Election Day? That's you.

HUSTED: I think the voters in Ohio will be the most important people and I will be reporting what their voice tells us.

BURNETT: All right. So do you think we're going to know who wins tomorrow night?

HUSTED: I believe we will. I know that it will be a close race, but I do believe that when we get all the results, that late in the night, we should be able to tell who the winner is.

BURNETT: All right. So this whole issue with the absentee ballots, I knew you were the one who's championed, let everyone have the opportunity for an absentee ballot. So 1.3 million of them were requested, but not all have been sent in.

So, my understanding, tell me if I'm wrong, right now, you have 200,000 of them not returned.

HUSTED: As of last Friday, but we believe that the vast majority of those have been sent in. We have a small number that will not arrive by election night, but may come after. But we really believe that it won't be a huge number and only if the race is razor thin close will that come into play.

BURNETT: All right. So you're saying it's not going to be anywhere near 200,000. Whatever those number is, the number of those that are outstanding is --


HUSTED: No, I think it will be less than that, but we have provisional ballots and the combination of the two could end up being around 200,000 votes.

BURNETT: Could end up -- just to make everyone understand, President Obama's margin of victory in 2008, which everyone says, including Robert Gibbs on this show, he thinks that is going to be much bigger than the margin they get if they win this time around, was 262,000 votes. So, it could happen.

HUSTED: Let's hope for good things and that we'll have a clear winner tomorrow night.

BURNETT: All right. So I've got this provisional ballot. It's a yellow sheet of paper, everybody. You got to fill it out, then on the inside, you have to fill out some information as well, including the last four digit of your Social Security number and you have to check a box on what kind of ID you put out, whether it's a photo form of ID.

Now, traditionally in Ohio law, those two things were filled out by someone who work in the voting area. Now, you're saying it should be by the voter themselves.

HUSTED: The sixth circuit court last week, said that the voters -- there's three sections of this, sixth circuit said that the voters should fill out section one and three. It didn't address section two. To be consistent with Ohio law and the court ruling, we're saying let the voter fill this out. Don't put the hand -- put this decision in the hands of the poll worker that they fill it out right.

If I was a voter, I would want to have control of casting my ballot, making sure the information is correct. I wouldn't want that taken out of my hand and given to a poll worker.

BURNETT: All right. So make your case. Of course, you know you've been a lightening rod in this campaign. Not just because of this, some other things as well. You fought early voting in your state as well. "The Atlantic" magazine called you the national face of voter suppression. What do you say to that?

HUSTED: Well, that's ridiculous. In Ohio, you can vote 35 days before the election. I took the unprecedented step of giving every single voter an absentee ballot request where they could vote in the state without ever leaving their homes. They had five weeks to cast ballots. You can cast them for 13 hours on Election Day and I also made sure that the rules were the same in all 88 counties, because in the past, counties would vote by different sets of rules. I made them uniform so that voters not only had ample access, but they felt treated fairly by all voting by the same rules.

BURNETT: And you also did not choose to go ahead with voter ID, which other states did.

HUSTED: We have a liberal set of voting rules regarding voter ID. You can use a photo ID, but you could also use a government issued paycheck or a utility bill with your current name and address. That's the law. It's not my decision.

But that's -- I implement the law. I don't make the law.

BURNETT: So, how will you feel if you're the person who has to make this decision? If there's a recount, I know it had to be razor thin, but are you ready for that?

HUSTED: People should be reassured that what I'm going to do is administer the law of the state of Ohio and run the elections according to that law, and they should know that everything in this state, in all 88 county boards of elections, there are Democrats and Republicans looking over each of their shoulders, plus, observers there. We all have that.

This is a real bipartisan system, with lots of eyes and transparency on it. So they should feel really comfortable with how they're running elections in Ohio.

BURNETT: All right. Secretary of State Jon Husted, thank you very much.

HUSTED: Thank you.

BURNETT: We may be talking to you tomorrow night. So, another person who won't be getting a lot of rest. But as we said, could be the person making the decision.

Get used to this, everybody. Let's hope you don't have to, but this yellow provisional ballot could be what ends up mattering.

Well, now, our fourth story OUTFRONT: Coping after Sandy. Millions in New York and New Jersey are still struggling. It is really horrific what so many are struggling through there, the anguish that you can see in the region.

The latest now, more than 1 million people still lack power across that region tonight. One hundred ten people have died in this country, 40 of them in New York, more than 9,000 spent the night in shelters and fuel for cars and generators continues to be hard to come by.

Lines can be miles long. Wait times in excess of three hours. There has been panic. There has been fighting. There has been fear.

We went on the Web site Craigslist today where several entrepreneurs were selling gas. Just take a look at this -- five gallons of regular gas from $90. That's 18 bucks a gallon.

The New York attorney general has received hundreds of complains about price gouging and is investigating. But the question we wanted an answer to was whether this gas shortage should even have happened in the first place.

Drew Griffin with the Special Investigation Unit joins me now with an OUTFRONT investigation.

And, Drew, I know the gas situation in New York and New Jersey has really crippled the entire area. Like I said, fear and panic. One in four stations in New York still don't have power. I know Florida has laws in place to prevent this very thing. Could the tri- state area have prevented this whole crisis?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION UNIT: Well, I'll tell you what they did in Florida. They had a rash of hurricanes, particularly in 2005. That was a bad year.

So, here in Florida, beginning about 2007, actually in 2007, they passed a law mandating that many of the gas stations, in fact most of them, have to have generators or at least be wired and adapted so you could plug in a generator for the very problem that the Northeast is facing. No power. Pumps don't work. Gas doesn't come out of the ground.

BURNETT: So, why didn't they do that in the Northeast when, you know, they've always been saying, we're prepared -- we're prepared for the biggest storms? We're prepared for a terrorist attack?

GRIFFIN: This is exactly why, Erin. It is really expensive.

This isn't like going down to your local hardware store and buying one of those generators you get for like, I don't even know how much it costs -- $2,000 or $300. The Gas Retailers Associations we've been in contact with today from all over say that the price of just wiring and getting a generator in for a typical gas station is about $50,000. Wiring it and getting it for a hook up is about $10,000.

For small businesses, which a lot of these gas stations are, that is really cost prohibitive, especially when you're facing a storm that hits New York, once every 100 years or so. So I think that's why you don't see mandates up in the state of New York or in the Northeast. Yes, I mean, there may be some calls for that, but it is extremely expensive to do. Florida thought, you know, we need to do this because we see so many hurricanes down here.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Drew Griffin. Perhaps they'll start thinking again now that they realize how reliant we all are on gasoline and think about how gas stations were shut up with the grid.

Well, up and down the East Coast, millions are dealing with the devastation of Sandy and for many, it's 24/7. Early estimates show 30,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers may have lost their home and could need housing.

Tonight, we saw more National Guard troops arriving with aid in a battered part of Queens, the Rockaways, and not a minute too soon, we were talking about that on Friday night. How bad it is there. Now, there's a nor'easter forecast to hit the tri-state area on Wednesday, which will bring cold temperatures, high winds and more flooding.

Still, some are determined to get out and vote tomorrow, but there are concerns about polling places being closed.

Deb Feyerick spent the day on Staten Island where many are just trying to find warm and shelter. The voting may not be anywhere near the top of their mind.

And, Deb, Governor Cuomo of New York announced tonight voters can go to approximate polling places, sign an affidavit and be able to vote by ballot from that location, wherever it is.

So, but where you are, I mean, you know, I've been out there. Are people out there even talking and worried about voting? DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, right -- we were talking to a number of people, asking them whether they are going to vote. The priority for so many people is simply to take care of their homes right now, because so many of them are really unbelievable.

You have to keep in mind that the entire first floor for many was flooded with salt water, water that stayed in their homes for up to three days. So, everything is ruined. The floors are ruined. The walls are ruined. People are gutting their homes down to the stud. Volunteers actually are coming to help them because mold is going to be a huge problem.

We are at a distribution center right now. I do want to keep you posted on what's going on. People have been coming here all day to pick up supplies. What some of the workers are doing now is they're filling up buses so that tomorrow morning once, it's light out, they can take these supplies into the community and that's a big part of this, Erin. And that is that some folks, they don't have anywhere to go.

So they are staying in these homes because they're just so devastated. They are afraid that there are going to be looters. They have been some stories that there are.

But because they've been displaced, the governor saying, look, you can go to a polling area and you can cast a ballot for either state or the president and that will be OK. You have to sign an affidavit and then just sign your name, and then vote for who you want to vote for obviously.

So many people, getting there is going to be a big problem. They are -- have so much on their minds right now that to get in a car, assuming that they even have a car that works or has gas, they're going to have to try to drive around to find that polling area because there's no electricity. The neighborhoods are dark. There are 1,200 polls places around New York City. About 60 of them will be closed, 60 fewer.

So again, you know, you're sort of going out into the unknown to figure out whether you can cast a ballot -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Deb Feyerick, thank you very much, reporting so many people have so many bigger problems on their minds. Will there be changes, perhaps? Maybe an extension of voting as some are saying could happen in the state of New York as an example, and New Jersey, where you can vote apparently now by e-mail, which will open its own host of problems, where there any sort of contest there.

Well, OUTFRONT next: Election Day is just a few hours away. Which cities will our experts be watching to decide this race? Wolf Blitzer, John King and Gloria Borger, OUTFRONT next.


BURNETT: Our fifth story OUTFRONT: 24 hour from now, the polls will be closed here in Ohio. But when will we know who the next president of the United States is? And what should we be looking for?

Let's head back to Washington where John King is standing by with Wolf Blitzer and Gloria Borger, the season's campaign reporters for what they are watching for tomorrow -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One thing we're all watching for, Erin, is make sure we have hot coffee brewed throughout the night.

But let me talk to Wolf and Gloria about when you're seeing the first early exit polls, when our correspondents out in the field are saying, here's what I'm saying in this town or that town, you will be looking most of all for what?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I want to see the turnout, especially on the Democratic side. If the Democratic base really shows up.

They were so enthusiastic four years ago for the president of the United States. If they show up in big numbers, he'll get himself elected. If on the other hand, there's not that kind of turnout, he's going to be in trouble.

If you take a look at Ohio, for example, he carried Ohio four years ago by 260,000 votes against John McCain, 260,000 votes. It was impressive, but not huge. Right now, it's clear he doesn't have the enthusiasm he had four years ago. I think Romney has more than McCain had at this point. We'll see if he can narrow that.

KING: And, Wolf is definitely right on that point. The Obama campaign offices, when you visit them, it's very impressive, don't get wrong. They're working hard. But it doesn't have the same energy as 2008, and the Republican energy and enthusiasm is up.


KING: So given that, we have a closer election this time. We know that. You will look for what?

BORGER: Well, I'm going to look towards the end of the evening. It's not the beginning, but towards the end of the evening. I'm going look at the ethnicity of voters. This is very important. Seventy- four percent of the electorate in 2008 was white. There are some analyses that show if that drops two percentage points, then Obama would probably win the presidency, which would make the case for Republicans that they need to open up their party more to minorities, particularly Hispanics --

KING: That would be post-election analysis if that happens.


KING: So, you're looking if the percentage of the white vote is --

BORGER: I want to se -- well, if the percentage of the it white vote overall is 72 percent. KING: If the president gets above 40 of the white vote, most people think he gets four more years.

BLITZER: He got 44 percent.

BORGER: The last time.

KING: He got 44 percent last time. We'll have an assessment tomorrow of what's most important tomorrow, then back to Erin Burnett in the battleground of all battleground. OUTFRONT will be right back.


KING: Back OUTFRONT: 24 hours from now, we'll be looking for the first clues of which candidate has the path to 270 -- 270 electoral votes to win the White House.

Here's what I'll be looking for. The polls in Ohio will already be closed at this point. The Cleveland suburbs, Lake County, how is Mitt Romney performing there and in northern Virginia suburbs when the polls close at 8:00, how is Mitt Romney performing there. If he can outdo John McCain, over-perform John McCain in the close-in suburbs, in the key states, it means we might have a longer night.

If President Obama is winning big in the suburbs, well, that's how you win competitive presidential elections. Right there in the battleground of all battlegrounds, in the capital, Erin Burnett is OUTFRONT.

And, Erin, you might be camped out there awhile. If we don't settle this tomorrow night, that could be the state that leaves us in limbo. Can we send you something?

BURNETT: Yes, I know. You might need to send me hot chocolate or something because it is pretty chilly here.

But you just heard the secretary of state, John. He was saying to me, no, I really think we are going to have an answer tomorrow night. Now, maybe a little of that is wishful anything but he seemed pretty adamant about that. I would imagine probably he more than anyone wants to avoid a scenario where he doesn't even start counting provisional ballots for 10 days, right?

KING: I called into both campaigns and some veteran activists in both parties who are not part of the campaign. I called in the non- Kool-Aid drinkers today in the state of Ohio to try to get a sense. And what's fascinating is both sides have a consensus that that state, it's a big state, they think it could be decided by as few as 10,000 or 15,000 votes -- which is wow.

Remember, you know the history, Erin. No Republican's ever won without it. And Ohio has been right since 1964. So, history tells us what Ohio does tomorrow night tells us who puts the hand on the Bible in January.

BURNETT: All right. Well, John King, thank you very much. It's going to be an exciting 24 hours here in Ohio. But just over the next few hours, everyone, I mean, this is -- this is kind of amazing. Both candidates are getting on planes and flying after just speaking and they are going to speak again before midnight -- really, really burning the midnight oil because every second counts.

We're going to lay out the next few hours and we're going to be live with you. We'll be back in a moment.


BURNETT: All right. We are live tonight from the boathouse in Columbus, Ohio. As you can see the beautiful view that we have from there. It's a chilly but beautiful night to hang out here at the boathouse. This is, of course, the capital of a state that could decide who the next president of this country is.

And to give you an idea of how crucial this state is, this is the only city Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both visited today, right here in Columbus. They're not done yet. Both campaigns will have a really long night tonight. Mitt Romney is in Ohio giving a speech right now. He's getting on a plane, flying back to New Hampshire to give another one later tonight. And we're going to be live, of course, at 11:00. We'll have that.

Barack Obama will appear during the hour as well in Iowa.

John Avlon, this is a burn the midnight oil and burn the jet fuel.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Neither candidate wants to leave anything in the locker room. This is it -- full press on to Election Day. We have been working for 18 months to see this.

America votes tomorrow and neither candidate wants to look back and say, I could have worked a little bit harder. I could have done a little bit more. So, they're packing on the campaign spots even tomorrow.

BURNETT: It's going to be a pretty incredible 24 hours. We'll be here in Ohio for all of it. Thanks for watching. We'll see you back here live at 11:00.

Anderson Cooper starts now.