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Final Election Push; Interview With Ohio Senator Rob Portman

Aired November 5, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the race for the White House going down to the wire, a final day of whirlwind campaigning for President Obama.

Mitt Romney announcing a campaign surprise, two more stops on Election Day in two critical states.

And it's all coming down to the battleground states. We are live in Ohio. We're live in Colorado, Nevada and New Hampshire.

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

Countdown to Election Day in America. Only 24 hours from now, the first polls close. And on the eve of the vote, the candidates are campaigning nonstop. They're focusing in on the battleground states.

President Obama started on the campaign trail in Wisconsin. He moved on to Ohio where we heard him speaking earlier. Tonight, he will hold a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. Mitt Romney's last day on the trail began in Florida and then on to Virginia and Ohio where we expect to hear from him live this hour. He will wrap up the day in New Hampshire.

And our correspondents are covering their every move. We're in all of the battleground states bringing you campaign coverage as only CNN can.

Ohio is certainly a crucial battleground state. As I said, Mitt Romney will be speaking in Columbus shortly. We will have live coverage; 18 electoral votes are up for grabs in Ohio. President Obama took them in 2008, but George W. Bush took them in 2004. And they're especially critical to Romney right now.

Remember, no Republican has ever won the White House without winning Ohio. Earlier today, Romney was in Virginia.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the Romney campaign -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mitt Romney is wrapping up what will be his final campaign stop in the battleground state of Virginia. His top campaign officials are predicting a clear and decisive victory tomorrow night.

But just in case, they're pulling out all the stops, including some campaigning on Election Day to reach what they're calling the last few undecideds.


ACOSTA (voice-over): After his long five-year run for the presidency, Mitt Romney is sprinting to a finish line that is finally in sight, a contest the GOP nominee says is between two competing visions, a brighter future...

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Tomorrow, we begin a new tomorrow. Tomorrow, we begin a better tomorrow.

ACOSTA: ... or more storm clouds on the horizon, he warns, if the president wins a second term.

ROMNEY: That same path means $20 trillion in debt. It means continuing crippling unemployment. It means depressed home values, stagnant take-home pay and a devastated military. Unless we change course, we may be looking at another recession as well.

ACOSTA: His election eve campaign stops in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire are critical. While they carry a combined total of 62 electoral votes, any one of them could make or break his chances. And he's not finished yet.

A top campaign official confirms he will make more stops on Election Day back in Ohio and in Pennsylvania, a state Romney suddenly sees moving his way. But complicating his message, his final targeted states feature unemployment rates that have plummeted in recent months.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott says that's no thanks to the president.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: The biggest drop in unemployment in the country is in our great state of Florida. And you know what? Government didn't do it. You did it.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we see now is an administration and a presidency littered with broken promises.

ACOSTA: Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, who's largely stayed out of the spotlight in the final days of the campaign, has started to ratchet up the rhetoric. On a conference call with religious conservatives, Ryan warned the president is leading the nation down "a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian values that made us such a great and exceptional nation."

A campaign spokesman said Ryan was talking about religious liberty and Obamacare, topics he has mentioned frequently during the campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: And there is no rest for this campaign. Mitt Romney will wrap up his night tonight where his campaign began, in New Hampshire, at an event where Kid Rock will be performing. Then he gets up in the morning with his wife, Ann, and goes to vote near his home in Massachusetts. Then it's off to those Election Day stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Wolf, I talked to a senior Romney adviser about those stops. They will not be big campaign rallies. They won't be rallies at all. He's going to be thanking his supporters and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to get him elected -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us, thank you.

President Obama hitting three campaign states today.

Kate Bolduan is here. She's following this part of the story -- Kate.


Of course, the president's next stop is Iowa and a rally tonight in Des Moines. The state has six electoral votes. Obama won those votes in 2008. George W. Bush won them in 2004.

CNN chief White House correspondent Jessica Yellin is on the ground there for us.

Jessica, so what is the closing argument there in Des Moines, Jess.


Well, the president as you say has been across the nation today and in Des Moines he will be here late tonight. He's holding the last and final rally of his campaign here, but he began the day in Wisconsin, a blue state that Democrats say that they're confident they will hold. That's what they say, but they're taking nothing for granted. They said they learned from Al Gore in the year 2000 that they just can't risk anything.

So they're fighting for that. And then he went on to Columbus, Ohio, for a rally with Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen, an unexpected duo. And the president's message is that he will fight for the middle class and he has not lost his passion for that one word, change. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have come too far to let our hearts grow faint. Now's the time to keep pushing forward, to educate all our kids, to train all of our workers, to create new jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, bring our troops home, care for the veterans, broaden opportunity, restore our democracy, build the middle class, make sure that in this country no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter how you got started here in America, you can make it if you try.

That's why I'm asking for your vote. If you're willing to work with me again, knock on some doors with me and make some phone calls and turn out, we will win Ohio. We will win this election. We will finish what we started.



YELLIN: And he's got one more to go, Kate. You can hear he's losing his voice there. He will be here next in Iowa. He will appear with Mrs. Obama. Iowa, of course, the state where as the campaign says it all started with that upset victory against Hillary Clinton in January of 2008, Kate.

BOLDUAN: His voice may be tired, but it definitely seems that he's got a second wind there in the final push.

So what's on the plan for him tomorrow, Jessica?

YELLIN: So after this rally here, he will fly to Chicago tonight and he will be spending the day in Chicago. I wouldn't be surprised if folks around the country end up hearing him on the radio in various markets, probably telling people to go out and vote.

And, you know, they have a campaign ritual. He did this every single primary during 2008. He went out and played basketball with a group, including Reggie Love, his body man, who is no longer his body man, but he's back on the old team. I guess the band has reunited for one last hurrah, so they will be playing ball tomorrow and closing out the ritual for one last campaign, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And watching the polls close and numbers come in. Jessica Yellin in Iowa for us, thanks so much, Jessica. Be sticking close with you.

A very important programming note. This is where you will want to be tomorrow night at this very time, and CNN's special live coverage of election night in America begins at 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 Pacific.

You know, I'm not going to miss it.


BLITZER: When you think about it, tonight's speech in Des Moines is going to be his last campaign speech for himself ever.

BOLDUAN: Right. Yes.

BLITZER: Unless he surprises us tomorrow and does something. Romney is doing something in Pennsylvania.

BOLDUAN: He could surprise us, but it is definitely capping off a very long career for him here. BLITZER: History unfolding.

BOLDUAN: History unfolding. We like to be a witness to it.

BLITZER: Yes, we do.

Can Mitt Romney win the White House without winning Ohio? A top surrogate says the answer is, yes. I will talk with the campaign about that. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, he's my guest.


BLITZER: Earlier, we heard from the president of the United States in Columbus, Ohio. Now we are getting ready to hear from Mitt Romney in Columbus, Ohio. We will have live coverage. Stand by for that.

All eyes clearly on Ohio right now and its crucial 18 electoral votes. On election eve, we are seeing a slight lead for President Obama there. There's one factor, though, that may be helping the president's hand.


BLITZER: And Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio joining us right now.

Senator Portman, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Wolf, great to be on with you again.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your beautiful state of Ohio right now. In our average, our CNN poll of polls, this is the final one we have done, the likely voters' choice for president in Ohio, right now, Obama 50 percent, Romney 47 percent, very, very tight right now. The president's slightly ahead.

If the president wins Ohio, will it be because he helped bail out the auto industry and so many jobs in Ohio are connected to the car industry?

PORTMAN: Well, I think it's because he won last time by five points and Ohio is a purple state. We're not red and we're not blue.

And, look, I think the race is very close. We're within the margin of error on that CNN poll you just talked about. There are other polls out there that have it a dead heat. I believe that's where we are.

I also think the energy and enthusiasm, Wolf, is on our side this year. I did not feel that in 2008. I think it's even more than 2004, more like 2000. And that at the end of the day as you know makes a huge difference in terms of your turnout.

BLITZER: I was surprised in that recent ad that the Romney campaign put out talking about the car problems, moving Jeep jobs supposedly from Ohio to China, if you will. Why do you bring that up? Because, politically, this seems like that it was a no-win situation, given the fact that president has scored a lot of points by what he did to save Chrysler and GM.

PORTMAN: Well, I thought it was an important ad to run, not so much because of that part, but because of the fact that for the last six months the Democrats have been running an ad in Ohio that is just not accurate, saying that it was Mitt Romney that wanted to take the companies through bankruptcy, it was Mitt Romney that was not providing federal help for these workers and for the auto industry.

And as you know, this came out in the second debate. The fact- finders found that that was false, and in fact Mitt Romney did have a plan. I supported the rescue effort at the time. As you know, I thought we needed to do something to help the auto companies, but the fact is that both of them had plans and it was Barack Obama who actually took the companies through bankruptcy, General Motors and Chrysler.

I think that's an important point that people needed to know because, frankly, the campaign was not responding to those inaccurate attack ads by the Obama administration. Second, I think it's really important to make the point that going forward it's Mitt Romney's plan for tax reform, regulatory relief, lower health care costs, energy costs, fair trade and also worker retraining that the companies are looking for.

If you're in the auto business, if you're an autoworker, you have to look at Mitt Romney's plans because they're actually going to help ensure we have a strong auto industry here in the state of Ohio.

BLITZER: Yes, but I guess the only point I was going to make is on this issue, you're probably vulnerable on this issue. I would have assumed Romney would have wanted to talk about a whole bunch of other issues where the president might be more vulnerable. But that's a tactical issue we don't have to discuss right now.

PORTMAN: Well, but I think we needed to respond to the inaccuracies. I think that was important.

And in terms of what Fiat is going to do in China, you should talk to them directly. But I do think they're planning on starting production there. And we do export all of the Jeeps now from the United States. And so, look, I think it's great making investments in Ohio and they have and I hope they will continue to.

But it's also true that if they start production in China, which they have indicated they're going to start doing, that we will have fewer exports. It doesn't mean that we will have fewer jobs here, because hopefully our market will improve here as well, particularly under Mitt Romney, if we get an expanding economy.

BLITZER: Can he win the presidency, Mitt Romney, without Ohio?

PORTMAN: Well, as I told Candy the other day, probably, but I wouldn't want to risk it. No Republican ever has. And Ohio's a key state to win. There are ways to put it together I suppose with some of the new expanding the map possibilities. Pennsylvania's one. Minnesota is one. Michigan is one based on one poll. But Ohio's pretty darn important. It's typically the road to the White House.

BLITZER: I think you will agree Michigan would be a really, really long shot.

But why is he going to Pennsylvania tomorrow? Does he really believe Pennsylvania's in play?

PORTMAN: Yes. I think there's some good polls there, Wolf.

You know, Western Pennsylvania's a lot like the eastern part of Ohio. It is an area that is dependent on natural gas and coal. These are energy parts of our country. Folks who live there, whether they're Republican, Democrat or independent, like what Mitt Romney's talking about so we see in our polls that we're overperforming in the eastern part of Ohio and I think we see the same thing in Western Pennsylvania.

So, I do believe that the polls are very close now in Pennsylvania and it's obviously something that the Romney campaign believes in, because they're planning another visit there.

BLITZER: One final question. Joe Biden said this in Virginia today and I will read it to you. He said: "I think we will win Ohio. I think we will win Wisconsin. I think we will win Iowa. I think we will win Nevada. I think we will win New Hampshire. I think Florida will be close, but I think we have a real shot of winning." And then he goes on to make a prediction.

Do you want to make a final prediction? Do you want to react to the vice president?

PORTMAN: Well, it sounds like Joe Biden is pretty confident. I was hoping it would be another comment like he made in Ohio recently, where he said, it's great to be in Iowa.

But, look, I think this is going to be a very close race. You and I have talked about this before, Wolf. I think our country is divided right now and it's not going to be a runaway either way. But I do believe Mitt Romney will win Ohio. And I believe that because I think the energy is on our side, the momentum is on our side and that's what matters here at the end.

Our folks have a lot of passion. They're very concerned about the direction of the country and concerned the record debt and deficit and what it means for their kids, concerned about the economy and the fact that we're not getting back on track with the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression. And at the end of the day, I think that's going to make the difference.

So I think we will win Ohio. And so goes Ohio so goes the country, they say. I'm pretty confident in a win, but a narrow win. And then we have got to figure out how to work together. And this is what Mitt Romney's closing on, which I love.

He's talking about the fact that Republicans and Democrats alike have to find common ground to address these very real challenges we face as a country. It's a message that's uplifting, it's optimistic. It's about how America can be great again. I think that's the right closing message and I think frankly it's what we need to do as a country after this election regardless of what happens.

BLITZER: Senator Portman, thanks very much for coming in.

PORTMAN: Thanks, Wolf. Good to talk to you again.


BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. Senator Portman played a key role. He played President Obama in all those rehearsals for the debates, that first debate. If Romney goes on to win, he will owe a lot to Senator Portman.

BOLDUAN: Many people will point to that first debate and all the hard work that Rob Portman did.

BLITZER: If he wins.

BOLDUAN: If he wins. And as Rob Portman says -- he seems pretty confident about Ohio.


BLITZER: In the last hour, we spoke to Beau Biden, the attorney general of Delaware.

BOLDUAN: Pretty different perspective.

BLITZER: Who is a big supporter of his dad and the president. Very different perspective.

BOLDUAN: Shocking, shocking. Can't believe that.

Still ahead, a new storm takes aim at the areas still reeling of superstorm Sandy -- the latest on the recovery efforts coming up next.


BLITZER: One week after superstorm Sandy, more than a million people are still without power in the Northeast. The cleanup and the suffering clearly continue.


BLITZER: The first lady of the United States, she is campaigning for the president of the United States. We will hear what she has to say. That's coming up.


BLITZER: All right, the first lady of the United States is speaking in Orlando, Florida. I want to listen in a little bit.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: In this America that we're building together, we believe that the truth matters. You don't take short cuts. You don't game the system.

And, finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight, because each and every one of us knows good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. We know better than that.


M. OBAMA: Instead, we know we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy built to last and that's what my husband stands for.

That's the country he's been working to build for four years. And we're all working to build it together. And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, believe me, I have been there, that is what we have seen in our president. We have watched him. We saw this.

I mean, think back to when Barack first took office. Where was this economy? It was on the brink of collapse. Everybody knows that. Newspapers were using words like meltdown, calamity, declaring Wall Street implodes. I was there. Economy in shock.

What was going on? The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks were wondering whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you hear me? That's what people were worried about. And that is what Barack faced on day one as president of the United States.

But let me tell you, instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, our president got to work. He got to work. See, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother, and that's why he cut taxes for small businesses. And working families, because we have a president, fortunately, who understands that teachers and firefighters shouldn't pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. Not in America.

And that's why while some folks, if you'll recall, were willing to let the auto industry go under, do you know who I'm talking about? With more than a million -- do you hear me? A million jobs that would have been lost. See, Barack had the backs of the American workers, and that's why today the American auto industry is back on its feet again.

And while we have more work to do, to completely rebuild our economy, let me tell you, there are more and more signs, clear signs every day that we are on the road to recovery. Let me tell you about some of them. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Companies hired more workers in October than in any time in the last eight months. Under this president, majority of his term, we have had 32 straight months of private sector job growth. Nearly 5.5 million new jobs created by this president under this administration. That's how we know we're moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: All right. So the first lady of the United States making the pitch for her husband's re-election. Let's discuss that and a lot more. Gloria Borger is here. David Gergen is here. Kate is still here.

She's a pretty effective speaker out there on the campaign trail.

BORGER: She is, and what strikes me about Michelle Obama and about Ann Romney is that they're not just up there doing sort of feel- good speeches. They're talking about policy and, you know, they carry a dagger, as I like to say, wrapped in velvet, which is -- which is what she was doing, talking about the auto bailout and Mitt Romney. So, a very political speech.

BOLDUAN: Very passionate.

GERGEN: Passionate speech. She's become an enormous asset for this president. Not only a rock for him personally, but her own personal stature has grown over time. I think it grew, in part, because she became more -- she warmed up, and she also had a softer side. She had a, you know, more feminine side. I was a little surprised by the tone of this speech but listen...

BORGER: Tough.

GERGEN: ... it's the last 24 hours. A lot of passion. They're tired. I think all is forgiven.

BLITZER: Gloria, Romney is going to make a surprise trip tomorrow, election day, to Pennsylvania, another one to Ohio. Do you think it will make a difference?

BORGER: Well, in talking to people on his staff, they say it will. First of all, no early voting in Pennsylvania. So they're not up against the machine there.

Secondly, I was talking to someone on his staff who said to me today that there are more Democrats who support Mitt Romney in Pittsburgh than anywhere else in the country. Steel, coal.

However, I would have to say that, since Obama won Pennsylvania by ten points in 2008, if there's any shot that he's going to lose Pennsylvania, then there's a good shot he's going to lose the election so...

BLITZER: If he loses Pennsylvania -- if the president loses Pennsylvania, Romney's going to be the president.

GERGEN: Well, but what if Romney loses Ohio, then Pennsylvania may be the -- if he can pull out Pennsylvania, it puts him back...

BLITZER: Pennsylvania has more electoral votes than Ohio.

GERGEN: Right. I mean, I think that's very unlikely to lose Pennsylvania and get Ohio.

BORGER: But why not go there? Because also you're in -- going to Pennsylvania could be going to Ohio.

GERGEN: The other thing is...

BORGER: Media market.

GERGEN: This is one of the states where they didn't have a barrage of anti-Romney ads against him, and his personal approval rating's higher there, actually.

BOLDUAN: you can take a look at the rest of the itineraries that we were all kind of focusing on, in the last day. Obama, he was in the firewall. Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa. Romney, you know, Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire. You know, what do these itineraries tell you? What does it -- what does this tell you in the final day, 24 hours before?

GERGEN: They're in the states that matter, really matter and no one more than Ohio. You know the presidential candidates have been in Ohio more than 80 times in this campaign.

BOLDUAN: Amazing.

GERGEN: These candidates have spent more time in Ohio than William McKinley did, sitting on his front porch out of Canton, Ohio, back in 1896. They did...

BOLDUAN: It's not about the popular vote anymore. I mean, it is about these states.

BORGER: But I have to say, Cleveland looks like the hub for all airlines in the United States right now, because that's how many times they've all been to Ohio.

BLITZER: TV stations in Ohio right now, making somebody...

BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

BLITZER: Gloria, listen to what Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, said if Romney were to lose. We -- that's in our documentary on Romney. "If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn't conservative enough, I'm going to go nuts. We're not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we're not being hard-ass enough." Lindsey Graham.


BORGER: Well, this is Lindsey Graham's way of saying to the Republican Party, "Wake up. Wake up. We have to start winning some nonwhite votes in this country. Wake up. We may lose Nevada because of Hispanic votes. Could lose Colorado because of Hispanic votes. Look at New Mexico; look at the way the country is moving." It's his way of saying it's not about conservatism. It's about expanding your demographic in the party to include nonwhite voters.

GERGEN: There are a lot of moderate conservatives in the Republican Party now that believe that the Republican Party will be doomed to be a minority party unless it expands its base, unless it becomes more inclusive.

Look how much they've already lost because California has gone so solidly Democratic, New York has gone so solidly Democratic. In our lifetimes those used to be swing states, and now they give any Democratic nominee a big advantage right out -- right out of the box.

BOLDUAN: Now listen to this. Michael Shere (ph) of "TIME" noticed the similarities between President Obama's new stump -- speech stump line and a former president. Not Clinton, though. Take a listen here. Let's take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After four years as president, you know me. You may not agree with every decision I've made. You may at times have been frustrated by the pace of change, but you know what I believe. You know where I stand.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Even when you might not agree with me, you know what I believe. You know where I stand. And you know where I'm going to lead our nation.


BOLDUAN: Very similar pitches. Is there any connection between the -- I mean, any similarities between 2012 and 2004?

GERGEN: Better the devil you know.

BORGER: It's the incumbent war cry: "You know me. You know who I am." I mean, the truth of the matter is, though, I think that voters don't really know who either of these guys are in the end. What would a second Obama term look like? And what would a first Romney term look like, given the turning around we've seen of Mitt Romney on the campaign? I don't think we know who either of them are.

BOLDUAN: The fear of the unknown is what both sides are pitching against each other.

BLITZER: Worked for President Bush in 2004. We'll see if it works for this president right now. Guys, thanks very much.

BOLDUAN: Thank you both.

BLITZER: We're about to take you to some of the must-win swing states. In a race this tight every electoral vote counts, which is why both candidates are taking New Hampshire and its four electoral votes so seriously. We're going there live. Stand by.


BLITZER: New Hampshire has only four electoral votes but the state's getting plenty of attention from both presidential candidates. President Obama won there in 2008. John Kerry just barely won back in 2004.

CNN's Brian Todd is in Manchester for us right now. Brian, tell us about time you spent with both Romney and Obama supporters who are trying to get out the vote today.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A huge effort here on the ground today, Wolf, in New Hampshire. A lot of buzz in the state, of course, because it is a battleground state. Mitt Romney wrapping up his campaign, the same place where he started it. New Hampshire, where he started the campaign about a year and a half ago.

He holds a final rally with Kid Rock tonight at the Verizon Wireless Arena about two blocks from where we're standing. You mentioned the ground game. So crucial in this state, especially. Both campaigns heavily invested in that ground game.

First, we caught up today with a group of Romney canvassers. Two in particular, Steve Gilligan and Cathy Ackerman, as they targeted a neighborhood in Nashua. They say they get these walk books from their campaign headquarters telling them exactly what neighborhoods to go to where people might be undecided, where people might be leaning toward Romney but not quite sure.

So she targeted a neighborhood, Cathy Ackerman did, and she told me about some of the undecided voters she sometimes comes across and what she does to try to win them over.


CATHY ACKERMAN, ROMNEY SUPPORTER: That's very interesting to run in to an undecided voter. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, you really feel compelled to, like, share a ton of information with them to hopefully bring them to vote with us, obviously. We want their vote. That's why we're out doing this, and that's why, you know, I've been pounding the pavement for the last week and a half like hard, hard, hard. Finding -- hoping to find undecided voters, hoping to be able to help them make a good decision.


TODD: Cathy Ackerman's been working for the Romney campaign since August of last year so she's at the end of a very long road.

Then we caught up with an Obama canvasser, Ricardo Rodriguez. He was going around in a working-class neighborhood here in Manchester, again, zeroing in on possible undecideds, possible independents. There are many independents in this state. And here's what he told us, also, about some of the other potential voters who he's encountered. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICARDO RODRIGUEZ, OBAMA SUPPORTER: You know, I think a lot of the voters that I've seen are people that are unregistered, that may need help registering or knowing what it is. There's a few laws that have been changed, so we're just trying to get everybody, you know, the information they need to vote.


TODD: And these canvassers of both campaigns tell us they're going to be out doing it early tomorrow morning, getting the vote out, giving people rides, if they need them, to the polls. Wolf, the ground game so vitally important here and it's in full swing tonight, tomorrow morning.

BLITZER: New Hampshire really has swung back and forth in these presidential elections over the past few decades. Why is that, Brian?

TODD: well, you know, Wolf, it's hard to say why, but it really speaks to how crucial New Hampshire has become. It was very reliably Republican in the '70s and '80s, but then it started to really swing.

Bill Clinton carried it in '92 and '96. In 2000, as you remember, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in this state by just one percentage point. A lot of people feel that if Gore won this state that he might have won that Electoral College count.

John Kerry beat George W. Bush by one percentage point in the state in 2004, and President Obama carried it in 2008, winning very comfortably and doing something in 2008, by the way, that Bill Clinton could never do. He won every county in the state.

It's not going to be that close this time around. Not sure why it keeps swinging, Wolf. But there are a lot of kind of immigrants from other states and especially from Massachusetts into New Hampshire. So the influx of people kind of, you know, making that commute now to the Boston area and people moving from out of state in might have something to do with that swing.

BLITZER: Sure it does. All right, Brian, thanks very much. We'll watch New Hampshire and those four electoral votes.

BOLDUAN: Our next battleground stop is Colorado with its nine electoral votes. Just like Ohio, went for Barack Obama in 2008 after helping George W. Bush win the White House in 2004.

CNN's Kyung Lah is in Denver for us. Kyung, there's a lot of early voting going on in Colorado. Are you getting a sense at this point from either campaign about who has the upper hand?

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Republicans are saying they have the upper hand, because if you look at who's actually voted, cast that vote, the Republicans are leading by about 25,000 votes, but that's not very much of a gap. What we're seeing here in this location I'm standing in, the early voting as you mentioned, Kate, is over. But what people are doing here are dropping off their early ballots. They're -- these are the mail-in ballots. They can still drop them off, and Murphy's Law, no one's here. But basically, they can drive up, give their ballot to this gentleman, and then he'll take this ballot and drop it in this red box.

From here, these ballots then get counted by a machine. Now, the machine will not tabulate until all the polls close, 7 p.m. tomorrow Mountain Time, and then we're going to start to get results.

Colorado's secretary of state expecting results to come very quickly, because about 85 percent of the registered voters will cast their vote by the end of today, so they expect to have some results very quickly.

Republicans saying they have the energy, they have the ground game. They say if you go to an event like Paul Ryan today showing up at his last event here in Colorado, he had a lot of enthusiasm. There was a lot of energy among the crowd. They say that's paying off in the early vote and how much better they're doing in 2012 versus 20-8 -- 2008 -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thanks so much. Kyung Lah in Denver for us, watching early voting there. Thanks so much.

Eighty-five percent of registered voters, she said, to vote by the end of the day. So interesting.

BLITZER: Pretty cool. Thank you.

The swing states certainly getting the most attention from both candidates. Ohio. Early voting there just ended a few hours ago after attracting huge lines. So what will tomorrow bring?


BOLDUAN: Thanks to CNN's vast resources, we have reporters in all of the must-win swing states that will determine the election.

Nevada has six electoral votes. The state went to Barack Obama in 2008 and President Bush in 2004. That's where we have our CNN's Miguel Marquez in Las Vegas for us this evening. What are you seeing, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, this all comes out of the numbers in Las Vegas. The turnout for early voting has been enormous. There are 50,000 more Democrats who have voted in that early voting. There's about 400,000 votes left in the state at this point. That means that tomorrow, talking to political science professors and number crunchers out here in Nevada, the Republicans have to perform incredibly well. They have to come out about 10 percent higher more Republicans than Democrats tomorrow. And among those unaffiliated voters -- there's a huge number out here -- they have to outperform the Democrats by about 50 percent to 40 percent. That is a huge, huge hill for Republicans to climb here in Nevada.

Now, they will say that a lot of those Democrats and a lot of those unaffiliated voters are going to go to them, and that's where they make up their numbers, but that theory will be tested tomorrow -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Nevada, a state we are watching very closely. Miguel Marquez in Las Vegas for us. Thanks so much, Miguel.

BLITZER: Let's check in Ohio right now. It has 18 electoral votes. They are crucial. And history shows Republicans don't win the White House if they don't carry Ohio. President Obama won the state in 2008. George W. Bush barely carried Ohio in 2004.

CNN's Erin Burnett is in Columbus for us right now. What are you seeing, Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, this is definitely center of everything. The president just held a rally here, and I just spoke with a senior advisor, Robert Gibbs. He told me, yes, we do believe it's going to come down to Ohio.

I also just spoke with Senator Marco Rubio, obviously a key surrogate for Mitt Romney and potentially one day a presidential candidate himself, who said, "Yes, I have to say the math is very difficult. I don't want to look at what the path is to Electoral College victory without Ohio."

So Ohio seems to be the center of what the campaigns think is going to determine this race. That's why we're here tonight. We're going to bring you our full conversations with Robert Gibbs and also with Senator Marco Rubio.

And the man, today, Wolf -- I'm sure you saw the headline, the "Washington Post" said the most important person in this entire election is not Barack Obama; it's not Mitt Romney. It happens to be the secretary of state for the state of Ohio. There's a very crucial ballot issue here that you've talked a lot about. Everyone had an absentee ballot, but if you didn't cast it and you show up in person, you're going to have to cast a provisional. I have one of them here.

We're going to talk about that and see if the hanging chad scenario from Florida will be what we see in Ohio, and we may not get a victor. If it really does come down to Ohio and the margin is narrow tomorrow night, Wolf, as you know, it could be weeks until we know who actually wins.

BLITZER: Because they're going to have to spend at least -- wait ten days before they start counting those provisional ballots. Erin's coming up right at the top of the hour.

BOLDUAN: Some people will vote with conviction. Others, it appears, vote with bubble gum. What are we talking about? We're going to tell you, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BOLDUAN: New York City is known as America's artistic capital, so when it comes to something as serious as electing a president, you can count on creativity to be part of the process. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who needs a ballot when you can vote with your gum? Sure, there are plenty of dumb ways to predict the presidential vote: from dogs choosing treats at Dogtopia doggie daycare spas. Does it invalidate your ballot when you spit it out?

To counting the sales of chia Obama and chia Romney. We applied the seed paste three weeks ago. Mitt Romney's hair is flourishing, but Barack Obama's is balding. Though the president leads in sales, 62 to 37 percent.

Obama is also ahead in the Buskin Bakeries cookie count.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll take two Mitt Romney cookies, please.

MOOS: In this swing-state Ohio bakery, Obama leads, 53 to 46 percent.

From tasty to yucky. Our favorite poll is the Juicy Fruitiest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's pretty gross. It's a pretty gross idea.

MOOS: The guy calling it gross is one of the three people who dreamed up the gum election. They're all in the creative end of advertising and felt like getting involved in the campaign, even though...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't vote or like all of us couldn't vote. James is from England. I'm from Germany and...

MOOS (on camera): A bunch of foreigners doing this to our presidential candidates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's New York City.

MOOS (voice-over): They put up about 50 posters asking passersby to vote with their gum for the candidate they don't like. Mitt Romney got a cigarette in the eyeball. President Obama got X'ed out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people turned Romney into, like, the devil.

MOOS: With a pair of greenhorns.

Not only is Governor Romney running, so is his nose.

(on camera) Since New York City is a bastion of liberals, of course way more people are sticking it to Mitt.

(voice-over) Ohio Express, the '60s group that epitomized bubble- gum pop has the best campaign song for the gum election.

OHIO EXPRESS (SINGING): Chewy chewy chewy chewy chewy.

MOOS: After chewing things over, this masticator plastered Mitt Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to make sure I had the most impact. Right in the nose.

MOOS: Every once in a while, you see a glob that's apparently still undecided, but in New York City, the more conservative candidate is bound to get his butt kicked.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I gummed Mitt Romney.

MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to those New Yorkers.

Now, you're going to be in Virginia.

BOLDUAN: I'll be in Virginia.

BLITZER: A key battleground state.

BOLDUAN: A key battleground state for our coverage tomorrow night. I'm very excited. I'll be at a polling -- a -- it's in Prince Edward County. It's going to be very important.

BLITZER: It's a good barometer of which way that state...

BOLDUAN: Many people ask me, Wolf, do you have a pre- -- like a pregame election warm-up?

BLITZER: Get a good night's sleep tonight. Run on the treadmill, as I do every morning, eat healthy, be strong.

BOLDUAN: You wear the same tie?

BLITZER: No. I got a new tie. Always get a new tie.

BOLDUAN: Watch for the new tie, everyone.

BLITZER: New tie tomorrow.

BOLDUAN: Going to be a very big deal.

BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us. Remember, you can follow us on Twitter: @Wolf Blitzer, @KateBolduan.

See you later. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.