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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Presidential Race Remains Close; Presidential Candidates Campaign in Swing States; Interview with Stephanie Cutter; Interview with Pat Toomey; Race For White House A Dead Heat; Battleground: Florida; Battleground: Colorado; Battleground: Ohio; First Polls Open In Less Than 24 Hours; Ryan: Obama Threatens Judeo-Christian Values; 110 Deaths Blamed On Superstorm Sandy; NYC Marathoners Distribute Aid; Afghanistan Massacre; Sunday Night Football; Will Ferrell Wants You To Vote; Signs Of Progress On Jersey Shore; Battleground: Nevada
Aired November 5, 2012 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Welcome to our special coverage of the 2012 election live from the nation's capital. Just one day to go before Americans head to the polls, the race for the White House is in a dead heat as the candidates make their final push. And the best political team on TV has it covered for you this morning.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman. They are sleepless in the swing states. President Obama, Mitt Romney, and their running mates making 14 stops in eight critical states with polls showing, believe it or not, there are still voters who have yet to make up their minds. We are live in every key battleground state.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Christine Romans, and this, this is the only map that will count, the Electoral College, the race to 270, eight states are still up for grabs. They're yellow here with hours to go. We're going to look at the road each candidate's going to take to get that magic number.
ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It's been a week since Hurricane Sandy and many victims saying they will get to the polls, come hell or high water, or in this case, both. But where will their polling places be? The scramble on the east coast ahead.
O'BRIEN: We've got a packed two hours for you this morning. Stephanie Cutter from the Obama campaign is going to be joining us, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is our guest, Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen will be with us. Arizona Senator John McCain, the former White House press secretary Bill Burton, and former treasury secretary Larry Summers all joining us this morning, and former McCain campaign adviser Mark McKinney is with us. It's Monday, November 5th, and a special edition of STARTING POINT live from the nation's capital begins right now.
Welcome, everybody. In 24 hours the campaign promises and those commercials finally stop and the American people will pick a president. This morning, a brand-new CNN/ORC poll of likely voters have Mitt Romney and President Obama in a dead heat, 49 percent apiece. Both candidates are canvassing the critical swing states on this final full day on the campaign trail. The president will hold rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa. Governor Romney is in Florida and Lynchburg and Fairfax, Virginia, and Columbus Ohio and in Manchester, New Hampshire.
And it wouldn't be a presidential election without some kind of legal fight in the state of Florida. The state's Democratic Party is suing to extend early voting hours with people reporting lines of up to seven hours at some south Florida early polling stations. CNN has this place covered like no other network. We've got Dan Lothian in Madison, Wisconsin. Jim Acosta is in Orlando, Florida, Martin Savidge is in Cleveland, Ohio. Miguel Marquez is in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ed Lavandera is in Denver, Colorado, for us this morning. John Zarrella comes to us live from plantation, Florida. We want to begin with complete comprehensive coverage with John Berman checking in to see how our correspondents are faring.
BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. The candidates are all over the place today. President Obama and Mitt Romney hold eight rallies in seven states today, a final frenetic day of campaigning across the battlegrounds. For the president, he begins in Wisconsin, a state that has voted true blue since 1984, but it is almost always close. And with Paul Ryan, a native Wisconsin son, on the Republican ticket, the Obama team is taking no chances. They've called in the cavalry to help, including The Boss, Bruce Springsteen to seal the deal. Dan Lothian is live in Madison, Wisconsin. Good morning, Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, and you're right, Bruce Springsteen will be warming up the crowd here with a 30- minute concert before the president comes out. The campaign has been using these big names not only to draw in big audiences, but also to energize them. I can tell you, after speaking with a campaign official last night, they are very confident about their position in these closing hours. That official told me, quote, "We would rather be us than them," referring to the Romney camp.
The reason for this is because they believe they've been able to lay down an effective ground game in these key battleground states. They have a network of volunteers spread out across those battleground states. They've also been able to make one-on-one contact with 125 million people over the course of the campaign.
The campaign also says that the president has been able to do an effective job of laying out where he wants to take the country over the next four years and what he has been able to accomplish over the last four.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And today our businesses have created nearly 5.5 million new jobs. The American auto industry is back on top. Home values are on the rise. We're less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 20 years. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is ending. Al Qaeda is on the run. Osama bin Laden is dead. We've made progress these last four years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: A senior campaign officials telling me that they're not concerned about the polls. They say that they always knew it would be very close. Now, from here the president will head back to that important battleground state of Ohio, and then wind up in Iowa, where he began his journey to the White House more than four years ago. John?
BERMAN: All right, thanks so much, Dan Lothian in Madison, Wisconsin. It looks a little bit chilly this morning.
As for Mitt Romney he holds the first of five rallies today in a not so chilly Sanford, Florida. Of all the battleground states, Florida is really the biggest electoral prize and for the Romney team, simply a must-win. CNN's Jim Acosta is live in Orlando this morning. Good morning, Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. That's right. All you have to do is look at the itinerary to see which states Mitt Romney is focusing on today in order to capture the White House. He is starting the day, as you said, here in Florida. Then he has two events in Virginia. Then off to the ultimate battleground state of Ohio. And then he ends the night in New Hampshire.
In this final stretch of the campaign, John, we've seen the Romney stump speech take on a bit of a harder edge. He has been warning voters what might happen if President Obama is elected to another four years in office. He has been saying that the country could go back into a recession, could face another debt crisis. But, there have been some lighter moments out on the campaign trail. Romney had sort of acknowledged the pretty hectic pace of the final hours of this campaign. Letting voters know last night, at an event in Virginia, that he's getting tired, too. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe we can do better, if you believe America should be on a better course, if you're tired of being tired, then I -- not just tonight, but all the time --
ROMNEY: -- then I ask you to vote for real change, and Paul Ryan and I will bring real change to America from day one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, a senior Romney adviser did push back a little bit on what the president's campaign has been saying about where this race stands right now. They believe they are over-performing in states, even states like Pennsylvania, where he had a campaign stop last night. He walked out to the theme of that movie, "Rocky," and just a sign of how they believe they are the underdog but they're still doing well in some of these states that they had not expected to do well in.
And they believe the president is underperforming, and that is why this race has gotten so very close. Later on tonight, John, they will be ending this campaign in New Hampshire. It is where all of it began for Mitt Romney. It's where he launched his campaign a year and a half ago. And kid rock will be performing later on tonight. So they're bringing out the stars, as well.
BERMAN: That's right, Kid Rock, the heavy guns. Jim Acosta, thanks so much.
Now to a game that many political junkies have been playing all weekend, the electoral college calculator. I'm with Christine romans and the magic wall.
ROMANS: The number is 270. The red states are considered states for Romney. The blue considered for the president. These yellow are the swing states. The quickest pay for Obama to get to 270, he needs to take Iowa, needs to take Wisconsin, needs to take Ohio, and that gets him there fast, 270. Let's take these back and show you the quickest ray for Romney to get to 270. He's got to take Florida, he's got to take Virginia, he's got to take Ohio. That gets him to 266. That means he just needs maybe like the four votes in New Hampshire. He could take Iowa, although that one has been leaning forward the president. The quickest way for Obama, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio. The fastest way for Romney, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, then he just needs one more state.
BERMAN: The problem for Mitt Romney is the quickest way includes Ohio, which means polling consistently behind there. Without Ohio he's got to take a lot more of those yellow states right now.
ROMANS: And that's why we keep talking about Ohio all past week.
BERMAN: Christine Romans, thanks very much.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, guys, appreciate it. Our team this morning, Erick Erickson, the editor in chief of RedState.com, also a CNN contributor, Ron Brownstein, the editorial director of "National Journal," and CNN senior political analyst Roland Martin is still with us. He's a CNN political analyst, as well. It's nice to have you guys with us this morning. Certainly appreciate it.
The race couldn't really be much tighter right now. The latest national CNN/ORC poll shows 49 percent, 49 percent. All tied up. Let's get right to Stephanie Cutter, who is deputy manager for the Obama campaign. Stephanie, good morning, nice to have you with us this morning. Appreciate your time.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY MANAGER, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Good morning. Thanks for having me. O'BRIEN: You bet. So Christine was just walking through that electoral map, and you can see that the poll is tied. Other national polls like ABC and NBC and Politico have one and pew has one as well really, really close, maybe with the president with a slim lead there. Is it fair to say that this is a complete toss-up?
CUTTER: No. I would agree -- I would disagree, sorry. You know, I was listening to you go through the map just a few minutes ago and this really is about 270 electoral votes. And what's happening in the states. And in every single battleground state, we're either tied or have a solid lead. And as you -- as you said, or somebody said, all paths go through Ohio for Mitt Romney. And we've had a solid lead there for some time. A third of Ohio voters have already voted. And we're beating Mitt Romney by more than two to one. We feel very good about where we are today.
O'BRIEN: If you look at independents, though, you can't feel so great about that. A new CNN poll shows that governor Romney is way ahead among independents, a 22-point lead, 22 -- not that graphic. Governor Romney at 59 percent, there we go, right there. My math isn't so good but even I can figure out the 22 points. The CNN/ORC poll has Romney at 59 percent and President Obama at 37 percent among independents. NBC also shows a lead for the governor, a smaller lead but still a lead. Do you -- are you concerned about independents that many people focus on what independents will do in the final days of the election?
CUTTER: Well, again, those are national polls. If you look at the state polls, if you look at some of those NBC polls, for instance, in the states, we, there are several states where we're leading in independents. Iowa, for example, we wouldn't have that lead that we have right now without independents. So it's really a state by state picture of what's happening with the electorate. And we feel good about where we are.
O'BRIEN: All right, how about Ohio? I was just talking to Senator Rob Portman and he says that Ohioans are not feeling so great about the economy there. Here's what he said about jobs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROB PORTMAN, (R) OHIO: If you look at the Ohio numbers on the question that pollsters love to ask, are you going in the wrong track or right direction our wrong track numbers are about like the rest of the country. Last month we lost 12,800 jobs in Ohio. We're glad our unemployment numbers are about a point below the national average but we don't think it's good enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: So he would say people in Ohio are still hurting. It doesn't feel very good. And also if you look at the cn Ohio poll, Obama 50 percent, Mitt Romney, 47 percent. And that's well within the sampling error.
CUTTER: Absolutely, and, look, I understand that Senator Portman feels like he needs to deliver Ohio for his candidate Mitt Romney. And he's under tremendous pressure right now. But the fact is that the Ohio economy has been recovering at a faster rate than many other states because of the actions the president has taken on the auto industry. And you know what the debate has been over the past couple weeks with the false ad that Mitt Romney has been running. If they felt good about where they were in Ohio they wouldn't be running those ads.
As the president said on the stump last night, we've created about 5.5 million private sector jobs. As a result of the steps that he's taken to save the recovery from falling into a depression, and starting this recovery. So, across Ohio, whether it's manufacturing jobs, the first manufacturing jobs coming back to that state, and almost a decade, you know, auto jobs, second, third shifts being added to auto plants all over that state.
We feel good about what's happened with the economy in Ohio. But I will also say, we agree with Senator Portman. We're not where we need to be, which is why the president has laid out a second term agenda to continue job creation, to continue investments in the middle class.
O'BRIEN: Stephanie Cutter, as you have said many times, and so now I'll agree with you, the only poll that matters is going to be the poll tomorrow night. Thanks for being with us, appreciate it.
CUTTER: Thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: Zoraida Sambolin has a look at some of the other stories.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning. Cleanup is under way from super-storm Sandy. Bulldozers are clearing piles of debris along the devastated New Jersey shore. The storm is now blamed for 110 deaths in the United States alone. More than 1.5 million power customers in 15 states are still in the dark this morning. And to make matters worse, a nor'easter is in the forecast this week. It could bring heavy winds, rain, and flooding to areas that are already hard-hit by Sandy.
And today a 48-year-old former Vatican computer expert will go on trial for his alleged role in a scandal involving stolen pal documents. Pope benedict's top bodyguard and the pontiff's former butler are expected to take the stand. The former butler is now serving an 18-month prison sentence after being convicted last month of leaking the Pope's private letters to an Italian journalist.
And in the closing hours of the presidential campaign, the candidates are making their closing arguments to voters. And you just knew "Saturday Night Live" would get into the action as well, harpooning Mitt Romney for his remarks about federal funding for FEMA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a comment I made during a Republican primary debate. OK? That's like judging a person's behavior while they're pledging a fraternity. OK? OK, look, now you can't hold a man, or a woman, to what he, to what he, or she, said that a Republican primary debate. OK, I want to make it clear that when I said we should get rid of FEMA, well, it was sunny. (LAUGHTER)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: That's pretty funny this whole election season. One of the highlights, I would say.
SAMBOLIN: You wonder what will they do after the election?
SAMBOLIN: But Chris Christie thing is hilarious.
O'BRIEN: By CNN's calculations, it leans Obama right now. But both campaigns are fighting over the state of Pennsylvania. Up next, we're going to talk with Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey after a weekend spent campaigning with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Back in a moment.
O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching our special coverage of the election live from Washington, D.C. this morning. With less than 24 hours to go, the candidates are focusing on the biggest prizes. Those elusive swing states. Right now, CNN has Pennsylvania lean Obama, but both campaigns are fighting for the key stone state. Today President Obama is deploying Bill Clinton there, for four campaign stops just one day after Mitt Romney took the state in Pennsylvania, the theme from "Rocky."
Pat Toomey is a Republican senator from Pennsylvania. He campaigned with both Romney and Paul Ryan this weekend. He joins us this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.
SEN. PAT TOOMEY, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Good morning, thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: Appreciate that. We've heard sort of mixed messages on the state of Pennsylvania. So lay it out for me. Listen to Republicans, they say Pennsylvania is definitely in play. If you talk to the Democrats, David Plouffe said it's a sign of desperation to talk about Pennsylvania. Let me play for you what he said and then we'll answer that on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID PLOUFFE, OBAMA CAMPAIGN ADVISER: We have a great organization in Pennsylvania, much better than Governor Romney's. We've been working it for two years. So we've got a great organization, great volunteers. Listen this is a desperate ploy at the end of the campaign. To win Pennsylvania, Governor Romney would have to win two- thirds of the independents. He's not going to do that anywhere, much less Pennsylvania.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Is it a desperate ploy? Is two-thirds of the independents that you're never going to get?
TOOMEY: No, not at all. Actually, if you take a look at what happened the last time Pennsylvanians went to the polls, which is 2010, Republicans swept. I won a statewide office. We elected a Republican governor. The U.S. congressional delegation and the state house assembly. So the fact is Republicans control the government at all levels by big numbers. And I think that this election is going to be much more like 2010 than 2008. I think Governor Romney's going to carry Pennsylvania.
O'BRIEN: Ron Brownstein, do you agree with that?
ROB BROWNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The big question is as you come down to the very end where Republicans are viewing this, is this electorate going to be like the electorate in 2010. There is racial distribution, partisan distribution, in its ideological distribution? 2010 was more white, more Republican and more conservative. Southwest Pennsylvania is going to be very tough for President Obama.
The white working-class voters there are going to move sharply away from him. But what Pat Toomey did in 2010 was cut the margin in the poor suburban counties outside Philadelphia to only 20,000 vote deficit. In 2008 Barack Obama won those same counties by 200,000 votes. The question is whether the social issues that are have hurt in for Romney with white collar, white voters, particularly women are going to be a barrier for him.
O'BRIEN: So back to Senator Toomey, if you look at the "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll one percent say nationally they're not sure who they'd vote for. In Pennsylvania that number is three percent. How do you get that three percent with less than 24 hours?
TOOMEY: One of the standard, time-honored rules in politics, which I happen to think is generally true, is that the undecided voters late in a race break for the challenger. The person they know very well is the incumbent. Everybody knows who President Obama is. Everybody has an opinion of President Obama. If they're not with him now, they're not going to be with him tomorrow. You know, they've made up their mind. They don't support this guy.
And so I would argue that all of the swing states, frankly, probably all the swing states in which President Obama is consistently polling below 49 percent, he's going to end at around 49 percent. Those undecided voters are coming our way.
And I've got to tell you the intensity and energy is absolutely electric. That rally last night, almost 40,000 people in one of those collar counties that you were just talking about, Bucks County, that was just terrific. That's the way it's been across the commonwealth. I've been campaigning all across this state. We've got the enthusiasm, and the momentum and energy and it matters in a very close race.
O'BRIEN: It certainly does. We'll get to see how it all turns out on Tuesday. Pat Toomey with us, a senator from Pennsylvania, thank you for talking with us, sir. Appreciate it. TOOMEY: Thanks for having me.
O'BRIEN: We've got to take a short break. Still ahead, gas prices are falling but drivers in the northeast are still struggling trying to fill up those tanks after hurricane Sandy. Is relief on the way? Christine Romans will break it down for us coming up next.
ROMANS: Welcome back to special coverage live here in Washington, D.C. I'm Christine Romans, minding your business this morning. It's all about gas prices. Thousands of people here in the east are worried because they're having a tough time filling up their tanks even as an election looms, standing in very long lines where patience is thin, New Jersey really hard-hit. A couple of things they're doing there. They've set up a system linking the license plate number to the day your gas can be pumped. It's called an odd/even pool. Depends on the day when you can get gas. So far it has not really eased the long lines.
I'll tell you we've been getting assurances for days that we're on the verge of having all this fixed. Quite frankly the long lines persist, in part because there's a psychological hurt there. People seeing there are lines, they get in them because they're so worried about not being able to get gas. We also have hundreds and hundreds of service stations that can't pump gas because they are still out of power. You've got some New Jersey residents waiting now up to four hours in line with their gas cans to cool their generators, to fuel their chain saws. You have separate lines, Soledad to fuel up your car.
The cruel irony here, Soledad, the gas prices are down 26 cents in October, gas prices still ticking slightly lower. Not a shortage problem. It's an access problem and it persists.
O'BRIEN: A huge access problem. Christine Romans for us, thank you. Appreciate that.
Today they're hitting seven key battleground states from Florida to New Hampshire, the presidential candidates making their last-minute pitches. Live reports from those deciding swing states coming up next. Plus reaction from Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.
O'BRIEN: And welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from Washington D.C. this morning. There is one more day of campaigning and then it's up to the American people. The polls will open in less than 24 hours and right now the race for the nation's highest office is in a dead heat. A CNN/ORC poll which was released last night has President Obama and Mitt Romney tied at 49 percent apiece.
In just a few moments, we'll be talking with Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen about his expectations come election day. Van Hollen is a surrogate for Team Obama. First though, I want to get right to John Berman. He is focusing on those crucial swing states for us this morning. John, what are you seeing?
BERMAN: First off, we're going to start with Florida, this state really critical to both campaigns but especially Mitt Romney. The sense is, he just can't win without it. Right now the polling is mixed.
Some polls show Romney with a small lead. Other polls show the president's got a lead, and no surprise in the state of Florida, we're having some voting issues there.
CNN's John Zarrella is live in Plantation, Florida, this morning. Good morning, John.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. You're right. It is tied here as you would expect in Florida. Mitt Romney leading the president in that CNN/ORC poll by one percentage point, 50 percent to 49 percent.
Now while Mitt Romney was not in Florida over the weekend, he'll be here today, the president did come down to South Florida to one of the key, key counties, Broward County, because he knows how important that county is, heavily Democratic.
He spoke to about 23,000 people gathered at a local high school there. He spoke for about 20 minutes. Now you mention the problem. Early voting was shortened this year from 14 days four years ago down to eight days.
There were repeated efforts by the League of Women Voters, by Senator Bill Nelson, to get the Republican Governor Rick Scott, to extend the time for early voting. He did not do it.
People stood in lines for up to four and five hours when early voting ended Saturday. Yesterday, in Miami-Dade County, they opened to allow people to file absentee ballots, but they were overwhelmed had to close the office then open it again.
So there are major problems, once again, with all of the early voting and absentee issues in South Florida -- John.
BERMAN: All right, John Zarrella in battleground Florida, now to battle Colorado. The polls don't open there for another 24 hours or so, but a majority of voters have already cast their ballots. Like the other swing states right now, the race in Colorado is just about this close.
And CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Denver, Colorado right now this morning. Good morning, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The latest CNN/ORC poll has given President Obama a two-point advantage here in Colorado. As you mentioned, many of the voters here in this state have already voted. They voted early, 1.6 million voters out of the registered 3.6 million.
So far in that tally, the Republicans have an advantage of 38,000 voters and some 500,000 independent voters came out early, as well. So that's where this race hinges here in this state. It's all about the economy.
And you would think that President Obama, after having won this state in 2008, has the organizational advantage here in this state. He's got 65 field offices across the state compared to Romney's 14, and you know, John, all of this is about turnout at this point.
That's what the campaigns are focusing on. I'm pretty sure if you called the campaign and told them you wanted a piggyback ride to the polls, you would get a piggyback ride to the polls -- John.
BERMAN: A piggy ride and a Twinkie no doubt. They'd give you anything to get there. Thank you, Ed Lavandera in Denver, Colorado.
Perhaps the biggest prize in this whole race right now, Ohio, the final CNN/ORC poll shows the president with a three-point lead in the state that many people believe will deliver the next president.
CNN's Martin Savidge is in Cleveland for us this morning. Martin, do they know we're all watching them in Ohio?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, early voting is really going to be key as has been talked about by other correspondents. You know, you take a look at the breakdown. The polling has been done in the early voting and remember it's been going on since October 2nd here, John.
So far early voters that CNN's talked to, 63 percent say they've cast their ballots or will for the president, 35 percent for Mitt Romney. Same polling done for people who plan to vote on Election Day hold a different picture there, 55 percent say they'll cast their ballots for Governor Mitt Romney, 42 percent for President Obama.
By the way, yesterday, I was covering the vice president in Freemont, Ohio. I asked the Obama people, I said, why Freemont, to which they answered quite quickly, it's the only place we haven't been, a bit of a joke there, but not too far from the truth.
Both candidates have been all over this state, and you know what? They're back here again today -- John.
BERMAN: They sure have. All right, Ohio, Colorado, Florida, all from the battleground states -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right, John, thank you very much. Let's talk strategy with Maryland Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. He's a surrogate for the Obama campaign, played Congressman Paul Ryan in the debate preps with Vice President Biden. It's nice to have you with us.
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Great to be with you, Soledad. O'BRIEN: Give me the strategy. Lay it out for the next 24 hours.
HOLLEN: Well, look, this is get out the vote time, which is why the president is all over the battleground states urging people to get to the polls. Trying to persuade that last little sliver of undecided voters that they be out there, but mostly it's energizing voters making sure they get to the polls.
O'BRIEN: Is it a turnout game? Because if that's the case these poll numbers must be a little depressing. If you look at a CNN/ORC poll of registered voters only who asked are you extremely or very enthusiastic about voting 70 percent of Republicans say they, though so a third are not.
Seventy percent of Democrats say they are enthusiastic so a third are not. "Politico" quoted a campaign worker, Obama campaign worker in Ohio who said this, it's hard to quantify, but there's significantly less enthusiasm. I think there's sort of a grim determination on the part of some people, more than enthusiasm.
It shows up in our volunteers. We don't have the number of young people volunteering like we did last time. People start talking about grim, grim determination, I mean, that's --
O'BRIEN: Look, you can see the president's rallies down in Florida, he had a big crowd down in Florida. He's getting lots of enthusiastic support. I know in my own state of Maryland, we have long lines of people who are at the polls, waiting to vote. So, there's no doubt the president's going to get out of the vote and again, persuade those last-minute voters.
The fact that you have the Romney campaign running these deceptive ads and the auto industry so deceptive that the folks at GM and Chrysler had to call them on it, it's a sign of their desperation.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know in 2010, Congressman, you lived through this. Democrats lost 63 seats in the House, the most for either party since 1938 because there was a surge of older, conservative voters all across the country for the Republican Party.
How concerned are you that the models the pollsters are using is not going to predict the actual electorate that we're going to see tomorrow on Election Day?
HOLLEN: Well, I think you're already seeing, Ron, big additional turnouts. I mean, the turnout is bigger and I think the mix of voters is very different than 2010. And you have a couple other major differences.
One is the economy has shown steady improvement since 2010. We're not where we want to be, but we certainly don't want to go back to the policies that crashed the economy to begin with, number one.
Number two, voters have seen exactly what the uncompromising Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives are all about. They don't want a candidate like Mitt Romney who has tied himself to that uncompromising --
O'BRIEN: Christine Romans, hold on one second. Steady improvement or is the congressman overselling how our economy has been doing?
ROMANS: Healing is a way the white house puts it. It has been healing, but it's still a deep wound. And it depends on the perspective of the voters.
Do you notice the trend that things are getting better in your state or do you notice the overall feeling in America that you don't -- don't have job opportunities you once had. And who's going to fix it? Who's going to fix it?
O'BRIEN: Roland Martin?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Congressman, a lot of folks early on said the president was going to have a problem dealing with white voters in these Midwestern states. That seems to be his firewall. Talk about that, but also the strength in terms of the western states, Nevada, New Mexico, even potentially Colorado, in terms of strategy.
HOLLEN: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, you look at states like Ohio, especially, Michigan, where the fact that the president took what was at the time a very unpopular decision and rescuing the auto industry, has shown to be the right decision.
Mitt Romney was simply wrong on that. He's been trying to play catch- up in Ohio. I referenced those very misleading ads that he ran. It's very unusual as you know that GM and Chrysler themselves have to call a candidate, in this case, Mitt Romney, on the carpet for deceptive ads.
And that's a sign of both the Romney desperation and the fact that the president is doing very well in those states because of his decision to help rescue American manufacturing in the auto industry.
With respect to Colorado and Nevada, look, you have the Mitt Romney for the primary. He was the most anti-immigrant of all the Republican candidates. He's tried now to, you know, hedge his bets, but people see it for what it is. And that has really helped fuel the president's support in places like Colorado and Nevada.
O'BRIEN: Let me read a little bit of what Paul Ryan said in the conference call that he had yesterday with Evangelical Christians. He said this, we understand the stakes of our fundamental freedoms being on the line, like religious freedom, such as how they're being compromised in Obamacare.
The president's vision is a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty and compromises those values, those Judeo Christian values, western civilization values that made us great and an exceptional nation in the first place.
So I think in a nutshell he's saying the president threatens the nation's Judeo-Christian values. How do you respond to that? HOLLEN: Well, this, of course, is coming from the ticket that wrote off 47 percent of the American electorate. Like to call them a bunch of moochers --
O'BRIEN: OK, not literally call them a bunch of moochers.
HOLLEN: But effectively. When he said they didn't want to take responsibility for their lives, and they were, you know -- it's also coming from the author of the Republican budget, the Catholic bishops said did not meet the moral criteria that they had set.
A very harsh budget that provided big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. People like Mitt Romney, at the expense of the entire rest of the country. That's why the Catholic bishops weighed in and actually commented. Again, very unusual, on the Ryan budget, which Mitt Romney has embraced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real quick, there's a story in "Politico" this morning that the House Democrats are looking at maybe going from picking up five seats to possibly losing two seats. Why do you think the president doesn't have coattails for House Democrats?
HOLLEN: Well, let's wait and see. I mean, we again don't know exactly what the outcome will be. We're working hard in all these races. We realize we have an uphill battle with respect to getting to 25. But this is an election where the country is very closely divided.
That's what we're seeing across the board. The good news is while they're divided, they're still giving the president an edge especially in the battleground states. And so, I think that's a reflection of the fact that Mitt Romney does not need convincing that his economic plan would be better than the presidents.
In fact, people are very nervous about going back to the economic policies that paint the economy to begin with and allow Wall Street to run wild. You've got Mitt Romney, it's interesting, a guy who is in favor of rescuing Wall Street.
He was in favor of government action and a government role for that, but when it came to rescuing Main Street and American manufacturing, the guy was AWOL. And people don't want a president who supports policies that simply benefit people like him at the expense of everybody else.
O'BRIEN: That will be our final word. Chris Van Hollen joining us this morning. It's nice to see you, Congressman. Appreciate it.
Got to get right to Zoraida Sambolin for a look at some of the other stories that are making news today. Hi, Z.
SAMBOLIN: Good morning. One week ago today, superstorm Sandy slammed into the east coast. It is now blamed for at least 110 deaths. That is just in the United States.
And more than 1.5 million power customers are still in the dark this morning. And with falling temperatures, housing is a major issue, in all the devastated communities.
Meanwhile, hundreds of would-be New York City marathoners volunteered yesterday. Take a look at this. They were helping distribute aid to victims of Sandy on Staten Island. The marathon was canceled due to the impact of the storm. It's very generous of them.
And today a military court in Washington State will hear details of the case against Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Bales is accused of the drunken shooting rampage that left 16 Afghan villagers dead, six others were wounded. Today's hearing will feature testimony from witnesses in Afghanistan via teleconference.
Sunday night football action, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Dallas Cowboys 19-13. At 8-0 Atlanta is now the only undefeated team in the NFL and they did it the hard way on the strength of the four field goals from Matt Bryant.
Actor Will Ferrell has a new role. He says he will do anything to get voters to the polls tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: If you agree to vote in this year's election, I will personally give you a tattoo. Fair warning, I do not know how to draw. I'll do a dance. Just for you. That was just a taste. If you want the full buffet you're going to have to vote. Vote Obama. It's a slam dunk. Guess what --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAMBOLIN: Ferrell also says if you vote, he will make you a home cooked meal or help you move a couch, perhaps, Soledad. A lot of celebrities getting on the action here.
O'BRIEN: The final minutes. I don't know if I can take any more of that.
MARTIN: It's a funny ad. It's funny.
O'BRIEN: That's all right. That's all right. It wasn't hysterical. It was like OK.
Still ahead this morning, on STARTING POINT, one week after Sandy engulfed the northeast. The cleanup process is really only just beginning. We're going to take you to a hard-hit town on New Jersey's coastline coming up next.
SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 47 minutes past the hour. Workers, volunteers and residents are working really hard to try to recover in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. In some areas roads have been cleared. Drinkable water is back to much of the state, as well.
And power has been restored to most of those that were left in the dark, but another storm is approaching. And it could add to all of the devastation there. Jim Clancy is in hard-hit Belmar, New Jersey.
Jim, you looked at this up close and personal. How are they getting ready here, perhaps, for another hit? Because we hear there's a nor'easter headed our way.
JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nor'easter headed our way and you know, they know that it's coming. They're preparing for even right now, another night without electricity. Some people don't have water. It's a pretty difficult situation for these people.
And they know there's more trouble on the way. Down at the end of this street they're pumping. This is Ocean Avenue. They're pumping out two lakes. Let me -- if we can, show some video from earlier that shows you the massive lines that they're bringing through there.
And gives you an idea that's going from a lake all of this area was under water. This flooded the town. They've been pumping out the water in huge amounts, tens of thousands of gallons a minute. Going back into the Atlantic where it came from.
And they are pumping these lakes lower because they know if this nor'easter brings in high winds and weather, that they could flood again, and they don't want the town to reflood -- Zoraida.
SAMBOLIN: Jim, how is everybody feeling about the efforts in their area?
CLANCY: Here in Belmar they're very happy. In other places up and down the jersey shore, not so happy, you know, not all of the city governments have really much experience dealing with this.
They need a lot of help from the state and federal level. This is a big task, a huge task. And many of these very, very small communities simply don't have the experience. They don't have the means to handle it. Back to you.
SAMBOLIN: All right, Jim Clancy, thank you so much for bringing us the very latest from Belmar, New Jersey. We appreciate it.
Up next six electoral votes are up for grabs, but which candidate has the upper hand in Nevada? A live report next from Las Vegas where many have already cast their votes.
BERMAN: Welcome back to our special election coverage live in Washington. Nevada and its six electoral votes really one of the key battlegrounds in this race. And hundreds of thousands of people there have already cast their ballots.
CNN's Miguel Marquez in Las Vegas with more on these deciders.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The final hours, a massive ground game for both campaigns. (on camera): Something tells me you all love Mitt Romney!
(voice-over): More than a thousand Romney supporters.
(on camera): So how excited are you?
BRE BOLOS, ROMNEY SUPPORTER FROM UTAH: Really excited.
MARQUEZ: You ever done anything like this before?
BOLOS: Never in my life.
MARQUEZ: Why are you doing this?
BOLOS: Because I feel it's very important and I feel like I could make a difference here.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Fanning out across the state.
(on camera): You're out here for the next four days, correct? All four days knocking on doors. Are you ready for this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all ready.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): If the Romney campaign has energy --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I say Mitt you say Romney!
MARQUEZ: The Obama campaign -- has organization.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to put those back into the van.
MARQUEZ: Nationwide the Obama campaign says it's reached nearly 126 million voters compared to only 50 million for the Romney campaign.
ZAC PETKANAS, SENIOR ADVISER, NV STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Our army of volunteers are going out, knocking on doors, they're making phone calls. They're targeting the people who have not voted.
MARQUEZ: Here in Nevada, Latinos and Asians heavily courted.
(on camera): How confident are you right now?
LINDA LEUNG, OBAMA SUPPORTER FROM LOS ANGELES: I had a great morning. It was exciting talking to the locals and understanding what their feelings are, what their concerns are.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): With record numbers of votes already cast here, the show could be mostly over before the sun even rises on Election Day.
(on camera): So far the numbers appear to be breaking for Obama. Of all early and absentee ballots, 19 percent have been cast by other parties, Republicans, 37 percent and Democrats, 44 percent. Don't count those votes too early, says the Romney campaign. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt Romney's doing exceptionally well with independent voters. The second is Mitt Romney's doing a whole lot better with Democrat voters than Barack Obama is with Republican voters.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Two campaigns, two styles. Their bets placed in a state unaccustomed to being a battleground. The stakes have never been higher.
MARQUEZ: Now, the polls in this state seem to be bearing out that Obama is picking up points. Two polls, "USA Today" has him up by seven points and the "Las Vegas Review Journal" has him up by four points.
And they even endorse Romney. By the time the polls open tomorrow, 70 percent, perhaps 80 percent of voters across the state will have already voted -- John
BERMAN: All right, thanks, Miguel. Miguel Marquez live on the Vegas strip this morning.
We're continuing our special coverage leading up to a big Election Day tomorrow. Coming up this morning, Arizona Senator John McCain and former Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton among a cast of others, we're back right after this.
O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien. Just one day left and it's all tied up. Welcome to our special coverage of the 2012 election. We're coming to you live from the nation's capitol.
The race for the White House is in a dead heat as the candidates are making a final push. And the best political team on TV has it covered this morning.
BERMAN: I'm John Berman. It is a mad dash to the finish. President Obama, Mitt Romney and their running mates making 14 stops in eight critical states with poll showing believe it or not, there are still votes up for grabs. We are live in --