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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

America's Choice 2012

Aired November 5, 2012 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": 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 polls showing, believe it or not, there are still votes up for grab. We are live in each key battleground state.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And who will get the magic number?

I'm Christine Romans. Both candidates hustling to hit 270 electoral votes. We're going to look at the road each candidate could take to hit that number.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It has been one week since hurricane Sandy forever changed the east coast and so many lives along with it. But the recovery effort is far from over and another storm ahead could make things a whole lot worse.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have a jam-packed hour coming up for you.

Arizona Senator John McCain will join us. Bill Burton with Priorities USA Action talking with us. The former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is with us. Former McCain campaign adviser Mark MacKinnon will join us as well.

It's Monday, November 5th. A special edition of STARTING POINT from Washington, D.C., begins right now.

Welcome back, everybody.

One final day of campaigning in this $3 billion, 17-month battle for the White House will finally be decided by the American people.

Here's how things stand right thousand. A brand-new CNN/ORC poll of likely voters has Mitt Romney and President Obama tied at 49 percent apiece.

Both candidates are sitting their sight on the critical battleground state on this final full day on the campaign trail.

Bruce Springsteen will join the president today at rallies in Madison, Wisconsin, in Columbus, Ohio, and Des Moines, Iowa.

Governor Romney has events in Sanford, Florida, and Lynchburg and Fairfax, Virginia, Columbus, Ohio, and Manchester, New Hampshire.

Right on cue, there's a legal snafu in the state of Florida. The state's Democratic Party is suing to extend early voting hours with voters reporting lines of up to seven hours long at some south Florida early polling stations.

John Berman's been watching all that, has a closer look at what the campaigns and the candidates are doing today. Good morning.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. You know, this really is it. One more day for both campaigns to power up their turnout machines. They will be all over the key battleground states that could really decide this election.

The president starts with a rally in Wisconsin. It's a state that's been blue since 1984 when Ronald Reagan won it for the Republicans. But it is always close and the Obama team is taking nothing at all for granted.

CNN's Dan Lothian is live in Madison, Wisconsin, where the president will be shortly. Hey, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. And he will be joined by Bruce Springsteen. He'll be holding a concert, a 30-minute concert, to warm up the crowd before the president comes on the stage. The campaign has been leaning on these big name entertainers not only to bring in big crowds, but also to energize them.

Now, in these final hours, the campaign is feeling very confident. One senior campaign official telling me, quote, "We would rather be us than them," referring to the Romney campaign.

Why are they so confident? Because they believe they've been able to set up an effective ground game. And in addition, they believe that the president has made a clear and convincing case for where he wants to take the country over the next four years. And as the president himself said in Colorado last night, what he has been able to accomplish over the last four.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, 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.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: A campaign official told me that they are not concerned about the polls because they always felt that this would be a very close race.

Now, from here, the president heads right back to that important battleground state of Ohio. And then wraps up in Iowa, the state that launched the president to the White House more than four years ago -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Dan Lothian in Madison, Wisconsin, where we'll see the president and Bruce Springsteen in a little bit.

In a race that this is close, a tossup turnout can be critical, turning out those sporadic voters. And Mitt Romney begins his big push today with a rally in Florida. It's the first of five stops that takes him to four key battleground states. He starts in Sanford, Florida, and then heads to Lynchburg and Fairfax, Virginia, then Columbus, Ohio.

And he will end the day in Manchester, New Hampshire, with Kid Rock, a big concert planned there. And in New Hampshire, where there are just four electoral votes at stake. But again, in an election this close, every electoral vote is crucial. After Manchester, Mitt Romney returns to his home in Belmont, Massachusetts. He will spent election night tomorrow in Boston -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, John. Thank you.

I want to intro our team this morning. Margaret Hoover is with us. She's a CNN political contributor and former member of the Bush White House. Roland Martin is back with us. He's a CNN political analyst and host of "Washington Watch with Roland Martin."

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: (INAUDIBLE).

O'BRIEN: Ryan Lizza is Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" and a CNN contributor. Nice to have you all joining us.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Glad to be here.

MARTIN: Glad to be here.

O'BRIEN: I want to get right to John McCain. Senator John McCain is a Republican from the state of Arizona, the last man to face President Obama in the polls.

Nice to see you, sir. Thanks so much for talking with us.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Appreciate that.

Twenty-four hours to go. You have lived through this last push. So describe for us what it's like. I mean, what are you doing realistically in the last 24 hours? Are you just flat out exhausted? Is it a sprint? Describe it.

MCCAIN: It's adrenaline and you're going hard, and you know really this is your last shot. We certainly did know that in 2008 because we were aware of the polls. But it's -- you know, it's an exciting and incredible experience, and how few people in history have ever had the opportunity. I'm still deeply honored and humbled by having had the experience.

I have a line that I use all the time. After I lost I slept like a baby: sleep two hours, wake up and cry. Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: That's funny. Having had a couple kids I know exactly what you mean.

Let's talk a little bit about this new ad. This has come out in "The Washington Times". I know if everyone had a chance to see it. But I'm sure they will.

Five hundred retired generals and admirals are running an ad in today's edition of the "Washington Times" calling on the country to re-elect Mitt Romney. What kind of an impact -- that's sort of an excerpt from it there. Those are the 500 names.

What kind of an impact do you think this will have at this late stage?

MCCAIN: I think it'll have some, obviously, because these are widely respected people. And a lot of our veterans who will hear about them have served under them.

But I think of greater impact is the effect of Benghazi on our veterans. I've been traveling all over the country. Veterans are angry. They're angry. They're upset. They don't trust Barack Obama. There's 1.6 million of them in Florida, for example. I think they could have an impact on this election.

I know it's all about jobs and the economy. But I have never seen veterans as upset and angry as they are over Benghazi.

O'BRIEN: How about outside of veterans? You know, to some degree, the conversation around Benghazi has left the narrative. People have been talking about the storm far more than they've talked about Benghazi.

Paul Wolfowitz, who was on -- who was deputy defense secretary under George Bush, he said this really defending the president on Benghazi. He said, "It would appear the national U.S. security team was doing everything they thought possible to protect the Americans in Benghazi. Congress is right to be demanding answers but I'm told reliably the senior military and CIA officials would confirm the government was doing all it could."

Do you think that Benghazi is going to have an impact on voters, not just veterans?

MCCAIN: Well, I think it's jobs and the economy. But I don't disagree with what Mr. Wolfowitz said on the exact timing of the thing. But what about on August -- of the event -- what about on August 15th when the security group met in Benghazi and sent a message back saying, look, al Qaeda is here. Al Qaeda is -- we're in danger. We cannot resist an all-out attack.

And that's exactly what happened. Why weren't -- the consulate had been attacked twice in April and June. The British ambassador -- they attempted to kill him in Benghazi. The British had closed their consulate there.

I mean, all of the information leading up to this attack indicated that we were totally unprepared, including the last message of our departed and heroic ambassador saying that we needed more help and more security.

And then, of course, afterwards, this cover-up is the worst that I've ever seen. Either in competence or cover-up, there was no demonstration. There was no demonstration there. There was no hateful video.

And the Libyans called it right away. Everybody knows it. So --

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a question --

MCCAIN: -- that's what people are upset about. Sure.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a question of Ryan Lizza first.

Ryan, do you think what he is describing is going to have an impact as people go to the polls? Or do they focus more on the economy or do they focus more on the social issues that matter to them or is it all of the above?

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": To be honest, what Senator McCain said, it's going to be jobs and the economy. I've always found it curious that Republicans have spent so much time on Benghazi when they must know that every minute spent talking about foreign policy is a minute they're not talking about what voters say they're going to be voting on which is jobs and the economy.

I agree with him. It's important to get to the bottom of what happened. And Congress should investigate it. The administration should appoint some independent expert to get to the bottom of it.

But just purely on the politics, I doubt outside of the very conservative base of the Republican Party, it's going to do a lot to move the votes in Romney's direction.

MARTIN: Soledad, I've interviewed a number of veterans. They are more outraged --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Hold on. Let me let Roland finish. Then I'll let you answer both of them if I may, if that's OK.

MCCAIN: OK.

MARTIN: I've heard veterans more outraged when the U.S. Senate didn't even pass the veteran jobs bills. They say that's directly impacting us, when you look at the veterans employment rate. So, I've heard that from a number of veterans as well.

O'BRIEN: So you're saying less upset.

Let's send this back to Senator McCain. Go ahead, sir. You were going to jump in and answer both of them.

MCCAIN: I don't expect Mr. Martin or Mr. Lizza to understand our veterans. I know them. I've seen them out there. By the way, this was the sixth -- sixth jobs bill that we have. We have six jobs programs. The point is veterans do care what happens to other veterans. Veterans are upset. Maybe Mr. Lizza doesn't understand that and I wouldn't expect him to, to tell you the truth. But the fact is veterans care about this and there's been a cover-up for seven weeks. For seven weeks, we haven't been able to get an answer out of the president of the United States.

Mr. Lizza and Mr. Martin, I respect their views. I don't think it's grounded in any experience. I thank you for having me on.

O'BRIEN: Hold on one second. Margaret Hoover, jump in, please.

HOOVER: Senator McCain's right. Also these are key states. Colorado, Virginia, Florida, Nevada where you have large military populations. And this is one of several issues that people are considering. Even if jobs and the economy is at the top, this is part of a mosaic of issues people consider when they go --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: I'm going to stop you there. Roland, Roland, don't make we walk over to you. We are out of time.

Senator McCain, I thank you for joining us, sir. It's always great to have you. We appreciate you this morning.

MCCAIN: Thank you for having me on. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We're out of time.

I'm going to go to commercial -- I'm going to go to Christine Romans. She's been crunching the numbers on the electoral map trying to get to the number 270.

How does it look, Christine?

ROMANS: Let's look at the map here first. You got red -- solid red here. That means it's considered safe for the Republicans. Solid blue, safe for the Democrats. These yellow are the swing states. Fastest way for Obama -- President Obama to get to that magic number would be -- he would take Iowa, he would take Wisconsin, he would take Ohio. That gets him to 271.

Let me take these back, Soledad, and show you what happens, the quickest way for Mitt Romney to get to that number. He would have to take Florida. Then he would have to take Virginia. And then he would have to take Ohio.

And then, look, that puts him at 266. Then he could take even something like New Hampshire. Four electoral votes there, that would get it for him. He could take Colorado, that would be nine, anything after that.

Those are the two quickest ways to get to 270. Ohio is a big player in both of those. Which is why, of course, they've been spending so much time in Ohio, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you.

Ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, you just heard the Republican action to the election. Up next, we're going to talk to Bill Burton, from the Priorities USA Action super PAC, a former member of the Obama White House. That's straight ahead.

We're back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're live in Washington, D.C. President Obama and Mitt Romney are both on the road today. They're campaigning in the battleground states. And by every poll out there, it's too close to call.

Let's get right to Bill Burton. He's the former deputy press secretary with the Obama White House, co-founder, and senior strategist of the Priorities USA Action Super PAC. Nice to see you. Sorry not to have you in person this morning. Did you expect that it was going to be this close -- is that your phone?

BILL BURTON, SENIOR STRATEGIST, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: That is.

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: So embarrassing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, seriously?

O'BRIEN: OK. Take a minute and turn your phone off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This ain't your first rodeo.

(CROSSTALK)

BURTON: This is a close election, Soledad. I got to be ready for any phone calls that come in.

O'BRIEN: Oh, oh, right. Good try. OK. So, did you expect it to be this close?

BURTON: Absolutely. I think this whole race people knew that this was going to be this close. The good news for President Obama is that, actually, even though it's close, he has a slight lead in almost every single one of the polls. There are some times.

There's a couple where Mitt Romney is ahead, but there are dozens of polls over the course in the last couple of days where the president is holding on the leads in the states he needs for 270 electoral votes.

O'BRIEN: Little teeny-weeny, squishing (ph) by kind of leads.

HOOVER: Bill Burton, question for you. Margaret Hoover here. Two words I want to get your reaction for in Ohio. Independents and voter enthusiasm, are you worried about them?

BURTON: No.

HOOVER: Why? Because you should be.

(LAUGHTER)

BURTON: I think the president has made a forceful case. And the reason that Mitt Romney is behind by three, four, or five points in all those polls is that he never effectively made his case that he would be the kind of president that stood up for the middle class.

And he left voters with the impression with an assist from us that he would be the kind of president who looked out for the wealthy few at the expense of the middle class, and that's on taxes, that's on Medicare, that's on education, that's on all the issues that are important to those voters there in that state.

And also, the auto industry and its recovery has really been a problem for Mitt Romney. The fact that he said let Detroit go bankrupt is something that has haunted him throughout this campaign.

O'BRIEN: Roland?

MARTIN: Hey, Bill. Margaret doesn't believe Virginia is going to be a win for the Obama campaign. Romney has spent so much time trashing the president when it comes to defense cuts, but he has not been able to open up any kind of substantial lead in Virginia.

What are you seeing in that particular state the president won in 2008? I thought it was a critical state in 2008. How is it looking in terms of the message in Virginia in 2012?

BURTON: Well, in our last poll, we had the president up three points. "The Washington Post" has him up a little bit. Most of the polls show Virginia trending towards the president. That was always going to be a tough state. The problem for Mitt Romney there is that if he doesn't win Virginia, there is almost no path at all that is going to get him to 270 electoral votes.

It's still mathematically possible. But realistically, it's just not possible. And I think the case that the president has made with Tim Kaine running to strong on the ticket there is that he would be the president for -- he'd be the candidate for the middle class. And Mitt Romney wasn't able to effectively do that in Virginia.

And I think that because of some of the demographic shifts, because of the growth in the suburbs there, and because of the growth of the Hispanic population, even though it's small there, spiked some 16 percent since the last election, the president is doing very well. My prediction is that he wins Virginia tomorrow.

O'BRIEN: Can I read you the quote from the "Daily News" endorsement?

BURTON: Sure.

O'BRIEN: They've endorsed Mitt Romney, by the way. "the Daily News," that's the liberal paper in New York City. Four years ago, the "Daily News" endorsed Obama, "seeing a historic figure whose intelligence, political skills and empathy with common folk positioned him to build on the small, practical experience he would bring to the world's toughest job. We valued Obama's pledge to govern with bold pragmatism and bipartisanship. The hopes of those days went unfulfilled."

That is a harsh condemnation, I think, of the president as they say. Listen, we're going to be supporting Mitt Romney in this election. And "Newsday" also had a similar endorsement, a similar thing. How much of a problem is that for you?

BURTON: Well, look, I think that the state of New York is going to go for President Obama despite those endorsements. And if you look at some of the swing state endorsements for some of the bigger papers like the "Cleveland Plain Dealer," those went for President Obama. But when you talk about the big goals that President Obama took to office in 2008, he's delivered on a lot of them.

The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is winding down. He said he would pass health care and he did it. Osama Bin Laden is dead. And I think that if the American people size up --

O'BRIEN: Right. And I've heard those all in ads. We have all heard those exact things ticked off --

BURTON: That's because they're all true.

O'BRIEN: -- what they're saying, bold pragmatism and bipartisanship, pledged to govern that way wasn't --

BURTON: Look, when President Obama came to office, he was sitting across the table from a Republican majority leader in the Senate who said his number one goal was to stop President Obama from being elected. I think that when that's what you're dealing with --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: You mean the minority leader, right?

BURTON: I said the Republican leader, right. Yes, he's in the minority, but obviously, in the Senate, you now need 60 votes to get anything done. In the House, you had a group of more than 80 members of the Tea Party caucus who would stop at nothing to stop the president. Many of these people voted against things that were even their ideas that they supported just to stop the president.

I think that makes it tough to see bipartisanship in Washington. I think after this election, the president is going to work very hard to make sure that he's doing everything that he can to work with Republicans. But if Republicans aren't going to work with him, he is focused on making progress no matter what.

O'BRIEN: Bill Burton joining us this morning. Nice to talk to you even if your phone is going to ring in the middle of my interview.

BURTON: Good to see you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Some voters could have troubled getting to the polls because of Superstorm Sandy. The big changes that some states are making, rather, to try to help out. We'll explain coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It's 25 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to a special election edition of STARTING POINT. A quick check of your top stories.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The northeast is cleaning up from Sandy as another storm threatens, if you can believe it. Bulldozers are clearing piles of debris in hard hit areas of Staten Island and New Jersey. The storm is blamed for 110 deaths at the United States alone. More than a 1.5 power (ph) customers and 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, flooding to all of those areas on the east coast that were already hit hard by Sandy.

And some polling places in New York City are being relocated or combined because of all the storm damage. And voters in some counties may get an extra day to cast their ballots if turnout is too low. In New Jersey, displaced voters will be able to cast their votes by e- mail or fax tomorrow if they have power.

Notorious reputed mob boss, James Whitey Bulger, reportedly hospitalized in Boston. The "Boston Globe" says the 83-year-old Bulger was rushed from his prison cell to a hospital yesterday after complaining of chest pain. Bulger, the man who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in "The Departed," is awaiting trial for his alleged role in 19 murders.

That is Zac Vawter, inspiring a nation by climbing to the top of Chicago's 103-storey Willis Tower. Zac lost his leg in a motorcycle accident three years ago. Doctors outfitted the 31-year-old with the world's first neurocontrolled bionic leg, and he used it to scale the former Sears Tower in just over 53 Minutes. That's incredible.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): And coming up, the economy is a top issue in this election. And President Obama has consistently trailed Mitt Romney on that issue. So, what does that mean for tomorrow's election? One of the nation's top economists, Larry Summers, is going to join us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to a special edition of STARTING POINT. We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C. Just one more day of campaigning, and then, America votes.

Right now, the race for the White House is neck and neck. A new CNN/ORC poll released last night has President Obama and Mitt Romney all tied up at 49 percent a piece. In just a few moments, we'll be talking to Larry Summers, Harvard University Professor and former Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration. Also going to hear from former adviser to the McCain presidential campaign, Mark McKinnon will be joining us. First, though I want to get right to Christine Romans. She's at the magic wall for us with more. Hey, Christine.

ROMANS: Hi there. You know, I'm looking through some of these battleground states and I'm looking at specifically, here foreclosures. Because people, Soledad, who are going to be going to the polls tomorrow, some of them are behind on their mortgages or they've lost their homes over the last few years. Let's take a look at one here. Nevada really important, you know this is Washoe County, 17 percent of the population lives here. Look at the intense concentration of foreclosures there. If you look at Las Vegas, that's also a problem. Tough there tool

Let's take a look, so wow, you look at some of these places. Here's Nevada, Colorado also has a problem with foreclosures. Look at Florida. Florida still has a big problem. Look at this. All those places were good to the president last time around in 2008. It will be interesting to see how that pans out.

I want to show you another thing here. I want to take a look at unemployment. This is really kind of a cool thing to look at, too. When you look at this, this is the unemployment change since February 2009. The more orange you see here, that's much worse. The unemployment rate has gotten worse in some of these places including Nevada. We talked about foreclosures there. 11.8 percent, highest in the country. Where it's green is where it's been getting better. Iowa, for example, 5.2 percent in Iowa. Ohio is 7 percent in Ohio. Much better than the 8.7 percent it was when the president took office.

So we'll see how this plays out as well. But these are the two things, Soledad, that matter most to people: their home and their paycheck. Whether you're getting a job and you can pay for the mortgage, whether you're behind on the loan. Those are two things over the past four years that have been a real problem in parts of the country including swing states, Soledad.

OBRIEN: We'll see what the impact is tomorrow. Christine, thank you.

As Christine was talking about, the economy's been the dominant issue throughout this election. Really throughout the campaign as well. Our latest polls reflect that. 61 percent say the economy is extremely important to their vote. Deficit is second highest rated at 55 percent.

Want to get right to Harvard University professor Larry Summers. He's the former Director of the National Economic Council for President Obama. Former Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

When we look at certain polls, for example, the CNN/ORC poll for likely voters, the economy will get better is what they were asked, sort of a leading question. The answer could be if Obama wins, only if Romney wins. Take a look there. A larger number, 43 percent, say the economy will get better only if Romney wins. 13 percent said either. Then if you look at the number of people who believe that the economy is the most important issue, you know, it's a large number. Christine was just mentioning that. All that I think would bode poorly for your candidate, right?

LARRY SUMMERS, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I'll leave the politics to others. I think most observers feel that the President is going into this election in a very strong position. If you look at the polls in the key states in the electoral college, people on our side are very optimistic, and I share their optimism. What's important to recognize is that this president came in to an economy that had been imploding even more seriously than the economy did in the fall of 1929 headed into the depression. Look at the employment statistics, the GDP statistics, the stock market. It was all the worst we've observed in more than 100 years.

He turned that around with a set of strong policies. Doing what was necessary to preserve the financial system. Investing in America. Protecting the automobile industry. As the President's the first to recognize, we're not all the way back where we would like to be. That wasn't possible given the magnitude of the economic rot that had set in given the seriousness of the crisis. We are moving upwards right now. What we need to do is continue with a strategy that's focused on building prosperity from the middle class.

O'BRIEN: Let me hop in for a second. So you're moving slowly, I think it's fair to say, and you've ticked upwards to 7.9 percent unemployment rate. Over the weekend, Republicans were having a field day with that. I want to play a little snippet of what Republicans were saying on the various shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Unemployment today is higher than when Barack Obama took office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, unemployment is higher today than it was when President Obama was sworn in.

ED GILLESPIE, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Higher than the day President Obama took office.

PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), VICE RPESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's high r than the day President Obama came into office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: I'm going to guess that's a talking point. It's higher today than the day President Obama came into office. And there is no fair way to describe this as a strong, aggressive recovery. Correct?

SUMMERS: Soledad, it's a ridiculous talking point. The President obviously isn't responsible for what happened in the month or two several months after he took office. That was driven by the policies that had been placed previously. Unemployment soared in the first few months of the president's actions before -- president in office before he was in a position to implement his policies. Once his policies were in place, within six months job creation started again at a rapid rate. That is the right way to judge this president's policies.

ROMANS: Larry, this is Christine Romans here. I want to ask you quickly, what I hear a lot from independents, what I hear a lot from people in the middle of the country, they think the moment passed early in his administration to do a hyper focused jobs plan. Instead he did Obamacare. He did health care reform. And that was a missed opportunity. And they don't quite trust him exactly now that beginning of a second term he'll be able to do a big jobs plan like he wanted to. Did Obamacare take the moment away when there could have been real movement on creating jobs?

SUMMERS: I don't think so. The President actually within his first month of office passed the Recovery Act, which was unprecedented as a measure to create jobs. Whether it was investing in infrastructure, whether it was preserving jobs for cops and teachers, whether it was putting money in the hands of middle class taxpayers. And the President's had that focus ever since. Unfortunately, the strong measures the President's proposed, invest in America, to support providing funds to those who are in the best position to spend them, the Congress has blocked that for the last two years.

LIZZA: Larry, it's Ryan Lizza. I have a question about the auto bailout. If the President wins, the auto bailout undoubtedly will be one of the main explanations for his victory in the mid-west. I remember famously when you guys were deciding that issue there was a meeting in your office. And you held a vote. Half the table said no, don't do it. Half the table said, yes, do it. Eventually the President did it. What was the deciding factor in him saving GM? Was it the political implications of his re-election in the mid-west? What settled that debate?

SUMMERS: Ryan, you've got that story not right. That was with respect to a particular strategy with respect to Chrysler. There was never any question about the largest part of the automobile bailout.

LIZZA: Well, no. But there was dissent over it. There was dissent over it. Austan Goolsbee was against it.

SUMMERS: No, there was not.

LIZZA: There was no dissent?

(CROSSTALK)

SUMMERS: Ryan, I was there. There was dissent about the Chrysler piece. Which was about a third the size of the General Motors piece. It was only about the Chrysler piece. The President made a judgment --

LIZZA: That was a significant part of it.

SUMMERS: -- that those who wanted to let Chrysler go were wrong. He made that judgment because he -- against the advice of many of his political advisers because he believed that the risks to the economy of adding another blow at that moment were just too great. That was the right decision as we've seen. With a different president, it could easily have gone a different way. And we could be looking at a very different economy in Ohio and a very different economy in Michigan. In fact, that's what Governor Romney famously recommended. Just let them go. Yes, there were -- there were those among the presidents advisers who shared that judgment. Fortunately, the President came to a very different conclusion.

O'BRIEN: Larry Summers joining us this morning. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you very talking with us.

Want to get an update now on some of the other stories making news. Zoraida Sambolin has that for us. Hey, Zee.

SAMBOLIN: Hi there. A 2-year-old boy died Sunday at the Pittsburgh zoo after being mauled by a pack of rare African painted dogs. The toddler was visiting the zoo with his mother and with some friends when he fell 14 feet off a deck and into the exhibit where 11 of the painted dogs were housed. A zoo keeper was quickly able to clear away seven of those dogs. A police officer shot another one, but it was just too late to save that little boy.

Same-sex marriage is on the ballot in three states tomorrow. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington will decide whether to legalize it in their states. If it passes in any of them, it would be the first time same-sex marriage was made legal through a popular vote. It is legal in six states so far due to legislation or court orders there.

Sunday night football action with last night's 19-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, can 8-0 Atlanta Falcons are the only undefeated team in the NFL. This was no easy victory. The Falcons kept their perfect record on the strength of four field goals from Matt Ryan.

Talking about politics making strange bedfellows, there's still a lot of buzz about the bromance between president Obama and new Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the wake of superstorm Sandy. It sure did not take long for Saturday Night Live to weigh in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HORATIO SANZ, IMPERSONATING GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: Also, I'd like to give thanks to President Obama for how he handled the situation. On election day, I'm voting for Mitt Romney. But if I had to pick one guy to have my back in a crisis, it would be Barack Obama. He's has been amazing. So kind, such a leader, a true inspiration. Again, I'll be a good soldier, I'll vote for Romney, but I'm going to hate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: It is nice for a good laugh, isn't it? What will we do after the election?

O'BRIEN: So funny. Zoraida, thank you.

Despite an overall tie, Mitt Romney has a 22-point lead among independents. How much will that be a factor tomorrow? We're going to talk with Mark McKinnon, adviser on John McCain's 2008 campaign. He'll be joining us next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

We're live in the nation's capital for special election coverage. We've just learn that Governor Mitt Romney is going to vote early tomorrow morning near his home in Belmont, Massachusetts. This as the final CNN/ORC poll is showing a tie; 49 percent to 49 percent.

Much different picture, though, among Independents, the Romney/Ryan ticket is taking a whopping 59 percent to the President's 37 percent.

Our next guest says that voting bloc could make all the difference. Mark McKinnon is former presidential adviser to the 2008 McCain campaign. He's also the co-founder of the No Labels campaign and a contributor to "The Daily Beast". He has 20,000 jobs. It's nice to see you, Mark. Thanks for being with us.

Let's talk a little bit about those Independents. What kind of an impact could have that have? It sounds like a massive lead for -- for Governor Romney. But when you look at the actual national polling you don't necessarily see that translate.

MARK MCKINNON, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, it's one of the signs for encouragement for the Romney campaign for Republicans. It's -- it's rare when a President wins the campaign without winning Independents. Like Obama won Independents by eight percent last time against John McCain. And in -- in the poll you just showed, he's trailing, and in some polls significantly, among Independents.

So whichever way Independents go is generally the way it's going to turn out. So it's a -- it is certainly one indicator that gives Republicans some hope. BERMAN: Hey, Mark. It's John Berman here. You've been on both winning and losing campaigns for both Democrats and Republicans. For us mere mortals who are on the outside, what does it feel like? When do you know that you're winning or losing and what are the signs?

MCKINNON: Well, you know, I mean, winning, of course, is the best thing that can happen. And losing is a near death experience. But you know, the thing I remember more than anything is the 2004 campaign when we were on the plane coming back for our last day of campaigning with President Bush. And we got the exit polls in about ten minutes before we landed. And -- and it's like the oxygen went out of the plane. Because all the exit polls as you recall, John, had us losing big.

And -- and I remember I got it -- we got down and I got back and the President called me about an hour later. And he said man, what do you think about these exit polls. And of course I put the best face on. But it looked really bad.

So you know that's -- that's my final message to everybody I talk to. You know, the exit polls have been traditionally wrong. Polling is all based on modeling.

So you know everybody can find something in this election to give them some enthusiasm for a hopeful turnout. And you know for -- for you all covering it and for those of us watching, it's -- it's made for an exciting campaign these last few weeks because it's really not clear how it's going to turn out.

MARTIN: Hey Mark, you get -- you get media. Was it a mistake for the Romney campaign to double down on that Jeep ad and continue to say and make that comment? You read the papers in Ohio. I mean, he's getting savaged all across the state on an issue that made no sense and GM and Chrysler and Fiat had to come out as well and hit.

MCKINNON: Yes, I've got to tell you, that one I can't explain. I had the same response. You know it's a -- it's an issue where you're getting killed. Why not change the subject? I mean, if you can change the subject. But certainly by refocusing the debate on the issue where you're just bleeding voters and bleeding Independents, why would you want to bring more attention to an issue that's hurting you like that?

So hard -- hard to rationalize where that came from. It'll be interesting to find out later in the post analysis.

O'BRIEN: All right. Mark McKinnon for us this morning. Nice to talk to you, sir, I appreciate your time this morning.

I've got to take a short break.

(CROSSTALK)

MCKINNON: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Still ahead, Superstorm Sandy's effect on Election Day. We're going to take you to a high school that's doubling as a shelter for Sandy evacuees. And come tomorrow, it's also going to be a polling place.

That's straight ahead, we're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 52 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to our special coverage, live from Washington.

And now the political fallout from Superstorm Sandy -- some polling sites in New York City are being relocated or combined because of all the storm damage. And voters in some counties may get an extra day to cast their ballots if turnout is too low.

Alina Cho is at a high school in Brooklyn that is doubling as a shelter for all of the Sandy evacuees. And tomorrow it will also be a voting site, we understand. Alina, how are the preparations going there?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think we'll have to wait and see until Election Day tomorrow, Zoraida.

Good morning. We are at Brooklyn Tech High School. And you're absolutely right. Right now it is an emergency shelter housing those with special medical needs. And tomorrow it will become a polling station.

And in that way, it is unique. It is unique, it is the only school in New York City that will be both an emergency shelter and a polling station.

Now, across the city -- the city on election day, some 60 polling sites will either have to be combined or relocated due to damage from Hurricane Sandy. And in a move that could be unprecedented, voters in some New York counties including some on Long Island could actually get an extra day to cast ballots if voter turnout is less than 25 percent.

But right now up to 40,000 people in New York City alone are without a home and are looking for one. So the most immediate concern is housing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) NEW YORK: Or if you get cold, people are in homes that are uninhabitable. It's going to become increasingly clear that they're uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn't go on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: That was New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. And he added that people don't like to leave their homes. Nobody does. But the reality, he says, will be in the temperature. And he's absolutely right, Zoraida. Tonight the temperatures in New York will dip below freezing. And on Wednesday New York could get socked with a nor'easter.

Mayor Bloomberg reminded residents of this area yesterday, you can die from being cold. He said if you're in that situation where you don't have heat, you don't have power, do not be a hero. If you have any question about where to go, in his words, stop a cop and ask -- Zoraida?

SAMBOLIN: That is very good advice. There was one death from hypothermia. Alina Cho live for us in Brooklyn, thank you very much.

We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: We'll wrap as we always do with the "End Point". I think we have a joint one from Ryan -- Ryan Lizza. And Roland Martin.

LIZZA: Well, first of all, now McCain got my name right on the third try. I think Senator McCain misunderstood the point I was making. And I was just a little disappointed that he challenged our understanding of veterans.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: "Chastised" is the word I use.

MARTIN: Ok let me be real clear, you don't have to -- you don't have to serve in the military to care about our veterans. There are millions of people in this country who support our veterans, who back them and they have family members as well.

So Senator John McCain, you're a veteran and we respect that. But also respect those of us who respect veterans who didn't serve. And by the way --

O'BRIEN: Margaret Hoover? By the way Margaret Hoover --

MARTIN: -- Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney and Obama didn't serve in the military either.

HOOVER: So Bill Burton didn't want to tackle the two things that I said, Independents and enthusiasm. Here's the issue. In Ohio and in these swing states they're going in the Republicans' direction, not in the Democrats'. And they're not taken into account in these tied polls.

O'BRIEN: Ten seconds for John Berman?

BERMAN: You will see a frenzy of activity today, campaigns everywhere. But it really doesn't matter today. Almost no impact I think on this Monday before Election Day the candidates keep these busy schedules just because they're so nervous they have to keep moving.

O'BRIEN: Tomorrow on STARTING POINT we're covering Election Day like no other network can. We're going to be back live here starting at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.

Our guests tomorrow: Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes; Delaware Governor, Jack Markell; South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn; Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz; Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell with us.

I've got to leave it here we'll see you back here tomorrow morning at 5:00 a.m.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.