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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Election Day in America; Sandy's Impact on the Vote

Aired November 6, 2012 - 05:00   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 a special Election Day edition of EARLY START. It's here and the battle for every last vote is on this morning.

The first poll is open right now. The best political on TV -- political team on TV has it covered from wire to wire today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.

And the first election results, they are in from the tiny towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Location in New Hampshire. And in one of these towns, it's a result we've never seen before.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: The campaign trail extended.

I'm Christine Romans.

Governor Romney will keep pressing with two stops in the battlegrounds while President Obama shoots some hoops, an Election Day tradition.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

The immense damage from hurricane Sandy forcing an Election Day scramble now. People are voting by e-mail and different polling stations and, in some cases, literally moving the earth to have their voices heard.

O'BRIEN: Joining us throughout the morning for our special Election Day coverage: Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, and Bob Shrum, a Democratic consultant who worked on the Kerry and Gore campaigns.

Special election coverage here on CNN begins right now.

(MUSIC)

O'BRIEN: It is up to the American people right now.

Good morning and welcome to our special edition of EARLY START. We've got complete coverage of Election Day 2012.

Now, over the past 17 months, we've watched two campaigns spend a combined $3 billion, two candidates duel it out in three dramatic debates, all trying to win your vote. Now, more than 1 million campaign commercials later, 1 million campaign commercials later, the polls are opening. Voting is beginning right now in parts of Vermont. And the American people prepare to pick their next president.

Mitt Romney not letting up on this Election Day. He's now added two final campaign stops today in Cleveland, Ohio, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Both of them, of course, critical battle ground states.

President Obama is in Chicago today. Aides say he is likely to continue his Election Day tradition of playing basketball with friends before he goes to watch the returns.

CNN reporters are fanned out all across the battleground states this morning, including in New Hampshire, where we have reports of the very first returns.

John Berman has got a look at that. Good morning.

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad. You know, we're going to begin with a town that traditionally counts and casts the first vote in the nation, Dixville Notch, New Hampshire. The votes are in, they are making history and it is a tie.

So, is this a sign of things to come this Election Day? CNN's David Mattingly is in Dixville Notch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Dixville Notch always prides themselves on being first in the nation. It's a tradition. They are the first ones to register their votes on Election Day.

And tonight, there was something different. History was made here because they produced their first tie. There are only 10 voters in this town, 10 registered voters. They split, five voters for Obama, five for Romney.

People often look at Dixville Notch as the spark for any type of trend that might be coming on Election Day. But today, no one is sure what to make of this.

RICK ERWIN, DIXVILLE NOTCH TOWN CLERK: It's a little surprising. This has never happened in Dixville before, a tie.

MATTINGLY: What does that say about the rest of Election Day?

ERWIN: Yes. Keep your eyes on the news reports, because it's going to be a wild ride.

MATTINGLY: Something also interesting here, there are five independent voters in this town, three registered Republicans, two registered Democrats. So that means Barack Obama received one more vote than Mitt Romney from the independent voters.

But, again, it's hard to say this is going to be any kind of trend. These are ten votes out of a state that will produce 700,000 votes this Election Day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: All right. That's David Mattingly in Dixville Notch.

Now, another city in New Hampshire votes at midnight, Harts Location, New Hampshire. They reinstated the practice in 1996. It started way back in the 1940s. The result there, this year, Obama 23 votes, Mitt Romney with nine votes.

So Mitt Romney today is working overtime with a couple of Election Day stops, including one in Ohio which is perhaps the biggest battleground of all.

Our Carol Costello is live in a polling place in Blue Ash, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati. Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. I'm still getting over Dixville Notch. Can you imagine if it tied in Ohio? We'd be waiting a long, long time for the winner of this election. We do not want that to happen.

I am in Blue Ash. It's in Hamilton County near Cincinnati, normally Republican country except in 2008 when this county went for Barack Obama. Of course, the president hoping for that again, but Mitt Romney has a better -- and the Republicans have a better ground game this time, they're really getting people out to vote.

And here at Blue Ash, this polling station will open at 6:30 a.m. Eastern Time. They're expected to be chockfull of voters. Mostly Republican because as you know, early voting has been a hit here in Ohio, almost 1.8 million people have already voted. They either early voted or they voted by absentee.

The big rub here is the provisional ballot. If you head made a mistake on your registration form or you decide, oh, I was going to vote absentee, but I'm going to show up in person anyway, you'll be handed a provisional ballot. You'll have to fill out that provisional ballot all by yourself. And that could create some problems because one mistake means it's thrown out.

So, we're waiting for a 6:30 a.m. Eastern Time for people to fill this spot. I'll keep you posted. Back to you, John.

BERMAN: Provisional ballots could be a four-letter word in the coming days.

Carol Costello in Blue Ash, Ohio -- thanks very much.

Florida, of course, another critical battleground state. The campaign's final days there were marked by controversy over the state's early voting. You know, it's pretty clear if you do the math, that for Mitt Romney to become president, he needs to win in Florida.

We're joined now by Ashleigh Banfield live this morning in Miami. Good morning, Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because the last Republican president to actually take the White House without taking Florida was Warren Harding. And that was back in '24. So, yes, I suppose there's a first time to change that trend.

But, John, 829 precincts in Miami-Dade and I'm just at one of them. I'm here two hours early. It's dark, it's lovely out.

Take a look behind me, though. Are you ready for this? Two hours until the polls open and we've already got a line of several people. I had a quick chat with some of them, John.

And already, some of these people have waited in early voting lines for six hours. So they are very keen to get going. Come with me, I want to show you quickly as I give you stats on some of the early voting, by the way.

We have 11.4 million registered voters in Florida. We've already got 4.46 who early voted. Take a peek beyond me. I counted about 26 of those voting booths ready to get set up when the election officials all get ready to go, and 12-page ballot -- 12 pages. You know how long that takes? That's why there's likely to be very long lines today, John.

BERMAN: All right. Ashleigh Banfield in Miami. I can't believe they are lining up already. You still have 90 minutes before the polls open there. Thanks so much, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I know. That's great, right?

BERMAN: It's crazy, great and crazy.

Later this hour, we'll take you to battleground Virginia, another key state, and also to New York, which, you know, is not a battleground but where damage from Superstorm Sandy could affect the voting there -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, John.

The way our electoral system works, some states get all the attention from the candidates, those swing states would be in that category. Other states kind of feel ignored.

Christine Romans has a look at the states where President Obama and Mitt Romney spent most of their time campaigning.

ROMANS: Let's look at the magic wall because where you see these spheres here, it shows you -- this is a graphic representation of how much time they spend, how many visits they had, Soledad, to some of the swing states. If you lived in Colorado, oh, boy, you saw a lot of these candidates. I want to show you just Paul Ryan in particular. Paul Ryan spent a lot of time in Colorado. If you live, say, oh, in Florida, you saw a lot of these candidates. You heard a lot of them on the airwaves and but you saw a lot of these candidates in person, especially Mitt Romney and the president himself.

And now, let's look at Ohio because this, of course, is the big battleground. You can see just how much time they spent in Ohio. I want to show you three parts in particular, suburbs of Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, a lot of attention on these spots.

And why, let's go in here -- let's go in here to Lake County, I want to show you. Lake County, only 2 percent of the population, the president personally spending time here. Why? Because in 2004, this went to Bush.

This is territory the president got and he's trying to hold on to. 2008, the president had a very slim margin here in Lake County. So, he's definitely trying to hold on to that.

Columbus, both candidates really interested in keeping ahold of this territory. It's 9 percent of the population. And you come down here to Hamilton County, 7 percent, both candidates spending a lot of time around Cincinnati. Again, back in 2004, this was Bush territory. The president taking that last time around, trying to defend this territory. That's why they're spending so much time personally, personally in Ohio.

O'BRIEN: And hopefully for them the math works. If you camp out, you can keep those votes you had last time around.

ROMANS: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Both candidates would think of that. All right. Christine, thank you.

Other stories making news, and Zoraida has a look at those stories for us. Hi, Z.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning to you. Coastal communities in New York and New Jersey are sitting in the path of a nor'easter. This is 1.2 million people in that region are still without power one week after Superstorm Sandy slammed into the coastal northeast. In fact, that new storm has some communities telling its residents to evacuate again.

Brick, New Jersey, has a mandatory evacuation order in place for residents in the low-lying areas. It's also encouraging others to leave if their home could be affected again.

Meteorologist Rob Marciano is tracking that new storm and also has a look at Election Day forecasts for us. Boy, you have your hands full, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Zoraida. Yes, across Georgia, and Florida, this is where that storm is beginning to take shape. So, the swing state that is the Sunshine State is going to get thunderstorms today, early on across the north and driving down towards Tampa and Orlando around midday.

So, get out there early and vote if you can.

Also, some rain mixed with snow across parts of Wisconsin. Elsewhere, it will be warm across southern California, dry but cool across the Northeast.

Let's talk about the potential impact for this incoming nor'easter. the timing of which will be more so tomorrow than today. But the winds will gust to 50 miles an hour along the coastline, heavy rain, coastal flooding, beach erosion and even some wet snow for the interior. Maybe even the coastline.

So, here's a storm going across Florida today. Again, get out early, especially across the central and southern part of the state. And then tomorrow, the low rides up the coastline. It won't be anywhere near like Sandy but it's going to close enough and strong enough to have some serious impacts.

And you heard, there are even some areas that are going to be evacuating, flood watches are in effect for this. And also some white on the map here. Just a combination of really horrifying elements considering the fact that we have tens of thousands of people that are homeless with this storm coming in.

Zoraida, we'll keep you posted as this forecast changes.

SAMBOLIN: Insult to injury. Thank you so much, Rob.

And an evidence hearing is under way at a military base in Washington state. It will determine whether Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales should be tried for murder in the shooting deaths of 16 Afghan civilians. That was back in March. If he is tried and convicted, Bales could receive the death penalty.

And police are looking for a skateboarder who robbed a bank in Carlsbad, California. Investigators say the man dressed in the all black handed a teller a note yesterday. There's a picture of him there, demanding an undisclosed amount of money. The teller complied. No one was hurt.

And investigators say witnesses didn't spot a weapon. But they have his mug.

Right, Soledad, did you see that?

O'BRIEN: Yes. And he's on a skateboard. My guess is they're going to wrap up the case pretty soon.

All right. Zoraida, thank you.

For the best political coverage on TV, you want to keep it right here on CNN. Our special live election coverage begins tonight at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. CNN's Wolf Blitzer has a preview.

And apparently he does not have a preview. Obviously, a little problem with the tape of Wolf. But basically tonight is where you want to be watching CNN's coverage.

Coming up this morning on our special Election Day edition of EARLY START: who's going to win tonight? Or will we have a winner at all? Will the results be delayed for days? We'll take a look at the potential scenarios ahead.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. It's finally here. My goodness. Today's the day Americans will decide who will be sitting in the Oval Office for the next four years. Some of the earliest polling stations are just opening in Vermont. We're going to be bringing you all the up-to-the-minute details this morning and obviously throughout the day.

Joining us this morning, CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. She's also -- you also worked on the Huntsman and --

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: McCain.

O'BRIEN: -- McCain campaigns.

And CNN political analyst Roland Martin, TV One.

Nice to have you with us. Appreciate it.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Hey.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: It's 5:16 in the morning.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's begin, Roland, with you. Who's going to win, by how much and why in a nutshell?

MARTIN: I think President Obama 281 Electoral College votes. You look at the persistent lead. Clearly, you look at what's happening out West, and, of course, you go to Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, also I believe he takes New Hampshire.

The folks who are saying more than 300, I don't think so. This is an extremely tight election. This reminds me a lot more of the 2004 election. But President George W. Bush wins Ohio by 110,000 votes. To me, that's the difference maker.

O'BRIEN: Ana Navarro, what do you think?

NAVARRO: I think I'm not going to predict.

O'BRIEN: How about if I made you predict? NAVARRO: Under gunpoint?

O'BRIEN: I'm not a violent person but I'll lean on you hard.

MARTIN: She'll buy you grits and pork bellies.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I know. I mean, I really want to know. If your heart of hearts.

This is all people are talking about on Twitter. And people keep asking me, is it going to be 300? You know, what is it? So what do you think?

NAVARRO: It's too close. I mean, look at state after state. Look at what just happened in Dixonville. First time in history we have a 5- 5. That should tell you where we are a country.

Look, tomorrow, 50 percent of this country is going to be very disappointed. And 50 percent of the country will be very happy.

MARTIN: Come on, make the call, Ana! Make that call!

NAVARRO: People got to go out and vote today. Today --

MARTIN: Of course.

NAVARRO: Today is the morning we should be telling people anything can make a difference, the weather can make a difference. Your vote can make a difference -- 537 votes made a difference in Florida.

SAMBOLIN: She's notorious for telling the truth, right? Telling the truth and speaking your mine. So, I'm surprised you're not speaking your mind right now.

NAVARRO: I think it's too -- you know something? I think it's too close to call. I think that is the truth for me.

O'BRIEN: I want to ask John a question. You know, Nate Silver has now upped his percentage of prediction for Obama to 91 percent. You have Nate Silver on one side and then you have pretty much everybody in the GOP who said, listen, I think we're win this.

Are all the polls wrong? Is Nate Silver wrong? I mean, how are those --

BERMAN: Well, that's the question. What Nate is saying, if you follow the state polling here, and you believe the state polling here, then the combination is there for President Obama. If you believe there's a sampling problem in almost every state poll, then you have the Republican analysts' solution which is that largely Mitt Romney will win.

What you want to watch for tonight is Virginia. It's an early poll closing state. It closes at 7:00 tonight. If it's tied or the president's ahead, then it means the polls have basically been right, because that's what the polls have been saying all along. If Mitt Romney is ahead by four points or so, then the Republican analysts are all right. These polls have been off by a consistent measurement. If that's the case early on, it's a big night for Mitt Romney.

O'BRIEN: Hmm, interesting.

Well, as recent history tells us, not everything is going to run particularly smoothly on Election Day. In fact, there have been some issues, already some legal fights. Ali Velshi is monitoring some of the potential problems for us. He'll have a look straight ahead.

We're back right back after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special Election Day edition of EARLY START. We are coming to you live from our nation's capital.

And we are tracking potential voting pitfalls in some key swing states. The fight over early voting in Florida, provisional ballots in all-important Ohio, not to mention confusion over voting after Superstorm Sandy.

Ali Velshi is following these angles for us from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Let's begin with Florida, Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Long lines. I mean, believe it or not, Soledad, we're talking about Florid and we might be talking about Florida very, very late tonight, maybe even tomorrow.

Bottom line is you used to have 14 days to vote ahead of polling day. The governor and legislature changed that to eight days and that's what you're seeing. That's the result.

We've seen lineups for 400 or 500 people, reports that people have waited seven hours.

Michelle Obama making a speech saying, if you're in the line, don't leave the line.

We've seen people leaving the lines. The problem is as you know, the last time Florida was a problem in 2000, the final count was 537 votes. So everybody matters in Florida, in Ohio, everywhere in the country. But the bottom line is particularly in these swing states.

So, the problem will be in Florida, people leaving because the vote lines are too long or people being in line when the polls close. We're watching it very closely. We're monitoring and getting complaints from people and finding out what the problems are and what their options are for voting, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And in Florida, that ballot is so long. That in and of itself --

VELSHI: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- takes a long time to fill (ph).

And let's turn to Ohio. Provisional ballot could become a problem, right?

VELSHI: Yes. This is a big misunderstanding. I'm getting a lot of tweets saying, why do you talk about provisional ballots? They're not actual votes.

They're absolutely votes, but they're votes from people who either didn't get their ballot in the mail or their address has changed or they somehow can't prove who you are.

So, what happens is now you have to fill out a form and this wasn't the law. The law was that the person taking your ballot had to fill out this form. Now, you have to fill off this form where you have to check off a whole lot of information that I have to tell you, I've been over the form and it's a little bit confusing.

So, again, the secretary of state imposed this last week. There have been lawsuits there. They will not be heard for a while because the provisional ballots don't get counted until 10 days after the election, because everybody who does one has 10 days to prove who they are. So that's another problem that we're looking at right there.

Again, unless Ohio is very close, it won't matter. But last election, there were 400,000 provisional ballots, 50,000 of which were thrown out. So, you can tell that this, too, will be a point of contention, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Ali Velshi, watching it for us -- thank you, Ali. Appreciate that.

VELSHI: All right.

O'BRIEN: Price tag for this election, record breaking and enormous. Where did all that money go? Christine Romans is going to take a look at the campaign cash, coming up.

We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching a special edition of EARLY START, and our live coverage of Election Day 2012.

Now, voting is already under way in parts of Vermont and 11 more states are set to open their polls in the next 60 minutes or so, after a 17-month marathon which cost a combined $3 billion. The candidates spent the final hours of the campaign making some closing arguments.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our fight goes on because America always does best when everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules. That's what we believe. That's why you elected me in 2008 and that's why I'm running for a second term.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: This is much more than our moment. It's America's moment of renewal and purpose and optimism. And we've journeyed far and wide in this great campaign for America's future. And now, we're almost home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: There are already legal issues plaguing two key battleground states in Florida, more along the lines yesterday. Democrats are suing to extend early voting hours, even though they legally ended those hours on Saturday.

And then, in Ohio, a hearing is now set for Wednesday morning to hear arguments about the rules for counting those provisional ballots. A final tally from the Buckeye State could take weeks.

And in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey is allowing voting by e-mail or fax, and New York is permitting voters in disaster areas to cast ballots at any polling place in the entire state.

Joining us throughout the morning, for our special Election Day coverage: Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia; Delaware Governor Jack Markell; South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn; David Axelrod, he's the Obama campaign senior adviser; Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell; former Ohio governor Ted Strickland; Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling; and Bob Shrum, he's a Democratic consultant who worked on both the Kerry and Gore campaigns.

John Berman's got more this morning on what's happening in those key battleground states -- John.

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Soledad. You know, we already have some results in believe it or not. In Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, they have spoken. And for the first time in history, it's a tie, five votes for the president, five votes for Mitt Romney. In Hartsville location, another New Hampshire voting spot, it was 23 votes for President Obama and nine votes for Mitt Romney.

Moving on to a state with a little more voting going on today, Virginia, it is very much still in play. Mitt Romney made two stops there yesterday. Vice President Biden was also there twice and four years ago, President Obama became the first Democrat to carry the state since 1964. And if Obama can win their again, it makes Mitt Romney's job really, really tough.

I'm joined now by Randi Kaye live in Woodbridge, Virginia. Good morning, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Yes. It's going to be a very interesting Election Day here in Virginia, no doubt. Thirteen electoral votes up for grabs. Voting starts at 6:00 a.m. here. And you can already see there's a line that's (ph) people were here about 4:40 a.m. this morning trying to get in.

I guess, they were expecting long lines because they don't have early voting here in Virginia. They have in-person absentee voting. So, you need a pretty good excuse to not show up here on Election Day. They also have the new voter I.D. law which starts today. It used to be able to just sign an affidavit saying you are who you are. That doesn't work anymore.

What's going to be interesting today, though, John, is the demographics and seeing how they play out. It's certain (ph) the old Virginia versus the New Virginia. The old Virginia is the -- it's very Republican, religious, White working class. The New Virginia is urban diverse. That's what helped get Obama elected here by six percentage points back in 2008.

It's also the economy. People are going to be looking at that. This is a pretty robust economy here in Virginia, 5.2 percent unemployment. So, we'll see how that plays into all of this as well -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Randi Kaye live in Virginia. Polls close there at 7:00 p.m. One of the early states to watch. Thanks a lot, Randi.

Now, the New York metro area is still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, and now, bracing for a nor'easter. And voting is yet another hurdle for people displaced from their homes. New York's Governor Cuomo trying to remedy that, signed an order allowing people to vote at any polling place. CNNs Alina Cho is at a makeshift polling station in Brooklyn. Good morning, Alina.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, good morning to you. Yes, I'm back at Brooklyn Tech High School, which by the way is the only school in New York City serving as both an emergency shelter and a polling station today. And you're absolutely right.

At the 11th hour yesterday, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed an executive order that essentially says if you live in a federal disaster zone in New York, you can cast your ballot today, not just in your district, but at any polling site in New York State. Now, this is unprecedented, and it will allow up to 143,000 voters in New York City alone to cast their ballots today.

These are people who might, otherwise, have problems getting to a polling station. Now, this is not a perfect solution, the governor admits. It could complicate some local races. But the simple way to put it is that your vote will count for the races you are eligible to vote for. The governor says just because you are displaced after the storm doesn't mean you should be disenfranchised.

And John, he adds after last week, quote, "This will be a walk in the park." We'll have to wait and see. The polls open in less than an hour -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Alina. You know, New York, not a swing state, but every vote counts. So, it's important to vote everywhere, not just in the swing states, obviously. The price tag for the 2012 elections has exploded and is already breaking major records. The damage, $4.2 billion through Sunday for the presidential and Congressional races.

Final figures could hit $6 billion. Some 750 million of it devoted to TV ads for campaigns. Christine Romans is tracking the big time for political ads this morning. What do you have?

ROMANS: And if you live in one of the swing states, you've been hearing more about these candidates than you have about toothpaste and cars for some time now. This is, John, TV ad count in United States for this election, and this is all of the ad counts. Let me show you.

This is the Romney war chest, all of these red spheres. This is the Obama war chest, and then, these are just the Republican tied PACs, the Democrat tied PACs, out it all together, and that's what it looks. If you live in, say, Colorado, you've been hearing a lot about these candidates or actually about their opponents for some time now, right?

If you live in Iowa, you have, too. And you can see there's a little bit of edge in terms of the number of ad counts for the president here from both the PAC and also from the campaign itself. And maybe, maybe according to "Des Moines Register," that's something that's been paying off for him.

But I want to take a look out -- further out here and look at Florida. Florida, a fascinating story here. Just look at the Romney spins Obama. Now, the whole thing -- I was just in Tallahassee. You couldn't get through a commercial break with any other ads, John, except for political ads.

This has been so competitive and so intense here. And then, finally, in Virginia, I mean, all you have to do -- look at that big -- I mean, that's been really amazing as well. And look at the polls here. You can see just how competitive it is in Virginia, 48-47 from "The Wall Street Journal"/Marist Poll. You got one to the first one to close tonight?

BERMAN: Seven o'clock, one of the earlier ones. There are some polls that close early in Kentucky and Indiana, but not really swing states.

ROMANS: So, we'll know pretty soon whether all of those ad buys paid off, because certainly, that's been an area that has been bombarded.

BERMAN: It's fascinating. The Republicans may have spent more money on ads, but Obama and the Democrats place their ad buy so early they've got a discount. They may have actually been able to run more ads.

ROMANS: And hoe many a million times, a million times these ads have run?

BERMAN: A lot of times.

ROMANS: That's a lot.

BERMAN: It's more than we --

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: All right. A reminder that CNN's live coverage of election night in America begins tonight when the polls first close at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN. There is a lot of other news going on today. Now to Zoraida Sambolin with the rest of today's stories.

SAMBOLIN: Thanks, John.

The last thing that people living in coastal communities in New York and New Jersey need is another powerful storm, but a nor'easter is headed their way, even as tens of thousands still struggle to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. The new storm is expected to hit tomorrow.

It will last until Thursday morning and will pack high winds and heavy rain. Coastal flooding is also a very strong possibility. And Rob Marciano is monitoring the track of the storm at the weather center in Atlanta. And will it have any impact on voters that are heading to the polls today, Rob, do you think?

MARCIANO: It will across the south, because that's where it's going to start. So, Florida, it will have an impact and it could be significant. Also, problem areas, rain mixed with snow at times across parts of Wisconsin, shouldn't be a too terrible deal. Other than that, the weather looks fairly tranquil. The pacific northwest will get its usual bet of rain and some wind.

All right. Georgia, you're seeing some rainfall and the storm that will be this nor'easter is now about to get through Florida, the panhandle, and eventually, the big bend area in through Sarasota and Tampa later on this morning. So, get out there early. It could have significant impacts.

Studies show that one inch of rainfall will drop voter turnout by one percent, and foul weather, in general, favors Republicans by about 2.5 percent. We've got some foul weather with potentially more than an inch of rain heading through Florida today. So, just keep that in mind.

Some wildcard voters dealing with, obviously, power outages, storm damage, and obstructed travel up there in the storm zone lesser in the way of swing states there, but you get the picture. Here's our storm tomorrow. Again, the impacts for this will be tomorrow afternoon, tomorrow night, winds, some rain, some coastal flooding.

And as you mentioned, Zoraida, there are some areas across the storm zone that have been re-evacuated in anticipation of this next storm.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. Continued tough times for a lot of people. Thank you, Rob.

MARCIANO: You bet.

SAMBOLIN: A 48-hour general strike is underway in Greece.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Transit workers took the street yesterday in Athens to kick off the nationwide protest. Take a look at those. They'll be joined by other union workers today, and they are protesting the latest round of budget cutbacks that parliament will vote on this week.

"Monday Night Football" in New Orleans, Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, throwing two touchdown passes in a 28-13 victory over the Eagles. Philadelphia quarterback, Michael Vick, sacked seven times as the Eagles stumble to their fourth straight loss. Did you hear that wow in the studio, Soledad?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Seven times, Michael Vick, aw.

(CROSSTALK)

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: He needs a Bengay.

O'BRIEN: All over his body.

MARTIN: He needs a rubdown.

O'BRIEN: All right. Zoraida, thanks. After all the campaigning, after all the ads, there is a possibility the election could end up locked in an Electoral College tie, 269-269. But what happens then? We'll break down those rules for you, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're coming to you live from Washington, D.C. this morning. Election drama could extend well beyond today's vote. For example, there's a possibility of an Electoral College tie, 269-269. And in the unlikely event that that happens, Tom Foreman has a blow-by-blow of the rules that would determine who becomes president and who becomes vice president. Take a look.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Soledad, you know, even if every single state out there votes as anticipated, each one of these lines represents a way in which the battleground states could come together to produce an electoral tie, 269 votes for each of the candidates.

And if that happens, everything changes. Here's rule number one. The incoming House of Representatives would then pick the president. That's right. After all this voting, all the ads, all the billions of dollars spent, the folks who are going to gather in this chamber in January would then have the task of deciding on who the president is going to be.

Rule number two, one vote per delegation or one vote per state. This is actually a big deal. Let me bring in a map to show you precisely why. Under this rule, huge states like California with tens of millions of voters would suddenly have no more influence than a state like North Dakota with far fewer voters. One vote per state. That's it. And it gets better.

Look at rule number three, the popular vote does not count. Your state's vote would be determined by your congressional delegation and that could make some strange things happen. Look at Illinois over here, the president's home state. It has voted reliably Democratic in the last several presidential elections, but look at the Congressional districts there.

There are more Congress members from that states who are Republican than Democrat, and they could tilt the vote there and simply say, Illinois goes to Romney, even if the people of the state didn't feel like that's what they wanted. Bu the way, if you have a state like Minnesota right now that has an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, it would essentially nullify its own vote, unless, those Congress members could work out some kind of a deal on that.

Bottom line is all this could totally change the electoral map. We know right now when we look at the red states, blue states and the battlegrounds, this is a very close race. But if you apply these rules and threw it to Congress the result right now in the current Congress, it'd be something like this. Look at all the red states there.

The Republicans would sweep into power and Mitt Romney would go right into the White House with Paul Ryan. Although maybe not with Paul Ryan. The funny thing is, even though the House would pick the president, the Senate gets the job of picking the vice president. And if the new Senate also had a Democratic majority like the current one, they could give us something that nobody anticipates.

Mitt Romney as president and Joe Biden as his vice president. No, the Democrats can't swap somebody else out. They couldn't put Barack Obama in that job and, yes, if there is a tie one the Senate, Joe Biden could cast the deciding vote for himself. There's, of course, no guarantee that any of this would happen.

In a race that close, you would probably see some recounts, you'd see some court challenges, or you might see the most startling thing of all, a faithless elector. Remember, when you vote, you're not voting for president. You're voting for members of the Electoral College who will then gather and vote for president.

One of them from your state could go rogue. One of them could simply say I'm not going to vote the way I was told to vote. And if that happened, if that one person simply changed his or her mind, that person could change history and decide with one vote whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is president -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: That is so fascinating. Our special election coverage continues tonight, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Here's Wolf Blitzer with a bit of a preview.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're really excited, Soledad, about our coverage tonight, because we've got a lot going on. John King, of course, will be at the CNN magic wall over there. He's looking at all the various permutations, lots possible. We have 16 reporters, 16 reporters in all the key battleground states.

We'll touch base with them. Tom Foreman is in the virtual Senate. You saw what he has in store. He's got some more surprises coming up. We've got the best analysts in the business. They're standing by. We'll dissect everything step-by-step. The great thing about covering this election is, you never know what's going to happen.

There could be some huge surprises there tonight, and we will be watching it together with all of our viewers. Speaking of surprises, we've got some other, shall we say, technical surprises in the works as well. And I think our viewers, Soledad, will be very, very happy.

O'BRIEN: We're looking forward to that. And we are back right after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Does the election end tonight? Will we have a clear winner tomorrow morning? Back with us here in D.C., CNN contributor, Republican strategist, Ana Navarro, CNN political analyst, Roland martin. What do you think? Do you think it got drags on or do you think we know tonight.

MARTIN: I think we know tonight.

O'BRIEN: Yes.

MARTIN: I don't think it's going to drag on. I don't foresee Florida in 2000. I know we keep picking on Ana's state.

NAVARRO: I know. I am feeling picked on.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Why do you feel optimistic about that? We've already seen long lines in Florida. We already know that there are legal challenges. All that would make me feel that maybe it's not going to be decided tonight.

NAVARRO: I don't think it's going to be close enough in Florida for us to be -- maybe it's wishful thinking on my behalf, because you know, a recount finally is a very divisive, long, difficult process. So you know what? Wishful thinking, optimism, yes, my hope is that this is over, if not tonight, at least tomorrow morning.

MARTIN: Yes, the difference is the western states are going to play key as well. It is Nevada and Colorado. We weren't talking about those states in 2000, 2004. There are going to be a difference as well.

O'BRIEN: Let me read to you what David Frum in his op-ed in the "Daily Beast." He wrote "No voting system is perfect. But here's what doesn't happen in other democracies. Politicians of one party do not set voting schedules to favor their side or harm the other. Politicians do not move around voting places to gain advantages for themselves or to disadvantage their opponents."

"In fact, in almost no other country, the politicians have any say in the administration of elections at all. He makes a really good point."

MARTIN: I agree.

O'BRIEN: Don't you think?

MARTIN: No, I totally agree, but you know, I worry about Florida. I worry about the recount. I worry about what happened in 2000 and who has control of that process.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: -- we spend so much time. My God, this has been a year and a half of this almost, you know? And it feels like a year and a half since the primaries.

O'BRIEN: It feels like five.

(CROSSTALK)

NAVARRO: In no other country is there -- really in few other countries is there early voting? Is there absentee balloting? Is there -- you know, all the opportunities there are to vote in this country. And most --

O'BRIEN: But we still don't have such a high percent of participation. So, maybe we should rethink how we do it.

MARTIN: We need all those forms of voting to protect ourselves from the secretaries of state who want to sit here, and again (ph), make all these maneuvers. That is a fundamental problem because, again, not only that, you have people who are secretaries of state who also are campaign co-chairs. So, how can you say, well, my job is to protect the vote, but I really want this person to win.

O'BRIEN: So, you think it's all going to be wrapped up, but of course, if it's not, it's going to be a hot mess. All right. Thanks. Appreciate that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Outside the race for the White House, one of the toughest contests in the country is the hard-fought and expensive battle for a Massachusetts Senate seat. We'll have more on that race and other key races, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: It is 57 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to our special election coverage live from Washington, D.C. Outside the race for president, there are other important races that will be decided on this Election Day. The Massachusetts Senate race is one of the toughest battles.

Senator Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent facing Democrat, Elizabeth Warren. They've been running neck and neck in one of the most expensive races in the entire country. Another heated race, in Florida's 18th Congressional district, Palm Beach County, Republican congressman, Allen West, trying to hold on against Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy.

The race is so heated West has taken Florida Democrats to task for questioning and filing suit over early voting there.

Former presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, is fighting for her political life today. The Minnesota congresswoman is in a tight race with Democratic challenger, Jim Graves. In their final debate, Bachmann defended her claims that Muslim Brotherhood operatives have infiltrated the federal government.

And we caught former Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, arriving to cast her ballot in downtown Tucson yesterday. Take a look. She was joined by her successor, Democratic congressman, Ron Barber. Barber was shot twice alongside Giffords in the Tucson rampage that killed six people in 2011. He's locked in a tight race against Republican, Martha McSally.

Stay with us. The special edition of EARLY START continues right now live from Washington, D.C.

O'BRIEN: And good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien, and you're watching a special Election Day edition of EARLY START. It is here, the battle for every last vote continues this morning. Eight states are opening their polls right now and the best political team on TV has it covered wire to wire today.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. An indication that it could be a close one. The first election results, they are in from the tiny towns of Dixville Notch and Harts location in New Hampshire. And in one of those towns, it's a result we've never seen before.

ROMANS: Campaign trail extended. I'm Christine Romans. Governor Romney adding a couple of key stops today, but President Obama is standing pat and shooting some hoops on the last day of his final campaign ever.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin, the immense damage from hurricane Sandy forcing an Election Day scramble. People voting by e-mail and at different polling stations, and in some cases, literally moving the Earth to have their voices heard.

O'BRIEN: Joining us throughout the morning for our special Election Day coverage: Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia; Delaware governor Jack Markell will be our guest. South Carolina Congressman, Jim Clyburn is joining us. Obama campaign senior adviser, David Axelrod; Virginia governor Bob McDonnell; former Ohio governor, Ted Strickland; Texas Congressman, Jeb Hensarling will be talking with us. And Bob Shrum, a Democratic consultant who worked on the Kerry and Gore campaign.

Special election coverage here on CNN begins right now.