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Election Day Arrives

Aired November 6, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is it, a crucial moment for the presidential candidates and for the American people.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are counting down to the first results on this, election night in America.


NARRATOR: It's the tense finale of a long and heated presidential race.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policy isn't change.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Attacking me doesn't make an agenda. It doesn't get people back to work.

NARRATOR: Voters are choosing and America is waiting for the first results and the last word on who wins the White House.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The next president of the United States, Mitt Romney.


NARRATOR: Tonight, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney battle for the highest offices in land, knowing a handful of swing states will be the ultimate deciders.

ROMNEY: Ohio, you're going to make it happen.

OBAMA: That's what's at stake, New Hampshire.

RYAN: Colorado is at the cusp of the battleground states.

BIDEN: Together, we can win Florida.

NARRATOR: A contest that's been close for months, in a nation divided between red and blue. We don't know who will win.

ROMNEY: We need to make sure that we win this one. It counts.

NARRATOR: Or how soon the outcome will be clear.

OBAMA: Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? NARRATOR: Now CNN's coverage of election night in America, the fight for the presidency, the battle for Congress, and the issues dividing the nation.

ROMNEY: Do you want more of the same or do you want change?


OBAMA: I'm not ready to give up on the fight.

NARRATOR: The polls are open, the nation is watching, and history is in the making, right now.


KING: It's all in the hands of the voters right now.

You're looking at a live picture of a polling place in Nashua, New Hampshire, one of the critical battleground states we're watching as we get closer and closer to the first election results.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

About an hour from now, we may be able to make the first projections in the presidential race, and we will get our first clues about how tonight may go for President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. We're counting down to the top of the hour, when all the polls will close in the states of Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and the battleground state of Virginia.

Some polls in India and Kentucky, by the way, they are closing right now. A total of 60 electoral votes are on the line in those states -- 270, you will be hearing that number a lot -- 270 are needed to win the White House. We're getting an early snapshot of voters, what they care about from our exit polls.

Let's bring in John King over at the magic wall -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, the demographics of the electorate, what the electorate looks like, who's voting, tells you a lot about what you're going to do today.

Let's look nationally at who's voting in our presidential election today. Voters age 18 to 29 make up 18 percent of the national electorate. That is exactly the same percentage as 2008. The young vote a key part of the Obama constituency. That is the same percentage as 2008. Voters age 30 to 44 at 26 percent, that's down a bit, that's down a little from 2008.

This is a big group of voters -- 37 percent of those voting today, the largest group out there, are in the age group from 45 to 64. That is very consistent, very consistent with four years ago in the size of the electorate. And voters 65 and older, Governor Romney counting, Republicans tend to get higher support among the elderly, this is up some. It was 16 percent four years ago. More voters age 65 and older in the electorate today. Governor Romney will be encouraged by that number.

The president will be encouraged by this number, young voters coming out. There was a fear they would drop off in a significant percentage. How about by race? This is almost identical, almost identical to the 2008 electorate nationally. Again, key battleground states could be a little different. And 73 percent of the voters today are right, and it was 74 percent four years ago. African- Americans, 13 percent of the electorate, that's identical.

Latinos were 9 percent of the electorate, four years ago, 10 percent. If that numbers holds up throughout the later waves of exit polls, it will be the first election in American history where Latinos vote in double digits, 10 percent right there.

Let's also look across by party I.D. This is not how they voted. This is how they identify themselves; 37 percent of those voting today say they're Democrats, and 34 percent say they're Republicans, and 29 percent say independents.

So roughly, there's a bit of variation there, but roughly you see an evenly divided America, that independent number a bit on the rise.

BLITZER: John, thank you.

We're getting the first real numbers coming in right now from the state of Kentucky. Let's show our viewers what we have. Only 1 percent of the vote is in. And you see Mitt Romney way ahead of Barack Obama, 79 percent to 19 percent, but it's very, very early in Kentucky. That usually in a presidential contest a pretty reliable red state. We will continue to watch the numbers.

A lot more numbers by the way are going to start coming in this hour -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Wolf. CNN has the most reporters in the battleground states that will decide the presidential election. Many of them are embedded with election officials to monitor vote tallies and be on alert for any problems.

We also have correspondents at both candidates' headquarters, Jessica Yellin in Chicago with the Obama campaign and Candy Crowley in Boston with the Romney campaign.

First, we start with Jessica -- Jessica.


Well, Obama campaign officials so far say they like what they're seeing. They're seeing absolutely no surprises the in the data, and they were expecting turnout to be good for them, so they are happy. What they see so far is no surge for Governor Romney, they say, and they see that both Florida and North Carolina are dead heats. That's what they tell us. Of course, you have to factor in pro-Obama spin that's coming from Obama aides, but dead heats in Florida and North Carolina positive for the president, because going in, those states saw polling advantage Governor Romney.

Now, just before I spoke to you, I interviewed one of the president's top campaign aides, Stephanie Cutter, and I asked her the president's mood today. This is what she had to say.


STEPHANIE CUTTER, OBAMA 2012 DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Serene, he's calm, he's excited.

We had an amazing rally last night in Des Moines. Very emotional. This is his last campaign, and that was his last campaign event. He's looking forward to tonight. He did his traditional game of basketball, and now he's spending time with his family. Michelle's brother is here.

The president's sister is here, and their family. So there will be lots of nieces and nephews running around. He's going to have dinner with his family. And then as the returns start to come in, he will come downtown and we will watch the returns together. And then we will come here and have a big celebration.


YELLIN: And, Anderson, he won that basketball game today, so I'm sure they consider that a good sign, a good omen. I told you last night, they are a superstitious bunch, and the president, he likes to win -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jessica, he was also making calls and thanking campaign workers at a stop today.

YELLIN: Yes, he did. He visited one of his campaign offices and he thanked people. He also thanked Governor Romney for a vigorous campaign and acknowledged that there has been a lot of enthusiasm on both sides. And he encouraged people to get out and vote -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's check in with Candy Crowley at the Romney headquarters in Boston -- Candy.


They are striking up the band. I don't want to rain on Stephanie's parade, but they're also expecting a victory here tonight. If there is any kind of worry behind the scenes, there is certainly no sign. No crack when you talk to senior advisers, either on background or on the record, they particularly say they think Florida looks great for them. They believe that Ohio and Virginia look good.

So they are, like, you know, most of us, still waiting to see when those polls come in. But they do have folks out in those counties, in Ohio, in Florida, in Virginia, where they need to turn out big numbers.

And two of the three advisers I spoke with today about this specific thing both said that they are seeing high numbers coming out in the counties where they really need to do well. So they're expecting about, maybe 5,000 people here tonight, but not until much later.

Two of them, Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann, are expected to come here at (INAUDIBLE) hotel and stay and await the election results and come over here for what they hope will be a victory party.

COOPER: It's going to be a long night. Candy, appreciate it at Romney headquarters.

Let's check with our analysts, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, also John King.

You have all been looking at the early exit polls, the numbers.

John, what jumps out at you?

KING: I think if you look at the demographics of the electorate, there are some things we have seen in the exit polls that we can't talk about until all the polls close.

But if you look at the demographics of the electorate, it's very interesting. A lot of conversation last night, Democrats were worried the youth vote would go down, seems pretty stable. Nationally, we will go state by state in the battleground states, that's what matters most. But that's an encouraging number for the Obama campaign.

The fact that the senior vote is a little bigger this time, if Republicans can hold it, that has been a constituency that trends their way. It's also very important in some of the key battleground states. Iowa is an older state, Florida is an older state.

So if you look at the first wave of data we have, it tells you that we have a very competitive election on our hands.

COOPER: Yes, which we knew before we looked at the data.


DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It looks very competitive. It looks like a long night, really.

We will have to wait and see. And let's wait and see how reliable these are. Remember, famously, in 2004, it looked like John Kerry had won it. And he ordered up a victory speech, and then the later exits came in and it changed dramatically and he lost.

So we have to wait and see. I was also struck by the conversations we have had in the past about the white vs. minority percentage of vote, and it was very, very important for Governor Romney to get at least 74 percent of the electorate white, maybe a little higher. It looks like a little under that right now. BORGER: We have, clearly a divided electorate. Identity politics is alive and well in this country.

I think it's very clear that Mitt Romney was right to run on the economy. Everybody cares about the economy. But, you know, it's a question of which matters to most voters. Some of them talk about the vision of the candidate matters. Others say it matters that he shares my values, or that he understands my problems.

That's always an area that Mitt Romney has had problems with. So as we look at these going down the road, I think we're going to see that the differences in their number one issues are going to matter.


KING: Our short-term concern tonight is who will be the next president of the United States and what will the balance of power in Congress be, and that's what we will focus on.

But as we do, there's a lesson for the Republican Party here. And that is, as you watch Latinos now become 10 percent, in the next presidential election, they will likely be 12 or 13 or 14 percent. And they're in the key swing states. It's where their population is growing the fastest.

The Republican Party either deals with its crisis with Latino voters, or it becomes very hard to be a nationally competitive Republican Party. If Governor Romney were getting 32, 33 percent of the Latino vote -- we expect him -- this is not from an exit poll -- the polls going into the election had him below 30. Then Colorado would be more competitive, Florida would be his, Virginia would be his, and probably other states as well.

COOPER: Does that speak to some sort of immigration reform, no matter which candidate wins?


KING: There are a lot of conservative Latinos who agree with Governor Romney or agree with Republicans that you don't want to let the illegals stay, but it's the tone.


BORGER: But the president himself said it. In his "Des Moines Register" interview, which was off the record, he said, we have got to do immigration.

COOPER: Let's check in Wolf -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We are getting more results coming in. These are real numbers, not exit poll numbers.

In Kentucky, you can see 1 percent of the voter is in, overwhelmingly, so far, very early, 69 percent for Mitt Romney, 29 percent for the president. In Indiana, similarly, only 1 percent of the vote is in, but you can see, Mitt Romney, 59 percent, President Obama, 39 percent. Very, very early in the process. We will continue to check, real numbers coming in.

We're also getting more early exit poll information. Stand by for that.

And we have been seeing enormous lines for voting in Florida. We will have the latest on whether that could delay results in one of the most important swing states.

Our battleground reporters, they're out in full force. They are across the country, right now.


BLITZER: You're looking at Faneuil Hall in Boston. That's where Mitt Romney's in Boston right now with his entire family, but this is a watch party under way right now. They're getting ready to see what's going on in Boston. We have watch parties we're watching all over the country, indeed, all over the world.

We will get more official results coming in soon in the CNN Election Center, but right now, let's get some additional early clues about what voters are thinking as they exited the polling stations across the country.

John King is back at the magic wall.

We're getting some more clues right now.

KING: We are.

Let's focus on two of our key battleground states and two of the key states we will learn early from, Virginia and Ohio. Eastern time zone, they will close early. Who would better handle the economy? Here's your definition, folks, of a competitive election. Who would better handle the economy? Governor Romney, 49, President Obama, 48. These are among voters in the key battleground state of Ohio today. So, a split on who would better handle the top issue in the election.

Are U.S. economic conditions getting better, getting worse, or about the same? Thirty-seven percent say getting better. That's an encouraging number for the president. That number has grown in our pre-election polls and in the exit poll; 37 percent of Ohio voters say things are getting better. That is certain helpful to an incumbent.

But a close second, 33 percent say it's getting worse. You would assume those voters are thinking, maybe we need a new president. And about 29 percent say it's staying about the same. How those voters vote may determine who wins this thing, those who say things are about the same.

That's again more from battleground Ohio. One more here, what's your opinion of the Obama administration? After all, they're deciding whether to keep an incumbent president; 27 percent of Ohioans, the largest group say they're dissatisfied, 23 percent angry. That's half of the electorate today in Ohio say they're dissatisfied or angry with the Obama administration.

But again pretty split, 24 percent say satisfied and 24 percent say enthusiastic. That tells you, you have got a competitive race in battleground Ohio.

Virginia results will start to come in about the same time. And 53 percent say Governor Romney would better handle the economy, 45 percent President Obama. A better edge for Governor Romney in battleground Virginia. We're awaiting the results there to come out pretty soon.

U.S. economic conditions, 43 percent say getting better. Again, that, Wolf, would be encouraging to the incumbent; 36 percent say getting worse. Two in 10, voters in battleground Virginia today say things are just about the same from an economic perspective. One more from Virginia, what do you think of the Obama administration? Again, this is an incumbent president asking for four more years; 25 percent dissatisfied, but the largest group, 32 percent, are enthusiastic about the Obama administration, 18 percent satisfied.

We will add up this right here. That's 48/50. Add up this, that's 48. Again, roughly an even divide in battleground Virginia, just the same as battleground Ohio. When the voters are evenly divided, guess what, it means we have got a count. We're going to be here a while.

BLITZER: We are, indeed. But that's why they pay us, to be here all night, if necessary, and beyond -- Anderson.


COOPER: Wolf, thanks. We're counting down to the top of the hour and the first results for one of the crucial battleground states, which of course is Virginia.

Let's check in with some of our reporters embedded with election officials in tossup states.

First to Gary Tuchman in Virginia -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're at the election headquarters in Henrico County, Virginia.

Henrico County is a critical county in a critical state, Virginia. We want to give you an idea of how the voters are voting here in this county, long lines and touch-screen voting is what they're doing here. People like touch-screen voting, because they say it's easier and you cannot overvote. What you do is the election worker puts the card in here, then the voter activates it, touch here to start.

You can tell this is a sample machine because there's some old guys running for president, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. I vote for Washington, I would vote for Lincoln two because I like both of them. I can't do two. I get rid of Washington and I vote for Lincoln. Then favorite university -- these are proposition questions. I will put William and Mary. Should the college football national championship be decided by a playoff? I say yes. Then I push next. Those are my votes. Push next one more time, big red mark there, my ballot is cast. Please wait.

When the night is over -- and that night will be over in 41 minutes -- the precinct captain comes out, puts their card in there, and this tape comes out, and these are the votes for Obama and Romney, and then they write it down, call this office, and in about 41 minutes, we should start knowing some of the raw numbers here in this critical county -- Anderson.

COOPER: Very interesting, all about the raw numbers. Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Erin Burnett in Columbus, Ohio -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Anderson, well, we're here at the capital of Ohio. And this could be ground zero in terms of who wins tonight.

The story here is absentee and early voting. About 1.8 million people cast their votes absentee or early, the secretary of state of Ohio told me today. It turns out that it would be reasonable, election officials tell me to say, 200,000, 250,000 of those votes, we may not know who they voted for tonight.

That could mean it's up to 10 days before they start counting those ballots and we know who won. Those people who come in and their address changed or their name changed, they had to file one of these, a yellow ballot, a provisional ballot. That's the nightmare scenario. If we don't know, if it comes down to these yellow ballots, we may not know for another 10 days who wins this election.

The good news, Anderson, though, is, I spoke to the secretary of state from Ohio today, and he told me firmly the same thing he told me last night. He said, I don't think it's going to come early tonight, but I do think, here in Ohio, we will be able to project a winner.

And I have been talking to a few election officials here. They're saying, hopefully, they think, possibly, around midnight tonight. So we will see. But it could all come down to where we are tonight here in Columbus, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Erin, thanks for that. We will check in later.

Let's go to John Zarrella in Florida -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Anderson, record turnout possible in Florida. Up to nine million votes might be cast when all is said and done, 4.5 million already cast, absentee balloting and early voting.

Long lines the to report today in a lot of places, Hialeah, Florida, down in Miami-Dade county, one area, the lines were long, hours' long lines there, all day long. But it's not across the board. Some places, precincts you went to, the lines were 10, 15, 20 minutes, and that was it.

We're at the tabulation center in Palm Beach County. What I want to show you, what these people behind me are doing right now, counting absentee ballots. What they are doing is transposing faulty ballots that went out. And let me show you what we had. Right here, Anderson, 35,000 of these went out that were wrong.

The justice of the Supreme Court header here was left off. So when they came back in, the machines couldn't scan them. So what these people are doing, and there are Republican and Democratic monitors behind each of these volunteer workers, they're taking the faulty ballots and transposing them on to correct ballots, and then they will be put into the machine.

So far, they have corrected 23,000 ballots. They do not expect to have all the rest of them in those boxes back there done before the end of the night. It's going to be a long time before all of them, the absentee ballots, are counted here in Palm Beach County -- Anderson.

COOPER: We're watching any irregularities in voting in a lot of the different battleground states. John Zarrella, appreciate that.

Let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: We're following also the battle for control of the United States Senate, in a brand-new way, in CNN's virtual Senate.

Tom Foreman is there -- Tom.


We're going to be watching the Senate races all evening because the simple truth is whomever wins the presidency, his ability to get the job done and do what he wants is going to depend on what happens in the U.S. Senate tonight.

These races are critical. Let me take you up high in our virtual U.S. Senate here and show you where we stand right now. The Republicans very much want to expand on the 47 red seats they have here. They would love to eat into those three blue seats in the backseat, because that's Democratic advantage. The Democrats have 53 seats here, including the two independents who caucus with them.

You may see their desks up there. We made them purple. The Democrats also have the White House of course with President Obama, and the one Republican stronghold is the U.S. House of Representatives, which is not likely to change. So if nothing else changes, what will we see in terms of a difference in the U.S. Senate, if President Obama is reelected?

Well, we might see a lot of the same arguments as before, but a new agenda. Way up on the list, higher taxes upon the wealthy. The president has said this is part of making the economy more fair, getting the economy moving again, and dealing with the deficit. Here's another item he's been talking about, immigration reform. He talked about this last time. And he took a lot of criticism for not getting the job done.

But he says if he gets reelected, he will take another crack at it. And this is the wild card back here, and it's a big one. He could have a Supreme Court seat to fill. Justice Ginsburg has suggested she might want to retire. She's a liberal-leaning justice. If she goes away, he would probably put a liberal-leaning justice in her seat. That would maintain the as few as quo on the court. Basically, things wouldn't change.

But imagine this isn't what happens. Imagine that everything stays the same, but Mitt Romney takes control. What agenda is he going to bring to the U.S. Senate? Well, first of all, lower taxes. He wants a 20 percent tax cut for everybody. He also wants to close some loopholes in the tax code. That's his way of getting the economy moving and dealing with the deficit.

He also wants to repeal Obamacare. You heard this over and over again out on the stump. It's not really clear if he can get it done, but he would certainly need the Senate's help to do much on it. He says he's going to keep the most popular parts of it, by the way, and he, too, could face a Supreme Court seat. Big difference, though. If it's a seat held by a liberal, he would no doubt put a more conservative justice into that seat, and that would change the status quo of the court.

It would change the balance. And you would probably see, Wolf, some changes in the types of rulings we saw coming out in the court -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom, as you say, we think the Republicans will hold on to their majority in the House of Representatives, but what about the balance of power in the Senate?

FOREMAN: Yes, well, the numbers have sort of suggested that the Democrats have a fair chance of holding on to their advantage here, but you never really know, because so much is up in the air right now.

The Republicans would love to at least pick off those three seats back there. If they did that, you would have a tie here on many votes. That tie would have to be broken by the vice president, either Joe Biden or Paul Ryan, depending on who wins. And if the Republicans really did well tonight, they might be able to pick up a seat or two over here and have a majority.

But, Wolf, here is the thing that we cannot impress enough as you watch the returns tonight on the Senate. The simple true is, there is no indication that either party could get a 60-vote supermajority here. That's what you need to overcome a filibuster. And if you don't have that, no matter who becomes the president, he's going to have a hard time pushing his agenda, unless he can find way to get people working together across this aisle, and that eluded them here for quite some time -- Wolf. BLITZER: Good point, Tom. Thank you. Tom's in our virtual Senate.

We're counting down to the top of the hour when polls close in the battleground state of Virginia. It's our first important sign of how this night may go.

Also, the first official results. Early vote tallies are coming in from parts of Indiana and Kentucky right now, where the polls already have closed.

And wait until you see how CNN is changing one of the world's most famous landmarks, the Empire State Building, on this, election night in America.


BLITZER: They're voting in the key battleground state of New Hampshire. These are live pictures coming in from Nashua, New Hampshire. We're watching voting there all across the country.

We're also beginning to get real election results coming in from two states, Kentucky and Indiana. Kentucky right now, still very, very early. One percent of the vote is in. You see a lopsided leap for Mitt Romney, 69 percent to 29 percent, in Kentucky so far. Similarly in Indiana, 2 percent of the vote is now in. Another lopsided lead, 65 percent for Mitt Romney, 34 percent for President Obama, but it's very, very early.

Let's get some more exit poll results. John King has been going through those numbers, and we're beginning to learn a little bit more about what the voters are thinking.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are. Let's take a glimpse. Nationally, we have two key questions, and then we want to go into another battleground state. Moments ago, we showed you a bit from Ohio and from Virginia. That is nationally. Who would better handle the economy? It's the No. 1 question for voters right now. You see a pretty close divide, Governor Romney, the Republican, 50; President Obama, the incumbent Democrat, 47. So an even divide on the biggest question facing the electorate: who would better handle the economy. That suggests we will have a close election.

Who's more in touch with people like you? Throughout the campaign, the empathy question, if you will, has been an advantage for President Obama. It is an advantage on election day. Fifty-two percent of the voters nationally today say the president is more in touch with people like them. Forty-four percent gave that mark to Governor Romney.

Now let's look at battleground Florida. The demographics of the electorate: 67 percent of the electorate in Florida today white, 13 percent African-American, 16 percent Latino. Now remember these numbers, because the next item I'm going to show you is the 2008 Florida electorate. Remember, 67, 13, 16. What was the electorate like four years ago? Seventy-one percent of the electorate was white in Florida. A higher number four years ago, and that's red because John McCain won the white vote in Florida four years ago. Thirteen percent African-American. That has been constant. Thirteen percent matches up with four years ago. Latino was 14 percent. It's 16 percent this year. So, again, in another key battleground state, the Latino population, it might be slight, but that's growth. A change in the electorate there. We'll watch how that plays out in battleground Florida.

Another big question, Florida, one of the older states in America. Who would better handle Medicare? A question that seniors care about. A question, also, that voters in that 40 to 55 to 60 age group care about, especially the Democrats tried to make an issue of the Ryan budget, because of the changes in Medicare. The president gets a slight edge, Wolf, but essentially an even divide on the Medicare question in the state of Florida.

One little ad lib here, if I can. I'm going to walk over here. Stay with me on the Magic Wall. We're starting to get results in Kentucky and in Indiana. Tiny results, 2 percent of the vote. I want to show you a little place in Indiana. Vigo County, 1.7 percent of the population.

I'm going to look here a little bit later here tonight just for trivial purposes. You know why? Only twice -- only twice since 1888 has Vigo County been wrong in picking a president. Why? Good question. But since the 1950s, this county has been right. It's filling in blue at the moment. Look at that. That's only 17 percent of the vote. We'll see how it goes tonight, but you watch it blue now. If it's blue at the end of the night, we'll see if Vigo County's streak continues.

BLITZER: Could be a bellwether, as they say; could be an indication of what's going on. We're going to watch all these states, all these counties, all these polling precincts very closely -- Anderson.

COOPER: Who knew? As Vigo County goes, so goes the country. Often said.

Let's check in with our contributors: Alex Castellanos, a Republican. What are you looking at tonight? What are you seeing in those numbers so far from these exit polls?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that we're going to have a long night, I guess.

COOPER: That's going to be the most overused phrase, by the way, of tonight, "long night."

CASTELLANOS: Every time someone says that, I'll be happy. No, we've -- it's so hard to tell with these early exits.

I still think there's a reticent Republican factor. I think it's -- we know as Republicans that all the cool kids -- Hollywood, the music industry, fashion, academia, news media -- a lot of people are on the other side. The uncool kids, the kids that wear socks with sandals, we're Republicans.

COOPER: We just interviewed him. Are you saying Kid Rock is not cool?

CASTELLANOS: Democrats have more. Let's put it that way. And what happens when you get interviewed is, are you for the cool guy or are you for the uncool Republican? We underreport. We underreport on surveys and we underreport on exit polls. So one -- and that's, I think, one reason why Kerry thought he'd won the election when he ran, and he didn't.

So I'm looking right now to see if these numbers either improve a little bit or if, when we start getting the real data, there's a little bit more of a Republican bump here. This is a very tight race. But if you had a Republican bump, Mitt Romney's got a real shot at winning this thing.

COOPER: James Carville, Democrat?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: We'll have to wait and see what happens.

My point is simply this. The consequences for the losing party are going to be dramatic. If the Democrats lose this election, that means they will have lost every election of any consequence since President Obama won in '08.

If the Republicans lose this election, this will be the fifth time in the last sixth elections that they've lost the popular vote to the Democrats. It's going to be enormous. They're going to have to rethink their entire party.

So I think that my focus is a little bit, as we watch this, what does it mean for the losing party? And it's going to be dramatic. I mean, every election has consequences. The consequences to the losing party in this election seem to me to be pretty doggone profound.

And you know, it's a cliche, but like everybody else, we're going to wait and start counting votes here for a second.

COOPER: The other question is, what does it mean for governorship, no matter who wins? And that's something we'll talk about a lot tonight, as well.

Margaret Hoover, Republican strategist?

MARGARET HOOVER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What we're all looking at is enthusiasm numbers in these early numbers. In the exit polling for the millennial data, the 18- to 29-year-old data says 18 percent of them turned out.

Well, guess what? The millennial generation is the largest generation in history. There are 17 million more of them than Baby Boomers. If all of them turned out at the same proportion that they turned out in 2008, 65 million of them are eligible to vote, 51 percent turns out, that would make them 24 percent of the electorate. That would mean that, if 18 percent have turned out, there's a depression in enthusiasm in the youth vote.

COOPER: Van Jones, Democrat?

VAN JONES, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that's true, but I'm actually still encouraged by that 18 percent number. Because if you -- if you just look at the number, as it is, 18 percent is the same percentage that they had before. There's a concern you were going to have a collapse of the youth vote, not a contraction, but a collapse. And in fact, you don't. And I think that, even if the youth vote for Obama at 60 percent -- say 57, it's still a huge, huge bump for Obama.

CASTELLANOS: And one thing we also saw in the exits is the battle for Medicare is a fair fight, even, Republicans and Democrats. Medicare, picking Paul Ryan, the ending Medicare as we know it, was supposed to wipe out the Republican Party. It hasn't.

COOPER: We've got to take a break. We're live at landmarks across America, where people are gathering tonight to watch CNN's election coverage. We're in the president's hometown of Chicago, Thompson Center Plaza downtown. CNN has provided the largest screen in the city for free public viewing of election coverage.

We're also in Boston, Mitt Romney's home base at historic Faneuil Hall Marketplace. More than 350,000 LED lights are illuminating the area. It's a special election preview of the holiday light and sound show called Blink.

Let's head also to the Las Vegas Strip, the Miracle Mile stop, is another place where people can stop and watch election results on CNN.

And back here in the East Coast, check out the scene at Times Square, CNN's official election watch party. We expect it to be a busy place throughout the evening -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And tonight, Anderson, get this. You can keep tabs on the changing electoral vote count in a whole new way, right here on CNN. Look at the Empire State Building in New York. Now take a close look at the very top, the mast. It will be following CNN's official electoral count. So as we make projections, those red and blue columns will rise throughout the night. Blue for Obama, red for Romney.

Once we have a winner, those red, white, and blue lights on the upper floors will change colors. Check this out. If President Obama wins, the top of the Empire State Building will light up in bright blue. If Governor Romney wins, the building's mast will shine bright red.

New Yorkers, by the way, will be able to look up and see the results throughout the night. The rest of the nation, of course, can see it right here on CNN.

There's a heated fight underway right now to win in Wisconsin, the home state of Paul Ryan. The election system there is surprisingly old school and will affect the vote counting. We're going there live.

And we're counting down to the top of the hour, when the polls close in six states, including the battleground state of Virginia.

We're live at Obama and Romney headquarters. They're waiting for the first results, and they're watching it on CNN, on this election night in America.


BLITZER: We've got some real votes coming in from Kentucky and Indiana. Let's update you on what's happening right now.

Still very, very early in Kentucky, but it's a lopsided lead for Mitt Romney, 69 percent to 29 percent, only 1 percent of the vote is in.

Three percent of the vote is in in Indiana: 60 percent for Mitt Romney, 38 percent for the president. But it's still very early. The president did carry Indiana, as you remember, four years ago.

Candy Crowley is over at a Romney headquarters in Boston. She's watching what's going on. What's going on over there, Candy? You've got some news?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Yes. I want to bring in one of our political reporters, Peter Hamby, who has been out and about, covering actually both of these campaigns for the last couple of years.

Peter, what have you found out?

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: We've actually found out, we've got a glimpse into the Romney campaign's internal polling. Through the last day they did internal tracking. Neil Newhouse, their pollster, does daily tracking every day throughout the campaign to kind of figure out strategy.

Through Sunday, the last day of -- that they did tracking, the Romney campaign had Obama winning Ohio by five points. That's, you know, it changes day to day, but that's up from winning Ohio by one, losing Ohio by one, tied, so that you saw a big final jump at the last day for Romney, or excuse me, for Obama, inside the Romney campaign, Candy.

CROWLEY: Well, one of the things this tells us is that public optimism, as we know, is required on election day...

HAMBY: Right.

CROWLEY: ... but behind the scenes, it tells us a little bit more about what they're really thinking.

HAMBY: Exactly. I mean, this is not an authorized leak. I got these polls from a very good source of mine. They project confidence outwardly, but there was a reason that they went to Ohio and Pennsylvania today, at the last minute. Because they saw the numbers on the last day. They saw Obama jumping to a stronger lead than he had had before, according to their numbers, and it showed Pennsylvania really tight. The numbers also showed Pennsylvania really tight. So we're seeing how polling informs strategy, but the polls close in Ohio pretty soon. So those numbers are pretty much out the window at this point.

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely. Our political reporter, Peter Hamby. Thanks so much. Great get (ph).

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much. Peter, thanks to you, as well. Let's go back to John King. You're taking a look at the Electoral College map, because the popular vote out there is important, but it's 270 electoral votes that will be needed to elect the next president.

KING: Let's follow up on what Peter Hamby just told our Candy Crowley there. That he says inside the Romney campaign, at the end, they're increasingly pessimistic about this. Eighteen electoral votes in the state of Florida. Wolf, no Republicans -- Ohio, I'm sorry. No Republican's ever won without it.

Let's say that goes blue. Look where it put the president. On the doorstep of being re-elected, if nothing else changes. So could Governor Romney get to 270 without Ohio will be the question we'll ask tonight.

Well, let's assume, for the sake of argument, Democrats, we'll give him the state of Florida. Let's assume, again -- I know Democrats would disagree -- let's give him Virginia. That puts him in play, but then he comes out here. How does he make up for this?

The Obama campaign is very confident about this. We'll see if Paul Ryan can make a difference, but the Obama campaign is very confident about this.

BLITZER: About Wisconsin.

KING: About Wisconsin. The Obama campaign is extremely confident because of the Latino vote, about Nevada. So now you're in this position here. Can Governor Romney get there? Can he get there without? Even if he won Colorado, even if he won Iowa, and even if he won New Hampshire, he's short.

So what would he have to do? That's the Pennsylvania strategy that you were just thinking about. He would have to somehow take that away and turn it red. That would make the difference, but it's improbable.

BLITZER: That's Pennsylvania.

KING: The deep blue DNA of Pennsylvania makes that somewhat improbable. Which is why we're going to spend a long time tonight.

Late campaign polling is not always what happens on election day. I talked to some people in Hamilton County, Ohio, to Cincinnati. They were much more encouraged today than they were last night. If that one is blue at the end of the night, it's not impossible, but it is improbable, I would say, to find a Romney path to 270.

BLITZER: In the past, as we say often, no Republican has won the White House without Ohio -- Anderson.

COOPER: I just want to quickly check in with our analysts, David Gergen, Gloria Borger, about what Peter Hamby just reported...


COOPER: ... a source from inside the Romney campaign saying that their internal numbers in their last poll showed Obama plus 5 in Ohio. That's promising.

BORGER: It's surprising, because in talking to them every day, that's not what they were saying. They were saying that their internal polls...

COOPER: Not what they were saying publicly.

BORGER: Well, yes. Or even on background, saying to reporters, you know, this is a -- this is a dead heat. Which shows you that, in campaigns, they're not going to give away the keys, and they -- they were always saying to us, by the way, that their polls were much more accurate than ours, which always showed a disparity, and that theirs -- that theirs were tight. And it may explain why the campaign threw in that Jeep ad about exporting...

COOPER: Also may explain a trip to Pennsylvania.

BORGER: Exporting jobs to Italy.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that it suggests that it is a -- listen, it seemed to me that it maybe was breaking for Obama the last few days. The exit polls, the early exit polls don't suggest that. So Ohio may be a special case, in which case, this whole controversy about the Jeep was backfiring on Romney.

His allegations out there, which were rebuffed by two of the car companies, as well as by a number of others, you know, were pretty wild. And I think it was -- you know, Obama's doing better among working-class people in Ohio than he is elsewhere, and this whole thing about the automobile bailout and the Jeep ad could make the difference.

COOPER: That was a point where Rahm Emanuel made earlier today on our program, about the impact that the auto bailout has had in Ohio.

GERGEN: Yes. Absolutely. BORGER: And you look at the unemployment numbers in some of these states like Ohio. They're lower than the national average. Voters there may be more optimistic, as the exit polls show, about the future of the economy.

And on the economy issue, I don't think that Romney is doing as well as he needs to be doing, overall. It's his key issue. He was way ahead on it. The exit polls show just a few points of difference.

COOPER: It's fascinating, what Peter Hamby just reported. We'll continue to follow it.

Obviously, we are just minutes away from the first wave of poll closings. Battleground state of Virginia is on the line. We're at election watch parties in the president's hometown of Chicago, as well, and in Mitt Romney's hometown of Boston. We're obviously anxious to see if we can make our first battleground state projection ahead. Stay tuned.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The presidential race has been won by Governor Ronald Reagan of California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Clinton is now President Bill Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too close to call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George W. Bush, re-elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama, president-elect of the United States.



BLITZER: We're closing in on the first results in the battle for the White House.

COOPER: We can only guess how late the night will go. It is going to be an exciting night, and how close it will be.


ANNOUNCER: Across the land, this is the moment when Americans choose their leader and chart their future.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A bigger, better country. That is what's in store with new leadership. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know I'll fight for you and your families.

ANNOUNCER: This is the moment when a long, bitter campaign end.

OBAMA: You don't scare hard-working Americans just to scare up some votes. That's not what being president is all about.

ANNOUNCER: And a long, suspenseful night begins.

ROMNEY: Do you want four more years with 23 million Americans looking for a good job?

ANNOUNCER: This is the moment when everything is on the line and anything can happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney, Romney, Romney!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney, Romney, Romney!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney, Romney, Romney!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years, four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years, four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years, four more years!

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the results the world has been waiting for. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, vying for every vote and every battleground that will decide the election.

OBAMA: We'll win Ohio.

ROMNEY: America is counting on Florida.



ANNOUNCER: A presidential contest that's been neck and neck for months may be razor close in the final hour. Who will be the winner tonight? Or could there be a cliffhanger?

RYAN: This is the time to elect a leader.

BIDEN: I'd like to win this thing earlier than later. So go out there.

ANNOUNCER: Now, CNN's coverage of "Election Night in America." the fight for the presidency, the battle for Congress and the issues dividing the nation.

OBAMA: We are not ready to give up on the fight. ROMNEY: Do you want more of the same or do you want change?




ANNOUNCER: The first holes are closing, the nation is watching. And history is in the making. Right now.


BLITZER: We're live at the presidential candidates' campaign headquarters. The Obama camp in Chicago. The Romney camp in Boston. Both campaigns are anxiously waiting for the final word from voters on this, election night in America.

We'd like to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We're counting down to the first projections in the race for the White House and for control of the United States Congress. Just minutes from now, all polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont and the battleground state of Virginia. A total of 60 electoral votes are up for grabs in those states, and remember, it takes 270 electoral votes to win this election.

Let's go to our correspondents over at the presidential candidates' headquarters. Jessica Yellin is with the president in Chicago, Candy Crowley with Governor Romney in Boston.

Jessica, first to you. Set the scene.


I have been speaking to Obama aides throughout the day, and they tell me that they are feeling calm, as is the president. They describe him as calm, serene and excited. They say that they feel that this is not only going to be a good night for them, but also an early night.

They tell me that they do not trust exit polls. You know, Wolf, they don't even trust media reports. What they do trust is their operation and the models they built. And they say nothing they have seen in the data so far is diverging from their models. They are seeing, to quote them, no surprises.

But you know, election nights have seen surprises before, and this night is still early.

BLITZER: Only just beginning. Candy, what's it like in Boston?

CROWLEY: Well, they've just opened the doors here, so people are starting to trickle in. But they are expecting, actually, a long night here, just in keeping with the parallel universes we see between these two campaigns. So there's plenty of time to go out for dinner, et cetera, before they come here to what they hope will be a victory rally.

We know that Mitt Romney is now back in Boston after going to Ohio and Pennsylvania today. He will wait out these -- evening results here in a hotel very close to the Boston Convention Center.

Again, lots of public and even on background optimism from campaign aides. But, as we know from what our Peter Hamby just reported, on Sunday, just two days ago, the internal campaign polling for the Romney campaign showed Mitt Romney down five points in Ohio. That is critical. Certainly tells you why they paid so much attention to Ohio early on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is, Candy. Thanks very much.

Anderson Cooper, of course, joins us for this historic night.

COOPER: Yes, Wolf, it certainly is. We are moments away from the first results in Virginia, traditionally a red state that turned blue when it went for President Obama four years ago. We've got two correspondents on the ground: Kate Bolduan in Manassas and Gary Tuchman is just outside of Richmond.

Let's start with Kate Bolduan -- Kate.


The polls are just minutes away from closing in Prince William County, Virginia. And when that happens, that is when the phones are going to start ringing here at the board of elections headquarters.

This is one of the locations where they'll be taking in the calls with results. First writing in the results here, and then later physically having the results brought in these bags.

The results, though, we're hearing, could be delayed even by hours because of the hours-long wait at some polling stations in the precinct. Why does this matter? Because everyone is watching what happens here in Prince William County, as well as what happens in Loudoun County, just to our north. People are watching it as a key indicator of how this state and its 13 electoral votes will go -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, Henrico County, Virginia, just north of Richmond, is a battleground county in this battleground state. Barack Obama is expected to do well in the Washington suburbs. Mitt Romney is expected to do well in the rural areas of the state. Both need this county, and the raw numbers should be coming in any minute. Real numbers, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, our election team is in the field. Also, obviously here in the studio.

Let's go to John King at the Magic Wall -- John.

KING: Anderson, Virginia early up, the key battleground. We talked a lot about Ohio, but if Governor Romney doesn't win Virginia, it's hard to see him getting to 270.

What are the voters in Virginia thinking tonight? More than six in 10, 62 percent, say the economy is the No. 1 issue in the country. Thirteen percent say the deficit. Seventeen percent say health care. So pocketbook issues driving the electorate in Virginia today.

Let's take a look at this. Should the health-care law be repealed? That's been a big question in the campaign. Governor Romney says yes. Forty-nine percent of the Virginia voters today agree with the governor. But 46 percent say no. That tells you a very evenly divided Virginia electorate on one of the big policy questions in this presidential campaign.

Vote by party identification. Thirty-nine percent of those voting today in Virginia are Democrats. Thirty-three percent are Republicans. And 28 percent are independents. Now, a lot of southern Democrats sometimes vote Republican for president. So you can look at this number and say the candidate who wins the independents is likely to carry the day in the state of Virginia.

Let's look a little bit more here. Are you a white born-again Christian? Virginia one of the states where evangelical turnout is critical for the Republicans. And Mitt Romney, 21 percent of the electorate in the commonwealth of Virginia tonight says, "Yes, I'm a white, evangelical Christian." That's down from 28 percent four years ago. That could be an interesting question tonight wears on. Seventy-nine percent say no. So evangelical turnout is down.

And you want to see an evenly divided electorate? What do they think of the president? Fifty percent of Virginians say favorable; 49 percent say unfavorable. What do they think of the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney? Fifty percent say unfavorable, 48 percent say favorable.

So this is an evenly divided electorate in the state of Virginia, Wolf. And we're going to be watching the key vote in the northern suburbs.

BLITZER: Every step of the way.

We're getting ready for the top of the hour, when we will be able to make some projections. Six states will close all polling in those states. So get ready, right now.