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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Election Day in America; Interview with Bob McDonnell; All About Ohio; Interview with Ted Strickland; Voting Polls Begin Opening; Interview with Bob Shrum; Battleground: Colorado; Interview with Jeb Hensarling

Aired November 6, 2012 - 08:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.

And you are watching a special Election Day edition of STARTING POINT. And we are coming to you live from the nation's capital. It is decision day.

And right now, it is 8:00 in the morning in the East Coast. And the polls are open in total of 36 states and in Washington, D.C. Today, millions of Americans will vote, to choose the next President of the United States of America.

The best political team on TV has it covered no matter how long it might take to find out who is the actual winner.

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

And some of the results are in. The tiny towns of Dixville Notch and Hart's Landing in New Hampshire, carrying on the tradition of being first, and these results, they could be telling.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I'm Christine Romans.

Two hundred seventy or bust -- the magic number for clinching the White House. We'll look at the paths to victory for each candidate and whether the road to the White House must go through Ohio.

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

Disaster victims still want to be counted. Hurricane Sandy forcing an Election Day scramble. And now, another nor'easter could add to the misery and all the confusion. We are tracking the storm.

O'BRIEN: We have a jam-packed hour for you this morning.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is going to join us. Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland will be with us. House Republican Conference chair, Jeb Hensarling, is our guest. And Bob Shrum, he's a Democratic consultant who worked on the Kerry and Gore campaigns.

It's Tuesday, November 6th, Election Day. And STARTING POINT is live from Washington, D.C. And we begin right now.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. You're watching a special Election Day edition of STARTING POINT.

Polls are open now across the country. After 17 months of campaigning and over 1 million television commercials, it's time for the American people to pick their next president.

At this hour, 10 more states are opening their polls to voters. Those states would be Alabama, Arizona, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin.

Vice President Joe Biden and the second lady, Dr. Jill Biden, cast their votes this morning in Delaware. That happened in just the last hour.

Mitt and Ann Romney are expected to vote in just about half an hour. They're doing that in Belmont, Massachusetts.

The GOP is not letting up this Election Day. He's added two final campaign stops today in Cleveland, Ohio, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

And there already legal battles that are already developing in two key battleground states. State of Florida, where there are long lines to vote early over the weekend. Democrats are suing to extend those early voting hours, even though legally, those early voting hours ended on Saturday.

In the state of Ohio, a hearing is now set for Wednesday morning to hear arguments about the rules for counting provisional ballots. That means a final tally from the Buckeye State could actually take weeks.

In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, New Jersey is allowing voting by e-mail or by fax.

New York is letting voters affected by the disaster to cast their ballots at any polling station.

CNN has the election covered like no other network can, with correspondents all over the country.

John Berman has more on the battlegrounds and the very first results -- John.

BERMAN: That's right. We do have some results.

In the end, just after midnight in New Hampshire, as the tiny town of Dixville Notch made history. Ten total votes cast, five for Barack Obama and five for Mitt Romney. They've never had a tie before in the traditional first in the nation vote.

Now, there was another New Hampshire vote at midnight, Hart's Location, which reinstated the practice in 1996 after doing away back in the '40s. The results there: Obama had 23 votes, Mitt Romney had nine votes. Meantime, the rest of the state is now going to the polls, which have been open for about two hours now. New Hampshire is just one of the hotly contested swing states.

But Ohio, of course, could be the biggest prize of all in this presidential election. Mitt Romney making one last campaign appearance in the Buckeye State with an event this morning in Cleveland. Polls in Ohio have been open now about an hour and a half.

And Carol Costello is live in Blue Ash, Ohio, which is near Cincinnati, with voters right behind her. Good morning, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Voters right behind me. They're voting in a steady stream here in Hamilton County, Ohio. Of course, that's where Cincinnati is located.

I was talking to voters about that tiny Dixville Notch and they were saying no, because they hope that's not a sign of what's to come in Ohio. They want a decisive victory in Ohio, so this election can be over.

I want to show you the lines earlier this morning, when the polls opened at 6:30 Eastern Time. There were hundreds of people in line. And they were enthusiastic to cast that ballot, especially those Republicans standing in line.

In fact, one woman told me she felt it was important to cast her vote this year to save the country. She said this year, voters had in mind that they had to get involved in what was happening in the United States of America because that's the only way that things could get better as far as the economy was concerned.

I'm going to stick around, John. And in case you're wondering, only three provisional ballots filed here so far.

BERMAN: Oh, maybe that's a good sign.

All right. Carol Costello in Ohio, thanks so much.

Voters in Florida they are also waiting in long lines to vote. It's the largest prize in college electoral votes and one that is simply critical for a victory for Mitt Romney.

Ashleigh Banfield is live this morning in Miami. A mob scene there, Ashleigh.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wow, when you said a big prize, 29 electoral votes is about the biggest kahuna that you would want. And, look, these people are ver, very enthusiastic. Let me tell you that.

Long line this way, and I told you before, it was loop de loop, John, we've been open for an hour and loop de loop continues.

And there's a reason for that. It is a slow process, and one thing I can show that's a little different than the hour I talk to you before is look who showed up, campaign workers who were here to either show a presence or talk to some of the voters in line as long as they stay 100 feet out from the polls station, or to hand out things like this.

These are things they've been giving people in line, these are some of the down ballot issues here. But this one was interesting. This is handed out, all the Republican choices that you can make once you get inside.

Now once you get inside, which is way down here in the line, you've got to go through a ballot that is nine pages long. We've already asked several voters who have emerged since the polls opened and since last I spoke with you. And they reported to us that it took anywhere between 10 minutes and 30 minutes to get through that process, through those doors, John Berman.

I know I've got to throw it back to you, but that's how long it's taking and that's why there's long lines.

BERMAN: All right. Ashleigh Banfield, live in Florida. I can't believe those lines there this morning. All right. Thanks a lot, Ashleigh.

Virginia is another state to watch this morning. The candidates have been in a dead heat there in the polls. And the polls closed there early, 7:00 pm Eastern Time. So, it could be one of the first states decided -- certainly one of the ones to watch early tonight.

And Randi Kaye joins us live now from Woodbridge, Virginia. Good morning, Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. You're talking about the lines here. Well, you can't -- you might not be able to tell from those few folks gathered behind me but we went inside and there's quite a line inside this polling station. It's about a two- hour wait to cast your vote.

I talked to one guy in line. You're not going to believe this. He is still undecided.

He was actually researching the candidates standing in line. He went to a Romney rally in Fairfax, Virginia, here yesterday. Education is most important to him. He's also worried about interest rates, which is why he's not sure if he wants to vote for Mitt Romney, he's not sure what will happen with the interest rates. He's worried about the rates going up.

I talk to another woman who said that compassion and integrity are most important to her.

I talked to a guy inside who works for the government. He said that he's a little upset because they haven't been able to get bonuses in the last few years and President Obama has frozen the cost of living for them. So, he has two kids in college and says that's hurts a lot.

So, a very interesting mix of people inside with some very strong opinions, John. BERMAN: All right. Thanks, Randi Kaye in Woodbridge, Virginia. Wow, two-hour lines. I guess that does make for some enthusiasm.

Soledad, back to you.

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

Now that the voters are actually voting and deciding, there's a new concern, which is to make sure that all the voters -- votes, rather, are counted and then counted correctly. Ali Velshi is following any potential problems from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Voters have been tweeting me, certainly, and I know you, too, Ali --

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

O'BRIEN: -- about some of the problems, some of the hassles they've been having.

VELSHI: And I want to encourage them to continue to do so. You tell them how to do it after this. We can be reached all sorts of ways, tweet, by e-mail, by text.

Soledad, there's sort of two categories problems are falling into. One is technical problems with voting machines and we're calling the districts where we're hearing that's happening to find out when they'll up.

And two is lineups. The first problem, though, the technical problems, are causing some people to go away because they can't wait around until the problem is fixed. And hopefully, they will come back.

But we are having lots of reports of voting machines not working. And, of course, these are pictures from Florida, showing line ups. We've had Ashleigh out there this morning, showing more of them.

There's also a series of problems in New Jersey with the e-mail voting, a number of people saying they have not had a response after having submitted an application to vote via fax or e-mail, or that the emails we're being bounced back. So, we're in close touch with the board of elections there.

And some chaos in the New Jersey/New York area with polling places that are open, a lot of people there. So, please I ask people to be patient if you're there.

It is, in most parts of this country, going to take longer than normal, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes. I think patience today.

VELSHI: Yes.

O'BRIEN: But, folks in Virginia, the line is three hours long and some people -- VELSHI: Wow.

O'BRIEN: -- are ditching all together and not staying to vote because they don't want to spend the time.

Ali, thank you. Appreciate you're watching that for us. You can share with us your voting experience. Send a tweet, or an e-mail or a text. Twitter, #CNNVotewatch. E-mail us at votewatch@CNN.com or text CNN 55333.

Team joining us this morning: Margaret Hoover is with us. She's a CNN political contributor, former member of the Bush White House. Ryan Lizza is a Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker" and CNN contributor. Hilary Rosen is a Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor as well. Nice to have all of you with us.

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: It's a big day. It's finally here. No more --

(CROSSTALK)

HOOVER: What Hilary said it's birthing day.

HILARY ROSEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: If you're a political consultant, this is the day we give birth.

O'BRIEN: Lot of visuals on that.

All right. Voters making their decisions. President Obama is in Iowa. Mitt Romney in New Hampshire, making their final appeals last night. Here is a little bit of how it went.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It all comes down to you. It's out of my hands now. It's in yours. All of it depends on what you do. When you step into that voting booth tomorrow --

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: President Obama has tried to convince you that these last four years have been a success. And so his plan for the next four years is to take all the ideas from the first four -- the stimulus, the borrowing, Obamacare -- and all that and just do them all over again. He calls his plan forward. And I call it forewarned.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: You saw Randi Kaye a few moments ago in Woodbridge, Virginia, which is where the polls are now open, with just one point separating those two candidates in the state of Virginia. The swing state is crucial. It's crucial for both sides.

Bob McDonnell is the governor of the state of Virginia. Yesterday, he was spending some of his time campaigning with Governor Romney in his state. It's nice to see you, sir. Always great to have you with us. We appreciate it.

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, (R) VIRGINIA: Hi, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Hi there.

MCDONNELL: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Virginia, one of the first big states to close -- first, I guess, battleground states to close. What are you going to be looking for? When those results come in and I know everyone is going to start to rush to start analyzing those results, what are you looking for in your state?

MCDONNELL: Well, we certainly will be getting a lot of attention, lot of love from all the candidates this year. And Governor Romney has been here a lot the last few days, as you just pointed out.

You know, I would look for the Beltway counties around Washington, D.C., Loudoun, and Fairfax and Prince William. If Governor Romney were to win, let's say, Loudoun County and Fairfax and Prince William County and hold his own and stay close in Fairfax, to me that would be a great signal that he's going to win the state.

And the same with Chesterfield and right go around Richmond. Those are the bellwether counties that tell us how Republicans are going to do and how -- that shows us how those independent, undecided voters break.

I assume they're going to break against the President and for the challenger. They typically do in every case. But that will be the best indicators for me, how we're going to do statewide, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask a question to Ryan Lizza. Also, you know, we were talking about that likely voter category, which means if you see a bigger gap than that one percentage that has been polled, consistently, that could mean that some of your polling could be off, right?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, likely voting models have shown, everything in the polls this late date. I mean, that's the art of polling. If you can -- you've got to figure out who's going to be that electorate on Election Day.

What the governor just said is fascinating because, one, Virginia's -- their polls are going to close relatively early -- not early but we're going to get those results early. Virginia traditionally counts their votes pretty fast. And if those counties go for Romney or Obama, I think we're going to know early tonight where this thing is headed.

If Obama is winning those counties that he just described, like Fairfax and Loudoun, that's a very good sign for Obama. If he wins Virginia, it's a very, very difficult road for Romney.

So, this is the state I would watch, you know, tonight, to know which way this thing is going to go.

O'BRIEN: You know, is the storm, Governor, having an impact on voting in your state? I know that there have been some problems. Are you worried that it kind of goes to the next level, which is legal challenges?

MCDONNELL: No, Soledad, I'm not. We were very blessed compared to New York and New Jersey. We got a glancing blow. Our people were very resolute. And we extended absentee voting hours last week to give people extra time for that.

But there's no problem at the polling places. Today, power was restored almost within two days.

So, we're in good shape. You know, I think people the last five days, after the campaign being frozen, have been able to focus back again on jobs and the economy and the top issues that they care about. And I think that's good.

It's a normal campaign mode. And I think they're focused on jobs and the economy means Governor Romney wins close in Virginia today.

O'BRIEN: Governor Bob McDonnell with us this morning, nice to see you, sir. Thank you. Appreciate your time.

MCDONNELL: OK. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Coming up next, another critical state in the election, a state we've been talking about all morning, the state of Ohio. No Republican has won the presidency without that state. We're going to talk to former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland right after this short break.

We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. This looks like it's -- what is this, Blue Ash in Ohio? Early voting where voters line up, waiting to cast their ballots. Not very long lines there. It looks pretty reasonable compared to the ones -- yes, I can, plus the fact that we've labeled it Blue Ash, Ohio. That's helped me significantly.

But you know, it's nothing like the crazy lines we've been seeing where Ashleigh is as ell in Miami, too. Ohio, though, cannot be overstated, the importance of that race. The latest CNN poll of polls, which averages all the polls in Ohio, President Barack Obama is clinging to a three-point lead. No margin of error there.

Let's get right to the former Democratic governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland. He's the national co-chair for the Obama campaign as well. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for talking with us.

TED STRICKLAND, (D) FORMER OHIO GOVERNOR: It's a beautiful day in Ohio. And Ohioans are getting out to vote. And I think it's going to be a great day.

O'BRIEN: Wow! You sound happy and confident. When the polls close in Ohio, what will you be looking for? What is the key thing for you that will give you an indication of what's going to happen tonight overall when you look at Ohio?

STRICKLAND: Well, you know, almost two million Ohioans have already early voted, about 1.8 million. Those votes, obviously, will be some of the vote -- first votes counted. And we believe the President has nearly a 2-1 lead in that early vote. But we'll be looking at the turnout in Cuyahoga County, which is where Cleveland, Ohio, is located.

We'll be looking over in the Hamilton County area, in the Cincinnati area, which is traditionally more conservative and Republican. And then, I'll be looking at my old Congressional district along the Ohio River, the Appalachian region, because those are important votes, and there's been a real struggle over there on the part of both campaigns.

And so, I'll be looking at all that, and then, of course, central Ohio, our capital city, Columbus, Ohio.

O'BRIEN: You're looking at everything. It sounds like you just listed absolutely everything in your entire state, sir.

STRICKLAND: Every vote counts in Ohio.

HOOVER: It certainly does, Governor Strickland. My question for you -- Margaret Hoover here -- is what are the Democrats doing specifically to make up for the loss in voter registration that has happened since 2008? Some reports have it as high as 490,000 voters.

Fewer are registered to vote now, four years later. What have you done to make up for that, especially the losses in Democratic counties?

STRICKLAND: Well, let me tell you, this Obama organization is phenomenal. We know where our voters are. We've been in contact with them. The Obama organization never left Ohio. They've been here for the last four years. We've had over 700 organizers over the last several months in Ohio, 120 field offices or more, probably a little more than that.

And so, we've got our early vote out. We're happy about that. And now, today, it's a beautiful day. And, we know where our voters are and we're communicating with them. And, I'm just so -- so confident that the President's going to win Ohio. And I don't think it's going to be terribly close.

O'BRIEN: What's your prediction? You want to put one out there? What would you say would be your prediction for Ohio?

STRICKLAND: Well, my personal conviction was the President would get 51.6 percent of vote, Mr. Romney would get a little over 58 -- 48 percent. But that's just my guess. I think it could be closer than that, but I also think it could be more expansive than that. ROSEN: Governor, it's Hilary Rosen. How are you? I'm tempted to throw you a softball and ask you to match the Democratic enthusiasm against the Republican enthusiasm in Ohio. So, give me that. But also, we've been talking a lot about these provisional ballots in Ohio and the potential impact on the campaign.

STRICKLAND: Yes.

ROSEN: You know, last time, President Obama won by a big enough margin on election night that they didn't need to worry about counting the provisional ballots. What do you think the chances are that his margin this time is over that 250,000 votes or something that we anticipate he'll need to have the provisional ballots not be relevant?

STRICKLAND: Let me speak quickly to the enthusiasm issue.

ROSEN: Excellent.

STRICKLAND: Both candidates were in Columbus, Ohio yesterday. The President had about 15,500 people there. Governor Romney had about 10,000. So, we bested him there. There's enthusiasm on both sides, and then, both sides are working to get out the vote. In terms of the provisional ballots in a very close election, it could absolutely delay the Ohio result.

And we hope that doesn't happen. I don't think it will. But theoretically, it could. I think the margin is going to be, you know, large enough that the provisional ballots will not make a critical difference, but we never know. People haven't voted yet.

O'BRIEN: We don't know until the end of the day, right? That's how everyone has been ending pretty much every interview I've done. The only poll that matters is the one tonight.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Gov. Strickland, nice to see you.

STRICKLAND: That's right.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking with us. Really appreciate it. Got to take a short break. We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, more of the biggest names in politics. We'll be talking with House Republican conference chair, Jeb Hensarling, about the balance of power in Congress and how this election could shift the entire thing.

Plus, we'll check in with the Obama and Romney campaigns to see how the candidates are spending Election Day very differently. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We're live in Washington, D.C. this morning on this Election Day. After 17 months of campaigning, Americans are headed to the polls right now to pick their next president. You're watching a special Election Day edition of STARTING POINT.

Voting is under way in 37 states and washed with polls in Arkansas opening right now. In the next half hour, we'll break down the races, some of the key races with Bob Shrum, he's a veteran Democratic consultant and chief strategist for the 2004 Kerry/Edwards campaign. Also joining Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas will be joining us.

First, let's get straight to John Berman. He's got a look at what the campaigns are doing this morning, the very last morning. John?

BERMAN: Good morning, Soledad. It is the last morning, but Mitt Romney is still pushing it. He is casting his vote this morning in Belmont, Massachusetts, and then he has two rallies planned, one in Ohio and the other in Pennsylvania.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live on Mitt Romney's press bus. He is headed to meet up with the candidate right now. Jim, looking good.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, thanks very much, Looking good, despite a very long campaign that is finally coming to an end. We are on the Romney press bus right now, waiting for the candidate to vote near his home in Belmont, Massachusetts, then he will come here to Bedford, Massachusetts, where he will get on this charter bus one more time. The campaign says he won't be doing any rallies today, but he will be visiting with some of his get out the vote supporters to make sure they are revitalized and rejuvenated on this final day of the campaign.

And let me just show you around the bus, John. This will paint the picture of the day. We are used to seeing a much larger contingent of the Romney press corps. This is all that is left, the last of the Mohicans, if you will. I've talked to a senior Romney adviser yesterday about why they're doing this. You might say from the Obama standpoint this is one act of last act of desperation. But history shows you that candidates that do this on Elecion Day, sometimes win, George W. Bush back in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008. And essentially what they are saying is they want to keep that energy going all the way until the polls close, John.

BERMAN: That is one motley, haggard group of reporters with you on the campaign bus.

ACOSTA: Yes, it is.

BERMAN: Moving on to the Obama campaign, the President will send -- after a very busy final day, delivering his closing argument to voters, CNN's Dan Lothian is live in Chicago where the President will be hosting his celebration or perhaps concession event tonight. Good morning, Dan. DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. I don't have a bus to show you with a motley crew of folks traveling with the President, but they, too, are tired and weary after this campaign.

The President, we're told, is feeling very optimistic, arrived here in Chicago early this morning and will not be headed to the battleground states like governor mitt Romney, to Ohio or Pennsylvania. Instead, will be doing satellite interviews, radio interviews as well, we are told, and reflecting back over the last four years.

And the President has been getting a bit emotional as we saw last night during the final campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I want to take this opportunity to say one thing to all the young people and not so young people who have given so much to this campaign over the years. Those of you haven't done this just for me, but for each other, for a laid off family member, for a sick child, for a fallen friend. To all of you who have lived and breathed the hard work of change, I want to thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LOTHIAN: The campaign volunteers are still pushing hard on this Election Day in those co-battleground states, working the phones, going door to door. There are some surrogates who are also on television, doing radio interviews. The big push is to make sure that folks get out and vote. Obviously this is a very close election, as you look at the polls, and they want to make sure that every voter gets out there, votes, because every vote will count. John?

BERMAN: Thanks so much, Dan Lothian in Chicago this morning.

For other news to talk about today, let's go to Zoraida for other that.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you very much, John. The race for the White House isn't the only heated contest. In Florida's 18th congressional district, Palm Beach County, Republican Congressman Allen West is trying to hold on against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy. West has already taken Florida Democrats to task for questioning and filing suit over early voting there.

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 with of the most expensive races in the country.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is fighting for her political life today. The Minnesota Congresswoman is in a tight with Democratic challenger Jim Grey. In their final debate Bachmann defended her claim that Muslim Brotherhood operatives have infiltrated the federal government. Meanwhile, the effects from Sandy still devastating, with another storm on the way to the east coast. People in the coastal town of Brick, New Jersey, who live in flood-prone areas have been told to evacuate ahead of that major storm headed their way. They and others in New Jersey and New York have barely had time to catch their breath from the devastation of hurricane Sandy last week. More than a million people still have no power this morning. It went out a week ago, Soledad. Really tough conditions for those folks.

O'BRIEN: And ridiculous that another storm is coming and people haven't had a chance to clean up from the last one. Zoraida, thank you.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, he's a veteran strategist who worked on the Kerry, Edwards, and Gore presidential campaigns. We'll get some perspective from Bob Shrum. You are watching STARTING POINT, and we are back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Here is a live look this morning at voters lined up at a polling center in Miami Dade, florid Florida. It's a pretty long line, in fact. It's a battleground state we've been watch within very closely, that state and many others. All signs point to a razor-thin outcome between the two candidate candidates. We'll be keeping an eye on the exit polls as results start pouring in later today.

Joining us from New York, a man with plenty of experience with presidential elections, Bob Shrum, a veteran Democratic consultant who served as a chief strategist for John Kerry's 2004 campaign and Al Gore's campaign back in 2000. Nice to see you sir. What is the one thing that you are focused on the most that will give you an indication of how this race will go?

BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Virginia closes its polls early. If you look at the counties around Washington, which the President carried last time, he carries those states he will carry Virginia. Then I think he will be in a comfortable shape for re-election. That would be the first indicator.

Secondly, you look for the turnout. It's all anecdotal at this point this morning. In New York City where there's not a lot on the line, quite frankly, lines at the polling places are very long. I think enthusiasm is very high on both sides and we'll see a high turnout.

LIZZA: Hey, Bob, it's Ryan Lizza.

SHRUM: Hi, Ryan.

LIZZA: We compare these elections to the previous election. The one that seems to make the most sense is 2004 when John Kerry challenged George W. Bush. You were at the center of that campaign. Tell us how this is similar and different from that campaign and, you know, what you think the Romney people are thinking on a night like this, going into a race that looks like it might be a little out of reach for them, but obviously some optimism that they could pull it out? SHRUM: I think in the Electoral College is more out of reach than it was in 2004. 2004 with came down to 60,000 votes in Ohio. I don't think that's going to happen this year. I think you would have to have almost all of those swing state polls across the swing states uniformly wrong to get into a situation where one state would decide it.

Secondly, there was an intervening event that last weekend, Ryan, that you'll remember, which was the Osama bin Laden tape where he gave the advice to the American people to throw George W. Bush out. That put terrorism right back at the center of the election, and I think did us real damage at the end.

All elections are different. And the biggest difference between this and 2004 is the President didn't take, nor did Romney, federal funding. Therefore the battleground states, and we're all complaining about how few there are, it's actually broader than it used to be. Virginia is a battleground state. We couldn't compete in Virginia in 2004. We didn't have the money. Colorado is a battleground state. We had to pull out two weeks before because we were in federal funding and didn't have the resources.

O'BRIEN: Hilary?

ROSEN: Hey, Shrummy, it's Hilary Rosen.

O'BRIEN: You called him "Shrummy"?

ROSEN: That's his name.

O'BRIEN: Wow. OK, what's your question?

ROSEN: Everyone remembers around lunchtime in 2004 when we got those awful exit polls saying essentially that John Kerry was going to be elected president, and we had a couple of hours of euphoria until the poll results came in. Since that time, exit polling has actually changed and the distribution of them has totally changed. Tell us your big picture perspective for a minute on how you think the polls has affected expectations here.

O'BRIEN: Has it gotten better?

ROSEN: Why this is different and is it better now?

SHRUM: Well, the exit polling we're going to have to see today. I anticipate that on Drudge we'll see some early exit polls that favor Romney because that's what you see on Drudge. Polling itself has now become a weapon in campaigns.

So you have all of these enterprises none of us ever heard of before this year who are putting poll numbers out there, many of them outliers in these states and they are simply be dismissed. But I think it goes to the theory that Republicans have especially that if you say you're doing well, you're going to do well. My prime example of that is sending George W. Bush to California in 2000 and spending $10 million in that state when we refused in the Gore campaign to spend a dime on the assumption that if they said they're going to get California, they might get it. They lost it by 1.3 million votes.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bob Shrum, nice to see you. Shrummy, if that's what they're calling you today.

SHRUM: Nice to see you. Take care.

O'BRIEN: It's great to have you with us this morning. We appreciate that, Bob Shrum with us.

STARTING POINT live from Washington D.C. is back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to our special live Election Day coverage from Washington, D.C.

Colorado is another one of the key battleground states in this election. And the polls there, scheduled to open in less than ten minutes. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in a polling location in Lakewood, Colorado. Good morning Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Well, Lakewood, Colorado sits in Jefferson County which is a western suburb of Denver. And the camp -- the Romney campaign and the Obama campaigns will be paying close attention to what happens here. And many people say that how Jefferson County votes, will determine which side wins the state of Colorado and its nine electoral votes. And that is because the nature of this county is equal parts Republican, Democrat and Independent swing voters.

So they are looking to turn out the vote here in Jefferson County. Early, 1.7 million people voted here in this state already. That is the majority. And here in Jefferson County, we're told by election officials that they expect turnout of about 95 percent of the vote. And many of those people have already voted; 219,000 people voted early here in Jefferson County.

And both sides will be looking very closely at how those Independent swing voters turn out and vote -- John.

BERMAN: It's really a toss-up there. All right, Ed Lavandera in Lakewood, Colorado. Thanks a lot Ed. Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, let's get right to Jeb Hensarling. He is the chairman of the House Republican Conference. He's up for re-election himself tonight. Nice to see you sir, thank you for talking with us. Let's throw up the polls. In your state, the state of Texas just for kicks --

(CROSSTALK)

REP. JEB HENSARLING, (R) TEXAS: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Thank you. Good morning to you. Here is the poll from likely Texas voters. Its Governor Romney who is way ahead there, 55 percent; President Obama at 39 percent in that polling. So let's focus a little bit more on Congress. How do you see the balance of power going? If you look at --

HENSARLING: Yes, I'll go out on a limb and --

O'BRIEN: Go ahead, sir.

HENSARLING: I was just going to say, I was going to go out on a limb and predict that Governor Romney will take Texas.

O'BRIEN: You know, I -- I felt confident that you were going to go out on that very limb and predict that very thing. But let's say, in all seriousness that, in fact, the chambers are split right, you basically have what we have now. Regardless of who wins, how do you navigate that so that we don't have a stalemate like we saw so much over the last years?

HENSARLING: Well, again, today is obviously -- I know it's somewhat cliche but today is the only poll that counts. And so we're going to have to find out are we -- do we have a united government or a divided government? But regardless, the American people know as a nation we've got to quit spending money we don't have.

You know, in the last four years, we've had more debt created than in the last 200. You've got to quit spending money you don't have. And hopefully, both parties will recognize that. You know, the President himself once said that the drivers of our debt are Medicare, Medicaid and health care. Nothing else comes close. I give him credit for saying it, but I fault him for having no plan. His budget never, ever balances.

Mitt Romney has put together a plan that is sustainable and does take us to the path -- to a balanced budget so our children can have a brighter future. I you know, I hope both parties, regardless of the outcome, know that we are dealing with the most foreseeable crisis in America's history and that is the debt crisis and you can't -- you can't tax your way out of this.

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: Well, yes, let's talk a little closer about that. Let's talk about -- let's talk about the fiscal cliff, which is really the closest crisis as opposed to the bigger debt crisis. This one that's coming very soon. As a leader in Congress who is going to be someone who is dealing with this, how do you see this resolved?

Again if -- regardless of who is the President of the United States, where is the solution in that if the Houses stay the same?

HENSARLING: Well, again, the House has acted. The United States House under Speaker Boehner has put together a plan that would ensure that we didn't have these devastating defense cuts, which most people believe our national defense is the single most important responsibility of the federal government as we live in a dangerous world.

The House has acted. Senate Democrats never acted. President Obama never acted.

O'BRIEN: OK so let's say it -- let's say it stays the same.

HENSARLING: They put forth a plan, not one that I necessarily agree with.

O'BRIEN: But if it stays the same and -- and you know the House and the Senate, divided, regardless of who is the President, aren't you sort of in a similar position of having a stalemate, especially with a fiscal cliff that is looming? How do you fix that? What would you say is like here is the thing to get beyond that?

(CROSSTALK)

HENSARLING: Well, I think the American people -- well, you know, I'm reminded once again of what Yogi Berra once said. Predictions are dangerous things, particularly about the future. You're asking me to predict not knowing what the outcome of today is going to be.

All I can say is I would hope and pray that the American people would have their voices heard. And that is we have a spending problem in Washington. We don't have a taxing problem. What we've had under President Obama and the Democrats is spending has gone from roughly 20 percent of our economy up to 25 percent. And over the course of the next generation, it's going to 40 percent. It is unsustainable.

Taxes typically are about 18.5 percent of the GDP. They're a little less now because the economy has languished under President Obama. But we all know that will come back. It is a spending challenge. And until we have a president -- you can't -- you can't solve the problem, Soledad, unless the President is willing to lead. And that's why we need a change in the White House.

This President has abdicated one of his most sacred responsibilities and that is preserving liberty for the next generation. And instead all he's handing on this trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars of debt. He has got to lead. He has failed to lead. And that's why I believe Governor Romney will be elected today our next president.

O'BRIEN: And will certainly do well in the state of Texas, which is what you pointed out earlier. Congressman Jeb Hensarling joining us this morning. You didn't quite answer my question about this looming fiscal cliff, but I appreciate your time, sir. Thank you.

We've got to take a short break. We're back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Update everybody, we know that Governor Romney and his wife have voted this morning. They voted in Belmont, Massachusetts. We're turning that tape around. I have some of those pictures to show you in just a little bit. And don't forget, we're going to start reporting poll results tonight when those first polls close at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

Then tomorrow morning right here live from Washington, D.C., we'll have complete results. Among our guests tomorrow, Newt Gingrich, Tennessee Congresswoman Marcia Blackburn, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, New York Congressman Steve Israel, Delaware Governor Jack Markell and many, many others joining us as well -- as well as our reporters and our analyst.

Right now a continuing coverage on this Election Day as America goes to the polls up next.