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THE SITUATION ROOM

"Terror" In Benghazi; Debate Battle Moves to Battleground States; "You Had the Toughest Job"; Romney's Tax Plan; Binders Full of Women; Debate Winner?; More Mud than the Everglades

Aired October 17, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a man with alleged Al Qaeda ties arrested in a bomb plot to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City.

Also, the presidential debate looked like a martial arts match. We have a body language expert standing by to tell us what the candidates were up to

And almost everyone is poking fun at Mitt Romney's so-called binders full of women. But we'll take a serious look at his claim that he boosted hiring of females in Massachusetts.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

No more Mr. -- Mr. Nice Guy. Stung by a flat performance in that first debate, President Barack Obama came out swinging last night, challenging an equally aggressive Mitt Romney. The result -- a rough and tumble fight.

President Obama was widely seen as the winner. But that fight continues today in battleground states which are critical to both candidates' election hopes.

Our chief national correspondent, John King, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM -- John, what are the campaigns doing on this day after that very important debate?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A fascinating calculation, Wolf. Twenty days to go. So what we want to do is watch everywhere they go and watch everywhere they spend. The Romney campaign announced a big ad buy on the morning after.

You see these nine toss-up states -- Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida?

Those are the nine states they're buying in. There was some thought because the polls are closer in Pennsylvania, the polls are closer in Michigan, would they take the bait? Would they try to put these lean Obama states in play?

For now, the answer is no. The Romney campaign making a major investment in the toss-up states we know to be the toss-up states.

That's one thing to watch, where does the ad money go, and then within those states, how they spend that ad money.

But for now, the Romney campaign deciding after debate number two, keep the map, keep the competition as it is.

And so as that plays out, then where they go within states, Wolf, can be very important.

And let's start with Governor Romney.

He's in the state of Virginia today. Obviously, President Obama carried it four years ago and it's been a traditionally Republican state.

What is Governor Romney trying to do?

Appeal to the people he needs most come election day. He started down in Chesapeake, Virginia. That's Pat Robertson's home base, a lot of Evangelicals.

Among white Evangelicals, if you go back to the last election, you see this here. President Obama got just 24 percent, John McCain 74 percent. You do the math. That's plus 50 percent, a Republican advantage plus 50 percent among Evangelicals.

But if you merge together "Wall Street Journal" and NBC polling from the month of September, this is coming into this recent period where Romney has done better, here's what it was. It was plus 60. Plus 60. So this is an advantage for Romney, plus 60 right now, 6-0, among Evangelicals. He's doing better than John McCain. He needs to boost that up and he needs to get big turnout there.

That's where he was, in that part of the state. Evangelicals critical in Virginia and several other states.

Then, Wolf, Romney came up here, out to the Washington suburbs.

He's in Leesburg, Virginia. Let me bring that back up. The wall wants to play a little bit with me there.

And in Leesburg, Virginia, who is he appealing to?

Suburban moderates are key here. And this is where Governor Romney has some work to do. If you look at the math right here, John McCain lost by 21 points to Barack Obama among moderates. Recent NBC/"Wall Street Journal" polling again has Governor Romney down 21 points among moderates.

So when you see him in the suburbs, in Virginia, in Colorado, in Ohio and elsewhere, this is still a work in progress for Governor Romney. He's doing better among Evangelicals. That matters. He's got to work on moderates in the suburbs -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about President Obama?

What does he need to do?

KING: The same thing.

And we're going to watch what -- when they change their ad buys to see if they track Governor Romney and stay in all these states. One of the questions for President Obama is will he give up one of these states to, say, reenergize, fortify in a place like Ohio, put more money into there?

But the president was on the trail today in both Iowa and Ohio. He's in Ohio last in the day. Both stops, in Iowa and in Ohio, on college campuses.

Why?

The president knows that in a very close election, it will matter in the margins. He has to get that African-American turnout. He has to get the Latino turnout. And he's trying to recreate the magic among younger voters, college age and just out of college, 18 to 29.

Again, this is 2008. You see that. Do the math. That's a 34-point advantage for President Obama among voters aged 18 to 29.

Coming into October, look at this. Governor Romney was closer, just 25 points. So the president is trying to recreate the 2008 numbers. This is still a lopsided advantage for President Obama, but not as big as 2008.

And, Wolf, this election is so close, that's what we're going to watch -- in an election on the margins, can Governor Romney cut into the president's support among those younger voters?

Can -- is African-American turnout, perhaps, a little down?

So in the final 20 days, where they spend and where they go is something to keep a very close eye on.

BLITZER: And the -- the immediate goal for both of these candidates, less than three weeks to go, is, what, Virginia, Ohio, Florida?

That could be the ball game right there.

KING: It could be the ball game. You're going to see them play in all of these nine states.

Let me move this up and go back to the electoral map.

You're going to see them play in all of these states. Vice President Biden was out today, for example, in the state of Colorado. Ohio is where Paul Ryan was today.

So you're going to see these nine states as a big battleground. But you raise a great point. You know, think of this as a game of chess. Sometimes you give up a pawn to save the queen. The question down the road will be, if the presidency -- if Governor Romney keeps this momentum, will the president decide to give up a state to pour more resources into one?

Governor Romney has long tried to expand the map by putting Michigan or Pennsylvania into play. So far, they've decided that doesn't look realistic.

So, as we watch this get closer and closer, and we have one more debate, then they have to make chief resource decisions.

In 2004, John Kerry pulled out of Ohio. He lived to regret that.

We're going to watch very, very closely to see if one of the campaigns decides to give up on one of these states and pour more resources into something else.

Twenty days to go, a fascinating chess game to watch.

BLITZER: Very che -- fascinating, indeed.

John, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, there's no rest for CNN's Candy Crowley. The moderator of last night's presidential debate appeared on "The View" today, got a compliment from Barbara Walters, who herself moderated two presidential debates back in 1976 and 1984.

Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE VIEW," COURTESY ABC)

BARBARA WALTERS, HOST: You have the toughest job. You had to do the questions from the audience. Then you had to follow it up. Then you had to shut those guys up. I thought you were terrific.

Welcome, Candy Crowley.

(CROSSTALK)

CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, STATE OF THE UNION: Thank you guys.

(APPLAUSE)

WALTERS: By the way, aren't you thrilled not to have to do homework anymore?

CROWLEY: Yes. Yes. I'm going to play games on my iPad on the train home. I'm so excited.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And our chief political correspondent, the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," the debate moderator, Candy Crowley, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

CROWLEY: Hi, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're getting a lot of praise, Candy.

CROWLEY: I...

BLITZER: I hope it's not going to go to your head too much, all right?

CROWLEY: Not to worry.

BLITZER: You can handle this, right?

CROWLEY: Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about what George Will said. I want to see if you agree with him, the syndicated conservative columnist. "I have seen every presidential debate in American history since the floor of Nixon and Kennedy in 1960. This was, immeasurably, the best" -- "the best."

He says this was the best debate he's ever seen.

Do you think it was?

CROWLEY: Well, you know I don't -- I haven't seen the ones he's seen. It's so different on that stage, I have to tell you. I wasn't aware of, you know, the -- the history of it or the -- it was just kind of an in the moment thing. And if it was good, it's because they both came to play. I mean that's what -- you know, if you've got one candidate that kind -- that kind of shows up and doesn't want to engage, that makes for a tough debate. But both of these guys with, you know, 20 plus days left to go came to play. So they made it a great debate.

BLITZER: All of us who do these kinds of things -- and you do it all the time, you do it every Sunday -- you always second-guess yourself. You always say maybe I should have done this, maybe.

Any second-guessing this time around?

CROWLEY: I -- I haven't. I, you know, I understand the -- the, you know, the criticism. I'm -- I look at it. But in the end, I said going into it that so much of this has to be organic, like what happens in that moment, and, you know, how do you respond to it?

It wasn't like there was some game plan that, you know, OK, every single time they have to stick to two minutes and every single time they have to do this.

For instance, sort of coming out of the box, when they just went at each other over gas prices, to me, that was a valuable debate and not worth my going, oh, gee, guys, you know, this. And they really wanted to have it.

BLITZER: But you're looking at the clock, too.

CROWLEY: I'm looking at the clock...

BLITZER: You want to try to make sure...

CROWLEY: -- and I know it (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: -- that they get relatively the same amount of time.

CROWLEY: -- these guys. Exactly.

BLITZER: And you have someone in your ear talking to you, too. Folks presumably don't necessarily appreciate that.

CROWLEY: I do. And they -- they sort of kept track for me in terms of, OK the president has got, you know, four minutes more, let Romney talk longer, you know, that kind of thing. So you try -- you kind of balance it as you go. You lose your sense of -- of time, to a certain extent.

And we came out, I think, what, three -- three minutes. And then they did the thing where Mitt Romney had more words...

BLITZER: Right.

CROWLEY: -- but talked for less time because he talks faster than the president.

BLITZER: The president is a slower talker.

CROWLEY: He is.

BLITZER: So what did you think of the debate?

CROWLEY: I thought it was fine. I just didn't have -- there's so -- because, you know, when you're doing that, you kind of don't have a sense -- to me, it didn't come across as white hot, as people viewing it on TV seemed to think. They said, oh, boy, they really hated each other.

And I thought, I don't know, I didn't get that vibe. I got that vibe that they both came to say you're about this and I'm about that. But I didn't get this kind of personal sense. I mean somebody said, boy, they really came after you and they really, you know, challenged you on this. I didn't -- it just didn't feel personal. It felt like a debate with very high stakes and a very short time.

BLITZER: Are you the type that goes after something like this?

And, obviously, this is a huge event with enormous ramifications, electing the next president of the United States?

You go back to your home or hotel or wherever you were last night and you say, I have to sit and watch these 90 minutes?

CROWLEY: No. (LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: Absolutely not.

BLITZER: You haven't done that?

CROWLEY: No, I have not done that.

BLITZER: Are you going to do that?

CROWLEY: I -- eventually, I might do it. But I'm not going to do it any time soon. We have an election that's, you know, coming up.

BLITZER: You've got other things to do. You've got better...

CROWLEY: So I do have other things to do...

BLITZER: Because you're not (INAUDIBLE)...

CROWLEY: And so, no, I'll -- I'll save that for another time.

BLITZER: All right. Both the president and the Republican challenger, they spoke out about the debate last night.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I love these debates. You know, these things are great.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: And I think it's interesting that the president still doesn't have an agenda for a second term.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So let's recap what we learned last night. His tax plan doesn't add up. His jobs plan doesn't create jobs. His deficit reduction plan adds to the deficit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, so they -- they both seemed to have liked the debate last night.

CROWLEY: Yes.

BLITZER: One -- one of them probably liked it a little more than the other one.

My own sense is Obama clearly won the first one. Our poll suggests -- I mean Romney won the first one. Obama probably won the second one. So it's one to one going into the best of three Monday night.

What do you expect?

CROWLEY: I -- I expect that they will be equally feisty. It's a different -- you know, it's not a town hall again. It's -- it's three guys sitting around a table talking.

But I -- I must say that I think that what really struck me watching that debate was they're down to playing to their bases. I didn't think this was a debate -- despite the fact these were questions from undecided voters, I thought they both came out ready to rally their base. And that's what caused all the sparks.

BLITZER: The president did what he didn't do the first debate. He came out swinging.

CROWLEY: Right.

BLITZER: He needed to do that to reassure his base. He probably succeeded on that front.

Candy, you made all of us proud.

Thank you.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good to have you back.

Rest a little bit...

CROWLEY: I'm going to, trust me.

BLITZER: You know, you -- you deserve it.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: One candidate got less time in last night's debate, but managed, as Candy just pointed out, to squeeze in a few more words. We're adding it all up for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Why Americans just can't agree about President Obama.

What's going on?

Jack Cafferty is following that in The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Obama did better last night, but he's a long way from sealing the deal for a second term.

For example, Mr. Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents this country has ever seen. According to a Gallup Poll, so far in October, a whopping 90 percent of Democrats approve of the job President Obama is doing. Only 8 percent of Republicans agree.

That's an 82-point gap in party approval ratings a month before the election and figures to be the largest gap for any incumbent president in recent history. George W. Bush had an 80-point gap in party approval the October before the election. While Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan all had gaps below 70.

The trend is not President Obama's friend either. Mr. Obama's ratings have become more polarized every year that he's been in office, perhaps, not surprising when he pushed through things like Obama care with no Republican support. Also controversial are his record government spending and what critics claim is Obama's efforts to grow big government.

Gallup points out that it's not unusual for a president's ratings to be the most polarized their fourth year in office right before the election. For now, George W. Bush's fourth year still the most polarized of any presidential year since they started keeping records on this back in the 1950s. Both Bush and Obama share a near universal approval from their own party and a near universal disapproval from the other side.

Another explanation is the feelings about Obama and Bush before him are partly reflection of our hyperpartisan culture where every issue degrades into a battle between the left and right.

Here's the question, why is the country so sharply divided when it comes to President Obama? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Jack, thank you.

One of the angriest exchanges in last night's presidential debate came when Mitt Romney questioned the Obama administration's handling and labeling of the deadly attack in Libya. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- that the president the day after that happened flies to Las Vegas for political fundraiser, then the next day to Colorado for another event, another political event. I think these actions taken by a president and a leader has symbolic significance, and perhaps, even material significance in that you'd hope that during that time we could call in the people who are actually eyewitnesses. We've read their accounts now about what happened. It was very clear that this was not a demonstration. This was an attack by terrorists.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror, and the suggestion that anybody on my team whether secretary of state or U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, governor, is offensive.

That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president. That's not what I do as commander in chief.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Tough words from the president. CNN's intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly, is here in the SITUATION ROOM. Suzanne, you've been digging into this. Walk us through what you're seeing.

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Wolf, the governor was really trying to tie two different things together last night in this Benghazi exchange. One, whether the attack in Benghazi was launched by terrorists, and two, whether it was a planned attack. Now, does it matter? Yes, because those two issues are at the very heart of how the aftermath of the Benghazi attack has undoubtedly become an act of politics.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY (voice-over): The day after the September 11th attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the president referred to it as terrorism.

OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.

KELLY: He did it again that evening.

OBAMA: No acts of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world.

KELLY: And again the next day at another campaign event.

OBAMA: No acts of terror will go unpunished.

KELLY: As the president said this, the intelligence community was developing an initial working theory. That an anti-Muslim film circulating on the internet may have led to a protest in Benghazi as it had in Cairo and the attack may have grown out of that protest. But as this was happening, members of Congress were being briefed as well and some Republicans had very different ideas about what happened.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: The attack in Libya appears to be a very coordinated military style attack. This was not a demonstration gone bad. This was a clear targeted planned event.

KELLY: So, the question then was why Ambassador Susan Rice said on September 16th that the attack came from a protest saying --

SUSAN RICE, U.S AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We did not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.

KELLY (on-camera): Administration officials said that Rice's comments were based on intelligence they had at the time. As we've since learn, the intelligence community's assessment was changing. We got the first glimpse of that three days later. National counterterrorism center director, Matt Olsen, became the first administration official since the president to call the attack terrorism.

MATTHEW OLSEN, DIR., NATL. COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: They were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy. What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was a significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.

KELLY (voice-over): Secretary Clinton also used the word terror two days later.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

KELLY: But the president hadn't mentioned the word for several days, not even when directly asked on a September 25th appearance on ABC's "The View."

JOY BEHAR, HOST, "THE VIEW": Then I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. What do you say?

OBAMA: Well, we're still doing an investigation. There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault that it wasn't just a mob action.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY (on-camera): And it wasn't until September 27th that the first administration official, Secretary Panetta, said it had become clear that it was a planned attack. So, here's what all this back and forth boils down to. One, whether the president should have said more often in the days after the attack that this was an act of terror.

Two, just what does the word planned even mean? Can something be planned five minutes before it happens or does it have to be five months? All the heated back and forth and exchanges over those two points both of which are very open to individual interpretation, both of which help explain just how politics has helped shape this Benghazi conversation, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to be learning a lot more on this. A lot of stuff is about to come out, I suspect. Suzanne, thanks very, very much.

We're standing by for a live news conference on what authorities are calling a thwarted bomb plot associated, they say, with al Qaeda at New York City's Federal Reserve. We'll have the latest on what's going on. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New information coming in to the SITUATION ROOM on a thwarted terror plot in New York City. Lisa Sylvester has the latest details -- Lisa. LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now, Wolf, we are tracking this developing story. And in the next hour, we are expecting to hear from New York City police commissioner, Ray Kelly, on what led police to a Bangladeshi man who they say planned to blow up the Federal Reserve building.

The justice department says an undercover agent provided the man with 20 bags of purported explosives leading the man to believe he was going to use a 1,000-pound bomb. The material, though, turned out was inert. Of course, we'll bring you the news conference as soon as it begins.

And data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 22 percent increase in assaults pushing the overall violent crime rate up for the first time since 1993. Up until this point, crime rates had been steadily dropping and hit a record low in 2010. The most closely watched annual crime report will be released by the FBI at the end of the month.

And a new study suggests taking multivitamins may help prevent cancer in middle-aged men. Scientists followed a group of almost 15,000 physicians for more than ten years. Half of whom took the multivitamin, Centrum Silver, the others taking a placebo, they found that eight percent reduction in cancer cases among the vitamin group, and they say they're encouraged by the data, but more research is needed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Every other week there's another study that confuses so many people because there was one that came out a few months ago don't bother with the multivitamin, now it will prevent cancer. I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty confused.

SYLVESTER: I know. Between the advice on chocolate, the advice on wine, the advice on coffee, I mean, it always is constantly changing. But, vitamins, at least for this week, it's in.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm buying some Centrum Silver, I guess. Thank you.

Less time but more words. One candidate came up short on the clock but made up for it by talking more quickly.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Last night's presidential debate was certainly chock full of political punches, fiery rhetoric with both candidates sparring not just over the issues but also the amount of time they were or weren't getting to discuss them. So which candidate delivered more verbal content during his time?

Our library cross-checked the transcripts and found this. They found that while President Obama got about 3:14 more in speaking time, Mitt Romney delivered more words overall, 7,984 words precisely compared to the president's 7,506 words. Those numbers by the way include everything from a candidate's uh's (ph) and ah's (ph), oh's (ph) to the same word getting repeated twice. Let's dig a little bit deeper on this issue, who got more time and more joining us our CNN contributors the Democratic strategist Maria Cardona and David Frum, the former Bush White House speechwriter. Guys thanks very much. If you add up, Maria, and I'll start with you, the amount of time that the president got more in speaking --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: -- four minutes in the first debate, three minutes in the second debate. He had a little more than seven minutes in both of these debates. Is that a big deal or a little deal?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I only think it's a big deal if you think you're losing overall. And so it depends on who's complaining about the time on either side. And I think right now, you know, Democrats I think feel very good about what the president did last night. I think at the end of the day it doesn't really matter as long as the candidate actually gets their message out and whether the campaign thinks their candidate got the message out. Again, Democrats feel very strongly that the president last night was really able to get his message out. And I think that really ruled that stage over Mitt Romney especially as compared to the first debate.

BLITZER: Romney's a faster talker than the president so he got a lot more words even though he got less time.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well to borrow an old actor's joke, the words are important but getting them in the right order is every bit as important. So much of political communication is nonverbal, communicating the personality through the movement of a face. So you don't measure how well you're doing by how much air time you get. But the ability to take and hold air time is an indication of other things that are going on. These contests are in great measure a contest for dominance. We are -- you know we've been civilized creatures for maybe a few thousand years, but our history as social creatures goes back way beyond civilization. When it's time to pick the leader of the pack, we're looking for a lot of things that aren't conveyed with words.

BLITZER: Mitt Romney once again was asked to explain how his across the board tax cuts would be paid for so that the national debt, the budget deficit, wouldn't increase. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) I'm going to bring rates down across the board for everybody. But I'm going to limit deductions and exemptions and credits particularly for people at the high end. Because I am not going to have people at the high end pay less than they're paying now. The top five percent of taxpayers will continue to pay 60 percent of the income tax the nation collects. So that will stay the same. Middle income people are going to get a tax break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We don't know the details how he's going to do that. Is that realistic?

FRUM: No and even to the extent it's realistic, it's troubling news. I really regret that Mitt Romney (INAUDIBLE). People need to understand the top five percent in 2009, which I think is the most recent year starts at $154,000 of adjusted gross income. So you have to earn somewhat more to get to 154,000 after the basic deductions. If his plan is going to work, which it can, but if it does, one of the things that happens is within the top five percent the burden shifts downward. And so you basically move the burden from the poorish (ph) customers to the poorish (ph) salespeople. And that's not a good thing to do.

But all of this is a function of what this party has done to this candidate. Mitt Romney released in September of 2011 a very sophisticated and well-worked out economic plan. In February of 2012 on the eve of the Michigan primary he was pushed by a loud voice in the party to come up with a tax cut. And they came up with this 20 percent proposal. It was never costed (ph). It was never thought -- it was delivered in the speech. There are no briefing papers. And now Mitt Romney is paying the price. But that's not Romney's fault. Maybe it's his fault for yielding to it, but this was demanded of him by important people in the party.

BLITZER: But you know Maria, it seems to be working to a certain degree when he lays it out the way he does. He could be pretty effective. In the overall -- in our CNN/Snap (ph) poll afterwards we had Obama winning 46 percent, 39 percent, these are individuals who actually watched the debate, debate watchers, but when you ask the question who is better on the economy, Romney 58, Obama 40, who is better on taxes, Romney 51, Obama 44, who is better in dealing with the deficit, Obama -- Romney 59, Obama 36. Those are -- the economy -- those are the top issues right now. They liked him better even though they thought Obama won.

CARDONA: Well look, I think that last night's debate really put something important on the table for the Democrats. And I think the clip that you just played was a very important moment for the president because to David's point, I think it is universally now accepted among voters that this is not a plan that will work. They might like what they're hearing, but I think they like what they're hearing from the president more and you saw it when he talked about wanting for high income earners to pay a little bit more, that is an incredibly popular notion that is coming out of President Obama. And when he flatly basically said that what Mitt Romney was talking about was a sketchy deal for the middle class, I think that was one of the most important moments in the campaign.

FRUM: And Romney --

CARDONA: And that was --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: That was important for him.

FRUM: -- when he reviewed the president's -- the record of the past of four years and how heartbreaking it is. The levels of unemployment, the demand on food stamps, the deep poverty and one of the things that -- we opened with a question from a college student and the class of 2012 faces very, very tough times, not as maybe as tough as the class of 2009, but some of the toughest times for that group since the Great Depression. Yet it is still true that for college graduates unemployment is under five percent --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Hold your thought because unfortunately we're out of time, but we get the point. We'll continue many opportunities down the road.

FRUM: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

CARDONA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Out of all the facts and the figures thrown out at last night's debate, there's one phrase that a lot of people are still talking about, that phrase being "binders full of women"; up next why Mitt Romney's controversial comments are suddenly going viral.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In all the post debate buzz and political spin, there's one word that seems to be getting a lot of attention, that word being binder and it's raising some questions about Mitt Romney's views on women in the workplace. Lisa Sylvester is here. She's taking a closer look and what are you seeing?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you know the thing that many people will remember about the debate is that phrase "binders full of women". The phrase has become a social media sensation. And our own CNN focus group counter showed that in real-time Romney's binder comments were actually a hit particularly with women, but now though some are questioning if -- well if he could have made his point in a slightly more elegant way.

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ROMNEY: We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said can you help us find folks? And they brought us whole "binders" full of women.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): That binder comment has become one of the most talkable moments of the debate. Within minutes it had its own Twitter account, Pinterest (ph) board and a Facebook page already with more than 300,000 followers. There actually was a binder, but there are different stories on how it came about. A Massachusetts nonpartisan women's coalition put forth those binders.

PRITI RAO, EXECUTIVE DIR., MASSGAP: In the fall of 2002, MassGAP did approach Governor Mitt Romney and Shannon O'Brien (ph) to highlight this issue and request that they express you know a commitment to working with our group. You know and subsequently after Governor Romney was elected, MassGAP came together, we actually worked really hard to vet qualified women candidates. There were hundreds of resumes that we put together that actually distributed and gave them to the administration.

SYLVESTER: Romney has consistently been trailing behind President Obama in winning the women's vote even as Democrats continue working their narrative that there's a GOP war on women.

SABRINA SCHAEFFER, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: I thought that this is a desperate attempt to try to keep this war on women narrative alive.

SYLVESTER: At last night's debate Romney tried to counteract that by relating a story on work balance issues.

ROMNEY: My chief of staff for instance had two kids that were still in school. She said I can't be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

SYLVESTER: Joanne Bamberger is the author of "Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media were Revolutionizing Politics in America" (ph). She said that statement made him look out of touch.

JOANNE BAMBERGER, AUTHOR/BLOGGER: That's not his world view. That's not his experience. His experience is that, you know, it's the father of the family, the man of the family who goes out to make the money and the mother who stays at home.

SYLVESTER: But despite the optics, history shows us Mitt Romney has surrounded himself with women. He tapped a woman, Beth Myers (ph), to lead his search for a vice presidential running mate. Myers (ph) was his chief of staff when he was Massachusetts' governor. And his lieutenant governor was also a woman, Kerry Healey. In his first two years in office, 42 percent of Romney's senior positions went to women.

KERRY HEALEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS LT. GOV.: He actually took it a step further and said I want my cabinet to be filled with some of the top women in the country. I want to make sure that there's equity there. He mentors women, he promotes their careers.

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SYLVESTER: Now, this is really interesting. Before Romney became Massachusetts governor 30 percent of senior level positions in the state were held by women. In his first term he did appoint even more women, but it was in the second half of his term, the number of women in state senior positions that actually fell to about 27.5 percent; this information according to a report by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and nonpartisan group MassGAP. So a lot of people are looking at all of this information to say you know what's the real story. Did he hire more women? Did he bring on more women or did he not? And it really is a snapshot. Depends if you're talking first term or second term or first half of his term or the second half of his term rather -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's amazing how a phrase like "binders of women" all of a sudden it takes off and everyone seems to be talking about it.

SYLVESTER: It certainly is the buzz word and I think because a lot of people were just surprised by the phrasing of it. It's not something that you hear every day, "binders of women".

BLITZER: Lisa thanks very, very much. We'll probably be hearing more about it.

The gloves were clearly off at last night's town hall debate, not only on what the candidates said but the way they said it, up next why their body language may have dealt more of a blow than the words.

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ROMNEY: I had a question and the question was how much did you cut --

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BLITZER: What a difference one debate makes. Last night in round two both of the candidates, they came out swinging not only with what they said but in the way they said it. Joining us now to talk about this is Chris Ulrich. He's a senior instructor with the Body Language Institute. Spends a lot of time helping people prepare for debates. Let's talk a little bit, Chris, first of all about the hand gestures. I'm doing some of my own hand gestures right now.

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BLITZER: With the hand gestures that these candidates used last night, what did it say to you?

CHRIS ULRICH, BODY LANGUAGE INSTITUTE: Well, right off the bat we saw both of them, Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama come at each other and use this palm down gesture. We see it really in each other's face with this and this is kind of pushing you away. I hear what you're saying but wait I have the better opinion here versus a kind of open hand gesture which might be willing to say, Wolf, let's work together on this.

BLITZER: And so when you do that pound down gesture, what is that saying to the opponent?

ULRICH: It's saying listen, I have the right idea. You sit down. You go over there. I'm -- I have the right way to go here. Let's follow what I'm saying. Let me speak. I know what I'm talking about.

BLITZER: How did the body language of both of these candidates -- and you watched all 90 plus minutes --

ULRICH: Yes.

BLITZER: -- evolve in the course of the debate?

ULRICH: Well coming out we saw Barack Obama come out very strongly, different than the last debate where he was much more shrunken, but --

BLITZER: Much more shrunken --

ULRICH: Yes, yes, he was kind of sad in this -- kind of this down posture. But he was much stronger from the get-go, but when we saw the first interaction of a confrontation where Mr. Romney is kind of going at him Barack Obama kind of turns away and kind of steps back to his chair. And this was a sign in the beginning for Barack Obama that it was a little too much and that the actions by Mr. Romney were very strong. And over the rest of the debate he kind of corrects, he gets much more confrontational and directly takes on Mr. Romney especially around the energy issue as well as Libya.

BLITZER: And Mitt Romney, he was also using some of that space that he had for specific purposes.

ULRICH: Absolutely, very effectively. What we saw with Mitt Romney is when he questioned Obama, especially on the licenses during the energy section of the debate, he steps in, into the personal space of Mr. Obama, also kind of throwing Mr. Obama off for a second.

BLITZER: And so what did that say to you?

ULRICH: Well it said to us it's a great indication here of here's how to use that aggressive body language to kind of throw your candidate -- your opponent off. We saw it in the past, an attempt at it, during the Gore debate with Bush, Gore sitting down, stepped up and tried to come at --

BLITZER: That was an awful move. It got him into a lot of trouble.

ULRICH: It did. In that particular situation it didn't work because he came from a sitting position to the side. Here, Romney steps directly into the president and fires a question at him right away, taking the president off his game just for a second.

BLITZER: Because it shows self-confidence --

ULRICH: It shows self-confidence. It's -- we have three power zones. We have the neck, dimple, the belly button and armpits and when those are open and locked in a confrontational posture it can have an effect of aggressive action toward another, throw another person off --

BLITZER: Now next Monday, the third and final debate, they're going to be sitting around a table.

ULRICH: Yes.

BLITZER: They're not going to be standing. They're not going to be walking around.

ULRICH: Right.

BLITZER: What will that give them, advantages, disadvantages to either of these candidates?

ULRICH: Well advantages for Romney in the sense that he's now sitting. He's -- town hall isn't his setting. There were times where he was nervous and his body got very active, especially following the Libyan question, as well as equal pay. For him, sitting in the sitting posture helps him. And for Obama, it also helps him, he's grounded, and I would still imagine just like you and I are, they'll turn to each other, they'll get in each other's face and still be confrontational and aggressive. The face will be a great indicator to really focus in on there. The face is one of the most incredible visual channels when it comes to reading --

BLITZER: And they have to realize that even when they're not talking, they're on television, everyone is watching and that sends a powerful message, the way they're reacting.

ULRICH: Well said, Wolf. I couldn't have said it better.

BLITZER: Chris thanks very much for coming in.

ULRICH: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: We'll do another look next week.

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BLITZER: Allegations of Hooter's, bar brawls, and road rage, along with half a dozen cows. The mud is flying in a very nasty Senate race. We're taking a look.

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BLITZER: Get right to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is why is the country so sharply divided when it comes to President Obama.

Eric wrights "simple, he told everybody he was going to change Washington and how they did things. Instead he used all his political power to push through not bipartisan or even moderate programs, but a liberal dream, Obamacare, which is something conservatives hate and many moderates didn't want either. That made him in the eyes of a great many, unredeemable."

Cee in Louisiana writes "why do you keep asking this question, Jack? FOX News and ignorance have painted this man as a non-citizen, non- Christian, big-spending anti-business, socialist, Marxist liberal who is also black. Now you all need to get down out of your ivory towers and mix it up with the rednecks out there and you'll pick up on the racism that's been disguised somewhat since the days of the Ku Klux Klan, but it is still there." Diane in Oregon writes "because he used his first two years to push health care, a historically contentious and ultimately dead issue. Ask the Clintons. An issue, and this is the important part, Jack that if Obama and his advisers had had any brains at all they would have brought up during a second, more secure term. An issue he chose to pursue, all while the economy was tanking."

Cliff in New York writes "Hmmm, an African-American president in a country where legal segregation was officially ended less than 50 years ago. Let us count the ways."

Bob writes "it's the economy, Mr. President, your economy, Mr. President. You built that."

Dave writes "he's the first African-American elected president and a Democrat. Everything else is commentary."

And Phil in Ohio writes this. "The conundrum in this election is how you go about firing everyone's favorite employee. He hasn't done much of anything, so it's hard to justify dumping him. But you know deep inside that he has to go."

If you want to read more on the subject, go at the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks Jack. If you think this presidential campaign has been nasty. Wait until you hear about the U.S. Senate battle in Florida. It has more mud than the everglades. CNN's John Zarrella is tracking that for us -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know Wolf, even for Florida, this has been one of the strangest races I think that I have ever seen. Senior Senator Bill Nelson, the incumbent versus Republican challenger Connie Mack, IV. And this entire battle has been waged primarily with some very negative TV ads.

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ZARRELLA (voice-over): When Florida Congressman Connie Mack IV speaks at campaign events, quite often he slides in a reference to baseball.

REP. CONNIE MACK (R), FLORIDA SENATE CANDIDATE: I remember as a kid I had big dreams. I wanted -- you know my dream was to hit the game- winning homerun in the World Series.

ZARRELLA: Keeping it in baseball terms, the race Mack is now in is much like a bench-clearing brawl. He's running for the Senate seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson, a savvy, long-time Washington veteran. As a congressman, he once flew on the space shuttle. But this race is down to earth dirty, Nelson going after Mack's character when Mack was younger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Florida, meet Connie Mack the IV, a promoter for Hooter's with a history of bar room brawling, altercations and road rage. SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: It's a matter of constantly reintroducing yourself and introducing who is your opponent as well. All with truthful information, all the fact-checkers have said everything that we've said is true.

MACK: Let's say it was all true. Who cares? People are losing their jobs, losing their homes. Those ads are ridiculous, he knows it, and frankly it's unbecoming for a senator after two terms to have to stoop to that kind of campaigning.

ZARRELLA: Nelson's opponents are playing hardball, too. Cows and Florida farmland were the focus of the Super PAC American Crossroads ad attacking Nelson.

(SOUNDS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: He leased land that he owned for six cows, taking advantage of an agricultural tax loophole to dodge $43,000 in taxes just last year.

ZARRELLA: The Nelson camp says it's false, pretty much calling the ad well cow manure. And up until now it's been difficult pinning down how the voters feel. One poll shows the race a toss-up. Another gives Nelson a wide lead. But if Mack wins, both Florida senators would be Republican, Mack joining Marco Rubio.

ANA NAVARRO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It would be a huge victory. It would be a huge turn-around. And it would mean that there would be no Democrat statewide elected official in Florida. At this moment, Bill Nelson is it.

ZARRELLA: Nelson is counting on independents and some Republicans he says vote for him. Mack, the experts say, might need Romney's coattails to win. This race could very well be decided as they in baseball in the bottom of the ninth.

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ZARRELLA: Now the two of them are going to debate tonight, Wolf, their one and only debate. Latest polls show Nelson is still ahead, maybe gaining some ground and you know Connie Mack, IV, his references to baseball (INAUDIBLE) because his great grandfather was the Hall of Famer Connie Mack.

BLITZER: I knew that.

ZARRELLA: Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, John, thank you.