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Debate Night in America

Aired October 22, 2012 - 19:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this the time to unleash our one-liners?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That answer was about as clear as Boston Harbor. Now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in the grip of a failed economic theory and this decision better be about what kind of economic theory you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got to answer this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. It denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot leave (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.



WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We're here in the CNN Election Center and we're counting down to the big finale of the 2012 presidential debate.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "AC 360": Two men, one choice and only 15 days until the election.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in the debate hall, we'll soon hear from the candidates and find out if they saved the best for last.


ANNOUNCER: The presidential candidates nearing the end of a long campaign seize their last best chance to appeal to voters nationwide.

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's forgetting what his own positions are. I think it's called Romnesia.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They've been reduced to petty attacks and silly word games.

ANNOUNCER: Round three could be their most heated face-off yet.

ROMNEY: I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: You want me to answer a question --

ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?

OBAMA: I'm happy to answer the question.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in their final debate, the challenger showing more confidence.

ROMNEY: You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking.

ANNOUNCER: The president showing more fight.

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours.

ANNOUNCER: This time, they'll clash over global threats and U.S. influence around the world.

ROMNEY: We'll make sure our military is so strong, no one would ever think of testing America.

OBAMA: You like to talk tough. But what I know is al Qaeda is on the run and Osama bin Laden is no more.

ANNOUNCER: Now, CNN's coverage of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama battling for the job of commander in chief.

OBAMA: I'm asking for your help to finish the job.

ROMNEY: I need you to go out there and find people that will come join our cause.

ANNOUNCER: The race is close. The election is near and America's future is up for debate.


BLITZER: This is Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, the site of tonight's presidential debate. On this stage, President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney, they will face off for the last time before the November 6th election. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world to "Debate Night in America". I'm Wolf Blitzer.

We've seen two very different debates between these candidates so far, one polite, the other combative. We're soon going to find out if tonight's debate is as fiery as the last one. As we count down to the first exchanges of the night, we'll bring you a one-on-one interview with former President Bill Clinton. He sat down with our Fareed Zakaria and fired back at GOP critics of President Obama's economic policies.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Obama has not been anti-business. The attack on him is just not quite fair.


BLITZER: We're going to hear much more from former President Clinton on the economy and foreign policy. Right now, we're mobilizing the full resources of CNN for our debate coverage. Let's bring in our colleague, Anderson Cooper -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Wolf, thanks very much. During the debate tonight, we are going to bring you the candidate's statements, obviously in real-time, and we're going to take a look at getting immediate reaction to see what they are saying from a focus group of undecided voters. Their response is going to look like that on the bottom of your screen, lines going up and down, men and women reacting. Heading into this third and final debate, the presidential race remains very close. Let's check in with John King at the "Magic Wall" looking at the state of play in the election right now -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, heading into this debate and then the final two weeks, a highly competitive election. We still score it this way, 237 electoral votes strong are leaning President Obama's way, 191 strong are leaning Governor Romney's way, but as we enter into the last debate tonight, nine toss- up states, nine toss-up states on our map. All of them very close and all of them, all of them, in all of them, Governor Romney is in a stronger position now than he was entering the first debate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John, thank you. Let's go to the debate hall right now and check in with CNN's Candy Crowley. She moderated, as everyone knows, last week's presidential debate, a lot different this week for you -- Candy.

CROWLEY: It really is, but it's also a lot different stage in a different crowd here at Lynn University. You will see that both candidates will be seated along with the moderator, CBS's Bob Schieffer. This is a smaller venue than we have seen in either of the previous two presidential debates. Most people here expecting that this will be a more sedate debate simply because first of all they are seated. There's less chance for them to be sort of stalking each other on the stage and second of all, in foreign policy both men want to bring to the table some idea that they have a steely cool hand on the tiller of the ship (ph) of state. Now, we want to bring in our Jessica Yellin to take us behind the scenes of the preparations for President Obama. JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Candy, aides to the president tell me that he is feeling confident tonight. Foreign policy is in his wheelhouse. I'm told that he is prepared to be forceful in the debate and on the offensive.


YELLIN (voice-over): President Obama's prep team hunkered down in a hangar at Camp David. Inside a mock-up of the very same set he'll be debating Governor Romney tonight. Reprising their roles, Governor Romney played by U.S. Senator John Kerry and the moderator Bob Schieffer played by former Biden chief-of-staff Ron Klein (ph). And the prep team grew with a new focus on foreign policy. In the daily sessions with the president national security adviser Tom Donilon, his deputy Ben Rhoades (ph), message gurus David Axelrod and Anita Dunn, chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, strategist David Plouffe and high powered D.C. attorney Bob Barnett.

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

YELLIN: Advisers say the president's last debate at Hofstra was the strongest performance they've seen in public or private and they're hoping for a repeat. Tonight, a twofold strategy, first, the president goes on offense like we've seen on the trail.

OBAMA: I told you I'd end the war in Iraq and we did. I said we'd wind down the war in Afghanistan in a responsible way and we are. Al Qaeda's on the path to defeat. Osama bin Laden is dead. And today Osama bin Laden is dead. Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda is on the run. And Osama bin Laden is no more.


YELLIN: Then to protect Obama's vulnerabilities, the president will try to put Romney on the defensive as he did in his Libya answer during the last debate.

OBAMA: And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What you saw in the debate here is a classic case of Mitt Romney not having his facts straight.

YELLIN: Michelle Flournoy was top Pentagon brass and now chairs the Obama campaign's foreign policy shop. We asked how the president is likely to respond to some of Romney's strongest ammunition.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president will be accused of changing his story. First the administration said there were protests, then they acknowledged there weren't.

MICHELE FLOURNOY, FORMER UNDER SECY. OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: As the intelligence community learned about what happened, this information was shared. That is normal, natural almost inevitable in any kind of unfolding crisis like this.

YELLIN: Other terrain this battle will be fought on Iran, tactic, turn the tables on Governor Romney.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you talking about using military force now? Because if that's the case, you better tell the American people before they go to the polls.

YELLIN: Israel. Challenge Romney's claims.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ask Ehud Barak about whether the defense cooperation, our commitment to the security of Israel, could be any better than it's been.

YELLIN: And the president's own blunders, deflect attacks including over this assurance about a missile defense system caught on an open mike during a conversation with Russia's prime minister.

OBAMA: This is my last election.


OBAMA: And after my election I have more flexibility.

YELLIN (on camera): How does the president respond to the charge that he plans to do a lot, he will have a lot more flexibility to do a lot of things after the election?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They have no idea what he was talking about. It could have been something very much in the interest of the United States. They just don't have a clue. But they're irresponsible, consistently, constantly.


YELLIN: And Anderson, one of the strategic frames you should look for from the president tonight is to prod Romney to be clear about what his alternatives are to the president's foreign policy, arguing that either Governor Romney has no alternative or he's pressing for military action in any number of places. In essence, he's either for the president's policy or endless war -- Anderson.

COOPER: Let's talk to our analysts and our contributors about that. Alex, I mean, how does Romney answer that when President Obama pushes for more specifics because in his public addresses there's not a lot of meat on the bone, not a lot of specifics to really differentiate from the president's policy. ALEX CASTELLANOUS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, how does he respond to the president who ran on hope and change and not much else? How does he -- on the president who really doesn't have a forward looking agenda for the next four years? I don't think the competition in that category is all that tough.

COOPER: So you don't think he has to give a lot of specifics.

CASTELLANOS: You know I think Fareed was right tonight saying that this -- tonight is about presidential strength and character. We've talked before about the law of the car keys. Before I give you my car keys to take me somewhere, I not only want to know where you want to take me, but can I trust you to take me there. Who are you?

The big test tonight will be we know that our president is going to get hit with something unexpected and unimaginable. We've seen that recently. Will this be the kind of man when that crisis comes to his desk has the character to handle it and the strength? Obama has a problem. He has such a bright mind I think that sometimes he is more of a judicial temperament. He weighs everything on the one hand and on the other hand and sometimes the world and even Americans see that as indecision.

COOPER: Van Jones.

VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: Well you know I see it differently. First of all, you do have a leader who's been able to do things that are actually extraordinary. Russia is on our side against Iran. There's only three ways to deal with Iran. Either you go kind of you know (INAUDIBLE) and we're going to do something kind of bellicose the way that Romney has been or you try to put pressure, but by yourself. It's like pushing on a noodle or you have the strong approach of getting the whole world to isolate that country and that is what he's done. That is huge achievement. And you have achievement after that, so I think -- I don't see it the way that you do. I think -- here's what I think you're voting for. I think you're voting for war or peace. I think you're voting and I think you've got to make a decision here. Do you want war in Syria or no? Do you want war -- you want longer war --

COOPER: And yet Fareed --


COOPER: -- on their policy there's not a huge difference on Syria or on Iran.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN'S FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: On specific policies Romney is careful to say I'm not suggesting that you know he says we want pressure on Iran and then you say well there's a lot of pressure on them. The next stage will be military pressure and he says no, I'm not saying that. On Syria, he says the president should do something and you say well the next step would be some kind of intervention. He is saying no, I'm not saying that. But in the last few weeks, he has been able to overturn what has been a remarkable strength of Barack Obama's. Really sense the Vietnam War for 40 years, the Democrats were always playing defense on foreign policy. The Republican Party had (INAUDIBLE). They were seen as the strong party, the tough party and Obama more than any Democrat before him was able to reverse that --

COOPER: And he's been able to do that on Libya --

ZAKARIA: He's been able to --


ZAKARIA: It was Osama bin Laden. It was Libya. It was judiciously scaling back in Iraq and he had a 15-point advantage. That has been -- that has been eroded substantially.


COOPER: David --

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the context here has changed dramatically from what we thought it was from about two months ago when it looked like Barack Obama would come into this debate, would be a fairly sleepy affair in which he would clearly have the upper hand because the world was basically at peace. In the last couple of months, things have changed. Not only has his lead been cut from 15 to four as commander in chief versus Romney, but the world is in much more turmoil now and we're going to have a lot tonight about the turmoil in the Middle East.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And the Romney people are going to say there are a lot more questions than answers about Libya for example --


BORGER: And they're going to raise it as a leadership issue --

KING: And it's the final debate and there's huge pressure on him because the map here at home is moving Governor Romney's way decidedly during this debate season. Governor Romney has successfully moved to the middle on a lot of these domestic issues. A lot of Democrats are furious at President Obama for letting it get there. I would not be surprised tonight if you see a much more reasonable Governor Romney say Mr. President, on paper you're right. You just haven't led.

COOPER: A Romney adviser snuck out of a secret practice session to talk exclusively to CNN about debate strategy for the Romney side and a body language expert is going to tell us what both candidates might be trying to do tonight to connect with voters in ways other than verbally -- first, this debate flashback.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reducing levels.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 1980, Carter was primed to go after Reagan about his record. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Reagan as a matter of fact began his political career campaigning around this nation against Medicare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going on the offensive. You did this. You voted this way. You said that. And Reagan just with humor and subtlety said --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then that line became famous. Whenever somebody was repeating an attack over and over again it made the audience feel yes, we've already heard this attack.



COOPER: "Debate Night in America", this is it and that is the hall at Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida. The final presidential debate of 2012 begins soon and the Romney camp has a new strategy to help the former governor go toe-to-toe with its sitting commander in chief on foreign policy. Our Dana Bash is at the debate. You spoke exclusively, Dana, with someone from the Romney campaign and what did you learn?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know since the last debate, Anderson, six days ago Romney has held only three campaign rallies. The rest of the time he's been hunkered down with advisers prepping for tonight's final debate. We got some inside scoop on Romney's intense preparation from someone who's been with him.


BASH (voice-over): Dan Senor is part of a small circle of Romney advisers preparing him for tonight's debate. He ducked out of the secretive sessions in New York City for an exclusive interview about Romney's strategy.

(on camera): What can you tell us that may be a little bit of a nugget of color that could enlighten us on how he's preparing --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think this is necessarily a debate where you're going to see point for point scoring.

BASH (voice-over): Translation, in tonight's debate, Romney does not plan to be this scrappy in-your-face contender we saw at the last one.

ROMNEY: You'll get your chance in a moment. I'm still speaking. And the answer is I don't believe people said that's the case because --


ROMNEY: That wasn't a question. OBAMA: OK.

ROMNEY: That was a statement.

BASH: Instead, CNN is told Romney is practicing to come across as someone voters can imagine as commander in chief, a sober and steady leader. One urgent goal, better communicate criticisms about Obama administration failures in the wake of the deadly attack in Benghazi.

(on camera): You may remember this moment, the last debate.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration --

OBAMA: Please proceed --

ROMNEY: Is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror --

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: He did, in fact, sir --

BASH: And the governor sort of fumbled the way he attacked the president. How do you take that and fix it in the foreign policy debate?

DAN SENOR, ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: This is the first time an American ambassador has been assassinated, killed since 1979. Why did the security breakdown happen? Why were administration officials, senior security officials repeatedly asking for more security and being denied?

BASH: How do you make sure that what you just said doesn't get lost in the governor challenging the president on something that this kind of a side show that misses the point?

SENOR: I think these debates are very, as you know, live and interactive and can get heated on both sides, but the basic point there have been misleading statements coming out of the administration that are worrisome.

BASH (voice-over): But Romney's team knows he has to get beyond bashing and explain how his policies would be different. One stark difference, defense spending. The president wants to slash the Pentagon budget by $500 billion. Romney wants to add what could amount to trillions. CNN is told Romney will also try to turn foreign policy back to his wheel (ph) house, what voters care most about, the economy, arguing the two are connected and he'll try to make his CEO experience relevant. SENOR: This is someone who's decisive, who has a strong world view and has a history of being able to successfully turn around really messy situations and really messy -- really complicated organizations.

BASH (on camera): So you're saying that there might not be that much of a difference between what he did at Bain Capital and what he could do in the Middle East?

SENOR: I think that chief executives tend to be able to manage really complicated organizations and really complicated problems and he's dealt with that throughout his career.


BASH: Now, Mitt Romney has had some pretty high profile missteps on foreign policy. He issued a much criticized press release during the unrest in the Middle East last month, whacking the Obama administration without realizing that the Libyan ambassador and three others were killed. And then there's that stumble in Great Britain during the summer's Olympics where he infuriated the British. He criticized their readiness for the games and Romney advisers are expecting the president to bring all of those up. I'm told that they had Romney practicing all of his comebacks to those in his debate prep this week -- Anderson.

COOPER: Dana, I'm amazed what you said earlier that Romney has only had three public events over the last -- since the last debate because the rest of the time he's been focused on debate preparation. What else are they doing to kind of mirror the real thing in these debate preps?

BASH: You know last week I told you about the fact that they were having him practice on bar stools. This one may be is a little bit less consequential, but maybe interesting in telling in how much they've been trying to mirror it. Peter Flaherty (ph), he is one of Romney's top advisers. He's been playing the moderator for all of these debates -- mock debates. He has gone to such lengths to be Bob Schieffer who is going to moderate this debate that he's been wearing purple socks all week. This is a little known fact about Bob Schieffer. He has been wearing purple socks for a year and a half plus because he vowed to wear them after his alma mater, TCU, won the Rose Bowl. He said I will wear purple socks from now on and he has and they knew that inside the Romney campaign and the person playing Bob Schieffer has been wearing purple socks all week.

COOPER: Wow, I hope Bob has a lot of pairs of purple socks -- I hope it's not just the same pair --

BASH: He -- we are told -- I can report to you he has a lot of pairs of purple socks.

COOPER: OK, good to know. Wolf, did you -- I was unaware of that little tidbit --

BLITZER: I was unaware of that too. I have a lot of pairs of black socks, Anderson. I assume you do as well --

COOPER: I've got like two --


BLITZER: That's it?

COOPER: I'm cheap.

BLITZER: I got a lot of pairs of black socks. All right, we're going to -- obviously Bob Schieffer is going to bring up what's going on in Libya, what's happened in Libya since the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Let's walk over to CNN's John King at the "Magic Wall". There's a lot of dispute when the administration knew how dangerous the situation was in Benghazi, the situation that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

KING: Question, should the administration have known more? Did the administration say things that were inconsistent and maybe fuel some of the misunderstandings about this? It's important to go back -- we'll focus on 9/11 in a moment -- but it's important to go back on June 2012. There was an explosion outside that U.S. mission in Benghazi, so it should have been no surprise to anyone, especially the State Department and the White House that there was some dicey situation going on in that area. Then of course on September 11th, on the anniversary of 9/11, you had the U.S. ambassador and others killed in the Benghazi attack. You see some of the pictures of the aftermath there and then the next day in the Rose Garden -- and this came up in the last debate and in several appearances soon thereafter -- the president did talk about terror.


OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation. No acts of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world. No act of terror will go unpunished.


KING: Now, Republicans would say he didn't specifically say the Benghazi attack and acts of terror. We'll see if that comes up in that context now, but you heard the president there saying acts of terror. One of the political questions here is then why were other administration officials saying things like this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned.


KING: That's after the president used the term, terror. That's ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and then you had before Congress this testimony. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we don't have at this point is specific intelligence that there was significant advanced planning or coordination for this attack.

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


KING: So testimony to the Congress, there a statement from the secretary of state, Clinton saying this was a terrorist attack. That's on September 19th and then days later while in New York, you get this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then I heard Hillary Clinton say that it was an act of terrorism. Is it? 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.


KING: So, there are a number of policy questions, who knew what when among the policy questions, Wolf. Should they have had more advance warnings? Should they have set more security? A number of policy questions there and then political questions, is the president in comments like that downplaying the threat of terrorism, the risk of terrorism because politically in the campaign he doesn't want voters to think that al Qaeda post Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda or other terror groups, Anderson, are making any kind of a comeback, so a lot of policy questions about what they knew beforehand and now some political questions as well.

BLITZER: John thanks very much. I'm anxious to see how hard Romney goes on this issue and how the president defends himself and strikes back. Also, a body language expert is sharing his advice for the candidates tonight and for their wives. We're going to hear from the undecided Florida voters as well, who will give us the first verdict on who's doing well tonight and who's struggling.


BLITZER: When the presidential candidates walk on the stage for their final debate tonight, they'll be judged on what they say. But as we saw in past debates, their body language will speak volumes as well.

CNN's John Berman is here and he spoke to a body language expert to give us a little perspective on what to expect.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is really a rubber match when it comes to body language. Our experts tell us that Mitt Romney won the first debate, President Obama the second, and for this third and final body bout, the advice for the candidates -- watch their finger, their smiles and their wives.


BERMAN (voice-over): Debate number three, this time, it's physical. The last laugh in the body language Olympics.

Chapter one --

DAN HILL, SENSORY LOGIC: Obama makes sure he sells hope. First debate, what did he sell? Basically, he sold sadness.

BERMAN: Dan Hill is a master of nonverbal communication. A president of a company called Sensory Logic.

Like many, he saw the president's first debate as a physical flop.

HILL: Obama's weakness is that, sometimes, he can't stand the stench in the trench. Sometimes, Obama arches his head back, he kind of looks down his nose literally at the situation. He looks peeved and aggrieved, as if he doesn't want to be there.

BERMAN: But by the second debate, chapter two, the sequel, Obama has his groove back -- well, that and the smile.

HILL: Obama's got that great, flashing smile, which is also important because it projects warmth.

BERMAN: Not to mention, his finger.

HILL: That finger pointing is almost like a baton of the orchestra director saying, I'm the one who gets to lead this whole procession, you're going to be the follower.

BERMAN: Romney was not slouch in the match, even unveiling a new face when speaking of the president's economic plan.

HILL: He had both the disgust on the lip and nose simultaneously. I don't know how much you rehearse to that, but that's exactly what he wanted to do. He wasn't just on message, he was on emotion.

BERMAN: He has proven to be a real pro.

HILL: The strong point for Romney, he is just so consistent.

BERMAN: But even the best can have an Achilles heel or face.

HILL: The smile is authentic, four seconds or less, so if Romney's not careful, he becomes the energizer bunny of social smiles. It just goes on and on, and it's unnatural.

BERMAN: Both candidates can improve in this last battle says Hill. Work the hands.

HILL: Embrace people. Move your hands in a way that say come here, come with me, reach out. It's the same thing that any candidate wants to do. Clinton was great at this.

BERMAN: Bill Clinton himself says he thinks body language should be left untranslated.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Bunny language on who's grunted and who's smiling and all that -- folks, that doesn't make a lick of difference in your life.

BERMAN: OK, but if it doesn't matter for these men, maybe it does for the missus. Ann Romney --

HILL: She showed anger because the mouth got tight. She showed that she was distressed and sad. The corners of the mouth went down. She jutted her chin upwards because she was really disgusted and defiant about what happened on the stage, and there was anger in the eyes. Only thing you need to know about how that debate turned out was Ann Romney for five seconds right after that debate.

BERMAN: And Michelle Obama --

HILL: Yes, before that debate, she looked a bit spooked. She did not want to be there. It turned out the president did not want to be there.

BERMAN: Both candidates claim this will be their final campaign, so after tonight, they can give their debate skills, not to mention their eyes, brows, teeth and wives a rest.


BERMAN: Now, the thing about tonight is they'll be sitting down at the table, Wolf. So our experts tell us the candidates want to be careful not to hunch over, keep themselves open, as in they're open to all ideas, and no fast, sudden motions in tonight's debate because this is about foreign policy. They don't want to seem overly aggressive.

BLITZER: Notice you're using your hands, putting your hands like this. Are we all getting a little bit more sensitive to our body language?

BERMAN: I think it's a sign of power. No, I'm open to all ideas.

BLITZER: You're bringing me into your conversation.

BERMAN: It's amazing how much people analyze these types of things. You can't watch all these debates without living and thinking about every little move you make. BLITZER: Anderson, I don't know about you, but I've become very sensitive, the moving of my hands, my mouth, my chin. What do you think?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I've never met a human who actually does this gesture. All the politicians do it as the thumb and the fist. So, I think we should all try to encourage us to do that, because I understand, according to focus groups, pointing is bad. But this is power.


GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Do women do this? I don't think women do this. I think men do this.

COOPER: I don't know. It was a Bill Clinton thing. President Obama does it, Governor Romney, all the politicians do it.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I do it, but I'm usually holding a coffee cup.


COOPER: Just in terms of where the race is now, I mean, how tight is it?

KING: Bush v. Gore, you know, recount, up late, how do you want to look at this? Let me put it this way -- both campaigns say this. We can't win without Ohio. The other guy can't win without Ohio.

So, a lot of them are focused on one state right now because you're looking, the Obama would dispute this publicly, but privately, they concede Florida seems to be moving Governor Romney's way. North Carolina seems to be moving Governor Romney's way.

Their logic tells them perhaps Virginia is about to do the same thing, and they think Colorado starting to go Romney way. Nevada is going to be the huge fight, the Latino population there is the president's hope, even though it has the highest unemployment rate and the deepest housing crisis in the country.

Iowa, catfight to the end. Wisconsin probably tilting to the president. I was just e-mailing with somebody in a little state in New Hampshire, four electoral votes who says, we could be it. And guess what? They could be it.

The Romney campaign just went up on Boston television. They've been getting hammered by President Obama on Boston television. They're down a bit in New Hampshire, but it's close.

And how close might this be? The Romney campaign yesterday or today, bought television time in Portland, Maine, because there's one congressional district there where they think they can get the electoral votes from that. They split, Maine is one of two states, Maine and Nebraska, split it by congressional district. They think there's one congressional district where they can get one. So, they're going to go fishing.

BORGER: But the president can win without Ohio. It's very hard to see a way.

KING: If the trend of the other states continue, it's getting harder. The president can win without Ohio, but the way the map is trending today, it's getting harder.

BORGER: Well, if you count Iowa perhaps going perhaps for Romney. If you count North Carolina and the state of Virginia going for Romney.

But I think Romney has a tougher, a tougher route in the Electoral College. If he loses Ohio, it's hard for him.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think two things are clear, Anderson. One is that the first debate had a more dramatic impact than any debate any of us have ever known. Fareed was just talking about that --

COOPER: Even more than the Nixon-Kennedy?

GERGEN: I think so, because it transformed the race. I think that this really transformed the dynamics of the race. I think it was a game changer.

And at the second debate, I thought he might -- I thought the president might stop Romney momentum. I think he staunched the flow of blood. But he's still bleeding a little bit. I don't know --

FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": I have never seen in the campaigns that I follow, anything like it, because remember, Nixon-Kennedy, there was no incumbent. But also makes it a much more fluid situation both for the incumbent, who's generally like to be in the situation where -- you know, if you had look add at the polls before that and just did the averages, Obama was leading by more than three or four in almost every one of the battleground states, which is why the Intrade numbers, you know, the better numbers had him basically at a 75 percent chance of winning. And all of a sudden, that -- you know, everything flipped with that one debate.

BORGER: But here's what happened.

ZAKARIA: Not the Intrade numbers, everything else.

BORGER: But you had a summer of an assault on Mitt Romney. And then suddenly, you saw in which they painted him as an extremist.

KING: They painted him almost as the incumbent. The election was about him even though we have an incumbent president until that first debate.

BORGER: And then people looked at him and said, wow, he doesn't seem so --

COOPER: So part of this is wasted. Was it money not well spent? CASTELLANOS: Yes, you think. It's like the advertising executive who says, I know 50 percent of my advertising is wasted, I just don't know which 50 percent. A lot of advertising is wasted in politics this was.

But, you know, if -- Barack Obama's problem is that he made Mitt Romney unacceptable, but that Mitt Romney's now out of the box. We met an acceptable alternative in the fist debate and the electorate was changed.

If that's the case, and you're Barack Obama, would you really want to debate tonight on foreign policy? No, what you'd rather have -- you'd rather have a debate tonight on the economy. And try again to go back to Bain and try to paint him as an unacceptable alternative. I do think you're going to see both these guys tonight say, foreign policy's critically important and we can't predict strength at home unless we have strong economy abroad.

GERGEN: Right.

BORGER: Right.

CASTELLANOS: The debt is our biggest foreign policy crisis and we have to fix it and this president --


VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA SPECIAL ADVISER: I think both of them try to get back to the economy and I think one of the things that president has to do a better job of doing, he wants to get out of Afghanistan. Romney's waffling. We're spending $2 billion a week, every week in Afghanistan. We actually have $2 billion to spend in any of these American cities, on any of our American property, $100 billion a year.

So, I think there's a way, this sort of hesitancy on Romney's part to be as firm and as clear could be an economic issue.

But I don't think that some of these other issues with regard to the economy, like China. I think that has not been discussed well enough in the lead up. I think there's a big discussion to be had about China. I don't think Romney is as credible yet. He's got to show he can be credible.

COOPER: No doubt we're going to hear a lot I think on China tonight.

Candy Crowley is going to tell us what is going on behind the scenes at a debate right now. She knows from her experiences as last week's moderator.

Plus, Bill Clinton's advised the next president about avoiding another disaster. First, though, yet another important debate flashback.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republican nominee and Governor Michael Dukakis.

DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, HISTORIAN: The question asked for Dukakis in 1988 was a difficult one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?

MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVENOR: No, I don't, Bernard, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life.

GOODWIN: Losing that passion at that moment which could have been an extraordinary answer to that question my have hurt him clearly in that debate and in that election.



BLITZER: People are now in. Take a look at this. This is Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida. The folks who are there, they're getting ready for the big, big debate.

We're getting closer and closer to this, the third and final presidential debate, and you can bet the activity backstage is picking up right now -- the tension certainly as well.

Our Candy Crowley knows firsthand what goes on behind the scenes as moments like this, just as she was the moderator less than a week or so ago.

Candy, take us a little bit behind the scenes. What did you experience? What do you think Bob Schieffer, the candidates are experiences right now?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me first just tell you that at this time last Tuesday, I was actually found a room that they had for me and was there alone. So that final kind of hour and a half other than, you know, make up and hair and all that stuff, I was by myself because I felt like, you know what you know. You know what the rhythm is going to be and who goes first, and all that kind of stuff.

I also know Bob Schieffer, as do you, I'm sure. He is a pretty mellow, laid back guy. I don't think there's any last minute cramming. I think it's sort of deep breath in, deep breath out.

I want to get into the candidate's minds as well and I want to bring in Paul Begala, Democratic strategist, Ari Fleischer, Republican strategist and ask you all to kind of reverse roles here.

If you were advising Mitt Romney, knowing what you know about the first debate and the second debate, you would tell him in these final -- you're with him alone now. What do you say to him? PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I would say you've got to walk back some of these accusations that you're too hot to attack. There have been too many times when the Democrats, I think fairly, have pointed to Romney's statements calling the withdrawal of troops from Iraq tragic, saying we want more troops in Afghanistan.

It's a war weary country. The president has the better of the argument and the polling. I'm not policy guy. In the polling, this country wants to come home and rebuild America. The president has to better that argument.

CROWLEY: How do you that? How do you see him?

BEGALA: Well, he just has to etch-a-sketch. I mean, he walked away from his whole tax plan.

CROWLEY: You're supposed to be his adviser on this. You're not going to call him etch-e-sketch guy.

What would you say to him is say, here's how you would handle this. He's going to come at you and basically, they've told us this. Mr. Governor, the president's going to come at you and accuse you of having one option, and that's war. And you say, sir?

BEGALA: I'm trying really hard. He's been very quick on the trigger. I do think, honestly, my prediction is that he'll just deny it. He'll just walk it back as he did on the tax cuts and everything else.

CROWLEY: Yes, maybe I shouldn't have played this game with you. Ari Fleischer, you're in there with the president. This is his last debate, 90 minutes. Biggest audience he's going to have between now and the election. You tell him to do what?

ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'll tell him I'm resigning advising President Obama.

BEGALA: He's even worse than I am. And I set the bar really low.

FLEISCHER: Look, I think you tell the president that you want to make Mitt Romney go too far. You want to make Mitt Romney sound as if he is a risky proposition for the American people and make yourself sound like the man of judgment and peace.

If I'm Mitt Romney, will I turn it around, to say, I have met with the soldiers. I've met with the families of those who have fought for our country and lost a loved one. No one in this country ever wants to go to war. But the best way to prevent war is to make sure Iran doesn't start one.

There is a very solid way for Mitt Romney to be the peace candidate who draws the strong line and that's what Mitt Romney's task is tonight to do that in a very thoughtful way.

CROWLEY: You guys are going to stick with me tonight. So, we'll be back with you. I'll have you put your normal hats on because you're doing terrible switching roles here.


CROWLEY: All right. Ari Fleischer, Paul Begala, we'll be back with you.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Good try, Candy. Thanks very much.

Let's boil down the most important things to look at in tonight's debate. John King is standing by at the magic wall with Fareed -- John.

KING: With Fareed here, Wolf, we have quadrupled if not more the I.Q. level over at the magic wall.

Let's look around the world, Fareed. We talked earlier. We know Libya will come up, but some other world challenges will come up, not just to these three.

But let's talk here because the president and Governor Romney have at least rhetorical differences on Iran. These are some of the sanctions in place. And as you can see, some of them go back a long time. These go back 20 years. And then you have more sanctions in 1996. And the Obama administration has put the sanctions against petrol chemical products, some banking sanctions.

So, it will be sanctions, who's toughest. But it's a bigger question, isn't it?

ZAKARIA: The fundamental question in Iran is going to be issue of military force because Governor Romney in the primaries was very tough on Iran and essentially, implied or threatened he'd use military force. And he implied he wouldn't allow Iran to even get nuclear weapon capability, let alone a weapon. He's been walking that back. And he's recently said my bright line is the same as President Obama's bright line, which is that I don't want them to have nuclear weapons.

Well, if that's the case, it's going to be tough to show any real distinction.

KING: Any real distinction there, except for maybe, I'm closer to Netanyahu than you are.

Let's move on to Afghanistan. It's America's longest war. We go back to the beginning, 2002. The war started in 2001, where you see the troop level.

Remember, it was candidate Obama who promised, he said he would end the war in Iraq, but he promised to surge troops in Afghanistan, and he did that. You have these increases.

Now, we're down here and the president says we'll be out in 2014.

Governor Romney doesn't dispute the date. He just doesn't like that the president talks publicly about it. Beyond troop levels, there are serious issues in Afghanistan.

ZAKARIA: Well, the serious issue really, John, is that the surge hasn't really worked. President Obama did in fact triple almost the number of forces there. It's not exactly clear what it did, but Governor Romney's going to find it hard to make that case because it's not like the American people want these troops to stay there.

So the drawdown is quite popular whether or not it stabilized Afghanistan, and I think most Americans feel this war has gone on long enough.

KING: So, don't look for Romney to talk much about keeping the war going there.

The China challenge is a generational one. This just shows simply how our recession in the United States hurt imports from China. But still, they're way, way up. If you go back to 2002, they're up. Exports are down because of the recession as well.

This is the one where they'll talk about this as an economic issue. Governor Romney in Ohio says the president has sacrificed manufacturing jobs, he's not tough enough.

When you talk about China, is it just an economic issue? Is it a question of their military growth?

ZAKARIA: You know, I think here you have a real distinction, which is Governor Romney says if president, on day one, he would label China a currency manipulator, which allows them to then slap tariffs on China.

Remember, of course, the Chinese will then retaliate with tariffs of their own. They might do other things. We've got to keep in mind -- this is a very complicated relationship. They are our creditors in some sense. Not entirely.

They are also huge market for us, potential market in the future. They are going to be the world's largest economy.

So, Governor Romney is going to have to -- he's going to be tough on China, but President Obama might well come back and say, these are the two most important countries in the world economically. Do you really want to start a trade war between the United States and China?

This is -- this is an issue which could have real world consequences were Governor Romney to become president.

KING: Wolf, three of the countries there we know will come up and the issue of China is during that next term, whether the president wins or Governor wins, China will catch or pass the United States in term of GDP. So we'll watch as the debate in these countries and others getting closer and closer, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see how quickly they pivot to domestic issues from these international issues as well. Guys, thank you. While you watch the debate tonight, you can joint conversation at The Obama and Romney camps may want to hear what our focus group of undecided Florida voters has to say. That's coming up next.

They are the people who will rate the candidates' performances in real time and only on CNN.

This, the former President Bill Clinton answers this question -- is he a different kind of Democrat than President Obama?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. The television and radio stations of the United States --

GOODWIN: The first debate in 1960 coincided with the age of television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The candidates need no introduction. The Republican candidate, Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and the Democratic candidate, Senator John F. Kennedy.

GOODWIN: Seeing that face of Nixon's without makeup, watching him sweat, seeing his anxiety come through that screen, certainly gave the edge to JFK. So it showed the power of television, the power of an image, not simply the words that are part of the debate.


BLITZER: President Obama and former Governor Romney, they are both getting ready to debate one last time tonight. We have a focus group of undecided voters standing by to give us instant reaction.

The group is from Florida, the battleground state that's hosting tonight's debate. CNN's Soledad O'Brien is joining us from Orlando with the group.

Soledad, give us a little preview what we can expect.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You bet, Wolf. Our focus group is in Orlando, Florida, and we're about 200 miles away from the folks who are watching the debate in person in Boca Raton.

Now, it's a random sample of people who -- a very narrow slice, I should say, people who re both undecided and likely to vote. CNN has said that's roughly 3 percent to 8 percent nationally of the entire electorate.

So, what they're going to do tonight is use these dial testers.

Tim, may I see your dial tester for a moment?


O'BRIEN: They're going to take this dial tester. If they like something that they're hearing, they're going to dial it all the way up to 100. If they hear something they don't like, they'll dial all the way down to one.

And so, we're going to have a chance to watch that -- thank you, Tim -- on the screen because as they're watching the debate we'll see lines that correlate with what they're feeling. Are they liking it, are they not liking it. We'll get to watch them watching the debate.

Also, we're going to find out what exactly they want to hear, one of the conversations we've been having is: are they really undecided? How is it possible with 15 days left in the election that they haven't made up their minds?

So, Tim, if I may, what's your last name?

LAMB: Lamb.

O'BRIEN: So, Tim Lamb, tell me, why are you undecided? What exactly do you need to hear and do you think you'll hear it tonight?

LAMB: Well, I hope I will. But I'd really just like the candidates to be truthful and honest and tell us their opinion versus talking negative about the other candidate.

O'BRIEN: Is a question and an answer on foreign policy going to be the thing that decides it for you?

LAMB: It could well be, especially with all the things going on in the world today. So, would look forward to see what's happening in the debate.

O'BRIEN: And we're looking forward to see what you're seeing happening in the debate as we watch all the folks here in our focus group tonight.

Wolf, let's send it right back to you.

BLITZER: Soledad, thank you. Looking forward to it.

And we also had a focus group of undecided voters rate the Obama- Romney town hall debate. Let's take a look at the results. Then we measured the reaction of undecided Ohio voters as they listened to the candidates. The green line represents the men, the yellow line is for women.

We're showing you the candidates' debate low points to drive home the moments that did not play well with undecided voters. Let's begin with the president's. It came at 10:25 p.m. Eastern near the end of the debate. The question was on assault weapons but the president ended up talking about teachers.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is part of the choice in this election. When Governor Romney was asked, whether teachers, hiring more teachers, was important to growing our economy, Governor Romney said that doesn't grow our economy. When he was asked --

CROWLEY: The question was, Mr. President, was guns here, so I need to move us along. The question was guns. So let me --

OBAMA: I understand. But this will make a difference in terms of whether or not we can move this economy forward for these young people --

CROWLEY: I understand.

OBAMA: -- and reduce our violence.


BLITZER: That was the president's lowest moment according to our focus group. Mitt Romney's lowest point happened around 10:06 p.m. Eastern. He was asked about his stance on immigration but pivoted to talk about his investments.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in Chinese companies.

Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I've got to say --

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours.

ROMNEY: Let me --


BLITZER: Overall, there were more lows during the presidential debate than during the first debate, seven for Romney, three for President Obama. Most likely because of their second debate, the face-off there was so contentious.

CNN's debate coverage continues right now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in their final debate, just two weeks before the election. The stakes are high and the tension is even higher.